I have lived in Turkey, a 99% muslim country, on and off for the past two years. Everyday, seven times a day I hear a call to prayer from one of the thousands of mosques located in the city I am in. If I drive to the mall, grocery store or gym I am guaranteed to pass at least one. I can even see glimpses of 4 just from my living room window. So why did it take me so long to actually enter a mosque? Simple, I did not feel it was appropriate as a christian woman to visit this sacred place if I did not practice the religion.
However, I have come to learn that at the bigger and more popular mosques, it is normal for tourists and people of all religions to enter. Still, before going I made sure to research the proper etiquette when visiting a mosque because I felt it was important to be respectful. I decided to take a trip with my son to the largest mosque in Ankara, the Kocatepe mosque. Calling this mosque beautiful is an understatement. The architecture is breathtaking, the musalla (prayer hall) is enormous. Here's a few pictures I took while inside though these pictures can not possibly show its true beauty.
Heres a few tips on how to be respectful when visiting a mosque because though it may be a tourist attraction, it is still a place of worship and should be treated as such:
1. Women cover your head with a scarf. Many popular mosques have spare ones you may borrow if you do not have one.
2. Remove your shoes before entering the mosque.
3. Women have your shoulders covered, and skirts should past your knees. Men dress modestly as well.
4. Be respectful and avoid making loud noises.
After I posted these picture to my social media I was approached with very interesting comments and questions about not only my visit, but my beliefs. I want to add that I am confident in my faith as a christian and I see nothing wrong with learning about or respecting other religions and their practices. I think if anything people should start being open minded and curious to learn about what they do not know. Many of us were raised with a religious belief already being instilled in us and it is looked down upon, even forbidden, to be curious to know about any other religion. However, maybe if people begin to take it upon themselves to break out of this type of restrictive thinking, maybe then will they stop negatively criticizing, stereotyping and generalizing such large groups of people based on things like wearing a hijab.