There is something especially alluring about the Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul. It's the calm and quiet confidence it exudes to visitors. Designed by the famous Ottoman architect Sinan, the Suleymaniye Mosque reflects fine Ottoman architecture and is known as the most striking and beautiful mosque in Istanbul. This mosque later went on to inspire the architecture of the Sultanahmet Mosque aka the Blue Mosque. The Suleymaniye Mosque is away from the other historical attractions in the Old City that many visitors come to see in Istanbul. This probably explains why the Suleymaniye Mosque is very much less crowded (and we hope it stays this way) than the Sultanahmet Mosque which is located in the Old City. The Suleymaniye Mosque is an excellent reprieve to anyone who visits anytime, worshipper or non-worshipper.
Perched on a hilltop (did I mention that Istanbul is a hilly city?) we walked onto the grounds of the mosque. We made our way to the side door that leads into the courtyard (as a general practice at mosques, non-Muslims enter through the side door). We did not have to stand in line to enter the mosque like we did at the Sultanahmet Mosque. We removed our shoes and quietly stepped in. As with any mosque, care should be taken to dress appropriately as a sign of respect to the house of worship which means no bare shoulders or legs. Though still very much visited by non-worshippers, the Suleymaniye Mosque receives significantly less tourists than the Sultanahmet Mosque. This very probably explains the reason why the Sultanahmet Mosque is more tolerant of women visitors entering without a headscarf. At the Suleymaniye Mosque, there is a stronger adherence to dress code expectations which gives the visitor a more authentic experience at this house of worship. Upon entering the Suleymaniye Mosque, I was offered a long scarf by a security staff by the door to use as a headscarf. Realizing that I already had my pashmina scarf wrapped around my neck, I said I'd use my own instead and to which the security staff politely said of course.
Calmness and serenity were what we felt once inside the Suleymaniye Mosque. Standing there, all I wanted was to continue staring as long as possible at the beautiful ceiling while absorbing the peace and quiet of it all. Several visitors/non-worshippers sat on the carpeted floor while taking their time to appreciate just being there. Time stood still, that was what it felt like. The Sultanahmet Mosque is an absolutely gorgeous mosque, though with the large crowd of visitors it draws also comes with a sense of rush. Go to both mosques for the architecture; stay for the peace and quiet at the Suleymaniye Mosque.