Iconic Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey

The iconic Blue Mosque is a prominent symbol that stands out on the Istanbul skyline. Fortunately, access to the mosque is quite simple from most areas in Istanbul. We stayed near Taksim Square on the other side of the “Golden Horn”. However, it was an easy walk down the hill to catch the train on the European side of this famous waterway.

Additionally, the mosque is within easy walking distance from other nearby tourist destinations. Theoretically, it is quite possible visit the Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia and the Basilica Cistern in the same day.

Blue Mosque Visitation Rules

Non-Muslims are advised to enter the mosque from the western entrance by way of the Hippodrome. Additionally, it is advised to avoid visiting the mosque around prayer times because it is closed to tourists. Mid-morning, is the ideal time to visit.

The dress code requires men and women to wear appropriate leg coverings (No shorts allowed in the mosque). Also, women are required to wear the appropriate head covering before entry. Take off your shoes before you enter and place them in the plastic bags provided. There is no entrance fee charged and leg coverings and head dress are provided free of charge if necessary.

Obelisk of Theodosius I

Western Entrance Blue Mosque
Visitors will walk through the Hippodrome of Constantinople when they use the western entrance of the Blue Mosque. As a result, the Obelisk of Theodosius I can be observed. This ancient Egyptian relic is over 3500 years old and it was was brought to Constantinople in 390 A.C.E. by the Roman Emperor Theodosius I.

Why is the “Blue Mosque” Blue?

The mosque is also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque because it was constructed during the rule of Sultan Ahmed I. Construction of the mosque began in 1609 and was completed in 1616.

The interior of the mosque is blue because the walls are covered with hand painted blue tiles. Additionally, at night the exterior of the mosque is bathed in blue light from the 5 main domes, 6 minarets and 8 secondary domes. Therefore, it is also known as the “Blue Mosque”.

Blue Mosque Nightime Blue Lights
The famous mosque is bathed in blue lights from its 6 minarets and domes at night.

Blue Mosque Controversy

Unfortunately, there is an ignoble aspect that haunts the construction of the mosque. In contrast with the other great mosques constructed during the Ottoman Empire, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque was not funded with the spoils of conquest.

This is because the Ottomans had recently suffered a devastating defeat in their war with Persia just prior to the start of construction. As a result, the Sultan faced criticism from Islamic jurists because he had paid for the construction using the treasury funds.

Architecture of the Blue Mosque

The architecture of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque has a unique feature in its 6 minarets. It is believed that the 6 minarets exist due to a miscommunication between Sultan Ahmed and his chief architect. As a result, the mosque has 6 minarets instead of the traditional 4.

However, at the time of its construction the sacred mosque of the Ka’aba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia was the world’s only mosque with 6 minarets. After facing criticism for disrespect, he ordered that the mosque in Mecca be given a 7th minaret to maintain its unique status.

In modern Turkey, there are currently only 3 mosques besides the Blue Mosque with 6 minarets. The other two being constructed in modern times.

Blue Mosque on Istanbul Skyline
In the photo the Blue Mosque sits on the right adjacent to the Hagia Sophia. It is a prominent feature on the city skyline and therefore can be easily spotted from the Galata Tower. Additionally, the mosque is discernible from the Hagia Sophia and the Istanbul mosques because of its 6 minarets (compared to 4).

Christian and Islamic Architectural Mix

Additionally, the Blue Mosque is a combination of traditional Islamic and ancient Christian architecture. It contains traditional Islamic features such as the minarets and also Christian Byzantine elements such as the dome. In turn, Christian architects had originally borrowed the dome aspect from the Greeks.

The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul was a Greek Orthodox Church constructed in the 6th century A.C.E. However, after the rise of the Ottoman Empire it was converted to an Islamic Mosque. As a result, it features the original Christian dome and the Islamic minarets. The minarets were implemented at the time it was converted to a mosque. The Hagia Sophia is located a short distance from the famous mosque in Istanbul.

Hagia Sophia at night
The Hagia Sophia sits adjacent to the iconic mosque. This photo is of Hagia Sophia seen at night bathed in the blue light of the nearby fountain.

Unique Feature of Blue Mosque

Unique architecture that exists at the Blue Mosque includes a low hanging chain strung across the western entrance of the mosque. This is because Sultan Ahmed was the only person allowed to enter the courtyard of the mosque on horseback. As a result of the chain, he was required to bow his head as he entered the courtyard to pay due respect. 

Additional features found at the mosque include the tomb of Sultan Ahmed, a madrasah and a hospice.

Blue Mosque Western Entrance
Evening photo of the mosque courtyard seen from the western entrance during call to prayer. The rising moon is seen next to the minaret on the right.

Additional Photos:

Photo of the Blue Mosque seen in the daytime near the iconic water fountain which sits between Hagia Sophia and the nearby Blue Mosque.
Daytime Blue Mosque Courtyard
My friend as seen standing in the courtyard of the famous mosque.
Dome of Hagia Sophia
My friend seen standing under the massive Greek orthodox dome of Hagia Sophia.

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