Designed by the eighty-year-old Mimar Sinan in 1569, at the command of Selim II, the masterly Selimiye Camii is one of Turkey’s finest mosques. The work of a confident craftsman at the height of his powers, it’s visible from some distance away on the Thracian plain.

You can approach the Selimiye across the central park, Dilaver Bey, then through the Kavaflar Arasta (Cobbler’s Arcade), built by Sinan’s pupil Davut and still used as a covered market, full of household goods, souvenirs and cheap clothing. Every day, beneath the market’s prayer dome, the shopkeepers promise to conduct their business honestly.

The mosque courtyard, approached from the arasta up a flight of stone steps, is surrounded by a colonnaded portico with arches in alternating red and white stone, ancient columns, and domes of varying size above the arcades. Its delicately fashioned şadırvan (ablutions fountain) is the finest in the city. In a nod to his predecessors, Sinan gave each of the four identical, slender minarets three balconies. At 71m, they’re the second tallest in the world after those in Mecca. The detailed carved portal once graced the Ulu Cami in Birgi and was transported here in pieces, then reassembled.

It’s the celestial interior, however, and specifically the dome, which impresses most (no photos). Planned expressly to surpass that of Aya Sofya in İstanbul, it succeeds, at 31.5m in diameter, by a bare few centimetres, thus achieving Sinan’s lifetime ambition. Held aloft by eight mammoth but surprisingly unobtrusive twelve-sided pillars, the cupola floats 44m above the floor, covered in calligraphy proclaiming the glory of Allah. Immediately below the dome, the muezzin’s platform, supported on twelve columns, is an ideal place from which to contemplate the proportions of the mosque. The water of the small marble drinking fountain beneath symbolizes life, under the dome of eternity. The most ornate stone carving is reserved for the mihrab and mimber, backed by fine İznik faïence illuminated by sunlight streaming in through the many windows.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Turkey features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Reconsidering Turkey: why the time to go is now

Reconsidering Turkey: why the time to go is now

Turkey is the most accessible of the Middle Eastern nations. A natural land bridge, it connects the eastern part of Europe to the Caucasus, and the viridian Bl…

09 Apr 2018 • Marco Ferrarese
Middle East and North Africa: 10 spectacular sights off the beaten track

Middle East and North Africa: 10 spectacular sights off the beaten track

The Middle East and North Africa have plenty of world-famous attractions – Petra and the Pyramids, the Valley of the Kings and the souks of Marrakesh, the mi…

27 Mar 2018 • Gavin Thomas
The best aerial views in the world

The best aerial views in the world

Got a head for heights? If you're craving a new perspective on your travels, the best thing to do is get up high. From mountain-top panoramas to cityscapes, her…

17 Oct 2017 • Olivia Rawes camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right