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The Silk Route - World Travel: Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey
americas asia & far east africa & middle east europe

Turkey: Istanbul mosques & small bazaars

October 2012

New Mosque & the Spice (Egyptian) Bazaar Galata Tower & Rustem Pasha Mosque Suleymani Mosque Beyazit and the Book Bazaar Sultan Ahmed or Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque, Istanbul

It would take some time to do justice to all of the mosques in Istanbul, we managed a few. The small Rustem Pasha Mosque is a delightful contrast to the many beautiful but huge mosques - it has stunning Iznik tiles, as does, of course, the magnificent Blue Mosque.

Small bazaars are worth seeking out - the book bazaar and very ancient spice, or Egyptian bazaar in particular.

New Mosque & the Spice (Egyptian) Bazaar

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Fishermen on the Galata Bridge which spans the Golden Horn, behind is the New Mosque.
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New Mosque
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Cappadocia restaurant.
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Courtyard and Ablutions Fountain of the New Mosque.
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New Mosque
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Valide Sultan Turhan Hadice Mausoleum.

Ready for lunch one day we made our way to the Galata Bridge looking for a likely spot. We chose the Cappadocia Restaurant - the woman making pancakes behind the large window is a bit of a tourist draw but it did look good! We enjoyed the food here: manti – tiny white ravioli dressed with a spicy tomato, mint, pepper and sumak sauce at the table but a bit cold, and Turkish pancake stuffed with mince and onion – very good, especially dipped in the manti sauce!

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New Mosque

Down by the Golden Horn the heat of the blazing sun was mitigated by a cooling breeze.  The seventeenth century Yeni Cami or New Mosque on the west side of the bridge was built on the ruins of an earlier structure destroyed by fire. It was commissioned by the Valide Sultan Turhan Hadice, mother of Mehmet IV - the earlier building had also been the  project of Valide Sultans. The exterior is a pyramid of dome upon dome reflected in the elegant interior. As with all the mosques we visited there is a huge carpeted space overhung with enormous chandeliers where the men pray. The women pray in a latticed enclosure along a wall.

Turhan Hadice is entombed in a mausoleum which is part of the original mosque complex. Within it are also the tombs of her son Mehmet IV and several more sultans.

The nearby Spice Bazaar was also once part of the mosque complex. An assault on the senses: colourful, noisy and busy - very popular with the tourists.

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Black, white, red, green and mixed pepper, cardamom,mixed dried chopped vegetables, Indian Saffron, which looked like turmeric, and Turkish Saffron, which looked like the proper golden threads it should be; meat ball, fish and chicken spices, rose, jasmine, cinnamon, orange and apple tea - and that's just in this photograph!

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One of the bazaar entrances.
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The Spice Bazaar, originally the Egyptian Bazaar.
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Fabulous dates and other dried and candied fruits.

Here can be found of course spices of all descriptions, but also dried fruits of every variety, nuts and dried fruit stuffed with nuts, dried flowers and fruit for tea, Turkish Delight and nougat, a vast colourful array of exotic produce.

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Dates, apricots & figs stuffed with nuts, sticky baklava candied fruits and huge blocks of halva.
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King prawns - gorgeous.

That evening we returned to the seafront fish restaurants and had a thoroughly enjoyable meal at Dogan. Choosing from about fifteen different mezzes brought to the table we had anchovies, sweet red peppers and vegetables in a yoghourt sauce followed by fresh grilled dorade - fabulous. With the sun setting over the Bosphorous and the fishing boats going out to sea it was a wonderful setting.

The cats around these parts look very contented!

 

Galata Tower & Rustem Pasha Mosque

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View from the Galata Tower.
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The Galata Tower rises high above the district of Beyoglu.
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Galata Fire Tower

 

We took the tram over the Galata Bridge and walked up to the Galata Tower. At nearly 70m high and already on high ground, it has an excellent view over the city. It became one of the fire towers of the city where a watch was kept for any sign of a conflagration. fire could devastate the mostly wooden-built city very quickly.

Probably built by the Genoese as part of the city defences in 1348 it was called the Tower of Christ. Its use for fire-spotting developed during the eighteenth century. The excellent Istanbul Fire Brigade website describes the various flags used to signal the location of a fire.

It's quite an expensive admission fee so we headed instead for the terrace of the Anemon hotel for a drink and to take in the view from there - a Lonely Planet recommendation. Despite being assured by the receptionist this was possible, breakfast was barely over, so we contented ourselves with a few shots before heading for the Galata Bridge and a cool beer.

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The Galata Bridge spanning the Golden Horn is lined with restaurants on the lower level.
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View from the Hamdi Restaurant terrace across the Golden Horn to Beyoglu.

The Hamdi Restaurant overlooking the Golden Horn is celebrated as much for the view from its terrace as its food and we thoroughly enjoyed the two lunches we had here. Spicy tomato and crushed walnut/tomato dips, fresh bread, Alexander kebap, lamb kebap - all excellent. We were impressed by the Angora wine too, and the apple tea which we had a lot of during our stay in Istanbul.

Neither time were we able to get a table on the edge of the terrace but that doesn't really matter as the wrap-around windows make the views from inside very good too. On one side the Rustem Pasha Mosque, which we visited later, and from the open terrace the Golden Horn and across to Beyoglu.

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Rustem Pasha Mosque seen from Hamdi Restaurant.

 

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A busy street near Rustem Pasha Mosque.
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Rustem Pasha Mosque gallery
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The Rustem Pasha mosque was built for the husband of one of Suleyman the Magnificent's daughters after he died in 1561.

Hemmed in by small shops, whose rents support the mosque, and busy streets, its entrance is tricky to find but worth the effort as the interior is beautiful. It is regarded as one of the finest of the smaller mosques of Istanbul, principally for the very high quality Iznik tiles.

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Suleymani Mosque

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Suleymani Mosque

On our way up to the Suleymani Mosque we stopped at one of the many shops selling freshly squeezed fruit juices - pomegranate and orange is excellent.

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Entrance to the Suleymani Mosque.
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The Suleymani Mosque was built between 1550 and 1557, designed by the renowned architect Sinan for Suleyman the Magnificent and has a beautiful courtyard with four minarets.

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The interior is enormous and very peaceful, quite plain, with black and white, and red and white striped arches. The simplicity of the decoration, and particularly the red and white striped arches, reminded me a bit of the Mezquita at Cordoba.

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The mosque has many adjoining buildings which include a soup kitchen for the poor, han, hospital, school and a bath house.

Within the grounds are also the tombs of Suleyman and his notorious wife Roxelana - Haseki Hürrem Sultan. Once a concubine, Roxelana became Suleyman's favourite and then wife after he had freed her - a hitherto unknown occurrence. She had great influence on Suleyman and wielded political power through him - an extremely strong and resolute woman, one might even say crafty, in a world dominated by the rule of men.

 

Beyazit and the Book Bazaar

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Beyazit Tower
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Beyazit Square, with the main entrance to the university, was in Byzantine times the Forum Theodosius.

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Beyazit Mosque

The Beyazit Tower is another of the city's fire towers so we headed up that way to see if we could climb. Unfortunately, for us, it is in the middle of the University which has strict security so we couldn't get to it. The Beyazit Mosque, built by Yakub Sah for Sultan Beyazit II in 1501, took five years to complete. It is here by the entrance to the university too, though it was closed to tourists as it is undergoing renovation.

However, we did discover here the Book Bazaar, the Sahaflahr Carsisi, which we'd searched for high and low inside the main Grand Bazaar  a day or two previously.

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Entrance to the Book Bazaar.

It is well-situated so close to the university and a contrast to the bustling Spice and Grand Bazaars, peaceful and sunlit.

It is, however, right next to the Grand Bazaar which we walked through again making our way back to the centre.

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The Book Bazaar with a monument to Ibrahim Muteferrika who was, among other things, a publisher and printer.
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Sultan Ahmed or Blue Mosque

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Built between 1609 and 1616 for Sultan Ahmed I the stack of domes surmounting this mosque is particularly lovely. Six delicate minarets distinguish its outline.

The courtyard is enormous and from here the symmetrical perfection of the building is most apparent.

Inside, the walls are covered with beautiful Iznik tiles, the blue giving the mosque its alternative name. The space is generally agreed to be rather spoiled by the four huge columns which support the domes.

It is very hard to get the colour balance right inside the mosque when taking photographs!

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blue mosque

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One of four huge columns inside the Blue Mosque.
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The Blue Mosque seen through domes of Hagia Sophia.
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At sunset from a rooftop terrace restaurant the view of this mosque is breathtaking.

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