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Spear-Carriers and Chainmail Warriors: Erdogan's New Palace Welcome

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Spear-Carriers and Chainmail Warriors: Erdogan's New Palace Welcome

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan walks down the stairs in between soldiers, wearing traditional army uniforms from the Ottoman Empire. (Agence France-Presse)

Ankara:  Spear-carrying guardsmen, warriors bedecked in chainmail, gleaming golden helmets and even a few fake moustaches thrown in for good measure.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas could have been forgiven for thinking he had walked onto the scene of a historical costume drama or far-fetched ballet as he arrived for talks in Ankara with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

As Abbas shook hands with Erdogan, the main staircase of the Turkish leader's controversial new presidential palace was occupied by 16 warriors dressed in historical armour, carrying spears, brandishing shields and clutching fearsome-looking swords.

Some of the costumes did not look entirely convincing and rather too shiny to be deemed truly historic.

Social media users expressed bewilderment over what was going on. "Ottoman circus in the palace," tweeted prominent Turkish journalist Kadri Gursel.

The official Anatolia news agency later explained that the 16 warriors each represented one of the 16 empires of Turkish history, dating back to well before the Turkic conquest of Anatolia.

These range from the great Hunnic empire founded around 200 BC though to the Seljuk Empire, the Mughal Empire, and right up to the Ottoman Empire that was dissolved in the 1920s with the foundation of the modern Turkish republic.

These 16 empires are also symbolised in the 16 stars of the official seal of the Turkish presidency that has been given a new prominence since Erdogan moved from the office of the prime minister in August presidential elections.

Erdogan in October opened his hugely controversial new presidential palace on the outskirts of Ankara, which has 1,150 rooms and was built at a cost of around 490 million euros ($615 million).

He says that the palace is a symbol of the "new" Turkey which he is building. But opponents decry it as a ridiculous extravagance in an increasingly authoritarian state.

He has also increasingly harked back to Turkish history well before the foundation of modern Turkey in 1923, sparking accusations he wants to undermine its modern and secular foundations. 

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