22 October 2009

Where was I?

Ah yes, in the park between the Ayasofya and the Blue Mosque. My self appointed guide, who wants me to buy a rug, advises me to visit the mosque now and the church later. He ushers me across the park to courtyard of the mosque, which is built upon the ruins of the former royal palace which was in ruins before the Ottomans arrived, as it had been abandoned by the Byzantine emperor for better digs.

This view, from with the courtyard, recalls the Ayasofya, as the architect, Sinan I believe, incorporated the engineering techniques of half domes into his work over and over again.

All imperial mosques, so far as I can tell, have at least two minarets and a courtyard. The courtyard was where worshippers could relax and prepare for prayer. The fountain in the center, which you can see on the right, was for ablutions before prayer. Observant Muslims wash hands and feet and face before entering. Many, like this one, also once had colleges and hospitals and caravanseries (places where pilgrims and caravans could lodge) making such mosques very like Christian cathedrals in that they were meant to attract more than worshippers.

Today it is still a functioning mosque, but is a major secular tourist attraction and one reason is this view from inside. The blue color of the interior, partly from Iznik tiles and partly from the light, suffuses the place.

You can also see the nesting of the interior domes and how much light gets in from all the windows pierce the many half domes.

This picture shows a side aisle, if that word applies, and how the electric lights hand just above the people, from very long cords. Most of the light hovers above, playing in the ceiling. Down below the shadows prevail. One area, under the arches, is reserved for women at prayer, something I would find universally true.

Look at how many people there are, all tourists like me. All people are required to remove their shoes, carrying them in complimentary plastic bags. Women are asked to cover their shoulders and hair, though many ignore it which bothered me. I know that the modesty of Islam is part of its sexism, but just as men visiting synagogues should wear kippot whether they are Jews or not because it is a mark of respect, it seems that courtesy prevails over politics in a mosque.

The place for prayer is roped off, even when it is not time. And this covered woman walked back and forth - somewhat like a sentinel at the tomb of the unknowns - to reinforce both the limits of tourists and the ambience of religion.
What a stark contrast between the teeming gawkers on one side, listening to their tour guides with little flags and speaking in Turkish accented German and Italian, and this area with one woman and a man vaccuuming the enormous carpet that covers the entire interior.

I do apologize for the fuzzy photos. I was just learning how to use the camera, you see. They are fine when seen small but if you click on them to see them at full size some are blurry.

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