Visiting Mosques in Turkey

Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul, formerly used as a church and as a mosque at different times
Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul, formerly used as a church and as a mosque at different times

Visiting a mosque in Turkey is a great thing to do on your holiday. How better to truly get to know a place and its people than to see where they worship? If you do want to go to the mosque, however, make sure you dress accordingly so you don´t unwittingly cause offence. Below are some tips for your attire:

The first thing to note is that all visitors must remove their shoes when they step over the threshold and into the mosque; worshippers kneel and touch their head to the carpet when they pray so they would like to keep it clean. It´s a good idea to bring a bag with you to carry your shoes in as you walk around, although some mosques will provide these for you.

Your usual holiday attire may need to be tweaked as well. Women must wear a long-sleeved top and a long skirt (at least to the knees), to cover as much of yourself as possible. Trousers are permissible as long as they are not too tight and don´t show off the lines of the body. Women must also cover their heads with a hat or scarf. Men should wear a long sleeved shirt and trousers.

If you can, try not to go to a mosque during prayer time, or half an hour after the call to prayer. Muslims pray five times a day – morning, noon, afternoon, evening and night – but prayer times can change slightly each day according to sunrise and sunset. Avoid Friday late morning to early afternoon as this is set aside for weekly group sermons.

When in the mosque, women should not sit with the men. Everyone should walk around quietly; if you see anyone praying, make sure you walk behind them and not in front of them. This is very important. Most mosques do allow you to walk around while prayers are in progress, but be careful not to interrupt anything.

Pictures are allowed both inside and outside mosques but do not use a flash inside and be sure to ask permission if taking any pictures of people.