Also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, this is arguably the most striking building in Istanbul. The visitor can’t help being overwhelmed and humbled by its enormity, its towering minarets and the sheer sense of history pulsing from every slab of stone.
The mosque was built by the Sultan Ahmed I in the early 17th century as a means of placating Allah after a string of military losses, and like many important mosques, the tomb of the founder is contained within. Enter the complex through the massive marble doorway and you immediately find yourself in the courtyard – a beautiful, classical, but simple yard surrounded by tall arches. It is an oasis of calm away from the street-sellers and traffic just beyond the walls.
Despite the steady stream of tourists to the site, the mosque continues to function as a busy place of worship, so curious visitors are ushered inside between prayers for a short while, before being pushed outside again as the worshipers return. This is where the dual function of the Blue Mosque is most evident. No doubt the tourists are a nuisance to the worshipers, but you are also likely to hear impatient visitors complain about having to wait for the worshipers to leave.
The building is located in the center of the historical Sultanahmed area, so a trip there can be combined with a visit to the equally beautiful Ayasofya mosque and the Topkapi Palace, which are all within a few minutes walking distance of the Blue Mosque.
Entrance is free, but it is worth remembering that women are expected to wear a headscarf or shawl when inside. Try to be there just before the call to prayer rings from the minarets.. It’s a strange and beautiful moment that will make the hair on your neck stand on end.