The main attraction in Turkey is the Hagia Sophia. For me at least. When we finally made our way around the corner to visit the historic site, well, about a hundred or two other people beat us to it. It wasn’t so much that the line was so long — and it was hella long — but it was freezing cold and standing still wasn’t going to help.
So, we meandered across the way and greeting us was an even more impressive, albeit less historic, site — The Blue Mosque. Magnificent [and I don’t usually use that word].
After shaking off a highly persistent hawker trying to get us to check out his rugs, even though we kept reiterating we couldn’t fit in on the plane even if we got one, we entered the courtyard of the Blue Mosque. No line. No cover. Just lots of people. We wanted to go inside, but they were about to do the call to prayer and weren’t letting people in at that moment. Again, sitting still isn’t an option when it’s that cold, so we kept it moving.
The Blue Mosque (Called Sultanahmet Camii in Turkish) is an historical mosque in Istanbul. The mosque is known as the Blue Mosque because of blue tiles surrounding the walls of interior design.Mosque was built between 1609 and 1616 years, during the rule of Ahmed I. just like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasa and a hospice. Besides still used as a mosque, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque has also become a popular tourist attraction in Istanbul.
Besides being tourist attraction, it’s also a active mosque, so it’s closed to non worshippers for a half hour or so during the five daily prayers.
Following the Peace of Zsitvatorok (1606) and the unfavourable result of the wars with Persia, Sultan Ahmed I decided to build a huge mosque in Istanbul. It would be the first great imperial mosque to be built in more than forty years. His predecessors had paid for their mosques with their war booty, Sultan Ahmed I had to withdraw the funds from the treasury, because he had not won any notable victories during his time. This provoked the anger of the Ottoman ulema, the Muslim legal scholars.
The mosque was to be built on the site of the palace of the Byzantine emperors, facing the Hagia Sophia (at that time it was most venerated mosque in Istanbul) and the hippodrome, a site of great symbolic significance. Large parts of the southern side of the mosque rest on the foundation and vaults of the Great Palace. Several palaces was already built there, most notably the palace of Sokollu Mehmet Pasha, so these first had to be bought at a considerable cost and pulled down. Large parts of the Sphendone (curved tribune with U-shaped structure of the hippodrome) were also removed to make room for the new mosque. Construction of the mosque started in August 1609 when the sultan himself came to break the first sod. It was his intention that this would become the first mosque of his empire.
He did appoint his royal architect Sedefhar Mehmet Ağa, a pupil and senior assistant of the famous architect Mimar Sinan to be in charge of the Mosque construction. The organization of the work was described in meticulous detail in eight volumes, now found in the library of the Topkapı Palace. The opening ceremonies were held in 1617 . The sultan could now pray in the royal box which called hünkâr mahfil. The building was not yet finished in this last year of his reign, as the last accounts were signed by his successor Mustafa I. Known as the Blue Mosque , Sultan Ahmed Mosque is currently one of the most impressive monuments in the world.