Üsküdar, one of the most conservative neighborhoods in Istanbul, naturally has a wealth of impressive Ottoman mosques. It’s located on the Asian side of city.
Two important mosques sit very near the ferryboat terminal. The one directly across the street from the terminal is the Mihrimah Sultan Camii, commissioned by Mihrimah Sultan, daughter of Süleyman the Magnificent. The architect was Mimar Sinan and the mosque was completed in 1548. Unfortunately, it was closed for renovation every time I tried to visit. For a virtual tour, click here.
The entrance and courtyard of the mosque have some very intricate stone work. I especially like the şadırvan (ablutions fountain).
I enjoyed spending time in this mosque as it was easily one of the most peaceful and quiet places I could find in such a bustling city. Outside, people hurry by trying to get to work or the markets while traffic zooms past. Once inside, I could hear only the ticking of the clock. It was a great place for me to sit and reflect. It also has a gorgeous interior.
Two other mosques stand on the hill. The first is Kaptan Paşa Camii, built in 1499. The other is the prominently placed Ayazma Camii, built in 1760. This mosque is easily seen from the Bosporus. I like the peaceful garden surrounding the mosque and its elaborate stone work, but I was never fortunate enough to enter.
On the same hill, it’s possible to encounter several old run down wooden Ottoman buildings.
Near the markets are the Kara Davut Paşa Camii, and the somewhat hidden Şeyh Mustafa Devati Camii which also contains the tomb of its namesake. It was built in 1645 and there’s a small Ottoman cemetery on the grounds as well.
A bit further inland but worth the detour are two of the most magnificent mosques in the city, accessible via a 10 minute walk or a short taxi ride. The large Atik Valide Külliyesi was an important mosque complex built by Mimar Sinan in 1583 as his last major work. It was commissioned by Nurbanu Sultan, mother of Murat III.
It was under renovation during my visit, but I was able to see from the outside the medrese, hospital, kitchen, and other important features. It’s interesting to know the hospital was in use well into the 20th century. The covered şadırvan is one of my favorite parts of the complex.
The interior of the mosque is beautifully decorated as expected. For a virtual tour, click here.
Finally, one of the most underrated and undervisited mosques in Istanbul is the tiny Çinili Camii. It was built in 1640 by Mahpeyker Kösem Sultan, wife of Ahmet I. The mosque is a bit difficult to find and was locked when I arrived. A caretaker was nice enough to ask the imam to open it for me. The imam was very enthusiastic about the mosque and answered all of my questions.
The mosque doesn’t look like much from the outside but the interior is stunning. It’s almost completely covered in blue and white İznik tiles. The pictures don’t do it justice. In fact, when the imam turned the lights on, my jaw dropped.