The Hagia Sophia has functioned as a museum for decades, becoming one of the picture postcards of Istanbul for the millions of tourists who visit it every year.
However, in July this year it reopened as a mosque after reverting to its original status after the annulment of the original change. According to Professor Mehmet Emin Masali, since July of this year, there have been more than 1.5 million visitors with approximately 30,000 visitors every single weekend to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
The fascinating history behind the Mosque
Initially, the iconic structure was a church and after Istanbul’s defeat in 1453 by the Ottomans it was converted to a mosque and remained in this status for almost 500 years until 1934. After 1934 it was converted once more into a museum, becoming one of the most famous museums in Turkey with no visit to Istanbul complete without a trip to the Hagia Sophia.
The 1934 Cabinet decree which had turned Hagia Sophia into the museum was annulled on July 10 by a Turkish court, which meant that after 86 years the site was once again an operating mosque. On July 24 thousands of visitors from around the world joined the country’s leaders at the mosque in celebration of its reopening as a mosque.
COVID-19 Safety Measures
Professor Masali was quick to tell reporters that they were enforcing the strict COVID-19 safety measures and that visitors were allowed to enter in small groups only. He also confirmed that: “People are self-conscious too and adhere to social distancing whilst inside the mosque.” An expert said that even though the number of visitors to the mosque was limited due to the global pandemic and the travel restrictions, the interest of the Turks’ has never ceased.
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