Istanbul - Sultanahmet Attractions

We set out on foot in Istanbul to explore Sultanahmet's many attractions.  We revisited the Hippodrome and its signature obelisk by day.
We continued on to the Basilica Cistern which was built over 1000 years ago.
We descended into the main cistern chamber which still contains a small amount of water and very dramatic columns.
There were even fish swimming in the water!
The columns were intricately carved and some were covered in moss.
We made sure to seek out both the sideways facing and upside-down Medusas anchoring two of the columns.  She must have looked at herself in the mirror and turned to stone!
We followed the dark underground path to the exit and emerged to catch a glimpse of the Hagia Sophia.
We drew up closer to the Hagia Sophia and bought our entry tickets.
The Hagia Sophia is unique in that it started life as a church and was converted to a mosque during Ottoman times.  The interior highlights facets from both periods.
We entered the main chamber and admired the dome and decorative plaques featuring Arabic calligraphy.  Human imagery is not allowed in active mosques.  These plaques are the equivalent of the statues and frescoes that adorn many churches.
Chandeliers were added to bring light to the heavy and dark interior.  Architects broke ground on the Hagia Sophia almost 1500 years ago in 532 AD.
Marble columns and marble vessels were key features of the space.
Upstairs, we saw gold mosaics featuring the former emperor and his family.
This set of stairs (minbar) shows the Muslim side of the Hagia Sophia.  The imam would have spoken from halfway up the steps.  The top of the steps is reserved for God.
We took one last look at the grand interior of the Hagia Sophia before moving on to the Blue Mosque.
The Blue Mosque is considerably younger than Hagia Sophia (construction began in the early 1600s) and benefited from more sophisticated building techniques.
We removed our shoes and I donned a headscarf before entering the mosque out of respect for those that worship there.
The interior was bright and airy featuring a variety of patterns and shades of blue.

The decorated domes were particularly impressive.
Stained glass windows at regular intervals let in copious amounts of sun.
We exited the Sultan Ahmet Mosque and crossed a small park with fountains and red and white flags waving in the wind.
We walked down Divan Yolu Caddesi, one of the main arteries of Istanbul's old town and passed a huge Turkish flag on a side street.
We finished our morning stroll window shopping for sweets -- a highly enjoyable pursuit after some serious sightseeing.

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: Istanbul - Sultanahmet Attractions
Istanbul - Sultanahmet Attractions
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