Istanbul, July 24, 2020
The first Islamic prayers have already begun in the Hagia Sophai Cathedral in Istanbul, newly reconverted into a mosque by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
According to Ali Yerlikaya, the Governor of Istanbul, this first prayer session will last 24 hours, until 10:00 AM tomorrow morning, reports Interfax-Religion with reference to the Greek outlet ethnos.gr.
Traffic was blocked around Hagia Sophia from 10:00 PM last night in preparation for today’s event. Those who come to pray, whether inside or outside the building, will have to bring a mask, a prayer mat, and “patience and understanding,” the governor noted.
Separate prayer areas for men and women have also been set up in the courtyard of the iconic UNESCO Heritage site.
The remaining Christian frescoes are covered by curtains during the Muslim prayers. It was originally conceived to cover them with special lighting and lasers, though this idea was later abandoned for fear of harming the frescoes.
Meanwhile, Orthodox churches throughout Greece, Cyprus, and beyond are solemnly ringing their bells and praying Akathists to the Mother of God on this sad occasion.