Built in the early 17th century, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is more commonly known as the Blue Mosque. The reason is not apparent from outside, but on entering the building, the blue ceramic tiles of the interior give the game away.
The mosque sits alongside Hagia Sophia and one can immediately see the similarities, particularly in the style of the domed roof. Like the great basilica, the structure is about awe-inspiring size. With its vast dome, a further eight smaller domes and six minarets, it’s not a building to be overlooked. The six minarets also make a statement – no mosque had ever had so many.
Local legend says that the sultan had asked for a minaret in altin (gold), but the architect misheard and thought he’d asked for alti (six) minarets. No harm was done, as the sultan was delighted that the mosque now had more minarets than any previous structure.
If the exterior is impressive, the inside is stunning. With more than 20,000 handmade tiles, the Nicaean ceramic industry was kept in business for a few years. The theme is mainly flowers and only a trained botanist would realise that there were so many different varieties of tulip.
Like Hagia Sophia, the building is afforded plenty of natural light by a plethora of windows, in this case 260 of them. Disappointingly, the original coloured windows have largely been replaced by something more prosaic. At least they do the job of allowing light into the mosque and there are also low-level chandeliers, though these look a little tacky.
The Blue Mosque looks pretty stunning at any time, but it makes for an especially impressive view at night, when it is lit up. The domes and minarets, floodlit against the night sky, make for an unforgettable sight.