The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii) was built for Sultan Ahmet I between 1609 and 1616, a time of declining fortunes in the Ottoman Empire, by the imperial architect Mehmet Aga, a pupil of the renowned architect Sinan. The name "Blue Mosque" comes from the blue Iznik tiles which form part of the decoration in the Mosque’s interior
A good starting point for a visit to the Mosque is to walk round the exterior to get a good view of the external architecture. The six minarets were considered somewhat scandalous the time the Mosque was built, six minarets being seen as an attempt to rival Mecca.
The way the domes seem to sit on top of each other and the balancing effects of three minarets, one on each corner of the complex and two at the centre of each of the longer sides, gives the exterior a harmonious air. Looking through the entrance to the Mosque complex from the Hippodrome there is wonderful view of the domes, framed by the archway of the entrance, cascading towards the courtyard. Please note, however, that this entrance is closed to the general public and only open to worshippers. Therefore care and respect should be shown when viewing this.
As you approach the Mosque, you notice the stone seats and taps where worshipers perform their ritual ablutions before prayer. In the courtyard there is also a small and attractive ablutions fountain. The courtyard itself covers the same area as the floor of the prayer hall giving a sense of equilibrium and balance. Standing in the courtyard and allowing your eyes to wander up one of the minarets really does raise your view to the heavens.
The inside of the mosque is spacious and peaceful; though I would imagine that the latter depends on the time you visit. Huge intricate chandeliers hang a few feet above your head, the blues reds and gold’s of the decoration draw your eye which, as with the minarets, will lead you to look upward towards the painted interior of the dome and semi-domes.
It is a truly wonderful building, serene and majestic. The aesthetic of the interior and exterior is beautiful and harmonious and the expression of faith contained in the building is quite humbling.
During the summer months there is a very interesting Son et Lumiere show just after dusk, which includes an imagined talk between the architect Mehmet Aga and his mentor Sinan.
It is probably best to visit the Mosque in the morning soon after it opens to the public (about 9.15/9.30am) and before it gets too busy. Visitors should dress modestly i.e. long trousers or skirts, no shorts, women should cover bare shoulders and also make sure they have a headscarf to cover their heads. You will be asked to take off your shows and carry them with you (a plastic bag is provided). There is no set charge to visit the Mosque but a donation is requested.