on April 8, 2006
Before entering the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Cami), we spent time wandering around the vast courtyard and gardens. In the center courtyard, as in all Moorish structures, a lovely central fountain predominates. Six minarets reached like stalagmites toward the incredibly blue sky. It was a stunning and unforgettable image evoking the tales of the Arabian Nights. The Turkish architect Mehmet Aga built the mosque in the 1600s. The intention was to build a mosque to outshine that of the Sofya Aya. Both edifices are magnificent. Sultan Ahmet the First ordered that the mosque have six minarets, but he had to pay for a seventh to be added to the mosque in Mecca. We entered the mosque by a side door; only Muslims may enter through the massive main portal. An impassive custodian ensured all footwear was removed whilst scrutinizing the dress of females, as a hair covering is required and supplied if needed. The interior is awash in a sea of blue Iznic tiles (approximately 20,000). It is said that one tile is worth about $35. Soaring aloft is a canopy of heavenly domes supported by four massive pillars. The center dome is 109 feet wide and the pillars are 15 feet thick. Shafts of light from hundreds of stained glass windows bathe the entire room in a magical pale blue haze, which imbue this massive space with illumination and serenity. A huge chandelier lit with tiny bulbs hangs from the center. The wires holding it are barely visible, creating the feeling of a star-filled room. It was a totally mesmerizing experience and I know my description fails to impart its sheer splendor and majesty. The floor coverings are rich ruby-red Turkish carpets with smaller prayer mats atop, but it is the soaring domes and the sheer size of the interior that astounds the visitor. Don’t miss the sound-and-light show every evening at dusk. The show is in a different language each evening, but whatever the language, it is not to be missed.
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