Almost everyone is familiar with Hagia Sophia and Sultan Ahmed, two of Istanbul’s most famous mosques located near each other in Sultanahmet, the city’s historic, touristic neighborhood. However, the city has many more historic mosques spread all around its many districts, so here is a little detour from the well known to some of the other worthy structures of the Muslim faith.
Beykoz Karlıtepe Merkez Mosque
With one of the most intriguing minarets in Istanbul, the Beykoz Karlıtepe Merkez Mosque was completed in June 2016 and exudes a more contemporary approach to mosque design. The minaret has a public balcony that has a beautiful view of the Bosphorus that stretches all the way to the Asian side on a clear day. The mosque’s library is also open to visitors who can pick up something to read before or after they have taken in the bird’s-eye view of the city.
Another radical mosque in terms of design, the Sancaklar Mosque is one of the most unusual places for worship that you will find in Istanbul. With a prayer hall that is underground and a rectangular minaret that juts right out of the ground (instead of the classic spire and balcony), the famous architect Emre Arolat wanted to reinterpret the usually lavish interior with a more minimalistic space for the faithful.
Not so radical in design, the Ortaköy Mosque is still one of Istanbul’s most beautiful structures, especially because it’s located right by the Bosphorus. Anyone who has crossed the bridge has seen this striking Neo-Baroque mosque by the waterside, built between 1854 and 1856 by the order of Ottoman Sultan Abdülmecid. The mosque was designed by Garabet Amira Balyan and Nigoğayos Balyan, the Armenian father and son architects who also designed the Dolmabahçe Palace and its mosque.
There are two 16th-century mosques in Istanbul with the name Mihrimah Sultan Mosque – one in Edirnekapı and the other in Üsküdar – because of a tale of secret love. The story goes that famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan could not openly express his love to Sultan Süleyman I’s daughter Mihrimah Sultan, who was already married to Rüştem Paşa, and so he built two mosques to encode a message. It is said that the sun sets between the minarets on the European-side mosque, while the moon rises from the single minaret on the Asian-side mosque, celebrating Mihrimah’s name, which translates into ‘sun and moon.’
Şakirin Mosque is famous not only because of its modern design but also because the interior design team was led by Zeynep Fadıllıoğlu, a woman. Built in memory of philanthropists Ibrahim and Semiha Şakir, the mosque’s sleek metallic exterior is complemented by an interior decorated with a large metal sphere above the entrance, a lovely curved minbar (a short flight of steps used as a platform by a preacher in a mosque), and a Chinese-crafted glass chandelier comprised of globules in the shape of water drops.