From today, Hagia Sophia returns to paying, but for tourists only, while Muslims can continue to pray “for free” inside one of the symbolic landmarks of the city of Istanbul. The decision was made by Turkish Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy: to enter the church, a symbol of the Eastern Roman Empire, which Erdogan turned into a mosque, there will be two separate lines, one for Muslim believers who enter them. They will remain free, the other is for tourists who will have to pay a ticket of 25 euros. The Turkish minister justified the decision as necessary to “get rid of the long queues at the entrance” and confirmed that the measure had received the green light from UNESCO, which recognizes Hagia Sophia as a “world heritage site.”
It is this division that forced the Turkish Ministry to make changes within the temple, so that the tourist itinerary does not interfere with the needs of the believers. The hope is that, unlike what happened on the occasion of the conversion into a mosque in 2020, the internal beauty of the building will be enhanced, not the beauty of the marble and columns, but above all the mosaics. Some of them were covered, only to lose. What begins today is the latest development in the history of a building that was born as a Christian church, was destroyed by two earthquakes and was rebuilt as a mosque after the capture of Constantinople in 1453. A transformation desired by the conquering Sultan, who gave the order to leave the magnificent Byzantine mosaics inside intact. Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum in February 1935, 13 years after the founding of the Turkish Republic and the end of the Ottoman Empire.
In July 2020, a decision (discussed) by the Turkish Supreme Court allowed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to fulfill his “childhood dream” and transform Hagia Sophia into a mosque. After this selection, entry became free for anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim, which led to tens of millions of euros being withdrawn from state coffers. Now that people can pay again, the waiting list will be eliminated and the Turkish government will return to collecting money from tourists from all over the world, attracted by the timeless beauty of one of the monuments that symbolize the relations between East and West and Istanbul.
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