Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Konya, Turkey

One of the many mosques in Konya

The Seven Advices of Mevlana (Rumi)

1. In generosity and helping others, be like a river.
2. In compassion and grace, be like the sun.
3. In concealing others' faults, be like the night.
4. In anger and fury, be like the dead.
5. In modesty and humility, be like the earth.
6. In tolerance, be like the sea.
7. Either exist as you are or be as you look.

Konya is a city in Turkey that shares it's history with the founding of the whirling dervishes, the sufi denomination (for lack of a better word) of Islam, and the beauty of Rumi's words. I went there in February after reading the novel The Forty Rules of Love, by Elif Shafak. The book was one of those that changes your life. In fact, when I closed the back cover I wept for the beauty of the words. I didn't agree with everything in the book or the characters all the time, but the beauty of the words were overwhelming. Anyway, since the novel takes place in Konya for part of the book, I felt the need to explore.

Al Aladdin Mosque where Rumi is said to have lectured and preached before becoming a poet, mystic and starter of the whirling dervishes.

It's about 3 1/2 hours by bus to get to Konya and costs no more than 20 Turkish Lira to get there. There are a plethora of hotels to stay in that are great and come with decent prices. We stayed in the Pasapark hotel which was lovely, clean and had just about the best breakfast buffet included! The staff there were incredibly helpful and kind and even spoke some English. I think our total cost per person for 2 nights (and we had room service one of those nights) was 148 Turkish Lira each. Not bad!! It was also a ten minute walk from the main attractions in the city: the Mevlana Museum, the city center, the bazaar, and a little further out were the Mevlana Cultural Center and the Al Aleddin Mosque (I'm not sure I am spelling that right, but it's one of the oldest mosques).

Our room at the Pasapark Hotel

Nothing says luxury like a pillow menu, right?

Since reading the novel, I was fascinated by the words of Rumi (the founder of the whirling dervishes alongside Shams of Tabriz and the most famous Turkish poet). So one of our first stops was the old mosque and then the Mevlana Museum. We got caught in a rain storm while walking to the museum but it was still wonderful. The museum houses the remains of Rumi, some of his top followers and his family. When you enter the actual museum, you cannot take pictures as it's also his tomb and a place of reverence. People came there simply to pray near the famed mystic, poet and spiritual leader. The sense of spirit in the place was awe inspiring and beautiful. It left me misty-eyed and feeling like I'd had a profound spiritual experience. The rest of the large grounds are covered with tombstones of women, carvings and epitaphs, beautiful grounds and the requisite museum store (that actually had decent prices). It cost a measly 3 Turkish Lira to enter the grounds and it was worth every minute and every kurus. In nice weather, its said that sometimes the dervishes whirl outside the tomb windows.

Kim and I, sopping wet from the sudden deluge of rain.

The Mevlana Museum after the rain cleared off.

Speaking of whirling dervishes, that was also high on our list of things to see. While shopping, we met a man who had lived on the west coast of Canada for sometime and was now selling carpets in Konya. He took us to his shop for tea, a sales pitch and a verbal/map tour of Konya to help us get settled in what we would see. He was really nice and my friend Kim ended up buying a carpet saddle bag from him for a very good price. He also told us that the dervishes perform their whirling ceremony every Saturday night at 8pm for free at the Cultural Centre.... so we put that on our list before heading out to see the mosque, bazaar and a nap!

Our carpet salesman/guide.

When we went to see the dervishes do their thing, I expected it to be very similar to the show I'd seen in Istanbul. But this was so much MORE!! The Mevlana Cultural Centre is on stunning grounds and has both an outdoor and an indoor ampitheatre. Being that it was still very cold out, our show took place indoors. We sat in very comfortable seats that ringed a large wooden space. There were white sheepskins on the floor around part of the ring to mark the spaces of the dervishes and one red one. I'm not sure if he was meant to symbolize Rumi himself or just the head of this particular sect/group. Either way, when the lights went down and in the domed ceiling the twinkling lights meant to be stars went up, you were transported. There were over 20 whirling dervishes on the floor at a time and two of them were young boys. It was beautiful to watch.

And, of course, when in Konya you need to try the local favourite food. I was told that the etli ekmek here is the best so that is what I had for lunch when we were out and about. It is basically a pide (long, thin crusted bread that has meat, cheeses, eggs etc depending on the type you order, and is baked in a stone/fire oven). It was delicious. My friend had the adana kebap, which is spicier, but still very nice.

Etli Ekmek

Is Konya a must see place in Turkey? YES!! I think it is... it is a wonderfully clean city (they were VACUUMING the streets when we were there) with flat even streets that are easy for anyone to navigate. The locals are friendly, the food is good and the sites are worth seeing for sure!
The vacuum was on it's way up the street.

The beautiful streets of Konya.


Paulette said...

Absolutely fanastic unbelievably exotic. Oh wow can't wait to go and see this fantastic city. That just took me back into another world. Thanks for the pics and story

Kristen said...

Thanks for you for sharing Angela, absolutely gorgeous adventure!