Tag Archives: hagia sofia

Inside the Aya Sofia (Hagia Sofia/Aya Sofya)

The Aya Sofia (Hagia Sofia/Aya Sofya) is, in effect, a fascinating museum. Having served as an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral, a Catholic Cathedral and a Mosque (all before 1935) you could be forgiven for becoming a little confused upon entry.

This is part of its charm – it’s not often you get to see competing religons in the same space.

Aya Sofia

Aya Sofia

I visited the Aya Sofia on my Dad’s insistence (and given how long the queue was when we decided to visit, we probably would have left if not for it).

Upon seeing the queue, we were approached by a guide offering to help us skip the queue and provide a guided tour – despite initial doubts, we readily accepted. The tour was great value. From memory it was around $20 each, though the cost to enter is $13 in any event and we literally avoided about 2 hours of queue time. Further, our guide was very knowledgeable and pointed out things we would have otherwise missed. If you can afford the extra spend, I’d definitely recommend finding a reputable guide.

Aya Sofia

Our guide began by taking us around the outside of the building, which (by comparison to the inside) is modest. It’s only upon entry that you realise what you’re witnessing. It is pretty spectacular.

But how spectacular? You see, there’s a bit of competition in Istanbul between the Aya Sofia and the Blue Mosque about which one is well, more beautiful. Both are gorgeous buildings in their own right, however history tells us that when Sultan Ahmed commissioned the Blue Mosque to be built (around 1000 years after the Aya Sofia), he intended to design it in a manner which would outshine the Aya Sofia. So, did he succeed?

To be honest, I don’t know. What I will say is that the Aya Sofia blew me away. From the detailed mosaics (many of which have backgrounds of gold), the marble, the size, the competing religious graphics… All were just ‘wow’. By comparison, the Blue Mosque is (relatively) moderate in its decoration. However, the two buildings are so completely different, it is almost unfair to compare them. Coupled with the fact that the Blue Mosque is still used for its intended purpose, they have a completely different ‘feel’ to each other. We spent most of our time walking aruond Aya Sofia with our mouths open in awe.

I loved both the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia. I can’t recommend visiting them highly enough. Though I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about whether Sultan Ahmed succeeded in his quest. You can compare by seeing my photos of the Blue Mosque here and my attempt to capture the Aya Sofia in this post.

Aya Sofia

So tell me, what are your thoughts on the two buildings? As you can see, we were pretty pleased with our visit!

The Healthy Globetrotter

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Blue Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque

Listening to my Dad has almost always paid off (ok, so I’m sure it’s probably always paid off!)

His advice on Turkey was no exception.

My whole family has spent time in Turkey and while they’d raved about it for years, I decided to go because it was a convenient destination. Not exactly on a whim, but a well-located stop over on a planned trip to sail the Ionian Islands in Greece.

When I told my parents of my plans, they were excited. Not just a “great, you’re going on holiday” kind of excited (which they always are when it comes to travel), but a rare excited that I don’t think I’ve ever seen them match for another destination. At this point in the conversation, my Dad took the phone from my Mum and insisted “You must see the Blue Mosque. And Aya Sofia. Magnificent buildings. You will love them. Go”.

He was right, I loved them both.

After my horrendous journey to Istanbul, my first stop was the Blue Mosque. This alone made up for everything that had occurred in the preceding five or six hours.

Technically named the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Sultanahmet Capii), those who haven’t visited often wonder why it’s called the Blue Mosque, it’s not exactly blue from the outside. However, once you’re inside you quickly realise why: It is simply the number of blue tiles on the interior. That said, I must admit I do think the white/grey exterior seems to take on a blue tinge in certain lights, though perhaps that’s just me!

Blue Mosque

Outside the Blue Mosque

As the story goes, Sultan Ahmed (I) commissioned a mosque to be built, reportedly designed to intentionally outshine the Aya Sofia (deserving of a post in its own right so I won’t go into detail here). He was only 19 at the time and it took seven years to build, though sadly he died just one year after completion at 27.

Whether or not the story about his intent is entirely true, it is fair to say the mosque has a big impact on the city of Istanbul. It was the first thing I saw on my way into Istanbul, and come to think of it, probably the last.

Here’s a little evidence of why it’s so spectacular!

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

I went snap happy in here. Couldn’t put my camera down kind of crazy. That’s not altogether uncommon for me, but it was pretty phenomenal.

Blue Mosque Blue Tiles

Blue Mosque with blue tiles

Inside the Blue Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque

A tourist mecca, this place is popular. Amazingly enough however, it’s still actively used as a mosque. Dress respectfully or you’ll be forced to pay to borrow scarves or other clothes (though given the heat when we visited, this was well worth it for us).

While it was certainly busy when we were there, it wasn’t as busy as we were expecting. This was because a group prayer session was scheduled shortly after our visit and we were asked to leave before it commenced (also be mindful of the ezan – the call to prayer – which occurs, as I understand it, at slightly different times each day). While this meant we had less time inside, it did allow us to have a few moments shared with far fewer people than normal, definitely something to consider if you’re planning a visit.

Besides, if we hadn’t been kicked out (read: asked politely to vacate), we may never have left. It’s pretty spectacular. A must visit on any trip to Istanbul.

Have you visited the Blue Mosque? Do you think it outshines Aya Sofia as Sultan Ahmed wished? I’ll let you know my thoughts when I share my photos of Aya Sofia

Until then,
The Healthy Globetrotter.