HomeTourismChaos, riots and outrage: Turkey's main attraction became paid

Chaos, riots and outrage: Turkey’s main attraction became paid

Chaos, riots, and indignation at high prices, discrimination, and architectural barbarism – this is how tourists in Istanbul met the fact that the main attraction of Turkey has become paid. Hagia Sophia – once the main Orthodox shrine of Constantinople, recently converted into a mosque, has become a tool for tourists from this Monday, while they are being charged a hefty sum of 25 euros.

The chaos began when foreign tourists were tried to be separated from Turks entering Hagia Sophia as a mosque, and directed to a narrow side entrance. There is a separate conversation about its “quality”. At the side entrance, there is an announcement about the fee, and it is also supposed to allow “to visit Hagia Sophia without disturbing the prayers”.

At the same time, tourists have already discovered the fact of discrimination: all foreigners, in particular Muslims who are non-citizens of Turkey, will have to pay for entry. We will remind you that before Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque in 2020, it was a museum, paid for by everyone, with ticket offices on the street. For the next few years, admission was free.

But at some point, the authorities realized that they were losing a serious source of funding — and took it upon themselves with double diligence. Which also caused the indignation of tourists. According to the European press, this €25 ticket gives access to the upstairs gallery and the museum of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. At the same time, tourists who are not dressed according to the rules will have to buy a handkerchief and appropriate clothes near the ticket office for a small fee. In addition, inside the cathedral, guides were forbidden to gather groups, explain something in detail, and even use headsets. The only thing tourists can do is connect to the Internet through the Wi-Fi installed inside, from their phones, and listen to the audio guide through headphones by scanning the QR codes on the information board. Whether this service is paid is not specified, but it will be necessary to rent headphones for a fee – for an additional 100 lira. Even the Chamber of Guides of Istanbul (IRO) reacted indignantly to these innovations, outraged by the chaos and problems that arose on the first day of operation of the new rules.

Another cause for indignation was the aforementioned entrance to the cathedral for foreigners. From the point of view of the public, this “new building” does not fit into the architecture of Hagia Sophia. Most kinds called this corridor “the entrance to the garage”, others declared it “freak blinds, just like in a cheap supermarket”, but all agreed that it was “an impressive example of vandalism”. “Shopping center of St. Sophia, entrance for receiving goods,” tourists commented scathingly on social networks. Officials assure that the measure is temporary and related to the restoration of the minaret, but…

Let’s add one more consequence of chaos, which will rather upset the initiators of the innovation. On the first day of the launch of the new paid ticket system, very few tickets were bought, according to the Turkish media. That is, the tourists either turned around and voted with their feet, or filtered through the entrance for Turkish citizens.

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