Istanbul, the vibrant and bustling city located in Turkey, is a melting pot of different cultures and religions. The city is filled with a rich history, culture, and stunning architecture that has drawn tourists from around the world for centuries. One of the most iconic landmarks of Istanbul is the Blue Mosque, which is a masterpiece of Islamic/Ottoman architecture and a symbol of the city’s religious and cultural heritage.
The Blue Mosque, also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is located in the historical center of Istanbul and was built in the early 17th century. It was commissioned by Sultan Ahmed I, who ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1603 to 1617. The mosque was designed by the architect Sedefkâr Mehmed Ağa and took seven years to build. It was completed in 1616 and has been a prominent feature of Istanbul‘s silhouette ever since.
The Blue Mosque is renowned for its exquisite architecture and intricate design. The mosque has six minarets, which is a unique feature as most mosques have only two or four minarets. Legend has it that Sultan Ahmed I instructed the architect to construct the mosque with golden minarets. However, due to the homophonic nature of the Turkish words “altın” (meaning “gold”) and “altı” (meaning “six”), the architect misunderstood and built six minarets instead.
When the mosque was completed in 1616, it caused controversy and outrage among the religious authorities in Mecca, who believed that the Blue Mosque was trying to rival the Masjid al-Haram which is the holiest site in Islam and the largest mosque in the world.
To resolve the issue, Sultan Ahmed I sent a team of architects to Mecca to add a seventh minaret to the Masjid al-Haram. This was seen as a gesture of goodwill, and the controversy was resolved peacefully. Today, the Blue Mosque’s six minarets remain a prominent and cherished feature of Istanbul’s skyline.
The mosque also has a central dome that is 23.5 meters (77.1 feet) in diameter and 43 meters (141 feet) high. The interior of the mosque is adorned with more than 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles in blue and white, giving it its nickname, the Blue Mosque.
The Blue Mosque is not only a masterpiece of Islamic architecture but also a significant cultural and religious landmark. It is an active mosque and can accommodate up to 10,000 worshippers at a time. Visitors are welcome to enter the mosque, but they are required to follow the dress code and remove their shoes before entering. The mosque is a place of worship, and visitors are expected to show respect and avoid making noise.
The Blue Mosque is located in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, which is home to many historical landmarks, including the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and the Basilica Cistern. The mosque is easily accessible by public transportation, and there are many hotels, restaurants, and shops in the surrounding area.
The Blue Mosque is open to visitors every day, except during prayer times. The mosque is closed to visitors for 30 minutes before and after each of the five daily prayers. Visitors are advised to check the prayer times before visiting to avoid disappointment.
Practical Tips for Visiting
When visiting the Blue Mosque, visitors are required to follow the dress code and remove their shoes before entering. Women are also required to cover their heads, and there are scarves available for loan at the entrance. Visitors are not allowed to enter during prayer times, so it’s important to plan your visit accordingly. The mosque can get busy, especially during peak tourist season, so it’s best to arrive early to avoid long lines.
The Blue Mosque is a stunning example of Islamic architecture and an important cultural and religious landmark in Istanbul. It’s a must-see attraction for anyone visiting the city, and visitors will be amazed by the intricate design and breathtaking beauty of the mosque. With its convenient location, visiting hours, and practical tips, a visit to the Blue Mosque is sure to be a highlight of any trip to Istanbul.
Interested in a private tour of the Blue Mosque and her environs? Check out our Istanbul Private Tours article.