इंडियन आवाज़     22 Feb 2024 03:29:35      انڈین آواز
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Turkey: Hagia Sophia’s first Friday prayers draw big gathering

AMN / ISTANBOL

A large number of worshippers gathered to Turkey’s iconic Hagia Sophia for the first Muslim Friday prayers since it was once again declared a mosque by a decree from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan announced the move to convert the historic building back into a mosque earlier this month and a court ruling paved the way for this to take place.

Friday prayers began at the newly renamed Grand Hagia Sophia Mosque at around 1.15 p.m. local time (1015 UTC/GMT).

Men, women, the elderly and children were seen waiting at the 11 checkpoints in place. Police searched worshippers, while health workers checked their temperature and masks in line with COVID-19 measures.

To save time, some people performed their ablution in the surrounding mosques. Many were seen carrying Turkish flags and prayers mats.

A shuttle service was launched to carry foreigners and others from a designated parking space in Yenikapi district.

Erdogan arrived ahead of the ceremony along with the head of top religious authority Diyanet, Ali Erbas, and top ministers.

The high-profile guests wore face masks as a preventative measure against COVID-19. In total around 500 dignitaries were invited to attend.

Erdogan recited verses from the Koran before the prayers

The UNESCO World Heritage Site was previously a museum, documenting the landmark’s diverse religious history as both cathedral and mosque. The Byzantine-era building had been shut temporarily due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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