The largest Mosque in Istanbul (don't recall the name) has the Grand Bazar located around it.
Today was our full day in Istanbul and we spent the entire day focused in the cities three main sites: The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the Topkapi Palace.
The Blue Mosque is so named because of the rare blue tiles that were used to decorate the interior; however, only the tourist and tourist guides call it by that name. To the locals it’s the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. It was built between 1609 and 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder. Whereas his predecessors had paid for their mosques with their war booty, Sultan Ahmed I had to withdraw the funds from the treasury, because he had not won any notable victories.
The mosque was to be built on the site of the palace of the Byzantine emperors, facing the Hagia Sophia (at that time the most venerated mosque in Istanbul) and the hippodrome, a site of great symbolic significance. Large parts of the southern side of the mosque rest on the foundations, the vaults and the undercrofts of the Great Palace. Sultan Ahmed became a sultan at age 14 and died at 28. The Blue Mosque is the only one in Istanbul with 6 minarets and it is still used as a place of prayer today.
The Blue Mosque
Hagia Sophia is a former patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, now a museum. Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture. It was the largest cathedral ever built in the world for nearly a thousand years, until the completion of the Medieval Seville Cathedral in 1520 (in comparison, it is approximately 4 times the size of The Blue Mosque).
The structure was completed in only 5 years (A.D. 532-537) and the third Church of the Holy Wisdom to occupy the site (the previous two had both been destroyed by riots). Ruins from the previous churches still remain and are displayed on the grounds. It was the patriarchal church of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the religious focal point of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly 1000 years.
As is true of all mosques, only men are allowed to pray in the main room on the first floor. Women pray from the gallery (or balcony) that overlooks the main central room. At Hagia Sophia, an oval ramp was used to get from the main floor to the gallery. Wealthy women could be carried up the ramp on donkeys.
Aside from the shear size of the structure, the most amazing thing (to me) is that it was originally built as a church, modified to a mosque (adding the architectural elements required, covering over the Christian mosaics, and rotating the layout of the main prayer room 8 degrees so that it faced Mecca as opposed to the original south facing direction.
As a part of the restoration effort, plaster over the mosaics has been removed revealing the original images.
The Topkapı Palace was the official and primary residence in the city of the Ottoman Sultans, from 1465 to 1853. The palace was a setting for state occasions and royal entertainments and is a major tourist attraction today. The name directly translates as "Cannongate Palace", from the palace being named after a nearby, now lost gate.
Initial construction started in 1459, ordered by Sultan Mehmed II, the conqueror of Byzantine Constantinople. The palace is a complex made up of four main courtyards and many smaller buildings.
At the height of its existence as a royal residence, the palace was home to as many as 4,000 people, formerly covering a larger area with a long shoreline. The complex has been expanded over the centuries, with many renovations such as after the 1509 earthquake and 1665 fire.
The call for prayer is broadcast from the Minerates.
Topkapı Palace gradually lost its importance at the end of the 17th century, as the Sultans preferred to spend more time in their new palaces along the Bosporus. In 1853, Sultan Abdül Mecid I decided to move the court to the newly built Dolmabahçe Palace, the first European-style palace in the city. Some functions, such as the imperial treasury, the library, mosque and mint, were retained though.
After the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1921, Topkapı Palace was transformed by government decree on April 3, 1924 into a museum of the imperial era.
The Topkapı Palace Museum is under the administration of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The palace complex has hundreds of rooms and chambers, but only the most important are accessible to the public today. The complex is guarded by officials of the ministry as well as armed guards of the Turkish military. The palace is full of examples of Ottoman architecture and also contains large collections of porcelain, robes, weapons, shields, armor, Ottoman miniatures, Islamic calligraphic manuscripts and murals, as well as a display of Ottoman treasure and jewelry.
As day 7 draws to a close, we’re sailing out of Istanbul and will be arriving in Mykonos about 1:00 tomorrow afternoon.