Author: Mohsin Aziz
One of the highlights of any visit to Istanbul is to listen to the Azaan (Muslim call to prayer) or Ezan, as they call in Turkey. Istanbul is a city of Mosques with their distinct architecture. The city has more than 3000 Mosques.
Different places have different traditions of Azaan timing. Some cities, Azaan is given at the same time in all the mosques. Some cities there are differences of 10 or 15 minutes between different Mosques. Istanbul has a tradition of giving Azaan in continuity. Azaan will start in a Mosque and before it finishes, it starts in another Mosque and before that finishes it will start in some other and this continues reverberating the atmosphere for long time. This can be experienced in any part of Istanbul. However, the two most sought after places to experience Azaan in Istanbul are the Galata Tower and the area between Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia or Haagia Sofia. Many tourists to the city define these as their most memorable moments of their visit to Istanbul.
Azaan from Galata Tower
Azaan at Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia
Listening Azaan from Galata Tower
Galata tower is a medieval nine story tower in the Istanbul’s Galata / Karakoy district near the junction of Golden Horn with Bosphorus. The tower was built during the reign of Emperor Justinian. At that time, it was known as Christea Turris or the tower of the Christ and was also called Melagos Pygros or the Great Tower. At present the tower has a restaurant and café at the top from where one can enjoy the skyline of Istanbul. Listening Azaan from Galata Tower is a unique experience. Azaan comes from different directions and then there is Golden Horn on one side with sun setting in the distance in the waters. Tourists wait for long time to climb the tower to be there at right time to experience the magic.
Listening Azaan at Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia
Istanbul has lot to offer to a tourist. There is plenty to choose from Blue Mosque to Aya Sofia to Princess Island to Hazrat Ayyub Mosque to Pierre Lotti Hills. I had no idea that there is a sort of synchronized Azaan between Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia (Aya Sofia was a church built by Emperor Justinian I, later Ottoman Mosque and presently museum since 1935). Presently Aya Sofia is a museum and no prayers take place there but Azaan is still given five times a day. However, Azaan is given from a place just outside the Aya Sofia and not ftom inside. It was my tour guide Mr. Serkan ( True blue Tour) who drew my attention towards it. First the Muezzin at the Blue Mosque started the Azaan and stopped after first line. Immediately after the Muezzin at Aya Sofia started the first line and waited for the Muezzin at Blue Mosque to say second line. This continued till the complete Azaan was said. Because both are synchronised with each other and both the Muezzin’s wait for each other, the Azaan continues for many minutes. There were literally hundreds of tourists between the two historical places just waiting for the Azaan to start. I was there at time of Maghrib Azaan (Azaan given for prayers offered at sunset). Somehow that time lot of seagulls also came flying all over the place. Maybe because they get leftovers from tourists to eat. Seeing them circling over the Blue Mosque while listening to the beautiful Azaan was like seeing Angels descending on the Mosque to pray. It was a beautiful and surreal experience. This was, no doubt, one of the highlights of my tour of Istanbul.
On the lighter side, me and my family did pray Maghrib in Blue Mosque afterwards.