What (Not) to Do In a Mosque

Picture of the Blue Mosque by night in Istanbul, Turkey.

by Erlend Geerts

in Practical Information

Visiting a mosque should be on your Istanbul sightseeing list. Muslims must follow certain rules inside the mosques. But even as a non-Muslim, you are expected to respect some rules during your visit. Here is an overview of the mosque etiquette.

Closed During Prayer Time

During the prayer hours/periods you are not allowed to be inside the mosque. But in between two sessions you are more than welcome. Some people might be praying outside the obligatory prayer times during your visit. Do not stare at, stand close to or walk in front of them.

Prayer times are based on the position of the sun in the sky. There are five prayer times a day: Sabah (dawn), Öğle (midday), İkindi (afternoon), Akşam (sunset) and Yatsı (night). The imam’s call for prayer is an invitation for the believers to come and pray, and a notification for you that the prayer is about to start.

In order to plan your trip, here is a rough idea about the prayer times:

Winter

Sabah – 06.30-07.30
Öğle – 11.50-12.50
İkindi – 14.30-16.30
Akşam – 16.30-19.30
Yatsı – 18.30-21.00

Summer

Sabah – 05.50-06.40
Öğle – 13.00
İkindi – 16.15-17.00
Akşam – 19.00-20.40
Yatsı – 20.30-22.30

Take Off Your Shoes

No shoes allowed in a mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.

No shoes allowed inside a mosque.

Locals take off their shoes and leave them in the rack at the entrances. Mosques on typical tourist routes such as the Blue Mosque and the Süleymaniye Mosque provide plastic bags free of charge to prevent shoe mix-ups. You put your shoes in the bag, carry them along and wear them again as you leave. Not all the mosques have this service, so you might want to take some bags with you if you feel uncomfortable leaving your shoes outside the mosque.

Cover Bare Body Parts

Believers have to be covered, almost completely. For tourist the rules are less strict, but when you plan a trip to a mosque try to dress modestly. The hair of the women as well as the shoulders and knees of both genders should be covered. If this is not the case, some mosques provide scarves and attires free of charge. But not all mosques have such a service, so you may want to carry yours along to be on the safe side.

Quiet Please!

Do not run, make jokes or laugh out loud. Talk as quiet and little as possible, and only when really needed. Also don’t forget to mute or switch off your mobile phone.

Photos and Videos

Picture of ablution process outside a mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.

Taking such a picture shows little respect.

You can take photos or shoot videos inside the mosque. However, do not point your camera at believers during their ablution process outside the mosque, nor while they are praying inside the mosque. This is unfortunately the least respected of all rules.

Free of Charge

The entrance to mosques is free, but donations are highly appreciated.

Bodily Odors

One must be clean. This doesn’t mean you should be wearing new clothes, old ones are just fine. But dirt or smells like garlic or strong perfumes are frowned upon. One of the core elements of Muslim belief is cleanness. For a place of community prayer it is even more important, not to disturb or distract the prayers.

Photo Sources [1] [2] [3]

What's Next

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Informed Tourist January 2, 2012 at 12:11 pm

I wish more people would read this article! I just went to the Blue Mosque a few days ago and was horrified by the behavior of fellow tourists. I lost count of the number of women who didn’t cover their heads and used the blue modesty cloths as scarves. I am not Muslim, so none of the practices/behaviors are intuitive to me, but there definitely needs to be a certain level of respect or at least research done before visiting Muslim holy sites.

Reply

Erlend Geerts January 2, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Hi,

Thanks a lot for your comment. It means a lot to us to hear that you enjoyed the content we provide.

Kind regards,
Erlend.

Reply

Rick kingsbury May 31, 2012 at 12:43 am

I agree many woman tourists did not bother to cover even though scarfs are provided. Shows a lack of respect and ignorance

Reply

Armin August 5, 2012 at 2:56 pm

thanks for good informations

Reply

Nazma September 3, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Shukran so much for such an informative site!
Inshallah, I wish to visit your beautiful country in December with my mother and daughter. After visiting numerous sites this was fantastic.
As for the non believers, it stems from disrespect, besides every traveler reads, investigates and gathers information before setting off.
The Blue Mosque is just one of the many highlights, surely they’ve read up?

Many thanks and kind regards
Was Salam

Reply

Erlend Geerts September 5, 2012 at 9:18 am

Hi Nazma,

That a lot for the appreciation. I’m glad I could help.

Reply

INAS November 17, 2012 at 9:58 pm

thank you for this information.
i’m too a muslim and i would really appreciate the fact that tourist will respect our religion.
again thanks

Reply

Mary Leahy King October 5, 2013 at 12:19 pm

I have been visiting Istanbul almost once a month for the last 3 years (My husband is based there for work at the moment) and I only wish I had found your site at the beginning. It’s really good and informative. I have visited many mosques and have ALWAYS dressed appropriately and covered my head. It is disgraceful that some tourists do not show some basic respect for the religion and culture of the country they choose to visit. If they don’t wish to cover up for 30 minutes or so, then in my opinion, they should not be allowed in. Finally I think Istanbul is one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in the world with wonderful, warm, friendly people and delicious food, especially your meze!

Reply

Erlend Geerts October 6, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Hi Mary,

Thanks a lot for sharing this. Much appreciated.

Erlend

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: