From the outside, the wooden mosque of Maral looked plain and boring. Situated on a slope, next to a winding mountain road, it would be easy to dismiss it as an abandoned building with no life. The wood was old and tired. It looked out of place with the metal minaret. I was not expecting to be wowed. Once you have seen the size and décor of the Blue mosque in Istanbul, it is difficult to view any other mosque with the same admiration.
I felt guilt at my criticism of the outside appearance when the guide told me the mosque was 160 years old. In this area of Turkey, once occupied by the Russians, the history of the people who have crossed its doorstep would be varied and interesting, yet it is untold. The lesson was not to judge on first appearances though as the beauty lay inside the doors.
Any hard-core interior design would instantly criticise the clash of colours spreading across the room, up the beams and across the dome ceiling. I was drawn to it though as the beauty lays in the workmanship and intricate details.
Scenes from the Quran adorned the walls. Each one carefully painted by hand.
In a surprising twist, the ceiling reminded me of the rising Japanese sun, but with a variety of colours, not just red and white. The hat and gown of the Imam, hang on the wall, next to the window where a full view of the green valley came into sight.
The woodwork and colours caught my attention, but I was also intrigued by the carpet and doubted it was the original. I had taken my shoes off at the door and could feel the soft wool of the carpet under my feet. No signs of wear and tear were evident and it was immaculate.
The stairs creaked as I walked upstairs to the section for women. I wonder if this would be the moment, that the floor beams finally gave in after hundreds of years of support. I did not want to be the inconsiderate foreigner who ruined the local village mosque so I made my way outside.
The attention of the group was drawn to the door on the steel minaret. It opened to reveal the original wooden structure and winding stairs that take the imam to the top to make the call to prayer. While the men in the group climbed the stairs, I declined. The thought of being in a steel tube in the height of summer was not appealing.
A large sheet of steel covered one side of the mosque. The guide said the locals are worried about the wooden mosque of Maral. The heat of summer and the coldness of winter are taking its toll on the wood. Hopefully the steel will prolong its life.
I admire their concern because in other areas of the Black sea of Turkey, the preservation of these mosques is not on a list of importance. This baker in Samsun bought a 300-year-old wooden mosque. His intention was to break it down and use it for firewood to fuel his ovens.
Will the wooden mosque of Maral still be there in 100 years’ time?
I doubt it