No, not in Israel, yet. Our hosts Pastors Steve and Wendell Vinson wanted to give us a bit of historical background to our time of touring in Israel. Our group stopped off in Istanbul, Turkey, for two nights.
First stop, the Blue Mosque (called Sultanahmet Camii in Turkish) is an historical mosque in Istanbul. The mosque is known as the Blue Mosque because of blue tiles surrounding the walls of interior design. The Blue Mosque was built between 1609 and 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Just like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasa, and a hospice. Besides being tourist attraction, it’s also a active mosque, closed to non-Muslim worshippers for a half hour or so during the five daily prayers.
Fun Facts from Google about the Blue Mosque:
- Istanbul’s Blue Mosque is also known as Sultanahmet Mosque. Wondering why it was dubbed the Blue Mosque? Well, you may be puzzled as you approach the mosque as its exterior has not even a hint of blue . . . but it’ll all make sense when you walk inside and see striking blue tiles.
- The Sultanahmet Mosque is named after Sultan Ahmet I who wished to build an Islamic place of worship that would compete with the Hagia Sophia. The two places of worship now stand side by side for visitors to judge which is the more extraordinary of the architectural marvels.
- Sultan Ahmet I initiated the construction of the mosque when he was only nineteen years old. In fact, he was so eager to finish building it that he often assisted to speed up the process. Unfortunately, he died one year after it was completed at the age of twenty-seven.
- A madrasa, hospital, han, primary school, market, imaret, and tomb of Sultan Ahmet I and his wife and three sons were all part of the original mosque’s complex, but many of them were later torn down in the nineteenth century.
- Mosques traditionally have one, two, or four minarets. That’s what makes the Blue Mosque unique as it boasts six minarets. It’s rumored that this was a misunderstanding as the Sultan had instructed his architect to make gold (altin) minarets which his architect understood as six (alti) minarets.
- The Harem Mosque in Mecca, which is the holiest in the world, also has six minarets that caused controversy to the extent Sultan Ahmet I had to send his architect to Mecca to add a seventh minaret to the Haram Mosque.
- Although the main west entrance is far grander than the north entrance, non-worshippers are asked to use the north entrance to keep the mosque’s sacredness intact.
- The Blue Mosque’s interior is lit with two hundred and sixty windows, which were once filled with stained glass of the seventeenth century. Unfortunately they have been lost and replaced with replicas far more inferior.
- Visitors can delight in a historical narrative and light show at 9 p.m. in summer with commentary in Turkish, English, French, and German on select nights.
- The mosque’s interior has 20,000 blue tiles that line its high ceiling. The oldest of these tiles feature flowers, trees, and abstract patterns that make them fine examples of sixteenth century Iznik design.
Before entering the Blue Mosque, we had to take our shoes off, and, adhering to the mosque’s rules, we women bought scarves to cover our heads. Upon entering the Blue Mosque, we were impressed by the loftiness of high ceilings with ornately decorated architecture and rich Turkish rugs, but everything smelled like dirty feet. There is an ample garden area between the two mosques, where the Roman chariot race arena was positioned. Three oblisques in the center of the garden area aligned the track where the chariots raced. Both the race track and stadium are not in existence now; only the oblisques remain. I was awestruck by the beauty of the mosque and the ruins but saddened by the emptiness of those who pray to a god who cannot hear their prayers.
“Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on earth below. There is no other.” —Deuteronomy 4:39
Tomorrow’s stop: Hagia Sophia, whose name means “holy wisdom”—originally built as a cathedral in Constantinople in the 6th century AD. Stay tuned!