First stop - The Blue Mosque

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The Blue Mosque is one of the most prominent landmarks of Istanbul, especially when viewed from the First Hill or from the Asian shore of the Sea of Marmara. It is very impressive with its beautiful domes and semidomes, nice courtyards and six slender minarets.

The Blue Mosque was founded by Sultan Ahmet I. He ordered Architect Mehmed Aga to begin constuction in 1609 and the whole complex was completed in 1616. The location of the mosque is just opposite of the splendid Church of Hagia Sophia as it is trying to compete with it. That is actually true because Architect Mehmed wanted to construct a bigger dome then Hagia Sophia's but he could not succeed. Instead, he made the mosque splendid by the perfect proportion of domes and semidomes as well as the splendid minarets. There is an interesting story of the mosque; according to it, Sultan Ahmet I wanted to have a minaret made of gold which is "altin" in Turkish. The architect misunderstood him as "alti" which means "six" in English. However, when the architect was shivering as "am I going to be beheaded?", the Sultan Ahmed I liked the minarets so much. Prior to that time, no sultan had a mosque with 6 minarets.

The mosque covers a large area, there's a big courtyard where some ablution fountains are located. These ablution fountains are for people who are getting prepared to pray in the mosque. Before praying, one should wash his/her face, arms, neck and feet as well as mouth and nose. This is a basic cleaning. There are beautiful marble steps right in the middle of the courtyard, leading to the main courtyard. The marble courtyard is lovely, its marble comes from the Island of Marmara (the Turkish word for marble ,"Mermer" comes from Marmara). There is a fountain in the middle which is used as decorative purposes. There is a portal on the left hand side which is entrance for the local people. Upon turning to the left, one comes to the main entrance of the mosque. The shoes must be taken off and put into plastic bags.

Upon the entrance to the mosque, one should pay attention to the gate. The gate is a typical Seljuk- Turkish wooden work with a geometrical design in its center. The star symbolizes the Turkish Generation and very typical of early 11-12th C Turkish Art. After the gate, one meets the breathtaking interior of the mosque with its chandelliers and blue tiles. The mosque is all surrounded by beautiful 17C Iznik tiles which give its name to the Blue Mosque. It is all carpeted with prayer rugs because people must put their forehead on the floor and therefore the floor should be soft and clean.

The building is nearly a square and covered with a dome of 23.5 m.(77 feet) in diameter and 43m(140 feet) high. There are four colossal standing colums of 5m. in diameter(16.3 feet) which give the basic support to the building. The mosque has 260 windows which let the sunlight diffuse into the building quite nicely. They were filled with stained-glass in early 17C but they were restored later. The pulpit and nave is worth seeing, made of marble and original. The Imam(priest) goes on the pulpit every Friday on the sacred day of the Muslims but he never climbs to the very top as a respect to Prophet Muhammed. Everybody should turn their face to the south when praying, because Mecca( Saudi Arabia) is located in South.

When visiting the Blue Mosque, one should remember the prayer times, five times a day. First one in the very early in morning, second at noon time, third in afternon, fourth in evening and last fifth before going to bed. The mosque is closed at prayer times for 1-1.5 hours. One should prefer to visit the mosque in the morning or before 3-4 o'clock in the afternoon because the prayer times rotate according to the sun's positions.

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