maanantai 23. marraskuuta 2015

Konya - whirling dervishes city

Mevlana´s life´s work-respecting museum in Konya

1200´s suufi scholar  Mevlana

Whirling dervishes
We passed Konya about five years ago in the way to Cappadocia. There we followed  the religious ceremony of dervishes in one Caravan Saray near Avanos which is a picturesque small town in Cappadocia.
The city of Konya has close links with the life and work of Celadennin Rumi, or Mevlana, the 13th-century founder of the Mevlevi dervish sect - better known as the ´whirling´ dervishes. Rumi developed a philosophy of spiritual union and universal love, and is regarded as one of the Islamic world´s greatest mystics. He settled in Seljuk-ruled Konya.
According to my travel guide (Eyewitness Travel Turkey) he believed that music and dance represented a means to induce an ecstatic state of universal love and offered a way to liberate the individual from the anxiety and pain of daily life. His greatest work Mesnevi, consists of 25,000 poems.
Central to the practice of the dervishes is the sema, or whirling ceremony. The get once experience of that mystic ceremony is interesting although it does not open up easily to an outsider. I was sitting just a few meters away from the dancers. I felt skirts airflow on my face. I think that whirling or rotation with the eyes closed happened the whole time to the same direction. Central theme is love.Sharing the love of God on earthly beings. The ceremony combines both spiritual and intellectual elements, emphasizing self-realization and the ultimate goal, which is perfect union with God.

Mevlana museum is the most important reason why travellers visit here. In addition, at the heart of the city lies the circular Alaeddin Park, a low hill dominated by the Alaeddin Mosque, Konya´s largest. It was finished in 1220 by Alaeddin Keykubad I (1219-36), the greatest and most profilic builder of the Seljuk sultans. Alaeddin has had his winter palace in Alanya, where we have our holiday home.

Konya is very conservative city, where different kinds of western man customary entertainments are scarce. Our hostel owner told that people here are very hard working, thrifty and religious. As I recall Erdogan´s AKP´s support was there 80% in just held parliamentary elections.

Driving from Alanya to Konya, 270 kms, over the Taurus Mountains, takes 4 hours. The road is in fairly good condition. After the mountains you will arrive to Highlands, where the driving is easier. Konya is located in such a plateau at an altitude of about one kilometer. Everywhere it was very dry, brown color dominated the slopes and valleys. Winter rains where not started, even though it was already mid-November. Completely bare mountain tops could be seen before arriving Konya. Snow was not yet evident along this road, but we heard that the first snow was already available in the highest mountains

The Konya metropolis opened before our eyes as a huge view of low buildings everywhere in the middle of smog. Driving to the center seemed infinitely long. However, we had GPS coordinates of our small hotel in navigator and it was easily found. Otherwise it could be mission impossible. The old city, where craftsmen and merchants has been living for hundred years, consists of very narrow streets, where driving is difficult. Finding of some specific address could be impossible. Only around mosques there is more space. Of course, for car driving, also some wider streets exists but in buildings you will not find numbers like in Europe.

Our original intention was to travel on Saturday, but the hotel was fully booked because people came here to see dervish ceremony. Now it was not our target. Thus, arriving on Sunday was okay. Shoes must be stripped at the door in our hostel. A beautiful rug covers the lobby floor and it was not allowed to step into it before we got the given slippers. We understood that the owner´s father dyed carpet warps to subtle natural colors. The family also had a carpet shop. We enjoyed a small bowl of asure. It most closely resembles an apple porridge with lots of nuts, pomegranate seeds and cinnamon. Good and probably healthy.

Travel fatigue weighted but we wanted to catch up the museum having decorative tiles and other objects from the Seljuk period. The museum was found by the help of friendly young locals. This escort took us up to the gate of the museum.

The sun was setting. The food began to come into mind. We could find only fast food restaurants. Again we got help. With a friendly guidance, we ended up into effectively organized köfte slot. Gradually we understood that during these two days we will not hit restaurants with several dishes, wine and bear. Only water and cola were the options. Perhaps in big hotels outside the center, that kind of service is available but we were not interested to go so far from the heart of the city. In addition, big hotels are identical in every corner of the world. We wanted to see how local people live here.

It was Sunday and we saw plenty of well-dressed pedestrians on the streets, especially the youth. Almost all, including young girls, had the scarfs and fashionable long coats, clearly dressing according to the city´s religious life, but looking elegant and expensive. I had camera in pocket but I assumed that they do not like that I take photographs. Only a pair of seating students, in a table next to us, were a target of secret image in the next day.

After sunset, darkness was soon around us. The lighting was inadequate for reading the tourist map, and the environment. We walked astray and felt chilly. We decided to take a taxi.

Monday´s program was the Mevlana Museum. We lived quite near it. The museum was impressive. All the other guests were Turks. Polite ladies helped my wife fasten the scarf properly. We were walking speechless in the great mystic´s premises. Also other visitors were silent. Here a learned man´s religion is practiced. This is like Christians pilgrimage places. Here too it seemed to be accommodation for students and pilgrims. In the background quiet flute music was playing.

After that we walked about 1,5 kilometer to the hill where Alaeddin mosque is. Unfortenately renovation is going on there. The fence prevented to see anything. The mosque is surrounded by a large park. The flowers were removed and land was modified for the next summer. We saw some Syrian refugees here and adjacent to an other mosque.  At the night temperature was close to zero, so the conditions for outdoors people can be difficult. At the moment in Konya is 20.000 refugees from Syria. Some of them are working and the price is only half of the Turks salary. Some will benefit but to the others they are competing labor.

We could walk around still alleys and shops beeing able to do this in peace. We saw only a few tourist shops near Mevlana museum. This suggests that tourist bus stop only there, perhaps in a way to Cappadocia.

Konya seems to be exposed to smog, especially in calm high pressure conditions. Now the weather was that kind. The smell of smoke leaked out in the nose in the morning when I opened the window. Our host believes that the reason is a rich coal burning.

A short stay in Konya ended to friendly good-byes to our hotel´s owner, his German wife and sister. In traveling back to Alanya to our holiday home, we met dozens of police and army cars coming back from Antalya´s G20 meeting. After just over three hours driving warm, fresh sea breeze, welcomed us back.

I am thinking what kind of person Mevlana really is? At the time when Christians in Europe were building great Cathedrals, this man was sitting here in the middle of mountains, focusing on thinking about the meaning of life, in search of God and a good life model? His thoughts are far from current jihadism. Something about his education has still been mediated to Konya of present day. The museum was featured in representing the beautiful calligraphy of the Korans. Heavy books could be readed only by using lectern. A couple of hundred years later, shortly before the muslim's conquest of Konstantinopol (1453), Gutenberg in Germany invented the printing press. Books began to be readily available, but the Sultans banned other books to read. Islamic scholars focused only on studying Koran and calligraphy. In Europe began Enlightenment. Christian world began to understand and master the scientific and technological means. Art of printing made it possible to spread knowledge. Sultans dominated Ottoman empire was left outside of this development and lost its power step by step in the 1800s. After the first world war Ataturk founded modern Turkey (1923), where, among other things, religion and state were separated from each other. Is christian culture a winner? Science and culture have brought a lot of good. Have we, however, lost some values still existing, according to my experience, in Turkey? In Konya it senses clearly. As an outsider, it is difficult to assess how much this is based on a deep religiosity or maybe more on compliance with traditions. Anyway human kindness and courteous behavior are common here. I like to take this travel souvenir with me to my country, Finland. Mevlana´s thoughts and themes sense and sensibility and yet also in Corinthias ...and the greatest of these is love, still live. They are also age-old themes in imaginative literature.

Our small hotel Dervis near Mevlana museum

Double Eagle 1200s. This Byzantine and Russian imperial symbol seems to have it in Seljuk period too.

Mevlana´s tomb

Koran artwork


Dervishes consultation

Pigeons on a sloping surface

The nearby University students during lunch

Our hotel's breakfast room

Landscape from car window in mountain area

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