Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Blue Mosque, Turkey

Sultanahmet Camii, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is known as the Blue Mosque. The exterior isn't blue but its name comes from the 20,000 blue tiles that line the ceiling inside. It sits across from the Hagia Sophia and is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period.

Sultan Ahmet I commissioned the mosque when he was 19 years old. He wanted it to be better than the Ayasofya and it was named for him. Construction lasted seven years from 1609 to 1616.

Most mosques have one, two or four minarets. However, the Blue Mosque is easy to spot because it has six minarets. One story goes that the sultan told his architect that he wanted "gold" (altin) minarets which was misunderstood to be "six" (alti) minarets.

This was a scandal because, at the time, the only other mosque to have six minarets was the Ka'aba Mosque in Mecca - the holiest mosque in the world. The sultan solved the problem by sending his architect to build a 7th minaret in Ka'aba.

This is a working mosque, with capacity for 10,000 people. There are rules to follow...

It is closed to non-Muslims for about a half hour, at a time, during each of the five daily prayers. All non-Muslims have to use the side entrance. Everyone must remove their shoes before stepping on the carpets. People need to be appropriately dressed so men must wear long pants (no shorts). Women must cover their head with a scarf and should wear a long skirt. You can't take pictures inside during prayers and everyone, male and female, must remain in the visitor's area.
The mosque has a separate area where women go to pray. Visitors are not allowed here.
The mosque is absolutely beautiful!!
In November 2006, Pope Benedict XVI visited the mosque. It was only the second papal visit in history to a Muslim place of worship.

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