Istanbul’s Domes and Minarets

Rustem Pasha Mosque (foreground) with Suleymaniye Mosque behind.

Istanbul is well known for its magnificent mosques. Their domes and minarets dominate the skyline of the old parts of the city and quite a few of them allow non-Muslim visitors to take a look inside and admire their intricately decorated walls and ceilings.

Here are four of the most popular ones:

Blue Mosque (built 1609 –1616)

The Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque is probably the most famous landmark in Istanbul.

Blue Mosque at 7am

Here is the exquisite interior.

Main dome of the Blue Mosque

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

This building is much older having started out life as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral in 537. It served as a mosque from 1453 until 1931, since when it has been a museum. It is a very popular tourist destination and queues can extend right round the block at peak times. Rather than queuing, pop down a side entrance to the garden of the Hagia Sophia where the tombs of former Ottoman rulers and their close relatives are located. There are three large mausoleums and one small mausoleum with elaborately decorated interiors. There are no crowds here and entrance is free unlike the main museum.

Sultan Selim II mausoleumOttoman tombs

Dome at the royal mausoleumsDome at the Royal Mausoleum

Rustem Paşa Mosque (built 1561-1563)

Rustem Pasha Mosque

This small mosque is built above the vaulted shops of the Straw Weavers’ Market, not far from the Egyptian (Spice) Bazaar.

Dome interior at Rustem Pasha

The mosque is named after the Grand Vizier Rustem Pasha who was son-in-law to Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent (Grand Vizier has to be my favourite job title!) The mosque is famous for its blue iznik decorative tiles.

Iznik Tiles at Rustem Pasha Mosque

Suleymaniye Mosque (built 1550-1557)

Main Entrance to Suleymaniye Mosque

This mosque, named after Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, is considered by many to be the greatest mosque in Istanbul and its hilltop position ensures that it is visible from all parts of the city. It was extensively refurbished in 1956.

Inner Courtyard at Suleymaniye Mosque

Main dome interior of Suleymaniye Mosque

Stained glass windows at Suleymaniye Mosque

Shah Alam Lake Gardens

Shah Alam was the first planned city in Malaysia with construction starting in the 1960s. That makes it about the same era as Milton Keynes (an English new town), not that it has much in common with Milton Keynes apart from a fondness for traffic-clogged roundabouts.

Shah Alam lake gardens

After Kuala Lumpur was accorded Federal Territory status in 1974 it ceased to be part of Selangor state and Shah Alam was made the replacement state capital. It is only about 20km from KL and as both cities have since grown, it is now basically just a suburb of greater KL.

Being a new city there are none of my favourite old buildings but nevertheless there are some impressive looking modern ones, mostly located around the man-made lakes found in the centre of the city. The grandest of these structures has to be the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Mosque or the Blue Mosque.

Blue Mosque

The mosque is often wrongly quoted as having the world’s tallest minarets (142m) but that honour, for now at least, goes to the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca with a minaret of 210m.

Dome of the Blue Mosque, diameter 52m.

Nearby is the State Museum which covers all the traditional museumy-like themes such as history, natural history, bones and stones, flora and fauna, insects, weapons, religion and so on. It is mostly well done but there is some old fashioned stuff in there like stuffed animals and frogs and lizards preserved in jars of formaldehyde.

2011 - Year Of The Stuffed Rabbit. State Museum, Shah Alam

The Museum’s views on the role of the British in Malaysia’s history is interesting.

Divide and rule? Us? Surely Not!

Outside there is something on display for train buffs. A diesel locomotive with ‘English Electric’ markings and an ancient railway carriage.

Spotted in Shah Alam.

Among other notable landmarks in the vicinity of the Lake Gardens is the Shah Alam Royale Theatre which was built to attract visitors to the city. I peered through the glass doors and it seemed to be abandoned. According to the local press, the Auditor-General’s report on government expenditure noted that the building has never been used since it was completed in August 2008 at a cost of RM43 million. The electricity was cut off a year later due to unpaid bills. This theatre might attract more visitors if they put on the odd play now and then. 

Shah Alam Royale Theatre

The State Secretariat Building (below left) is said to incorporate elements of traditional Bugis design though I can’t see it myself. The City Hall (below right) is perhaps more in keeping with local design.

Selangor State Secretariat Building Shah Alam City Hall

Shah Alam is not a bad place to spend a few hours. There are a couple of shopping malls near to the Lake Gardens and plenty of eating spots. Give it a try.

Tiles on the dome of Shah Alam's Blue Mosque