As you stroll around the tourist-thronged sites of İstanbul’s Sultanahmet or the promenade of an Aegean or Mediterranean resort, it can at times be hard to remember that you are in a predominantly Muslim country – though even here the call to prayer echoes out five times daily: sunrise, midday, late afternoon, sunset and after dark.

Many of Turkey’s inhabitants are, however, both conservative and devout. Bear this in mind particularly when visiting a mosque. All those likely to be of interest to a foreign visitor (and many more besides) display some kind of “conduct” notice at the door outlining the entry rules – which are simple:

  • Cover your head (women) and shoulders/upper arms (both sexes)
  • No shorts or miniskirts
  • Take off your shoes before entering. (Many mosques now provide a plastic bag for this – before entering, slip your shoes in to the bag and carry them around with you. Alternatively, place your footwear on the shelves provided.)

Especially if you are in a very conservative part of the country (which includes most of inland Anatolia as well as conservative districts within the big cities, like İstanbul’s Fatih) try to avoid your visit coinciding with noon prayers – particularly those on a Friday, the most important prayer session of the week. Once inside the mosque, you’re free to wander around, take photographs and admire the interior – but keep your voice down (there are often people praying or reciting the Koran outside of the five daily prayer times) and don’t take pictures of worshippers unless they give their permission. Although the imam is a state-paid official, upkeep of the building is down to charity, so you may want to put a donation in the collection box.

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