People who haven't been here often ask me to compare Istanbul to other cities; having been to sadly few of the world's largest ones, the best I can usually muster is a "Uh, it's kind of like New York, except I think even bigger?" But now, armed with some data from a conference I recently attended on the future of cities, I can confidently say that:
- Istanbul has more people than London, New York City, or Mexico City, and quite a bit fewer than Shanghai.*
- It is growing faster than Mumbai or São Paulo, going from around 1 million people in 1950 to some 14 to 15 million today. (The image at right shows the dramatic growth in the city's developed area between 1950 and 2000.)
- In its central area (where I live), Istanbul is denser than New York and more than twice as dense as London.
- It is more polluted than Mexico City, and not far behind Mumbai.
- Its residents are very worried about crime, even though the murder rate is less than half of that in New York.
- Its quality of life (according to the U.N.'s Human Development Index) is considered higher than that in Johannesburg, but lower than that in São Paulo or Shanghai.
* We're talking city proper here, not metropolitan area.