EVENTS / istanbulogy / August 22, 2012

Mahya: the messages of Ramadan


The end of the Ramadan. A month of fasting in the Muslim calendar is over. I made it to the Sultanahmet square to photograph the mahyas of the blue mosque on its last day!  Mahya, the message written in lights and strung between 2 minarets or  between a minaret and the dome, is installed only on Ramadan and holy nights in Islam. I remember trying to read the mahyas while travelling in my dad’s car as a kid. These messages always emphasize solidarity, love, and compassion. But the little Nihan had difficulty in reading Turkish, let alone Ottoman verses. Even though it  lost its  importance for me after I realized that more or less all the messages were alike and every year we got to see the same lines, the light bulbs illuminating the starless Istanbul sky has kept on spellbinding  me.

The method of hanging mahyas might have changed over the centuries but the art of mahya has retained its kitschy charm. If you would like to read more into the history of mahya making, here is a great read: Mahya illuminate Istanbul’s ramadan nights.


Tags:  Blue Mosque fasting Islam Islamic art Istanbul at night mahya memories mosques ottoman ramadan Sultanahmet traditions

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