ISTANBUL: Muslims offered Friday prayer at historical Hagia Sophia after 86 years in Istanbul. Thousands of people took part in the prayers inside and outside the mosque. On this occasion, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recited from the Quran.
Talking to media, the Governor of Istanbul Ali Yerlikaya said everyone was looking forward to attending the special prayers with great enthusiasm. Stressing the measures being taken against the coronavirus, he said five different open spaces were reserved for worshipers to prevent overcrowding.
Ali Yerlikaya said the worshippers who come to Hagia Sophia were asked bring their own masks and prayer rugs as well as patience and understanding to protect against the coronavirus.
What’s Hagia Sophia?
Hagia Sophia building is among Turkey’s top tourism destinations for both domestic and foreign visitors.
In 1985, during its time as a museum, Hagia Sophia was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
It served as a church for 916 years until the conquest of Istanbul, and a mosque from 1453 to 1934 and most recently as a museum for 86 years.
Sultan Mehmet II, also known as Mehmet the Conqueror, conquered the then Constantinople and converted the church into mosque in 1453. Later it was converted into a museum by the cabinet of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1934. Since then, it remained a museum for 86 years and Muslims were denied offering congregational prayers here.
On 10th of this month, a Turkish court annulled a 1934 Cabinet decree that had turned Hagia Sophia into a museum, paving the way for its use again as a mosque after 86-years.
The architectural treasure will also be opened to domestic and foreign tourists free of charge.