Rustem Pasa Mosque
Another of the greatest buildings in Istanbul that I’d never quite gotten around to visiting, the Rustem Pasa Mosque is tucked just between the Spice Bazaar (tons of tourists) and the Suleymaniye Mosque (lots of tourists) yet gets only a tiny fraction of the visitors of either of those two.
Not only is the Rustem Pasa mosque simply splendid with the Iznik Tiles that are so lauded in the more popular Sultanahment Camii (Blue Mosque to you and me), but Rustem Pasa is actually full of the much more valuable and difficuly red and green tiles that were the real prize of the Iznik factories in the middle of the 16th century.
Though the mosque was not completed in his lifetime, Grand Vizier Rustem Pasha was one of the wealthiest members of the Ottoman Imperial Court and the mosque was commissioned to reflect not only his means but also a sense of artistic refinement not always seen in the other great mosques. Though the structure itself is nowhere near as grand as the Suleymanie or Sultanahmet mosques, it does a good job of making up for that in the sheer beauty of the patterned tiles that line the interior.
Though part of the blame for lack of interest by most visitors must surely be laid at the presence of other world-class attractions all around the Rustem Pasa Mosque, certainly part of the reason as well is the unassuming exterior. Accessible by several unobtrusive staircases in the shopping streets near Eminonu, even when I was actively looking for entrance to Rustem Pasa on the advice of a friend it took some time to find. Once I finally did get in inside, I think I stayed for an hour or more – I was truly impressed.
As a photographer and culturally interested traveler, these are the types of places I find myself drawn to (when I can find them!). In the midst of a busy market area, with other minarets towering all around and the sounds of chaos rising from the streets below, the atmosphere here is somehow one of absolute peace. Inside is soft lighting, eye-catching patterns, and very few sounds beyond the soft whispers of the few astounded tourists who find there way here.
Don’t make the same mistake I did. Make a point of visiting the FIRST time you’re in Istanbul! Regardless of your religious beliefs, the absence of crushing masses so common in the Topkapi Palace or Hagia Sophia will make the Rustem Pasa Mosque seem like a quiet little corner of paradise.
As with any mosque, visitors should dress conservatively with their legs and shoulders covered. Women will be provided with a headscarf at the entrance to the mosque to cover their head as well. Try to avoid visiting on a Friday afternoon, or anytime that prayer is in session, so as not to disturb religious observances. Also, though it is obviously signed as such, be sure to take off your shoes!
Are you traveling through Istanbul soon? When I’m in town I generally stay at the Agora Guesthouse in the Sultanahmet area, but there are plenty of hotels in Istanbul to choose from. The Rustem Pasa Mosque is fairly easy to visit on your own, but if you’re worried about being overwhelmed by the city there are tons of tours in town that you can check into as well.