Off to a good start


On Friday I accompanied a class field trip from my host institution, Koç University, on a circuitous route from a metro stop to the Süleymaniye Mosque. We approached the mosque complex from a small residential street that currently boasts more cars than residences.

The mosque itself of course is stunning, and  I want to go back among other reasons to find the tomb of the architect Sinan, who was buried on the grounds.

Along the way, something happened that showed how some segments of my Evliya Çelebi film could work. We stopped to face a mosque that was originally a Byzantine convent. As the professor finished describing the lives of the select convent inhabitants – living modestly, doing productive work, but with one servant permitted for women of means – the Friday midday prayers ended. I was looking at the mosque while imagining the possible lives of those Byzantine nuns when the doors of the mosque opened and large numbers of men exited, walking in all directions. Past and present suddenly coexisted.

I want to create (or capture) those kinds of moments for viewers. With a master storyteller as my subject, I should be off to a good start.


The Kalenderhane Mosque shown here is not that former Byzantine convent/current mosque, but the site was once a Roman bath, then the building was created as a Byzantine church, and has been a mosque since the conquest of Istanbul.

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