on July 7, 2011
The Blue Mosque.The blue mosque is a familiar sight of the sky line on Istanbul’s European side of the city which is separated from the Asian side by the Bosphorus. Its official name is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque or in Turkish the Sultanahmet Camii. It is situated in the Sultanamet area of Istanbul with the Hagia Sophia, the Hippodrome and Topkapi palace all within a stone’s throw of each other. The Blue Mosque can be seen from various points throughout Istanbul but looks very impressive from the Bosphorus being built on top of one of the seven hills that make up Istanbul.It is called the blue mosque because of the blue tiles that cover the walls inside the mosque and not because the exterior being blue because the exterior is in fact a greyish colour but in certain sunlight the exterior appears blue especially when in photos against the back drop of an azure blue sky. Apparently there are over 20, 000 of these tiles. Work commenced on building the mosque in 1609 and it was finally finished in 1616 taking seven years to build. Bearing in mind there were very little tools in those days it really is a magnificent structure. The blue mosque was built over some old byzantine palaces.Entering the great Courtyard through a massive archway from the Hippodrome, you come into a gigantic courtyard that is exactly the same size as the inside of the mosque. In the middle there is an ablution fountain where worshippers complete their washing rituals prior to entering the mosque bare footed. No shoes are worn inside the mosque and women should cover up appropriately. Plastic bags are provided so that you can carry your shoes inside the mosque with you as you exit from another doorway on the left hand side of the Mosque.The courtyard is surrounded by beautifully shaped arches which go round the whole of the outside of the courtyard. There are inscriptions in Arabic on the walls and within the arches they are decorated and look really wonderful.We were told by our guide that when the mosque was being built it was well over budget and there were fears the architect would lose his life if he did not follow the sultans orders. The sultan had ordered the minarets be covered in gold but the ministers were so angry at the cost of the project the architect changed the usual four minaret design to that of six minarets which greatly pleased the Sultan. There are four minarets in each corner of the mosque proper with three tiers and two further minarets on the corners of the great courtyard which only have two tiers. Such was the displeasure and criticism of the Sultan for allowing 6 minarets to be built he paid for a seventh minaret to be built at Mecca to appease his critics.The mosque also contained a school, a market, a kitchen to feed the poor, a hospital and various other buildings to aid the frail, sick and poor based around the courtyard area.After admiring the outside of the mosque you pass the security men on the doorway, women are given a gown if they are bare skinned in armless blouses or not dressed appropriately such as short skirts or shorts.Stepping inside the mosque you are overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of the interior. Surprisingly there are over 600 windows in the mosque which allow in natural light. Some of the windows are coloured glass. Looking ahead there are floor to ceiling windows which lets in a lot of light and it is also facing Mecca. Looking up to the central dome you cannot fail to be impressed with the size of the mosque. The domes are supported by four massive pillars and in order to maintain stability of the great dome there are four smaller domes around the main dome supporting it. Supporting the four domes supporting the main dome are 12 further smaller domes. At the bottom of the central dome it is surrounded by windows which also allow natural light into the mosque.Hanging from the ceilings are many chandeliers which provide lighting during the evening prayers. On the chandeliers are some ostrich eggs which are supposed to ward off spiders and apparently there are no spiders to be found in the mosque which would please those of you who are arachnophobes.The lower half of the mosque is decorated with blue tiles. These tiles are called Iznik tiles from the town where they were made. They are a little like delft pottery to give you an idea of what they look like. The designs of the tiles are in the form of Tulips of which there are many different designs. It looks quite amazing. On the upper walls and inside the domes of the mosque it has been ornately decorated with paints however the colours have changed from the original reds to brown and green to blue over the years. There are also lots of yellow patterns too which makes the interior look very impressive.The central prayer area under the domes is actually cordoned off unless the mosque is in use for prayers. The whole of the floor is thickly carpeted in brilliant red colours and places marked in gold colours where the people pray. To the left hand corner at the front of the mosque is a dais like marble structure which is screened with intricately carved marble and this is the prayer area for the Sultan where he could pray in privacy. To the right of the windows is the minrab where the imam reads the Koran and preaches to the worshippers.Once you have finished with your visit you exit the mosque to the left hand side of the mosque coming out and facing the other great domed splendour of the Hagia Sofia. Near the exit there is a solid silver model of Mecca which is in a glass case.Would I recommend a visit here?This simply is a must visit on any visitors trip to Istanbul. It certainly is one of the Jewels in Istanbul’s crown. The stunning architecture and beauty within the mosque is absolutely stunning and it will take your breath away. I would certainly recommend you visit the Blue Mosque. In total we were at the mosque for about one hour.Admission is free but you are welcome to make a donation.The mosque is open all day except for about half an hour at a time during the five prayer times. It is also not advisable to visit on a Friday the main day of prayer. Men and women should dress appropriately and adhere to a modest dress sense. No shorts, no short sleeves for women or miniskirts.
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