Photo Essay: Mosques in Turkey

An analysis of architecture and national identity, and the adhan with psychology.

Mosque near Taksim Square in Istanbul during winter.

An Architectural reclamation of Islamic Identity

Istanbul is often described as the point where West meets East. Whilst it is officially an Islamic nation, many still subscribe to Atatürk’s emphasis on secularism. Consequently, there is sometimes a subtle conflict (often successfully overcome with nationalism) between the those who follow the Islamic religion, and those who do not. A clear distaste toward Arabs does not help attempts to reconcile Turkish identity with a strong Islamic nation. Accordingly, a magnificent renaissance of mosques is unfolding, arguably, in an attempt to compensate this insecurity, and hopefully, bring more stability.

Mosque in Adana

When I first came to Turkey after visiting the Gulf and Iraq, I was amazed by the absolutely huge minarets shooting upwards beside the dome’s of their respective mosques. Towering above every city like a rocket, a message is shouted through the architecture: “we are Muslim”.

Mosque in Adana.

Indeed, these mosques overshadow all aspects of urban everyday life.

The Blue Mosque, in Istanbul.

And not even the floods of economic development can hide the domineering shadow of some minarets.

Near Halfeti, where a village has made way for a dam.

The Adverse Effect of a Loud Adhan (Call to Prayer)

A few people have told me that the adhan is louder in the mornings in order to wake up believers and remind them to pray. And for those who don’t believe, it will force them to stay awake for the duration of the prayer anyway, which may produce the thought and subsequent behaviour: “if I am awake anyway, I may as well pray”. But the human mind is powerful. Anyone who has read books about war will understand that in extreme conditions, the human mind and body can still sleep — with a hundred men snoring loudly on hard wooden benches in freezing cold, for example. Of course, I am not comparing a bit of noise in the morning to that. But human psychology applies the same rule: it will drown out the disruption.

Mosque in a suburb of Istanbul.

The effect on me? When the 5pm call sounds, my brain wants to sleep. It is kind of like when you are on the bus and someone’s alarm — which is the same as yours — goes off. You suddenly feel tired. A psychological response is triggered. Consequently, the intention of having an extra loud and disruptive call to wake people up, actually encourages sleep for those who do not participate in the prayer.

Even so, architectural beauty fills reality and dreams alike.

Mosque in Uzungol.



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Spencer Beadle

Spencer Beadle

Fascinated by anthropology, philosophy, theology. Wish to learn about every type of human out there.