This is the one which all visitors
should see, not only because of its excellently designed architecture, but
because the priest in charge, i.e. the Imam Mahmut Sevket Gazi, is a scholarly
man, well versed in the Koran, can read the old Turkish script on the tombs and
is always willing to be one's guide. The writer is very much obliged to him for
not only explaining the main aspects of Islam but for allowing me to be present
at the noon-day prayer meeting.
Arabahmet Mosque is at the northern end of Victoria Street, and west of Sarayönü
(Atatürk Square). The view picture shows the simplicity of design, and the
intermingling of typical Mediterranean trees and shrubs adds to its beauty. The
whole place is well looked after and used by the faithful every day.
The most important place inside
the mosque is the Mihrab, which is always placed in its relation to Mecca and
for both Cyprus and Turkey, that is the south. It is at the Mihrab that the imam
leads the Moslems in prayer, where he stands with his back to the people. Steps
nearby lead up to a kind of canopied pulpit, where on Fridays and Bayram
festivals the imam faces the people and delivers an oration. This part of the
mosque is called the Minber. The man who invites Moslems to prayer from the
minaret is the Muezzin, five times a day, but these vary with the times of
sunrise and sunset.
You will always see a clock
near the Mihrab and the one here is an antique grandfather clock that would
fetch £500 in an antique sale in London, but let us keep it here in its
rightful place. There are no images of people or animals, either as pictures or
as carvings. This is because the Moslem idea of God is not a person. If he were,
then he must have had a father and mother. Nor do we see anywhere a portrait of
the prophet Mohammed.
Islam teaches cleanliness in the holy place, in the
presence of God, and so all mosques have washing places outside; you must not
take dirt into the mosque with your shoes, and they are left outside the porch.
The colour of Islam is green, hence the furniture is usually painted in this
colour. In the desert countries of the Middle Cast, green is for paradise- for
by hard work you can make the red-brown desert productive with water and it
becomes green. Thus productivity and industriousness are two other aspects of
When a prayer meeting is in
progress, beads are used for counting the prayer repetitions and the whole
session lasts about half an hour.
The Islam calendar dates from
the flight of Mohammed from Mecca to Medina which occurred in 622 A.D. but the
years are not based on the sun but on the waxing and waning of the moon. It is a
lunar calendar, so it is not easy to arrive at, the Moslem equivalent of the
present year 1979 which 1 understand is 1357.
For Christian visitors to
Nicosia it is essential to understand the main features of the Islamic religion
in order to appreciate various mosques.
The external features of the
Arabahmet mosque typify the simplicity of design used in all mosques in the
Middle East. We see hardly any stone carving or ornamentation, except for the
Minaret. Most minarets have a balcony for the muezzin near the top where he can
call out over the rooftops of the town houses. Immediately below this balcony,
the supporting brackets are often richly carved and resemble the stalactites one
sees in a limestone cave. Hence the name given to this style is stalactitic and
it can be seen on the minaret in fig. 15. The Arabahmet mosque is not an ancient
monument yet, as it dates only from 1845.
The remaining mosques are
rather insignificant, and one, the Sarayönü near Atatürk Square, is engulfed
by the high-rise buildings close by.
W., The Antiquities of Turkish Nicosia, Rustem