The landscape of İstanbul seems more artistic if you look from Üsküdar — that is, of course, if you ignore the freakish buildings.
We decided to take a tour of Üsküdar in the month of Ramadan. Yahya Kemal, a famous poet, favored this part of the city because it was conquered first, praising it as follows: “Üsküdar, the city of witnesses of a magic dream / Every other city envies you…” This district hosts a number of important places that make İstanbul memorable. It welcomes its visitors via Maidens Tower, the Aziz Mahmud Hüdai Tomb, Çamlıca and Çengelköy. It is summer time. It is hot everywhere. But still we identified a route for a tour in Üsküdar to have a better taste of the spiritual atmosphere of the city. I should tell you in advance that the tour does not include certain famous places like Kuzguncuk, Beylerbeyi, Çengelköy and Kandilli. Only the destinations within walking distance are included. Well, lets get started:
Salacak and Maidens Tower
We have a suggestion for those who would like to see the historical peninsula. At sunset, you can break your fast in a restaurant here or on the rocks looking towards the Blue Mosque or Hagia Sophia. The azan is filling the air. It is accompanied by a nice view of Maidens Tower and İstanbuls historical imagery. The nice thing is that here you cant see the modern skyscrapers destroying the citys skyline.
1- Rum Mehmet Pasha Mosque
Some readers may ask whether this is the right place to start an Üsküdar tour. Let me explain. We briefly pass by a mosque named after Mihrimah Sultan, Sultan Suleimans daughter, and the Yeni Valide Mosque built by Emetullah Rabia Gülnuş Sultan, mother of Sultan Mustafa II and Ahmed III, as they are typically the first places that welcome visitors of this part of the city. Our destination is Salacak. After passing by the Şemsi Paşa Mosque, you will see the office of the marriage registry to your right. Just there, a mosque is hidden among the trees. This mosque, built by Sulatan Fatihs vizier, Rumi Mehmed, was first used in 1471. The inner part of the mosque, reflecting the characteristics of Byzantine and Ottoman architectural practices, is cozy. I should clarify one matter: There were a lot of masjids, or small mosques, before the conquest of the city, but this is the first building made in the form of a large mosque.
2- Ayazma Mosque
Ayazma is located in a neighborhood adjacent to the Şemsi Pasha Mosque. The mosque, built by Mustafa III, was first used in 1760. The Janissary Graveyard, Italian-style tiles and its magnificent atmosphere make this a special place that must be seen. As we know, Mehmet Tahir Ağa is the architect of this building. Hopefully, public authorities will pay care and attention to the building, whose architect was Mehmet Tahir Ağa, as the mosque has been under restoration for three months.
3- Aziz Mahmud Hüdayî Tomb
After passing through the hills, our next destination is the final resting place of a fairly important person: Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi, one of the spiritual leaders in the city. Born in Ankara in 1548, Hüdayi was serving as a qadi — a member of the judiciary who settled legal disputes in Ottoman times — in Bursa. However, he left his post to become a student of Üftade, the saint who lived in Bursa. His tomb hosts a number of visitors every day. Hüdayi, who died in Üsküdar in 1628, was buried on the grounds of his shrine. Let us recall his prayer before leaving his tomb, which is adorned with a special and famous prayer: “Those who visit me in my tomb or recite part of Quran are ours; those who love me shall not drown in the sea, shall not suffer from poverty and shall keep their faith intact.”
4- Doğancılar Park
Well, it is now time for some rest. The road will take us from the tomb to Doğancılar Park. This is like home of serenity and peace. It resembles the large room of a palace. While here, one should also visit the Nasuhi Mehmet Efendi Mosque and the tomb right across from the park. This is also a sacred place where Miraciye, an important text describing the Prophet Muhammads ascension to Heaven, was written.
5- Karacaahmet Sultan Tomb
Karacaahmet Sultan, one of the dervishes of Hacı Bektaş Veli, is one of the spiritual leaders buried in Üsküdar. His tomb is found in a temple serving as cemevi (house of union). We should also note that the area named after him is the largest graveyard in Turkey.
6- Valide-i Atik Külliyesi (social complex)
Next we walk towards the Zeynep Kamil neighborhood. On the left-hand side, we see Şakirin Mosque, built in a modern style. The social complex appearing in front of us is the final work of Sinan the Architect. This is the old Valide Mosque, built in 1583. The construction of the building was sponsored and funded by Nurbanu Sultan, mother of Sultan Murad III. The mosque exhibits the finest examples of İznik tiles. It is also reported that Khidr — a revered figure in Muslim and Islam-influenced areas who is believed to be described in the Quran as a righteous servant of God — performed prayers here. The garden of the mosque is a peaceful oasis. You should have some rest under the old trees here and, during Ramadan, enjoy a glass of tea. Those who are not overtired can continue on to the Çinili Mosque as well.
7- Üsküdar Square
We descend towards the square after visiting the social complex. On our way, we commune with the historical streets of Üsküdar. We observe a number of historical artifacts and works along the road — baths, shrines and tombs. The first significant place welcoming us to the square is the Karadavut Mosque. If you wish, you may have some rest there. I also recommend the tea houses right behind the municipal building after your iftar, or fast-breaking dinner.
8- Fethi Pasha Grove
The time for iftar is approaching. Now we have a dilemma. The Fethi Pasha Grove is the right place for those who would like to break their fast in a green area. It is located on the right-hand side in the direction of the bridge. I should note that this place has become popular as the location of the Hüseyin Avni Pasha Mansion, which recently burned down.