Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Grand Mosque. Sultanahmet Cami.


Our visit of Istanbul's heritage landmarks started today with Aya Sophia.  From there, I led Bro across the plaza that separates the former church from its true Islamic counterpart - Sultanahmet Cami or as it's more popularly known as, the Blue Mosque.



By now, Bro was a veteran of visiting mosques having already been to Süleymaniye, Rüstem Pasha, and Yeni Camii.  Once again, I set his expectations.  Of all the mosques in Istanbul, this is the most well known and therefore, the most popular with the tourists.  Every conducted tour group will be here.  The place will be mobbed.  Expect a line. 


We entered the mosque's complex through a relatively modest archway.   We passed through the courtyard.


From there, we followed the signs to the visitor entrance and joined all the other people who were already queued up to go in.  The line did move quickly.

We took off our shoes, I covered my head and we went inside.  Of all the mosques, this is THE one that when you walk in, you have to immediately look up at the painted domes.  They are spectacular!  Jaw dropping gorgeous! The design is so delicate, it almost looks like fine porcelain china.




The mosque was built from 1609 to 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. It was architected by Sedefkâr Mehmed Ağa who was a protégé of Mimar Sinan. I think the student did his master proud because this is truly a masterpiece!


Light inside the mosque is provided by the more than 200 stained glass windows and several chandeliers.



Plush carpeting covers the floor.  It's got a beautiful pattern of tulips and other flowers to match the wall tiles.


Speaking of the wall tiles, the mosque was nicknamed the Blue Mosque because of the use of the color blue in the tiles that line its interior walls.  While the color red has a presence here, it's not quite as dominant as in either Süleymaniye or Rüstem Pasha Cami.  But, I think the design of the tiles is much finer.



The tiles at lower level are traditional in design, while at gallery level they have representations of flowers, fruits and cypresses.


For massive and I mean massive, stone columns support the dome. They are beautifully painted as well.



Probably the largest columns we've ever seen INSIDE a building!

The walls are inscribed with verses from the Quran.





To the right of the mihrab is the richly decorated minbar, or pulpit, where the imam stands when he is delivering his sermon at the time of noon prayer on Fridays or on holy days.


Closer view of the detail of the rich carving on the minbar.

Its magnificent painted domes, the marvelous tiles, and the plush carpeting truly make the interior of Sultanahmet Cami the most luxe of all the historic mosques in Istanbul.

We exited the mosque from a different door.   We were in the courtyard.

Looking back at the exit.

Inscription above the entrance.

Looking from the entry steps towards the Aya Sophia.

Exterior view of Sultanahmet Cami.

I really love this mosque although admittedly, it's not my favorite.  If there is any recommendation I can make to someone coming to Istanbul, it's to see Sultanahmet Cami as the LAST mosque you see in Istanbul.  Most tourists see it first and I think that's a mistake.  Leaving it to the end means you'll be saving the best of the best for last and trust me, it's worth the wait!