Mountaintop mosque built in Erdoğan’s hometown
RİZEAn unusual mosque has been built on top of a 1,130-meter mountain in a Black Sea province in Turkey where President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s father was born.
The lush mountain in the Rize province’s Güneysu district is known as “kıble,” referring to the Islamic term qibla, the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca where Muslims face during daily prayers. The reason for its name stems from the fact that the main ridge of the mountain faces Mecca and the mountaintop can be seen from most of the district.
The first mosque on top of the mountain was built in the 19th century. After the wooden structure was burned during a fire in 1960, a simple concrete hut replaced it as a praying place. Erdoğan visited this newer mosque in 2010 when he was Turkey’s prime minister and instructed local authorities to restore and expand it.
After an asphalt road was built, the construction started in 2013 with donations from local businessmen. The historic Şemsi Ahmet Paşa Mosque in Istanbul’s Üsküdar neighborhood was used as a model.
President ‘follows up’ construction
The new mosque is 275 square meters with a 13-meter high dome and 27-meter high minaret. It has a walking trek and recreational zone around it. “The women section, which is 45 square meters, has a specially designed place for baby care, too,” its architect Yusuf Yılmaz said, adding that they finished the project in 14 months.
The architect said Erdoğan personally “followed up” on the construction process, encouraging the crew to complete it as soon as possible. Three workers were once stuck in the site during the winter, due to harsh weather, and were rescued by helicopters, in an operation also followed closely by Erdoğan.
However, it will be hard for pedestrians to reach the mountaintop for daily prayers. Güneysu District Governor İhsan Selim Baydaş said in a statement on Aug. 5 that there is a place with accommodations. “Best materials were used in the construction. The end product is really a masterpiece. We think that it will draw much interest and attention,” he added.
This is not the first mountaintop mosque project involving Erdoğan. Soon after he visited the old mosque in Rize, Erdoğan announced a plan to build on the highest hill on the Asian side of Istanbul in 2012. Some 37,500 people will be able to pray in the Ottoman-inspired Çamlıca mosque after the 15,000-square meter structure’s inauguration, scheduled for July 2016.