Friday, July 26, 2013

The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and so much more

Be warned that this blog post might be a bit picture-heavy. The day began with all of us piling onto the bus and heading for Bilgi University's main campus. Class was spent discussing modernization theory and dependency theory, and how each is related to liberalism and Marxism respectively. 

Interior of Hagia Sophia
A side view of Hagia Sophia

After class and a quick lunch at the school's cafeteria, we headed back to the dormitories to prepare for the rest of our day. Our scheduled afternoon activity was a tour of Hagia Sophia, and one of the Blue Mosque. We took our time enjoying the beauty of Hagia Sophia, while learning from a detailed tour given by Professor Brian Flanagan, Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at Marymount University. 

Although the plan was to enter the Blue Mosque right after exiting Hagia Sophia, our group walked outside and was welcomed by the call to prayer. Because the Blue Mosque would be packed with people for the half-hour surrounding the call to prayer, we decided to wander around the surrounding area as we waited. We dispersed, only gathering again inside the mosque for a few group photos. 

Part of our group standing at the Wishing Column in Hagia Sophia

The Blue Mosque was amazing. My favorite aspect was that while the mosque shows so much history and legacy, it is not a museum like Hagia Sophia--it is still used for its original purpose. There is an enormous, open area at the center of the mosque, with a beautiful and low-hanging chandelier overhead. This section of the mosque is the praying area for men, while women pray around the edge of the mosque behind a swinging wooden gate. 
Men's praying area at the Blue Mosque
At the so-called "pillow restaurant"

My group went for dinner after seeing the mosques, and ate at a fascinating restaurant. Although it was by no means cheap, and clearly a tourist spot to the point of being gimmicky, it was amazing. As the photo shows, we were all perched on pillows, lounging as we enjoyed our food. 

Today was a busy day. Although the places we visited were pretty obvious tourist locations, I enjoyed seeing pieces of the city infused with history and culture. 

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