Turkey’s Hagia Sophia went through several changes throughout its history. It was built in the 6th century as a traditional basilica, then it became a royal mosque, to a museum. The historical structure has been home to different religions, cultures, and artifacts. But this famous landmark in the heart of Istanbul also serves as a home to a charming cat named Gli, a favorite among many tourists and locals alike.

Gli is one of the many cats that found shelter in the spaces of Hagia Sophia. Gli is a tabby cat with green crossed eyes. She became a sensation when world leaders Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Barack Obama were seen petting her during the latter’s state visit. The photos made it to the headlines in 2009.

Umut Bahceci, a tour guide, made an Instagram account showing Gli’s everyday life at the museum. In her bio, it reads: “My land is Hagia Sophia. I’m a celebrity cat. They call me Union of Love. You can tag my beautiful pics.” The account has more than 80,000 followers and 600 posts as of July 2020. Tourists adore Gli’s charms. They take photos with her and tag her on Instagram. Umut shares, “I started noticing Gli every time I went (to Hagia Sophia) because Gli was posing for people like a model. I get messages such as, ‘Gli, we will come to Istanbul to see you.’ This is truly a very nice feeling.”

A decree from Prime Minister Erdogan to turn the museum back into a mosque was signed earlier in July. This is a meaningful event for people who are hoping to pray inside this historic monument. However, the decision made people wonder if Gli and the others could still stay in the spaces of Hagia Sophia. Plenty of questions appeared in local newspapers and social media. Will Gli have to leave her home?

Fortunately, Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin informed the media that all the cats in the area do not have to be relocated. “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”, Kalin said. With this good news, Gli and the others can continue to reside in the place where they were born. Her fans will surely be delighted!