Appreciation – Istanbul Pt.20 – Bursa’s Ulu Camii

Note : I know that Bursa is not a part of Istanbul, in fact it is quite far from the city. Its just that the series so far had been Appreciation – Istanbul (although thinking about it I should have titled it Turkey instead, seeing that I actually went to a few cities in Turkey) so it is not right, at least for me, to change the title to something else for this post only doesn’t make sense. So I am continuing the title as it is, but also noting that for a few posts in this series I will be talking about my time in Bursa. Now that’s out of the way, let’s continue on our blog!

The next day after visiting Ortakoy mosque, my friend wanted to bring me to Yalova, a small city famed for its hot springs as well as Bursa, one of the most important city in Turkey historically. The city was the first major city of the Ottoman Empire before the conquest of Istanbul. The city is also the resting place of the founder of the Ottoman empire, Osman Gazi.

To go there from Istanbul, we had to take a ferry from Yenikapı and incidently it was not very far from the hotel where I stayed at. But I totally miscalculated the speed of my legs and I arrived at the ferry port a few minutes before they stopped selling the ticket for the morning departure. I think we got to the ferry by 8am and went to Yalova. While there we went to Termal, the hot spring area. We went there for a few hours to enjoy the baths before going to Bursa, which is a short bus ride away.

Arriving in Bursa, we went almost directly to the main square of the city where most of the attractions of the city are situated. We went straight to one of the main attraction of the city, Ulu Camii, near the city centre.

The Grand Mosque of Bursa, or the Ulu Camii in Turkish is the largest mosque in Bursa, build in 1399 by Sultan Beyazid I. This mosque was built before the conquest of Istanbul, so it is a perfect example of Ottoman architecture prior to 1453. It is a stark difference between the older architecture of the Ottomans and the newer ones, as they older ones tend to have more traditional, Seljuk influenced architectural language as opposed to the ones in Istanbul. I want to discuss this architectural difference in another post, so please stay tuned for that.

The first time I entered the mosque I was bewildered at how different this mosque looks and feels compared to the ones I had visited in Istanbul. There were lots of people here : devotees, tourists, families and children playing. The mosque feels much more open despite there are lot less of windows in the mosque, perhaps because of all the people. It was not as tall or big as the imperial mosques I had visited before, it was just a hypostyled hall full of large square pillars. However once you get your footing you realize the uniqueness of this mosque and the beauty that makes it awe-inspiring.

Almost in an instant as you step in you would be meet a literal well of light in the middle of the prayer hall. From wherever you enter (in my case I entered from a side entrance) you can always see the center of the mosque and a pillar of light. It is apparently under skylight dome of the mosque which affords the mosque a main light source. Under the pillar of light is the ablution fountain, another obvious difference to other mosques I had visited before. Another element of the mosque that you would notice straightaway would be the beautiful and very large calligraphy masterpieces dotted throughout the mosque. You can see it all over – on the four sides of the square pillars, the wall, above the entrance, underneath the dome arches…anywhere you can imagine. It is also supplemented by Ottoman style decorative paintings, although judging from the quality and style it would be a relatively recent work or perhaps a restoration. The mosque also functions as some sort of a museum – you can see historical prayer carpets and even Ottoman covering of the Kaaba Door on display at several different points inside of the mosque. When you finally came to the front of the mosque toward the Mihrab wall you can see these exquisite work of arts in the form of the Mimbar and the Mihrab itself. The mimbar is lavishly decorated – the golden calligraphic work and vegetal motifs paired with the rich dark colour of the wood makes it pop out extremely well. Also another strange thing to note about this mimbar, it is said that the left panel shows the planets of the solar system including Pluto and the Sun in the forms of bulging star shapes among the usual Islamic star pattern. Keep in mind that during the building of this mosque or even the mimbar irself, Pluto was not even discovered yet (it was discovered in 1930) so the idea alone of having the representation of the planets is astounding. From my years of observing Islamic art, this mimbar is certainly unique, especially because of the bulging shapes . I do not know the true story but apparently this is debunked by someone, citing it was only a design choice.

Similarly, the Mihrab is decorated in the same way with the Mimbar. Gold is the main decoration for the Mihrab with dark blue and red paint. Golden calligraphy is here as well, as well as exquisite Muqarnas in the arch of the Mihrab. Above the Mihrab is a huge calligraphic work depicting the name of Allah and Muhammad, flanked by two pretty stained glass windows. The design of the Mihrab is actually a very traditional one ; a painted representation of a mosque lamp between two pillars, a motif that I can see commonly here in Turkey.

Going out of the mosque from the main gate, I noticed the traditional Muqarna gate of the mosque. Although it is quite still the same with the doors that I had seen for the mosques in Istanbul, it has a slight difference although I cannot point it well enough. I think I will attempt to explain why I felt it was different in another post. I also noticed, as I passed by the gate, there are a lot of domes inside the mosque – 20 domes to be exact. Although the domes are not exactly able to be seen in the front of the gate, you can absolutely see it inside. Apparently the Sultan who built this mosque opted for 20 domes instead of 20 mosques he had promised after winning the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396 which is rather clever to be honest! There are two minarets out of the gate that I exited the mosque from, flanking each side. It is said that the mosque originally had only one minaret but another one was later added as it was detached from the main building. There are two domed ablution fountains as well out of the gate, and another smaller fountain in the middle.

Afterwards we went on to visit another of Bursa’s main attraction, the Koza Han, Bursa’s Silk bazaar, and the Orhan Gazi Mosque nearby. Afterward we visited the Yesil Camii and Turbe, which is a short public transportation ride away. These places you should never miss if you ever have the chance to visit this beautiful green city,

One of the calligraphic work on one of the square pillar
The Mihrab. LAvishly decorated in gold paint, vegetal motifs and gilded calligraphy
The door of the Mimbar. It was surrounded by glass so I could not take proper photos of it because of the glare but yes I saw the alleged planet representation on the left panel of this mimbar.
The light well in the middle of the mosque with a still functioning ablution fountain – people are taking their ablutions here as I took the photo. As you can see here there are lots of people visiting the mosque.
A selfie in front of the main door of the mosque 🙂

Observation : Orientalist Paintings in The Dolmabahce Palace

The last post I made I noted that I had visited Dolmabahce Palace, one of the late Ottoman period architectural masterpiece in Istanbul. When I visited the palace I forgot to mention that it also hosted the National Palaces Painting Museum, one of the finest museum displaying Ottoman paintings mostly from the 18th and 19th Century.

Like the rest of the Palace, you cannot take photos inside this museum (or I assume, judging from the glaring eyes of the staff there) so I cannot really show anything much from the place. But the museum displays a lot of beautiful Orientalist paintings, many of which are done by one of my favourite Ottoman painter, Osman Hamdi Bey. There are also paintings by other notable Ottoman painters such as Seker Ahmad Pasha, Hodja Ali Riza and Huseyn Zekai Pasha as well as western Orientalist painters and even Sultan Abdulmecit himself, who is regarded as one of the celebrated Ottoman painter.

I took a photo of one of Osman Hamdi Bey’s painting in the Cinli Kosk of the Istanbul Archeological Museum. That is the first time I had seen his painting in person for the first time. After that I made a point to look out for more of his painting, and coming to this museum is a right choice, as I had the chance to view more of his paintings here alongside other notable Ottoman and western Orientalist painters.

The museum hosted around 200 paintings spread over 11 sections in the former Crown Prince residences of the palace. Although I cannot take pictures in this museum, Here I present to you some of the paintings I saw in the museum, taken from Wikipedia and other sites. I will also show you a general view of the interior of the museum which is actually quite beautiful in its own right as well. I will also add a Youtube link here celebrating one of his famous artwork here., although this particular one is not featured in this museum.

There are a lot of paintings in this museum as I noted before, but I cannot take any pictures inside thus I cannot post too much of them here. I posted here what I had saw in the museum. Most of the paintings on display there was not available online ; except these ones that I could find –

Fountain of Youth, Osman Hamdi Bey. Currently in Alte Nationalgalrie in Berlin. This is the painting I seen in the Istanbul Archeological Museum, featuring the room in the Cinli Kosk.
Mehmet II entering Constantiople, Fausto Zonaro. One of the most famous painting in Turkey which is reproduced very often. I see this painting next to Sultan Mehmet’s Portrait
Conquest of Constantinople, Fausto Zonaro. This one doesnt get reproduced often, but it is still displayed in the museum
Lady Having Her Hair Combed by a Servant, Osman Hamdi Bey, courtesy of http://artnote.eu/osman-hamdi-bey-an-ottoman-empire-painter/. I think I saw this painting in this gallery. The background reminds me of the Fountain of Youth painting above. The balustrade motif is taken from Topkapi Palace
Ivan Constantinovich Aivazovsky – Venice. I think I saw this painting in the gallery. The painter is one of the featured artist in this museum.
The Tortoise Trainer, Osman Hamdi Bey. This painting is not in this Museum (it is in PEra Museum though) but I would just like to put it here simply because this is one of his most famous work.
A View inside the museum, courtesy of https://www.aa.com.tr/en/culture-and-art/experts-restore-ottoman-paintings-in-istanbul/58017
The video on The Tortoise Trainer I had posted above

Updates to the logo and the heading image

Over the week I played around with photo and video maker apps and programs on my phone and my computers and when I did so I thought, why not make a new and more modern version of my websites logo?

And I did just that! Behold, the website’s newest logo! :

While the older logo looks like a very common Islamic star, this one looks a more stylized, more modern version of it. The ten pointed star is still there, but the overall shape is much more different. If you take a closer look the stars does not actually perfectly in symmetry, and although it might be counter intuitive to the name of the website itself, it actually looks quite nice and pleasing, at least to my eyes. I also played around with the colours as well so it looks more harmonious to the rest of the blog. The gray compliments the background, and the green is taken from the heading photo, which I actually changed as well.

I hope you like this minor change! Please let me know what do you think. See you next week when I post my next blog! Until then have a great week and be safe.

UPDATE!

Looking at the logo again I can’t help but to see how the logo is a direct opposite of the blog’s name itself, so I spend a few days to remake the logo again, and this time I made sure everything is in symmetry.

Behold, the new, newer logo!

I also changed the colour a little bit to make it pop more rather than using the drab old new logo’s grey. The lines are thinner as well, making it more modern. Also I forget to mention that I transitioned from the 3D gradiented logo we had before into a 2D flat logo now to keep up with the times!

I would like to thank you for the comments and the emails I received for the improvisation of the blog’s logo. As always, I would love to hear more of your thoughts and suggestions.

Appreciation – Istanbul Pt.19 – Dolmabahce and Ortakoy Mosques

After visiting the Topkapi Museum, I went to the Chora Museum, a place a bit father away from the city centre. However Chora Museum was an unconverted Byzantine Church – that basically means that the museum was not used as a mosque, so the mosaics inside were very much preserved. I might be wrong on this and if so, please leave me a comment! Since we did not visit somewhere that might be of interest to Islamic art and architecture (we went to the old Byzantine walls afterwards and had dinner and prayed at the Fatih Mosque) I am not going to elaborate any further about that time.

The next day, I decided to go to the Ortakoy district, where a lot of later Ottoman buildings including palaces and mosques for the Ottoman Sultans were built along the Bosphrous. The thing about late Ottoman art and architecture language is that they borrow or were influenced heavily by Baroque and Rococo styles favored by the Europeans. You can easily spot late Ottoman period buildings (and sometime additions to existing buildings like in Topkapi) with the usage of European styled decorations, heavy usage of marble, painted tromp-l’œil and gilded features. You can also see some Neo-Gothic influences here and there, particularly because during this time Gothic and Neo-Gothic styles are enjoying a revival and subsequently the Ottomans (perhaps unknowingly?) picked up the influences.

It is incidentally that I had decided to visit the area during the weekend. BAD IDEA.

The traffic coming and going to this area is heavily congested. I went out of the hotel around 7am or so and taking the usual tramway from Sultan Ahmet Square passing over the Galata Bridge to the last stop for Dolmabahce and taking a bus thereafter going to Ortakoy, and the traffic jam was massive. I remembered I actually got off the bus to walk uphill because the bus did not move for about 15 minutes.

The first place I visited was the Dolmabahce Palace. This palace which is now a museum is not under the same management as the museum in the old city, so your Museum Pass cannot be used here. I think back then I paid around 100 Liras for the ticket. I have to take a look at my tickets folder later.

The palace is emblematic for the later period of the Ottoman Empire. The palace would not be out of place if you ever find it transported to Paris magically. Although there are still traditional Turkish motives used inside the palace, coupled with taking photos not being allowed in the palace, I don’t think it is enough to allow for a separate post in this blog. Although I would like to talk about the jewel box of a mosque in the palace grounds. The Dolmabahce mosque is a separate building from the main palace, just nearby the clock tower. A quaint little mosque it is a perfect example of the Baroque, Rococo and Neo-Classical influences during the late Ottoman Perod. The mosque features typical ornately carved decorations as well as gilding on the outside of the building, usage of veined marbles in colours like white and pink in the main prayer hall as well as trompe-l’œil , which simulated wall arches supporting the main dome. The elements of the interior such as the Mihrab and Minbar are executed in the Ottoman style but have European elements. For example you can see the Mihrab below – The Muqarnas inside the Mihrab is still there, but decorated with gilding and topped with a Neo-Gothic style triangular gable like feature. The windows, instead of having stained glass or Islamic geometric patterned grills, have flowery, ornately made metal grates.

After finishing my tour of Dolmabahce palace, I took a public bus going up to Ortakoy, before getting stuck in trafic and giving up and just walking there. There were a lot of people there ; Ortakoy is a very popular area for Istanbullites to come for leisure as the waterfront is very picturesque and beautiful. As it was already Zuhur prayers, I directly went to the mosque to pray. When I arrived the congregants had already finished praying and people were flowing out of the Mosque.

Ortakoy again is another fine example of European inspired late Ottoman era masterpiece. Being so very near the waterfront facing the Bosphrous (the waves were actually crashing over when I passed in front of the water!) as well as the background of the mosque itself where the Bosphrous bridge connecting Europe and Asia can be seen in full view, the mosque is a magnet for tourists and locals alike. Like the Dolmabahce mosque, is has the same square shape plan with very tall windows, allowing a lot of light flooding into the main prayer hall. Again marble and gold is quite ubiquitous here as well. One of the main difference between Dolmabahce and Ortakoy mosques is the minarets. Both of the mosques feature two minarets, but the decorations are decidedly different. Dolmabahce features Grecian column looking minarets topped with the typical Turkish conical roof, while Ortakoy mosque feature plain smooth looking minarets with unique finials that looks like candlesticks, to put it simply.

The interior looks a bit more decorated and colourful than Dolmabahce mosque. The walls are painted a deep burned ochre colour with a very majestic looking chandelier hanging in the middle. The Mihrab looks almost the same with the one in Dolmabahce. For me, though, the defining element in this mosque that separates it from the Dolmabahce mosque is the trompe-l’œil dome, which is much more pronounced and extravagant than in Dolmabahce. It looks like as if there were windows looking skywards in between curtained arches of deep emerald and ochre. Although because there were little light under the dome, the effect is not as astounding.

Ortakoy Mosque and its surroundings is really one of the most famous sight of Istanbul. After soaking in the atmosphere and looking for lunch, I went to a hammam afterward, which doesn’t really relate to this blog, befor going back to the hotel because everywhere was crowded. For the next post I have a full day trip to Bursa, which is very close to Istanbul. This will be an interesting post because we will see the difference between the Ottoman architectures.

Appreciation – Istanbul Pt.18 – Istanbul Archeological Museum

I totally forgot that I had taken a detour before exiting the Topkapi Palace Grounds, so this post should be BEFORE my visit to the Carpet Museum. I am sorry but sometimes I get my timelines mixed up. I should really keep a journal of my time spend whenever I am traveling.

The Istanbul Archeological Museum is actually tucked away in another corner just nearby the Aya Irini. You can access this museum by using you Istanbul Museum Pass, so after you had visited Topkapi Palace you should set sometime to visit this museum afterwards. There are three separate buildings for the museum which house different Roman, Central Asian and Anatolian exhibits, but for this post I am specifically going to talk about the building which houses the Islamic art exhibitions, that is the Çinili Köşk, or the Tiled Pavilion, as this part is the most relevant to the blog. Although, if you would like me to talk about the other buildings, I would gladly do so. Just leave me a comment!

The Çinili Köşk building is a separate building just in front of the European styled Archeological Museum. You can see it clearly as you enter the museum grounds, on the left side. The entrance of the building is decorated with Turquoise coloured tiles. Apparently this pavilion is older than the rest of the buildings of the Museum, as it had been built by Sultan Mehmed II in 1472, and was once meant to be as a pleasure palace for the Ottoman Royalty.

Climbing the stairs toward the main door with the beautifully decorated gate you are greeted by tiles akin to the Central Asian language of decoration. This is not common actually in Ottoman Turkey, as Iznik floral tiles were most usually used in secular and religious building, instead of glazed tile bricks used here. When you first approached the pavilion you can see the dome on top of the building.

Entering the main hall you will be in the main gallery of the pavilion. Here you can see various tiles and ceramics such as bowls and vases from the Seljuk Empire as well as Iznik tiles favored by the Ottomans. There are also calligraphic panels as well as architectural tiles which usually fitted above doorways (like the ones you would see in the courtyard of Sultan Ahmet Mosque.) Light enters the gallery in a myriad of colours from the many stained glass windows hung up above. In addition to the light coming in from the windows, proper museum lighting were also added to the galleries, making them light and airy, while accentuating the high, lofty, softly curved arches.

The pavilion is divided by a few galleries, not as large as the main buildings, but houses interesting exhibitons such a a tiled mihrab, taken from the Imaret of Karaman Oglu Ibrahim Bey in Karaman. It was highly decorated in deep cobalt blue glazed tiles with yellow flora and geometric motives as well as calligraphy. There was also a gallery which is totally covered in blue and black hexagonal tiles with intricate gold-yellow floral decorations which seems to pop out of the black backgrounds.

This pavilion is small but must not be dismissed. When you come to the Archeological Museum you simply must visit the Çinili Köşk. After visiting the museum, you can go to the nearby cafe on the museum grounds among the cats there, as I did when I visited. Afterwards, I went to the Carpet and Kilim Museum outside the Topkapi Palace grounds (the previous post).

Study – Some Motifs in Traditional Turkish Carpets

Now you have seen some of the views inside of the Carpet and Kilim Museum of Istanbul, here I would like to point out a few interesting points I have learned about the traditional Turkish carpets from visiting this venue. Of course, this is just from my perspective, so it won’t be as detailed or in depth as as real student of the traditional art. This is just an amateur attempt to pass on to you what I had learned.

Turkish traditional carpets and kilims are full with symbolism and motifs. Here I want to show some motifs that I can spot and are quite common. You can also see these motifs on more recently made carpets. Of course, If you want to learn more and are interested in learning all the different motifs and histories behind the carpets and kilim, you are most welcome to come to the Carpet and Kilim Museum when you get the chance to visit Istanbul.

  • Stars / Yildiz
  • Hook and Cross / Cengel
  • Tree of Life / Hayat Agaci
  • Eyes or Evil Eye /Goz veya Nazar

1 . Stars / Yildiz

I think stars are one of the most common motifs in carpets and kilims. It is a literal representation of the Universe, as it is a symbol of the sky in Anatolian Culture. It also represents abstract ideas of freedom, happiness and justice. Here I attach a photo of the explanation panels in the museum along with the photo I have taken which I think included the motif in the carpet.

2 . Hook and Cross / Cengel

Due to the shape, many people would be understood by this motif. It could be seen as religious or points to a certain period of our history which many of us would rather ignore. But in actuality, this motif has been used in many cultures throughout history, from the Romans to the Ancient Chinese and it is thought to be a representation of life and foundation. I think also it looks like the cardinal points of a compass – a symbolism of direction perhaps?

3. Tree of Life / Hayat Agaci

The Tree of Life is one of the universal motifs that can be found across many culture throughout the world, throughout our history and our stories and myths. It can be found In Ancient Slavic, Ancient Iran and Mesopotamia, to Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and even Islam. Here in carpet and kilim motifs, it is thought to represent the ascension to paradise.

4. Eyes or Evil Eye /Goz veya Nazar

The Eye or Evil Eye is a widely held belief in Anatolia which can be traced back to the Ancient Egypt, where eye motives is seen to be a representation of the Eye of Horus, and thus a symbol of protection. It is quite common throughout the Mediterranean and neighbouring regions. The Evil Eye is a superstition that someone can cast an evil spell upon someone just by looking, usually because of jealousy or hatred.

It is very fun to discover the motifs and the stories and myths behind them, although at some point it is quite hard to see them in the antique carpets and kilims as they are very worn out and some of the designs are quite complicated. It is a very eye opening experience to come to the museum and learn about them, as these carpets are some of life beauties we had taken for granted. Learning about them lets us see them in a new fresh view

Appreciation – Istanbul Pt.17 – Carpet and Kilim Museum

After visiting the Topkapi palace, leaving via the Imperial Gate or Bab-ı-Humayun, I saw a grand looking gate immediately after the Topkapi palace entrance, just before the Fountain of Sultan Ahmet III, within the compounds of Aya Sofya. It is the entrance to yet another museum in the city – Carpet and Kilim Museum. You would be amazed how many museums are clustered in this area! Istanbul is really a city where you can just stand in one place and find a historical place or a museum somewhere nearby. This museum happens to be quite hidden to be honest, although many banners and posters let by-passers kow about the museum, but then again, one would easily miss it, thinking that the carpet museum would be inside Topkapi.

Unfortunately and strangely enough, this museum does not accept the Museum Card I had just bought. Considering that it is in the same compound and very near to the Topkapi Palace you would think that the management of this museum is the same across all the places. However, the entrance free is very cheap (10 Lira if I remember well) and you get access to a very beautiful selection of antique carpets in Turkey, and I think it is money well spent and worth your time, if you like to know more about carpets, which is one part of Islamic art as well.

The carpet museum was placed at where the imaret (soup kitchens) of Hagia Sophia used to be. Therefore you can see old ovens among the carpet displayed here. There are three separate rooms displaying carpets and kilims ftom the different regions and eras of Turkey, but if you are not careful you might miss the galleries as they are in separate buildings. You just need to follow the prompts closely to make sure you don’t miss anything.

The first gallery displays carpets from Beylikler (principalities) as well as early and classical Ottoman times. The second one houses more Ottoman Era Central and Eastern Anatolia carpets and prayer rugs, while the last gallery exhibit large Usak carpets and prayer rugs. Here you can see very large carpets that are used in homes as well as cuma carpets for mosques. In these galleries you can also read about the history of the carpets and the way they are made, as well as the motifs in the carpets and the kilims and their meanings. Some of the carpets are also hung above the old ovens like personal prayer carpets, to help you appreciate those carpets better. Some of the carpets are hung from the ceilings, exhibiting the size of these carpets, which is a very impressive feat considering they are all handmade. All of the carpets are from the 14th century up to the 19th century.

This museum is indispensable if you want to learn about the difference between the types of carpets on exhibit as well as help you to decipher and discover the motifs used in each of the carpet. I think it would be a nice museum to visit if you have a child with you so you can play find-the-motif games with them. You can entertain them and educate them along the way. If you have a high interest in Islamic art though, this museum is a must visit.

Appreciation – Istanbul Pt.16 –Topkapı Palace

Starting from this post the pictures will be a bit different than my previous posts. WordPress had changed their formatting so I am trying to get accustomed to this new method.

The next day, I went to the Topkapi palace just next to the Hagia Sopia. The palace was really just next door to the museum – a left turn from the Sultan Ahmet Square with the Hagia Sophia on your left past the beautifully decorated Sultan Ahmet III Fountain and you will arrive to the first gate of the palace.

The palace, like any Royal Palaces around the world, is a sprawling estate overlooking the Bosphorus strait. It was constructed by Sultan Mehmet six year after he conquered Constantinople, in the 15th Century. It was the seat of the Ottoman Empire until mid 19th Century, when the then Ottoman ruler, Sultan Abdul Mecid I moved the court to the newer Dolmabahce Palace. However Topkapi palace still remained to function as a Library, Mint and Imperial Treasury. When the Ottoman Empire dissolved in the early 20th Century, the newly established Republic of Turkey declared the Topkapi to be a museum, just like Hagia Sophia.

The palace is divided by three distinct courtyards separated with three gates. When you first arrived at the palace, you first come to the Imperial Gate, known in Ottoman Turkish as Bab-ı-Humayun. This is where all the guests arrive and where you can access the first courtyard. If I can remember well, this space is open to the public back in the days, so anyone can come into this courtyard freely. Here you are greeted by security personnel and depending on your timing, there would be a queue going into the palace through this gate. In this first courtyard you can see another Byzantine Church, Hagia Eirene, or Aya Irini in Turkish. The church is considerably smaller than Hagia Sophia, but it size contributes to the charm. The drum of the conical dome is in my opinion, charming, it its execution. When the skyline of the city is dominated by tall rounded semi spherical domes, the conical shape of the Aya Irini is refreshing. There was very little to note about the interior of the Church. It was very plain, except for the black on gold cross above the Templon, where the altar of the church would be. The church itself is like a miniature version of Aya Sofya, with most of the original fittings intact. You can see how the Templon of the church in Aya Sofia would look like without the Ottoman addition of Mihrab and Minbar .

Back in the first courtyard, there are cafes and beautifully manicured gardens. As I had come in the early spring, flowers started blooming around the courtyard. I saw several people having picnic in the grounds and enjoying the scenery. Here there are also cafes mostly in the vicinity of Aya Irini. However, I did not bother browsing through them as I was not hungry yet and it was probably very expensive. You can also go to the Istanbul Archeological Museums from here. There is also the souvenir shops, but there are so many people there I chose to bypass it entirely. You can also get tours and audio guides from this area

After walking through the first courtyard you will eventually come across another gate. This gate is called Gate of Salutations, or the Bâbüsselam, is where one would enter to the second courtyard. This space acts as a crossroad to many of the palace’s facilities such as the kitchens (Now housing the ceramics and kitchenware exhibitions from the Ottoman times that includes curious Chinese earthenware) and the entrance to the Harem (Which I missed entirely…next time I will visit it!). On the grounds there were also several Byzantine era excavations including parts of the old Byzantine palace found under the walkways. This courtyard is a lot smaller than the first courtyard as this is the courtyard closer to the Sultan’s personal apartments, so it is not as public.

As you make your way through the courtyard you will come across the third and final gate, the imposing Bâbüssaâde, The Gate of Felicity. This is the most inner part of the palace where the people can go…on certain occasion and permission. This is where The Audience Hall is located, directly in front of the Gate of Felicity. In this area there are several galleries including the as well several kiosks including the Baghdad, Sofa and Yerevan kiosks, a library and a small mosque. All of them are highly decorated and if you study the kiosks you can realize the ever changing artistic tastes of the Ottoman Sultans. You can see the Oriental tastes that are heavily influenced by the Chinese and Persian arts to the European Baroque and Rococo tastes which is emblematic of the end of the Ottoman Empire. Unfortunately in most of these galleries and kiosks photography was not allowed so I could not take anything while visiting these places. Towards the end of the palace you can take in a beautiful view of the Bosphoros Strait. There is a restaurant there as well where, by this time I was quite famished, enjoyed a rather expensive meal. But the view itself was quite worth it. By the end of my self guided tour it was past afternoon already. I then made my way out of the courtyards (accidentally bypassing the Harem ) and went to my next destination which is the Istanbul Archeological Museum.

Eid Mubarak

Today is already the fifth day of Syawal and I hope it is not too late to say

EID MUBARAK!

of course this year, Eid for this year is very different. We couldn’t go out to visit our friends and relatives, and celebrations are a bit more muted than what we had before.

But I guess this is a chance for us to reflect the reality of Eid celebrations – it is a day of worship to God and to celebrate our success of fasting for the entire month of Ramadhan. Eid for most of the time I remember had been a chaos of consumerism, the real meaning of Eid had been lost. This is especially true around this region where Eid became a show of wealth and excess. Imagine stretching a single day of celebration to a whole month. That is exactly what happened here.

Nevertheless, I hope you had a great celebration with your closest family and friends. May the pandemic end soon and the world return to normal as soon as possible.

Appreciation – Istanbul Pt.15 – Eyup District

After spending half of the day around the old walled city of Istanbul, my Istanbullite friend asked me to come with him to Eyup District, an area of Istanbul a little father away from the center. Apparently Eyup is the area where the more religious of the population come. For what reason? You need to read this post a bit further, as I take you into my train of thought, and what I had learned that day.

We discussed about going to this district the day before when we were in Edirnekapi at Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, but I really have little idea about it because my mind keeps wandering off ; this is what happens when you let a history buff surrounded by thousands of years worth of ancient stories and artifacts. I remember walking by the old wall of the city and stopping by a small Korean curiosity shop, but that was it. Seriously if you want to see me in trance, just keep me in a castle or an old mansion or something.

Eyup district, as I learned, is even further than Edirnekapi. To get there, I had to use the Metro to a stop, then hop on a Dolmus (Mini bus) to go to the main square of the district. Thinking about it, I am quite amazed that I could manage to go through all that without knowing the local language (at that time, I had very rudimentary knowledge of the Turkish language, culture and social norms) and again being so very spaced out. In Istanbul, there were lots and lots of things to look out for – fountains, mosques, tombs ancient buildings, all having thousands of years of history among them. Although, thanks to today’s technology, I was able to guide myself, all alone, to a new place in Istanbul altogether.

So this is *what* I think happened. From Sultan Ahmet Square, I took a metro line towards either Pazartekke or Cevizlibag (see, I dont even know the name of the place I was going. Please don’t be mindless as I was) where I end up to a mosque. I didn’t know what is the name of the mosque, but it was large and beautifully decorated. I took a few pictures, so if you know what is the name of the mosque please leave a comment. After offering my prayers there, I went outside to find a really busy junction road. Again, I did not know how I got into a dolmus. I entered one and just asked the driver Eyup in which he nodded. Again, without sufficient knowledge of the social norms and culture of Turky, I just took a seat without realizing I had to pay! A rather stupid mistake I know, and I only paid after seeing a woman entering the dolmus pay the driver. I handed him a 5 Lira note (always have small notes with you in Turkey!) and we are on our jolly way to Eyup.

When we arrived there were a lot of people coming to the main square of the district, in front of the mosque. I suspect nothing, as I thought that it was a common occurrence – after all, we are visiting a city of several million people. We went into the entrance of the mosque where there was even more people going in and out of the compound. I suspect something, but still I thought that it is nothing out of the ordinary.

We went to the cemetery part of the mosque first. There were a lot of people again here entering the tombs. As I walked along with the crowd, I learned from my friend that apparently this is the tomb of one of the closest companion of the Prophet Muhammad, Abu Ayyub Al Ansari, referred to by the Turks as Eyup Sultan. According to history, he died of dysentery during the first Arab siege of Constantinople in 674AD, a long time before the conquest of the city by the Ottomans.

Armed with the new knowledge I approached the tomb of Abu Ayyub Al Ansari, surprised by the fact that I am in fact approaching one of the Prophet’s closest companion here in Istanbul. The tomb was severely packed that I could not really fully appreciate the beautify of the place. I can see very fine examples of traditional Iznik tiles , as well as a glimpse of the tomb itself, in a gilded cage behind thick curtains. The place was dark and illuminated with lavish chandeliers, and because of the crowd, it felt very claustrophobic. I can also see several different tombstones, but I do not have the chance to approach them or learn more.

After offering Fatihah for the soul of the companion of the Prophet, we promptly went out to the courtyard of the mosque-turbe. Outside there were a lot of people still, but at least we can have a breather. In this courtyard there was a big fenced garden in the middle amongst beautiful Iznik tiled walls. As we tried to make our way out of the building, people were giving out sweets and gifts to visitors. Another surprise during this visit is that we came during one of the Kandili, the holy nights in Islam, which is not heard of in our part of the world. During my time there it was Regaib Kandili, the night where Muslims here believe is the night when the Prophet Muhammad was conceived. This tradition i really a tradition is this part of the world and the Balkan, dating back from the Ottoman times. We have never even heard of this kind of celebration. As an act of devotion, Muslims here come to holy sites such as Eyup Sultan Mosque in Istanbul to offer special prayers for this particular day (and night)

As it is closing the Asar Prayers we went to the mosque to offer the prayer. The mosque is of course, packed full of worshippers, but I cannot help but the be in awe with the beauty of the Eyup Sultan Mosque. It seems like the mosque is constantly renovated throughout the Ottoman times and perhaps even today, as I see clashes of aesthetics in both of the tombs and mosque. While the tomb is heavily decorated in Iznik tiles , the mosque itself have baroque inspiration throughout. The painted decoration and the calligraphy looks new, as if they were made just yesterday. But perhaps it was jut the efforts put into the conservation of the holy site. The mosque itself looks smaller than many of the imperial mosques that I had visited, but it looks grand and airy. Plenty of windows around the main prayer halls reminds me of Suleymaniye Mosque, and the light colours of greys and whites coupled with deep cobalt blues and shiny golden decorations and calligraphy further accentuate the ethereal feeling this mosque presents itself.

After the prayer service we then headed uphill of Pierre Lotti amongst the many graves and tombs littering the hillside where we have a beautiful vista over Istanbul, and then we went back via a cable car, then down to the main center of the district, among many historical buildings and tombs while the sunlight descended upon us.

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The beautifully decorated mosque I went to before heading towards Eyup District
Another view of the Mosque with the Mihrab and the Mimbar as well as the upper galleries. Anyone have an information about this mosque please leave me a comment!
The main square of the Eyup district with the entrance to the Tomb complex on the left and the mosque in the distance.
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The entrance towards the Tomb complex. If I remembered correctly, women can enter the mosque here from the gate on the right,
Inside the Tomb complex, in front of the Tomb of Abu Ayyub Al Ansari. You can see the beautifully made iznik tiles, a much better quality than I had seen anywhere before this
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The beautifully decroated Eyup Sultan Mosque, with blue decoration and gilded calligraphy.