This month, the city is celebrating the 689th anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of Bursa. Each April for the past 11 years, Bursa has celebrated this significant event. Called the Osman Gazi Remembrance and Bursa Conquest Festival, activities include a parade, art exhibitions, a symposium, neighborhood celebrations, and various competitions. Over the weekend, I took the opportunity to visit one of the art exhibits and to watch the parade. It was a festive, colorful atmosphere and the streets were packed with people. You can scroll down to see a few of my favorite photos from the parade. But first, here’s a brief explanation of the back story as I understand it:

Osman Gazi assumed leadership of his clan in the late 13th century in what was then known as the province of Bithynia. In 1299, Osman’s expansion into Byzantine territory and subsequent capturing of a few cities to the east of Bursa (including the important city of Nicaea) heralded the founding of the Ottoman Empire. Alarmed by this new and growing power in Bithynia, a Byzantine military force met Osman Gazi in the Battle of Bapheus in 1302 but was unable to overpower Osman’s cavalry, thus solidifying the Ottoman Empire’s stronghold in Bithynia. In 1317, Osman Gazi put Bursa, then a walled citadel, under siege. After arranging the siege, Osman left the battlefield under the command of his son, Orhan. The siege lasted for eight years, during which Osman fell ill.

As Ottoman pressure on Bursa increased, the Byzantine governor eventually caved and paid Orhan Gazi a significant sum to allow him to abandon the city and safely escape to Constantinople (Istanbul). On April 6, 1326, the Ottoman army entered Bursa under Orhan Gazi’s command while his father, Osman, lay on his deathbed. Shortly after the conquest, Osman Gazi died. In 1335, Orhan Gazi declared Bursa to be the first official Ottoman capital and established the city as a major cultural and economic center. Today, Osman and Orhan are buried in peaceful Tophane Park inside the old Bursa citadel, and Bursa is widely recognized as the birthplace of the Ottoman Empire.

Now, with that in mind, here are some photos from this year’s Bursa Conquest Festival parade…

Bursa conquest parade

A festive atmosphere at the start of the parade along the citadel wall

Bursa mehter takimi

The traditional Ottoman marching band and color guard (mehter takimi) lead the parade

Bursa mehter takimi

The color guard gets lost in a sea of confetti

Bursa conquest parade

Osman Gazi himself joins the parade

Bursa conquest parade

These dancers seem to be having a good time

Bursa conquest parade

Traditional dress

Bursa conquest parade

Traditional dress

whirling dervish

A whirling dervish from Bursa’s Karabaş-i Veli Culture Center

Bursa conquest parade

Horsemen carrying the colors and enjoying the ride

Bursa conquest parade

First, solemn and proud…

Bursa conquest parade

…then warm and joyful