Dubai Post 33: Touring in the Old City

The most common area for tourists to roam is the old city.  It is filled with Ottoman and Byzantine structures and artifacts that date back a thousand years. There is so much to see that it can most certainly not be done in a day.  Therefore here are three of the top sites I saw during my day in the old city.  (Excluding Topkapi ) These 3 sites are all near each other and if you can avoid long lines you can hit all three in about 2 – 3 hours (It would be better to spend more time however time crunches happen).

Picture of the Hagia Sophia taken from the courtyard
between The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. 
Hagia Sophia: Once a church, the Hagia Sophia became a mosque and is now a museum.  The Hagia Sophia was built early on in the Byzantine era and is one of the most stunning buildings I have ever stepped foot in.  Throughout the Hagia Sophia are relics that resemble both Christianity and Islam.  Yet the atrium is where your jaw will drop as the hand painted ceiling and stain glass windows truly illuminate the chamber. Pictures do not do this place justice.

The stunning atrium in the Hagia Sophia. 

Admiring the gold painted ceiling. 
The massive entrance to the building. 
One of the more famous Christian relics that is being
restored. They were covered up when the Hagia Sophia
was turned into a Mosque.
Chandeliers hang from the ceiling. 
Picture overlooking atrium from the top floor. 
The sleek Minaret's really defined the Hagia Sophia
and the Blue Mosque. 
The wishing column inside the museum. 
The Blue Mosque: Once the Ottoman’s took over Constantinople, they converted the Hagia Sophia into a Mosque.  However, they also built a beautiful structure themselves known as the Sultan Ahmet Mosque.  To tourists, it is known as the Blue Mosque which is clearly evident when you step inside.  (I mentioned to Sedef that I wanted to go to the “Blue Mosque” and she did not know what I was talking about).  Inside and outside, the walls and ceiling are painted with a wide range of blue tints.  Unlike the Hagia Sophia, many Muslims still use the Blue Mosque for prayer so be aware of that when visiting.  You might try to enter and told to come back an hour later.

From the exterior, you can see why tourists
give it the name, the Blue Mosque. 

Some of the stained glass windows that
brighten up the room.
Standing in the courtyard in front of the Blue Mosque. 
The lights inside the mosque. 
Striking contrast of colors of a Minaret
on the Blue Mosque.

Blue atrium of the Blue Mosque. 
The dark skies provided a medieval look for the Mosque. 

The mosque was filled when we went because it was right before prayer time. 

Basilica Cistern (seen in the James Bond film, From Russia with Love): Small in nature and requiring only 25 minutes of your time, the Yerebatan Cistern is a must see when in the Old City. Due to all the wars and sieges, the Byzantines decided to build cisterns all over the city to prevent a shortage on water.  The Basilica Cistern is the largest and footpaths were built to allow visitors to walk through the entire room.

Peering into the water of the Basilica Cistern

Goldfish now occupy the depths within the cistern. 
 During the olden days, boats were used to get around.  Knowing this and seeing how eerie it was down there, I wondered to myself how many people were killed or how many dead bodies were dropped into the water. Don’t worry, you won’t see any when gazing into the water, all you will see are the massive gold fish that inhabit the dark abyss.  Make sure you get a glimpse of the two columns that have Medusa’s head at the base.  No one knows why they are there but was brought sometime during the Roman era. 
The column with the sideways Medusa head. 
The column with the upside down
Medusa head. 
Sedef and I exploring the cistern. 
The cistern will have a similar feel to a cave: dark, moist, and clammy. 


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