Hagia Sophia opens for Muslim worshippers

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Friday prayers are to be held at Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia building for the first time since the celebrated museum was turned back into a mosque.

“Muslims are excited, everyone wants to be at the opening,” Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya said on Thursday.

The 1,500-year-old Unesco World Heritage site became a museum in 1934.

But earlier this month, a Turkish court annulled Hagia Sophia’s museum status, saying its use as anything other than a mosque was “not possible legally”.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan then announced that the world-famous site would be used as a mosque for Friday prayers from 24 July.

The move was criticised by religious and political leaders worldwide.

Hagia Sophia was built as an Orthodox Christian cathedral and first converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest nine centuries later.

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