Istanbul: Since the landmark of Istanbul was converted into a mosque, thousands of Muslims and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gathered in Hagia Sophia for the first prayer on Friday.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, crowds formed around the mosque on Friday morning, praying at approximately 1000 GMT. Several people spent the night in the area.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in historic Istanbul. It was originally built as a cathedral of the Christian Byzantine Empire, but after the Ottoman Empire’s conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the mosque was converted into a mosque .
On July 10, the State Council of the Supreme Administrative Court unanimously cancelled the decision made by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, to transform it into a museum in 1934, stating that The museum has been registered as a mosque in its property deed. Then, Erdogan ordered the building to be reopened for worship by Muslims.
There were Koranic recitations in the morning in Hagia Sophia before and during the Friday prayer which Erdogan, Turkish officials and foreign dignitaries attended.
As many as 1,000 people pray in the building, and many people pray outside. The governor of Istanbul, Ali Yerlikaya, said that the space around Hagia Sophia was quickly filled.
The timing of the first prayer is important. Friday marks the 97th anniversary of the Lausanne Treaty, which established the borders of modern Turkey after years of conflict with Greece and Western powers.
Erdogan, who claims to miss the Ottoman Empire, has in recent years called for an amendment to the treaty.
In Turkey, Hagia Sophia is still closely related to Sultan Mehmet II’s Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (Conqueror).
An Ottoman military band was in the building’s forecourt on Friday.
Erdogan shared a video on Twitter on Wednesday which featured Muslims from across the Islamic world singing in tribute to Hagia Sophia.
“You have always been ours, and we are yours,” the Turkish leader wrote. Around 3.8 million tourists visited Hagia Sophia last year.