Welcome to a newphoto series, that will take us to the south-east of Europe and the south-western tip of Asia: Istanbul. My sister Jasmina made the trip recently and came back with lots of images of this, breathtakingly beautiful place. Even though I didn't make the photos in this series, after editing them for her, I thought that it would be a shame not to share them.
This is a multi part series. Other parts include: 
Part Two: The Topkapi Palace 
Part Three: A Cruise along the Bosporus

click on the images for a bigger view 

In this first part I will show you the Blue Mosque or The Sultan Ahmed Mosque. It is a historic mosque that is popularly known as the Blue Mosque, because of the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior.

The first image up is actually the Hagia Sophia. From the date of its construction in 537 until 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum on 1 February 1935

On the same big square where the Hagia Sofia is located you will also find the entrance to the Blue Mosque. A heavy iron chain hangs in the upper part of the court entrance on the western side. Only the sultan was allowed to enter the court of the mosque on horseback. The chain was put there, so that the sultan had to lower his head every time he entered the court to avoid being hit. This was a symbolic gesture, to ensure the humility of the ruler in the face of the divine.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque has one main dome, six minarets, and eight secondary domes. The design is the culmination of two centuries of Ottoman mosque development. It incorporates some Byzantine Christian elements of the neighboring Hagia Sophia with traditional Islamic architecture and is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period. It was quite the undertaking in constructing this mosque.

The court is about as large as the mosque itself and is surrounded by a continuous vaulted arcade.

The coloured glass for the windows was a gift of the Signoria of Venice to the sultan. Most of these coloured windows have by now been replaced by modern versions with little or no artistic merit, as you can see in the lower part of this next image.

At its lower levels and at every pier, the interior of the mosque is lined with more than 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles, made at Iznik (the ancient Nicaea) in more than fifty different tulip designs.

The many lamps inside the mosque were once covered with gold and gems. Among the glass bowls one could find ostrich eggs and crystal balls. All these decorations have been removed or pillaged for museums.

Another popular tourist destination is the Grand Bazaar which is located inside the walled city of Istanbul. The construction of the future Grand Bazaar's core started during the winter of 1455/56, shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople.

Today the Grand Bazaar is a thriving complex, employing 26,000 people visited by between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily, and one of the major landmarks of Istanbul. It must compete with modern shopping malls common in Istanbul.

End of Part One
To be continued...

I hope you all enjoyed part one. The next part called "The Topkapi Palace" will take us to the grand sultan palace, situated above the city of Istanbul, from where you can get a great look at the whole city.


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