Today we had booked into a guided tour for the morning, to see some of the local sights. Our guide was a young Turkish girl who also spoke Spanish and English, so we were on the tour with Spanish people. First stop was a re-visit of the Hippodrome area, but I've already described that, so on to stop 2 - the Blue Mosque!
Here's today's photo..
But this time we went inside! Visitors enter through a side gate and door. You have to take off your shoes and they give you a plastic bag to put them in. Usually one would leave them at the door but since there are so many visitors here they advise you to take them with you; also you leave by another door in this mosque so not really practicable to leave them. Women need to have knees and arms and heads covered, but they will give you a robe, like a hospital gown with a hood, if you aren't covered properly. Men going to pray should wash first, so all the mosques have a washing area
Every mosque has a mihrab, a structure that indicates the direction of Mecca, and thus the direction to face when praying, and a minber, the lectern on which the imam stands on holy days and Fridays. In the Blue Mosque, the mimbar is placed so that no matter how full the room is, he can always be seen.
Here is the mihrab and the minber in the Blue Mosque
the minber is the sloping item on the right, and the mihrab the ornate doorway in the centre. The carpet has lines on which one stands shoulder to shoulder with ones fellows, with space between the lines to allow for prostration.
The tiles are all hand made Iznik tiles from the early 17thC, and the upper stories and ceiling rich with decoration of flowers, cypresses and fruit (representation of living beings is not permitted by Islam)
It is not considered a very beautiful mosque because of its proportions - the pillars are too squat and round, the ceiling too wide, but we are not experts and it was pretty impressive!
We left there, put our shoes on and quick shot of us in front showing all minrets!
We crossed the square and went to Ayasofya, or Hagia Sophia, which is now a museum.
Originally it was an Eastern Orthodox church, from 537 to 1452 (except for a brief time between 1204 and 1261 when it was Catholic). It became a mosque in 1453 (when the Ottoman Turks invaded the Roman Constantinople) and remained so until 1931 when it was secularised.
When it became a mosque all the icons on the walls were plastered over. Some had their faces destroyed, but most were saved under the plaster. From Wikipedia "The bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels and other relics were removed and the mosaics depicting Jesus, his Mother Mary, Christian saints and angels were also removed or plastered over. Islamic features – such as the mihrab and minbar and minarets – were added. It remained a mosque until 1931 when it was closed to the public for four years. It was re-opened in 1935 as a museum by the Republic of Turkey."
It was the largest church in the world until 1520, and is supposed to be the epitome of Byzantine architecture, and is famous for its massive dome.
(photo taken from the upstairs gallery). If you look carefully at the angels in the photo you can see that the left angel has a face and the right angel does not. In some cases the face was removed, as above, in others it was overpainted with a sun image.
Here is another of the interior:
taken from the upstairs gallery. The whole of the interior was and still is covered in plaster. Here's what's underneath...
so you can see that it's a giant work to uncover all the mosaics under the plaster. Some have already been uncovered
The walls are covered in marble (where not plastered) rather than tiles, the marble collected from all around the Empire of the East, as it was known in Roman times
a very impressive building indeed!
The tour ended at the Grand Bazaar, and as we had already wandered here we left the tour and made our way just a few feet to the Nuruosmaniye Mosque which is nearby. We took off our shoes, left them outside (as it doesn't have many visitors) and went inside.
This is one of the loveliest mosques, even though no tiles. It is considered one of the finest examples of Baroque Byzantine architecture, and was completed in 1755. It is pale gray marble with a lovely blue carpet and many low lamps and chandeliers
The wooden thing on the upper level is typical of all mosques and is the sultan's section. As he was supposed to be unattended during prayer, he needed to be where people couldn't get to him, thus all mosques have a separate section for him.
It has lovely windows and walls
We then had an indifferent lunch at a cafe recommended by Trip Advisor, which made J say - never trust those recs again! It was extremely hot (mid-30s) and the cafe had water misting over us every 10 seconds!
We had a brief rest back at the hotel, then ventured out for the afternoon's adventure!