POINTS OF INTEREST
A dominant feature of the Istanbul skyline, thanks to its prime spot on the Eminönü waterfront, the "new mosque" is known as much for its history as its architecture. Its location, rising out of the Golden Horn, presented formidable engineering challenges to the former apprentice to Sinan who laid the waterlogged foundations in 1597. Due to sultans' deaths and complicated harem politics, it was not until 1663 that the project was finally completed, by the queen mother at the time: Turhan Hatice (who is buried in a mausoleum behind the mosque with her son, Mehmet IV, and several succeeding sultans). The entrance to the courtyard from the main square offers a marvelous view of the small domes and semidomes—66 in all—that appear to cascade down around the main dome, flanked by two minarets. Inside, almost every square inch of the interior is decorated—from the elaborate, multicolored İznik tiles to the intricately painted domes and gilded minbar—while numerous windows, including in the wall of the mihrab, fill the mosque with light.
While at Yeni Cami, peek around back to see if the Hünkar Kasrı, a special prayer hall used by the sultans, is open for visitors. This restored suite of rooms is only accessible when the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, which oversees the building, decides to host an exhibition in its entry hallway (hours usually Mon.–Sat. 9–5:30 for the run of the show; free), but the extraordinary beauty of itsceramic tiles, carved wood, and mother-of-pearl inlay make it well worth the effort to check.