Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Blue Mosque

Today, I finally made it to the Blue Mosque, though not Topkapi Palace, which, as my luck would have it, is closed on Tuesdays. This came as a surprise, not only because that is a random day to close and attraction, but also because I didn't know it was Tuesday. I have existed in this liminal place where days have no names since I left Seoul.

The Blue Mosque is truly stunning. The inside is covering in the kind of abstract art that the Islamic world is famous for. Though it is really beautiful, I have to admit that its not my favorite form of art. In the Islamic faith, it is forbidden to depict the images of people or animals, the belief being that the right of creating such things belongs to God alone. Personally, I prefer art that tells a story, depicts something. Islamic art, though extraordinary, is not my cup of tea. Despite this, I really have to tip my imaginary hat to Islamic artisans. Though they have some serious restrictions to work with, they still manage to create something that is beautiful and mysterious all at the same time. The graceful caligraphy, the tiled patterns and mosaics all combine to create something very unique to the Muslim world.

Though the Mosque was beautiful, it lacked the mystique of neglected granduer that the Aya Sofia exuded. The Mosque's floors were all carpeted and meticulously cleaned daily. Everyone was asked to maintain a respectful quiet while inside, dress appropriately and remove your shoes – which is typical of a functioning mosque. The whole place radiates plush opulence, much like, I'm sure, the Aya Sofia did in its heyday.

The space, also, was not quite so cavernous as the Aya Sofia. This is due to the difference in their construction. The Aya Sofia's dome is supported by 40 ribs of blocks made from a special kind of pourous clay found in Rhodes. The blocks are built into the ceiling and rest on columns inside the walls making the dome look unsupported and leaving the main sactuary pillar-free. The Blue Mosque, while built more than a millenia after the construction of the Aya Sofia, does not make use similar technology. The dome here is supported by four gigantic columns that eat up the interior space.

Though it doesn't have the mystique or scope of the Aya Sofia on the inside, you are nevertheless rendered speechless by the beauty of the place. Pictures just can't do it justice. Whats more, the exterior is like something out of a fairy tale with its domes and turrets. It is much more impressive on the outside than the defaced Aya Sofia, which looks like it's seen better days.

After trying and failing to see the Archeological Museum which is situated inside Topkapi Palace (closed on Tuesdays!) I ended up wandering into a side entrance of the Aya Sofia where a paper sign above the entrance read: 'Mausoleum entrance free'. Since I didn't know about any mausoleums in the Aya Sofia, I went to have a look. There were a bunch of smaller buildings behind the church that were the mausoleums of various sultans and their progeny. The graves were curious tent-like structures that supposedly housed the ashes of the people. The mausoleums were definitally worth seeing because of the beauftifully decorated walls.

I spent the rest of the day finding a laundrymat because despite the obscene amount of luggage I came with, I only brought two long sleeve shirts because I was under the impression that Turkey was warm. Today it was snowing, so obviously, I was misled.

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