The Sultan Ahmet Camii, the renowned Blue Mosque, now awaits you. Cami, which is pronounced ` jami”, meaning “mosque” in Turkish. In 1609, Sultan Ahmet I commissioned Mehmet Aga, a pupil of the famous Turkish architect Sinan, to build a new principal mosque. Its six minarets and impressive pyramid of domes were intended to counterbalance Hagia Sophia. To emphasize the preeminence of Mecca, which also had six minarets, Sultan Ahmet commissioned a seventh minaret for Mecca.
One enters the outer courtyard, surrounded by an openwork wall, through a gate to the left side portal, through which sightseers are expected to enter the mosque. The front of the mosque, to the right, faces west towards the At Meydani, which was once the Byzantine Hippodrome. On this side are the main door and the inner forecourt, surrounded by a colonnade roofed with cupolas. The forecourt contains the purification fountain, called sadirvan in Turkish. Devout Muslims are expected to live by five precepts, the “Five Pillars of Islam”: Faith, prayer, almsgiving, fasting and pilgrimage. Prayers must be said five times daily at prescribed times. Before praying in the mosque, believers perform ritual ablutions, washing face, hands (to the elbows) and feet (to the knees) at the fountain in the courtyard of the mosque. In Turkey, non-Muslims may also enter mosques but they must remove their shoes at the entrance. Women should also cover their hair with a scarf.
In the interior of the Blue Mosque, massive gray marble columns, appropriately termed “elephant legs”, support the weight of the dome. The more than 20,000 tiles from Iznik, ancient Nicaea, which cover the lower walls and the ladies’ loge in the gallery gave the Blue Mosque its name. They are alive with superb floral designs – tulips, carnations, roses, hibiscuses, cypresses – all stylized to form ornamental patterns in shades of blue, green and brown. The white marble mihrab contains a piece of the sacred Black Stone from the Kaaba in Mecca. The white marble minbar is a replica of the minbar at Mecca.