Thursday, October 12

Hagia Sophia 59

A building for the ages
We enter Istanbul, a most extraordinary city of 16m and the seat of the Islamic Caliphate from 1517 to 1924, with its proud minarets that spike the sky, alien and frightening, in the most modern and complicated of Muslim cities where crossroads of religion, peoples and history meet on this very square.

Immediately I am struck by the noise, traffic, construction, movement, hustle and (most) women not wearing hajib in contrast to the last four weeks. It is autumnal and the tree leaves are browning.

We stay at a nice hotel, a reward for our travels, 15 minutes walk to the Hagia Sophia built in the 6th century by the Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire was one and the same) and an Eastern Orthodox Church until the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1452; it was a Catholic cathedral for a century after the Fourth Crusade of 1204.

The call to prayer from Sophia is, per Sunni, 5x a day, competing with the Blue Mosque 500m away, for beauty and song.

As Eitan and I have been in the Sofia and Blue Mosque before we choose to sit in front of each in the wonderful shade until the sun sets. We are joined by two friendly dogs.