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Turkey: Hagia Sophia Mosque reopening after 86-year gap

Turkey’s iconic Hagia Sophia Mosque will reopen for worship for the first time in 86 years with Friday prayers on Friday.

The iconic monument served as a church for 916 years until the conquest of Istanbul, and a mosque from 1453 to 1934 – nearly 500 years – and most recently as a museum for 86 years.

One of the most visited historic buildings in Turkey by domestic and international tourists, in 1985, during its time as a museum, Hagia Sophia was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

On July 10, a Turkish court annulled a 1934 Cabinet decree that had turned Hagia Sophia into a museum, paving the way for its use again as a mosque after an 86-year hiatus.

In the new era for Hagia Sophia, Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate will oversee religious services at the mosque, while the Culture and Tourism Ministry will supervise restoration and conservation work.

The architectural treasure will also be open to both domestic and foreign tourists free of charge.

3 imams and 5 muezzins appointed

On Thursday, Turkey's top religious authority appointed three imams and five muezzins for Hagia Sophia Mosque, an iconic landmark in Istanbul all set to open for prayers on Friday.

Ali Erbas, the head of Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), said Mehmet Boynukalin, Ferruh Mustuer, and Bunyamin Topcuoglu were appointed as imams of the mosque.

Boynukalin is a professor at the Religious Sciences Department of Marmara University, Erbas said, noting that they appointed renowned scholars as imams in line with the Ottoman tradition.

Also, both Mustuer and Topcuoglu have won international Quran recitation competitions.

During the prayers, the paintings, depictions, and mosaics will be closed with the curtain system and it will be reopened after prayers in the mosque whose floor is covered with carpet.

On Thursday, Turkey’s president unveiled the new nameplate for Hagia Sophia Mosque. Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a delegation unveiled the nameplate at the main gate of the Hagia Sophia Mosque and took a group photo there.

Opening ceremony

Preparations for the ceremony to be held due to the re-opening of the Hagia Sophia Mosque for worship after 86 years have been completed.

The opening, which will include guests from all segments of the society, will begin with the prayer program of the Presidency of Religious Affairs.

The Hagia Sophia Mosque will be opened for the prayers with the participation of President Erdogan and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli. The Hagia Sophia Mosque will be open until morning.


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