Turkey invites foreign leaders for prayers at Hagia Sophia
Gizem Karakış – ANKARA
After its reconversion as a mosque, preparations are still ongoing in Hagia Sophia for the first Muslim prayers that are due to be held on July 24.
About 1,000 to 1,500 people are expected to attend the Friday Prayers, which Ali Erbaş, head of Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), will recite.
The prayers will be held in line with coronavirus measures as face masks, hand disinfectants and prayer rugs will be distributed to the participants.
Besides from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, deputies and members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Turkish ministers are expected to attend the Friday prayers.
Many leaders from numerous countries have also been invited to Hagia Sophia. Presidents of countries such as Azerbaijan and Qatar are expected to attend the prayers.
Erdoğan paid a visit to Hagia Sofia on July 19, before the first Muslim prayers. In a lightning visit billed as an inspection, Erdoğan took stock of the conversion work, the president’s office said, providing pictures showing scaffolding inside the building.
Frescos, mosaics to be covered with curtains
The mosaics and frescoes in Hagia Sophia will be covered by curtains during the prayers.
The curtain’s mechanism will be similar to those used in movie industry. Accordingly, “not even a nail would be pounded” when installing the system.
Accordingly, the 6.5-meter Theotokos and 7.5-meter Gabriel mosaics, which are seen from the ground floor, will be opened and closed with curtains, for one minute each.
The laser technology which was mulled over initially has been foregone.
The scaffold, which was founded for the restoration, will also be covered with curtains.
Meanwhile, the omphalion opus sectile panel will be left under a rug, that will be placed for the prayers.
Nevertheless, in order to prevent the mosaic from being damages, two layers of felt will be put under the rug.
The rugs, which will be used in Hagia Sophia, are being produced in western Manisa province in one of Turkey’s first factories where rugs are being weaved with machinery.
Made from 100 percent indigenous wool, the duck-head-green rugs carry motives of 17th-century Ottoman era.