It was imperitive that Jim and I make it to Edirne to visit the famous Selimiye Mosque and its medrese complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2011. Edirne is located on the European side of Turkey, and it just wasn’t that easy for us to get there. It’s a seven hour drive from Ankara, but it was totally worth it. The whole city of Edirne had a more European feel than many other cities in the country, and Sinan’s crowning achievement, the building of Selimiye didn’t dissappoint.
To be honest, I’m not much of a scholar of muslim architecture, but upon walking into Selimiye, it feels open and airy. Many mosques, especially older mosques, can be very dark. Selimiye was very light, and the decorations were much more modern than other mosques. There were plenty of traditional geometric shapes and patterns adorning the walls and ceilings, but also there were animal fur patterns and squiggly lines, much different.
I don’t think you can ever go when there are not plenty of people, but the day we were here it seemed especially busy. There were tour groups, pilgrims, and plenty of others. It was almost difficult to walk around. Taking photos, we were there much longer than most visitors. Since it is a religious site, there is no cost to enter, but the Turks have put the entrance in such a place that you must walk through the market first. Plenty of prayer beads and other trinkets and souvenirs can be bought there, with the proceeds going to the upkeep of the mosque.
Don’t just go to Edirne, though, to see Sinan’s work. Go across the street to the Eski Camii, which has gorgeous calligraphy adorning its walls. You can also eat fried çiger (liver), an Edirne delicacy in many of the shops.
Across the street from the UNESCO World Heritage Site Selimiye Mosque, constructed by Turkey’s most famous architect, Sinan is the lesser known Eski Camii (Old Mosque). Even though it’s not as prestigious as the Selimiye, Eski is beautiful inside and out. It hosts artistic Islamic writing on many of the walls. The calligraphy is well worth the trip. The only other place I’ve seen this is in the Ulu Camii in Bursa, which is another worthwhile destination.