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Vajpayee visits symbol of Turkish secularism

M Shakeel Ahmed in Istanbul | September 19, 2003 17:55 IST


On a day when the Babri masjid demolition case hogged the headlines back home, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited the Hajia Sophia shrine symbolising the essence of Turkish secularism and the Topkapi Palace, which houses a relic of Prophet Mohammad, in capital Istanbul.

Originally a Byzantine church, it was converted into a mosque by Sultan Ahmed. After Kemal Ataturk proclaimed the Turkish Republic it was made non-denominational, neither Christian nor Islamic, and is today widely revered.

The Topkapi Palace, the seat of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, also houses the original doors of the Kaba at Mecca and a throne of Persian ruler Nadir Shah, who had plundered India.

Vajpayee spent half-an-hour visiting the two places.

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