Thursday, July 5, 2012

Istanbul - A City of Beautiful Mosques

The Istanbul skyline is lined with beautiful and grandiose mosques.  It is really an impressive sight to look at the city from afar and to spot the mosques dotting the hilltops.  Many date back hundreds of years.  We visited three that stand out above the rest: Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and the Suleymaniye Mosque. 

Mosques dotting the Istanbul skyline
Charles, Christie and David inside the Blue Mosque

If we were picking a favorite, it would be the Hagia Sophia.  It originally was an Orthodox patriarchal basilica, then a Roman Catholic cathedral, and finally a mosque.  The cathedral originally was built to face Jerusalem.  When the cathedral was converted to a mosque, a mihrab (niche facing Mecca) was built within the altar area.  It is noticeably off center (which can be seen in the photo below).

Inside the Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia is now a museum, but the majority of mosques in the city are still used for worship.  Men and women visiting the mosques were asked to cover their knees and women also to cover their heads.  The mosques typically had clothing that could be used to cover up if needed. 

Charles and David covering their knees at the Suleymaniye Mosque -- we got a good chuckle out of the skirts!
Christie and Sara covering their heads at the Suleymaniye Mosque

Our hotel was very close to the Blue Mosque.  We could hear the daily calls to prayer from the minarets loud and clear in our rooms!  The sign of a good night of sleep was whether or not we woke up during the 4:30 a.m. call to prayer!

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