mosques (cami, JAH-mee)
to all, Muslim and non-Muslim,
Turk and foreigner, young
The great imperial mosques of Istanbul, Bursa and Edirne are
usually open continuously every
day for long hours, for free (although
donations for mosque upkeep are gratefully
In the most-visited mosques
a separate area may
be set off by railings for non-Muslim visitors
so that distraction of worshippers
Smaller mosques in other cities may close outside
times. Often a caretaker is on hand (or can be notified) to
let you in if the door is locked.
When to Visit
Unless you are a Muslim coming to pray, avoid visiting a mosque at
that is, at or within a half hour
after the ezan (call
to prayer) is chanted from the minarets.
The times, pegged to sunrise and
sunset, change daily as the days
grow longer or shorter. More...
visiting on Friday late morning through
which is when the weekly group prayers
and sermons take place. In short, if
the mosque is busy with worshippers,
it's polite to return
later to visit.
All visitors to mosques—Muslim
and non-Muslim—remove their shoes before
stepping onto the mosque's carpets.
This is a practical, not a religious,
requirement: Muslim worshippers kneel
and touch their foreheads to the carpets
as they pray, so they'd like to keep
the carpets clean.
Speak quietly, move
slowly, and if you take
photos, turn off the flash on
your camera. (Look for the button
with the little lightning bolt on
it.) It's most polite to ask
permission before taking
photos of people. It is not polite to take photos of people at prayer.
Avoid walking in front of
worshippers performing their
ritual prayers, as this is considered
impolite. Walk around or behind them.
(Worshippers who miss the designated
prayer time may come to complete
their prayers later, and so may be
in the mosque when you visit.)
What to Wear
When visiting a mosque, wear modest, conservative
clothing which exposes a minimum of flesh. No
shorts or sleeveless shirts on either men
or women. At the most popular mosques in Istanbul (such as the Blue
Mosque), attendants may provide robes to
wear during your visit if your normal sightseeing
clothing is too informal. (No charge for
use of the robe.)
A helpful graphic: modest dress, with minimal exposed flesh.
Women should wear
slacks or a dress or blouse and skirt (at least
below the knees), preferably
with elbow-length or
longer sleeves (no bare shoulders or upper arms), and a headscarf.
A handy garment for women is a light-weight,
long-sleeved jacket-shirt or jacket with a built-in
hood ("hoodie"). Wearing slacks, just raise
the hood when you
enter the mosque, and you don't need
Men should wear long
trousers and a sleeved shirt.
Footwear is not important
as you'll be removing it before entering
the mosque in any case.
—by Tom Brosnahan