I did my degree in religions and theology at Manchester University, so as a traveler, I am a bit of a culture vulture – especially when it comes to religious sites and architecture. The Blue Mosque in Istanbul is something that I have wanted to see for a long time. It’s just that travel and work plans often got in the way!
If you want an architectural delight combined with learning about the Islamic faith, the Blue Mosque is a must-see in Istanbul. It is located in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul. You can get a tram to Sultanahmet and tram tickets are 4TL each way. Today I’m going to explain how to visit the Blue Mosque and recommend a good hotel near the blue mosque Istanbul.
Practicalities visiting the Blue Mosque as a Tourist
As a tourist, you can visit the Blue Mosque for free. However, you will not be allowed in prayer areas and you will need to avoid prayer times. You will be expected to be silent inside as it is a place of worship and also respect the culture and dress appropriately. Avoid photographing worshippers as they pray or do their ablutions (ritual washing).
The call to prayer is chanted 6 times daily and it would be too busy and inappropriate for a tourist to visit at these times. Here are the current prayer times (October) at the Blue Mosque…but remember that they vary slightly according to the movement of the sun. You can find out the exact prayer time according to your time of travel here.
What to wear to the Blue Mosque
Remember that the Blue Mosque is a place of worship and is not the place to show shoulders, legs or hair as a woman. Avoid short skirts, shorts, and spaghetti strap tops.
Girls must cover their shoulders legs and head in order to enter the Blue Mosque. You can shop for a headscarf of pashmina in the grand bazaar and make sure that you wear comfortable clothes that cover your arms and legs. If you didn’t get a chance to buy a head covering, they will lend you a headscarf free of charge.
Men must also have legs covered, so you will not get away with shorts. Hats are not allowed.
You will need to remove your shoes on entry. Plastic bags are provided, so you can remove your shoes and put them in a plastic bag to carry, rather than leaving them outside the mosque.
Blue Mosque Ablutions
As you enter the Blue Mosque you will see washing facilities for ablutions – ritual washing before prayer in Islam. Non-Muslim tourists are not required to do ritual washing.
History of The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque was built between 1609 and 1617. It was constructed by Sedefkar Mehmet Aga upon the order of Sultan Ahmad, the 14th Sultan of the Ottomans.
When the Ottoman Turks built a Mosque, it was not limited to a place of worship but was a large complex of buildings. The Sultanahmet Mosque originally included a hospital, a Madrasa (school for higher education), a soup kitchen, a bazaar (market) and a tomb for the members of the royal family.
The name ‘The Blue Mosque’ was a name given by Western Visitors because of the (over 21000) tiles from Iznik that adorn the interior of the Mosque.
Information about Islam
Muslims believe in one God (Allah) and pray five times daily (Salah). If you are traveling in a Muslim country, you may hear the first call to prayer at around 5 am! Islam is a very respectful religion based on the teachings handed down from Allah in the Qu’ran.
At the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, you will see separate worship areas and men and women (this is not sexist, it is for the focus of prayer).
If you look at the carpet inside the Blue Mosque, you will see some darker red sections, which separate areas of prayer.
Inside the Mosque, there is a section where you can request further information about Islam.
What is the Best Hotel near Blue Mosque Istanbul?
Sultanhamet is the best place to stay in Istanbul as you will be right next to the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia and Topkapi Palace. The best hotel near Blue Mosque Istanbul is Amira Hotel, with high ratings, sauna, and hot tub.
What else should you see in Istanbul?
While you are in Istanbul, don’t miss Hagia Sofia, Topkapi Palace, and the Grand Bizarre. There are also some brilliant shows like the Whirling Dervishes and Bosphorus River cruises with entertainment.