Hello Hagia!

Our road trip through Türkiye started on foot in Istanbul, walking the labyrinth of mosques that are clustered inside the city. Their colossal domes rise like hilltops hemmed in by minarets. 


First up, of course, was the Hagia Sophia. Standing under the scalloped lights of the Hagia was a thrill. 


The Blue Mosque has been under massive renovations for some time so we could only admire it from the outside. 


The Suleymaniye Mosque and the New Mosque with its wide circle chandeliers were both equally stunning. 


Karen and I forgot our head coverings so we bought some cheap ones at the entrance.  I looked like the cleaning lady wearing mine while Karen won the “who wore it best” award. Those paper-like scarves aren’t the easiest thing to tie on which is a great reason to head over to the Grand Bazaar and go shopping—though I much prefer the Spice Market so I spent the day content to look like a spinster instead of shopping for a scarf. I’d rather bask in history and spices!

Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia, with its sweeping history, has loooong been on our bucket list of things to see. It was built between 532 and 537 as an Orthodox Church and then became a Mosque after it was captured in 1493 by the Ottomans.  1493!  It was the largest church in the world for hundreds of years. This building has seen it all; earthquakes, capture, fire, religions, and now the Skillmans. 

The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque sits in the same square facing the Hagia Sophia. These two mosques, like sisters sitting at the same table, have a long complicated family history. Her construction some 1200 years after Hagia Sophia was meant to outshine her magnificent and aging sister.


It has been closed for some time for renovations, so we didn’t get to see the blue tiles of its interior that would eventually give it its famous nickname. But at night she was lit up for Ramadan and families would gather in the evenings on the lawn around the mosque and break their fast. 

Süleymaniye Mosque

The Sultan Süleymaniye the Magnificent built this mosque in memory of his son, the Crown Prince Şehzade Mehmed. The Sultan’s architect used the Hagia Sophia as his inspiration and added more domes and windows to his design and is considered a Byzantine masterpiece in its own right. 


Like many of the mosques here, it is a testament to perseverance. It has been damaged by fire on more than one occasion, had its dome collapse in the earthquake of 1766, and served as a weapons depot which resulted in yet another damaging fire. Her restorations have been formidable and incredible to see.

The New Mosque

The term “new” is very relative, especially if you’re Turkish.  New means that if construction started in 1597, just a hundred years after the discovery of the Americas, well, that seems pretty new. There were so many obstacles getting it built, that construction actually stopped for over 50 years.


It wasn’t until the mother of the grand vizier Koprtilii Mehmet Pasha saw it in ruin, that construction once again began. Her determination to see the mosque completed restored and finished it in just three years. 


And we’re happy it was finished. It’s interior tiles, are great example of the marvel of Turkish tiles, and its wide sweeping circular chandler is like a halo of incredible light and standing beneath its glow as it shimmered onto the tiles made this mosque one of our favorites.

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