I toyed with continuing to call my Istanbul blogs “LIstanbul”, but somehow that just felt wrong. I am a visitor in this city, not queen of it. So Discovering Istanbul it is.

And there’s no better place to start than two buildings that dominate the landscape of the old city – the Blue Mosque and the Haiga Sophia (pronounced Aya Sophia). I have yet to see two such incredible buildings face each other anywhere else.

On one side you have the Haiga Sophia – originally built in 537 as an Eastern Orthodox church, it was the largest building in the world for almost 1000 years. In 1453, when Sultan Mehmed II conquered the city (known then as Constantinople) it was converted to a Mosque. Even in those days this was a progressive city – instead of completely destroying everything Mehmed II has his people plaster over the Christian mosaics and frescoes, which actually preserved them. Some say he chose to do this as he didn’t want to incite the Christians that remained in the city, showing what I think is uncharacteristic of most conquering nations.  It is an incredible building with a lot more history than I can include here. Let’s just say it remains an incredibly impressive and beautiful building. It is now a museum, so they have uncovered a majority of the mosaics and frescoes.

View from the balcony. The chandeliers were added when it was converted to a Mosque to light the praying area – remember they are on their knees when they pray.

The chandeliers are incredible.

Byzantines, Romans, Ottomans…. Wow is all I can say to the history this place has seen. It’s hardly enough, but it’s all I’ve got right now.

Some of the uncovered frescoes from the balcony area. As with most places of worship built in those days the scale of the building is crazy. I’m always in awe of what they were able to build without “modern-day machinery”. And yet their buildings stand…and are so incredibly beautiful.

A great example of how they built over the Christian church – here they added a pulpit for the Imam to lead/speak from. Above it you can see one of the ‘plaques’ they added around the inside.


The Blue Mosque was built by a very young Sultan, Ahmet I, from 1609 – 1616. The guide I had when I took the tour with friends said that Ahmed was also quite vain – he wanted to build a bigger mosque than the previous Sultan, which is why it has 6 minarets (the previous Sultan built one with 5 minarets). Our guide also wasn’t that impressed with the Blue Mosque, saying that the tile work doesn’t match up. This may be true….but you know, I love the place. It’s beautiful. And apparently it led to the word ‘turquoise’.

The courtyard.

I love the arches and the minarets – seen here from the courtyard.

Now this is something I love about Mosques and entering for prayer. Before going in to pray people cleanse themselves. They wash their feet, hands and faces. These are outside for all to use on their way in. Let me tell you….they should start making tourists wash their feet as well – everyone who enters a mosque must take their shoes off..by the end of the day…post hundreds if not thousands of tourists…..you get the picture.

Side note: our tour guide told us that there’s a joke here about the English and how July is wedding season because it’s after their yearly bath in June. HA! Made me laugh – sorry Brits, it’s just funny.

There’s something quite magical about the low chandeliers. When the sun goes down the blue tiles really shine.

So beautiful – whether the tiles match up or not.

And there you have it – the Haiga Sophia and the Blue Mosque. I am fairly certain I will find myself walking the grounds between them regularly. It’s one of the loveliest places I’ve seen.

As you leave the Blue Mosque you see the Haiga Sophia across Sultanahmet Square.