Where to start telling you about Istanbul? This city is so rich in history, so old and so full of ancient buildings and sites. That alone is almost overwhelming.
So let me begin with the building next to our hotel - about two minutes away. The Blue Mosque is one of the most popular touristic sites in Istanbul. Its correct name is Sultan Ahmed Mosque (in Turkish Sultan Ahmet Cami) after Sultan Ahmed I. during whose rule the mosque was constructed between 1609 and 1616. It still functions as a mosque where the muezzin calls for prayer five times during the day.
We got our first real glimpse of it on our first night in the city from one of the many roof top restaurants.
Most of the mosque was under construction when we were there, but we were still able to get into it and see the few parts that were open to the public at that time. We first entered the big courtyard or forecourt from where we could admire the beautiful architecture of the mosque.
I especially loved the ceiling in the arcades around the courtyard.
In order to be allowed inside the mosque you have to follow the dress code - women have to cover their heads and shoulders and clothes should fall beneath the knee; men had to wear long pants. Kaefer and I both had our scarves with us, but for those who hadn't there were free and freshly laundered coverings to borrow for both women and men. You also have to remove your shoes.
Then we stepped inside.
It was simply amazing. The mosque's walls are lined with handmade, hand painted ceramic tiles - just imagine all the work! The dominant color is blue, but there are so many more shades to discover.
The "non-tile" parts of the interior are just as beautiful even if not quite as amazing. I love the simple elegance of the arches.
Unfortunately the main dome and some of the "side" domes were under construction, so we were only able to just see a very small part of the interior of the mosque. I can only imagine how amazingly beautiful the entire mosque must be.
The prayer area, however, was open to men who wanted to worship. There were signs to please respect this area and don't take any photos. And what did some of the men do? They stepped into the prayer area, walked around the entire place as if they owned it, with their cell phones on a selfie stick, taking photos. I got so mad when I saw it. But what really ticked me off completely was a young guy who entered the women's prayer area - a much smaller area closed off with a barrier! - with his selfie stick phone. I was fuming.
What is so freakin' difficult about respecting the rules of a different religion in its place of worship? Why does someone has to be so rude? If someone is not able to respect the rules and customs in a different country then please stay home. Or at least don't visit their place of worship. I simple can't understand this total disregard and I certainly can't stomach it.
Those inconsiderate tourists overshadowed the visit to the mosque, but what I remember of it is mainly its beauty and its peacefulness.
When we left the mosque through the gate we saw the Hagia Sophia right opposite the Blue Mosque. Another stunning building that I will tell you about later.
And in the evening, from the roof top terrace of our hotel, we enjoyed the view of this stunning place with its six minarets.