I have been to many mosques in Istanbul – they always fascinate me with their circular domes and half-domes, their intricate ornaments and their monumental yet non-intimidating feel. I have been to many of them two or three times, each time taking pictures like I’d never been there before.
It would be hard to single out favourites as they are all unique. Little Hagia Sophia is chamber-like and very cosy, especially if you climb to the balcony and sit on the soft blue carpet. New Mosque is the palace of violet and lilac, while the neighbouring Rüstem Pasha Mosque is the paradise of blue Iznic majolica. Yavuz Selim (Selim I) Mosque is grand by being a huge space without columns. Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque) is just grand both inside and outside, while Süleymaniye, Şehzade and Fatih mosques are imposing from the outside but somehow feel quite light from the inside.
On my latest visit to the great city I discovered another favourite on a street where few tourists ever venture to get. It is behind the infamous Laleli district with its 1990s-like department stores of wholesale for the former Soviet republics, at a distance (and typical labyrinth of side-streets) from the tram line. But those who get here by some venturesome spirit are sure to be rewarded with one more gem in the mosque tapestry.
(Words of advice: open every image, including those from the gallery, in a separate window/tab to see it in full detail.)
Cerrahpaşa (Cerrah Mehmet Paşa) Mosque was built by Davut Ağa for Cerrah Mehmet Pasha between 1593 and 1594. For me it is associated with green for the colour of its carpet and green lines adorning archways, though green is not the dominant colour of the interior design. Red is also quite visible.
Since this mosque is away from the touristy paths the atmosphere is local. I don’t even recall any English signs about rules of behaviour that you can see at the entrance to any of the famous mosques in Istanbul. Nobody speaks English. You have to rely on some gestures and body language to let the caretaker know that your intentions are good (not being sure that the caretaker even allowed or approved of my visit). Thankfully it was not the prayer time and the only people inside were the kids. They looked like Gypsies. Smiling, pointing to a foreigner with photo cameras, chatting like magpies. Once again I was trying to relate my respect to the place of prayer, respect to the rules and will-just-take-a-few-pics-and-be-gone sense.
I am happy that I went down that street and didn’t stop half-way, that I went inside though the caretaker looked a bit hostile (he had just washed the stony floors of the front gallery), that I found one more beauty.