The cascading domes and six slender minarets of the Sultan ahmet Mosque (popularly known as the Blue Mosque) dominate the skyline of
In the 17th century, Sultan Ahmet I wished to build an Islamic place of worship to rival the
Hagia Sophia, and the mosque named for him is the impressive result. The two great architectural achievements stand next to each other in Istanbul's main square, and it is up to visitors to decide which is more impressive.
The Blue Mosque was commissioned by Sultan Ahmet I as a rival to Hagia Sophia and designed by architect Mehmet Aga (Aga's unfortunate predecessor was fired - i.e., executed).
Construction on the mosque began in 1609 and took seven years. Sultan Ahmet died only a year after the completion of his masterpiece, at the age of 27. He is buried just outside the mosque with his wife and three sons.
What to see
One of the most notable features of the Blue Mosque is visible from far away: its six minarets. This is very unique, as most mosques have four, two or just one minaret. According to one account, the Sultan directed his architect to make gold (altin) minarets, which was misunderstood as six (alti) minarets.
Whatever the origins of the unique feature, the six minarets caused quite a scandal, as the mosque in Mecca also had six minarets. The problem was solved by adding a seventh minaret to Mecca's mosque.
The main, west entrance is beautifully decorated and should not be missed, However, to preserve the mosque's sanctity, non-worshippers are required to use the north entrance, off the Hippodrome. Hanging from this gate are symbolic chains that encourage everyone, even the sultan on horseback, to bow his or her head upon entering.
The interior's high ceiling is lined with about 20,000 blue tiles that give the mosque its popular name. Fine examples of 16th-century Iznik design, the tiles feature flowers, trees and abstract patterns.
Location map and satellite view of the Blue Mosque. Using the buttons on the left, zoom in for a closer look or zoom out to get your bearings. Click and drag the map to move around. For a larger view, see our Istanbul Map or get our Google Earth download.
Names: Blue Mosque; Sultanahmet Camii; Sultanahmet Mosque
Type of site : Mosque
Location: Next to Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
Open: 9am-6pm, except during daily prayer times (about a half-hour, five times daily) and midday on Fridays
Tel: (0212) 518 1319
Outside of prayer times, non-Muslim visitors are welcome but access is somewhat limited. Tourists must enter through the north gate (Muslims use the main west gate) and remove their shoes at the entrance (plastic bags for shoes are provided). Modest dress is required for both men and women and women must cover their heads. Wraps are provided when deemed necessary by mosque officials.
Even outside the designated prayer times, one will usually find a few Muslims performing prayers in the Blue Mosque. Be quiet and respectful, and try not to walk in front of them (some Muslims feel that would imply they are bowing down before a person instead of God). If you are not a Muslim, you should still sit down on the rug for a few minutes and soak up the sacredness and beauty of the imperial mosque.
The mosque is quite cold in the winter, so be sure to wear warm socks if you visit then. On summer evenings at 9pm, there is a historical narrative and a light show at the Blue Mosque.