on the road

Mosques, Churches and Whirling Dervishes

It is scientifically recognized that the fundamental condition of our existence is to revolve. There is no being or object which does not revolve, because all beings are comprised of revolving electrons, protons, and neutrons in atoms.Everything revolves, and the human being lives by means of the revolution of these particles, by the revolution of the blood in his body, and by the revolution of the stages of his life, by his coming from the earth and his returning to it.
http://www.whirlingdervishes.org/whirlingdervishes.htm

This is the first time I have really struggled to write a post for this blog. I want to try and convey the overwhelming beauty of the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Byzantine Chora and Topkapi Palace. I also want to share the experience of seeing the remarkable Whirling Dervishes spinning round and round and round like the planets of the solar system in their effort to abandon the ego and reach a state of oneness with god. But I can’t get the words down. It’s not that words have failed me – rather, it is the reverse. So, this time, I will allow my photos to speak for themselves as much as possible.

The Hagia Sophia, built in the 6th century, was an Orthodox Christian church for 900 years before the Ottoman empire transformed it into a mosque in 1453.  And then in 1935, under Ataturk’s rule, it was converted into a museum. It is extraordinarily beautiful.

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In the cafe outside the Hagia Sophia

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Inside the Haj Sophia

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I fell over between these two pillars, losing my balance on the slippery marble floor. Lots of people came to my rescue – I was very lucky not to sprain my ankle.

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A seemingly never-ending. sloping marble pathway leads to the upper level of the Hagia Sophia.

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On the upper level.

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This doorway is completely constructed from marble.

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We also visit the Haj Sophia’s tombs, where five Sultans and their families are buried. These too, are stunningly beautiful and feature intricate mosaics and tile work.

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The entrance to one of the tombs

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Burial caskets covered in green and adorned with white turbans.

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Ceilings inside two of the tombs.

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The Blue Mosque was built directly across from the Haj Sophia between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I.  Both buildings are not very far from the little studio apartment we are staying in. In fact, we walk past the Blue Mosque every day on our way to catch the tram.

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About to enter the Blue Mosque.

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Interior views of the Blue Mosque.

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In the courtyard of the Blue Mosque.

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The Chora is a breathtakingly beautiful Byzantine church. We go there with Andris Aukamanis, the Director of Latvia’s Soros Foundation. He visits the Chora every time he comes to Istanbul and it is now the third time our paths have crossed, quite unintentionally, during my journey! We have to catch a tram and a train to get to the Chora, and then walk alongside the ancient Walls of Constantinople, built by Emperor Constantine when the city was the new capital of the Roman empire, until we find an entrance that leads to the church.

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The ancient Walls of Constantinople. This gateway leads to the Chora.

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The domed roof of the Chora in the background.

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The complex exterior of the Chora.

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Inside the Chora – a sublime experience.

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One part of the Chora features simply stunning frescoes.

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And another part of the Chora features beautiful mosaics.

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And the marble work is stunning.

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With Andris Aukmanis in a cafe near the Chora. We met 3 times during my journey!

The Topkapi Palace is another extraordinary surprise. I was, for some reason, expecting a single building, but it is actually a series of different structures built within beautiful grounds, including a treasury, a library, imperial offices, a circumcision room and a vast harem. The palace was the home of the Ottoman Sultans between 1465 and 1856.

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The entrance to Topkapi Palace.

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The palace grounds are extensive.

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The Bagdad Kiosk.

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Views from near the Bagdad Kiosk.

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Extraordinary tile work.

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In the circumcision room.

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The entrance to the Imperial Council rooms.

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Views inside the Harem.

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This is a fireplace.

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One of the prince’s rooms within the Harem.

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The internal courtyard in the Harem. This snaky stone path featured throughout.

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Back outside the palace.

We see the Whirling Dervishes perform on Sunday evening in a specially built hall within the grounds of the Galata Mawlawi House and Museum, which is just off Istiklal Street. We were told that we might get very bored watching the ceremony, which last for about an hour, but we both find it utterly mesmerising.

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Inside the special hall where the Whirling Dervishes perform their ceremony.

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The ceremony begins. The musicians are in the room on the upper level.

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The Dervishes wear black robes which are removed before they start whirling.

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The whirling starts.

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A ceremonial moment between 3 repetitions of the whirling ritual.

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2 comments

  1. Lou Giudici

    Oh Brigita! How incredible, thank you so much for this post and these pictures- I can’t wait to share them with my comparative religious studies class, we are studying Islam! Our love to you and Gerry. Lou, Rob and girls x

    • Thanks so much for your positive comments, Lou! I’m sorry I didn’t WRITE more, but the links do provide some more extensive information about each of the places I visited. Great to hear from you – best, Brigita

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