Eyup Sultan is always busy, but on that night the courtyard, the paved square outside the gates, and the nearby streets were thronged with people, milling about and jockeying for spots big enough to lay down mats.
My host’s large family somehow scored a spot inside the courtyard near the relics, and we ate pizza and orange drink after the Maghrib athan and then prayed inside.
It is not unusual to see trees like these in masjids and historic sites in Istanbul, often over 500 years old.
People line up to see the tomb of the Sahabi (radiallahu anhu) and the footprint of the Prophet Muhammad (salallahu alayhe wa sallam).
After praying Maghrib, the whole family hiked up a cobblestoned path up the side of a very large hill next to the masjid, overlooking the Golden Horn. From a distance, this hill looks like a huge jumble of white blocks and trees – it is covered with tightly packed marble tombs dating from Ottoman times to the present, with trees planted among them here and there, and threaded with tiny footpaths trodden by all the people who visit the tombs. It was very dark, and all the surfaces were covered with worm-like centipedes as big as my fingers. It was a little creepy.
Up near the top of the hill was a brightly lit cafe, where people sat at little tables next to the tombs, smoking and drinking sweet tea. Cable cars ran up the side of the hill, and the passengers took an elevator up to a cobbled viewpoint overlooking the cemetery, the Bosphorus, and the Asian side of Istanbul across the water. The city and the two bridges between the continents were brightly lit and very beautiful. People took turns standing on a stool to look through a telescope at the city, and had a good laugh when my turn came and I just stood on the ground below the stool – at 5’5 I'm taller than a lot of people here.
Up at the top of the hill was a small masjid, a tea shop, and an ancient hand-pumped well purported to be ‘like Zamzam,’ having healing powers. People were lining up to pump water and drink it out of a tin cup on a chain, but I didn't drink because I didn't want to risk getting sick.
My we sat around outside the masjid drinking tea and well-water, and then all walked back down through the cemetery.
There are some gorgeous photos of people in the masjıd courtyard here, and some interesting epitaphs from tombstones here (I don't understand Turkish well enough to translate them).