Directly in the neighbourhood of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque you can find the Hagia Sophia. The former mother church of Byzantine empire is a part of Istanbul for a slightly longer time than Blue Mosque is; if even not to say for more than 1000 years.
However you’ll immediately spot then when looking at the building as its constitution isn’t the best. There is still much to do for restorers, f.e. restoring the glossy frescos and the colourful walls. When going inside the nave the big prayer signs, symbolizing the four prayer directions, will catch your attention. They witnessed a time when Ayasofya served as a mosque as Constantinople had been conquered by the Ottomans.
The whole building is dominated by its 56 meters high and 31 meters wide measuring dome. After becoming altered to a mosque the former apse aisle then served as minbar, even though there is a mosaic of Virgin Mary spanning that part of the building. The Byzantine mosaics of the Hagia Sophia are in general something very special as they are naturally illuminated. Through the windows normal daylight invades the building and gives those mosaics a golden shine to make you think that light has to originate from additional spotlights.
Admission is 10 Turkish Lira, which is approximately 5 Euro. Tripods have to be stored at the entrance gate. However to me it was an attempt worth to ask for a photo permission. The director seemed to have a good day and for 75 additional Lira per spent hour I got the opportunity to take my tripod with me. Who’s expecting Turkish tourism-related professionals being fluent in English, will be quickly disappointed. Being faced with such communication problems getting permitted to take photos isn’t easy though.
Seen from an urban development point of view, authorities didn’t act thoughtfully when “fencing” the lovely Hagia Sophia building with quite ugly neon lamps. Enjoying the orange illumination of Blue Mosque is an eye candy; the countless lamps around Ayasofya spoil its nightly impression quite a lot as the whole scenery is dominated by clinically glaring neon light.