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A bustling impressive city.
Sunday, I arrived in Istanbul for a two week overview tour of the country. It was the start of Ramadan and things have been relatively quiet for a city of more than 15 million people. I arrived to lovely early spring weather but today the weather turned cold and rainy. In case you are curious, we are about 1,000 miles from the area affected by the tragic earthquake on February 8, 2023.
The most impressive site I’ve seen in my short time here is Hagia Sophia, a mosque and major cultural and historical site in Istanbul. The mosque was originally built as an Eastern Orthodox church and was used as such from the year 360 until the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire in 1453. It served as a mosque until 1935, when it became a museum. In 2020, the site once again became a mosque.
The Süleymaniye Mosque is also large and impressive. It was commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent and designed by the imperial architect Mimar Sinan. An inscription specifies the foundation date as 1550 and the inauguration date as 1557. Behind the qibla wall of the mosque is an enclosure containing the separate octagonal mausoleums of Suleiman the Magnificent and his wife Hurrem Sultan (Roxelana). For 462 years, the Süleymaniye Mosque was the largest mosque in the city, until it was surpassed by the Çamlıca Mosque in 2019.
Tomorrow, we head for Ankara, the capital of Turkey with a population of 5.6 million people.