Wednesday, May 6, 2009

one mosque, two mosque, new mosque, blue mosque

it can be sort of easy to forget that turkey is a muslim country.

until, of course, the blaring call to prayer wakes you up at 4:30 in the morning.

or until you remember that half the women around you have their heads covered.

or until you visit some of the most stunningly beautiful mosques you have ever seen in all your live long days.

it starts with the ayasofya (or hagia sophia, depending on where you're from. i like the first one better because the spelling doesn't remind me of the word hag. but, to each his own.)

ransacked by crusaders, the outside is not much to look at (IMHO. again, to each his own), but the inside is just breathtaking, a wonderful hodge-podge of muslim artifacts, including massive disks of calligraphy bearing the name of Allah, and christian influences, like intricate tile mosaics of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, the doctrinal cross-over owing to the fact that the ayasofya has served as both a mosque and a christian house of worship in its long and eventful life. now it is technically a museum, but don't tell it that.

{my tour book pointed out that this is one of the most impressive religious mosaics in the world. never mind that the bottom two-thirds is missing.}

across the way, you'll find the blue mosque.

the blue mosque is sort of the opposite of the ayasofya. the blue tile and soaring minarets make for a gorgeous exterior, but dana pointed out that the inside is sort of like a convention center. since the mosque is still in use, we decided to forgive this. in fact, we arrived right at prayer time and had to wait outside while the prayer finished up before we could go in.

the minarets on the outside actually caused a big scandal back in the day because there are six of them, the same number of minarets at the big mosque in mecca. no mosque had ever rivaled mecca like that, and no one knew quite what to do. the final solution was to add a seventh minaret in mecca. now you know.

or, if you are looking for something a little more modern, you can head over to the new mosque, which is, of course, not really new at all, but we are speaking in relative terms here.

i can totally pass, right?