"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

September-October 2020.

The mosques, the mosques, the mosques of Istanbul. Much like the city’s ubiquitous cats they are an ever-present feature wherever you go and whatever you do. Punctuating the skyline on both sides of The Bosphorus, these often stunning structures stand as vessels of community, faith, Turkish history and Islamic art.

Rustem Pasha Mosque.

Rustem Pasha Mosque: The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

According to various online sources, there are around 3000 mosques across Istanbul. I have no problem believing that, as it seemed Sladja and I came upon a new structure (or two) on just about every street we passed through. Of these, I have already published individual articles on the grandiose Hagia Sophia and Süleymaniye Mosque.

The sublime Hagia Sophia Mosque.

Hagia Sophia: The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

Keen to cross off the last of the city’s so-called big three early in our stay, we set off one afternoon to see the building some historians have described as “Istanbul’s most spectacular sanctuary”.  It is of course the mesmerising Blue Mosque.

Visit The Blue Mosque.

The Blue Mosque: The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

Completed in 1617 after eight years of gruelling construction, it was Sultan Ahmed I who commissioned the mosque. He was a bit peeved off you see, because of the recent peace treaty between The Ottomans and the Habsburgs.

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

The Blue Mosque

While you might see a peace treaty as a positive thing, old Ahmed reckoned it was a blunting of The Ottoman Empire’s power and prestige. Thus he decided to have a magnificent mosque created in the hope that he could curry favour with Allah. 

The Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I.

“I said BIGGER!!!”

He certainly didn’t do things by halves. Keen to craft a structure that would surpass even the beauty and grandioseness of Hagia Sophia, Ahmed demanded that his new mosque be larger.

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

Blue Mosque The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul

The Blue Mosque.

What’s more, he made sure that it outdid every other mosque in the country in terms of lavish decoration. And that it boasted no less than six 64 metre minarets. That was more (not to mention higher) than anything else in the empire at the time.

Naturally, Sladja and I were excited to witness how The Blue Mosque compared to the big-hitters we’d already seen. Unfortunately though, we were in for a huge disappointment.

Restoration works at The Blue Mosque.

The Blue Mosque: The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

There have been numerous ambitious and lengthy restoration projects at The Blue Mosque in recent years. First in 1883, then again in 1912 following an obligatory fire.

In 2013 meanwhile, emergency surgery was necessary after architects discovered a minaret had moved by five centimetres, resulting in structural instability. Then, in 2018, a number of comprehensive restoration projects kicked off, lasting all the way into April 2023! That day, as we entered the mosque’s eerily quiet grounds, we realised that our luck was out. 

Unfortunate Timing.

The Blue Mosque under restoration September 2020

Oh, crap.

With three quarters of the interior sealed off, all we could do was shrug our shoulders. And make do with a few tantalising glimpses of a freshly painted dome.

Blue Mosque restoration in Istanbul 2020.

The Blue Mosque: The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

Nearly two years later, during our overnight stay in Istanbul on the way to Georgia, we read that the mosque was still under restoration. Hence we opted just to leave it be, figuring that one day we’d catch the old joint in her full glory. Which, judging by the photos I’ve seen online, looks to be breathtaking.

Blue Mosque restoration April 2023.

The Blue Mosque.

Photo courtesy of R. Prazeres.

In the moment we felt gutted. But luckily Istanbul has countless gorgeous mosques to explore. So we consoled ourselves with a visit to the utterly beguiling Ortakoy Mosque. If we’re talking purely location, this has got to win top prize with its position at the edge of The Bosphorus on Ortakoy Pier Square.

Visit Ortakoy Mosque The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul

Ortakoy Mosque: The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

Designed in a mix of eclectic styles, the mosque is an extraordinary sight both inside and out. Melding neoclassical, Ottoman Baroque and European revivalist elements (among others), it is also a stunning showcase of the very finest intricate stone carving. No wonder it has become such a popular spot for wedding photos and all-round social media narcissism.

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

Turkish bride and groom at Ortakoy Mosque

Ortakoy Mosque.

Entering the mosque, we took care to stand at a discreet distance away from the couple who were doing wedding photos.

Wedding photos at Ortakoy Mosque.

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

When they finally left, we had a few minutes of peace to absorb Ortakoy Mosque’s exceptional beauty. Although modest in size, its decor is truly like something out of a fairytale. There are 8 low-hanging chandeliers, for example, that somehow rival those we’d marvelled at in Dolmabahçe Palace.

The amazing chandeliers of Ortakoy Mosque

Ortakoy Mosque.

Elsewhere, the painted panels of Islamic calligraphy came from the hand of Sultan Ahmed I himself.

Hand painted calligraphy at Ortakoy Mosque

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

Moreover, Ortakoy treated us to yet another stupendous mosque dome. The sultan had it decorated with painted Trompe-l’œil frescoes in the French style. Which basically means they were created in a way that gives the illusion of three-dimensional images. As a result, it can feel pretty trippy if you stare at it for a while.

Ortakoy Mosque.

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

However, the show-stealers at Ortakoy Mosque are undoubtedly the giant windows that face The Bosphorus. The light floods in through them, illuminating the main prayer hall in an almost ethereal glow.

The history of Ortakoy Mosque.

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

Spotting an unoccupied window ledge, Sladja took a seat to enjoy a quiet moment gazing out across The Bosphorus. Which feels very much like an Ortakoy Mosque rite of passage. You definitely wouldn’t get such an opportunity at the likes of Hagia Sophia or The Blue Mosque.

A quiet moment in Ortakoy Mosque.

A reflective moment.

Soon, locals arrived to pray, read the Quran or simply enjoy similarly quiet moments away from the relentless buzz of city life. Not wanting to be in anyone’s way, we retired to a considered corner from which to sit and observe. Another fantastic addition to our collection of Istanbul mosques.

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

With so many people visiting Istanbul on short weekend trips, folk often fail to look beyond the most obvious big-name mosques. And so it proved during our stay when we set off one morning for the exquisite but criminally underrated Nuruosmaniye Mosque.

Nuruosmaniye Mosque The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

On the face of it there is absolutely no reason why Nuruosmaniye Mosque shouldn’t be just as busy as Hagia Sophia. Completed in 1755, this architectural gem enjoys a super central location right next to the outer streets of The Grand Bazaar

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

Visit Nuruosmaniye Mosque.

Appraoching Nuruosmaniye Mosque.

Nuruosmaniye loosely translates as “The Light of Osman”.  This is in reference to Sultan Osman III, the big cheese who saw the mosque through to completion. But in actual fact it was another sultan, Mahmud I, who commissioned the structure. It was just that Osman rather cheekily named it after himself at the eleventh hour.

The History of Nuruosmaniye Mosque.

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

Inside, we found ourselves alone with Nuruosmaniye’s sumptuous historic art. Seriously, as the manic queues snaked down the square at Hagia Sophia, not one other person had the idea to come and check out Nuruosmaniye, Istanbul’s first mosque to be built in the baroque style. It’s staggering really, but hey their loss was very much our gain.

Inside Nuruosmaniye Mosque.

Inside Nuruosmaniye Mosque.

With its simple square plan and single 25-metre dome, it is not a complicated space. It’s clever though, because this absence of semi-domes actually gives you the feeling that it’s even taller than other mosques in the city. And like Ortakoy Mosque it has a vast array of windows that welcome the light with outstretched arms.

The stunning interior of Nuruosmaniye Mosque

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

Padding around the place, barefoot on the fluffy sky-blue carpet, our experience at Nuruosmaniye Mosque stands right up there with the city’s main draws. There’s just nothing quite like having such a place all to yourselves.

Nuruosmaniye Mosque.

When in Istanbul Nuruosmaniye Mosque.

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

Another larger city centre complex that doesn’t seem to get much tourist love is Bayezid II MosqueIndeed the sleepiest of sleepy vibes greeted us on the afternoon we swung by. The main courtyard was largely deserted, except for a dozing doggy. In the distance, a young couple were doing Instagrammy poses in the doorway.

Bayezid II Mosque The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

This imperial Ottoman mosque, finished in 1506, takes its name after the Sultan who had it built, Bayezid II. Apparently, locals refer to it as The Pigeon Mosque, due to the fact that hundreds of pigeons often congregate here. Safe in the knowledge that worshippers usually come armed with little bags of seeds for them. That afternoon though, the birds were conspicuous by their absence. 

Visit Bayezid II Mosque Istanbul.

Bayezid II Mosque.

Eventually, the posers had taken their one thousandth shot and we entered the inner courtyard by passing under the impeccably sculpted entrance portal that bears an impressive engraving of the royal seal.

Entrance portal to the inner courtyard at Bayezid II Mosque

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

Inside, we once again had the run of the joint. Happily, the silence gave us the chance to take a seat and read about how the mosque’s design is actually pretty similar to Hagia Sophia. Semi domes to the east and west of the nave? Tick. Smaller domes in the side aisles? Ding, ding, ding. 

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

The history of Bayezid II Mosque.

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

Our favourite feature though was this majestic loge, an elevated platform supported by ten marble columns. Traditionally, this is where the sultan could observe services in a place that gave his bodyguards an overview of the space and clear sight of any would-be assassins.

Exploring the stunning Bayezid II Mosque.

Bayezid II Mosque.

Just one other person appeared that morning as we conducted our slow self-guided tour. It was the cleaner, who walked around hoovering up the tiniest specks of dust ahead of the upcoming morning prayer. He paid us no attention whatsoever.

Morning cleaning Bayezid II Mosque.

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

As we explored the city further, Sladja and I found it increasingly difficult not to pop our heads into every mosque we came upon. You never quite knew what you were going to find. One pleasingly unusual structure that stood out was Kalenderhane Mosque, a former Eastern Orthodox church that dates back to the 12th century.

Kalenderhane Mosque The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

Located in the city’s Fatih district in the leafy Vefa neighbourhood, Kalenderhane sprang up on the site of two former churches, built in the 6th and 7th century respectively. Before that, the grounds were home to a Roman bath!

Kalenderhane Mosque.

Kalenderhane Mosque.

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

Today the building stands as a rare example of a Byzantine edifice with a Greek cross plan. Needless to say there was nobody around when we entered. As soon as you go inside there is this distinct sense of history and right enough the old building has literally seen it all over the centuries.

Inside Kalenderhane Mosque.

Kalenderhane Mosque.

During The Latin Occupation (1204-1261) crusaders used the place as a Catholic church. Later, Franciscan monks built a monastery complex around it. After the Ottomans moved in Mehmed the Conquerer established the first dervish lodge within the grounds, which also included a soup kitchen.

The History of Kalenderhane Mosque.

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

Its official conversion to Islam and mosque status took place in 1746. This is when master craftsmen added the key elements that are still evident today, such as the mirhab and minibar.

A series of fires subsequently caused heavy damage to the place, although it was a devastating storm that finally saw the long-suffering structure abandoned in the mid 1930s. At long last, in 1975, Kalenderhane Mosque reopened after a restoration project that lasted almost a decade.

The mirhab and minibar at Kalenderhane Mosque in Istanbul

Kalenderhane Mosque.

One curiosity that had us giggling on the way out was the surprising presence of an exchange office! I mean, seriously? I don’t recall seeing one in any other Istanbul mosque, so this really had us scratching our heads for a few days.

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

Exchange office inside Kalenderhane Mosque

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

If someone asked me to recommend just one under-the-radar Istanbul gem, I might just plump for the wonderful Arab Mosque in the city’s Karakoy quarter.

This one is unique in that it is the Turkish capital’s only mosque converted from a Roman Catholic church. You can’t miss the mosque’s distinctive brick compound, as it spans several streets. However, finding the discreet archway into the main courtyard proved quite challenging.

Searching for the entrance to Arab Mosque in Istanbul

Trying to find our way into Arab Mosque following the brick wall.

We followed the wall, and followed the wall and followed the wall, around several narrow streets. Along the way we passed tiny stores, a dark and dingy butcher’s and a shoeshiner busying away on a customer’s mucky black shoes. Talk about atmospheric.

Shoeshine outside Arab Mosque in Istanbul

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

In the end we located the entrance on Galata Mahkemesi Street. It was definitely worth our trouble, the large leafy courtyard proving so peaceful we took a seat on a bench and drank in the scene. Note the elegant şadırvan (a fountain for washing oneself prior to praying), erected in 1868.

Arab Mosque The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul

Arab Mosque, aka The Arabian Mosque, aka Arap Mosque.

A group of Dominican friars started the church in 1325 on the site of a ruinous 6th century Byzantine church. Although greatly redesigned by the Ottomans when they converted it into a mosque, the building remains the only surviving example of medieval Gothic architecture in Istanbul.

The Arab Mosque.

The history of Istanbul's Arab Mosque.

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

The reconversion took place between 1475 and 1478 after which the building became known as Galata Mosque. In the 1490s our old friend Sultan Bayezid II gifted the mosque to a community of Muslim refugees who succeeded in escaping persecution during The Spanish Inquisition. And that’s how The Arab Mosque got its name. Today the mosque is in great shape with its most recent restoration taking place in 2013.

Inside the Arabian Mosque in Istanbul.

Inside The Arab Mosque.

Here and there, while exploring numerous Istanbul neighbourhoods, we regularly came upon tiny single-chamber mosques that can barely hold a dozen worshippers. Of these, my favourite was the charming and cosy Firuz Agha Mosque.

Firuz Agha Mosque The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

Finished in 1491, the mosque takes its name from the man who had it built, Firuz Ağa. He was Sultan Beyazid II’s head treasurer, personal adviser and close friend.

Hence the sultan was more than happy for him to have his own mosque, especially as it would be such a modest structure that bore no threat to the resplendent buildings of the time. Apparently, Firuz Ağa’s tomb used to lie within the mosque grounds, but somewhere along the way surrendered to the ravages of time.

Firuz Agha Mosque.

Firuz Agha Mosque.

Guess how many people were around inside? Yeah, not a soul. This is hardly surprising for a mosque that doesn’t have much of an online footprint. Indeed what we did manage to read was wholly uninspiring, amounting to little more than the layout of the place and measurements of stuff.

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

Inside Firuz Agha Mosque.

Firuz Agha Mosque.

Nevertheless, we loved our short look around, as the mosque is full of character and clearly very well cared for. Of the numerous details that caught my eye, I loved this antique wall-mounted clock. Graceful albeit rough around the edges, I couldn’t help but reflect on all the things this silent observer has seen over the years. If clocks could talk…

Antique clock inside Firuz Agha Mosque Istanbul.

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

It seems Istanbul could never reach a point where it has enough mosques. Right enough we saw at least a dozen new buildings under various stages of construction. The biggest was Taksim Mosque on Taksim Square, one of Istanbul’s largest pedestrian zones. Apparently the project had been touted since the 1950s, but experienced a long and troubled road riddled with controversy.

Taksim Mosque The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul

Taksim Mosque.

The square itself has long been considered a symbol of President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s secularism. Thus there were numerous protests and legal actions surrounding the mosque’s proposed construction. President Erdogan usually gets his way though, and so it also proved with Taksim Mosque. Work began in February 2017, over three and a half years before we arrived and took our photos.

Taksim Mosque.

Taksim Mosque under construction October 2020.

The Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul.

Seven months after our visit, in May 2021, Taksim Mosque opened with Erdogan himself presiding over the grand unveiling. Speaking inside the new building, which can hold up to 3000 people, he proudly told the nation that Taksim Mosque would “illuminate our city like an oil lamp for centuries to come”.

Taksim Mosque opened in 2021

Taksim Mosque, May the 28th 2021.

Photo courtesy of Tarpanjeh.

Like this? Take a look at my series of articles on Istanbul.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

Leighton Travels logo travel reports and short stories.


  • pedmar10

    Hagia Sofia !!!! is not….

    October 1, 2023 - 3:21 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hello, you appear not to have finished your sentence.

      October 1, 2023 - 3:27 pm Reply
      • pedmar10

        shhh not a mosque….

        October 1, 2023 - 4:28 pm
      • Leighton

        I thought that might be what you were trying to say. The thing is, regardless of what we think about its history and what happened it is officially a mosque. Erdogan made sure of that in 2020.

        October 1, 2023 - 4:30 pm
      • pedmar10


        October 1, 2023 - 4:49 pm
    • Shalkot

      your Leighton travels blog is really great one of the best i seen on the wordpress. follow!

      October 8, 2023 - 2:47 pm Reply
      • Leighton

        Thanks for the kind words!

        October 8, 2023 - 2:51 pm
  • Stan

    a fine selection of istanbul mosques leighton, from the big and beautiful to the tiny and cosy. ortakoy might be my favorite of all, as you say it has a storybook quality that feels timeless. i am somewhat shocked as to how largely ignored so many of these historic structures are compared to the likes of hagia sophia and blue mosque.

    October 1, 2023 - 3:49 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Stan, it’s great to have you back! I’m glad you enjoyed this collection of Istanbul mosques. They all have their own personalities I feel, it’s well worth digging around to see the variety on offer. Cheers

      October 1, 2023 - 4:00 pm Reply
  • Anna

    You are so lucky to have seen so many of these beautiful mosques Leighton! I hope to follow in your footsteps one day!

    October 1, 2023 - 3:55 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Anna, when it comes to mosques there is an incredible amount to discover. Especially if one wanders even just a touch off the main circuit.

      October 1, 2023 - 3:56 pm Reply
  • anoush

    What an amazing and insightful article. You must have put in a lot of hours into this writeup. I do love the quietness that you encountered in these ‘under-the-radar’ mosques. Great presentation of historical details as always and really brilliantly highlighted unique features of each distinct mosque. I hope you get to see the Blue Mosque some day. It was absolutely spectacular before and judging by the photo you shared it looks even more fabulous now.

    October 1, 2023 - 4:25 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Anoush, thanks so much for your kind words. This piece (and indeed most pieces in the series) do take awhile to put together, it’s definitely a labour of love ha ha. The Blue Mosque… hopefully we will ‘catch’ it one of these years. 🙂

      October 1, 2023 - 4:29 pm Reply
  • kagould17

    Wow. So many mosques, so little time Leighton. Nice to have them mostly to yourselves. The Blue Mosque being under construction may have been a blessing in disguise as it gave you the chance to see the lesser lights. Thanks for sharing and have a great Sunday. Allan

    October 1, 2023 - 4:31 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Allan. You’re right, I think when all was said and done and we could look back on everything we managed to see, we felt much more relaxed about the missed opportunity at The Blue Mosque. Sending you happy autumnal vibes.

      October 1, 2023 - 5:02 pm Reply
  • salsaworldtraveler

    Your enticing photos and interesting historical context bring these buildings to life so to speak. The review of the intriguing Ortakoy Mosque was very much appreciated. It is one of my favorite sights from Bosphorus cruises. Strangely, I’m always fascinated by the low-hanging chandeliers and miss some of the more important details of these magnificent structures. Thanks for filling in the blanks.

    October 1, 2023 - 5:23 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ah John, you’re very kind. Ortakoy Mosque must be quite the vision viewed from a Bosphorus cruise. The low-hanging chandeliers are unusual you’re right, and just another reason this mosque stands out. I hope all is well with you and your son and that you are both able to fully enjoy the charms of fall!

      October 1, 2023 - 5:36 pm Reply
  • christinenovalarue


    October 1, 2023 - 6:01 pm Reply
  • Memo

    They certainly are magnificent. I know you have to experience them in person to be in a position to pick a favorite. But I was especially struck by the warm dark wood in the Arab Mosque. I wasn’t expecting that. The other thing I wasn’t expecting was actually on the exteriors of both the Arab and Kalenderhane Mosques. The unpolished brickwork is quite rough and worn. You must have spent the better part of your time just visiting mosques. Thanks for sharing them with us.

    October 1, 2023 - 6:19 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Memo, mm that’s a good observation about the Arab Mosque. And one of the reasons it has such a warm, cosy feel. Not many mosques have rough exterior brickwork, so Arab and Kalenderhane are both notable in that respect too.

      October 1, 2023 - 6:24 pm Reply
  • Mallee Stanley

    I thought Cairo had a lot of mosques, but Istanbul definitely takes the prize and fortunate that you could enjoy the peaceful interiors to yourselves. Did you notice any nooks where women were permitted to pray inside?

    October 1, 2023 - 7:04 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Mallee, I can’t say we did notice prayer spaces for women but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there. I think I can say with some certainty that we didn’t see any women praying though, in part because we were so lucky to experience these mosques free of other people.

      October 2, 2023 - 7:32 am Reply
  • Rochelle | Adventuresfromelle

    I always admire these beautiful ancient mosques! Thanks for sharing

    October 1, 2023 - 8:02 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks so much Rochelle. I find islamic architecture just incredible and enjoy touring mosques perhaps even more than churches.

      October 2, 2023 - 7:29 am Reply
  • thomasstigwikman

    3,000 mosques in Istanbul is quite impressive. There are so many stunning photos in your post. I was so impressed by the Blue Mosque, the Ortakoy Mosque, the Kalenderhane Mosque, and I think it was the Pigeon Mosque and of course Hagia Sofia, and so many other ones. You must have visited dozens. I loved the photo with the dog sleeping in front of one of the mosques.

    October 2, 2023 - 2:48 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks so much Thomas for ploughing through this articles of many mosques. The dozing dog outside Beyazid II was just for you.

      October 2, 2023 - 7:28 am Reply
  • bronlima

    Amazing review of hidden treasures. So many places that mosque be visited in a future trip.

    October 2, 2023 - 2:57 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Geoff, you’re really starting to run amosque with all these puns 😉

      October 2, 2023 - 7:26 am Reply
  • Lookoom

    Interresting review, I haven’t seen all of them. During a previous stay in Istanbul, I visited several mosques, including the Blue Mosque (which was not renovated yet) and the New Mosque. I liked the interior decoration. I also had the feeling that all these mosques were overwhelming. On my recent visit, I concentrated on other things, avoiding the mosques, except for the large courtyard of the Blue Mosque, where I love the atmosphere.

    October 2, 2023 - 3:29 am Reply
    • Leighton

      I think if we were to ever return to Istanbul we’d probably give the mosques a rest ha ha. Or at least not see so many. Thanks for checking in!

      October 2, 2023 - 7:18 am Reply

    Hi bud. That’s incredible that you got a photo of President Erdogan having his shoes cleaned. I know he’s hiding behind a COVID mask but you don’t fool me, I can see that it’s him! Great tour, great descriptions. And great that you got to see some of these without crowds. Like you, I always feel a bit of an intruder when someone is in a devout place, seeking guidance or praying, etc. I feel like I’ve crossed a line and always start to retreat. I apologise for being so churlish when your articles are so fabulous. Best I go get some sleep now!!

    October 2, 2023 - 5:02 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Ah Phil you’ve made me laugh and cringe here at the same time. If only I had known it was Erdogan, I could have asked for an autogr… ah on second thoughts scrap that. You are absolutely right about Ankara of course and appreciate you pointing that out. I think I’m the one that needs some sleep!

      October 2, 2023 - 6:06 am Reply
  • Travels Through My Lens

    These are all so beautiful and intricately crafted. The little details in each one must have taken eons to finish. Your photos have captured them all beautifully. It’s hard to believe there are over 3,000 of them in Istanbul alone; astonishing! Thanks for sharing Leighton, and I hope your week is off to a good start.

    October 2, 2023 - 11:08 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Tricia, I’m glad you enjoyed this overview of Istanbul mosques, well known or otherwise. I recall you saying that you were impressed by Nuruosmaniye Mosque during your visit to Istanbul. Mondays are a day off for us, so definitely a good start to the week. 🙂

      October 2, 2023 - 12:06 pm Reply
  • Little Miss Traveller

    We also visited Orakay Mosque whilst in the city. A great post Leighton.

    October 2, 2023 - 1:52 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Marion.

      October 2, 2023 - 4:24 pm Reply
  • wetanddustyroads

    Wow, those chandeliers are so big (and stunning) in the Ortakoy Mosque. The illusion of three-dimensional images in the dome reminds me of a church we saw in Gozo (Malta’s sister island) – it’s actually quite remarkable. Beautiful photo of Sladja by the window (looks like a cover for a romantic novel). One mosque is as beautiful as the other – although each is unique in its own way.
    Well, I suppose another trip to Istanbul is on the cards then to see the completed Blue Mosque for yourself. Great post, thanks for the mosque tour Leighton.

    October 2, 2023 - 3:05 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for touring Istanbul’s magnificent mosques Corna. I have passed on your ‘romantic novel’ comment to Sladja, which made her smile. Not sure I’d be good at romantic fiction, but I could give it a go.

      October 2, 2023 - 4:25 pm Reply
  • qprgary

    Really is unbelievable architecture.

    October 2, 2023 - 3:06 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers Gary.

      October 2, 2023 - 11:01 pm Reply
  • Lyssy In The City

    Great coverage of some of the beautiful mosques. I can’t believe there are so many, they’re giving Italy’s churches a run for their money. It is amazing how beautiful and unique each mosque is and all the intricate details. I think they should personally invite you for the unveiling of the Blue Mosque restorations.

    October 2, 2023 - 4:37 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I would accept that invitation 😉 Thanks for reading and commenting Lyssy.

      October 2, 2023 - 11:02 pm Reply
  • NortheastAllie

    The details and art in the mosques are incredible!

    October 3, 2023 - 12:02 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Allie, it’s wild to think that we probably only saw about 25-30 of Istanbul’s 3000 mosques.

      October 3, 2023 - 7:33 am Reply
  • grandmisadventures

    How frustrating to show up at the Blue Mosque only to be met with construction projects everywhere. But it seems like a happy accident as it left you free to see such a beautiful array of other mosques. With 3000 mosques though it may be a life long project to see them all. I loved seeing these lesser known mosques and their unique beauty, so maybe I’m glad that you were disappointed by the Blue Mosque visit 🙂

    October 3, 2023 - 12:08 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Absolutely, The Blue Mosque simply allowed others to shine. Thanks for checking out these magnificent mosques, Meg.

      October 3, 2023 - 7:36 am Reply
  • Mike and Kellye Hefner

    Magnificent indeed, Leighton! Aside from the size and opulence of most of the mosques, I am utterly fascinated by the huge chandeliers. The mosques are all beautiful, and I would love to see them in person. I am about one third of the way through “The Museum of Innocence” and I can hardly put it down. His descriptions are so vivid that the reader feels that he/she is in the city, but your wonderful posts have given me so much more to visualize. I’m looking forward to more as I catch up on the posts I’ve missed over the last few weeks. I hope your week has started off well!

    October 3, 2023 - 12:57 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Wow Kellye, you didn’t waste any time getting stuck in to The Museum of Innocence. I’m so glad you are enjoying it and that these articles serve as a loose visual for the city. It’s great to have a solid reading project in the fall, and as winter comes on.

      October 3, 2023 - 7:41 am Reply
      • Mike and Kellye Hefner

        I absolutely love the book, so thank you for letting me know about it. I will likely finish it before the weekend, as I’m having a hard time putting it down.

        October 4, 2023 - 1:03 am
  • Monkey's Tale

    In other Muslim countries that we’ve visited over the years the mosques are always very plain inside. The ones in Istanbul though are all so ornate. Don’t worry, Blue Mosque is quite underwhelming. Maggie

    October 3, 2023 - 1:28 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Maggie, I think you’re the first person I’ve read to give the Blue Mosque a big ol’ “meh”. Was it horrendously busy when you visited?

      October 3, 2023 - 7:45 am Reply
      • Monkey's Tale

        It wasn’t too busy actually, the crowds peter out at about 3 or 4 pm. Maybe I just expected too much, but I thought Süleymaniye Mosque was a lot more impressive inside. To me it was too big and lost any character.

        October 3, 2023 - 11:33 am
  • Rebecca

    While much of Western Europe is full of cathedrals and churches, the east is vibrant with mosques. I visited the Blue Mosque on my trip to Istanbul and loved it, but I would’ve loved to check out the interior of the Ortakoy mosque, as it looks stunning! Goes to show there are so many mosques in Istanbul, you could spend a lifetime seeing them all!

    October 3, 2023 - 4:02 am Reply
    • Leighton

      On the one hand we feel like we saw a lot of mosques during our stay. But as you suggest it’s a drop in the ocean really. Ortakoy is something else, so much so that I reckon they should be talking about “the big 4”. Cheers, Rebecca.

      October 3, 2023 - 7:53 am Reply
  • girlintheemeraldscarf

    i have always wanted to visit istanbul!!!
    cooolll post

    October 3, 2023 - 4:13 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for your comment, I hope you enjoy my articles on Istanbul 🙂

      October 3, 2023 - 4:24 pm Reply
  • travelling_han

    They truly are beautiful. I love all the mosaics and intricate architecture – the buildings are just so stunning. I love all your photos, I don’t know why but I paused for ages at the wedding couple, just wondering where they’re at now and hoping those photos are on their wall 🙂

    October 4, 2023 - 12:58 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      The pessimist in me says that the marriage is already on the rocks ha ha. Just kidding, I’m sure they are deeply in love with little ones on the way, if not already arrived. Thanks for reading Hannah.

      October 4, 2023 - 1:37 pm Reply
  • WanderingCanadians

    Sorry to hear that you weren’t able to see much of the Blue Mosque on either of your visits to Istanbul. But as you said, given there are so many mosques scattered around the city, at least you had a lot of alternative options for other mosques to explore. It’s neat how each one has a different style and history.

    October 4, 2023 - 3:05 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Yeah, I got the Blue Mosque Blues. Thanks for stopping by guys!

      October 4, 2023 - 3:26 pm Reply
  • Len Kagami

    Before my trip to Turkey, I never thought Baroque would match with mosques. But it works so well. The Ortakoy Mosque looks absolutely stunning! I visited another mosque in Konya also with a Baroque style. If I remember correctly, it was a gift from the sultan who built the Ortakoy Mosque.

    October 4, 2023 - 4:37 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ooh I’ve read good things about the mosques of Konya. Thanks for checking in Len.

      October 4, 2023 - 5:33 pm Reply
  • Doug McNamee

    Very nice and thorough. I hope to get Istanbul one day.

    October 6, 2023 - 11:14 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Doug, it’s an incredible city, I’m sure you’d enjoy it.

      October 6, 2023 - 8:34 pm Reply
  • F J

    A testament to beauty that is slowing dying.

    October 6, 2023 - 1:24 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading and adding to the thread, much appreciated. 🙂

      October 8, 2023 - 1:07 pm Reply
  • satyam rastogi


    October 6, 2023 - 1:37 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks 🙂

      October 6, 2023 - 8:35 pm Reply
  • Travel with a Pen

    The idea of a Mosque tour in Istanbul sounds fantastic to me! I look forward to visiting some of those mentioned here, especially Ortakoy and Nuruosmaniye Mosques, which we missed during our last trip! The latter really does seem, “criminally underrated”!

    October 7, 2023 - 3:59 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Amarachi, I can see you doing your thing at Ortakoy Mosque. Just pick out your best dress 🙂

      October 8, 2023 - 1:09 pm Reply
      • Travel with a Pen

        Haha! That, I will surely do! 🙂

        October 8, 2023 - 2:45 pm
    • Shalkot

      amazing mosques thanks for this in depth presentation

      October 8, 2023 - 2:48 pm Reply
      • Leighton

        Thanks for reading. 🙂

        October 8, 2023 - 2:52 pm
  • cbholganza

    Awesome! Wish we could come back to this great city. 😊👍🏼

    October 10, 2023 - 11:53 am Reply
    • Leighton

      It’s amazing eh? Thanks for catching up with recent articles, it’s much appreciated.

      October 10, 2023 - 12:06 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Me too, I’d be open to a third visit if the stars were to align. Thanks for your comment!

      October 10, 2023 - 5:01 pm Reply
  • Rent car with driver istanbul

    Thanks for sharing this update on the unfolding story of Taksim Mosque

    November 27, 2023 - 1:26 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading!

      November 27, 2023 - 3:56 pm Reply

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