The Blue Mosque is located in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul adjacent to Hagia Sophia, with access from the Hippodrome. The mosque was designed by the architect Sedefkar Mehmet Aga, for Sultan Ahmed I. Built on the site of the Great Palace, the dome and minarets are visible throughout the area. The mosque has become an important tourist attraction with many daily visitors, but it still remains a place of worship, and visitors need to be mindful of this. Advice on etiquette while visiting the site is given at the bottom of this page.
Construction commenced in 1609 when Ahmed I was only 19 years of age, and took 7 years to complete, and was named the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. It was later that it became known as the Blue Mosque, due to the internal decoration of blue tiles, of which there is an estimated two hundred thousand. The Blue Mosques close proximity to Hagia Sophia was planned as such to demonstrate that Islamic architects could compete with their Byzantine predecessors.
The Blue Mosque was laid out in a similar fashion as Hagia Sophia with cascading domes. The large central dome has four smaller ones surrounding it, and each one of the smaller domes has four domes of its own even smaller. Unusually the mosque has been built with a total of six minarets, instead of the usual four. This it is believed upset the orthodox fathers in the holy Islamic centre of Mecca, but Ahmed I had little time to worry about this, as he died a year after the Blue Mosque was completed, aged 27. His body is now buried with his family nearby.
The huge main hall has 260 large windows that allow the light to flow in. The stained glass windows were originally from Venice, although these have since been replaced, the luminous effect still remains. From the 24 meter high dome, a huge chandelier hangs down. Over time the colours of the tiles have changed, glazes have dulled, what was a rich red has turned more brown, and what was green, has taken on a blue hue. When the harem of the Topkapi Palace was damaged by fire in 1574, the tiles were recycled and used on the back balcony. Decorations include verses from the Quran, many produced by the gifted calligrapher Seyyid Kasim Gubari.
As this is an active mosque, tourists should avoid visits during prayer times, these are set by the position of the sun, not the time of day. First prayers are two hours before Dawn, then at Dawn, followed by Midday, then at Sunset, and finally just prior to last light. On this basis, mid-
All visitors should dress respectfully with clothes below knee level and shoulders covered. Shoes should be removed prior to entering the mosque, small plastic bags are supplied to store them in but they are very small and are easily split. A good idea is to bring your own bag, a plastic carrier bag from a shop will do fine. Ladies should have their head covered, scarves are available, but you may wish to bring your own. Noise should be kept to a minimum. Photographs can be taken but no flash is allowed. Remember that this is a place of worship, so respect should always be shown to those who are visiting the mosque to prey.
There is no admission fee for visiting the Blue Mosque, but there are facilities available for visitors to make a donation on exiting. These donations are very much appreciated.