Istanbul – part 2 – Close to God

IMGP0040Approaching the old city of Istanbul, the amount of people on the streets increased. I could see people of all ages and nationalities. Of course, in this part of the city the concentration of tourists is the highest, because here are some of the city’s iconic landmarks.

Walking around, you will immediately notice the mosque Hagia Sophia. Actually Hagia Sophia is a former Orthodox church, later transformed into a mosque and is now a museum open to visitors.

Impressive is the building of the famous Blue Mosque. Legend has it that Sultan Ahmed ordered his architect to build the most magnificent mosque ever built. He wanted the minarets to be made of gold. The architect, however, understood it incorrectly hearing the wrong word six, rather than the word gold, which in Turkish are alike. So six minarets were built instead of the usual four. The Sultan, however, was pleased by the finished building – ideal proportions of the domes, huge patio with fountains, ornate interior.

IMGP0054We took your shoes off, wrapped in a scarf on the shoulders and thehead, we entered. I remember the first time I entered a mosque three years ago in Edirne. I’ve never been really into the religion the churches and cathedrals I’ve always seen as architectural monuments, work of art and culture. However, to enter the mosque is not the same as entering a Christian tample. Our Orthodox churches are dark with painted ceilings, with icons hanging on the walls, from where, in the dim light, hundreds of faces of martyrs are watching you carefully. Western cathedrals do are lavish, with colored glass mosaic with Renaissance paintings on the walls, with massive altars, candlesticks and chandeliers. And while I can spend hours admiring the architectural forms of the domes and the arches, the beautiful paintings and glittering decorationsI coant feel the way you should feel in a temple close to God.

IMGP0060In the mosques, on the other hand, is spacious, bright, and even painted and ornate, they remain simple, modest. Many believers knelt in prayer while the tourists were looking around at the walls. I would have been furious, I thought, if I was trying to connect with God, and the people around me, were walking, babbling and making photos for Facebook. Being one of these people, I felt somewhat embarrassed that I disturb the worshipers. I mentioned this to my companions, who agreed with me. A woman passing by heard us talking in Bulgaria and started a conversation. Turk, studied in Bulgaria, now she was living in Istanbul with her family, but many of her relatives were in Kardzhali. She was speaking Bulgarian  almost perfectly, we talked about the mosque and the city. I asked her what she thought of all those tourists crammed into this holy place for the Muslims, isn’t it annoying? The woman said in surprise: “To be teased by that? No! How could we have bad feelings when around the temple there are so many pure thoughts and kindness? And she was right.

For God is not in the icons to which we pray, nor in gilded crosses and painted walls. Is not in the Bible, not in the Koran, not in liturgy nor in the psalms. And to be close to him, it is not necessary to kneel, to be baptize, to lock yourslef between in silence the four walls of a temple. God is in our hearts and there we must look for him.

“I searched for God among the Christians and on the Cross and therein I found Him not.
I went into the ancient temples of idolatry; no trace of Him was there. (…)
Finally, I looked into my own heart and there I saw Him; He was nowhere else.”

– Rumi


… Istanbul – part I – In the Heart of the City…


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