Since last month, Üsküdar has had a brand new masterpiece of architecture. It’s a mosque, but not just any mosque: the Şakirin Camii is designed by a woman and is the most modern, light, open and female-friendly mosque I have ever seen. It’s an absolute must-see, as is the big, huge, immense graveyard that surrounds it.
Şakirin Mosque was designed by Zeynep Fadillioglu, who has won awards for her designs of fancy bars, restaurants and private homes. She is religious and she said because of that she could put more feeling into her design. And that feeling is what immediately touches you when you enter the mosque. The walls are almost totally made of glass, which gives a wonderful open, light atmosphere. The mihrab, usually a niche that indicates the direction of Mecca, is a big arch in beautiful blue and gold. And the minbar, from where the Imam preaches, which is usually made of wood and placed against the wall next to the mihrab, is free- standing in the prayer hall and looks so elegant: ivory coloured, slender shaped and so nicely decorated. The female designer hand also took care of something very important: the women’s praying area is not, as so often, a small dark place at the back of the mosque, but a light, open, spacious balcony – poor men, they are not allowed to go up there!
I myself had a wonderful afternoon visiting the mosque. After walking around and taking pictures, I sat for some time on the floor of the women’s section, just breathing in the atmosphere. Quite a few women came in to pray, and the funny thing was, almost all of them took a camera out of their pocket after praying and started taking pictures or even videos of the mosque. After that, I took my time to wander around in the immense graveyard at the entrance to which the mosque stands. From there, of course I could still hear the busy traffic (several large and busy streets cut through the graveyard in different places), but the sounds of the birds in the trees were louder and made me feel so happy and relaxed. Now and then a typical open green hearse passed by – the burials are going on here almost constantly.
I took a bus back home, but I walked from my house to the mosque in about thirty minutes. From the harbour of Üsküdar the walk to Şakirin Mosque might be just a bit too far – but for anyone who wants to do it anyway, here’s a map showing both harbour (blue pin) and mosque (green pin) (click left on the pins and zoom in), so you can find your way. You could also ask people how to get first to the Karacaahmet Cemetery (pronounced in Turkish as ‘Karadja ahmet mezarluk’) and then to the mosque, which is pronounced as ‘Sjakirin Djami’ – everybody knows it and will be happy to show you the way. At Üsküdar harbour, you can also catch a bus – ask around which one goes to the mosque. Of course, any taxi driver at the harbour would be happy to take you too. But don’t take a taxi because you are in a hurry and only reserved one hour for Sakirin Mosque in your schedule – this trip deserves time and a relaxed state of mind!