Day 2: 11th April 2011.
After the Hippodrome, we were ushered into (=Rather like sheep don’t you think, being directed from one place to another??)
Next Stop: Sultanahmet Camii / Blue Mosque
Fact: It is known as Blue Mosque because of the blue Iznik tiles that decorate its interior. Like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice.
While this Mosque is in active use for prayer, it is also a tourist attraction. While entering the mosque, everyone has to remove their shoes but there are plastic bags provided to the people to keep their shoes in. Also there are brochures about Islam so people get a bird’s eye view of the religion.
The people are quite strict about removing shoes, you pass through checking even after you’ve removed them to be doubly sure. This is really a testimony to how proud the Turks are of their traditions, What must Be Done Must Be Done. Period. (Photo 5)
We did see quite a few firangs (=Oops forgive the Indian way of saying it, a lot of whites would be very racist) complaining about this but the Turks didnt give a damn. You want to come, off go your shoes sir!!
The Mosque faces the Ayasofya on one side and also the Hippodrome. Meaning the Mosque is sandwiched between the Ayasofya and the Hippodrome.
Psst: Ayasofya was built by the Grand Architect Sinan (=who built more than 450 monuments in Turkey talk about Monopoly!!) , Sultan Ahmad II while commissioning the Blue Mosque appointed Sinan’s student to build the mosque.
Try as he might, he could not build a mosque as big as the Ayasofya. So instead of building a Mosque with 4 minarets which was in case a mosque was Imperial and used for Ceremonies, he built in 6 Minarets…(=Duh Student wants to outgrow the teacher,,,any problem with that??)
At its lower levels and at every pier, the interior of the mosque is lined with more than 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles, made at Iznik (the ancient Nicaea) in more than fifty different tulip designs. The tiles at lower levels are traditional in design, while at gallery level their design becomes flamboyant with representations of flowers, fruit and cypresses.
(=Long live Wikipedia>>!!)
Info Snippets: IZNIK TILES
The name comes from a region in Turkey (also called Anatolia). Iznik tiles are hand painted on quartz (=A semi precious mineral) Each tile takes about 2-3 months and is painted with natural dyes and glazed with egg white and fired in a kiln. It is a dying art in Turkey now and there are organisations that are taking efforts to ensure that the art continues.
The tiles on the back balcony wall are recycled tiles from the harem in the Topkapı Palace, when it was damaged by fire in 1574.
The most delicate part of the Mosque were the Stained glass windows (Photo 8). Also the lamps that they used were oil lamps and there was a system to divert the smoke into a separate room to be used as calligraphic ink (=Smart!!). So there is not a black speck on the ceiling save for that painted on the tiles.
Also a thing about the carpets:
The whole mosque is carpeted (Photo 4) and there are lines on it some darker than the other. The 2 dark red lines denote the place that a person takes when they bend down in prayer (=Remember how Muslims bend down in prayer on the floor, this is so that when the Mosque is full, your bum doesn’t get squashed in someone’s face!!)
So we were given about half an hour to explore the Mosque and reassemble outside. During this time we went and clicked pictures of the Mosque (=And each other lol)
We also clicked a picture with a fellow tourist, Jeremy who had opted for the full day tour.
Jeremy is from Philadelphia but now stays in Basel, Switzerland. Also he’s been to Mumbai (=and been in the traffic!!) He was even here during the world cup. So it was nice to interact with him.
After looking around in wonder at the mosque, we left.
Ooh!!: Even though this was a mosque, there was nobody who was wearing a veil over their heads, Although we had put our hoods on as a mark of respect. Turkey is a secular country where religion and politics are separate.
This means that even though 90% of Turkish population is Muslim, only about 20-30% are practicing Muslims. This means that even religion is left to the choice of the person. (=We never got a choice to practice, we just had to!!)
So as we explored Turkey we came to know a lot about the country and also about Islam as a religion and how free and open it can be.
That wraps up the Blue Mosque. After the blue mosque we moved on to a carpet showroom and discovered a lot more things.
Coming Up: Matis and Kaleens…Outer sights, Historical Peninsula