Monday, September 26, 2011

Aya Sofya (Hagia Sofia)

View Larger MapI went to Lake Abant in Turkey for a math and technology conference where I gave a presentation about math software and how to use it in teaching calculus. Abant is about 20 minutes from the city of Bolu, which was about a 2 hour drive from the capital Ankara.

I was also able to have dinner in Ankara where I reconnected with an old friend and met his family. I also spent an afternoon in Istanbul as a stopover on my way back home. (I am going to write more on my reflections on Turkey in a later post.) Besides the professional benefits of presenting a session at such an informative conference, the most meaningful and memorable thing for me outside the conference was walking into the Aya Sofya (Hagia Sofia). I have wanted to see this amazing structure since I was in high school art history class. This building which is now a museum is truly breathtaking. The Hagia Sofia is one of the oldest churches in the world and existed as such for about 1000 years before it was turned into a mosque. It's amazing to see it with both the Christian and Islamic images. I know it's naive to think this, but being there and seeing so many different people there of different faiths makes me wonder why all religions in general can't coexist. Seeing such a magnificent architectural wonder after wanting to for 20+ years was such a gratifying experience for me. I was practically giddy. She did not disappoint. I could've stayed there for hours marveling at all of the detail and artistry in that building. I have never been so enamored by a building/museum. I truly didn't want to leave, but I knew I had little time to see some other parts of the old city.

I have no idea how long I was there, but I left there to walk across the way to the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque). I knew that this was another building that is on everyone's "not-to-be-missed" list, but I really had no idea what to expect. It is a working mosque so tourists can only walk in certain areas. You must remove your shoes and place them in a plastic bag and bring them with you because you enter and exit through different doors. When I found the door to enter, I removed my shoes and walked in. I looked around and unexpectedly blurted out "Oh my god!" I was not prepared for the exquisit beauty and detail of the adornments. It is unbelievable because the place is gigantic. I do not consider myself a religious person...more spiritual if anything, but I have always been so intrigued by Islam and one can't help but feel the power and serenity of being there. I am also deeply moved by the Muslim call to prayer that can be heard throughout the city. I find it enchanting and haunting at the same time.

The pictures don't do it justice because there is just so much little detail throughout and there are hundreds of lines coming down from the ceiling holding the lights which obscures everything. It is still amazing. I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to go see these two incredible wonders.

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