They are often a life saver of a hot day, but what’s the story behind all the public water fountains and taps?

Some months ago a reader e-mailed to ask about the public taps that can be found in Fethiye – indeed all over Turkey.  He wanted to know why these public water sources are set up.  We are going to look at the ‘why’ in this article, and then tell you how you go about setting up a tap should you wish to do so.

Islam came out of the desert where water is vital, and the religion still places a high value on ablutions and sources of clean drinking water.  This is clearly displayed in Istanbul where there are many examples of sebil (elaborate pavilions built over a water source) or çeşme (a simple tap in a public place).  This sebil was built outside Topkapı Palace in Istanbul by Ahmed 111 in 1728.

Sebil at Topkapi Palace

In each of its four walls there is tap for public drinking, and part of the decoration is a long poem, in Ottoman Turkish, praising the power of water. As you can see, it is now fenced off so you can’t drink the water any longer. Whilst this sebil is widely agreed to be the most decorative, Istanbul is full of simpler fountains and taps.  They are usually a marble basin with a cup chained up so that you can use it to drink but can’t take it away.

water fountain and cup

This example on an Istanbul street still has a copper (tinned inside) cup which is unusual these days – cups are more likely to be plastic.

So that is the reason ‘why’ fountains and taps are so prolific – next week we’ll explain the ins and outs of establishing one.



  1. Thank you for this educated information! But I whould like tho to know, where are those hundreds simpler fountains and taps in Istanbul? We whould really like to see more, from your Nations historical fountains on our Türkey-Tour next year.