Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque I
Blue Mosque I

 

I visited here on a moody, grey-sky day, as you can see from the shot above.  This spot deserves a lot more acclaim and recognition than it gets, at least in the USA (same goes for Turkey as a whole, and Istanbul in particular).  It is a gorgeous work of architecture, both from the outside and within.

 

Blue Mosque II
Blue Mosque II

 

It’s set at one end of a park, with the Hagia Sophia (built by the Roman Emperor Justinian) at the other end.  The name Blue Mosque isn’t actually the official name – that’s the Sultahnamet mosque – it comes instead from the color of the tiles on the interior ceiling.  We’ll get to that in a moment.

 

Blue Mosque III
Blue Mosque III

 

Here’s the up-close view of the entrance leading to the park.  In this instance the grey sky bothered me, so I fixed in photoshop to the sky I thought this photograph deserved.

 

Blue Mosque IV
Blue Mosque IV

 

See what I meant about blue tiles?  Those come from the area of Iznik, in another part of Turkey.  This is the underside of the central dome, with four mammoth pillars holding it up (called “Elephant Feet” colloquially).

 

Blue Mosque V
Blue Mosque V

 

I got this shot from a nearby alcove where someone had left prayer beads on the rug.  I like the simplicity here.

 

By the way, no shoes allowed inside (they give you a baggie for them, and have shelves to put them on).  But the rug is wonderfully luxurious on your feet, which is especially a wonder given it’s trod upon by thousands of people every day.

 

Blue Mosque VI
Blue Mosque VI

 

This is the central worship area, off limits to bumbling tourists.  At It functions not too differently from a church, except that folks sit on the carpet instead of in uncomfortable pews (the latter, I think was invented as a device of torment in the dark ages – at least carpet is cushioned!).

 

Blue Mosque VII
Blue Mosque VII

 

And finally, here’s one of the Elephant Feet in context, with some people for scale.  The pillars are huge, seriously.

 

A fabulous place, and I’m glad I had a chance to see it.

 

Happy shooting!

 

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Istanbul, Part II – the Spice Bazaar

The Spice Bazaar in Istanbul was a tough one for me.  Even though our guide, Tarkan, was fantastic, I was pretty dead on my feet by this point after 8 hours of walking and shooting all day.

 

Plus, not only did I want to shoot, I was there to shop, too!  Because really, you’re not going to find better.  Case in point –

 

Turkish Delight
Turkish Delight

 

No, that’s not sushi rolls!  It’s Turkish delight, and believe me when I say, what comes under the same name in the US is emphatically NOT the real thing.

 

Not even close!  But so, so good when you get the real deal.  Nom!

 

Tea Time
Tea Time

 

And another Istanbul surprise!  I knew coffee was a “Thing” (and a glorious, delicious Thing it is), but I had no idea that tea was so big in Turkey.  And in particular, apple tea – which tastes like a combination of spices mixed with hot apple cider.  Good enough I brought some home, naturally.

 

At this point you’re probably wondering, for a Spice Bazaar, these don’t really look like spices, right?

 

Spicy Goodness
Spicy Goodness

 

Season your heart out.  There’s stuff even I’d never seen before (which is saying something) but perhaps even more importantly, there were house blends.  Intended for everything from rice to fish to meat to poultry, they tasted divine.  And the stall owner was good enough to vacuum-seal everything I got so customs wouldn’t give me trouble on the way home.

 

Had I been smart I’d have done the same with the 2 kilos of Turkish coffee we got – that ended up having to go in carry-on.

 

And just for the sake of ostentaciousness:

 

High Rent District
High Rent District

Yeah, that’s ALL saffron.  Could make a lot of paella with that, huh?

Happy Shooting!

See more of my work at http://www.patricklcahalan.co.nf  and http://www.flickr.com/photos/patricklcahalan

Istanbul, Part I

I recently had the chance / was privileged enough to spend a few days in Istanbul last month, and it was incredible!  We ended up there sort of by accident, after finding cheap airline tickets to Rome and Athens that went via Istanbul.  And at that point, so the thinking went, why not stay a few days?  After all, it’s not like we’re in that part of the world on the regular, 13 hour flight and whatnot.

 

My only regret is that we didn’t stay longer!  It is truly an amazing city, in so many ways.  From millennia of history and culture to a vibrant society to such warm, welcoming people you’d be hard-pressed to find a more remarkable spot.

 

I’ll start with 2 of the biggest sights that the city has – the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia.  These are practically on top of each other in the Sultahnamet area, only separated by a small park; maybe 100 yards, tops.

 

The mosque is gorgeous, inside and out, and given that I’ve never been in a mosque previously, I think I started in the right place.  Note that the name comes from the blue tiles inside, see 2nd photo in the ceiling.

 

The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque, Interior
The Blue Mosque, Interior

 

The Hagia Sophia, on the other hand, is a Roman cathedral, which was converted into a mosque, and then converted yet again into a museum.  It’s got a mix of Christian and Muslim iconography throughout, and is truly stunning.

 

Here is the centerpiece (altar area, plus a nihrab pointing toward Mecca).  The only place on earth you’ll find Jesus, Mary, and Gabriel depicted, plus the names of Allah and Mohammed.  Fun fact: the original basilica pointed to Jerusalem, and the Muslim version to Mecca that’s off-center is only different by 3 degrees.

 

Hagia Sophia Altar Area
Hagia Sophia Altar Area

 

And here, a recovered mosaic of Jesus.  This is a little unnerving in person – the eyes will follow you as you move around in front of the mosaic.

 

Byzantine Mosaic of Christ
Byzantine Mosaic of Christ

 

Lots more to come from Istanbul’s photo trip!

 

BTW, I have decided the Turks are dessert hobbits – there always seem to be 2 desserts with any meal, and probably chocolate besides.  It’s a miracle they aren’t all diabetic … maybe the ever-present and delicious Turkish coffee is what offsets that?

 

Happy Shooting!

See more of my work at http://www.patricklcahalan.co.nf  and http://www.flickr.com/photos/patricklcahalan