When the Ottoman Empire collapsed, so many spies mingled in the lobby of Istanbul's Pera Palace Hotel that the manager put up a sign asking them to relinquish seats to paying guests. As the multi-ethnic empire became a Turkish republic, Russian emigres sold family heirlooms, an African American impresario founded a jazz club and Miss Turkey became the first Muslim beauty queen. Turkey's president Kemal Ataturk, Muslim feminist Halide Edip, the exiled Leon Trotsky and the future Pope John XXIII fought for new visions of human freedom. During the Second World War, German intellectuals ran from the Nazis while Jewish activists spirited refugees out of occupied Europe. This pioneering portrait of urban reinvention re-creates an era when an ancient city became a global crossroads - a moment when Europe's closest Muslim metropolis became its vital port of refuge.