Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hagia Sophia Mosque, Part 1

The Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) was first dedicated in 360. It suffered damage in several wars and kept being restored by the current conqueror. It served as the Greek cathedral of Constantinople until 1204 when it was converted to a Catholic cathedral by Crusaders. In 1261 it again became a Greek cathedral. It became a mosque in 1453, and remained a mosque until 1931 when the new Republic of Turkey made it a museum.  

Point your camera anywhere and click. 

Fabulous calligraphy. The structure on the right is the top of the pulpit.

The structure at bottom right is a private room with a sultan screen to shield the sultan from curious worshippers.

The sultan's private viewing room.

Inside the mosque it was damp and chilly. Lots of visitors noticed a cat (one of many in the mosque) using a bright light as a heat lamp.

He was very popular with all photographers, and stayed there enjoying the warmth the whole time I was wandering around the mosque.

I love cat-friendly museums. Istanbul seemed to be a very cat-friendly place. They were everywhere.

Backtracking to Sunday in Istanbul

We got back to Uxbridge in West London today around noon. We flew in to London's Heathrow airport on Turkish Airlines. I had already arranged for round-trip tickets on British Airways, but last night when Robin tried to check in to our flight online, she realized that some genius had booked the return flight for March 28 instead of February 28. British Air wanted such an exorbitant fee to change the flight that Jay, who was visiting in our room (and who works for a travel agency), found us reasonably priced one-way tickets on Turkish Airlines. That's the last time I let me make airline reservations for Robin and John. 

Back to backtracking. On Sunday Jay and his parents planned to meet us at our hotel at noon, then walk to a seafood restaurant nearby. So we left early Sunday morning and walked to a couple of the most famous mosques that were very close to our hotel: The Blue Mosque and Sofia Hagia which is now open as a museum. 

The Blue Mosque is the one that's visible (and audible) from our hotel room. It's magnificent from the outside, with it's six minarets. Four of the minarets have three stages (balconies) each, and two of the minarets have two stages each, totaling 16 stages. The mosque is built in honor of the 16th sultan, Ahmed.

Of course we expected the mosque to have an overwhelming blue color scheme. But no. There's some blue in the carpet, and some blue in the tiles on the walls, but not enough to justify the name Blue Mosque. One story says that the Spanish name for the mosque sounded like azul, so it became known as the Blue (azul) Mosque. The real name is Sultanahmet Camil (the Sultan Ahmed Mosque), but you can also call it the brand spankin' new mosque because it was built yesterday by Istanbul standards: 1609-1616.

Beautiful and masterful tile work everywhere. 

The Blue Mosque from our hotel room.

Foreign infidels (even local infidels) have to stay behind a roped-off area that's off to the side. I can understand that. Otherwise some clueless New Mexican with an iPhone would be tripping over praying Muslims just to get a cool photo.

Incredible decorative brush work on an incredible calligraphy document. We didn't spend a lot of time here because it's just too darn new. Might as well visit the Apple Store.