A grandiose six-minaret mosque capable of holding more than 60,000 devotees opened its doors yesterday in Istanbul after nearly six years of construction.
Dozens of citizens, along with senior officials from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), joined the morning prayers around 6:30am. “It is a great work of art. I would like to thank our president for making such a project possible in Istanbul,” AKP mayoral candidate for Istanbul Binali Yildirim said, according to state news agency Anadolu.
Sitting atop a hill for which it is named on Istanbul’s Asian side, the Camlica Mosque complex is often referred to as a pet project of  Erdogan. The mosque, which bears traits of Ottoman architecture, is the largest ever built in Turkey, according to the association that funded it. “It has a capacity of as many as 63,000 devotees. A conference hall, a library, a museum and a car park for 3,500 vehicles, will serve along with it,” Ergin Kulunk, the head of the association of donors that helped finance the project, told DPA.
An official inauguration is planned for a later date with Erdogan’s participation, Kulunk added. The mosque features several references to Turkish history besides Ottomans. Four of its minarets are 107.1m tall, a reference to the 1071 battle between the Seljuk Empire and Byzantine Empire in Manzikert in the south-eastern province of Mus. There are 16 names of God in Arabic written on the inner side of its 34-m-wide dome, a reference to 16 Turkish states in history,according to Kulunk. “It is a splendid project,” Erdogan said of the mosque in May last year.”
“It is the new spiritual shield of Istanbul,” he told an event marking the anniversary of the date the Ottomans conquered Istanbul in 1453.
Similar to his peers elsewhere in the world, Erdogan wants to use mosque-building “to boost national and religious pride,” according to Bulent Batuman at Bilkent University in Ankara. “In a throwback to Ottoman past which most Turks take pride in, Erdogan may be the most successful modern Turkish leader to realise such an agenda.” “It is a masterpiece. Thanks to our president. God be with him,” said one old lady, who gave her name as Emine, as she slowly walked up the high stairs, marvelling at the construction.