Only 200 yards away, across the Sultanahmet gardens is the Blue Mosque (Sultan Mehmet Camii), which overlays the east side of the hippodrome. The whole enclave is surrounded by stone fences with thick metal grids, and the usual courtyard area with establishment (kulliye) buildings. It was built between 1609 and 1616 by Mehmet Aga for Sultan Ahmet I.
I am stunned by the enormous size of the low interior and round light fittings. Actually, it is not a low interior at all, as it is open up into the domes, but the huge metal bands that hand down, supporting lamps, make one feel very, very small. Aya Sophia made into a mosque, with extraordinary Isnik tiles, just everywhere!! Hordes of tourists proceed in through the non-Muslim entrance, putting shoes into plastic bags to carry through. One tour guide is giving a young couple the works in a small set off prayer area - in Japanese.
As with all the other mosques I see, there are beautiful, well-maintained gardens. I suppose that this is the Persian/Arabic influence. I manage to make out bits and pieces of the beautiful Arabic inscriptions, but can't make head or tail of Ottoman...and I notice that the Turks I ask can't read it either anymore!! In fact, in the carpet bazaar there are a couple of shops selling pages out of illustrated Ottoman story books (eg Noah), but none of them can read them. I tried to bargain for one, but no way - in fact, I should have stopped and made a decision to buy one in the lovely quiet and lamplit booksellers' courtyard - all sorts of software books in Turkish - in the Grand Bazaar (one shop had Hittitology books and some Assyriology, but it was all very expensive, even very old Festschrift volumes).
And as a side-note: how to resolve unemployment - underemploy. Make people (ie men) ticket collectors, phone card sellers, traffic police, and especially what appears to be parking police. On the low end of Utangac Sokak (where Side Pension is situated), down towards SS Sergius and Bacchus, the road sweeper moved in early in the morning, together with a swarm of parking police, sirens blazing, public announcement system blaring, and of course, vicious tow trucks following up. Yes, it is road sweeping day. And of course, motor bike police move in as well. And there is supposed to be a carpet museum in the Mosque, but it appears closed or moved. Maybe it is at the side of the Mosque. The signage is pretty hopeless. I go around there, through a gate, and a group of guards don't appear to be doing much....
And then, make the truly unskilled road workers. For the 6 days that I am at Side Pension, a new water pipe is being laid. A gang of men work hard, cutting up the road by hand, with occasional help from a digger. Three supervisors stand by, of course. And just around the corner from them, at the edge of the blue mosque, the taxi drivers have a terminus. It appears to be a home away from home, with their own little office, and of course, there just happens to be a tea urn on the boil.
Opposite the Mosque, facing the various columns and obelisks of antiquity, is the Palace of Ibrahim Pasha, a Greek convert, finished in 1524. According to Freely, he was appointed Grand Vizier to Suleyman the Magnificent, and thus his wealth to build such a palace. But Suleyman eventually murdered him as a threat.
While I was inside, the power failed about 3 times - having got used to this already (and the 40 watt lightbulbs in the Side Pension - this is common everywhere), I used my trusty little torch.
It only made the splendours better!! Highlights included absolutely exquisite examples of early Islamic and Ottoman epigraphy, which other people just walked past, certainly comparable to the marble calligraphy in places like the Bezadiye mosque.
The rugs!!! what rugs!! The most beautiful rugs that I have ever seen, some of which were at least 50' long, draped down the walls. A number were at least 700 years old (prayer rugs), still in beautiful conditions. The ethnographic exhibition also provides some explanation about how the dyes (including that fantastic red dye) were made. There were reproductions of paintings by such artists as Holbein, who used rugs as props in the 16th century - at a time when trade with the west was increasing, and obviously, the rugs were luxury items. Some of the rugs on display closely matched the patterns in the paintings.
Tiles. I must have an eye for picking 'the best of'. In a little gallery, to the right at the end of ..........., I saw beautiful remakes of ancient tiles. Once struck me in particular, it being a depiction of the Kabaa in Mecca and other buildings around, all labelled in Arabic. It was $US500!! In the museum, the original was one of the first items that my trusty torch flashed upon!! The images here are very similar to the tile that I spotted.