Sultan Ahmet Camii (Blue Mosque) is one of the most magnificent buildings in Turkey and a popular tourist attraction in Istanbul. It’s located in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage listed old city, directly across from its rival, Hagia Sophia.
The mosque was built on top of the old Byzantine emperor’s palace between 1609 and 1616 during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Ahmet I. Constructed during a period of decline and uncertainty, the mosque was meant to reassure Ottoman citizens of the power of the empire. It was funded by the Ottoman treasury and not by the spoils of war as previous imperial mosques had been, making the decision to build it an unpopular one.
The architect was Sedefkâr Mehmet Ağa, a student of the great Mimar Sinan, and his goal was to surpass the grandeur of Hagia Sophia. He designed the mosque with five main domes and eight smaller ones. It was the first mosque built with six minarets, which angered many people because the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca only had four at the time (Sultan Murat IV added three minarets in Mecca in 1629). In addition the the mosque, there was a madrasah and a hospice. The tomb of Ahmet I is also on the premises.
The courtyard of the mosque has an ablutions fountain in the center and others on both sides. The main entrance to the prayer hall is on the courtyard, but tourists must enter from another entrance on the south side.
As soon as you enter the prayer hall, you’ll notice the splendor and stunning artwork from floor to ceiling. The interior of the mosque doesn’t look nearly as big as you’d expect from the outside, but it’s still a spectacular sight.
Sultan Ahmet Camii is adorned with over 20,000 handmade ceramic İznik tiles. The blue tiles, which depict tulips, give the mosque its nickname. There are also over 200 beautiful stained glass windows. The glass was a gift from Venice.
It’s also not hard to notice the giant pillars that support the structure. They’re connected to the domes, which are also richly decorated.
The most important parts of the mosque are the mihrab and minbar. The mihrab (prayer niche) is carved out of marble. The minbar (pulpit) is also carved out of marble and decorated with gold.
The Blue Mosque is open daily, but visitors can only enter outside of prayer times. Women must cover their heads. All visitors must dress modestly (women should cover their shoulders and legs, no shorts for men) and remove their shoes. Scarves are provided for women at the entrance as well as plastic bags for carrying shoes. There is no admission to enter.
You can take your tıme visiting the interior, although 15 minutes is usually more than enough. Please notice the wooden barrier separating the tourists from the rest of the prayer hall. Tourist are not permitted to pass the barrier. After you finish, exit through the doors to the north, put your shoes back on, and return any scarves and plastic shoe bags.
Click here for a few virtual tours of the mosque.