Continuing our tour of discovery of enchanting old mosques.
Akköy and Belenardıç
This is supposed to be a ‘mystical’ tour, seeking out village mosques that have their foundations firmly rooted in the tenets and traditions of Sufism. Sufism has had a chequered history of misunderstanding and persecution but its influences on music, poetry, painting, calligraphy and much else have been profound. In making this tour I find that being able to take a moment to conjure up mental images of bygone times have added greatly to the experience. Times when candles flickered and worshippers swayed and circled rhythmically chanting, perhaps to the soft and beautiful whisper of the ney.
Our dismay at the poor condition of the Hanönü camii at Kızılcabölük meant that we approached the mosque at Akköy, a few minutes drive from Pamukkale, with some misgivings. It, like Hanönü, was crowded by a very new (2008) mosque.
Outside it looked a trifle sad with broken windows and bags of coal stacked in the entrance. As it was nearly prayer time we sat and waited for the imam and congregation to arrive. When they did the key was produced and we were invited to carry on whilst they got on with their devotions in the new building.
What greeted us as we stepped over the threshold took my breath away for here was everything that we might have hoped for.
Built around 1877 and redecorated in 1909, this is a gem that shines and sparkles. Although no longer used for prayers it is used for study and instruction and is so obviously cared for and loved.
Look at the stunning cupola and wooden ceiling, the vivid blue cypress trees intertwined with flowers – in Islamic visual art a representation of the beloved’s figure and the reunion of lovers. The names of the artisans and artist who created this treasure are lost in time, so here are some photos by way of tribute to them and to whet your enthusiasm for your own visit.
The imam and his congregation were very welcoming and delighted that interest was being shown. The new mosque has been very nicely decorated with tiles and painted decorations and is worth a visit when you are here – these people were proud of both.
Belenardıç lies up in the mountains 20 kms north of Pamukkale; the road is narrow and winding but good for driving. It is a small and poor village of less than 400, most of the buildings are in sad condition with many in a state of collapse.
The mosque lies at one end of the village square and the kahvehane, our first port of call, at the other. Coffee and tea houses are a great source of help and hospitality – as a visitor you will not be allowed to buy your own tea. Having struck up a conversation with the men who were sitting outside smoking and joining them for tea, it wasn’t long before someone went off to speak with the muhtar and gain permission for us to enter the mosque.
Built in 1884 by ‘Mehmed, son of Ali of the Denizli Hafız Ağazade’ and painted the following year. The paints used in these mosques are referred to by locals as ‘made from roots’, ie they are made from natural dyes. The mihrab is highly symbolic and depicts a lamp behind parted curtains and refers to the 24th Sura of the Koran (Al-Nur, The Light). It is surrounded by Koranic verses.
The walls are painted with flowers, moons and stars, and apocalyptic images of heaven and hell. High up you will see the names of four caliphs and the grandsons of the Prophet (PBUH). There is much simple carving and incising of the ceiling beams.
Gaining entrance to this beautiful and much loved mosque was to experience old technology; a finger is pushed up through a small hole in the door jamb which lifts a locking latch and allows the door to open. As it opens a further latch lifts and holds the door in place – a simple and very effective system. Once again, photographs will save a thousand words.
Having satiated ourselves we retired to the kahvehane for more talk and tea. Evening was drawing on and it was getting cold so we stepped inside and were hit by a wall of heat from the soba and steam from the customers! We were also greeted by a wall of curiosity written large across many faces – J has a set piece address for these situations so we were soon joined by a few of the extra curious as the rest got back to their games of ‘Okay’. After the joy of discovering this gem of a mosque for ourselves we were able to wind down with an hour of tea and good company – a perfect end to the day.
I hope these posts will encourage you to explore off the beaten track, what you will discover will likely be (as ‘Bones’ used to say in Star Trek) ‘. . life Jim, but not as we know it!’
Alan in Okçular