Muscat (Oman). The clean architecture of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat, empathized by a pure winter sunset.
Istanbul (Turkey). An interior view of the wonderful Hagia Sophia museum. Built as an Orthodox Basilica in 537, converted into a mosque in 1453 with the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks, and finally secularised in 1931, Hagia Sophia (or Ayasofya, in Turkish) is one of the symbols of Istanbul and of the entire Turkey.
Istanbul (Turkey). Istanbul (and Turkey in general) are living very tough times in these days; and life seems not being the same as usual. Newspapers and blogs are full of articles, opinions, analysis, stories and – I guess – even some legend about the recent (failed) military coup. However, this place is not intended to talk about things that are not photography and emotions.
For this reason, in the past days I realized that what I can and I want to do is remembering the happiness, the beauty and the carefreeness of Istanbul – as I love(d) to photograph it so many times! It’s a task, at least I live it as such; and to accomplish it, I need to start from images like this one posted here. Why? Well, the reason is quite simple: I’m spending most of my time following the situation in Turkey since last Friday (also for reasons related to my work) and I feel I’m really bombed by photos of Istanbul so terribly different from the “typical images” I’m used to see. What I want to say is that usually, writing “Istanbul” on search engines, the typical image that comes out is something like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Bosphorus or the markets; but in these days Istanbul is associated to tanks, protests and masses – even with some photos taken from others stages (Egypt, for example) and reused to create confusion!
So, sorry for being probably stereotyped and for recurring to a cliché, but I can’t resist anymore. Istanbul (and Turkey too) is not the mess we are watching in these days, and I want – googling “Istanbul” – to see again its postcards of landscapes in the top ranking. I think that only in this way it will be possible to re-establish the right order of things; and only in this way Istanbul and Turkey will return to be the same amazing destination they have been since ever.
Istanbul (Turkey). A group of friends in Ortakoy cannot resist from taking a “selfie” in one of the most picturesque places in Istanbul. Close to them, a group of “traditional photographers” are capturing their personal postcard.
Istanbul (Turkey). This is probably the most “symbolic” and characteristic part of Hagia Sophia, which was built as an orthodox basilica, then converted into a mosque and today is a very popular museum in Istanbul.
But why this corner is so symbolic? The answer is simple but – in my opinion – extremely logic: it shows at the same time the apse (where there was the Hagia Sophia Basilica’s altar) and the mosque’s mihrab, the semicircular niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the “qibla”, the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca and hence the direction that Muslims should face when praying. The mihrab was added when Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque in 1453, after the conquest of Istanbul with Mohammed II.
Visiting Hagia Sophia is like hopping on a time machine: there are so many testaments of the building’s history, that the visitor bears the risk that being mesmerised by the wonderful mosaics and the magnificence of the interior, will not notice them. When I accompany someone at Hagia Sophia, this is the first place where I go: here there is the essence of a place that is unique not only for its beauty, but also for its history.
Samsun (Turkey). The marvellous Göğceli Mosque in Çarşamba (Samsun) is not only characterised by a beautifully decorated ceiling, but it’s also a rare (almost unique) example of wooden mosque in Turkey (the structure dates back to 1206). Interestingly, the entire mosque with all its beams and pillars do not use one single nail.
Istanbul (Turkey). 7 PM at Ortakoy; people are leaving the local mosque after the Isha pray – the last pray of the day.
Istanbul (Turkey). The modern – but full of mysticism – Sakirin Mosque in Istanbul (Uskudar), designed by the architect Zeynep Fadillioglu, the first female interior designer of a mosque, as well as the first woman to design a mosque in modern Turkey.
Istanbul (Turkey). One of the many skylines of Istanbul: mosques with domes and minarets, and the proud Turkish flag waving at the sunset.
Istanbul (Turkey). I loved this situation: I was taking some photos around the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque in Uskudar – a conservative district on the Anatolian side of Istanbul. After his pray, I noticed this man lacing his shoes, when a cat came to him and get some caresses. Immediately, a cute smile “blossomed” on his face, and he remained several minutes to play with the animal (while behind him, other believers were praying out of the mosque).
There are many articles explaining the relationship of Istanbul with cats. And I’m talking about street cats, living on sidewalks or populating small courtyards. The first characteristic is – for sure – their conditions: they are loved by people, which cure and feed them as if they were the owners. The origin of this respect is most probably in a popular saying which, in Turkish, should be (if I remember well) “Bir kedi öldürenin günahının affolması için tüyleri sayısınca cami yaptırması gerekir” meaning something like “if you’ve killed a cat, you need to build a mosque to be forgiven by God“: in fact, it seems that a cat saved the prophet Muhammad when was a baby, killing a poisonous snake that was entered into his cradle.
Even Hagia Sophia, one of the most important touristic attraction in the world, hosts a large group of cats: they are free to move in and out the prestigious building, and tourists frequently are much more interested in observing them, then in knowing the history of this church / mosque / museum.
I wish Istanbul could be an example for many other cities in the world: long life to cats!