If you knew how much material and photos for posts I have yet to share – some going back as far as two years, you’d probably get very angry with me. But back to Istanbul! Note, if you’re reading this in a feed reader, there’s a video at the bottom of the post you may have to click-through to watch.
If you missed my previous posts about Istanbul: Turkish Coffee and Turkish Delight, or Lokum / Loukoum, in Spice / Egyptian Bazaar and Spice / Egyptian Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey
If you remember my post about Turkish coffee, I was lucky enough to start the morning looking at the Blue Mosque during breakfast. Of course, there were only a few tables that were fortunate to face the Blue Mosque and after you secured one (by piling as many personal articles as possible on chairs, tabletop, unfurling the napkins and licking the juice glass if necessary) you had a great view.
The Blue Mosque, built between 1609-16 whose original name is Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is unlike most religious establishments that I’ve had the fortune to visit because it is definitely available first for worshipers, and then for tourists. In fact several times during the day tourists are not allowed to enter the mosque while Muslim prayers, Salah, are underway.
Though I visited the mosque as a tourist, people were very gracious and we always felt welcomed. Even the man supervising the removal of shoes made a little joke and offered my OH 100 camels for me. Luckily, he declined.
Since we stayed so close to the mosque, we visited several times. Since Muslims practice Salah five times a day, and these times change depending on the season (since they are linked closely to sunrise and sunset) we found the best time to go was in the morning, after first prayer call and before the noon prayer call.
Here’s the inner courtyard just before entering the mosque. The entrance is usually used only by worshipers, and then it’s used as an exit for tourists. Tourists go on the right side around to the back to enter the mosque. Those tall spires are called minarets, and the more a mosque has, the higher its importance. The Blue Mosque is one of two mosques in Turkey that have six minarets. A seventh minaret was erected on the mosque in Mecca after the Sultan Ahmed Mosque was built.
I love tiles, ceramics and stained glass, so I loved the interior of this mosque. I can only imagine how bright its original colors were. The tiles come from the Turkish city of Iznik.
The Blue Mosque, while it may appear to be called that because of having a slight blue tinge to its outside, is actually called that because of the intricate blue tiles that decorate the inside of the mosque. Here are some of those tiles. Unfortunately the light was less than adequate on a winter afternoon.
Another reason I could see that the mosque really is for the worshipers and not the tourists is the numerous amounts of wires suspended from the ceiling that bring hundreds of lights down to the floor. Personally I feel it ruins a bit of the open space and majesty that one could experience without them, but again, being a tourist I can’t appreciate the practicality and necessity the light brings down to the worshiping floor. The chandelier wires make the interior seem a bit like a spiderweb.
If you go early in the morning, you may also get a chance to see the floor entirely empty, except for a lone worshiper, and perhaps someone vacuuming. The entire floor of the mosque is carpeted and you must remove your shoes before entering. Plastic bags are available to carry them around in during your visit.
Since we stayed in that area, I often saw the mosque at night and couldn’t help snapping a few pictures.
Here’s a non-professional video we took inside the mosque. Note there are worshiper-only areas roped off in several parts of the mosque.