We visited a lot of mosques during our time in Istanbul, most of which were centuries-old architectural masterpieces built by the Ottomans. But Islam is very much a modern religion, so we felt compelled to check out a couple of the city’s contemporary mosques, one in Kadiköy and the other in Umraniye.
The Yeni Camii translates to “New Mosque”, and really demonstrates the problem inherent in naming things “New”. Sure… back in 1665, the Yeni Camii was Istanbul’s great new mosque, and everybody in the Ottoman Empire was freaking out about how brand new it was. But 350 years later? Not so much.
The Süleymaniye Mosque might not be as popular as the Blue Mosque, but it’s arguably more impressive. This massive complex near the university was built for Süleyman the Magnificent and includes a library, a soup kitchen, an amazing courtyard, and the tombs of both Süleyman and his famous wife Roxelana.
Squeezed between two amazing mosques and the covered market, Gazi Park is the heart of Bursa, and was the logical place to begin our exploration of the city.
The neighborhood of Yeşil (Green), separated from the city center by the Gök Dere river, takes its name from Bursa’s most well-known sights: the Green Mosque and Tomb. Visible from across Bursa, the mausoleum sits atop a hill and is covered in monochrome tiles of a unique light-green color.
Found outside the old city walls at the end of the Golden Horn, the neighborhood of Eyüp is one of the most sacred spots in the Islamic world.
After hiking up Istanbul’s biggest hill, the Büyük Çamlıca, our tired bones had earned a reward. So we made our way to the gorgeous Çınılı Camii, Üsküdar’s Tiled Mosque, and ended the day in a hamam.
Located in the neighborhood of Çarşamba, just up the road from the Yavuz Selim Camii, the Fethiye Museum preserves some of the best Byzantine mosaics in Istanbul. It’s small and difficult to reach, so most tourists skip right over it in favor of the similar and better-known Chora Museum.
The Hagia Sophia isn’t just the best-known tourist attraction in Istanbul, or one of Europe’s most cherished landmarks… it’s one of the greatest buildings in human history. This church, nearly 1500 years in age, was once the center of Byzantine faith, later reborn as the predominant mosque of the Ottoman Empire, and today has found a new purpose as one of the world’s most popular museums.
Were we excited to visit the Hagia Sophia? It’s just one of the most legendary buildings on the planet. The largest church in the world for a thousand years. The scene of some of history’s most decisive moments. A breathtaking architectural achievement on a scale unthinkable for its day. Yes, I suppose it’s fair to say that we were excited.