The ancient Sultan Ahmed Mosque of Istanbul, also called Blue Mosque, is a top visited attraction and place of worship. Visiting is an excellent insight into Islam, Istanbul, Ottoman rule, and the Turkish way of life. The mosque has a prominent place in Istanbul's history. Hence gained global attention for its historical value and status as an Islamic place of worship. From the domes to the gallery to exquisite tiles, the Blue Mosque of Istanbul (Camii) in Sultanahmet Square deserves respect and admiration.
Guide to the Sultanahmet Blue Mosque of Istanbul
The Blue Mosque History
In 1616, after a disastrous war with Persia, Sultan Ahmet wanted to reassert his power by building an imperial mosque near Topkapi Palace. However, many people were angry he used treasury funds for construction rather than the usual spoils of war. Built on the same site as the former Byzantine Palace, the Blue Mosque dominated Istanbul's skyline in the Sultan Ahmet district, alongside the iconic Hagia Sophia. The Blue Mosque's architect, Sedefqar Mehmet Aga, was an Albian student of Mimar Sinan, the Ottoman sultan's favourite.
Mehmet took everything Mimar Sinan taught him and added his best style to present a mosque and an iconic vision of Istanbul. Mehmed worked on the Blue Mosque for seven years while drawing architectural inspiration from the Hagia Sophia, sitting opposite, whose name translates to the church of holy wisdom. Many say he wanted to outshine the Hagia Sophia and exceed its prestigious reputation. Altogether the blue mosque functioned as a Turkish social complex and included a Madrasa, Mausoleum, school, Royal pavilion, and bazaar, and it did indeed, take the limelight off the Hagia Sophia.
As one of only two mosques in Turkey with six minarets, at the time of construction, the planned minarets caused outrage because the only mosque with six minarets was in Mecca. So, the Sultan built another minaret at the Mecca Mosque. Four corners and two forecourt minarets make the Blue Mosque an iconic landmark. In the olden days, imams climbed the minaret to sound the call to prayer, but now, they use a loudspeaker.
The historic façade, built in the same style as Suleymaniye mosque, another Istanbul and Ottoman imperial place of worship features a central hexagonal fountain. A heavy chain also hangs over the main western side entrance. Here, Sultans came in on horseback, and had to lower their heads, as respect and humility for the creator Allah.
The Magnificent Interior Design
Sultan Ahmed Mosque got its nickname from visitors amazed at the blue ceramic tiles decorating the inside. Coming from Iznik, a place in Turkey with a prestigious reputation for excellence, they feature various tulip designs, a popular theme during Ottoman times. Meanwhile, blue paint adorns the upper interior walls, and 200 stained glass windows and chandeliers boost light. A quirky fact is imams used to put ostrich eggs inside the chandeliers to deter spiders. Lastly, take time to admire the Mihrab and pulpit where imams stand. Such is the mosque's architectural design; everyone hears the imam leading prayer.
Praying in the Blue Mosque of Istanbul
According to the call from the grand historical mosque, Muslims attend prayer, known as Ezan, five times a day. Muslim prayer begins at sunrise, finishes at sunset, and follows the sun's movement without specific times. Visitors to Sultan Ahmet district in Istanbul can only enter outside prayer sessions. The Religious Affairs Presidency decides on prayer times, so check before heading there to ensure it opens to non-praying visitors. Remember the holy day is Friday hence the mosque is busy.
You don't need to book an Istanbul tour or buy tickets to visit the old Blue Mosque or the Hagia Sophia mosque. Some people enter via the old Hippodrome entrance, which gives a marvellous view of the front facade. In contrast, others enter via the Sultanahmet square entrance, which passes the taps Muslims use to wash their hands, feet, and face before entering.
Although tourists don't have to wash, they should remove shoes, and females must cover their hair, upper arms, cleavage and upper torso. Men must wear trousers, not shorts. Be quiet because this is a Turkish place of worship, and do not use flash photography. When leaving the Blue Mosque, hand the headscarf back and retrieve footwear from the designated area. Entrance is free, and the Blue Mosque organisers welcome donations.
Also About Istanbul
The Fatih District: The Blue Mosque sits in Istanbul's Sultanahmet district, which belongs to the Fatih province. This is home to many other Istanbul city museums, including the Hagia Sophia and the famous Topkapi Palace. This article talks more about the attractions, tours, expectations, and why they host millions of people every year. You want to put these activities on your bucket list, from the Balat and Fener neighbourhoods to more iconic landmarks of Istanbul.
Beautiful Mosques in Turkey: If you like to travel and see different cities and towns, this article will interest you. Although the Blue Mosque in Istanbul city is an iconic building, there are many more in Turkey. A mosque in Turkey is called a Camii, and some of the best boast of architectural wonders.
Churches in Turkey: Although Istanbul and other destinations feature many mosques, you might be surprised to learn Turkey also has many historic churches. The Bible’s Seven Churches of Revelation were here and this is where early Christianity spread. Some churches are in Istanbul, so you can visit them after seeing the famous Blue Mosque in Sultanahmet Square.