Ric Steves has a nice way of painting the picture…
“As the biggest city of a moderate Muslin nation, Istanbul offers the inquisitive traveler a unique opportunity to grapple with the rich and inspiring Islamic faith: Hear the eerie call to prayer echo across the rooftop, poke into a neighborhood mosque and watch a dervish whirl in prayer. “
But before stepping into the closest mosque- note that just as touring a church comes with certain protocol, there are certain guidelines that should be observed when visiting a mosque. Dare I say, mosque manners…
A mosque is a place of worship, so rules and behavior common to any sacred place should be observed. Be particularly mindful of your noise level, no horseplay or running, no littering, ex-cetera. In addition to common sense conventions, the following are specific things to keep in mind when visiting a mosque.
Clothing should be modest for both men and women- this means that knees and shoulders covered. A headscarf is essential for women. Shoes must be removed. Photography and videotaping are allowed during non-prayer time, but best executed discretely.
Because mosques are active places of worship, tourists should avoid visiting during prayer times. Typically visitors will be asked to leave 30 minutes before service (lasting 15-30 minutes) until the end of service so as not to disrupt those who are worshiping.
Visiting a mosque is a wonderful way to learn about Muslims and Islam firsthand. Visitors are most welcomed if your intention is good and you have respect for the place and for the worship that takes place there.