Turkey reopens Hagia Sophia as mosque after 86 years, TRNC mark the occasion

Turkey’s iconic Hagia Sophia Mosque reopened for worship on Friday for the first time in 86 years with Friday prayers.

Several thousand Muslims gathered on July 24 to take part in the first Friday prayers at Hagia Sophia since the Istanbul landmark was reconverted to a mosque, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also taking part.

Thousands, including many who traveled from across Turkey, gathered near the mosque early Friday for the first prayers in decades while President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also arrived at the Hagia Sophia wearing a mask, accompanied by Communications Director Fahrettin Altun as well as the head of the Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) Ali Erbaş.

Crowds formed at checkpoints surrounding the historic heart of Istanbul, where thousands of police maintained security. On entering the secured area, the worshippers, wearing face masks, sat spaced out on prayer mats in the city's Sultanahmet Square.

On entering the secured area, the worshippers, wearing face masks, sat spaced out on prayer mats in the city’s Sultanahmet Square.

A programme was held simultaneously at the Selimiye Mosque in the TRNC to mark the occasion.

The iconic monument served as a church for 916 years until the conquest of Istanbul. It then served as a mosque from 1453 to 1934 – nearly 500 years – and most recently as a museum for 86 years.

One of the most visited historic buildings in Turkey by domestic and international tourists, in 1985, during its time as a museum, Hagia Sophia was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

On July 10, a Turkish court annulled a 1934 Cabinet decree that had turned Hagia Sophia into a museum, paving the way for its use again as a mosque after an 86-year hiatus.

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