Sunday – 29/12/2019 | Hagia Sophia & Galata

We were up at 7am, got dressed, read fajr (sunrise is only at 8:23am!), had breakfast and then we were on our way.

We caught the tram to Sultan Ahmet and got there in time for the 9am Hagia Sophia tour using the Istanbul Welcome Card.

I had read up a lot on Hagia Sophia, seen it in movies (hello Ranveer Singh in Dil Dhadhakne Do) and I’ve even dreamt about being here but nothing prepared me for the beauty that Hagia Sophia holds.

Hagia Sophia, built 1500 years ago, means “divine knowledge”. This is the third Hagia Sophia. The first two were both burnt down, pieces of the second Hagia Sophia still remain today and can be seen before you enter Hagia Sophia.

Without the history, it’s just a building. 10 000 slaves built the Hagia Sophia from 532 CE to 537 CE (this means it stood in the time of Nabi ﷺ also). It took five years, ten months and twenty four days to complete. The materials used for the Hagia Sophia were taken out off many different places including Athens and Egypt.

Hagia Sophia was ordered by Justinian. After it was built he said in relation to the Great Solomon “I have passed you.” meaning that the Hagia Sophia is better than his temple.

Royalty and common people used to use separate gates to enter. The Empress gate was used only by the Emperor himself. Legend has it that the gate is out of Noah’s arc. When the Emperor enters Hagia Sophia, the Emperor takes out all their jewels so when they go in everyone is seen as equal.


The ceiling and mosaic in Hagia Sophia are from the 10th century. The dolphins on the ceiling represent Poseidon himself. The Hagia Sophia is a mixture of an ancient temple. It was a church and was then converted into a mosque.

Question: Why is some kind of pagan icon inside the church?
Answer: A lot of people from different cultures and religions lived in those times, by having the pagan icon, it says we accept you also and it brings people together.

In 558 CE, the main dome collapsed and with it, idea “unite all the people under the dome” also collapsed. So, the second dome made and the put in windows for light.

My favourite part of Hagia Sophia was the dome because the dome had Surah Noor, aayah 35 written on it in calligraphy. This is my favourite aayah in the Qur’aan.

‎اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ مَثَلُ نُورِهِ كَمِشْكَاةٍ فِيهَا مِصْبَاحٌ ۖ الْمِصْبَاحُ فِي زُجَاجَةٍ ۖ الزُّجَاجَةُ كَأَنَّهَا كَوْكَبٌ دُرِّيٌّ يُوقَدُ مِن شَجَرَةٍ مُّبَارَكَةٍ زَيْتُونَةٍ لَّا شَرْقِيَّةٍ وَلَا غَرْبِيَّةٍ يَكَادُ زَيْتُهَا يُضِيءُ وَلَوْ لَمْ تَمْسَسْهُ نَارٌ ۚ نُّورٌ عَلَىٰ نُورٍ ۗ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ لِنُورِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَيَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ
“Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light. Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things.” (24:35)

In Hagia Sophia, there are eight wooden and leather big medallions with Allah, Muhammed ﷺ, Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthmaan, Ali, Hasan and Husain written on them. They are 7.5m and this bigger than the size of the doors so no one can take them out.

In Hagia Sophia, there is a column that legend has it that it gives you whatever you wish for. Once, Justinian had a terrible headache, so he put his head on the column and his headache went away, until now people believe that this column gives you whatever you wish for.

The Hagia Sophia is so beautiful, I wanted to cry. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face and tears swell in my eyes.

The Basilica Cistern was the next stop after Hagia Sophia. Basilica comes from the word basilic which means small church and cistern means water supply. It was built in the 6th century by Justinian because people used to find it difficult to find water. It uses mountain and rain water. It is lit up with lights and it is very warm inside.

After this short tour, we took the tram to Karaköy. It was finally time to go to Galata Tower. This was the most touristy thing to do. There was an hour’s long wait to get to the top. We kept ourselves distracted by buying sahlep to drink and bagels to eat. We ended up standing in the line with other South Africans, it felt so good to be with our people.

Finally, we rode up the lift to the top, climbed the stairs and stepped outside. Words can’t describe how magnificent the view was. The panoramic view of Istanbul was breathtaking and you could see Istanbul in all of its glory. Being so high up gave me anxiety every time I looked down but the view made it worth it.

After Galata, we walked in the streets of Karaköy. There were shops all around us selling souvenirs, clothes, sneakers, lampshades amongst other things. The key to shopping here is to bargain (what Indians do best).

We were on a mission to find the best baklava according to my mum at Karaköy Güllüoglü. After a kilometre of walking we found the store, bought some baklava and then walked back to the tram station where we rode the tram straight to our hotel in Sirkeci.

We were exhausted when we got back to the hotel and my sister fell asleep. My brother went to buy for us Burger King and then decided it was time for us to call it a day so that we’d be able to be up nice and early tomorrow.

Step count: 11 750

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