In a recent announcement by the Turkish tourism ministry, the iconic Hagia Sophia mosque in Turkey has implemented an entrance fee for tourists, marking a significant change in its accessibility. As of Monday, visitors will be required to pay nearly $28 to explore this UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its mesmerizing blue-tiled interior.
The decision to charge tourists for entrance comes as part of an initiative to enhance the visitor experience and ensure a more controlled environment within the historic mosque. The new entrance, located in front of the Topkapi Palace Museum, provides a gateway for tourists eager to explore the rich history and architectural marvels of the Hagia Sophia.
Originally built as an Orthodox cathedral with Byzantine architecture, the Hagia Sophia underwent several transformations throughout its history. From 1934 until 2020, it functioned as a museum, offering a space where visitors could delve into the diverse historical layers encapsulated within its walls. However, in 2020, Turkey decided to convert the site back into a mosque.
The Turkish tourism ministry, in a statement, highlighted the introduction of the new entrance fee and emphasized its aim to allow tourists to visit the mosque without disrupting the prayer environment. The controlled entry will be facilitated through a tunnel and entrance ramp, guiding visitors to the gallery floor and ensuring a seamless exit in the northeast direction.
The statement further detailed the visitor experience within the mosque, stating, "Tourists who come to the gallery section will be able to see the sanctuary floor of the mosque and the Ottoman Period annexes, pass through the heaven-hell gate, and examine the Byzantine Periods mosaics in this section."
To ensure the safety and security of visitors, the mosque has implemented security cameras, fire detection systems, and emergency announcement systems along the tour route. Additionally, extensive cleaning and conservation efforts have been undertaken by restorers and conservators to preserve the marble coverings and wood railings on the gallery floor.
As part of the enhanced visitor experience, tourists will now have access to a headset guide equipped with QR codes. This innovative feature allows visitors to explore the mosque while accessing information in 23 languages, offering a more immersive and educational journey through the historical and cultural significance of the Hagia Sophia.
While the introduction of an entrance fee may mark a shift in the accessibility of the Hagia Sophia, it also signifies a commitment to preserving and showcasing the cultural heritage embedded within its walls. As visitors embark on this new chapter of exploration, they can anticipate a curated and enriched experience that pays homage to the diverse epochs encapsulated within the Hagia Sophia's storied past.