Istanbul's Grand Mosque: Blending Tradition and Modernity on Çamlıca Hill

Istanbul Grand Mosque

The Çamlıca Mosque in Istanbul, slated to be Turkey's largest, is a monumental project designed by architects Bahar Mızrak and Hayriye Gül Totu. With a capacity to accommodate 63,000 worshippers, it encompasses a museum, art gallery, library, and conference hall, alongside a substantial underground parking facility for 3,500 vehicles. The project, costing about 150 million Turkish Liras, is notable for its four minarets stretching 107.1 meters high, symbolically referencing the historical Battle of Manzikert in 1071.

This mosque is more than a place of worship; it represents a significant government initiative, showcasing Turkey's economic strength and the AK Party's legacy. President Erdoğan, at the opening ceremony on May 4, 2019, remarked on the enduring nature of such works. The presence of international leaders like Senegalese President Macky Sall and others underscored its global significance.

place of worship

Unique in its design, the Çamlıca Mosque integrates features catering to women, as emphasized by its architects. It offers separate ablution areas, elevators for easy access to prayer spaces, and childcare facilities. This approach reflects a broader vision of inclusive religious spaces, aligning with contemporary values.

The mosque also prioritizes accessibility, with dedicated spaces for disabled individuals and a tunnel connecting it to nearby residential areas, easing traffic concerns. However, the tunnel proposal has sparked debate within the Istanbul Municipality, revealing differing perspectives on urban planning and resource allocation.

Controversy surrounds the mosque's location on Çamlıca Hill, with criticisms about its necessity and environmental impact. Nevertheless, its planners aspire for it to be a prominent feature in Istanbul's skyline, boasting the city's highest minaret.

Parallel to Istanbul's project, Denmark is planning a similar "female-friendly" mosque in Aarhus, designed by Turkish architect Metin Aydın. This mosque, blending Ottoman Islamic architecture with Scandinavian traditions, aims to provide a more inclusive space with a 600-woman prayer area and family-friendly facilities. However, the project faces political hurdles in securing a location, reflecting a broader discourse on religious and cultural integration in Europe.

History of Çamlıca Mosque

In a significant development for Istanbul's architectural landscape, the Istanbul Mosque and Education-Culture Service Units Building and Living Association have announced plans for a new mosque on the iconic Çamlıca Hill. This development is poised to become a symbol of the city's rich cultural tapestry. The project, selected from a competitive pool, is the brainchild of Bahar Mızrak and Hayriye Gül Totu. Their design, which earned the second prize in a closely contested competition, will soon grace the slopes of Çamlıca Hill.

The competition, overseen by the Istanbul Mosque and Education-Culture Service Units Building and Living Society, sought innovative designs for the mosque on Çamlıca Hill, located in Üsküdar. After a thorough evaluation by the main selection committee and advisory members, the winning and honorable mention projects were determined. Interestingly, no design met the criteria for the first prize, leading to an emphasis on the second-prize winners.

Among the entries, the standout project, numbered 33 SAS33, was designed by Bahar Mızrak and Hayriye Gül Totu. Their concept triumphed alongside the AY AYL46 project by Süleyman Akkaş, Nihal Şenkaya Akkaş, Dilek Ersen, and Şeyda Osanmaz Sanmaz. The Association has resolved to bring the Mızrak and Totu project to life on Çamlıca Hill, acknowledging its exceptional blend of traditional Turkish-Islamic architectural styles with contemporary influences.

This project was chosen not only for its architectural merit but also for its integrated approach to design, encompassing worship, social, cultural, and educational spaces. It's a harmonious blend of traditional and modern elements, poised to enrich the city's skyline and serve as a beacon of the period's architectural ethos. The initiative marks a significant milestone in Istanbul's ongoing journey to fuse its historical heritage with the aspirations of the present day.

Highlights of Çamlıca Mosque

The Camlica Mosque in Turkey, renowned as the country's largest mosque, boasts several captivating features:

  • Inaugurated in 2019, this mosque stands out with its modernity.
  • The mosque is part of a larger complex, encompassing an Islamic Art museum, a library, an art gallery, and a café. Given its expansive nature, visitors are advised to allocate sufficient time to explore everything it offers.
  • Designed to accommodate up to 63,000 worshippers, its capacity is a testament to its grandeur.
  • The mosque's six minarets symbolize the six fundamental beliefs of Islam, integrating religious significance into its architecture.
  • Its dome, rising to a height of 72 meters, symbolically represents the 72 diverse nations residing in Istanbul, reflecting the city's multicultural fabric.
  • Notably, the architectural plans initiated in 2000 were spearheaded by two women, highlighting a progressive stride in the field.

Each of these aspects contributes to the Camlica Mosque's unique status, blending contemporary elements with traditional Islamic symbolism.

How to Reach Camlica Mosque Easily

Embarking on a journey to Camlica Mosque in Istanbul is a remarkable experience, offering both a touch of adventure and the reward of exploring a magnificent site.

Your adventure begins on Istanbul's Asian side, specifically in Uskudar. The most efficient way to reach Uskudar from the European side is either by a scenic boat ride or via the Marmaray Metro, which impressively tunnels beneath the Bosporus, ensuring a swift and enjoyable trip.

Once in Üsküdar, you have a couple of options to reach Camlica Mosque using public transport – each with its own charm and convenience.

Option 1: Metro and Bus Combo

  • Start with the M5 Metro from Uskudar Marmaray Station and travel 6 stops to Umraniye Station.
  • Next, catch Bus 320 at Santral, riding it for 10 stops until you reach Buyuk Camlica Camii.
  • This journey typically takes around 30 minutes, though this may vary depending on traffic conditions.

Option 2: An Alternate Metro and Bus Route

  • Take the M5 Metro from Uskudar Marmaray Station, but alight at the 4th stop, Kisikli Station.
  • Look for Bus 14F from Kisikli and embark on a 10-stop ride to Buyuk Camlica Camii.
  • This route is likely to take about 35 minutes, traffic-dependent.

Taxi Alternative

  • For a quicker and more direct journey, consider hailing a taxi from either Umraniye or Kisikli Station.
  • Taxis offer two drop-off points: one at the main road just behind the mosque (the same as the public buses), and another on Camlica Hill, accessible through the park.

Choosing Your Drop-off

  • Each drop-off location has its unique advantages. The main road drop-off brings you closer to the mosque, while the Camlica Hill option involves a scenic walk through the park. It's all about what kind of experience you're looking for!

Map and Istanbulkart Tip:

  • To assist your journey, a Camlica Mosque map (if we can add a map) is provided below. This can be handy for guiding your taxi driver.
  • Remember to have an Istanbulkart on hand for convenient access to public transport.

Visiting Camlica Mosque: An Unforgettable Experience

To truly capture the essence of Camlica Mosque, I suggest timing your visit for the late afternoon, aligning your arrival with the sunset. The panoramic view from the hilltop during this golden hour is breathtakingly beautiful. As dusk falls, the mosque, bathed in night lights, presents a mesmerizing sight that is not to be missed.

For those practicing Islam, planning your visit around Maghrib Prayer (sunset prayer) offers a spiritually enriching experience. This schedule allows you to admire the mosque's architecture and take photographs before the prayer, enjoy the sunset outdoors, participate in the prayer, and then observe the captivating transition of the mosque and the cityscape into the night.

Non-Muslim visitors will also find this time particularly special. Although you'll be asked to step outside briefly before the prayer begins, this interval presents a unique opportunity to listen to the call to prayer – an experience that resonates deeply. After the prayer concludes, usually within 10-15 minutes, you are welcome to re-enter and continue your exploration.

Remember to allocate sufficient time for a comprehensive visit, especially if you wish to explore the museum and stroll through the surrounding park. The mosque complex is expansive, and there's much to see and absorb in this serene and historic setting.

Çamlıca Mosque Dress Code Guidelines

Çamlıca Mosque Dress Code Guidelines

When planning a visit to the Çamlıca Mosque, it's essential to consider appropriate attire, regardless of your religious background. For those who are not Muslim, it's respectful to choose outfits that cover both legs and chest. Women are advised to bring a headscarf, although it's not a strict requirement as the mosque provides necessary coverings if needed. 

Similarly, men should avoid wearing shorts, as it's against the mosque's dress code. In cases where visitors are not appropriately dressed, the mosque kindly offers suitable garments for both men and women, ensuring everyone can enter in a manner that respects the cultural and religious norms of the space.

⍣Disclaimer:The content of this publication is intended for informational purposes only and reflects the perspectives and insights of the author at the time of writing. It is important to acknowledge that political views and interpretations can vary widely. We kindly request readers to approach any perceived political misalignments in the author's tone with understanding and open-mindedness. Our goal is not to propagate specific political ideologies or offend any individual or group. Instead, we aim to foster a platform for diverse viewpoints and respectful discourse. Should any part of the content inadvertently cause discomfort or offense due to political perspectives, we sincerely apologize and encourage readers to share their constructive feedback for ongoing improvement.


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