This post is part 3 of 17 of my trip to Istanbul. The series intends to give more than just a I-saw-this-and-did-that review. It aims to share the voice inside my head as I explore a world I’ve only read in books.
The Blue Mosque sits directly across from the Hagia Sophia on the Hippodrome, also known as the Sultanahmet Square. It’s hard to say which is more impressive. They both rival in beauty. With six towering minarets, The Blue Mosque dominates the Istanbul skyline.
The Blue Mosque is an active mosque; therefore it is not open to visitors at all times. Doors open at 9am but is closed 5 times throughout the day for prayers. It’s also closed midday on Fridays as this is the mandatory prayer of the week. Most mosques in Istanbul close one hour before sun down.
The main entrance into The Blue Mosque is reserved only worshipers. All other visitors are required to use the north entrance. Before you can get a glimpse of the blue tiles that gives The Blue Mosque its name, there are a few rules to follow:
- cover their heads with a scarf
- wear clothes that cover their shoulders
- wear a long skirt or dress to cover their legs
- wear long pants to cover their legs. (Shorts are not acceptable.)
Men and women must
- take off their shoes and place them in a plastic bag
Plastic bags are provided and head scarves are given to those who have none. As you enter The Blue mosque, be prepared to get a nice big whiff of feet. Don’t cringe. It doesn’t smell as bad as squat toilets in China. What did you expect? Everyone has their shoes off.
But if you think about it, it’s not the locals who stink up the place. It’s actually the tourists and visitors. Worshipers wash their hands, face, neck and feet in the ablution before entering the mosque for prayers. The rest of us – tourists and visitors – stroll in after a long sweaty day of wandering through the city. Not many of us bother to wash ourselves. Of course the mosque is going to smell like feet.
Entering the mosque wasn’t a problem for JC and I. We did our homework and we were prepared with the right ensemble. Getting out of the mosque was another story. We walked back to the north entrance and realized the door was locked from the outside. Perturbed, we headed back to the mosque but a gate had already been set up.
From behind, a young boy in an olive uniform called for JC. He was with two tourists – a girl and a guy. Words were exchanged along with hand gestures and confused looks. The boy in the uniform spoke Turkish. JC spoke English. The girl spoke Spanish. She tried translate the little bit of Turkish she knew.
All of the sudden, JC hiked up his jeans and maneuvered himself to climb over the wall. I shouted,
“What are you doing?!”
“That’s not how you get out.”
“That’s what he said.”
“He doesn’t work here.”
“Yes, he does.”
“No, he doesn’t”
“What are you talking about? He just told me.”
“The workers here are in blue.”
“Oh, what the hell was he telling me then?”
“He was asking you how to get in.”
The entire time JC was trying to ask the boy how to get out, the boy was trying to ask him how to get in. Lost in translation? The incident gave birth to a new joke. How do you ask a Chinaman how to get into a mosque? You don’t.