Aslanhane Mosque (Aslanhane Camii)
Built in 1290, Aslanhane Mosque (Aslanhane Camii) is Ankara’s oldest mosque. Located just beneath Ankara Castle in the city’s old town, Aslanhane is sometimes called the “Lion’s Den” or Ahi Serafettin Mosque. It’s open to visitors who want to view its beautiful stone-and-wood architecture.
Crowned by a single minaret, Aslanhane Mosque was constructed under the rule of the Selcuk sultans and is a superb example of Selcuk architecture. It takes its “Lion’s Den” name from the statue of a lion buried at the nearby tomb of its founder, Ahi Serafettin. The mosque’s biggest draw is its “forest-style” wood-pillared prayer hall.
Visitors start by viewing the stone façade with its three entrance doors before entering to admire the prayer hall—where 24 dark-wood columns hold up the high wooden ceiling. Take in the stone capitals that top the pillars and admire other highlights such as a tiled mihrab (prayer niche) and carved minbar (pulpit).
Things to Know Before You Go
Wear comfortable shoes suitable for walking on the uneven surfaces and steps.
The steps to the entrance make the Aslanhane inaccessible for wheelchair-users and strollers.
How to Get There
Aslanhane Mosque stands on Can Sokak, one of the cobbled lanes inside Ankara’s old quarter, just below the city’s hilltop citadel. The easiest way to reach the mosque is on foot from the nearest metro station of Ulus—although you’ll need to factor in a roughly 25-minute walk. Look for the mosque at the junction of Can and Kus Sokak. Street parking may be available outside, but be prepared to park in the neighboring lanes.
When to Get There
Aslanhane Mosque is open daily, but usually only at the six prayer times: in the small hours and at dawn, midday, late afternoon, sunset, and after dark. Check the official prayer times once in Ankara, and aim to get to the mosque about 20 minutes after the call to prayer for the chance to go inside.
Must-Sees at the Aslanhane Mosque
As with many of Ankara’s medieval buildings, the Aslanhane’s builders re-purposed some of the city’s classical stone ruins in its construction—the capitals on the pillars are recycled Roman and Greek relics. Make sure you also inspect the intricate cedarwood minbar, with its elegant balustrades and entrance door framed by fish motifs; as well as the mihrab—a stunning, ceiling-high niche coated in shimmering, multi-colored tiled mosaics.
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