Trip Start May 20, 2008
Trip End Sep 15, 2008

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Where I stayed
Konya Lodge

Flag of Turkey  , Konya,
Tuesday, June 3, 2008

6/4 Konya was just a quick lunch stop for us between Egirdir and Goreme. It is the fourth largest city in Turkey and not very attractive. It is in a dry valley surrounded by mountains reminding me of Las Vegas. The city has one big attraction - it is the home of the whirling dervishes. I'll spare you a lot of the detail but the whirling dervishes originated in the 1200's to honor Celaleddin Rumi, one of the world's great mystic philosophers. He later became known as Mevlana hence the Mevlana Museum. The dervishes are famous for their traditional prayer dance where the spin around (whirl).

Over the centuries after Mevlana's death many dervish orders were established around the Ottoman Empire to practice conservative Islam (extremely traditional Islam rather than radical Islam). In 1925 Ataturk saw the dervishes as an obstacle to advancement for the Turkish people so he banned them. In 1957 the Konya lodge was revived as a cultural association to preserve the historical tradition. For Muslims, the Mevlana Museum is a very holy place with more than 1.5 million visitors a year.

The museum was much smaller than I expected. It was also full of very traditional Muslim women crowding the exhibits. They are typically quite large so gridlock presented a problem. Much of the museum was in Arabic with no English translation although the key sights did have English titles. A local guide also kidnapped me and started explaining the highlights of the museum to me for 10 lira. We were on a tight schedule so he actually was quite helpful in shoving us through the crowds.

The tomb of Mevlana and members of his family drew the most attention with some ladies sitting on the floor and praying to Mevlana. There were some men there but the vast majority of visitors were Muslim women. There were other tombs for eminent dervishes and sultans. There were many very historic editions of the Koran which were beautiful and still in great condition. Koran verses on grains of rice as well as editions of the Koran in miniature I found fascinating.

A small casket supposedly containing hair from Mohammed's beard was a bit extreme to me but I did find some of the old prayer garments worn by Mevlana 800 years ago more intriguing. There is a gorgeous prayer carpet made in Iran of silk and wool on display that contains more than 3 million knots.

Next door to the museum is the Selimiye Mosque built in 1567 but we didn't have time to go inside. The stop was nice for me since I could walk around on a long driving day. As we left Konya our driver stopped at a roadside stand and treated us each to a roasted ear of corn. We all thought they were pretty dry and I thought it was way too salty but it is not a bad snack compared to Turkish delight and some of the other options. Then we were back on the road again.
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