Sitting with Sultans Day 2
On the second day we went on the usual tourist trip of Istanbul. First stop was to return to the Blue Mosque, this time taking the time to admire the architecture and exquisite work that went into making this magnificent building. It truly is something that is very difficult to describe in words and the only thing that can do it justice is to visit it itself. Leaving through the exit of the Mosque you are faced with the standard next stop on your journey, the Aya Sofia.
You have to pay to enter the Aya Sofia as it is no longer a Mosque but a “museum” (another one of Ataturk’s great misdemeanors), the cost is not that much and it is definitely worth the price. From the outside it doesn’t look like much, especially when compared to the Blue Mosque, but once you get inside you truly appreciate the value of this place. The vast space inside is huge, with no supporting columns in the middle of the building a large void fills the entire space, it is a truly magnificent spectacle especially when you take into account that was built in the 7th Century. My only qualm about the place is that some of the old Christian iconography has been repainted and restored, so you end up with an amalgamism of Islamic and Christian imagery dotted all over the place, being the “traditionalist” that I am, I don’t really see the benefit in bringing back falsehood once truth has prevailed, to put in a certain way. Insha’Allah maybe one day it will be restored to being a Masjid and place of worship in the future.
From the Aya Sofia we went rambling around the immediate area, peering into shops and observing various trades of business going on. Calligraphy is sold in vast amounts in Istanbul, but unfortunately it is very expensive as all the pieces are original, so one of the down sides of my trip was that I was unable to bring any back with me. We went heading to the Grand Bazaar but found it was closed on Sundays (Confound you Ataturk!). Checking my Lonely Planet map I saw the Suleymaniye Mosque, although quite far, was within walking distance from where we were. After praying Asr at the Beyazit Mosque (Another magnificent building right next to the old book bazaar) we ambled past the University of Istanbul towards the Suleymaniye, only to have the worst thing to happen to me on my trip, it was closed.
After the Aya Sofiya and Blue Mosque, the Suleymaniye was one of the places I really wanted to see on my trip, however due to Istanbul being designated as the 2010 European Capital of Culture the government had started going on a spending spree sprucing up all the old historical sights, the Aya Sofiya itself was closed for a long time recently so they could refurbish the central dome and work was still on going. One good side I suppose was now I had a reason to visit Istanbul again in the future!
From the Suleymaniye we took a cab back to the hotel and rested for the remainder of the day as we had done a lot of walking. I had the blessing of being able to perform most of my prayers in the Blue Mosque as it was only 10 minutes walk away, there was a small Mosque that was closer by the name of Ishaak Pasha Camii, but having that behemoth of a building peering over at you was too hard a temptation to resist.
The next day would take us to Topkapi, the place where Sultans really did sit!