Hagia Sophia is an amazing experience. I'm glad we were here in the off-season when crowds are small.
The mosaic above this door reminds us that this used to be a Christian basilica.
The calligrapher who created the calligraphic ovals had obviously read Robin's Non-Designer's Design Book and used "contrast" (of both size and color) to create compelling graphics. I should have asked for an interpretation. I hope it doesn't say "No Smoking" or "Gift Shop This Way."
I was lucky enough to catch some sort of ceremony in progress underneath one of the chandeliers.
Before prayers, you should wash your hands and feet. Robin thinks that's a good idea, since you'll be kneeling with your face a few inches from the feet of the praying person in front of you. I hadn't thought of that myself, but I think she's on to something there. You'll also be putting your forehead on the floor that billions of people have been walking on. Religion is not for the squeamish.
A wall of great windows.
This area is where occasionally some lucky guy got proclaimed as the new sultan. As soon as the ceremony was over, the Sultan would say "Which way to the harem?" Just kidding, I made that up. The oldest son of the just-deceased sultan becomes the new sultan. The Ottoman Empire had an interesting tradition: when the sultan died, not only did the oldest son take over, all of his younger brothers were immediately killed, just to make sure no ambitious siblings caused trouble. I read about a sultan that died. His coffin was put in the garden temporarily. The next morning there were 19 coffins next to his. Sultans have lots of children, thanks to the harem thing. Eventually this colorful tradition was dropped.
Leaving Hagia Sophia.