Sam's Life

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Unexpected stay over in Istanbul, Turkey

Sam at the Blue Mosque (the Sultan Ahmed Mosque) in Istanbul, Turkey.

Life isn’t without its surprises. While changing planes in Istanbul, Turkey, I have incurred some unexpected travel delays and will be staying here for a few days. There is some issue with my having been given “the wrong” re-entry visa. So here I am stuck in Istanbul for several days until the matter is sorted out.

The Blue Mosque

So my good friend Dr. Safi Kaskas has told me to take a few additional days off to enjoy Istanbul. I thought it was an incredible experience to have seen the Blue Mosque (also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque) while landing here, but last night I got a close up look at the mosque as friends walked me through the interior where visitors are not usually allowed. What an incredibly beautiful place it is. It’s has been nicknamed the Blue Mosque because of the blue tile mosaics used extensively on the upper levels of the interior near the largest dome.

Constructed from 1609 to 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I, like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasah (Islamic school) and a hospice. While still used as a mosque, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque has also become a popular tourist attraction.

The design of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is the culmination of two centuries combining both Ottoman and Byzantine architecture. With its six towering minarets and a great cascade of eight domes, the architect has magnificently combined the concepts of his master teacher Sinan, aiming for overwhelming size, majesty and splendour. In addition to the massive domes it has six towering minarets.

Sam inspects ancient Turkish hand-woven carpet from c. 1542.

The Hagia Sofia Mosque

After seeing the Blue Mosque, I walked north alongside the Hagia Sofia Mosque.

It was the seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the religious focal point of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly one thousand years. You’ll remember studying about the Great Schism–when there was the big break in Christendom when Cardinal Humbert in 1054 excommunicated Michael I Cerularius. This led to the Great Schism between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.

In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmed II, who subsequently ordered the building converted into a mosque. The bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels were removed and many of the mosaics were plastered over. Islamic features – such as the mihrab, minbar, and four minarets – were added while in the possession of the Ottomans. It remained a mosque until 1931 when it was closed to the public for four years. It was re-opened in 1935 as a museum by the Republic of Turkey.

Turkish Carpets (Rugs)

This afternoon I toured a friend’s local Turkish carpet gallery. Did I ever learn a lot about Turkish “rugs”! He has thousands of antique rugs and employs more than 60 men to work in his multi-level store in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.

I learned about the vegetable and insect dyes. I found out that the Turkish tribes invented hard-wearing, double-knotted carpets hundreds of years ago. The techniques used in handmade carpets were brought to the Mediterranean coast by the Seljuks in the 12th century. The growing demand for carpets in different periods dictated the pace of the development of carpet weaving. “High quality, durable handmade carpets have always found a ready market.”

The motifs and colors of Turkish carpets with tribal designs and messages constituted an important medium of expression for the weaver and his community and a lot of history was preserved in their design. The values of the period to which it belonged may be reflected in the twist and quality of the wool, the manner in which the dye was manufactured and from what plants or insects it was produced. The “fineness” or “looseness” of the stitch and, most importantly, the symbolic significance of the motifs and the beauty of the styles are overwhelming.

Now if you ever visit Istanbul, my friends can make you a real deal on Turkish rugs! Their gallery was filled with Japanese, Chinese, Russian, American and European tourists in search of “just the perfect piece of Oriental history” to adorn their homes.

You can preserve Annapolis history in tapestries!

Now if all this talk about history being woven into Turkish rugs has caught your attention, and you live in historic Annapolis, Maryland, I want to point you to a special project that can use your help.  It’s the incredible Annapolis Tapestries project headed up by my friend, Remy Agee. For more information or to find out how you can volunteer, contact Remy at Annapolis Tapestries.  You can read about this historic project at their blogsite which includes many pages of background information; a history of the project which began in 2006; their progress to date; and their first museum exhibit in downtown Annapolis by clicking here. Remy will be so glad to hear from you!

I’m going out tonight with some Turkish friends to play chess at a local Istanbul restaurant and Turkish shisha coffee house. (A shisha is the traditional tobacco water pipe used in many Oriental nations.)

God willing, I hope to be back on location in Jeddah sometime this weekend or the beginning of next week. I miss my Muslim friends in Saudi Arabia!

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March 21, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,

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