Visitors to Turkey are often touched by the call to prayer from lofty minarets. The call is heard five times a day, inviting the faithful to face towards Mecca and pray from the Koran. Although Turkey is a secular democracy which guarantees freedom of religion for all people, Islam is the country’s predominant religion. People of all faiths may visit Turkey’s mosques.
Islam’s roots in Turkey date to the 10th Century. In the ensuing centuries Seljuk and Ottoman Turks constructed impressive mosques with elegant interior decorations and imposing domes and minarets. Virtually every Turkish city has a mosque of historical or architectural significance. Sultanahmet Mosque in Istanbul stands as perhaps the most impressive. Built between 1609 and 1616 in the classic Ottoman style, the building is more familiarly known as the Blue Mosque because of its magnificent interior paneling of blue and white Iznik tiles. The Suleymaniye Mosque is the largest in Istanbul.
It was built between 1550 and 1557 by Suleyman the Magnificent, the greatest sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Other cities also have impressive Islamic architecture. The Ulu Cami (Grand Mosque) with its 20 domes and Yesil Cami (Green Mosque) in Bursa, was constructed between 1419 and 1420. The mosque derives its name from the exquisite green and turquoise tiles in its interior. Haci Bayram Mosque in Ankara was built in the early 15th century in the Seljuk style and was subsequently restored by the master Ottoman architect Sinan in the 16th century. Selimiye Mosque in Edirne reflects the classical Ottoman style and Sinan’s lasting genius.
Konya ranks as one of the great cultural centers of Turkey. As the capital of the Seljuk Turks from the 12th to the 13th centuries Konya was a center of cultural, political and religious growth. During this period, the mystic Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi founded a Sufi Order known in the West as the Whirling Dervishes. Mevlana’s striking green tiled mausoleum is Konya’s most famous attraction. Attached to the mausoleum, the former dervish seminary now serves as a museum housing manuscripts of Mevlana’s works and various artifacts related to the mystic sect.