If the Red Centre in Australia is red, and the Pink City of Petra is pink, you’d be surprised to find the Blue Mosque in Istanbul is not blue at all! With its six minarets, it stands on a lively, noisy street of stalls and tourists. The mosque has none of the grandeur of the newer, white, sparkling, and rich mosques of the Middle East …. but there’s something about the faded grandeur of a place where people have come to pray to Allah for more than 300 years. The tiles inside (21,000 all hand made!) portray flowers, symbols of Islam – the tulip, the carnation and the rose, made from Iznik the colour of turquoise – whose French translation is Turkish Blue.
The azure blue of The Bosphorus Strait carves through the city centre, bringing ships, cargo and passengers, to its heart – while the Fatih Sultan Mehmet suspension bridge joins the two halves of Istanbul, Europe on one side, Asia on the other.
With Asia’s influence of heady food and spices, traditional Bazaars and belly dancers – and Europe’s modern skyscrapers, shopping malls and cuisine, it can be confusing where Istanbul can be likened to. Her history is definitely in the East – with Islam, and the Sultans who ruled here for centuries. Could her future be in Europe, and the many European tourists who flock to some of her beautiful beaches like Delaman and Marmaris, looking for sun and sand with no thought for culture at all?!
As the red flags of Turkey waved over the rooftops, I caught my breath at the view over the city as the Call to Prayer reminded us all the sun was setting.
Just 3 hours away, this is a great weekend break …. a little bit different, a lot to see and do, and some time to relax too …. a real (Turkish) delight!