Unpleasant smell at Hagia Sophia Mosque raises concerns

Unpleasant smell at Hagia Sophia Mosque raises concerns
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Iconic Istanbul landmark draws complaints of stuffy air and odors

The iconic Hagia Sophia, converted from a museum to a mosque in 2020, faces criticism over poor air quality and a "bad smell" inside the landmark building.

According to social media user Furkan Soylu, who recently prayed at Hagia Sophia, the nearly 1,500-year-old structure suffers from a lack of ventilation and odor problems that make it "very difficult to focus on prayer."

In online posts, Soylu said the "bad smell" was partly because of crowds of visitors and had seeped into carpets on the floor. He called on authorities to address the problems.

The complaints have reignited debate over converting the UNESCO World Heritage Site from a secular museum to an active mosque. Some have argued that Hagia Sophia should become a museum again to protect it.

But Soylu insisted the solution was better crowd control and cleaning, not changing its status. "The poor condition of the mosque is a matter to be solved with shoe racks, tourist access, and cleaning," he wrote.

Hagia Sophia was built as a church in 537 A.D. and converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453. It became a museum in 1934 before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered it reopened for Muslim prayers in 2020.

The move was controversial, with critics arguing that the change threatened the preservation of the architectural and artistic treasures inside. There was a further outcry in April this year when an ancient gate was damaged.

Concerns about the smell and air quality have renewed fears that one of Turkey's top tourist attractions is not adequately cared for as an active mosque.