After Paris, I went back to Barcelona for a few days then proceeded to Istanbul. Turkey has been one of my dream destinations ever since childhood. I was fascinated with the Ottoman Empire, ancient civilizations that have been formed, and its significance to Alexander the Great’s conquests. The country’s rich history mainly accounts for the diversity of cultures found in Turkey, a melting pot for Asian and European cultures. This trip is surely bound to be educational!
A couple of friends were my guides during my stay. The weather that time was far from perfect so I was really grateful that they came to see me. For my first week, I stayed with a friend, Seda and her family. It was a wonderful experience because even if it was my first time to meet her, she and her family were very welcoming and kind to me. Not to mention, her mom is a great cook!
For the first week, our focus was an exploration in Istanbul.
Sultanahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque is a notable mosque in Istanbul. The mosque earned its moniker due to the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior. The mosque was built from 1609 to 1616, under the reign of Ahmed I.
In order to reassert power after the defeat from the wars with Persia, Sultan Ahmed I decided to build a huge mosque in Istanbul. His predecessors had paid for their mosques with their war booty, however since Sultan Ahmed I suffer losses from the war, he had no capability to pay for the construction of the mosque. Hence, he had to use the funds from the treasury, provoking the anger of the Ottoman ulema, the Muslim legal scholars.
The design of the Sultanahmet incorporate elements from Byzantine period as well as traditional design of an Ottoman mosque. Sultanahmet has six minarets where four of these stand at the corners of the mosque. Each of these fluted, pencil-shaped minarets has three balconies with stalactite corbels, while the two others at the end of the forecourt only have two balconies.
The most impressive part of the mosque for me was the interior of the mosque. The interior features thousands of handmade ceramic tiles, in different tulip, fruit and cypresses designs. Unfortunately, the colors of the tiles have faded and the glazes have dulled over time.
The interior of the upper part of the mosque is dominated by blue paint. Stained glass windows allow for natural light to flow through while ostrich eggs on the chandeliers provide as a repellant to spiders. The decorations including verses from the Qur’an. The floors are covered with carpets, which are donated by patrons and are regularly replaced as they wear out.
The lamps inside the mosque were once covered with gold and gems. Among the glass bowls each one could find ostrich eggs and crystal balls. All these decorations have been removed or placed in museums in Istanbul.
When visiting another country, it is an unwritten rule to always be mindful of your destinations’s culture and customs. The official website of the mosque is a useful guide regarding facts about the mosque and the etiquette for visiting.