The Marvellous Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) in Istanbul
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Blue Mosque

The breathtaking blue tiles lining the mosque's interior at the lower levels and every pier

Best Known for
Tiles

Built
1609

Civilization
Ottoman

Suggested Duration
45 min

Istanbul is one of the few cities in the world that can be likened to an architectural art show, with the Blue Mosque being one of its greatest masterpieces. Sitting alongside the Hagia Sophia, this architectural marvel is one of Istanbul’s top tourist attractions- drawing 4 to 5 million visitors a year. This magnificent structure gets its name from the 20,000 hand-painted blue Iznik tiles that adorn its interior walls.

The mosque was commissioned in the 17th century by Sultan Ahmed I, who wanted to build a house of worship that would rival Hagia Sophia’s beauty in beauty.

Now, anyone who has visited the Hagia Sophia will agree that the Sultan set the bar really high for his architects and whether or not they could reach this target is a matter of opinion.

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Istanbul is one of the few cities in the world that can be likened to an architectural art show, with the Blue Mosque being one of its greatest masterpieces. Sitting alongside the Hagia Sophia, this architectural marvel is one of Istanbul’s top tourist attractions- drawing 4 to 5 million visitors a year. This magnificent structure gets its name from the 20,000 hand-painted blue Iznik tiles that adorn its interior walls.

The mosque was commissioned in the 17th century by Sultan Ahmed I, who wanted to build a house of worship that would rival Hagia Sophia’s beauty in beauty.

Now, anyone who has visited the Hagia Sophia will agree that the Sultan set the bar really high for his architects and whether or not they could reach this target is a matter of opinion.

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Planning a trip to Istanbul soon? Answer this trip planner and get your FREE quotation within 24 hours.

The History

Architecture

Tiles

Key Features

Tips & Etiquette

The Blue Mosque dates back to the early years of the 17th century when Sultan Ahmet I reigned over Turkey. The Sultan rose to the throne aged 14 in 1603, and six years later, in 1609, he commissioned the architect Sedefkar Mehmet Aga to build the Blue Mosque.

Whereas the Sultan wanted the mosque to compete with the Hagia Sophia in beauty, the building was also built as a symbol of the Ottoman Empire’s dominance over three continents. The mosque was completed seven years later in 1609, which was somewhat of an achievement in an era where such structures took decades to build from start to finish.

After its completion, the mosque became known as the Sultan Ahmet Camii (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) in Turkish.

Many people will go on and on about the Iznik tiles when talking about the Sultan Ahmed Mosque and forget that its architecture is still a marvel. The mosque has five main domes, eight secondary domes, and six minarets that are one of Istanbul’s skyline’s most iconic components.

Overall, the mosque is of overwhelming size, majesty, and splendor. It is preceded by a large fountain in a forecourt and a special ablution area. Two hundred stained glass windows illuminate the lower stories while the upper area is decorated with 20,000 hand-painted tiles. There is also an iron chain hanging in the court entrance on the western side of the Blue Mosque.

Many people will agree that the Blue Mosque wouldn’t be the Blue Mosque without the breathtaking blue tiles lining the mosque’s interior at the lower levels and every pier. The more than 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles were handmade Iznik style in Iznik (ancient Nicaea).

The iconic tiles are in around 60 different tulip designs; those at the gallery level have a more flamboyant design than those at the lower levels, which are traditional in design. During decoration, the Sultan decreed a fixed price for a single tile, although the tiles’ price was gradually increasing. As a result, the tile quality used in the mosque decreased gradually.

The Blue Mosque’s most defining features are, of course, the blue Iznik tiles and the six minarets. Nonetheless, the mosque has quite a number of other impressive features, including the 200 stained glass windows whose intricate design and natural lighting adds beauty to the already breathtaking interior.

Lighting is also provided by chandeliers with bulbs made from ostrich eggs to repel spiders and prevent cobwebs from forming inside the mosque. Apart from the tiles, decoration inside the mosque includes some verses from the Quran.

Some facts about the mosque include:

  • Carpets donated by the faithful cove the floor
  • Each semi-dome has 14 windows
  • The central dome has 28 windows, four of which are blind
  • The stained glass initially used for the windows were gifts from the Signoria of Venice

Despite hosting millions of visitors in a year, the Blue Mosque is still used as a worship house. To exercise courtesy and for safety during your tour of the magnificent mosque, here are some tips for you:

  • The mosque is closed to non-worshiping visitors during prayer hours- dawn, midday, afternoon, and dusk. Also, Friday noon is an important time of worship, and thus, avoid scheduling a visit at this time.
  • It is mandatory to take off your shoes before entering the Blue Mosque.
  • Also, both men and women must cover their legs. Therefore, put on a long dress, skirt, or pants before heading to the mosque.

Visiting the Blue Mosque

In Istanbul, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque sits on a hill at the heart of the Sultanahmet neighborhood and is visible from the Asian side of the city. To get there, take a tram on the T1 tram line and alight at Sultanahmet stop, which is a quick walk from the Blue Mosque. If you are planning to visit the mosque on your own directly from the airport, first take the subway before transferring to the T1 line.

One of the best ways to get a full view of the mosque and truly appreciate its imperial Ottoman architecture is from the west (Hippodrome). The gateway from this direction leads to the inner courtyard of the Blue Mosque.

From here, you can see the Blue Mosque’s main dome in its full scale and symmetry and four of the six minarets. The courtyard is surrounded by arch walkways, and sitting in the middle is a stone water fountain. Along the eastern wall are a series of panels from where you can learn more about Islam as a religion if you feel interested.

To enter the mosque, tourists use the entrance in the eastern corridor. Remember, admission to the mosque is free, although you can always donate to the donation box at the exit door. The donations help towards the upkeep and preservation of the Blue Mosque. For a flawless tour of the iconic structure, remember to adhere to the simple etiquette tips mentioned before.

Photos are great, especially if they are taken in such a unique location. But if the pictures are not for your personal use but are rather professional, you must first seek the staff’s permission before pressing the shutter.

With that said, the Blue Mosque interior will wow you with such breathtaking beauty. And if you’re lucky, you will experience one of the most phenomenon sounds in the city; the call to prayer from the mosque’s minarets. The call is performed by four of the finest muezzins in Turkey over a public address system feeding into 100 loudspeakers.

Istanbul Tours

What is Nearby

The Blue Mosque may make you want to spend the whole day just staring at its splendid interior. But before you do that, keep in mind that there are other equally marvelous attractions nearby. These include the Hagia Sophia, which sits opposite the mosque. There is also the beautiful Sultanahmet square where you can take a peaceful walk and Topkapi Palace, which was once the royal seat of the Empire.

You can also tour Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar for souvenirs and the Spice Bazaar, where you will enjoy some of the sweetest aromas and colors in the whole of Istanbul.

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