Istanbul Map
Site Index
Contact
Random
Our Travel Books
Advertising / Press

The Süleymaniye Complex

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.

Süleymaniye Istanbul

The woman who became known as Roxelana (the Russian) was born as Hürrem Haseki in the Ukraine. Exceptionally beautiful, she was kidnapped during her youth and brought to the harem of the Ottoman Court, where she soon captured Süleyman’s eyes. So smitten was the sultan that he had his son Mustafa executed, in order to start a new family with Roxelana. After converting to Islam, the ambitious and wily Roxelana convinced the sultan to free her from slavery and take her as a wife. Quite a break with tradition: Süleyman was the first sultan in 200 years to marry.

Roxelana quickly established herself as a major political force in the Ottoman Empire, and became even more powerful after Süleyman’s death and the ascension of Selim II, their son. As “Valide Sultan”, or mother of the Sultan, she exercised enormous influence over her boy and the court. Selim had fallen far from the tree of his “magnificent” father, and went by a somewhat less awe-inspiring nickname: Selim the Sot. A drunkard primarily interested in orgies, Selim was happy to leave the business of running the empire to his mother.

Süleymaniye Carpet

The Süleymaniye Mosque is the largest in Istanbul, and the crowning achievement of Mimar Sinan, whose tomb is in a lovely garden next door. Set atop a hill in the middle of the old town, the mosque and its four minarets are visible from all over the city. At 53 meters in height and 26 in diameter, the dome is breathtaking and sits atop a huge, empty worshiping area. Despite the mosque’s size, visitors are restricted to a small section towards the front of the mosque, which is a shame.

Around the mosque are a number of buildings which once constituted the külliye, or complex. Four Koran schools, a hospital and a hamam joined a soup kitchen and an inn. Also present are the mausoleums of both Süleyman and Roxelana. Today, the former soup kitchen houses a fancy restaurant, with an atmospheric tea garden in a sunken courtyard next door. From the mosque’s terrace, you can look over the Golden Horn and the rooftops of Eminönü.

It’s incredible that so many tourists line up to visit the Blue Mosque, while so few make it out to the Süleymaniye. Both are worth-seeing, but the Süleymaniye Mosque offers the more enjoyable experience.

Location on our Istanbul Map

-Framed Istanbul Photos For Your Home

Süleymaniye Minaret
Süleymaniye Kids
Süleymaniye Flowers
Süleymaniye Mosque
Süleymaniye Fine Art
Süleymaniye Mosque Postcard
Süleymaniye Design
Süleymaniye Domes
Süleymaniye Ceiling
Süleymaniye Art
Süleymaniye Lights
Ostrich Egg Lamp Istanbul
Süleymaniye Turkish Design
Süleymaniye Ottoman Architecture
Süleymaniye Architecture
Süleymaniye Secrets
Süleymaniye Arches
Süleymaniye Travel Blog
Süleymaniye Art
Visiting Süleymaniye
Süleymaniye Inside Tower
Süleymaniye Wood Art
Süleymaniye Wood door
Süleymaniye Knob
Touching Doors
Süleymaniye Entrance Fee
Leaving Istanbul
Süleymaniye Going Through Doors
Best View Istanbul
Süleymaniye Chamber

, , , , , , , , , ,
June 24, 2013 at 11:01 am Comment (1)

A Day in Zeyrek

The lively neighborhood of Zeyrek, just north of the Aqueduct of Valens, was one of our favorite spots in Istanbul. It’s difficult to reach with public transportation, and lacks any well-known sights, so very few tourists bother to visit. Not that we mind; it just leaves more Zeyrek for us!

Hoca-G%c4%b1yasettin-Cami

Zeyrek is one of the four spots designated by UNESCO as “Historic Areas of Istanbul” (the others are Sultanahmet’s Archaeology Park, the Suleymaniye Complex and the Theodosian Walls). This ancient neighborhood still conserves some original wooden housing, and its mosque has a wonderful location overlooking the Golden Horn. Unfortunately, though, the Zeyrek Mosque has been added to another, less desirable UNESCO list: “Endangered Monuments”.

Which perhaps explains why it was closed for restoration during our visit. Originally built in the 12th century as the Church of Christ Pantokrator, this is the second-largest Byzantine-era religious complex in the city, after the Hagia Sophia. It was frustrating to be locked out, but that gave us more time to lounge on the terrace of Zeyrekhane: an upscale restaurant in the shadow of the mosque, which boasts a fantastic view over the neighborhood.

Me-And-My-Lamb-Leg

Walking from the mosque to the Roman aqueduct, you enter the heart of the neighborhood. Life in Zeyrek seems to be lived on the streets, with markets opened out onto the sidewalks and people going busily about their days. This is a boisterous place, and there’s no escaping the pull of local life. One minute we’re passing a meat shop, and the next thing I know, I’m on my knees with a baby lamb suckling my fingertip. Meanwhile, Jürgen is taking portraits of butchers, and then we’re both shaking their bloody, carcass-encrusted hands.

And now the peanut-seller wants to chat. Really, you lived in Germany? Auf wiedersehen! Çiğköfte sounds good for lunch. And then tea. Yes, Mr. Baklava Seller, of course we’ll sit down! Oh, look at this group of kids, who want to practice their English. “Huh-low! Bye-bye!” Now, more tea and a round of backgammon, and then… wait. Where have the last three hours gone?! And that’s how trips to Zeyrek tend to go.

Not quite in Zeyrek, but nearby, is the Yavuz Selim Mosque. This is one of the oldest imperial mosques in the city, commissioned by Suleyman the Magnificent in honor of his father Selim the Grim. The interior is simple but lovely, decorated with Iznik tiles and crowned with a shallow dome. But the Yavuz Selim’s main draw is outdoors. Like the Zeyrek Camii, this mosque offers an incredible view of the Golden Horn. A wooded courtyard faces out towards the river, complete with benches allowing people to relax and take in the panorama.

Locations on our Istanbul Map: Zeyrek Camii | Yavuz Selim Camii

-Better Safe Than Sorry! Get your travel insurance quote here! Instantly!

New-Ataturk-Bridge-2013
Zeyrek-Terrace
Zeyrek-Under-Construction
Forever-Alone-Istanbul
Baby-Lamb
Sheep-Heads
Istanbul-Butcher
Turkish Dudes
Turkish-Cheeses
Turkish-Lavas-Cheese
Lena Istanbul Cafe
Coming-Together-In-Istanbul
Walking-IN-Zeyrek.
Walking-Tour-Istanbul
Pics from the Yavuz Selim Mosque
Yavuz-Selim-Mosque
Yavuz-Selim-Mosque-Gate
Istanbul-Panorama
/Beyoglu
Yavuz-Selim-Camii
Yavuz-Selim-Glass
Yavuz-Selim-Camii-Domes
Yavuz-Selim-Iznik-Tiles
Marble-Carving

, , , , , , , , , , , ,
May 18, 2013 at 2:22 pm Comment (1)

The Gül Camii and Aya Nikola

Istanbul has no shortage of old churches and mosques, and it can often feel like too much of a good thing. As our time in the city progressed, we would increasingly find ourselves saying something like, “Honestly, I think we’ve visited enough mosques”. But what are we going to do? Simply ignore something as amazing as the Gül Camii?

Gul-Mosque-Art

When entering an ancient mosque, we’ve learned to look for the placement of the mihrab: the semicircular niche which indicates the direction of Mecca. Orthodox churches face east, but a mosque should be oriented toward Mecca. If you’re in a mosque that was originally built as a mosque, the mihrab is integrated soundly into the architecture. But if you’re in a former church which has undergone conversion, the mihrab will be off to the side, inelegantly askew.

The mihrab in the Gül Camii (Rose Mosque) was askew, because this was originally the Byzantine Church of St. Theodosia. Dating from the 12th century, it’s a small square-shaped structure, built of red brick, which used to guard the corpse of St. Theodosia. Theodosia was a nun martyred during the 8th century struggle against iconoclasm. While protesting the removal of a particularly revered icon at Constantinople’s Great Palace, she shook a ladder and killed the soldier who was atop it. For this crime, she was executed by having a ram’s horn hammered through her neck. Our ancestors were so creative!

May 29th, the day on which the Ottomans overran Istanbul in 1453, just happened to be Theodosia’s Saint Day, and the church was full of worshipers. According to at least one account, the marauding Turks stormed inside, chased out the Byzantines, and threw the saint’s bones to the dogs. And then they converted her church into a mosque. Poor Theodosia had it as tough in death as in life.

Aya-Nikola-Church-Istanbul

After finding the Gül Camii, we tracked down the nearby Aya Nikola: a Greek Orthodox church. This rundown old building on the shore of the Golden Horn looks nothing like a church, but after ringing the doorbell, we were welcomed in by a friendly Greek woman. The Aya Nikola is small, dark, and lavishly decorated, with a fantastic wall of icons around the altar. But I got the distinct impression it’s no longer in service.

Part of the reason we enjoy hunting down these old churches, is the excuse it gives us to explore new neighborhoods. From the Aya Nikola, we walked along the coast of the Golden Horn up into the hills of Fener and Balat, the old Jewish quarter. It’s rarely visited, but we found this area west of the Atatürk Bridge to be one of the most picturesque in Istanbul.

Locations on our Map: Gül Camii | Aya Nikola

-Our Istanbul Cat Blog

More Photos of the Gül Camii
Gul-Mosque-Istanbul
Gul-Camii-Dome-Mosque
Gul-Light
Pray-Column
Mosque-Black-Board
More Photos of the Aya Nikola
Religion-Mix-Istanbul
Greek-Roof-Glass
Golden-Ship-Lamp-Greek-Orthodox-Istanbul
Aya-Nikola-Istanbul
Greek-Orthodox-Art-Istanbul
Holy-Water-Istanbul
Aya-Nikola-Eagle
Pictures from the Neighborhood
Balat-Neighborhood-Istanbul
Drying-Cloth
Fatih-Istanbul-In-2013
Fatih-Streets
Greece-In-Istanbul
Greece-Jesus-Turkey
Greek-Column
Mosaic-Tower
Mossy-Stairs-Istanbul
Old-Balat-Streets
Old-Door-Istanbul
Old-Gate-Istanbul
Old-Greek-Boy-School
Old-Istanbul
Old-Street-Fatih
Steam In The City
Old Istanbul Blog
Steam-Walk
Steamy-Fatih
The-Other-Golden-Horn
Travel-Blog-Istanbul
Walking-Tour-Istanbul
/Weird-Streets-Istanbul

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
May 11, 2013 at 8:27 am Comments (0)

The Rüstem Paşa Camii

Built on a steep hill in the middle of a busy market area, the Rüstem Paşa mosque is yet another masterpiece from the ubiquitous master architect Mimar Sinan. If you weren’t carefully looking for the entrance, you would almost certainly miss it: just a narrow set of nondescript stairs leading up from the street. So ascending these steps and emerging into the mosque’s spacious courtyard is quite a surprise.

Istanbul-Mosques

The surprises continue as you enter the mosque. The Rüstem Paşa is famed for its magnificent use of Iznik tiles, which cover every conceivable inch of the interior. Considering their age (the mosque was completed in 1563), the tiles are unbelievably colorful and the generous number of windows shows them in the best possible light. We loved this mosque — not only was it the most beautiful we had yet seen, but it’s also among the most welcoming to visitors. They even pass out free copies of the Koran… in English! I’ll probably never get around to reading it, but you never know when a Koran is going to come in handy.

On an unfortunate side note, we saw some abhorrent tourist behavior here. I can’t fathom what gets into people’s heads, but mosques are active places of worship which graciously welcome visitors. But an outrageous number of tourists in the Rüstem Paşa were gleefully breaking every rule: stepping over the ropes signed with “Please Stay Behind”, shouting to each other, wearing horribly inappropriate clothing, and groping everything they could get their hands on. And when I saw a couple sneak past the protective curtain up onto the pulpit, I came perilously close to scolding complete strangers. Tourists behaving badly damage the reputation of us all.

Location of the Rüstem Paşa Camii

-Tons Of Istanbul Cats

Rustem-Pasa-Entrance
Travel-Istanbul-Mosque
Court-Yard-Rustum-Psa
Istanbul-Travel-Blog
Istanbul-Picture-Book
Arche-Tiles-Istanbul
Rustem-Pasa-Camii-Column
Triangle-Tiles
Ruestem-Mosaik-Istanbul
Tiles-Blog-Istanbul
Rustem-Pasa-Camii-Famous-Tiles
Flower-Tiles-Istanbul
Quran
Giant-Istanbul-Door-Knob
Mosque Lock
Best-Of-Istanbul
Arche-Istanbul
Dome-Detail-Rustem
Istanbul-Mosque-Tour
Mathmatic-Ottoman
Mosque-Clock
Isrtanbul-Guide
Shadow-Tiles
Rustum-Pasa-Dome
Rustem-Pasa-Lamps-Istanbul
Reise-Blog-Istanbul
Incredible-Istanbul
Mosque-Respect
No-Respect-Tourists
Leaving-the-Mosque
, , , , , , , , , , ,
April 6, 2013 at 5:58 pm Comments (15)

Three Mosques of Üsküdar

Much of our first day on the Asian side of Istanbul was spent visiting Üsküdar’s mosques. There are over 180 in just this section of the city, so we had a lot to choose from, but stuck to three of the most well-known: the Yeni Valide, &#350emsi Paşa and Atik Valide.

The Yeni Valide Camii
Yeni-Valide-Camii-Istanbul

Üsküdar’s “Mosque of the New Queen Mother” was the very first mosque we visited in Turkey. Completed in 1703 by Emetullah Rabia Gülnûş, the mother of Sultan Ahmed III, the mosque is situated near the Bosphorus and its twin minarets have become part of Istanbul’s Asian profile. As a girl, the Greek Emetullah had led a peaceful existence on Crete before being kidnapped by the Ottomans and sent to the harem of Sultan Mehmet IV. Lovely and intelligent, she soon attracted the sultan’s favor and bore him two sons, both of whom would become sultans as well.

Since this was our first mosque, its huge dome, colorful tiles, intricate patterns, and stunning courtyard were especially astounding to us. The Queen Mother is buried here, in a tomb protected by a nicely-wrought cage of green iron. [More Pics | Location]

The &#350emsi Paşa Camii
Semsi-Pasa-Camii

This tiny mosque on the Bosphorus coast was unfortunately encircled by the massive construction of the Marmara project, which will link Asia to Europe by subway. It was built in 1581 by Mimar Sinan for the Grand Vizier (prime minister) of the time, &#350emsi Paşa.

The noise and mess of construction really detracted from our experience here, which is a shame since the &#350emsi Paşa is considered one of Istanbul’s architectural gems. There’s a pleasing simplicity to the humble mosque, with its lone dome and single minaret, and when there’s no construction, the courtyard with its view over the Bosphorus must be wonderful. [More Pics | Location]

The Atik Valide Külliyesi
Atik-Valide-Kuelliyesi

Completed in 1583, the mosque of the Atik Valide Külliyesi was our favorite of the day. It took a while to reach, as it’s found at the top of a hill further inland, but was worth the effort. The mosque was built at the behest of the Sultan Valide Nurbanu, wife of Selim the Sot (one of the Ottoman Empire’s most disastrous rulers) and mother of Sultan Murad III. During her time as valide sultan (mother of the sultan), she exercised enormous influence, and was recognized as the true power behind the throne. She died in 1583, possibly poisoned by Genoese agents, and was buried in the Hagia Sofia.

The complex (Külliyesi) which Nurbanu commissioned in Üsküdar was the final masterpiece of Istanbul’s ubiquitous architect Mimar Sinan, and includes a dervish lodge, insane asylum, and soup kitchen. The mosque is glorious, sporting a wide central dome surrounded by five smaller domes, but is very nearly eclipsed in beauty by the attached courtyard, where there are old burnt trees, a fountain and a popular tea house. We love this aspect of mosques; they double as community centers, providing a place hang out even when there’s no service. [More Pics | Location]

More Pictures from the Yeni Valide Camii
Going-To-The-Mosque
Yeni-Valide-Camii-Minarets
Bird-Dome-Mosque-Uskudar
Dome-Cage-For-Birds
Mosque-Column-Uskudar
Arabic-Architecture-Design-Istanbul
Yeni-Valide-Camii-Fountain
Mosque-Faucet
Yeni-Valide-Camii-Uskudar
Yeni-Valide-Camii
More Pictures from the &#350emsi Paşa Camii
Mosque-Hopping-In-Istanbul
Istanbul-Mosque-Blog
Beautiful-Stained-Glass-Uskudar
Istanbul-Light-Mosque
More Pictures from the Atik Valide Külliyesi
Mosque-Gate-Uskudar
Turkish-Crescent
Mosque-Window
Red-And-White-Istanbul
Mosque-Courtyard
Travel-Guide-Uskudar
Istanbul-Photos
Mosque-Blog
Play-Of-Light-Istanbul
Mosque-Culture
, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
March 20, 2013 at 7:11 am Comments (2)