With its magnificent architecture, the Sultan Ahmet Mosque attracts attention to both its exterior and interior design.
The Sultan Ahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque is probably one of the most famous landmarks in Istanbul. With its magnificent architecture, the Sultan Ahmet Mosque attracts attention to both its exterior and interior design. Take a look at the history of this mosque before you visit it to appreciate all the details even more.
THE HISTORY OF THE SULTAN AHMET MOSQUE
The Sultan Ahmet Mosque was started to be built in 1609 and it was finished in 1616, taking 15 years to complete. The original name of the mosque, Sultan Ahmet Mosque comes from the Sultan Ahmet I who ordered the mosque to be built. The architect of the mosque was Sedefkar Mehmet Ağa who was the pupil as well as the senior assistant of the world-famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. Since the Sultan Ahmet Mosque is located right across the world-renown Hagia Sophia, it was designed to be a complementary structure.
Sultan Ahmet Mosque is usually known as the Blue Mosque by many tourists due to the ceramic tiles inside the mosque. These ceramics are Iznik tiles which are quite famous in Turkey. They are handmade and have flower designs on them. In the Blue Mosque, there are 20,000 of these handmade ceramic tiles with more than fifty different tulip designs, making the interior look blue. The Sultan Ahmet Mosque has more than 200 windows with stained glass in its structure. The calligraphies found inside the mosque are verses from the Holy Qur’an and they were made by the best calligrapher of the time, Seyyid Kasim Gubari. The chandeliers in the Sultan Ahmet Mosque also had ostrich eggs placed on them which are known to be natural repellent for spiders, keeping the mosque clean without any cobwebs.
The Sultan Ahmet Mosque is more than just a mosque but a complex. It includes medreses, Turkish baths also known as hamams, hospital, primary school, Sultan Resting Mansion which allowed Sultan a place to rest before and after prayers, and tombs. Sultan Ahmet I and his wife Kosem Sultan, as well as their sons’ tombs, are located on the grounds of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque.
The Sultan Ahmet Mosque is the first one of the five mosques with six minarets in Turkey. Traditionally, mosques have either two or four minarets. According to one legend, the Sultan Ahmet I wanted “golden minarets” which is “altın minare” in Turkish. However, it is said that the architect misunderstood him and thought he wanted “six minarets” which is “altı minare” in Turkish. We do not know for sure if this was the actual reason for the six minarets being built. If it was, then we can’t blame the architect for misunderstanding the Sultan as there is only one letter difference between the two terms. In any case, having six minarets in the mosque created a problem. The only mosque that had six minarets in the world was the mosque of the Kaaba in Mecca. In order to be respectful, the Sultan ordered a seventh minaret to be built in the mosque in Mecca which solved the problem.
HOW TO VISIT A MOSQUE PROPERLY
There are certain things you need to be careful about when visiting a mosque. Many of the mosques in Istanbul are still functioning places of worship where Muslims pray five times a day. In Islam, the area of prayer must be clean. Since the outside is regarded as dirty, shoes should be taken off before entering the mosque. However, taking the shoes off is not enough on its own. You should take your shoe off strictly outside of the carpeted area and place your barefoot on the carpet immediately after taking your shoe off. If you step outside, your feet will also be regarded as dirty. When entering the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, you will be provided with plastic bags to put your shoes in to take them with you.
Mosques require modest clothing. Both men and women should be wearing clothes that do not expose their skin too much. If men are wearing shorts, they will be asked to wear a long skirt to cover their legs. Similarly, if women are wearing shorts or mini skirts, they will be asked to wear long skirts. Women are also required to cover their hair with the provided headscarves as a sign of respect to the place of worship as well as the worshippers.
Even though visitors are not allowed during prayer times, there can still be believers who are praying in the mosque. Therefore, please be quiet not to disturb them.
You are not asked to pay a fee when entering a mosque as they are places of worship. However, if you wish, you can donate money to the mosques for the maintenance and restoration work for the next generations to see these historical landmarks as well.
If you are visiting mosques but have no information about Islam or you want to learn more, there are free leaflets covering the fundamentals of Islam as well as the frequently asked questions in almost every mosque. You can take as many leaflets as you wish to learn about Islam and understand it.
WHERE IS THE SULTAN AHMET MOSQUE AND HOW TO GO THERE
The Sultan Ahmet Mosque is located in the district Sultanahmet which is the most famous place in Istanbul that pretty much every tourist knows. It does not matter where you are staying, the easiest and the fastest way to reach Sultanahmet is by using the tramline. T1 tramline takes you to Sultanahmet directly. If you have no tram nearby, you can take the metro first and then transfer to the tramline at designated stops.
WHEN DOES THE SULTAN AHMET MOSQUE OPEN?
The Sultan Ahmet Mosque is a still-functioning mosque. Therefore, it is open most of the day. However, during prayer times, you are not allowed to visit the mosque. Also, on Fridays, the mosques are open to visit only after noon due to the Friday prayer which takes a long time. Do not forget that on Fridays, the mosques will be much more crowded than the rest of the week.