Turkish famous Museum Hagia Sophia reopens as a mosque after 86 years. Muslims offered Jumma Prayer at the Hagia Sophia heritage site. Turkey’s president Erdogan also attended the memorable first Friday prayers at the Hagia Sophia museum turned into a mosque.
Erdogan, joined by a cabinet minister and other top officials, accompanied hundreds of worshippers inside Hagia Sophia whereas large crowds gathered outside. The Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan also recited verses from the Holy Quran.
The 1,500-year-old site is respected by both Christians and Muslims of Turkey.
The museum finally converted to a mosque for Muslims after a Turkish court ruling earlier this month. The iconic Istanbul’s landmark faced alot of criticisism by many Christian leaders after reconversion into mosque.
Erdogan immediately decreed that the building which served as a Christian Byzantine cathedral for 900 years before being seized by Ottoman conquerors later turned into a mosque until 1934, had been reconverted to a mosque.
Several hundred worshippers joined the president for the ceremony inside the sixth-century building including his son-in-law and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak.
A large screen and speakers were broadcasting the entire Jumma Prayers to the thousands gathered outside.
Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya said authorities had stopped worshippers from entering the mosque due to social distancing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. On Twitter, he called for patience, ensured the mosque would be open for prayer until Saturday morning. He asked the people to bring four items – “masks, prayer mats, patience and understanding”.
It was recorded as “a very big day” in the city of some 18 million. The heart of the city, the historical peninsula, was under total lockdown since Thursday night.
Outside Hagia Sophia, authorities arranged separate set up for men and women to offer prayer on Friday. More than 700 health personnel, 101 ambulances and a helicopter ambulance were also available for any emergency.
Turkish President Erdogan has been accused with criticism, being in power for 17 years, playing to his nationalistic base, with support of people in this period of a global pandemic and economic downfall caused by the coronavirus.