Hagia Sophia opens for Muslim worshippers

A handout photo made available by the Turkish President Press Office shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visiting the Hagia Sophia following Turkey's decision that the 1,500 year old UNESCO World Heritage site Hagia Sophia can be converted into a mosque, in Istanbul, Turkey, 19 July 2020. . EPA-EFE/TURKISH PRESIDENT OFFICE

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Friday prayers are to be held at Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia building for the first time since the celebrated museum was turned back into a mosque.

“Muslims are excited, everyone wants to be at the opening,” Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya said on Thursday.

The 1,500-year-old Unesco World Heritage site became a museum in 1934.

But earlier this month, a Turkish court annulled Hagia Sophia’s museum status, saying its use as anything other than a mosque was “not possible legally”.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan then announced that the world-famous site would be used as a mosque for Friday prayers from 24 July.

The move was criticised by religious and political leaders worldwide.

Hagia Sophia was built as an Orthodox Christian cathedral and first converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest nine centuries later.

Read more via BBC

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