MOSQUE ETIQUETTE | Mosque visiting etiquette explained.
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Mosque etiquettes in Turkey

For anyone coming to Turkey and interested in religious culture a visit to one of the larger, famous and picturesque of the country’s approx. 70.000 mosques is an absolute must.

Classics like the giant “Blue” Mosque in Sultanahmet or the rather tiny, but beautiful Cinili (“Tiled”) Mosque in Uskudar definitely should be on anyone’s list of attractions.

Some tourists would like to see a mosque from the inside, but are somewhat unsure regarding any rules for any such visit.


 
   
      
 

Here’s a little guide on “mosque etiquette”:

Timing of the visit


Visiting a mosque during prayer times is only possible, if the mosque features a visitor’s area, a special segment separated off for visitors to see the inside of the mosque even during prayer times. If there isn’t, visits are probably not expressively forbidden, but not recommendable unless you are Muslim and attend for praying. Some mosques don’t allow any visitors during religious ceremonies at all.

It is of course much easier and appropriate to appreciate the beauty and peace of a mosque outside of the five daily prayer times. Most mosques are open all day for individual worshippers and visitors alike, if not, the local Imam (Priest) is most certainly willing to open the mosque for interested sightseers.

Friday is of course the busiest day at the mosques as true muslims go for the classic Friday prayer (simply called “Cuma”). At around lunch time, many of the shops close for the owner partaking in this slightly longer than usual ritual. Since some mosques can’t accommodate all the prayers, one may notice prayer mats being unfolded right around the mosque for anyone wishing to pray. It is probably best to watch this spectacle from a place well away from the prayers in order not to obstruct anyone or make them feel uncomfortable.

Outside prayer times mosques maybe busy with funerals. These can be recognized by sometimes vast crowds of mourners who came to pay the last respect to the dead person. An unmistakable sign for a funeral ceremony is also the green-colored transporter of the council on the street outside the mosque. Unless you’re actually coming to the funeral this isn’t a good time to visit the mosque.

Dress code

Ladies should wear a headscarf when entering the mosque compound and must definitely wear it when going into the actual building. Revealing clothes should not be worn or hidden under an overcoat, this goes for both men and women. Short sleeves are acceptable, however shorts are not. Clothes worn should be similar to those one would wear when entering a church.

Shoes must in all cases be removed, they can either be left outside or taken along in a plastic bag you should carry with you for this purpose. It may therefore be advisable to bring along a pair of socks, if you don’t want to enter the place barefooted, but all mosques feature beautiful carpeting in most areas.

Do’s and don’t’s

Religious buildings all across the world are places of worship and one should behave accordingly. Mosques are no exception and eating, drinking and smoking are not only forbidden, but can constitute an insult. Shouting, laughing, running around and otherwise behaving inappropriately should be avoided. Photographs should only be taken outside prayer times and only if not explicitly forbidden. If in doubt, ask or take other visitors as an example. Mobile phones should be switched off or to silent mode before entering to maintain a peaceful atmosphere.

Religious items present should not be touched, especially if not sure of their usage. Praying in a mosque as a non-Muslim may sound like a fancy idea for those believing in a single God who may be worshipped in any religious building, but please remember, that this notion might not be shared by others and therefore don’t attempt to do so.

Most mosques also have similar rules for the entire compound and not just the building. Litter should not be thrown anywhere but into designated waste bins, if provided. Mosques tend to offer toilet facilities which can be used by anyone. There are also places where prayers wash their feet, hands and faces before praying – these should only be used for this purpose and nothing else.

Basically, to keep a visit to a mosque pleasant and not run into difficulties it is advisable to show the same respect and dignity you would apply when entering a place of worship of your own religion. Locals will appreciate your behaviour and not get a doubtful impression of your cultural background.

 
     
   
       
 
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