Turkish Muslims perform the prayer ritual (namaz) five times daily, according to the tenets of Islam.

The ezan (call to prayer) summons the faithful to the mosque for prayers:

Allahu Ekber
Eşhedû en lâ ilâhe illallah
Eşhedû enne Muhammeden resulullah
Hayya ale-salah
Hayya alel-felah
Allahu Ekber
Lâ ilahe illallah
God is Great
There is no god but God
Muhammed is the Prophet of God
Come to prayer
Come to salvation
God is Great
There is no god but God
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Although it’s not required that prayer take place in a mosque, it’s felt to be more appropriate and congenial in the sacred space with other Muslims.

The ezan is chanted six times daily. The exact time of the ezan changes from day to day and from place to place, according to longitude and latitude, surnise and sunset, and geographical relationship to Mecca (Mekke, Makkah).

Here are the names (in Turkish and Arabic) of the calls/prayers and sample times for the ezan in mid-May in Istanbul:

İmsak (Fajr; 03:38 am): two hours before dawn, to awaken the faithful for prayer (pretty much the middle of the night!)

Güneş (Tulu; 05:42 am): Dawn, before the sun appears

Öğle (Zuhr; 13:12, 1:12 pm): Midday, when the sun passes the zenith

İkindi (Asr; 17:07, 5:07 pm): Afternoon, when the shadows cast by objects are equal to their height

Akşam (Maghrib; 20:21, 8:21 pm): Sunset, when the sun has disappeared below the horizon; beginning of a new day in the Islamic calendar

Yatsı (Isha; 22:08, 10:08 pm): When the last light of day has disappeared


Turkey’s beautiful mosques (cami, JAH-mee) are open to all, Muslim and non-Muslim, Turk and foreigner, young and old.

The great imperial mosques of Istanbul, Bursa and Edirne are usually open continuously every day for long hours, for free (although donations for mosque upkeep are gratefully accepted).

In the most-visited mosques a separate area may be set off by railings for visitors so that distraction of worshippers is minimized.

Smaller mosques in other cities may close outside of prayer times. Often a caretaker is on hand (or can be notified) to let you in if the door is locked.

When to Visit

Avoid visiting a mosque at prayer-time, that is, at or within a half hour after the ezan (call to prayer) is chanted from the minarets. The times, pegged to sunrise and sunset, change daily as the days grow longer or shorter.

Avoid visiting on Friday late morning through early afternoon, which is when the weekly group prayers and sermons take place. In short, if the mosque is busy with worshippers, it’s polite to return later to visit.

All visitors to mosques—Muslim and non-Muslim—remove their shoes before stepping onto the mosque’s carpets. This is a practical, not a religious, requirement: Muslim worshippers kneel and touch their heads to the carpets as they pray, so they’d like to keep the carpets clean.

Speak quietly, move slowly, and if you take photos, turn off the flash on your camera. (Look for the button with the little lightning bolt on it.) It’s most polite to ask permission before taking photos of people.

Avoid walking in front of worshippers performing their ritual prayers, as this is considered impolite. Walk around or behind them. (Worshippers who miss the designated prayer time may come to complete their prayers later, and so may be in the mosque when you visit.)

What to Wear

When visiting a mosque, wear modest, conservative clothing which exposes a minimum of flesh. No shorts or sleeveless shirts on either men or women. At the most popular mosques in Istanbul (such as the Blue Mosque), attendants may provide robes to wear during your visit if your normal sightseeing clothing is too informal. (No charge for use of the robe.)


Footwear is not important as you’ll be removing it before entering the mosque in any case.

Women should wear a dress or blouse and skirt (at least below the knees), preferably with elbow-length or longer sleeves, and a headscarf.

A handy garment for women is a light long-sleeved jacket-shirt or jacket with a built-in hood (“hoodie”). Wearing slacks, just raise the hood when you enter the mosque, and you don’t need a headscarf!

Men should wear long trousers and a sleeved shirt.


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