Konya is renowned for its whirling dervishes and Sufi Mevlana Jalaludin Rumi – the one and only. A few years ago when I read a book about the famous Rumi, I instantly fell in love. I didn’t know I’d come to love it so much, I’d fantasize living in his time and imagine what it was like being in his presence. Having said that, my infatuation lies more with Shams of Tabrez and his short lived influence on Rumi.
I remember the first time we set foot in Turkey, we landed in Istanbul. The energy I felt, spiritually, was profound. It was only the start of my journey towards Islam (I’ve been brought up Muslim but not on all matters of life because culture always intervenes – Alhamdulilah, finding my way back.) Konya had a special energy too. It was slightly more conservative, we found, as we observed the people around us. Where Adana had a 50:50 ratio of conservative and modern Turks – Konya was more 60:40 conservative.
- Arriving in Konya
After a three hour drive, we arrived at our quirky hotel, called Araf Hotel. It is situated right opposite the Mevlana museum, so naturally that was our first stop! When you enter, you are met with a beautiful garden of roses and colours leading you towards the entrance of an open courtyard containing small cells that were once used by students of the Mevlana order. These are now filled with objects related to dervish life such as instruments, clothing and even calligraphy. There is also a display of Qur’ans and in some other parts of the building, a collection of manuscripts and books (which we didn’t’t get to see). The girls and I spent a long number of hours playing in the garden because it was truly such a beauty. The girls mainly loved it due to two reasons 1/ there were a lot of butterflies everywhere and 2/ the sprinklers had leaked causing huge puddles to form everywhere and you guessed it! Where there are puddles, there will be lots of splashing. So we splashed. and jumped. and got our socks soaked through. That’s the fun of being kids. You don’t really need socks or shoes right? We also ran through the sprinklers.
We then continued into the museum shop where we purchased a copy of the Mathnawi – which is an extensive poem and one of the most influential works of Sufism. It is quite challenging to read, let alone try and understand it.
The next day at breakfast in the hotel, we met a couple of teachers who had traveled all the way from Canada. They were both well in their 60’s and were looking for company to go see the whirling dervish ceremony – called the Sema, with. So we agreed to meet in the evening and walk over to the centre together. Our hotel advised us on the authentic sema to experience as some of them are staged by professional performers. The evening walk was a lovely way to start off that nights events.The Sema was held at the Mevlana Cultural Centre. The experience itself is so difficult to explain and I think one that everyone has a very different connection to. It starts off with the rhythmic sound of instruments followed by chanting the names of Allah (dhikr). The eldest dervish then places himself at the top of the room where all the others greet him, or almost take permission, before one by one proceeding to spin into a trance-like state. It almost leaves you in a trance-like state, watching their movements. Eyes closed, arms extended towards the heavens, feet moving rhythmically landing almost in the same spot and yet moving around the whole room. It was a beautiful experience that we were able to be a part of.
About 8-10 miles off central Konya, we drove towards a Butterfly Garden on the second day of our stay. This was mainly a little halfway-through-the-roadtrip treat for the kids so they’d stay interested in our historical and cultural ventures we were taking them to. I was pleasantly surprised with their patience and would actually encourage parents to take the leap and book a holiday for yourselves where the kids might not have a lot to do per se. In actual fact, you’ll find they are resourceful (able to play practically anywhere!), engaging (they might surprise you with their interest in your interests) and even end up having fun and remembering fun facts about these places. Although it was fun to see what butterfly cocoons look like up close (and giant butterflies flying around!) Jana was mostly just scared of them (she claims to love all animals) maybe it just wasn’t her day. The butterfly Garden itself was wonderful. It had all sorts of facts about not just caterpillars and butterflies but also other insects. Bonus, they had a huge playground outside too. It was built using eco friendly materials and as soon as both girls realised what direction we were headed, they’re eyes lit up! Haya started bouncing up and down with excitement and we ran towards the playground when the dark clouds up above started roaring with thunder. A few seconds later it started pouring so we had to evacuate ourselves from the area (only because we were asked to leave. Because a little rain never hurt anyone, right?)
Driving away from Konya onto our next destination: Antalya.
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