Jewels of Istanbul: Its Mosques

Istanbul, Turkey, Blue Mosque, Sultan Ahmed, minaret, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, history, architecture

During my 5-day visit to Istanbul, I had ample time to walk around, often aimlessly, to get to know the city.  While some sights were on the must-see list (like the Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace), I also “discovered” places not on my list.  I quickly developed an interest in entering the many mosques I encountered (and there are plenty!).  For a non-Muslim like me, they are worth exploring for their architecture / construction for sure but also for their interiors.  The interior of mosques in Istanbul were different than the ones I had seen in Egypt (which were the only mosques I had ever entered at that point).  What made the interiors different was their use of ceramic tile typical of Turkey (more on this further down…).

Istanbul, Turkey, Blue Mosque, Sultan Ahmed, minaret, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, history, architecture

The skyline of “old” Istanbul is accentuated by many mosques

While I don’t remember all the names and locations of the mosques I visited (though I was writing about travel at the time, it was only in emails to friends and family), I will at least share some of what I saw so you get an idea of what I mean.  But there is one that is a must-see for sure:  the “Blue” Mosque.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, aka the Blue Mosque

Almost across from the Hagia Sophia resides the most imposing mosque I saw in Istanbul:  the Sultan Ahmed Mosque.

Istanbul, Turkey, Blue Mosque, Sultan Ahmed, minaret, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, history, architecture

Looking up to the domes with an ablution fountain in the courtyard

The Blue Mosque was built in the early 17th century so it is a “baby”, really, by Istanbul standards but, nevertheless, monumental inside and out.  It boasts 6 minarets, one main dome, and many secondary domes.  It has a courtyard as large as the mosque itself surrounded by arcades (apologies to architects if I am not using the proper term) with the fountains for the ablutions located in that space.

Istanbul, Turkey, Blue Mosque, Sultan Ahmed, minaret, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, history, architecture

The arcade around the courtyard

As is the case with mosques, its interior is a vast open space (unlike Christian places of worship with benches and chairs throughout) since the prayers are done by sitting and prostrating on the floor which, of course, is covered in rugs/carpets.

Istanbul, Turkey, Blue Mosque, Sultan Ahmed, interior, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, history, architecture

Not the best photo of the interior but you can see the faithful praying (I wanted to not be close to them while taking the pic) and some details of the interior (chandelier, carpets, etc.)

Can you believe that at the time Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI visited the mosque in 2006, it was only the second time a Pope had visited a Muslim place of worship?  Not only shocked for ecumenical reasons but also thinking the beauty they missed seeing!

Ceramic tile

As I mentioned, what appeals to me about mosques in Istanbul is the use of ceramic tiles in many different styles and geometrical patterns and using a lot of blue (could it be the influence of the close-by Aegean Sea blue??).  The writing in Arabic script that you see is actually verses from the Koran.  I don’t read Arabic so all I can do is say that they add to the beauty of the place.

mosque, Istanbul, ceramic tule, interior, Turkey, art, architecture, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, blue

Side walls of a mosque in the city; notice how blue plays a prominent role in the tiles’ color

mosque, Istanbul, ceramic tule, interior, Turkey, art, architecture, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, blue

Dome of the same mosque

Parting tips…

If you have never been to a mosque, it is good to know that you need to be properly dressed (no shorts, etc.) and that you will have to remove your shoes before you enter – please do not miss observing these rules!!  Some mosques I have been to require you leave the shoes outside (not placing them inside your bag).  A fellow traveler decided not to leave his shoes in the area that some attendant watches it because he didn’t want to pay (at the mosque close to the Golden Horn and the Grand Bazzar).  When we came out, his shoes were gone.  BIG LESSON LEARNED:  don’t skimp.  Attendants are just earning a living though, certainly, this one was a thief.

Istanbul, Turkey, New Mosque, Grand Bazaar, history, architecture, Canon EOS Rebel

Mosque by the Grand Bazaar where the “shoe incident” happened: the New Mosque

Istanbul, Turkey, New Mosque, Golden Horn, Grand Bazaar, history, architecture, Canon EOS Rebel

Looking down onto the New Mosque, built in the 17th century right by the Golden Horn (Asian side of Istanbul in the background)

So discover Istanbul and its mosques if you visit!  I leave you with a parting shot of one of these beauties:  the Blue Mosque at sunset sporting a different color!

Istanbul, Turkey, Blue Mosque, Sultan Ahmed, minaret, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, history, architecture

At sunset

 

Photo Essay – Colors of Jordan

Desert road Jordan

Before my trip to Jordan, I had this mental image that Jordan was mostly a desert. I knew Jordan faced the Gulf of Aqaba and the Dead Sea and I recalled from my quick visit to Petra (on a day trip from Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt), that Petra would have some reddish color to it. But it’s like, if I thought how Jordan would look like, I would have said “fairly mono-chromatic”.

OK, I exaggerate a little.  But the range of vivid colors I encountered during my visit became quite apparent once I was home walking through each of the 3,000+ pictures I took during my 9 days there (yes, quite a few were duplicates as I tried different settings and angles for a given “scene”; so far I am down to around 2,000).  What I found out is that that desert color was a perfect background for all the others colors to pop.  And pop they did!

So, I have decided to share where I found color that caught my eye that will, hopefully, give you a glimpse into Jordan!  When you are done, I would love to hear back from you on which of these photos you like the most (photos are numbered for ease of reference!).

I found color in the landscapes in Jordan…

Much as I had experienced back in 1998, I got to see the colors typically associated with deserts.  But on this trip, I also saw the color of canyons and gorges.  White, sand, red – all colors represented in the landscape around me as I hope the following pictures show…

Desert road Jordan

1. On the way to Mt. Nebo from Mardaba – sand color everywhere except the asphalt

Sand dune Wadi Rum Jordan

2. Shifting sands in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan

Wadi between Dana and Feynan, Jordan Olympus

3. Canyon we hiked through from Dana to Feynan – great mix of white and red with specks of green on the mountains around us

Canyon walls in Petra Jordan with Canon Rebel

4. Colorful canyon walls in Petra, Jordan!

Colorful canyon walls in Petra, Jordan Canon Rebel

5. More colorful canyon walls in Petra, Jordan

Colorful rocks in Wadi Mujib, Jordan Olympus camera

6. Colorful rocks in the waters of Wadi Mujib, Jordan

Colorful rocks in Wadi Mujib, Jordan Olympus camera

7. Colorful rocks in the walls Wadi Mujib, Jordan

I found color in the markets of Jordan…

Jewelry sold by folks around Petra, Jordan

8. Jewelry sold by folks around Petra

Camels with color in Jordan

9. Who knew camels would be so colorful!

Arab headscarves in Jordan Canon Rebel

10. Headscarves in the traditional colors worn by many around Jordan

Fruits in the fruit stands in the market in Amman, Jordan Canon Rebel

11. Fruits in the fruit stands in the market in Amman, Jordan

Colorful market roof in the Amman, Jordan market Canon Rebel

12. Colorful market roof in the Amman, Jordan market

I found color in the architecture – old and new – in Jordan…

Ruins column Jerash Roman Jordan

13.  Color of old ruins in the Greco-Roman town of Jerash, Jordan

Ruins Jerash column blue sky Jordan

14.  A still-standing column in Jerash makes a great contrast with the perfectly blue sky

King Abdullah Mosque blue Amman, Jordan

15.  The blues of the dome of King Abdullah’s Mosque (the Blue Mosque) of Amman and the blue of the sky

Inside view of the dome of King Abdullah's Mosque in Amman, Jordan (blue mosque)

16.  Inside view of the dome of King Abdullah’s Mosque (built in the 1980s)

Petra's Treasury in Jordan

17.  The unforgettable Treasury at Petra, Jordan

I found great blues in the waters around Jordan…

Blue sky and Dead Sea

18. A sea and a sky both drapped in great blue!

Beautiful blues in the waters of the Gulf of Aqaba, Olympus

19.  Beautiful blues in the waters of the Gulf of Aqaba

I found color in sunsets over the Dead Sea…

Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan, Canon EOS Rebel

20.  Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan

Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan, Olympus

21.  Double sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan

Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan, Canon EOS Rebel

22.  Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan

I found color in Jordanian artisans’ art…

Raw material for creation of mosaic art in workshop in Jordan

23.  The raw materials that will create beautiful mosaics are colorful on their own…

Mosaic art Jordan

24. Mosaic art: not only the great colors but also the shapes draw me

Art handicraft craft Jordan

25.  Beautiful art in this colorful vase

And I found a colorful people in Jordan!

Schoolchildren in Jerash, Jordan

26.  Schoolchildren visiting the ruins of Jerash – singing and showing their pride in their country – a colorful bunch!

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Thank you to the Jordan Tourism Board for showing me all the colors in Jordan.

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