yOUR GUIDE TO aNKARA
Introducing You To Kocatepe Camii
Before we begin,"Camii" is simply "Mosque" in Turkish. However, it is not pronounced the same as it would be pronounced in English. The letter C in Turkish is not the same as the letter C in English. In Turkish, C is pronounced as the J in English. Camii would be pronounced as "Jaami".
Kocatepe Camii is a popular destination for tourists. It holds the title of being the largest Mosque in the city of Ankara. However, that is not the only reason tourists flock to it. Kocatepe was built with an Ottoman architecture style, for this reason it resembles a lot to those Mosques built in the Ottoman era, such as the famous Sultan Ahmet Mosque (also called the Blue mosque) in Istanbul. Due to the establishment of the mosque local businesses and shops have also benefited greatly. It has attracted many Book shops, cafes, restaurants and most importantly, more people. Over time, the Camii has become an icon that is most associated to the city of Ankara, along with the already existing icon, Anıtkabir. To read about some other historical places in Ankara, including Anıtkabir, click here.
The construction of the Kocatepe camii took a very long time to be completed, 20 years to be exact. It began in 1967 and was completed in 1987. But the initiation of the project goes even way before that. Prime Minister Adnan Manderes asked architects to put forward their designs for the construction of the Mosque in late 1950's. The project was initially handed to a famous architect and politician, Vedat Dalokay. However, a lot of the locals opposed Vedat Dalokay's design for being too modern. They wanted to see a Mosque that represented continuity of tradition rather than a Mosque that revolutionized the places of worship and therefore departing from tradition. So the consturction of Kocatepe Camii was brought to a halt till 1967. The project of Hüsrev Tayla and Fatin Uluengin was then selected for its traditional and conservative style. This design was inspired from the works of "Mimar Sinan" (Sinan the architect) a legendry Ottoman architect who also helped design the Taj Mahal for Shah Jahan, the Mughal Emperor.
In order to show you how the Kocatepe camii has evolved over time over time, I found an old picture of it and merged it with a picture I took myself. The picture on your left shows the Kocatepe Cami under construction. By sliding the bar in between, you will be able to compare and contrast the two pictures.
Another interesting fact relating to Kocatepe Camii is that, after Vedat Dalokay's project was rejected, he was invited to Pakistan to design a mosque in its capital city, Islamabad. After substantially changing the design he had originally worked on for the Kocetepe Camii, it was then used to construct the very well known, Shah Faisal Mosque of Pakistan. It was named after King Faisal of Saudi Arabia who had immensely funded the construction of the Mosque. To know more about Vedat Dalokay and his work in the field of architecture, you can read this paper written by Dr. Nelum Naz while doing her Post doctorate in the department of Architecture at Middle East Technical University (METU), Ankara.
Exploring The Kocatepe Camii
Having the history out of the way, let me tell you of my own experience. I have personally been to Kocatepe Camii a total of 3 times. My latest visit was yesterday, for this post. I will describe to you what I saw and how it felt and do not worry If you are not able to follow me, just scroll down and have a look at the pictures later, it will all make sense, trust me.
Seeing the Kocatepe Camii for the very first time it felt as though I had travelled back in time. This was because I was contrasting its traditional design and massive structure, to the very modern, lean and tall buildings that could be seen from its courtyard. The Mosque has 4 minarets, each of which is approximate 85m in length. Four smaller semi-domes surround the largest and the highest dome. And all those domes are surrounded by much smaller domes, in a symmetrical pattern. To view an aerial video that would really put things in perspective for you, click here.
Once I took my shoes off and was inside the Camii, I asked the female security guard for her permission to take pictures of the Mosque and started snapping away with my camera till the battery ran out. The very first thing that got my attention was a very massive round chandelier that was hanging from the highest dome right in the middle of the Mosque. The large chandelier was decorated with countless lamps around its center, all of which were facing upwards. Around the chandelier, there were many smaller chandeliers which were all hanging from the same dome, however, separately. An old man who was sitting next to me started explaining to me why there were 32 in particular. He said that they represented 32 farz (obligations), and then broke it down for me. The 6 articles of faith, 5 pillars of Islam, the 12 obligations of prayers (the external and the internal obligations of prayers are each 6), the 4 obligations of the ritual ablution before prayers (called abdest), the 3 obligations of the major ablution (called gusül) and finally the 2 obligations of the dry ablution (called teyemmüm). To have a look at what these obligations actually are, take a look at this link. He then went on to say that the Camii has 5 doors because each door represents each of the 5 pillars of Islam. At this point I realized how much attention to detail was paid during the construction of the Mosque. The praying area was spacious and simple, while the pillars, arches, domes and the walls were sophisticated in terms of design and color combination used for these designs.
Beneath the biggest dome was a glass case showcasing a gift from the King of Saudi Arabia to the Prime minister of Turkey, in 1993. That was one year before I was born in the capital city of Saudi Arabia! It was a strange feeling that I was standing in the capital city of Turkey and viewing a gift that had come from home which I had no idea about before. The gift was a model of the "Prophet's Mosque" in Medina. I have been to the mosque quite a few times so I found myself analyzing the model more than anyone else did, perhaps I was trying to see how accurate the model was. Along with this glass case was a seating area for those visitors and tourists who wanted to observe the way Muslims prayed and worshiped in the Mosque.
I then walked around taking pictures of the Arabic calligraphy on the ceiling. Two names were written on each corner of the mosque, a total of 8 names. They were as follows; Allah and Muhammad, Abu Bakr and Usman, Umar and Ali, and finally, Hussain and Hassan. The first 2 were the names of God and the Prophet of Islam, respectively. The next names were of the first 4 Khalifas (successors after the Prophet Muhammad), they are also called as "Rashidun" by many Muslims (Rightly Guided) as they were few of the closest companions of the Prophet who were also his successors. The last 2 names belong to the grandsons of Prophet Muhammad, who were also sons of Ali.
The security guard told me that only when it was time for the 5 compulsory prayers, the ground floor was dedicated to men, while the 2 floors on top was allocated for women. So basically, I was able to go upstairs to get some better pictures.
While on the second floor, my focus shifted towards the arches and the pillars holding the ceiling, the designs on the walls and the color combination used. It was therapeutic. It is impossible to describe through words the beautiful art that decorated the mosque, so enjoy the pictures that I managed to take for you!
Finally, I would like clear a common misconception! The popular Turkish coffee chain "Kocatepe kahve evi" (Coffee house) is probably not named after Kocetepe camii... Because the Kocatepe kahve evi began in Istanbul, in 1949 and the construction of the Camii began more than 15 years later. However, I am unable to spot the common denominator here.
If you are in Ankara and want to go see the Kocatepe Camii then follow the map below, by now I am guessing you know the drill! The instructions are for the newer readers.
Since you all have been amazing readers who always have something for me to explore, I will use this post to introduce you to Kocatepe kahve evi if you are not familiar with it yet. It is a very popular Turkish coffee chain that as you might have guessed by now, has amazing Turkish coffee! You can purchase their coffee but will not be able to make it nearly as good. This is because they use hot sand to make their coffee... yes you read that just fine! Have a look at these pictures that I managed to take while at one of their branches. Enjoy!
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I am a 22 year old student living in Ankara. I love going out and exploring new places, especially those places that hold a historical significance. I feel that the lives we have, are too short to waste our time in the same place doing the same thing.