Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Blue Mosque Revisited

Last week myself and Richie returned to the Blue Mosque with a fully charged camera, ready for action. It was pretty annoying last time to have the camera die in the middle of our excursion. So, we took some more photos this time to fill in the gaps.

First of all, when you come to the Blue Mosque, you see a wall surrounding the whole structure. All the mosques I've seen in the city have this sort of outer wall, and in the case of smaller mosques, they keep the inside building from the eyes of passers-by. You get a glimpse of the mosque and some people coming and going from the street, but its as if the inner spaces are protected from the outside world and the curious onlooker. The Blue Mosque is, of course, huge, so it is impossible to hide it behind a wall. But this wall sort of creates a sense of coming closer to a sacred space, and its a little bit quieter, a little bit more peaceful, than the busy bustling world you've just come from.

This garden area is very simple. Just grass, some trees, some simple plants and shrubs. Nothing to flashy or ostentatious. Its just very natural feeling and fresh. Here you can see the place where those heading in to the mosque for their prayers do their ritual washing. It varies with different Muslim denominations, but in general, before prayer Muslims wash their hands, feet and face. I think Turks take the idea of keeping the dirt of the world outside the home quite seriously, and I've read that they are known for having immaculately clean houses. Some of the same applies here. In both a physical and spiritual way, you should clean off the dirt and impurities before you come into a place of prayer. On this particular day, I could see a few men sitting on the marble benches washing their feet.

From here there are stairs leading up in to the inner courtyard. The huge mosque is right in front of you and it is just so impressive. It is such an artistic building, and yet very simple. It is beautifully proportioned, with its six minarets and lovely arches. Above the big door/gate to the inner courtyard, there is a big green plaque with gold script in Arabic. I would imagine this is something from the Koran, but I'm not sure.

So, you go up the stairs, all marble of course, and enter the inner courtyard. Everything is white marble, and clean and crisp. As soon as you enter this space, you can feel the calm and quiet of the atmosphere. The noise of the outside world is far away and all you have is this lovely peacefulness like a blanket around you. This is a place where I would love to just take up a place in the corner somewhere, and sit and sit. It felt so good, especially in a noisy bustling city like Istanbul, to find such a serene space.

That's me in front of the old fountain.

Richie having a look around.

We didn't go into the mosque again. It seemed like afternoon prayers might start soon. So we went for a cup of tea, and then as we started heading home, we did indeed hear the call to prayer. We were between the Blue Mosque and another smaller mosque and it was so cool to hear them taking turns singing. It lasted for at least five minutes I'd say. I really love hearing the call to prayer. When I hear it, it just reminds me that 'Oh my god, I'm in Istanbul!' I like to take it as an opportunity to wake up from my thoughts or whatever I'm doing, to take a deep breath and remember I'm alive and what a wonderful thing that is.

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