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Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Unique Gift Ideas

Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Turkish: Sultan Ahmet Camii; also known as the Blue Mosque) is a historic mosque located in Istanbul, Turkey. It remains a functioning mosque, while also attracting large numbers of tourist visitors. It was constructed between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I. Its Külliye contains Ahmed’s tomb, a madrasah and a hospice. Hand-painted blue tiles adorn the mosque’s interior walls, and at night the mosque is bathed in blue as lights frame the mosque’s five main domes, six minarets and eight secondary domes.[2] It sits next to the Hagia Sophia, another popular tourist site.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque) was constructed by Sedefkar Mehmed Agha on the orders of Sultan Ahmed I.
After the Peace of Zsitvatorok and the crushing loss in the 1603–18 war with Persia, Sultan Ahmet I decided to build a large mosque in Istanbul to reassert Ottoman power. It would be the first imperial mosque for more than forty years. While his predecessors had paid for their mosques with the spoils of war, Ahmet I procured funds from the Treasury, because he had not gained remarkable victories. The construction was started in 1609 and not completed until 1616.[3]

It caused the anger of the ulama, the Muslim jurists. The mosque was built on the site of the palace of the Byzantine emperors, in front of the basilica Hagia Sophia (at that time, the primary imperial mosque in Istanbul) and the hippodrome, a site of significant symbolic meaning as it dominated the city skyline from the south. Big parts of the south shore of the mosque rest on the foundations, the vaults of the old Grand Palace.[4]


The Sultan Ahmed Mosque has five main domes, six minarets, and eight secondary domes. The design is the culmination of two centuries of Ottoman mosque development. It incorporates some Byzantine Christian elements of the neighboring Hagia Sophia with traditional Islamic architecture and is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period. The architect, Sedefkâr Mehmed Ağa, synthesized the ideas of his master Sinan, aiming for overwhelming size, majesty and splendor. It has a forecourt and special area for ablution. In the middle it has a big fountain. On the upper side it has a big chain. The upper area is made up of 20000 ceramic tiles each having 60 tulip designs. In the lower area it has 200 stained glass windows.[5]


Interior view, featuring the prayer area and the main dome.
At its lower levels and at every pier, the interior of the mosque is lined with more than 20,000 handmade İznik style ceramic tiles, made at İznik (the ancient Nicaea) in more than fifty different tulip designs. The tiles at lower levels are traditional in design, while at gallery level their design becomes flamboyant with representations of flowers, fruit and cypresses. The tiles were made under the supervision of the Iznik master. The price to be paid for each tile was fixed by the sultan’s decree, while tile prices in general increased over time. As a result, the quality of the tiles used in the building decreased gradually.[6]

The upper levels of the interior are dominated by blue paint. More than 200 stained glass windows with intricate designs admit natural light, today assisted by chandeliers. On the chandeliers, ostrich eggs are found that were meant to avoid cobwebs inside the mosque by repelling spiders.[7] The decorations include verses from the Qur’an, many of them made by Seyyid Kasim Gubari, regarded as the greatest calligrapher of his time. The floors are covered with carpets, which are donated by the faithful and are regularly replaced as they wear out. The many spacious windows confer a spacious impression. The casements at floor level are decorated with opus sectile. Each exedra has five windows, some of which are blind. Each semi-dome has 14 windows and the central dome 28 (four of which are blind). The coloured glass for the windows was a gift of the Signoria of Venice to the sultan.

The most important element in the interior of the mosque is the mihrab, which is made of finely carved and sculptured marble, with a stalactite niche and a double inscriptive panel above it. It is surrounded by many windows. The adjacent walls are sheathed in ceramic tiles. To the right of the mihrab is the richly decorated minber, or pulpit, where the imam stands when he is delivering his sermon at the time of noon prayer on Fridays or on holy days. The mosque has been designed so that even when it is at its most crowded, everyone in the mosque can see and hear the imam.[6]

The royal kiosk is situated at the south-east corner. It comprises a platform, a loggia and two small retiring rooms. It gives access to the royal loge in the south-east upper gallery of the mosque. These retiring rooms became the headquarters of the Grand Vizier during the suppression of the rebellious Janissary Corps in 1826. The royal loge (hünkâr mahfil) is supported by ten marble columns. It has its own mihrab, which used to be decorated with a jade rose and gilt[8] and with one hundred Qurans on an inlaid and gilded lecterns.[9]

The many lamps inside the mosque were once covered with gold and gems.[10] Among the glass bowls one could find ostrich eggs and crystal balls.[11] All these decorations have been removed or pillaged for museums.

The great tablets on the walls are inscribed with the names of the caliphs and verses from the Quran. They were originally by the great 17th-century calligrapher Seyyid Kasim Gubari of Diyarbakır but have been repeatedly restored.[6]

It was first announced that the mosque would undertake a series of renovations back in 2016. Numerous renovation works had been completed throughout Istanbul and the restoration of the Blue Mosque was to be the final project. Renovations were expected to take place over three and a half years and be completed by 2020.


Ablution facilities
The façade of the spacious forecourt was built in the same manner as the façade of the Süleymaniye Mosque, except for the addition of the turrets on the corner domes. The court is about as large as the mosque itself and is surrounded by a continuous vaulted arcade (revak). It has ablution facilities on both sides. The central hexagonal fountain is small relative to the courtyard. The monumental but narrow gateway to the courtyard stands out architecturally from the arcade. Its semi-dome has a fine stalactite structure, crowned by a small ribbed dome on a tall tholobate. Its historical elementary school (Sıbyan Mektebi) is used as "Mosque Information Center" which is adjacent to its outer wall on the side of Hagia Sophia. This is where they provide visitors with a free orientational presentation on the Blue Mosque and Islam in general.[12]

A heavy iron chain hangs in the upper part of the court entrance on the western side. Only the sultan was allowed to enter the court of the mosque on horseback. The chain was put there, so that the sultan had to lower his head every single time he entered the court to avoid being hit. This was a symbolic gesture, to ensure the humility of the ruler in the face of the divine.[12]

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is one of the two mosques in Turkey that has six minarets (one in the modern Sabancı Mosque in Adana, the Hz. Mikdat Mosque in Mersin, Çamlıca in Üsküdar and the Green mosque in Arnavutköy). According to folklore, an architect misheard the Sultan’s request for "altın minareler" (gold minarets) as "altı minare" (six minarets), at the time a unique feature of the mosque of the Ka’aba in Mecca. When criticized for his presumption, the Sultan then ordered a seventh minaret to be built at the Mecca mosque.[13]

Minarets of the mosque.
Four minarets stand at the corners of the Blue Mosque. Each of these fluted, pencil-shaped minarets has three balconies (Called şerefe) with stalactite corbels, while the two others at the end of the forecourt only have two balconies. Before the muezzin or prayer caller had to climb a narrow spiral staircase five times a day to announce the call to prayer.[13]

Pope Benedict XVI’s visit and silent meditation
Pope Benedict XVI visited the Sultan Ahmed Mosque on 30 November 2006 during his visit to Turkey. It was only the second papal visit in history to a Muslim place of worship. Having removed his shoes, the Pope paused for a full two minutes, eyes closed in silent meditation,[14] standing side by side with Mustafa Çağrıcı, the Mufti of Istanbul, and Emrullah Hatipoğlu, the Imam of the Blue Mosque.[15]

The pope “thanked divine Providence for this” and said, “May all believers identify themselves with the one God and bear witness to true brotherhood.” The pontiff noted that Turkey “will be a bridge of friendship and collaboration between East and West”, and he thanked the Turkish people “for the cordiality and sympathy” they showed him throughout his stay, saying, “he felt loved and understood.”[16]

Wrapped hankies for Emma Thompson and Rita Ora
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Image by craftivist collective
Photos by
Completed stitched handkerchiefs & hand-written notes by craftivists for M&S board members & other VIPs to be wrapped and ribboned to hand over as gi]fts at the AGM on Tuesday 7th July 2015.

Press Release: Craftivist campaign launches after survey shows 17 percent of British shoppers would shop more often at Marks & Spencers if it paid a Living Wage

The Craftivist Collective is joining forces with ShareAction’s AGM Army this summer to press UK retailers to pay a Living Wage. The campaigners are coordinating a series of “stitch-ins” at branches of Marks & Spencers across the UK, for crafters to sew hand-made messages onto M&S handkerchiefs, to be delivered to the board, celebrity endorsers, and major shareholders of the British retail giant at its annual general meeting at Wembley Stadium on July 7th.

An online poll shows 17 percent of British shoppers would shop more often at Marks & Spencers if it paid staff a Living Wage. (Source: Opinium survey, 12th-16th June 2015, based on 2002 online interviews across the UK).

The first “stitch-in” will take place on June 22 in London at 6:30 pm outside the Marks & Spencers on Liverpool Road, N1 0PR. Another “stitch-in” is scheduled for June 23 in Cardiff, another in Brighton on June 29, and another in Milton Keynes 30th. There will also be stitch-ins in Warrington, Lincoln, and Birmingham amongst others.

The idea of the “stitch-ins” is to show M&S that in addition to major shareholders with billions of pounds under management, its core customer base is also fully engaged and supportive on the issue of the Living Wage, and that they expect the company to show leadership on this basic fairness issue.

Each unique hand-stitched hanky encourages board directors of M&S to commit to paying the Living Wage of £9.15 in London and £7.85 across the UK to all staff. This is a part of ShareAction’s campaign in partnership with Citizens UK to achieve the Living Wage across the FTSE 100 through shareholder activism. Nearly a quarter of FTSE 100 companies have now accredited with the Living Wage Foundation, but no high street retailer has yet signed up.

ShareAction has organised AGM questions on the Living Wage at more than 20 company AGMs so far this year. ShareAction is simultaneously mobilising an Investor Collaborative for the Living Wage made up of institutional shareholders with billions of pounds in British companies, including asset managers, pension funds, charity and faith investors. These large shareholders have written in 2015 to all of the FTSE 100, including M&S, in support of the Living Wage.

Crafters will be giving M&S handkerchiefs with personalised positive messages stitched into them to all 14 board members of M&S, as well as to its largest shareholders, and to the 2014 celebrities who feature in the company’s ad campaign: Annie Lennox, Emma Thompson, Alex Wek, Rita Ora, Dowreen Lawrence, Lulu Kennedy, and Rachel Khoo.

They will also be handing out 250 special handkerchief craft kits with a Living Wage message printed on them to shareholders at the company’s Annual General Meeting, so that shareholders can stitch too, to encourage themselves to support the Living Wage. These kits include an ethical hanky, needle and thread, instructions, and a briefing note on investment risk.

M&S Chief Executive Marc Bolland is paid £2.1million a year. Last year, his company refused to consider a Living Wage at its Annual General Meeting. Later, at a meeting with campaigners, the company again refused to consider paying the Living Wage.

Sarah Corbett, founder of the Craftivist Collective, said: “Marks & Spencer is supposed to be a company with solid values threaded through all that they do, which include paying your workers fairly. We’re sending the board and shareholders these carefully hand-stitched handkerchiefs to encourage the company not to ‘blow’ their chance to support life-changing decisions.”

Catherine Howarth, Chief Executive of ShareAction says: “This craftivist initiative at the M&S AGM is nothing to ‘sniff at’. Sarah and her amazing stitchers are devoting hours to creating gifts the M&S board we hope will treasure and remember forever. People adore M&S but they want to see the company step up and become a Living Wage employer. The many big shareholders backing this call know it makes business sense as well as being the right thing to do.”

Notes for editors:
ShareAction is the UK-based movement for Responsible Investment. For further information, please contact Matt Davis, Director of Communications and Public Engagement at ShareAction on

Craftivist Collective brings together craft and activism in order to make a difference to individuals and society, exposing and tackling issues of local and global poverty and injustices through provocative, non-violent creative actions. For further information please contact Sarah Corbett, Founder of Craftivist Collective on

Peacekeepers 40th Anniversary Memorial Parade 2014 Angus Ontario
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Image by antefixus21
Peacekeepers Park Signage, Angus, Ontario, Canada.…

My name is Fern Taillefer, President of the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping (CAVUNP), Central Ontario Chapter located in Barrie. The Association is a non-profit organization as well as non-political and non sectarian. We wish to perpetuate the memories and deeds of our fallen comrades who lost their lives in defence of freedom, as well as donate to schools and public libraries, literature on Canada’s participation in the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces.
We have a National Monument in Ottawa to recognize the sacrifice and service of Canadians in United Nations missions. Various Chapters across Canada have memorials to recognize those efforts.

Our Chapter in Barrie has the unique opportunity to have a 2 ½ acre park leased from the Township of Essa known as PEACEKEEPERS’ PARK. The Royal Canadian Legion (Edward Macdonald Branch 499) in Angus is our partner in this endeavor with the Township. The piece of property donated by Essa Township was the brainchild of one of our members, Gerry Tremblay who was with the recovery team in 1974. He personally knew all of the members killed.

The initial idea and concept for the park was mine and when I presented it to the chapter it was unanimous. We approached a company called Curbex with our idea and they went with it. Artist concept then the research that had to be conducted to make sure I got all the names right etc. We started however with a huge stone which is described below.

In 2008, the Chapter raised ,000 to purchase and have installed at the park a large six ton polished maple leaf stone which we unveiled and dedicated on Aug 9th of that year to our Peacekeeping veterans. This completed phase one of our long range plans.

Contributions to date have allowed phase two of the plan which was the construction and erection in 2010 of a Memorial Wall which includes the names of 283 Canadians who have died while serving on United Nations missions. This includes 158 killed in Afghanistan, and three RCMP killed in Haiti. The cost of this phase was approximately ,000.00 Two of the members killed in Afghanistan were Military Policeman.

The vision of the park is to include recognition of all UN missions that involved Canadian participation. The current plan is to have pedestals placed along a (wheel chair accessible) path to identify the missions performed. There will be benches to sit on at each pedestal area placed on an interlocking brick pad. If you wish to have your name placed on the bench as a sponsor to the park, this can be arranged.
Due to cost, this will take several phases to complete. Plans include recognition of the effort and sacrifice by Canadian Forces in Korea, where 516 lives were lost.
The total expected cost of completing this project is expected to be well over 0 000.

Peacekeeping Day was created to recognize the service of Canadians in far-away places in the service of peace. Since 1948, members of Canada’s Armed Forces and Diplomatic service have served on peacekeeping missions around the world. Additionally, since 1992, members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, provincial and municipal police forces have served in Peace Support missions around the world. It was to recognize the service of Canadians past, present and in the future that Peacekeeping Day was created.

9 August was chosen because on that date in 1974 the greatest single loss of Canadian lives on a peacekeeping mission occurred. Nine Canadian peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Emergency Force in Egypt and Israel, were flying in a Canadian Forces "Buffalo" transport aircraft on UN service which was shot down by Syrian air defence missiles while preparing to land at Damascus, Syria on a regular resupply mission. There were no survivors. Two of these are from the Angus area. Every year family members attend the 9 Aug parade to remember and commemorate.

Canada’s first casualty on a peacekeeping mission occurred in 1951 when Acting-Brigadier HH Angle of Kamloops, BC died in a plane crash in Kashmir on the border between India and Pakistan. Since then, 114 members of the Canadian Armed Forces and one member of Canada’s diplomatic service have died in far-off lands in the service of peace. The spouse and mother of the deceased receive the Memorial Cross, a gesture of commemoration from the Government of Canada begun in 1919 for casualties of WW1 and continued for casualties of WW 2, the Korea conflict and for casualties on peacekeeping missions.

On this day, we recognize the families of our peacekeepers who keep up the morale of our peacekeepers with cards and letters, parcels and gifts. They play a central part too helping their spouses to adjust to the peace and tranquility of their home and country when they return.

We also recognize and thank other Canadians who have given freely of their time to support our Peacekeepers abroad. In particular are the ham radio operators who nightly have connected to the military ham radio operators calling from the missions and linked the peacekeepers to their families back in Canada. This most valuable service, always given freely, has been a strong element in maintaining family morale. We also thank the families that knit the "Izzy Dolls", small dolls given to the children whom Canadian peacekeepers meet as they patrol their assigned areas. Created by his family in memory of Master Corporal Mark Isfeld who died in 1994 while serving in the former Yugoslavia, the dolls have brought much pleasure to children in many countries suffering the ravages of brutal conflict.

Peacekeeping Day, 9 August is about recognition and commemoration; of peacekeepers past, present and yet to come and their families; recognition and thanks to those who help make the peacekeeping duty less arduous; and remembering our fallen comrades who have died in the service of peace.

I have included a photo of the wall as well as the official Ribbon Cutting ceremony with the Senior Peacekeeper General Meloche, myself, Paul Korejwo son of MWO Korejwo killed on 9 Aug 74 and Jack Stringer father of Cpl Stringer killed on 9 Aug 74.

The third photo is a concept of the park yet to come with plaques at various stations depicting the 58 missions Canada has been involved in in peacekeeping/peace support/peacemaking operations around the world. I have also enclosed a photo of the stone installed in 2008.

I would invite all members of the IPA to join us in our annual Peacekeepers Parade. You would be more than welcome.

If you need anymore info, please don’t hesitate to call.

In the service of peace;

Fern Taillefer

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