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.

Nuzul Al-Quran

Nuzul Al Quran or the revelation of the Qura’n is celebrated all over the Muslim world every 17th of Ramadhan each year. Here in Brunei it is usually marked with a mass gathering in the International Conference Centre, led by the Sultan himself. But due to the situation we are having nowadays, we do not have that kind of gathering this year but instead we had a whole slew of Islamic TV programmes shown on the national channel.

To commemorate the Nurul Al-Quran on this blog though, I would like to invite you to take a look to several samples of beautiful Quran Illumination samples from all around the world.

Since the original compilation and the formal printing of the Holy Book by Caliph Uthman, The Quran had been under the special attention of the Muslims. It was always treated with dignity and respect, and special care were made in its representations. Whether it was written on the walls of a mosque or as a physical book, it is always done beautifully and with absolute care and reverence.

In the physical copies of the book, you will see beautifully bound covers and elegantly made illumination, particularly in the first pages of the Quran. Here are a few selection of these examples of artistic piety.

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From Iran :
Single-volume Qur’an from Iran, probably Isfahan – dated 1101 AH (1689–90 AD) copied by Muhammad Riza al-Shirazi (main text) and Ibn Muhammad Amin Muhammad Hadi Shirazi (supplementary texts), possibly for the Safavid ruler, Shah Sulayman (wikipedia)
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From present day Turkey :
The first pages of the Quran, Copied by Mehmed Şevki Efendi 1829, a prominent Ottoman calligrapher
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From present day Egypt (Mamluk) :
A part of a damaged Carpet Pge for a 14th Century Mamluk Quran
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From China :
Koran manuscript with cowhide cover on display at the Ningxia Museum in Yinchuan.
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From India :
A richly decorated Quran copied by Dara Shikok, The first son of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan
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From India (again) :
A single Volume of the Quran by unknown copier, made in India in the 18th Century
From the Malay Peninsula (In this case, present day Malaysia or Thailand) :
This exquisite illuminated Qur’an manuscript probably comes from the northeast coast of the Malay peninsula, either from Kelantan in present-day Malaysia, or from Patani in southern Thailand. Made in the 19th Century.

Appreciation – Istanbul Pt.14 – Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya)

I finally went to the crowning glory of Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia. You can see this majestic behemoth of a beauty quite literally from anywhere in the city of Istanbul, sice it sits on top of one of the hills of the city. The soaring minarets and gargantuan dome and semi domes overlook Istanbul like a mother raising her hands heavenwards in a protective gesture.

And she is rightfully the mother of Istanbul. Built in 537 by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I over the ruins of an older church , It has seen city in its course of history, from Constantinople to Qistantiniyya to Istanbul. She also had seen herself dedicated to different sects and religions, from a Byzantine Cathedral, to Greek Orthodox, to Roman Catholic, to Islam and finally secularized in 1935 by the newly established Turkish Republic.

When you first approached the museum you will be astounded by how expansive the building is. Realizing that it is almost 1500 Years old makes it even more unbelievable. Knowing that this part of the world is quite prone to earthquakes makes the church-turned mosque-turned museum even more impressive. When you think about it, if there would be a particularly violent earthquake shook Istanbul at that time and then, God forbid it won’t ever happen, the minarets would fall over and crush everything in its vicinity.

There was a very very long queue going into the museum. Understandably, it is one of the most famous museum in Istanbul or even the most known museum of all Turkey, so everyone visiting the city would want to visit this incredible site. Thankfully with the new Museum pass I just purchased from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, I managed to bypass everyone and went directly to the security kiosk. After security check I went to the entrance of the museum. Before entering the site there was a coffee shop and lots of people were there enjoying the afternoon under the shade of the Hagia Sophia. On the grounds there were also remnants of the old church that was there. Carved marble cornices, broken pillars, stone lecterns and other tidbits were scattered upon the grounds, with fats stray cats happily strolling and lounging on the artifacts.

I did not waste my time in the coffee shops as one look at the prices immediately put me off. Instead I walked directly into the museum. Before entering the main hall, in the true style of Byzantine cathedrals, there was a forecourt or a corridor, or in this case called the Narthex. Here you can see several placards about the museums history throughout the ages as well as extracted elements from each era. There was also a very large stone sarcophagus lying in the corridor leading up to the gift shop which is on the right side of the Narthex, apparently it was of an Empress’s. You can also see 9th century mosaics on the top of the main doors depicting Jesus and the churches’ benefactors prostrating before Christ.

As you walked through the Imperial doors with the cross clearly torn away, and noticing the age old stone flooring now smooth because of the number of the visitors thoughout history, You cannot help but the crane your gaze upwards towards the high soaring dome. I know I did and I actually gasped in awe. The left side of the museum was barricaded due to the restoration works. A pity as that might be, it was no distraction to the majesty of this sacred space. I think this is how Justinan I felt when he first step foot in his church and proclaimed “Solomon, I have surpassed thee”.  In the middle of the dome was a calligraphic medallion from the Ottoman times, citing the Nur chapter of the Qur’an. Indeed, when you walked into the space, light was in abundance – as if the whole building was a dedication to light and everything it brings. Indeed the name Hagia Sophia means the Holy Wisdom, and you can feel that as you are bathed in light the church-mosque afforded.

Going directly to the Apse, you pass by the Omphalion, the circular design in the floor where Byzantine emperors were crowned, a Muezzin Mahfili and Mimbar, both an Islamic ottoman addition, before stopping in front of the Mihrab and gazing before the mosaic of Virgin and Child up high above the apse.  Underneath the Mimbar, you can see a curious Iznik tile depicting the Kaaba and Mecca.

Not being able to go to the right hand side from the Apse, I went to the left side corridor, where there were more Ottoman additions to the building, such as the gilded caged kiosk that is the Sultan Mahmud I Library, as well as old tall mobile wooden ladders for cleaning the church. Tall mighty columns with metal clasps hold the gallery in the left corridors. There was also a curious marble jar, although I couldn’t gather any more information about the jar that is large enough to fit a man in, as there were crowds around the placard. If you see on the ceiling you can see Byzantine era floral decorations over faded crosses, apparently a product of the iconoclastic era of the Byzantines.

I then made my way to the second floor from the Narthex via a very, very, VERY high ramp. The ramp was large and wide, and the floor was very slippery , again from the sheer number of visitors going up and down these ramps. The space was dark and cold, and dotted with small windows every now and then over the floors.

After what seems like an eternity in a cold damp area, you once again be bathed in the abundant light on the second floor. In the galleries of the second floor you can see more of the Byzantine remnants of the church such as the Deesis, a 13th century mosaic depicting Jesus flanked by his mother  Mary and John the Baptist. Also you can see an older 11th Century mosaic depicting Jesus and Empress Zoe. An impressive marble doors called the Door of Heaven and Hell stood separating the wes t and south galleries. The grave of Enrico Dondolo, the Venetian Doge who died in 1205 was also here, although this carved site is relatively recent, done in the 19th century.  The gallery was decorated with the same Byzantine decorations  of geometric patterns and floral motifs over faded crosses, like the one you can see in the lower half of the museum.

I took a bit of time exploring every available nook and cranny of the museum, Although I truly believed that I did not explore enough of this place. After the visit it seemed that I missed one of the mosaics because it faced the exit of the museum. Perhaps next time, I will bring a tour guide with me so I can learn more of this place.DSCN0997

The first thing you will see upon entering the main hall. Glass chandeliers hung from the tall ceilings, Islamic calligraphy in medallions mingle with Christian iconography.

 

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The main dome of the Hagia Sophia. Sorry for the overexposure, but this only shows you how the moque-church is so full of light. The calligraphy in the middle is from the Quran, The Nur Chapter. Underneath it is presumably a mosaic of Jesus, however uncovering it means dismantling and possibly destroying the calligraphy.

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The Mihrab of the Hagia Sophia, an Ottoman addition. Note that it is slightly to the right – this is because the Qibla (Mecca) faces a slightly different direction from Jerusalem, which this building originally faces.

 

 

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The Mimbar, another Ottoman addition. The colouring and the materials used for this Mimbar almost seemed like it was built originally for the mosque-church.

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A mosaic of the Tughra of Sultan Abdul Mecid. This is displayed in the inner (I think( Narthex of the Hagia Sophia, along with other curious artifacts, including a sarcophagus of an empress.

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The Library of Sultan Mahmut I. The gilded cage reflects the same opulence the Hunkar Mahfili (which was bariccaded when I visited) was given near the Mihrab of the Mosque. This library can be seen on the right hand side of the Hagi Sophia’s main hall as you enter.

 

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An Iznik tile panel supposedly featuring an illustration of The Kaaba and Mecca…but why is it replaced with a floral motif pattern?  This is found underneath the Mimbar, although I cannot approach it closely as it was off limits. Thank goodness for 30x Zoom camera.

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The icon of The Virgin Mary cradling an infant Jesus juxtaposed with the absolutely massive calligraphy medallion bearing the name of Allah.

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The writer, on the balcony overlooking the main hall.  You can see the barricades on the left side.

Appreciation – Istanbul Pt.13 – The German Fountain and The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

After heading out of the Fuad Pasha Turbe and Mosque, I went upwards toward Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque which is visible almost anywhere from most of the Old part of Istanbul .I went to a restaurant for a breakfast before going to my next visit. And then I went to explore the area in front of Sultan Ahmet mosque, The Hippodrome, as it was known in the Byzantine times.  Nowadays it is also known as the Atmeydani, the Turkish equivalent of the original name.

This large circular area was once a horse racing arena during the Roman and Byzantine times, hence the original name of the square. In the middle of the square were two tall monuments as well as a serpentine column down between the monuments. Those two monuments are actually Obelisks, one of them is an Ancient Egyptian obelisk which still has hieroglyphics on it, broken off from an original one back in Karnak, Egypt. It was surmounted with a marble base, depicting the Roman Emperor Theodosius (hence the other name for this obelisk – Obelisk of Theodosius) and his family overlooking the Chariot racing in the Hippodrome. The other one is named the Walled Obelisk without any inscriptions at all. In the past it was said to be decorated with gilded decorations but were stolen during the ransacking of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204. During the Ottoman times, the Janissaries would climb this column to show their prowess.  In the middle of these two obelisks stand the headless Serpent Column or Spiral Column. From the side of where I went from, directly to the right was an art gallery housed in a magnificent Ottoman building, up ahead on the left was the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, which I will discuss later, and then on the right side you can see the majestic Sultan Ahmet Mosque, as well as little cafes and souvenir shops dotting either side of the square. I won’t elaborate any more about the obelisks as they are not really interesting to an Islamic art and architecture student, however up further you can see a curious little domed pavilion in this area.

This adorable pavilion is actually called the German Fountain, a gift from the German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm to the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire in the late 18th Century, Sultan Abdul Hamit II. This fountain was built to commemorate the visit of the Kaiser to Istanbul around 1898 and was assembled in the current location in 1901.   It is not the traditional fountain that we are used to know but an Ottoman kind of fountain – a place you can actually use the water from. There are water spout all along the perimeter of the fountain, although I never known if it is still used.

The fountain was closed off by a gate of course, but you can still approach is from below. The exterior of the fountain itself is rather plain but elegant – very common during the later period of the Ottomans where European Baroque influences can be seen – clad in dome and crowned with a beautiful green dome, which looks really familiar if you ever went to European countries. Underneath the dome, however, was a different story altogether. Sparkling with golden mosaics not unlike the ones that can be seen in Hagia Sophia, Ottoman calligraphy works run along the arches, as well as the Tughra of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamit II and the Kaiser Wilhelm emblems in medallions dotting the underside of the dome. I cannot fully appreciate the beauty of this fountain as I cannot enter and I can only admire it by walking around the little gift of the German Kaiser.

I visited the Blue Mosque first afterwards just to relax myself a bit as I felt a bit tired from all that uphill walking then resumed my way towards my next destination that is the Museum of Turkish and Islamic art, just across the square.

The Museum of Turkish and Islamic art was once the palace of the Grand Vizier of Suleyman the Magnificent. The history of the palace was retold in a series of Ottoman Illuminations depicting the palace in different times during the Ottoman era. A history of the museum itself is also narrated by a series of photographs showing the journey of the museum from being founded in the 1914 to being moved to the palace in 1983. It also shows the founding fathers of the museum and their dedication towards preserving the Islamic Ottoman heritage. Here I bought myself a Museum Pass. Back then it costs me 85 Liras for a 5 day pass, enough for me to visit most of the museums…or so I thought. By buying this card I don’t need to queue in order to get to the museums as this card acts as a fast track pass as well! Nowadays I heard the price had gone more than double that amount.

After thanking the rather unimpressed staff on the counter I went briefly to the museum shop first to see what’s on offer…and got myself a nice cashmere scarf in an intense blue-green with the Seljuk star motif. Looking around, the museum was rather disorienting at first – There were less than adequate signage and there were plenty of doors and arches I was a bit worried I might walk into the staff room of the museum! On the ground floor there was some sort of ruins ; later I learned that the palace was built upon an older Byzantine palace as well as parts of the Hippodrome itself. The ruins were an interesting sight to see, as you can see the walkways of where visitors or the competitors of the Hippodrome would talk through, thousands of years ago.  As this is not of an Islamic artistic importance, I went up the stairs towards the Islamic galleries.

The galleries were divided into sections in rooms, exhibiting artifacts from the 8th Century up to the 19th Century. Various items were exhibited such as calligraphic masterpieces, manuscripts, Woodworks, coffins, tombstones and grave marks as well as potteries, among others. A pair of gargantuan Seljuq doors was also featured here, a beautiful example of Islamic metalwork, as well as coverings of the Kaabah and its doors, extremely well preserved and offers an insight on how the Kaabah looked like before the modern era of Mecca, during the times of the Ottoman empure.  One gallery that really shook me to the core was the Prophet’s gallery, where you can see items such as the Prophet’s strands of beard and even his footprint was displayed, in a dark, somber gallery, with the ominous sound of the Salawat for the Prophet in the background. When I saw the footprint I was flabbergasted; my heart skipped a beat, and I stood still for about a minute. There I was, with the gallery absolutely empty, I stood in front of the artifacts belonging to one of the greatest man who ever lived. If I ever went somewhere else in these world featuring these items, there would be plenty of people looking at it (more on this later in another article) but there I was, alone. I felt like he, the Prophet, was actually present, then and there. When I snapped out of it I gave out a gasp, as it seems that I unknowingly held my breath.  I sniffled up a sob as I left the empty gallery. It was really a touching moment.

Out of the gallery on the right was the Ceremonial Hall where very beautiful examples of Turkish and Islamic carpets were displayed. Many were truly large and wide , and required to be hung from the ceiling to be fully appreciated. There was carpeting from mosques as well , judging from the Saf lines worked into the carper and smaller, but no less impressive, carpets used as a personal prayer mats.

I really don’t think I had spent enough time in this museum. The galleries were rather confusing, as I kept going back to the same galleries. Next time, I will need a map to traverse this place or even better a tour guide! I felt that dreadful feeling that I actually left something unvisited as I left the place. As I read more information on the museum as I left Turkey, I found out that there was a highly rated Turkish coffeehouse in the courtyard of the museum and I unknowingly skipped it – or perhaps the place was closed? Anyway that will be for the next time. In the meantime, onwards to the crowning glory of Old Istanbul – The Hagia Sophia!

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The Germain Fountain. You can just barely see the dome and the minarets of the Hagia Sophia in the distance.

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Closer view of the Fountain. You can see the spout on the left side of this photo. There is a plaque commemorating this fountain, but the gate is locked. From here you can already admire the beautiful carvings and the tall marble columns of this fountain.

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underneath the dome of the fountain. It seems to mirror the mosaics of Hagia Sophia. Emblems and Tughras of Kaiser Wilhelm and Sultan Abdul Hamit decorate the dome, with lines of calligraphy work. I haven’t studied the lines of the calligraphy yet but it seems to be of poetry.

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The founding fathers of the Museum. This panel tells the story of their work and their effort to preserve the Islamic and Turkish heritage. It is also said here that the original building of this museum was in the grounds of Sulemaniye mosque, before being transferred here.

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The impressive and heavy looking doors of Cizre Great Mosque

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A very intricately carved wooden sarcophagus and window shutters.

DSCN0940One of the many many beautifully preserved and decorated Islamic manuscripts on display at the museum

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The footprint of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) displayed in a special room in the museum

Appreciation – Istanbul Pt.12 – Fuad Pasa Mosque and Tomb

After the sun sets in Edirnekapi, and as the night falls on Istanbul, we made our way back to the Fatih district. We headed to back to Fatih Camii to offer our Isya’ prayers. After the prayer service we went to a coffee house, where we had a nice relaxing cup of Turkish Coffee. It was my first time and by golly, what a first time it was. Thick and rich, not bitter and not too sweet, it is a taste that I will never soon forget. After taking in the beautiful but cold night view of Fatih Camii and the whole of Istanbul on the rooftop of the cafe, we called it a night, said our goodbyes and parted ways.

Istanbul is a very, very large city. Walking from place to place takes time, and thanks to the many steep hills that dot the old part of the City, it was a tedious task as well. As there is no transport systems around the area I was staying in (Kadirga) I was to traverse these hills every so often, and I had to walk for quite a time.  By the time I arrived to my hotel, it was already 1 am. You would think after a long long day of walking around and touring the city, I would be so tired I would sleep as soon as I hit the pillow, but no, I stay awake until around 2, watching Turkish drama reruns that I do not know the language at all.

After waking up quite late (around 8, which is late for me) I decided to explore the nearby Sultan Ahmet Square or the Hippodrome and the surrounding areas on my own. While on my way upwards the hill towards the square, I came across a delicate little jewel of a mosque with unique designs. I decided to stop before continuing on my journey.

The full name of this small mosque is Kececizade Fuat Pasa Camii, and apart from an educated guess that this mosque and tomb complex was built by someone named Fuad Pasa sometime in the 19th century, I did not know much of any information on this moque. I swore I had taken a photo of the mosque’s information but I do not know where I stored it.

The mosque is small and given the location that it is nestled between tall more modern building, the modesty of the mosque is even more pronounced. The building is heavily decorated inside and outside, although not in the usual language of other Ottoman mosque. What I see here is an experimentation of different styles, an encroaching western aesthetic values so common in the late Ottoman era. You can see the influences of Noe-Gothic style in the tall windows and portals, with very peculiar type of Arabesques and geometric designs carved into the walls. All these mosque and tomb is set inside a delicate little garden, surmounted by a modest minaret, which looks more traditional than the rest of the mosque.

Inside, the late Ottoman painted style lavishly decorated the walls and ceilings. The small dome is decorated with painted Ottoman murals in mustard yellow and blue. Eight pointed stars dot the perimeter of the dome. The pillars of the prayer hall is painted with a unique design of Arabesques and celtic-knot like decoration, in red and blue. The tall gothic windows illuminate the hall richly, and all these beautiful paintings cometo life with the light. Dark red prayer rugs were spread upon the floor under a modern looking metal and glass chandelier. A mihrab and a Mimbar in grey marble, a characteristic of any Ottoman mosques, stood in silence in front of the hall.

I did not take long visiting the mosque, and before I know it I was out of the building and making my way up the hill towards Hagia Sophia. Although I had a slight confusion as the mosque compound can be entered from two streets and I exited from a different street from when I entered it, I nevertheless can see myself out of the counpiund rather easily, giving that the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque can easily be seen from either of the streets. Although small, if you ever had the chance to visit Istanbul, you should stop by this beautiful little gem and appreciate the work that had been put into it.

 

 

 

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A Gothic style window on the main mosque building.

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The Turbe (Tomb) of Fuad Pasha. The intricate doors and carving is really unique.

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A Marble carving featuring the eight pointed star under where the Imam would read his Khutba on the Mihrab. Unusual as these geometric patterns are usually tessellated.

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The painted decoration under the dome of the mosque.  Again the disjointed  eight pointed stars are featured prominently in this mosque – perhaps a breakaway from the usual Ottoman design language.

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A closeup of the decoration under the dome

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The marble Mimbar of the mosque, in a simple shape

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An overhead view of the main prayer hall. I think this is taken from the Hunkar Mahfili (The Sultan’s lodge)

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Another view of the main prayer hall and this time showing the mihrab as well.

 

Appreciation : The Chinese Muslims

Amid these worries about the Novel Coronavirus (2019-NCoV) and after the atrocity that has been done on the Muslim Uighurs in China, I follow closely the news and developments. I like to keep abreast on the current matters of course, but another reason is what China meant to Islam.

China had been in contact with the Islamic world since its revelation to the Prophet Muhammad in the 6th Century. As the Silk Route passed many Islamic countries, it is only logical that one of the first regions that was touched by the light of Islam would be the region of the Han river. In fact, according to the Chinese Muslims, Islam was first introduced to China by the companions of the Prophet himself, somewhere in the middle of the sixth century AD. As so, China is special to Islam in terms of Islamic propagation and influences. It is said that since China invented the paper, Rashideen caliph Uthman bin Affan took this invention to create the first complied version of the Quran, which before was written on different materials such as bone and stone. Even the Prophet himself had once said in a hadith instructing us to “Seek knowledge even if it brings you to China”, implying two important message – the importance of knowledge, and the affirmation that China, even back then, was seen as an important place of learning.

Seeing these events unfold, The NCoV spreading and infecting all corners of the world, and furthermore seeing the injustice the Chinese government had imposed on the Uighur Muslims, made me sad and brokenhearted. This region that was held quite highly by early Muslims had become a terrible place not only for Muslims but everyone.

For this special post, I would like to point out some of the important monuments and artifacts that are a testament of the relationship that China and the Islamic world had.

 

The Great Mosque of Xi’an, one of the oldest mosque in China with an image ultimately unique from the rest of Islamic architecture

Puhaddin Mausoleum Complex in Yangzhou China. Puhaddin was the 16th Generation of the Prophet’s lineage.

Jinan Great Southern Mosque, built during the reign of Temur Khan, Emperor Chengzong of Yuan.

A depiction of a Central Asian Muslim from Altishahr, in the Qing Dynasty, Note the Turban and the prayer beads

A Cini Calligraphy form China depicting the 99 name of Allah.