From July 4th to July 5th, the Thessaloniki Global Seminar visited Edirne, Turkey for a weekend excursion. The idea of the excursion from an academic point of view was to get an idea of Ottoman past in a city under Turkish rule and contrast mosques serving as monuments or exhibits in Thessaloniki and as functioning mosques in Edirne.
As soon as we crossed the border there were certain differences that immediately caught the eye. Women were veiled (although a decent number were wearing western attires), people were drinking Turkish tea outside of kiosks instead of coffee like in Thessaloniki, Souflaki eateries were replaced by Donor Kebab vendors and the chime of the bell from the Church was substituted by the Azaan from the mosque.
Selimiye Mosque was the first Mosque that we visited followed by the Eski Camii Mosque and the Üç Serefeli. All the mosques were significant historically and architecturally in their respective ways but the Selmiye Mosque was a personal favorite. A towering mosque surrounded by four tall minarets, the Selimiye Mosque made an impression on all of the students. What fascinated me about the mosque was that it was made in competition to the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople by the son of the Suleiman the Magnificent, Selim II as a way of living up to the legacy of his father.
Soon after the tour, the students set off for the much-anticipated Turkish Hammam experience. Men and women were separated and taken to different sections. The experience was definitely a unique one for all the students and consisted of four stages: sauna, shower, massage and sauna again. Worth mentioning is that the shower and massage was carried out by another stranger who scrubbed us and basically gave us a shower one by one. Everyone was refreshed after the bath and departed for a stroll through a bazaar in central Edirne.
To wrap up our day, we went to the city center for dinner that coincided with Iftaar and all the Muslims were in the city to break their fast. Crowds moved towards restaurants and took up places, readying themselves for food and murmuring prayers. The siren went off, marking sunset, the city in unison started eating and so did we.