Istanbul has been the capital of the Ottoman Empire since 1453. It has always had a large number of mosques, as it was the largest city in the Middle East. 

Turkey now a days is more secular however it is still a Muslim country and this is evident in the beautiful mosques that are built in the city. The more impressive ones were built after 1453 when the Ottomans conquered the city. To date there just under 3000 mosques in Istanbul alone.

The Blue Mosque ( Sultanahmet Camii )

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This is the most visited and most photographed Mosque in Istanbul. It was built between 1609-1616 by the then Sultan Ahmet. The interior walls are adorned with hand painted blue tiles, giving the mosque its name. There are also five main domes, eight secondary domes and six minarets. 

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The Blue Mosque Interior

The visitor numbers are limited so that the mosque retains its sacred atmosphere. Only people who are to pray are admitted through the main door. Visitors enter through the south door. The mosque closes throughout the daily prayer times. 

Suleymaniye Mosque ( Suleymaniye Camii )


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The building of the Suleymaniye Mosque commenced in 1550 and was completed in 1557. Suleiman The Magnificent commissioned the mosque and it was designed by Mimar Sinan. It stands on the Third Hill of Istanbul at dominates the Golden Horn. Its not the largest of the mosques in the city but it is certainly one of the most beautiful.

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The Suleymaniye Mosque Interior

The Mihrab which indicates the direction of Mecca is covered in fine Iznik tiles. The interior of the mosque is stunning featuring the shutters that are inlaid with mother of pearl, beautiful stained glass windows and medallions that are transcribed with Arabic calligraphy. 

Ortakoy Mosque ( Buyuk Mecidye Camii )

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The mosque is situated on the banks of the Bosphorus, and is one of the most popular areas along the river. The original mosque built on this site in 1721 was destroyed and this current day mosque replaced it in 1856. It was designed by an Armenian architect, Garabet Alyan and his son.

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The Ortakoy Mosque Interior

It is neo-Baroque in style, with an ornate exterior, and large windows that allow light to flood into its plainer interior. The main chamber is small and square shaped, its edge 12.25m in length. The ceiling is a dome shape, covered in pink mosaics. There are two tall minarets, each with a single sherefe (minaret balcony). Attached is the two storey Hünkar Kasrı (sultan’s summer palace). It has recently undergone a major refurbishment.

Camlica Mosque ( Camlica Camii )

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This is the largest mosque in Turkey. It was built between 2016 and 2019, it can hold 63,000 people. It was designed by two female architects, Bahar Izrak and Hayriye Gul Totu. Opened on May 4th 2019 the event was attended by many dignateries from around the world.

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The Camlica Mosque Interior

The mosque is very impressive having six minarets and 70 domes. The interior of the dome is inscribed with 16 adjectives attributed to Allah, and it also symbolizes the number of states founded by Turks in history. Atop the main dome is a three-piece finial that weighs 4.5 tons, and at a height of 7.77 meters, the largest of its kind.

The mosque also has one of the largest temple entrances in the world: A 5-meter-wide, 6.5-meter-high door weighing 6 tons. Before that, an enormous marble arch marks the entrance to the courtyard with verses from the Quran inscribed on it. The main door also contains verses from the al-Imran surah or chapter of the Quran. Inside, a 9,000-piece, 220-meter-long horizontal plate placed under the dome contains the al-Fath surah in its entirety.

What is a mosque?

A mosque is a place of worship for Muslims. It comes from the Arabic word Masjad, meaning ‘ a place for prostration ‘. Mosques are also places where Muslims come together for different purposes such as education, social gatherings, public meetings, exhibitions, lectures etc.

Muslims are required to perform the ritual of worship five times per day. They are not required to attend the mosque to pray but are encouraged to do so to interact with the community. Friday is the day when Muslims should come together to pray in the mosque.

Azan or the call for prayer is a vocal announcement that you can hear from the minarets five times a day. The call to prayer is live and its called by a person called a Muazzin. The Muazzins are usually people chosen for their strong loud beautifully trained voices to invite people to prayer.

Written by: Rachel Labidi




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