Sultan visits Blue Mosque
Hakim Hayat in Istanbul, Turkey

The culture capital of Turkey is a crowded place and Sunday was especially busy in the megacity's Historic Peninsula as His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam toured popular tourist sites in the area.

His Majesty, on a five-day State Visit to Turkey, visited many cultural attractions on the second day of the monarch's official visit to the Republic of Turkey before His Majesty attended a river cruise luncheon hosted by the Mayor of Istanbul.

His Majesty had met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on Saturday. Prime Minister Erdogan told the Turkish media following his meeting with His Majesty Saturday at the historic Dolmabahçe Palace on the Bosporus that they discussed bilateral relations and regional issues, and exchanged views.

The issue of how to boost economic relations constituted the core of the meeting, he noted.

PM Erdogan stated that current trade volume is about US$8 million. He said Brunei has increased its economic investment in Turkey in recent years and would invest much more in years to come.

PM Erdogan said he hoped relations would further flourish with more visits between the countries.

Turkey's Minister for European Union Affairs and Chief Negotiator Egemen Bags, who accompanied His Majesty on his tour of Istanbul, told the Turkish media yesterday that Turkey and Brunei are entering a period in which commercial, cultural and political relations will increase.

Mr Bags pointed that His Majesty's visit proves its significance for bilateral relations, which need to be further developed in all aspects. His Majesty will hold official talks in Ankara after visiting Istanbul, Mr Bags added.

Scores of tourists and onlookers were delighted to see the monarch as he arrived with the Bruneian delegation accompanied by Mr Bagis.

The Sultanahmet Square in the historic peninsula is a majestic area at the former heart of the prehistoric Ottoman Empire which revels in outstanding natural beauty in daylight with its minarets soaring towards the sky, its gilded domes, palaces, museums and historical monuments.

The monarch's first stop was at the Sultanahmet Mosque or popularly known as the Blue Mosque. This magnificent structure was built between 1609-1617 and is a masterpiece which culminated two centuries of both Ottoman and byzantine development, considered to be the last great mosque of classical period.

Upon arrival at the mosque, His Majesty consented to perform the 'sunat masjid' prayer before touring the mosque. The mosque has six minarets that form an area measuring 64 by 72 metres with another four semi-domes in support of the mosque's main dome. Accompanying His Majesty during the tour of the mosque were Istanbul's State Mufti Dr Rahmi Yaran and the Chief Imam of the mosque Hassan Kara. His Majesty later consented to receive a pesambah in the form of a blue-coloured plate especially crafted with a 'khat' of the surah al-fatihah from the State Mufti.

His Majesty proceeded to the next destination on foot - another great architectural beauty within the area, the Hagia Sophia which was originally built in 532-537 AD. Accompanying His Majesty was the director of the museum Dr Ahmed Haluk Dusun.

The director said the current building was originally constructed as a church between 532 and 537 AD and was converted into a mosque in 1453. It remained a mosque until 1931 when it was closed to the public for four years. It was re-opened in 1935 as a museum. The interior of Ayasofya was richly decorated with mosaics, many of which are still preserved. Before leaving the museum, His Majesty received a pesambah, a book about the museum from the director. - Borneo Bulletin (9 April 2012)