Pictures on Turkish state tv confirmed crowds of Muslims praying in and all-around the mosque on Friday early morning.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan participated in the Friday prayers, in which he recited verses of the Quran.
Some persons came from exterior Istanbul and expended the night time about Hagia Sophia waiting for the prayer, in accordance to CNN Turk.
Only 500 individuals were invited inside the building simply because of coronavirus restrictions, according to Turkey’s religious affairs director Ali Erbas. Thousands a lot more prayed in the backyard and in Sultanahmet Sq. in Istanbul’s outdated city.
Last week, Erdogan ordered the conversion of the historic monument right after a court docket annulled a 1934 presidential decree that manufactured it a museum.
The final decision, involving a person of the city’s most critical landmarks and a UNESCO Planet Heritage website, has been criticized by worldwide religious and political leaders, with UN cultural company UNESCO amid those people voicing problem.
Even so, the shift has not prompted wide opposition within Turkey.
The Turkish governing administration has tried to reassure skeptics that the building’s Christian artworks and frescoes will not be touched, with technological know-how as an alternative being applied to conceal them throughout Friday prayers.
Erdogan has positioned himself as a mate of conservative Islamists in Turkey, relocating the nation even more from those people secularist roots.
UNESCO stated earlier this month that it “deeply regrets” Turkey’s final decision and that the option was manufactured with out the group receiving prior notification.
Turkish officials have emphasised that when it is not remaining used as a mosque, the Hagia Sophia — which is common with tourists viewing Istanbul — will be open up to all to visit cost-free of charge, according to point out-run information company Anadolu.
Erdogan applied a televised speech on July 10 to urge persons to regard the determination to convert the developing back again to a mosque.
“Like all our mosques, its doors will be open up to all people — Muslim or non-Muslim. As the world’s prevalent heritage, Hagia Sophia with its new standing will keep on embracing all people in a more sincere way,” he mentioned.
“We will be dealing with every single feeling voiced on the global phase with respect. But the way Hagia Sophia will be employed falls below Turkey’s sovereign rights. We deem each shift that goes past voicing an impression a violation of our sovereignty.”
CNN’s Isil Sariyuce and Arwa Damon described from Istanbul and Laura Smith-Spark wrote from London. Emma Reynolds contributed to this report.