The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul was built in 537 and has has been a Greek Orthodox basilica, a Catholic cathedral, an Ottoman imperial mosque, and a museum. In 2020, the President of Turkey ordered to reclassify Hagia Sophia back into a mosque.
But no matter what happens to the place, there’s one cat that will always call it home.
This is Gli. A beautiful European shorthair with slightly crossed-eyes and an attitude of a royal has been living within the centuries-old walls for most of her 16 years of life and has become a favorite among all the tourists that pass through.
Also, Gli has her own Instagram and she has Umut Bahceci running it. She too was born in Istanbul. “I’m in love with this city. I’ve seen more than 20 countries and so many beautiful cities but deep in my heart, I believe that Istanbul is the Queen of all cities and Hagia Sophia is the crown of Istanbul,” said Bahceci.
Bahceci had been a tour guide at Hagia Sophia since it was a museum and said her love for it was the biggest reason why she chose this career. She said that Istanbul is famous for its stray cats, and people have even been making documentaries about them. “It was normal to see cats both around and in Hagia Sophia, but there was something special about this one. I saw a light in her from the very beginning of our relationship. The way she poses, the way she walks, the way she behaves is totally different from other cats, even her sister Kizim. One day, I saw her in the newspaper in a photo with Obama and President Erdoğan,” Bahceci said. “It was then that I learned her name.” Perfectly describing the cat’s character, Gli means ‘union of love‘.
Since she started to watch Gli more and more, she realized that Gli really brought everyone together. Whatever their religion, the color of their skin or gender was, they all smiled when they met Gli.
“I created an Instagram account for Gli so that I could collect and keep her photos in one place. Eventually, people slowly started sending me their pictures of her,” Bahceci said.
If she was asked to describe Gli’s personality with one word, it would be ‘queen‘. Gli loves to pose for the cameras but if Hagia Sophia becomes a bit too crowded for her, the cat might hide in a quiet corner. “In winter, she loves to be in front of the light projectors because they do a good job keeping her warm.” The whole staff is her family but Bahceci wanted to thank archeologist Defne Bali, the vice director of Hagia Sophia, for taking care of Gli from the moment she was born. She will continue to live in Hagia Sophia, the place where she was born and grew up in, even after its conversion to a mosque.