Ramadan is a wonderful time to visit Istanbul, regardless of your religious persuasion. But as a Muslim, it’s extra special. Home to some of the world’s most beautiful mosques– and some its most important holy sites – this ancient city has been a major site of Islam since the Ottomans captured Istanbul from the Byzantines in 1453. Thanks to the creative genius of its architects, stunningly beautiful mosques dominate Istanbul’s skyline, and the city is awash with tributes to Allah and Islam.

Suleymaniye Mosque Istanbul TurkeyThe best place to start is Sultanahmet, which lies at the heart of Istanbul’s historical centre. The area itself is at its most lively during the holy month, as locals and tourists alike flock here (and nearby Beyazit) to enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere with its tempting food stalls, free concerts and other forms of nightly entertainment. One of the first sites to greet you in Sultanahmet will be the majestic Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque, famous for the mass of hand-painted blue and green Iznik tiles that line its interior. Built in 1616 to rival the awe-inspiring Hagia Sophia opposite, it’s nothing short of spectacular inside and out, with colossal elephant feet columns and six minarets. It may be packed, but visiting the Blue Mosque at prayer time during Ramadan is a magical experience.

Istanbul’s largest mosque – the Suleymaniye Mosque – seems to lord over the city from its perch atop one of the city’s hills. Unlike many of Istanbul’s other mosques which tend to be elaborately decorated, this one’s beauty ultimately lies in its simplicity. It was designed by one of the Ottoman Empire’s best-loved architects, Mimar Sinan, and was completed in 1557. Its series of cascading domes create a feeling of light and space like no other.

Eyup Sultan Camii Istanbul

But no visit to Istanbul during Ramadan is complete without spending some time at the Eyup Sultan Mosque and Mausoleum. Considered one of the holiest sites in the world for Muslims, it was the first mosque to be completed in Istanbul following the conquering of Constantinople. It’s also the site of the tomb of Eyup-el-Ensari, the Prophet Mohammed’s good friend and standard-bearer who died here in the 7th century during an Arab siege of the city. Eyup’s another great place to enjoy breaking your fast, as municipality-funded Iftar tents line the Feshane district.

About the Wizard : Helen Simpson

Helen Simpson is an Istanbul-based writer and editor from New Zealand who stopped by the city on her travels and never looked back!

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