Sunday, July 29, 2012

Turkey 2: Three Interesting Things About the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque

I spent two weeks in Turkey with the Brown Fellows, Centre College scholarship students.
The Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) was built as a church, which is why the center window faces Jerusalem. When it was converted to a mosque, the mihrab (the gold niche, above) was made a little off-center, to point to Mecca. The secular Ataturk government converted the building to a museum.

The Sultan Ahmed, or Blue, Mosque, is the greatest Islamic landmark of Istanbul. The current prime minister heads an Islamic party, but the state is resolutely secular. How does the prime minister associate himself with this great Islamic site without implicating the government?  By personally giving the mosque a model of Medina.

The Hagia Sophia and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque are neighbors, sharing a plaza. The trinket sellers in the plaza, wanting to serve all markets, offer Koran verses, Christian icons, and evil eyes. On the same sales rack.

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