The Yeni Cami Mosque In Istanbul
Is there such a thing as an off the beaten path attraction hidden in plain sight? I have visited the Yeni Cami Mosque in Istanbul and I basically knew nothing about it. There wasn’t anything in the blogs I’ve read prior to my trip and the guide (that I had conveniently forgotten at home) only had a tiny paragraph. All I knew was what a friend had told me: “you should visit the mosque right next to the Spice Bazaar”. So on our last day, I remembered this advice and decided to make one last stop before going home. I didn’t regret this decision and in fact, it may actually be my favorite place in the city.
Let me show you exactly why I’ve loved Yeni Cami more than the Blue Mosque. If anything, it didn’t smell like dirty feet. 😉
The construction began in 1597, at the order of Safiye, the mother of Sultan Mehmet III. She was hoping to extend the Islamic influence throughout the city and the Eminönü district where it can now be seen was predominantly Jewish at the time, so you can imagine the project wasn’t received lightly. So after the sultan’s death, the skeptics got their wish and the work has stopped. After the partial construction was greatly damaged by a fire, it laid in ruins until the mother of Sultan Mehmet IV decided to finish it and design it as a külliye, a complex of buildings centered around the mosque. Thus, the Spice Bazaar was constructed and it’s funny how today it is better known that the mosque. It opened in 1665 under the name New Valide Sultan Mosque (Yeni Valide Sultan Camii), shortened in time to be known more commonly as Yeni Cami, or New Mosque. Which is funny, how can something from the 17th century be new? But it’s considered new since it was finished after other important mosques of the city, such as Süleymaniye and the Blue Mosque, even though the construction began before the latter.
Most visitors only see the 66 domes and the two minarets on the outside, but don’t bother checking it inside as well. They don’t see the şadırvan (fountain) in the courtyard or the beautiful interior decorated with blue, green and white İznik tiles, as well as gold and marble. The stunning main dome measures almost 18 meters and has the names of the first four khalifahs. If you want some peace and quiet away from the crowds, this would be it, when I visited there were only two people around. I didn’t think such a place existed in Istanbul. 🙂
It’s located right next to the Spice Bazaar, at the Eminönü T1 tram station, across the street from the Galata Bridge. It’s open from dawn to dusk, except at prayer times and there is no entrance fee. Just like any mosque, visitors should wear appropriate clothing and women should cover their head. Everyone must take off their shoes and put them in plastic bags provided at the entrance.