Monday, August 18, 2014

The Blue Mosque

June 14th, 2014

On our second day of touring with our guide, Senem, we first visited the Blue Mosque. This is the mosque in the square that was close to our hotel that we would walk down to in the evening.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is a historic mosque popularly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior.

It was built from 1609 to 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. The mosque, as is common, is not a single building used only as a church, but  also contains  a madrasah (school) and a hospice.

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The design of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is the culmination of two centuries of both Ottoman mosque and Byzantine church developments. It incorporates some Byzantine elements of the neighboring Hagia Sophia with traditional Islamic architecture and is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period of the Ottoman Empire. The architect has applied the ideas of his master Sinan, aiming for overwhelming size, majesty and splendor.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is the first one of the two mosques in Turkey that has six minarets.When the number of minarets was revealed, the Sultan was criticized for being presumptuous, since this was the same minarets number as at the mosque of the Ka'aba in Mecca.He overcame this problem by ordering a seventh minaret to be built at the Mecca mosque.

Four minarets stand at the corners of the Blue Mosque. Each of these fluted, pencil-shaped minarets has three balconies (Called ┼×erefe) with stalactite corbels, while the two others at the end of the forecourt only have two balconies. The muezzin, or prayer caller, had to climb a narrow spiral staircase five times a day to announce the call to prayer.

Today, a public announcement system is being used, and the call can be heard across the old part of the city, echoed by other mosques in the vicinity..

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Large crowds of both Turks and tourists gather at sunset in the park facing the mosque to hear the call to evening prayers, as the sun sets and the mosque is brilliantly illuminated by colored flood lights

The Blue Mosque is used as an active mosque, so when we visited we observed the traditional dress code. Before stepping into the Mosque, we took off our shoes and put them in a plastic bags provided at the entrance. This is required of all persons as part of Muslim tradition when entering a mosque. Women are required to wear a head covering when entering a Mosque.

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This is a traditional washing station for the Muslim faithful. The men or women would sit and wash their feet and hands, and maybe their heads (ceremonially) before entering the mosque to pray.

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I know that it is not really polite to photograph people, especially children, in a church, but these kids were so cute and so well behaved.   : )   Note their shoes in the plastic bags.

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When we entered the Blue Mosque, we were once again overwhelmed with the enormity and the ornateness…….

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The many lamps inside the Blue Mosque were once covered with gold and gems. A note of interest – on the chandeliers, ostrich eggs could be found that where meant to avoid cobwebs inside the mosque by repelling spiders.

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The interior of the mosque is lined with more than 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles, 

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I did not find the interior to be ‘blue’ enough to warrant the name of the Blue Mosque, but it was gorgeous!

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More than 200 stained glass windows with intricate designs admit natural light.  Each exedra of the Mosque has five windows, some of which are blind. Each semi dome has 14 windows and the central dome 28 windows(four of which are blind). The colored glass for the windows was a gift from the Signoria of Venice to the sultan.

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The ceramic tiles were made at Iznik city (Nicaea) in more than fifty different tulip designs.  They are similar to the tiles found at Topkapi Palace.

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We did not get much history of the Blue Mosque, but we just took our time to absorb the amazing interior.

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