The Suleymaniye Mosque is not only a place where people come to pray. As well as the hall of prayer and courtyard, there were also four schools, bath houses, a hospital, a tavern on the road where travellers would stop to rest and a public kitchen which served food to those who needed it; regardless of their faith, all religions were welcomed.
You will need to walk along a street that is lined with small houses serving tea and in the olden days this was known as addicts alley as the people could obtain drugs from these houses.
Once down the alley the walls around the mosque have openings where you gain entrance. You will immediately be overwhelmed by the beautifully maintained gardens. Once you have walked past the washing facilities and you will be in the courtyard which still has a water spring in the centre which would have also been used by people to wash themselves.
Inside the mosque, you will immediately be struck by the vast proportions it is fifty-nine metres long and fifty-eight metres wide. The principle dome is fifty-three metres high, and the supporting pillars are cleverly disguised so can hardly be seen. The mosque has very minimal decor and this is accentuated by the light that comes in through the two hundred coloured windows.
The mosque has had a fair amount of damage over the years. In 1659 it was gutted by fire, and Sultan Mehmed IV issued orders that it was restored. In 1766 the dome partially collapsed in an earthquake, and it wasn’t until the 19th century that the renovations that were needed were carried out.
The mosque was hit again by fire in World War I, whilst the yard was being used to store the weapons, and there was an explosion. Again in 1956 it underwent restoration and extensive refurbishments have been carried out since.
At the back of the mosque there are two mausoleums and a graveyard, including the expertly renovated tombs of Sultan Suleyman I, and his family. In front and just behind the perimeter is the tomb of architect Sinan, this however you cannot go to see this.
There is a restaurant which used to be the public kitchens on the perimeter of the mosque. Besides the restaurant, in the trees, is a area of ground that has sunk and been turned into a cafe, the decor is not great but it is a very peaceful place to sit and enjoy a drink in the cool away from the heat of the sun.
The mosque is open daily from 9am until 5.30pm. During prayer time you will not be allowed to enter, but this will only be for a short while. Entrance to the mosque is free and donations are welcomed.