Saturday, November 3, 2012

Sultan Ahmed or Blue Mosque - Istanbul

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii in Turkish) in Istanbul 
Photo taken from the Sea of Marmara.
was built between 1606 and 1616 at the behest of Sultan Ahmed who was Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1603 until his death in 1617 from typhus (from the young ages of 13 to 27). Ahmed died just one year after the mosque was completed and is buried in a mausoleum just outside the mosque on the north side. It is built near the Hagia Sophia on the spot of the hippodrome and Byzantine Imperial palace. It was built during the classical period of Ottoman architecture, which lasted from 1437 to 1703, and was highly influenced by Byzantine buildings and Hagia Sophia in particular. 
It has six minarets, more than any other mosque in Istanbul, and only equaled by the Haram Mosque in Mecca. This caused a scandal, solved by the sultan by sending his architect to Mecca to add a seventh minaret to the Haram Mosque. It has the largest courtyard of all the Ottoman mosques and has ablution facilities on two sides. 
The courtyard is to the left and the Sea of Marmara in the background.
The interior has more than 20,000 ceramic tiles from Iznik, which was originally Nicaea, where the Nicene Creed was originally promulgated. 
The popular name, "Blue Mosque," comes from the interior blue tiles. 

Tiles on one of the elephant feet pillars.

There are 260 windows, the stained glass originally a gift of the Signoria of Venice to the sultan. 
Most of them have now been replaced, however. The mihrab is made of marble and has a piece of the sacred black stone from the Kaaba in Mecca. Four large 'elephant feet' pillars hold up the main dome which is surrounded by semi-domes. 

The beautiful main dome.
A lesser dome.
Another lesser dome.
And yet another lesser dome, each decorated a little differently.
It has a massive, open, prayer area that can hold 10,000 people 
and the floor is covered in beautiful carpet. I really learned to love the mosques. The plush carpet with shoe-less feet and bright, open, spaces, created a feeling of warmth and welcome. 
Carpet in the Blue Mosque.
Even when crowded, everyone in the mosque can see and hear the Imam. Pope Benedict visited the Blue Mosque in 2006, only the second time a pope had visited a mosque. We were required to go in a side door and had to take off our shoes. Judy, and the other women, had to were a headscarf which was loaned to her.  The Muslim call to prayer is chanted six times a day: (1) two hours before dawn; (2) dawn; (3) midday; (4) afternoon; (5) sunset; and (6) right before the last light of the day. We stayed at a hotel just down the hill from the mosque and a speaker used to broadcast the prayer was mounted on a cliff just across the street from our hotel. 
Blue Mosque from our hotel room window.
One of my most vivid memories of our stay in Istanbul was the loud, haunting, prayer, blasting through our windows early in the morning and at night. This was our first exposure to the Muslim culture and it created quite an impression.
A night view of the Blue Mosque from our hotel balcony.
Photo from our cruise ship in the Sea of Marmara.


  1. Beautiful pictures. I love the dome structure, like a very important, respected grandfather in the center with his sons and then grandsons beneath him, holding him up. Like you, I loved that very loud, sing-songy call to prayer blasting over the city.

  2. Truly beautiful. I'd love to visit there some day.

  3. Fascinating and a fantastic photos about Sultanahmet and Istanbul ...Oldies but goldies..

  4. Wow , This is incredible . Thanks for sharing these wonderful pictures . blue stained windows of mosque are fabulous . Turkey Tours Packages from India

  5. Wow , This is incredible . Thanks for sharing these wonderful pictures . blue stained windows of mosque are fabulous