ISTANBUL/SARAJEVO, December 7 (FENA) – The Turkish Tourism Promotion and Development Agency (TGA) organized the promotion of Istanbul's tourist attractions and “safe tourism” during the Covid-19 pandemic.
A team of the Federal News Agency (FENA) was invited to participate in the promotion.
As part of the campaign, a visit to the interior of Hagia Sophia, the jewel of Istanbul, was organized. This building has had its mosque status returned earlier this year after a Turkish court annulled the decision of 1934, which turned the Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul into a museum.
The ruling allowed prayers to be held inside the Hagia Sophia, which is open 24 hours a day, and the entrance to the mosque is free for all visitors, after each prayer.
Ferruh Muštuer, born in 1971, a Bosniak from Bosnia and Herzegovina, was appointed the first imam of Hagia Sophia. His mother is from Sarajevo and his father is from Sandžak. His family moved to Turkey in 1893, after the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They lived with other Bosnian refugees in the village of Cayca, near the town of Kutahya in western Turkey.
Hagia Sophia was built in 537 during the reign of Emperor Justinian and in its time was the largest building in the world, and thus the largest Christian church. It served as a mosque for several centuries, and for the last 86 years, until July this year, it was a museum.
The floor of the Hagia Sophia is covered with carpet today, the authenticity has remained exactly the same, without any changes, except that the Christian mosaics are covered during prayer.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, tens of thousands of tourists who visit Istanbul every day wait in long queues, respecting epidemiological measures, to see this cultural and historic gem and a masterpiece of the rich Turkish past.
Last Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also offered a Friday prayer in the Hagia Sophia. He made the decision in July to bring back the status of Hagia Sofia, saying that “going back to its roots, Turkey will protect the cultural heritage of Hagia Sophia, just like our ancestors did.”