Friday, December 11, 2009

Istanbul - New Mosque

The New Mosque was the first mosque we visited on our trip.  Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country although the country has no official state religion.  Sunni Muslims make up the largest sect of Islam in the country.

Turkey's constitution provides freedom of religion.  However, there have been many religions freedoms violations.  The 2009 U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom report placed Turkey on its Watch List' with countries such as Afghanistan, Cuba, the Russian Federation, and Venezuela.  (from Wikipedia)

This article on wikipedia (I know it's not the most accurate source) has a lot of interesting information on religion in Turkey.  What I found interesting is that head scarf usage has increased in recent years.  The areas I visited had no where near 2/3 of the female population wearing headscarves.  None of the hotel employees that we saw and only a small portion of the females we saw out to dinner at night wore headscarves. 

When visiting a mosque females should bring a scarf to cover their heads.  All must take their shoes off before entering the mosque.  These rules are listed on signs outside the entrance.  They provide plastic bags for you to carry your shoes in.  Many mosques will also provide scarves to visiting women who do not have one.  My huge pet peeve on this trip was the number of women I saw ignoring this rule.  I saw women walking around with the scarves in their hands or on their shoulders.  Please have respect for other religions and their rules!  In the warmer months, shoulders and knees must be covered for both males and females.

The New Mosque was beautiful on the inside.  The decoration and mosaics are overwhelmingly beautiful.  I enjoyed the courtyard of the mosque too.  It was very peaceful which is such a change from the streets of Istanbul.

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