Thinking of visiting Istanbul? Istanbul’s long list of spectacular sights can be quite overwhelming for even the most eager of globe trotters. The city is just so rich in history and culture that it’s often difficult for tourists to narrow down and prioritize places of interest. You’ve most likely already stumbled across the Blue Mosque while you’ve been Googling what to do in our beautiful city. While we do rank it highly on our must see list, there’s a few interesting facts about this marvelous architectural design that we’d like to share with you first.
1. Istanbul’s Blue Mosque is also known as Sultanahmet Mosque. Wondering why it was dubbed the Blue Mosque? Well, you may be puzzled as you approach the mosque as its exterior has not even a hint of blue… but it’ll all make sense when you walk inside and see striking blue tiles.
2. The Sultanahmet Mosque is named after Sultan Ahmet I who wished to build an Islamic place of worship that would compete with the Hagia Sophia. The two places of worship now stand side by side for visitors to judge which is the more extraordinary of the architectural marvels.
3. Sultan Ahmet I initiated the construction of the mosque when he was only nineteen years old. In fact, he was so eager to finish building it that he often assisted to speed up the process. Unfortunately, he died one year after it was completed at the age of twenty seven.
4. A madrasa, hospital, han, primary school, market, imaret and tomb of Sultan Ahmet I and his wife and three sons were all part of the original mosque’s complex but many of them were later torn down in the nineteenth century.
5. Mosques traditionally have one, two or four minarets. That’s what makes the Blue Mosque unique as it boasts six minarets. It’s rumored that this was a misunderstanding as the Sultan had instructed his architect to make gold (altin) minarets which his architect understood as six (alti) minarets.
6. The Harem Mosque in Mecca which is the holiest in the world also has six minarets which caused controversy to the extent that Sultan Ahmet I had to send his architect to Mecca to add a seventh minaret to the Haram Mosque.
7. Although the main west entrance is far grander than the north entrance, non-worshippers are asked to use the north entrance to keep the mosque’s sacredness intact.
8. The Blue Mosque’s interior is lit with two hundred and sixty windows which were once filled with stained glass of the seventeenth century. Unfortunately they have been lost and replaced with replicas far more inferior.
9. Visitors can delight in a historical narrative and light show at 9pm in summer with commentary in Turkish, English, French and German on select nights.
10. The mosque’s interior has 20,000 blue tiles that line its high ceiling. The oldest of these tiles feature flowers, trees and abstract patterns that make them fine examples of sixteenth century Iznik design.