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November 9, 2020

Gli, the Famous Cat of Hagia Sophia, Has Died


Just weeks after Hagia Sophia was converted from a museum to a mosque, Gli, the world famous cat of Hagia Sophia, has died.

Gli was born at Hagia Sophia in 2004, and she had 2 siblings, Pati and Kızım. Gli was loved by the tourists who visited Hagia Sophia, which was a museum at the time, and she became a symbol of Hagia Sophia.

Gli first rose to fame when Barack Obama visited Hagia Sophia in 2009, and he was filmed with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stroking Gli.

Gli, which means union of love in Turkish, was a popular presence at Hagia Sophia, with tourists often scouring the structure to take pictures of the green-eyed feline.

After it was told that Hagia Sophia was re-opening as a mosque on 24 July 2020, Gli was posted all over social media and became famous again. After the news of Hagia Sophia re-opening for worship, Gli's fate was on the news as well. Presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın, made a statement: "That cat has become very famous, and there are others who haven’t become that famous yet. That cat will be there, and all cats are welcome to our mosques."

Gli died on 7 November 2020, after receiving treatment in a veterinary clinic in Levent, Istanbul, since 24 September. It was announced that she will be buried in the premises of the Hagia Sophia. The Instagram account @hagiasophiacat was dedicated to Gli and was followed by more than 118,000 people at the time of her death.

"I am sorry to lose Gli. Hagia Sophia's cat Gli, who has been treated in a private veterinary clinic in Levent since September 24, unfortunately, passed away due to old age. We will never forget you, Gli," Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya wrote on Saturday.

There was concern during the site's transition back to a mosque that it would upset the cat's home of 16 years, but officials were quick to confirm that she would be allowed to continue living there. Gli was moved to an isolated room away from visitors before she died, and prayers were requested for her recovery.

Some online users have blamed the cat's death on the changes to Hagia Sophia's status.

One Twitter user wrote: "When you move an animal from a place where it knows the house where it gets used to, sleeps, eats and drinks, and receives mercy and care, neither that animal nor that place will be the same as before. The blood of Gli and all animals killed by displacement is in the hands of those who intend to erase our shared memories and our past."

Gli has shared celebratory status with another cat in the city called Tombili, who was immortalized with its very own statue when it won the hearts of thousands after being snapped famously lying back on a pavement.

Cats have been a noted presence in Turkey, with Istanbul housing as many as 125,000 stray felines who are looked after by authorities, as well as by the general population, who often leave food around makeshift shelters in public spaces.

The cats of Istanbul have become so famous that in 2017 a documentary was made about them called Kedi, which followed their daily lives.