This section of the tour (Points F-H on the Mytilene Map) is an introduction to some of the lesser known buildings in Mytilene – some might even say it is the alternative part of the tour! It is important, however, to acknowledge the influence of the Muslim community on much of the architecture throughout the city. Mytilene had a considerable Muslim population during the Ottoman rule from the 15th to the early 20th Century, but in the early 1920’s, when the majority of the Turkish population left the island, the Mosques that were once such a bustling centre of religion and culture, were left empty and derelict.
As you walk along Navmachias Ellis you will see a building half covered in greenery on the corner of Ermou. This is the Yali Cami mosque! It was built by the old port after the earthquake in 1867, and was one of many Mosques that were central to the Muslim community. The actual materials used to construct the building were brought all the way over from Sarmusak, a major quarry in Turkey that lies near the bay of Ayvalik (DETAM 2013). If you look closely you can just about see the entrance of the original women’s section on the north-eastern outer corner of the mosque. You also might be able to spot the remains of a pentagonal minaret on the north-western corner, that collapsed in 1939 ((Meserve 2008).
It is worthwhile having a look inside, where you will see the numerous equilateral windows and lanterns that give the interior a sense of space and light. You will also notice a rather elegant two-sided marble staircase which leads up to a marble landing and then onto a double, wooden, arch-shaped door which leads into the Mosque. If you look closely you will see plate over the door that has an inscription in Arabic, which both praises God and writes that the Mosque was built upon an older one in 1690 (Meserve 2008).
After you are finished here, turn left onto Ermou and then take your second right on Simantiri. Then, after a short distance, turn right onto Lorentzou Mavilli, for about 20m – Tarsi Hamam will be on your left.
Tarsi Hamam (The Ottoman baths)
Although not a specifically Islamic building, these old baths built by the Turks during the Ottoman period would have been central to the Muslim Community, helping to confirm both the religious and social context of the religion within the city. It was used as a general reception area where inhabitants would take foreigners for both business and social purposes, and so was a real hub for those of the Islamic faith (Kanetaki 2004).
Its design tends to follow the neo-ottoman style of the 19th Century, as can be seen by the various domes on the roof, but also displays some features of the classical era of the 16th Century. Although you may not be able to actually enter the building itself, it interesting to note how the rooms are ordered. They work in a linear fashion, moving from the cold room to the hot room, which imitates the way of the ancient ‘balneo’ and the thermal baths in the Roman times (DETAM 2013). The actual entrance to the bath is on the eastern side, which leads to the square room with the large hemispheric dome you can see from the street. In the present day, the baths no longer function, but instead the establishment hosts several cultural events each year, and is still an important monument for the citizens of Mytilene (Kanetaki 2004).
When you feel you have had enough, keep following Lorentzou Mavilli until to reach Lesvonaktos. Take a right at this juncture, and follow the road until to get to Kornarou. Turn left here and walk for about 100m, Valide Cami will be on your right.
The first thing you will notice when you approach the Valide Cami is its dilapidated and abandoned appearance. The current building was built around 1791, so do not get confused by the inscription over the front entrance which says 1615, as this was the construction date of an older structure (DETAM 2013). Throughout the centuries it has been called various names, from Balic, Vali and Valide Camii, so don’t be shocked if the locals don’t know what you’re talking about if you ask for directions!
You will see from the outside that the Mosque is made out of stone, and that the roof is perhaps a little unusual with its gabled structure. The double door that you can see from the outside is the main entrance to the inner mosque, although you may struggle to actually enter the building.
Nevertheless, through the windows on either side of the door you can still see the remnants of the slabs that covered the floor, and you might even be able to spot some of the remaining lamps and candelabras that were used to light up the interior of the Mosque. Even though the Mosque’s yard now lies empty and derelict, it was once home to a white-marble fountain that was decorated with graven arabesques – it is now stored in the Archeological Museum in the city, which, although not on this tour, is definitely worth a visit! Another really special feature of this Mosque is the minaret in the north-western corner, the only one still standing in the city. Its form is intriguing, with a hexagonal base and cylindrical body, it stands at a towering 15 meters high (Meserve 2008).
After you have finished at this site, you can move on to your final destination on the Tour! Keep following Kornarou for nearly 900m until you reach Theatrou. Turn right here and then right again when you reach Ekatonision. Follow this road for a short distance and then turn left onto Diofanous.
When you reach Agias Kiriakis, turn right, and then take your next left onto the path. Keep following this uphill path, taking the right option at the small juncture, and eventually you will come to a small clearing – you have arrived at the Ancient Theatre!