The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul has been many things, from a Greek Orthodox basilica to an Ottoman imperial mosque to the museum it is today. But perhaps the most quirky of its roles is being the home of an Insta-famous cat.
The Hagia Sophia is one of the most famous and recognisable buildings in the world. Photo ©Salvator Barki/Getty Images
Gli, which means “union of love” according to her official page on the museum’s website, is a beautiful European shorthair cat with slightly crossed-eyes and a regal attitude. She’s been living within the millennia-old walls of Turkey‘s Hagia Sophia for most of her fourteen years of life, and in the meantime, she has become a darling for all tourists that pass through the museum.
“She really, really likes to pose,” tour guide Umut Bahçeci, who runs Gli’s Instagram account, told Lonely Planet. Apparently, the late English writer Terry Pratchett was right when he said that: “In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods and they have not forgotten this.”
“Gli has a strategy,” continued Umut. “If she wants to interact with people she will stand under the Muezzins’ lodge, but if she is [too] tired to be hugged she will sit down in the middle of the omphalos.” The omphalos is a marble section of the floor located beneath the dome, the spot where Byzantine emperors used to be crowned. It is very precious and very delicate, which is why it’s roped off so that tourist won’t step on it – or bother Gli when she wants to have some alone time.
Gli is ready to welcome tourists into the Hagia Sophia. Image: Courtesy of the Hagia Sophia Cat Instagram page
If you now feel like you absolutely need to pet Gli during your next visit to Istanbul, you might want to mark down her seasonal movements. “Her favourite spot inside Hagia Sophia changes depending on the weather,” Umut said. “In winter she loves standing right in front of the projector light that illuminates both the nish, the altar, and the minbar, the pulpit, because it’s very warm.” But during summer mornings you can find her resting on the floor, in the patches of light created by the sun streaming in from the windows.
Gli’s slightly crossed eyes only make her more adorable. Image: Courtesy of the Hagia Sophia Cat Instagram page
Gli’s sister Kizim also lives inside the Hagia Sophia, but it’s Gli who’s the famous one – she has her own Instagram and Tumblr account, and she even met former US president Barack Obama during one of his official visits to Turkey.