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Erdogan in surprise visit to Hagia Sofia after its reconversion into mosque


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) visits the Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul on July 19, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pays a flying visit to Hagia Sofia in Istanbul, the country’s most outstanding landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage site, after ordering revocation of the edifice’s nearly century-long status as a museum and its reconversion into a mosque.

The visit came on Sunday, with the president inspecting the underway refurbishment work, a week after Turkey’s top court green-lighted the process, the president’s office reported. The office also provided pictures showing scaffolding inside the building.

Some 500 people are to join Muslim prayers in the building Friday, the first such occurrence since 1934, when then-Turkish ruler Mustafa Kemal Ataturk turned it into a museum. It was not clear whether Erdogan will join the prayers.

The site was built as a cathedral during the Byzantine empire, but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.

Erdogan, however, said last year that it had been a "very big mistake" to convert the Hagia Sophia into a museum.

On Sunday, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in a television interview that mosaics depicting Mary and Gabriel that face Qiblah, the direction in which Muslims stand while saying their prayers, would be covered with curtains or lasers during the upcoming prayers.

"Our goal is to avoid harming the frescoes, icons, and the historic architecture of the edifice," the official said.

There are other such mosaics at the site that would not be covered because they do not face Qiblah, he added.

Turkish authorities say the mosque will be open to all visitors outside prayer time and all mosaics will be uncovered.

 

LINK: https://www.ansarpress.com/english/19426


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