Konya and the whirling dervishes

Konya, wow!  How come I had never been here before?  It’s not far from Antalya, and for a number of years Ferda and I had looked at the schedule for the annual Şeb-i Arus festival to try and coordinate a trip.  However, I feel like people dis Konya a lot which is one of my excuses for having not been before.  I have to thank Tommy for inspiring us to go this year.  When he was visiting us in Antalya, he talked about heading to Konya next to see the whirling dervishes.  In the end Tommy didn’t go, but he put the idea in my head.  Thanks, Tommy.  Konya’s a great place to visit.

Şeb-i Arus Festival, also known as Mevlana Festival or Rumi Festival or Whirling Dervishes Festival — take your pick!, not surprisingly attracts lots of Iranians.  Born to Persian parents, Rumi wrote most of his poetry in Persian.  In Shiraz I remember being impressed with how the Iranians could recite Hafez’s poetry from memory.  I bet they do well with Rumi also.  However, it’s not just Iranians — we talked with Japanese (from Fukuoka where Ferda and I had been less than two months earlier!), Malaysians, a German woman, and an Afghan man all in Konya for the festival.  I had no idea to expect such an international crowd.

Ferda and I squeezed this trip in between a couple other commitments and only spent two days in Konya.  That’s not enough.  You need at least three days, more if you want to attend workshops, classes, or discussions about Sufiism, Rumi, and related topics.  Another mistake we made was not going to the new Panorama Müzesi first.  There we found the best overview of Rumi’s life and also interesting information about Selçuk symbols that we had seen in other museums and mosques in the city.  The internet reviews of this “wax museum” aren’t great, but there really is some good information here.

For example, at the Taş ve Ahşap Eserleri Müzesi (Museum of Wood and Stone Carving) which is housed in the handsome İnce Minare Medrese:

IMG_20191213_125533 by bryandkeith on flickr

which happens to have some nice tile work:

IMG_20191213_130357 by bryandkeith on flickr

Ferda and I came across this unusual 15th century Selçuk carving of a winged angel:

A winged angel from the 15th century Selçuk period. by bryandkeith on flickr

At that museum we couldn’t find any information about the carving or its meaning.  However, the Panorama Müzesi put together this panel (with an attached explanation) which includes at least six Selçuk motifs found locally, three of which are in the İnce Minare Medrese.  See the winged angel on the right?

IMG_20191213_181836_41_1 by bryandkeith on flickr

The angels help people and represent goodness according to some researchers.

I also wish I had read the Panorama Müzesi’s summary of Rumi’s life before visiting the Mevlana Müzesi which is home to Rumi’s tomb.  The Mevlana Müzesi is housed in another nice building which was used as a dervish lodge (tekke) before it was turned into a museum.

IMG_20191212_164258 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191212_172318 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191212_223726 by bryandkeith on flickr

There are exhibits showing how the lodge was used by the dervishes, their clothes, books, and instruments, but precious little information about Sufiism or the Mevlevi dervish sect.  Indeed, I couldn’t find this information anywhere in Konya.  Maybe you need to attend one of the specialized workshops.

Most people come to the museum to pay their respects to Rumi at his tomb, shown here:

IMG_20191212_173529 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191213_164710 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191212_172530 by bryandkeith on flickr

I was surprised how crowded it was.  People were reverent and respectful.

The 12th century (Rumi lived in the 13th century) was Konya’s golden age when it was the capital of the Selçuk Sultanate of Rum.  There are lots of interesting historic buildings around.  However, as the Phrygian, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and later Ottoman civilizations were all here as well, it’s hard to keep track of just what you’re looking at.

IMG_20191213_134059 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191213_150338 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191213_150443 by bryandkeith on flickr

This mosque, Selimiye Camii, looks Ottoman to me:

IMG_20191212_175452 by bryandkeith on flickr

Here’s a 13th century seminary, Sırçalı Medrese, with some nice tile work:

IMG_20191213_145740_4 by bryandkeith on flickr

However, the best tile work is preserved in another 13th century seminary, Karatay Medresesi, now the Çini Eserler Müzesi (Tile Museum).  Check it out:

IMG_20191213_135443 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191213_135514 by bryandkeith on flickr

That’s probably the most impressive tile work I’ve seen since Esfahan.

The tiled mihrab in the Alaeddin Mosque is supposed to be very nice as well, but the mosque was crowded for Friday noon prayers when we went by, and we never made it back.

Konya’s archaeological museum houses its small collection in, to put it nicely, an unassuming building.  The collection, however, is impressive.  Here is yet another Roman Hercules sarcophagus (there are three in the Antalya Müzesi):

Herakles Lahdi, Roman ~250CE by bryandkeith on flickr

a 4000-year-old bathtub:

An Assyrian bathing vessel from ~1850BCE by bryandkeith on flickr

and 9000-year-old (really??!!) bowls and salt shakers:

Neolithic Çatalhöyük stuff from 7000BCE by bryandkeith on flickr

Arriving in Konya at the bus station, Ferda and I took a dolmuş into the center and easily found a hotel without a reservation.  There are lots of accommodation choices in the fun to explore pedestrian streets ~400m west of the Mevlana Müzesi.

IMG_20191212_163011 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191212_163915 by bryandkeith on flickr

You probably should, however, buy tickets in advance for the sema.  That’s the whirling dervish performance that I’m sure you’re anxiously awaiting!

We walked to the performance in the evening passing the nicely lit İstiklâl Harbi Şehitliği, a memorial to those killed in the nasty fighting at Çanakkale (Gallipoli) during World War 1.

IMG_20191212_193557 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20191212_223316 by bryandkeith on flickr

And finally the dervishes!

IMG_20191212_214719 by bryandkeith on flickr

From my notes the sema “was a beautiful, calming, mesmerizing experience,”  well worth a visit to Konya in its own right.

IMG_20191212_220430 by bryandkeith on flickr

Sorry for all the long, weird names and long, convoluted sentences in this post.

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1 Response to Konya and the whirling dervishes

  1. Derek and Jennie Werner says:

    Nice Bryan! Derek and Jennie

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