Erdogan joins thousands to pray at Hagia Sophia

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Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan joined huge crowds for the first prayers at Hagia Sophia in nine decades, sealing his ambition to restore Muslim worship at an ancient site long revered in both Christianity and Islam.

After the call to prayer rang out from four minarets surrounding the mosque, whose rose-pink walls and huge grey dome have dominated Istanbul since Christian Byzantine times, hundreds knelt in prayer inside the building.

Outside, tens of thousands more prayed in a public square and on sidewalks, squeezing into spaces between cars or in cafes, joining a ceremony which many saw as righting a historic mistake when the mosque was converted to a museum in 1934 by modern Turkey’s secularist founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.