City That Speaks To The Heart

KONYA AND THE NIGHT OF REUNION... SYNONYMOUS WITH MEVLANA, THIS CITY, EXALTED BY THE WHIRL OF THE DERVISHES, INVITES EVERYONE TO THE REUNION, DECEMBER 7 TO 17.

Literary capital of the steps and Selcuk states, Konya is like an open air museum of history and religion. Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, who compares the city to a play of light in his book, Five Cities, gives a clue to understanding Konya: “It is like the inwardly-rich Central Anatolian, sound of spirit, glad to be alive, outwardly modest. To be able to grasp it, you need to mingle closely with its times and seasons.”

Rising in the heart of the city, Alâeddin Hill is named for the Seljuk mosque that stands atop it. Immediately adjacent to this eight-century-old temple rises a fragment of the Pavilion of Kılıçarslan II. Its surroundings recently given a facelift, Alâeddin Mosque is at the same time home to the graves of eight Seljuk sultans. And the avenue that runs from here to the Mevlana Dervish Lodge fairly teems with historic structures: İplikçi Mosque, Şerafettin Mosque, Şems-i Tebrizi Mosque and Maqam, Selimiye Mosque and, finally, the Mevlana Dervish Lodge. In the maqam, which houses cenotaphs of Mevlana and his descendants, various artifacts of Mevlevi culture are exhibited alongside animations. Konya Museums Director Yusuf Benli, who says that the lodge draws close to two and a half million visitors a year, tells us they want to create a Mevlana Valley of Culture here.

İbrahim Dıvarcı is a Konya photographer and one of the contributors to a weighty tome titled Monuments of the Anatolian Seljuks. We ask him which Seljuk monuments in Konya are absolute must-see’s. The first of the magnificent Seljuk monuments in Konya is the Karatay Madrasa. Famous for its tiles, the madrasa was commissioned by the Seljuk Amir Jelâladdin Karatay in 1251. A center for astronomy, Quranic Commentary and the hadith in its day, the building is a tile museum today. Another Seljuk masterpiece in the city is the İnce Minareli Madrasa, or College of the Slender Minaret. Conspicuous for its dazzling crown portal, this structure was built in 1264 at the behest of İzzeddin Kaykavus II. The Sahipata Mosque Complex, which represents the pinnacle of Seljuk stonework, is another of Konya’s treasures. Unique to the Seljuk period, a section of this monumental structure decorated with turquoise tiles has been converted into a museum. Another structure to which Dıvarcı draws attention is Anatolia’s largest Seljuk caravanserai, Zazadin, located slightly outside the city center.

Crowned with magnificent Islamic monuments representing a matchless synthesis of the Roman, Seljuk and Ottoman civilizations, the history of Konya is actually far older, going back to 10,000 years ago. Ian Hodder, director of the archaeological dig at Çatalhöyük, which was designated a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site last summer, says history’s first city map was drawn here. Bread basket of Turkey throughout its history, Konya is the country’s second largest province by area. Lakes such as Konya, Beyşehir, Akşehir, Meke and the Acıgöl all lie within its borders. Exhibiting massive economic development in recent years, Konya is being transformed step by step into a brand city. The organized industrial zone of this city, where upwards of 100,000 students study at four universities, is a city in its own right. And the foundations have already been laid for Avşar Dam, which will bring the waters of the Taurus Mountains to Konya Plain. Meanwhile construction continues apace on Turkey’s first science center, the 42,000-capacity New Konya Stadium, Teknokent, the Seljuk Congress Center and the Valley of the Butterflies. The New Konya Museum, which will merge the city’s archaeological and ethnographic exhibitions, is in the project stage. Representing one of the most successful examples of urban transformation in Turkey, the city is gearing up for the future without severing its traditions.

The excitement is mounting in Konya during the countdown to the 739th anniversary of the death of the great Islamic sage, Mevlana Jalaladdin Rumi. On the night of December 17th, known as “The Night of Reunion”, hundreds of thousands of people from around the world descend on Konya to hear the words of Mevlana in the city where he uttered them. Not only that, every Saturday night at eight a whirling ceremony is staged to Turkish Sufi music at the Mevlana Culture Center. Mathnawi chats in Turkish and English are held prior to the ceremony, which is followed by some 2,500 people every week. Pay heed to this beautiful city and it will speak to your heart.

THE MEVLEVI DINING TABLE
We have a recommendation for those seeking an alternative to traditional Konya dishes like okra soup, bread with meat, and tirit. Try the Mevlevi specialties in the restaurants on Menguç Sokak with its old Konya houses. Inspired by the recipes of Mevlana’s chief cook, Ateşbaz Veli, Konya chef Ulaş Tekerkaya recommends karamık soup, meat with figs, saffron-flavored bulghur, almond halvah, and rose syrup drink.

You can explore the city on double-decker buses, which leave from in front of the Mevlana Dervish Lodge at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily. with guide and runs 3 TL per person.

Two recommendations for the nearby area: The gardens and vineyards of Meram, and the old houses, bridges, historic mosques and rock churches at Sille are well worth seeing.

Novelist Sinan Yağmur’s trilogy, Tears of Love, is ideal for a Konya trip in the footsteps of Mevlana. Translated into 8 languages, the work has sold close to five million copies.

One of Konya’s leading felt masters, Celalettin Berberoğlu says that felt, by traditional methods, has been turned into all sorts of products from coins to vests.

The instruments of Mevlevi music such as the rebab, ney and kudum can be purchased in the workshops around the Mevlana Dervish Lodge, and you can also take lessons. Rebab virtuoso Ali Şems Aksu says that the rebab takes its name from the word for cloud and has watered hearts for centuries.

Silvia Ines Garoselli
(Master felt-maker)

“I got to know Mevlana when I was a university student in Argentina. I came to Konya to see the place where Mevlana lived and to learn the local felt-making tradition. I took the name Rabia and worked for many years with Mehmet Gırgıç, a felt maker. There are a lot of foreigners who have followed in the footsteps of Mevlana and settled in Konya. I have been doing felt-work for some 20 years in my workshop on Bostan Çelebi Street.”

Exhibiting massive economic development in recent years, Konya is being transformed step by step into a brand city.