As we eat breakfast from our hotel’s fourth-floor rooftop restaurant, we watch freighters passing north and south on their way between the Aegean and Black Seas. A fleet of 14 small fishing boats is anchored just out of the shipping channel in pale yellow water from the November morning sun.
The Blue Mosque dominates the sky to our right with its giant dome and six tall minarets. It is just two blocks up the hill from us and can be seen by those on the water and by those on the Asian shore opposite us. What a way to start the day!
With full tummies we step outside, past the waiting taxi drivers, up the hill past the carpet and tile stores, where men stand smoking cigarettes and inviting us in for a cup of tea and “to see something nice.”
Outside the Blue Mosque we take off our shoes, and I cover my head with a scarf. With cameras in hand we enter, stand on the carpet and look up and up, our eyes scanning the blue patterned Iznik tiled walls from 1616.
The dome ceiling is ornately painted. Like a necklace, clear windows circle under and around the dome letting in light so that the space seems airy, but vertical cables coming down from the dome clutter the space. The cables hold flat, round, lighted chandeliers just above our heads.
A wooden railing keeps visitors to one side of the center and another railing, and wooden screen marks the women’s prayer area further off to the side where it is quiet and secluded. There is no furniture on the floor, just the red carpet with outlines for places where the men can kneel and pray.
The wall tiles are smooth and glossy with various floral patterns and are grouped in rectangular sections of about 4’x8’. The ones higher up are newer and have red and green in addition to the blue and white patterns. Gold Arabic calligraphy on wide bands of Persian blue tiles is elegant. In keeping with the Islam religion there are no images of people.
We cannot linger because it is Friday and the main noontime call to prayer is sounding from the loudspeakers on the minarets. Outside we put on our shoes and walk through the shaded courtyard to the old Hippodrome area nearby where in the 4th century A.D. they had chariot races.