Although I aren’t posting any new pieces on this blog at present I have been sorting through posts on my old blogs before I delete them. I came across this post that I wrote in 2012 and thought it would be timely to reblog it here. I think it’s important to remember that not all Muslims are violent extremists.
Until I went to Turkey I had never been inside a mosque. Although I have been inside Buddhist and Hindu temples where people sit on the floor I assumed that a mosque would be more like a Christian church and people would sit on rows on wooden pews. As I travelled through Turkey I saw mosques everywhere. They hovered beside the houses like shimmering concoctions of white washed walls topped with silvery metal domes and spires. My curiosity about them mounted.
The Blue Mosque in Instanbul (Saltanahmet Camii in Turkish) is open for tourists to visit except for half an hour or so during the five daily prayers. I donned the necessary head scarf, took off my shoes and eagerly joined the queue of visitors entering the spacious building.
People milled about the areas open to the public. Tour guides spoke softly to their patrons, cameras clicked and people developed cricked necks staring up at the blue tiled walls and arching domes that give the mosque it’s name.
Several areas were closed off to tourists with low wooden railings. In these areas people prayed quietly or spoke to each other in hushed voices. Some stood while others knelt or sat on the lushly patterned carpet. The huge chandelier type arrangement of hanging lights added a twinkling, slightly magical effect.
I visited another mosque at Bursa that was also open to tourists. There were far less tourists in this one.
Once again a large area was closed off to visitors but the people using the mosque for religious purposes seemed utterly unperturbed by the influx of camera clicking tourists.
Of course I would have to visit a mosque during prayer time to fully appreciate how the buildings are used but I was struck by the calm, relaxed atmosphere inside the buildings.