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Istanbul and the Blue Mosque

I have wanted to visit Istanbul for as long as I can remember. This year, the opportunity arose to visit and, for many reasons, this was one of the most memorable trips of my lilfe.

The promised magic of the great Blue Mosque, the sights and sounds of the souks and crowded streets filled me with such anticipation and, to add to the delights, I would be in the company of an old friend, a devout Muslim who would help to bring meaning to each experience.

Our first visit was to that great building. My companion went in to join the sabbath prayers while I produced this little watercolour sketch and, after the service, I joined him to marvel at the towering interior of this ancient meeting place. We sat on the carpeted floor, leaning against one of the four massive pillars that supports the light-filled dome of nearly 24 metres diameter. It is just about as awe inspiring as an interior can get.

Whereas European Cathedrals of the same period (1620) are heavy and dark with their aisles of columns and solid, beamed rooves and opaque domes, this mosque glows with the daylight that floods through the domes and windows. At the entrance, everyone removes their shoes and the interior is plush with fitted carpets which baffle all noise. European Cathedrals have stone floors littered with grave stones over which visitors have trod with their wet and dirty shoes, for hundred of years. Many mosques have pooled fountains where the faithful was their faces, feet and hands before prayer. The sound of the water has such a calming effect on these huge intneriors.

In this mosque, and in others that we visited, I found a welcoming sense of comfort and light that I do not find in Christian churches. These were very interetsing experience for me.

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