Posted on March 15, 2017
For 900 years, since the middle of the 6th century approx, the Hagia Sophia Greek Orthodox Bassicila in Istanbul (known as the Ayasofia in Turkish) was the largest cathedral in the Christian world – atop the pile, so to speak. It then became a Mosque for 500 years, until it was converted into a museum in 1935 by a secular Turkish government. Its dome roof is still studied by architectural and engineering students worldwide, and it was a groundbreaking structure in its day, and even beyond.
If you follow Turkish politics in more recent times, then you will be aware that the Hagie Sophia has become one of the meats (there are many) in the internal Turkish conflict sandwich. There is much demand from Islamists that it reconverts to a Mosque, and in recent months a Muslim performed Islamic prayer on the floor of the building. There are also some other smaller buildings with the same name, but in different towns in Turkey, which are also the similar targets of the Islamic brothers. To the best of MB’s knowledge, some have already fallen.
Prime Minister Erdogan is a master fox in the overall political scheme of things, playing and relying very much on the less educated strands of society, who are also more prone to the urgings of the Muslim Imams. Turkish politics are in a huge state of flux at present, and it remains to be seen which way Erdogan will eventually go on this Hagia Sophia matter. If he wins the constitutional election next month, he will become an all-powerful President, and may very well not bother too much with this issue thereafter. Inshallah.
MB is now thinking back to a conversation he had a few short years back with a young Istanbul tourist guide who had taken part in the mass demonstrations in Taksim Square/Gezi Park of 2013. There were multiple groups involved in the protests and many seemed to have different agendas. MB’s young Turkish friend explained that all the groups, albeit from different strands of society, had one common bond. They did not want any further Islamisation of Turkey.
MB recently discussed this point with a Turkish friend in Qatar. He was of the opinion, given recent history and particularly the fact that Erdogan has used the recent military coup attempt to castrate the more secular opposition to his government, it will only be a few short years before Turkey becomes akin to Saudi Arabia in many Islamic respects. MB spent two years in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, (2012 to 2014) and has visited Istanbul multiple times so he can speak with a little authority on the subject. Suffice it to say, that many, if not the majority, in Saudi Arabia wish they could have what Turkey presently enjoys in terms of social life and culture. It’s sad, to put it mildly, that Erdogan should be taking his people in the opposite direction.
OK! MB knows this is just a Weekly Photo Challenge post, but he recently thought of posting something on the current Turkish situation. Today’s theme just opened the door, and MB decided to walk right in!
Posted on August 21, 2015
Istanbul is the most interesting city that MB has visited. Half the city lies in Europe and half in Asia. It has a wealth of history that rivals or betters most cities in the world and is a fascinating place to visit and wander about. Most visitors go to the old town to see the ancient walls of the city, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia Museum, the underground water cistern, or to take boat rides on the Bosphorus sea straights which divides the city into its two halves.
Taksim Square on the Asian side of the city is also a place of tourist pilgrimage for many visitors, partly due to the large scale street protests that took place there in recent years. There were many conflicting stories in the media at the time about what exactly the numerous groups who took part in the protests actually wanted. The protests started in the first instance as an attempt to stop the demolition of some trees in a park adjoining the square for the erection of an office block. Then they turned into anti-Government protests against various proposed laws. MB spoke to a young Turkish tour guide who took part in the protests during one of his visits to Istanbul who confirmed that many people had different agendas at the protests, but the one factor galvanising them all was a desire to stop the further Islamisation of Turkey.
Nowadays the Square’s majority occupants are the pigeons who swoop down in large numbers to eat the monkey nuts scattered by the tourists, who purchase the nuts from the street sellers. If you ever have to good luck to get to Istanbul, and get to wander around the square, take a walk down Istiklal Street (translates as ‘Independence Street’) which starts at the corner of the square just behind the monument, and which is the primary shopping street in the city. It’s about one mile long and has a great array of shops, food to die for, and many street entertainers.
MB gives you one of his shots of Istiklal Street to give a flavour:
Posted on November 24, 2014