Sleepless in (Islamic) Istanbul

This is #2 of 3 posts about a November trip to Istanbul.  Click here to see the first one.

In Istanbul, Turkey, it’s pretty much impossible to get a decent night’s sleep.  An hour or two before dawn – and again at dawn — the shrill, crackling loudspeakers in the towers (“minarets”) of the city’s 5,000 or so mosques boom out the Muslim call to prayer.  Wherever you are, there are probably at least two or three mosques within the loudspeaker-enhanced earshot.  Bring earplugs.

Though the individual muezzin seem to have very different singing styles (some quite lyrical and some quite terrible), apparently the words are always the same.  The translation:

God is greatest.  I bear witness that there is no deity except God.  I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God.  Come to prayer; come to success.  God is greatest; there is no deity except God.

Most of the pictures here are of the big Blue Mosque, which sits in the old Sultanamet seciton of Istanbul – overlooking the Sea of Marmara and just across the plaza from the Hagia Sophia.  It’s “only” a little over 500 years old – built shortly after the Ottomans converted the city to Islam.  Today 99 percent of Istanbul residents are muslim.

The picture (at the top) with the colorful rugs being spread out in the mosque courtyard is at the amusingly-named “New Mosque” – built in the 1600s (everything is relative).  The prayer service at noon on Friday draws an overflow crowd, thus the carpets as preparation for outdoor kneeling.  About two minutes after the picture was taken, I (along with a dozen or so other visitors) was politely (and appropriately) ushered out as their prayer service was about to begin.