Photographs and Commentary by Debra Jan Bibel

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The Blue Mosque / The Sultan Ahmet Mosque

   Music: Garden at Topkapi  [Brian Keane / Süleyman the Magnificent / Celestial Harmonies]: 3 min excerpt


This is a view from our hotel's terrace, where we had breakfast. Nice! We are in Istanbul and across the way is also Istanbul. That side is Asia. We are in old Byzantium's Constantinople. The tall office buildings across the Bosphorus indicate that the Asian side is a more modern city. Norik wanted this photo to document his travel to Istanbul. Although in these days, images are not trustworthy, I will attest that the great shvi and duduk master was indeed here. Further south. View at the far right from the terrace.


Walking up to the next roof of the hotel,  the view is extended.

Looking toward the Marmara Sea. On a pleasant day, we eat outside. The two obelisks in the plaza, one under restoration.

This Egyptian obelisk was brought to Byzantium in 390 A.D.

A gift of Emperor Theodosius.

A depiction of the Emperor and his entourage. The minarets of the Blue Mosque dramatically probe the heavens. We enter the mosque, built between 1609 and 1616.. The last of the classic style. Chief architect was Sederfkâr Mehmet Aga. Along the sides of courtyard, the porch alone has beauty. Doors are constructed with aesthetic care.



Another view of the porch walls. The windows vent the student cells of the madrasah, I have visited the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, and now I have seen the Blue Mosque, another architectural gem. Shifting left: another interesting perspective. More drama. Courtyard fountain. Inside, we face the vault of stained glass windows.
The dome's lapis blue background for calligraphy gives the mosque its name. Lush ornamentation everywhere. A vertical view. Junction of vaults. Floor of the mosque; private prayer space for dignitaries. Richly colored glass windows, including deep blue he.
Circular array of vaults under the dome. The ambo, another form of pulpit, where an official can address the assembly. The opposite side. The ring of lamps illuminate the worshippers. A splendid door in a niche. Inner fountain. The striped decoration of arches reminds me of the great mosque in Cordoba, Spain.
A lone worshipper faces Mecca. In the middle of the frame is the minbar, the high staircase and the the pulpit where the imam speaks..          

The Hagia Sophia

   Music: Sticheron of the Vespers of the Dormition [The Glory of Byzantium/ Jade]: 3 min excerpt


Maya and her mother, Carmeli Haddi. The recently circumcised lad wears a resplendent, princely costume: the most elaborate we had seen. Hagia Sophia, former basilica, former mosque, now museum. Another view. This is the third church in this spot. The current one was begun in 532 A.D. Byzantine features. Architects were Isidoros from Miletos and Anthemios of Tralles. Dome of the exterior fountain.
More Byzantine architectural design. Early type of  flying buttresses. The awkward minaret bases compared to the slender designs of later centuries. Theodosius II commission. The Lamb of God from the second, destroyed church. The second part of the frieze. Side section with arched windows. Above the Imperial Gate. Mary is left of Jesus, Gabriel at the right. Bowing is either Emperor Leo VI or his son Constantine VII.
Vault array, gilded and decorated. Marble slabs with rich grains. From the portal to the nave. Hagia Sophia refers to Logos/Wisdom and until 1453 was Orthodox Christian [Catholic between 1204 and 1261]. More elaborate ornamentation in the entrance corridor. Inside. The dome with its circle of windows.
Looking upward to a splendidly painted vault ceiling. Above the apse, the Virgin and Child remains in the former mosque. The upper level. One of four angels in the corner supports of the dome. The face was scratched out when Istanbul fells to the Ottomans. Facing the apse.
Large calligraphic plaque. The mihrab. The minbar. This was created out of a single block of marble. Displayed mosaics. Mosaic of Mary.
A glorious view from the upper level. Stained glass brightened by the morning sun. Colonnade. In the stairwell. In the southwest entrance, Justin I and Constantine I with the Virgin. The ceiling.
Upper level gallery mosaic. Constantine IX Monomachus and Empress Zoe. [Carmen's photo, edited]          

Topkapi Palace

   Music: Genç Osman  [Mehter / Balat]: 3 min excerpt

But first it is time for lunch. This is an eggplant dish. The fountain outside the walls. Close-up of plaque. The fountain spigot. Small section of the Palace walls. Entrance to the first courtyard.
Another view of the gate. The first courtyard is the public one, much like a part. The old armory. Along the way is the Golden Horn estuary. A pavilion. The Gate of Respect to the second courtyard, used for ceremonies and administration. Model of the Topkapi Palace.
Model seen further back. Model in full extent. Second model, larger scale. Left side, with second courtyard. Second model with middle, third courtyard. Model, right side. Looking downward from Gate of Respect.
With trumpets and drums, a procession of the Ottoman miltary band, mehter. Behind the flags (the green flag is of Mohammed and Islam), two flanks of musicians. Red and black costumes. Large drums. [Marina's photo, edited] At the entrance to the next gateway (Gate of White Eunuchs) the musicians perform. Trumpets, reeds, and cymbals.
The conductor. A large double-reed zuma. Inside the Audience Chamber. Ornate ceiling of arched window. Inside the Library of Ahmed III. Window design.
Another example. The treasury of rich artifacts and collected gold, jewels, and rich china and vessels. This is the sword of Saladin [Salāh- ad-Dīn] In the third courtyard  Toward the fourth courtyard, Baghdad Pavilion. This fourth section is of the Sultan's personal accommodations. 16th-century Iznik tiles. At the edge of the Palace, a view of the Bosphorus bridge and ferry traffic.
Baghdad Pavilion, constructed in 1639. Overly crowded wall with dissimilar features. In comparison, elegant simplicity. Toward the Harem and beyond is  the paired pavilions. Scene from Topkapi, the film. Note  the famous Topkapi dagger of Mahmud I, 1741, taken by the thieves. Good movie.  
Evening Jam with Selim Sesler and Son

     Music: Nikriz sirto  [Selim Sesler / The Road to Kesan  / Traditional Crossroads]: 3 min excerpt

On the second floor of a restaurant, space is created for musicians to play. David and his tambourine. Jaime and his darbouka. Norik and his duduk. Bulent Sesler and his kanun. Yuval's oud. Selim Sesler and his clarinet. 
Norik plays clarinet, too, but of a different, more tame but melodious style. Duduk has the last word. Sesler is impressed. The Joy of Music. Sukhawat and his harmonium. An exchange.
Phew! What an exhausting and exhilarating day!
Mission accomplished. Group portrait. These guys are serious. Yes, a nice meeting of minds.    

© 2011 Debra Jan Bibel


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 On to Istanbul - 3


Appendix: Food