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Between Blue Mosque and Dervishes

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul was built by Sultan Ahmet I to eclipse the grandeur of the Christian church of Haghia Sophia across the way, and grand it most certainly is. During the years of its construction from 1606-1613, the Iznik tile producers were kept extremely busy creating 999 shades for 20,000 blue tiles with which to decorate its interior, and nearly 300 stained glass windows were made to allow natural light to percolate through to the rug-filled floor below.

Sultan Ahmet's youth did not make him humble. He ordered that six minarets should adorn the Blue Mosque domes. This caused quite a stir in Mecca for until this date only Mecca's Kaba Mosque was considered holy enough to have six minarets. Despite the outraged response he generated, Ahmet refused to reduce the number and was finally prevailed upon to send craftsmen to build another minaret onto the Kaba Mosque instead. To this day, the Kaba boasts a unique seven minarets. Sultan Ahmet died aged 27, just a year after his mosque was completed.

Highlights of any visit to the Blue Mosque include the mesmerising view of the thousands of tiles and appreciating the fine carving and inlay work of the doors and windows. Have a good look too at the carved stone of the mihrab and mimber. Tourist access to the centre of the mosque is restricted: this is still a very religious and holy place which fills several times a day with the praying faithful, especially on a Friday. Remember to wear long sleeves and a long skirt or trousers, or you'll be given a particularly tasteful sarong to wear by the kindly Imam!

And After that...enjoy the night with Dervishes Dance.

Dressed head-to-toe in white, with tall red hats, the trance-like performance of the Mevlevi order of Sufis, or Whirling Dervishes, is increasingly well-known. Performances almost nightly are held at Sirkeci Station, an unlikely venue for a mystic performance.

Each Whirling Dervish performance begins with tranquil sufi music, then the Whilrling Dervishes come out to spin, trancelike. Dressed head-to-toe in white, adorned with tall hats, they perform a mesmerising and unique display. Dervishes are members of Sufi ascetic religious Tarika, known for their extreme poverty and austerity. Their spinning ritual represents a mystical journey of man's spiritual ascent through mind and love to "Perfect.

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