on August 28, 2010
THE BLUE MOSQUE OR SULTAN AHMED MOSQUE or SULTANMET CAMII:The Blue Mosque gets its name from the decorative tiles inside the mosque, prior to my visit I thought that it was from the grey blue stone from which it is built. This mosque was built between 1610 and 1617 and is the only mosque in Istanbul with six minarets. It can be seen rising up on the hill as you enter Istanbul from the Bosporus and is one of the many mosques seen on the skyline of the city at dusk. As you enter the mosque, covered as you need to be out of respect and shoe less, you are immediately aware of how much light is coming through the 260 windows. The wonderful blue tiles – 20,000 of them are decorated with plant and flower motifs. It is a huge space inside and looking up to the dome you are made to feel very aware of just how big this building is. It is beautiful inside and very peaceful but I was almost more impressed with it from the outside as it is a lovely grey blue colour and the six minarets stand up like candles on a birthday cake. I just stood between the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia and looked from one to the other as they are both such lovely looking buildings so close to each other – very special indeed.Behind the Blue Mosque is a bazaar known as the Arasta bazaar which was excavated to expose 42 columns and mosaic floors of the lower court of the Great palace, today this is a mosaic museum. above the mosaic museum are the shops of the Arasta Bazaar which is where we sat at a small restaurant for lunch waiting for prayer time to end in order to go into the mosque.We had a lovely meze type lunch with a crowd of Turkish families and not another tourist in sight. The service was friendly and so were the several cats that wound round our legs waiting for us to drop something.I can’t decide whether I prefer the inside or the outside of this amazing building. The outside is majestic and you cannot fail to be impressed by the magnitude of the building with its huge domes and even though the mosque got its name from the 20,000 16th Century blue tiles that line the high ceiling inside I think that compared to the Hagia Sophia this building does have a bluish tinge outside. At night the street alongside is lit up with lantern type lights which cast a very atmospheric glow onto the mosque. My husband spent quite some time trying to get a good photo of this without power lines and ugly 20th century additions blotting his photo. Inside the main prayer area is lit by hundreds of chandeliers which also reflect the natural light which comes from the 200 stained glass windows with their lovely designs. I found it really interesting that each of the chandeliers had ostrich eggs on them put there to avoid cobwebs inside the mosque by repelling spiders apparently.Another little story that we heard that is apparently only a story and not true is that when the mosque was built the Sultan was criticised for being too full of himself as the only mosque that had six minarettes was the mosque of the Ka'aba in Mecca. He solved this problem it is said by paying for a seventh minaret to be built at the Mecca mosque. Nice though the story is, in fact, the mosque in Mecca already had seven minarets for over a century before the Blue Mosque was built.Until very recently the muezzin or prayer-caller had to climb a narrow spiral staircase five times a day to announce the call to prayer. Today a loud speaker system is used, and this call can be heard across the old parts of the city and is echoed by other mosques in the area. It is a very evocative sound. I’m sure that if you are warm and cosy in bed the first call to prayer is not always a welcome sound but in the evening it is a wonderful sound to hear as you sit sipping your drinks in the warm air relaxing on holiday.This is not one of the most famous buildings in the world for no reason. It is a really beautiful building to see regardless of your religious faith you could not fail to be impressed. The outside is impressive and the inside awe inspiring. The size alone takes your breath away and then things like the blue tiles, the stained glass windows, the decorative scripts and the intricate marble carvings are all just stunning.This is not one of the New Seven Wonders but the building opposite, the Hagia Sophia was in the last 21 nominations but did not make it to the last seven. However it is a winder and certainly one of the buildings that is on a ‘must see before you die’ list.
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