On my first visit to Istanbul, we didn’t quite match for all the wrong reasons and I’ve made my complaints. But despite the not so friendly experience I was amazed by the city itself. I have a thing for cities with a waterfront. I see it as the perfect escape zone when you want to take a break from the hectic city life and pity that I don’t get to experience it here in Tehran where it’s most needed.
Istanbul is the city of mosques. You can hardly find any views of Bosphorus without the minarets picking out and it’s pretty damn gorgeous when they lit up at dark. Unlike my home country where turquoise domes adorned with floral patterns dazzle the city, I found the Ottoman mosques to be all about the inside with a quite simple exterior.
Places of worship have always been a showcase of architectural masterpieces of their time and my weakness for gothic churches in Europe was exchanged for humongous domes in Turkey. I spent only a few days in Istanbul, but made it my mission to visit as many mosques as possible and here are a few of my absolute favourites:
Hagia Sophia was never meant to be a mosque. It was actually the most glorious cathedral of its time. But you can’t deny the fact that it was turned into a mosque for around 500 years! It’s currently a museum, but there’s something extremely unique to this place that you won’t find elsewhere. I’ve seem my fair share ex-mosque churches and the other way around, but the visibility of the interference of both faiths has never been so vivid. Here you can really see the collide of both religions in one place and it’s absolutely breathtaking. Let’s not forget that here you’ll see one of the biggest domes in the entire world which is basically an architectural genius!
Sultanahmet (The Blue Mosque)
Facing Hagia Sofia and one of the most famous attractions, the Blue Mosque has good reasons to be on top of every visitors list in Istanbul. The mosque is famous for its blue iznik tiles, hence why it’s called The Blue Mosque. It’s also the only mosque with six minarets. The interior of the mosque is so exquisite and lavishing that it would be a crime to leave it unvisited!
A dominant monumental example of classical Ottoman architecture, the Soleymaniye mosque doesn’t end with only a place of worship. Additional facilities such as a bath, kitchen, madrassah and others made sure the needs of believers were all provided. It’s a bit of a hike to get up there but Suleymaniye mosque affords one of the most charming views of the Bosphorus, one that’s definitely worth the go.
Rustem Pasha is rather a small mosque and it was quite a hassle to find it. But when I entered and had my eyes locked on the magnificent dome I knew I had come to the right place!
Best thing about mosques in Istanbul is that they are free of charge which saves you quite a lot of money considering the other entrance fees are not cheap. If you’ve visiting in summer, do make sure that you are dressed modestly as they take the dress code seriously. No shorts or tank tops allowed! But if you just come across one on your way around the city and want to sneak inside, don’t worry! I found all the mosques in Istanbul to provide cover ups for men and women who were showing a lot of skin.