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Hagia Sophia welcomed 6.5 million visitors this year

Hagia Sophia welcomed 6.5 million visitors this year

In its second year since reopening as a mosque, Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque drew more than 6.5 million people, according to Istanbul Deputy Mufti Ahmet Aktürkoğlu.

The iconic monument served as a church for 916 years until the conquest of Istanbul in 1453. It then served as a mosque from 1453 to 1934 – nearly 500 years – and most recently as a museum for 86 years.

One of the most visited historic buildings in Türkiye by domestic and international tourists, Hagia Sophia was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985.

On July 10, 2020, a Turkish court annulled a 1934 Cabinet decree that had turned Hagia Sophia into a museum, paving the way for its use again as a mosque after the 86-year hiatus.

The monument was restored to its former glory as the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque on July 24, 2020, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan joining hundreds of worshipers for the first Muslim prayer in 86 years inside Hagia Sophia.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on the second anniversary of the reopening, Aktürkoğlu said the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque after the conquest was one of the most important events in the history of Islam.

He added that Hagia Sophia, like many other important places of worship around the world, draws a huge number of tourists and the faithful.

“Like many other holy places in the world, Hagia Sophia is flooded with visitors. It attracts great attention from local and foreign tourists, especially after it was opened to worship again. In the second year since its opening, the mosque has hosted over 6.5 million visitors,” he said.

Aktürkoğlu underlined that there was a lot of interest in Hagia Sophia, particularly during the Qurban Bayram (Eid al-Adha).

“The Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque received over 120 thousand people every day during the nine-day bayram holiday. The interest of our people and visitors from around the world on Hagia Sophia is increasing every day.”

“We also see an increasing number of visitors, especially on weekends. People from all over Türkiye come here to attend the morning prayer. Many social and cultural organizations also arrange various events and tours of the monument. This makes us extremely happy.”