Saturday, 13 April 2019

Mosques more beautiful than Istanbul's Blue Mosque – maybe?



Istanbul's Ottoman Turkish monuments and architecture are well known. Istanbul buildings like the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Mosque) and the Sulemaniye Mosque, Topkapi Palace, even the Hagia Sofia are visited by millions each year. Less well known are the Seljuk styled mosques dotted across the pre-Constantinople capital city of Bursa.

Bursa's gold bazaar is located in an old han or travelers hotel complex (photo: Imran Ahmed)
Bursa can be reached in approximately two hours by car from Istanbul or by a ferry to the nearby port of Mudanya in about the same time. A note of caution about the ferry services from Istanbul's Eminonu pier to Mudanya: they are subject to weather conditions.

The day of our departure all ferry services to Bursa were canceled due to rough seas. We ended up taking the bus from Istanbul's Harem bus terminal to Bursa's Otogari Terminal. Bursa's bus terminal is out of the historic city center so be prepared for another trip before reaching your hotel. Taxis and local Metro buses are easily available at the terminal.

Let's get back to Bursa. Like many places in Turkey, Bursa traces its history back to Greek and Roman times. There are even some Roman artefacts on display at the British Museum in London, Britain. (I wonder if these pieces were gifted or simply appropriated when the treasure was located in the early 20th century?)

Bursa was captured by the Ottoman Turks in 1326. Subsequently, the city became the Ottoman capital. It was during the Ottoman period that Bursa gained its nickname of 'Green Bursa.' The city was lined with gardens and parks and its importance as a fruit growing region was enhanced. Architecturally, the Ottomans also left behind several mosques and monuments which are a must see.

While traces of Bursa's ancient history are found mostly in museums, the period from the fourteenth century onward is plainly visible for any traveler moving around the city, e.g. the Ulu Cami or Grand Mosque which dominates an entire section of Bursa.

Men pray inside the main prayer hall of the Ulu Cami or Grand Mosque (photo: Imran Ahmed)
The Grand Mosque was completed in 1399 with some unique features. Notably, it contains a fountain inside the mosque giving the mosque a beautiful tranquil feel. Moreover, the mosque has twenty domes. Apparently, Sultan Beyazit I (1389- 1402) pledged to build twenty mosques after winning the Battle of Nicopolis against a combined European Crusaders force. Ultimately, Sultan Beyazit I (aka the 'Thunderbolt') decided to fulfill his pledge by building one mosque with twenty domes!

Then there is the Yesil Cami or Green Mosque and its adjacent Yesil Turbe (Green Mausoleum). The Green Mosque was completed in 1422. It is named after the green-blue tiles which line its interior. The mosque has living quarters for the Sultan (and his harem) in case he decided to grace the area for an overnight stay.


A fountain in the courtyard of the Yesil Cami or Green Mosque (photo: Imran Ahmed)
Although Bursa's main sites can be seen on a day trip from Istanbul, there is much to be said for a longer stay in this city – especially if you wish to take in the nearby Mount Ulugdag, Turkey's premier ski resort. There's also the seaside town of Mudanya – 25 kilometers from Bursa and the landing point of the ferry from Istanbul – which is known for its fish restaurants and nightlife (disclosure: I have not visited Mudanya … yet). Travelers wishing to get beyond Istanbul and the Sutan Ahmet area will find Bursa worthwhile choice.


Imran is a Singapore based Tour Guide with a special interest in arts and history. Imran has lived and worked in several countries during his career as an international banker. He enjoys traveling, especially by train, as a way to feed his curiosity about the world and nurture his interest in photography. Presently, Imran is spending ten weeks (March – May 2019) in Turkey exploring the country. He is available on twitter (@grandmoofti); Instagram(@imranahmedsg) and can be contacted at imran.ahmed.sg@gmail.com.

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