...continued from previous entry.
After freshening up, we headed out to the see the two most important landmarks in Istanbul: Aya Sofya (a.k.a. Hagia Sofia) and Sultanahmet Mosque (a.k.a. Blue Mosque). Both of them were hardly five minutes walk from our hotel. Really glad that I picked the right place to stay!
We went to Aya Sofya first because it was already near to its closing time. What is Aya Sofya? It is a historic building that was constructed as a church, then converted into a mosque during Ottoman Empire, then later became a museum until now. The mix of both Christian and Islamic architecture could clearly be seen - from the Quran verses at the mihrab to the image of Jesus Christ on the ceiling.
Aya Sofya, as seen from a garden across the street.
Plenty of people wanting to enter.
Inside the building, it was one big hall.
One of many gorgeous chandeliers dangling around.
It used to be a place of worship for both religions.
Now let’s walk up to the upper floor.
A long hallway upstairs.
A full view from the balcony. The “floating flowers” were the chandeliers.
Golden mosaic panels. Flash photos weren’t allowed as the light would affect the mosaics.
A view of nearby area from a window.
Pieces of the building excavated by archeologists. They stopped the excavation work after realising that it was disrupting the building’s foundation.
A former wudhu’ (ablution) area.
From Aya Sofya, we walked across the street towards the garden and headed to Sultanahmet Mosque. There were many people hanging around at the garden, watching the fountain or simply waiting to see the nearby buildings aglow at sunset.
Plenty of benches for visitors to sit, relax and admire the view.
The ever beautiful Blue Mosque at dusk.
Closed at prayer times.
Magnificent view of the prayer hall.
The signature dome from the inside.
Pillars and arches.
Wudhu’ area outside of the mosque, behind the pillars.
From the mosque, we continued walking around the nearby Sultanahmet Square. Saw the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, but it was closed at 5pm, so no luck there. So we went to check out the long rows of shops alongside the tram track and stopped for dinner.
One of several obelisks at Sultanahmet Square.
Smartly dressed peddlers selling cut watermelons...
...and grilled corns.
Endless rows of shops on both sides of the track. Can you see the tram coming?
Passed by a restaurant with a lady making bread at its entrance.
Flower shops like this felt truly European to me.
Had kebab for dinner. The one on the top drenched in tomato sauce was “Iskandar kebab”, a signature Turkish kebab.
Returned to the hotel. Day 1 - Done!