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BagWise goes Travelling - Konya / Turkey

During our trip to Turkey to check some Turkish bag brands, we managed to take 2 days off and fly to a city called Konya, well-known for its annual Whirling Dervishes Festival. Having bought the tickets for the religious ceremony online in advance from the local authority web site http://konyakultur.gov.tr/, we were ready to pack our bags.

This is a 10-day festival commemorating the passing away of leader of the Order, a Persian poet born in Afghanistan, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi-Rumi, in 1273. The order is the modern and very peaceful face of Islam, and is still alive with many Mevlevihane’s (living & worship space of the Order) around the world. There are some good guidance on the net:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mevlevi_Order

http://mevlana.net/sema.html

We also had 2 books in hand, highly recommended:

Rumi: The Hidden Treasure by Shems Friedlander

The Whirling Dervishes and the stories from Mevlana by Niyazi Yoltas (illustrations)

Although many call this a “show”, this is actually a religious ceremony, like a mass, hence believers, attendees and dervishes are to be respected at all times.

Before the ceremony, there is a short concert of Sufi music. The current best performer in Turkey was on stage and he is definitely one to watch: Ahmet Ozhan.

Konya is a great city, though pretty cold with temperatures around minus 5 in December, when the festival takes place. You can take a 2.5 hour train from the capital of Turkey (not Istanbul as many believe, but Ankara!) or fly from Istanbul (1 hr). The city center is not so big, but there are many sights to see, and they are definitely worth to be visited.

Here it is a short list:

Mosques: Plenty of them, from different eras and styles, all are interesting, with history. You can walk around the centre and visit Alaeddin Keykubad, Abdulaziz, Iplikci, Selimiye, Sems-I Tebrizi, Aziziye Mosques. Careful with prayer times, you may not be allowed to enter while these are taking place.

Other important & interesting sites are: The Museum of Mevlana (the life of Rumi), the House of Ataturk (the national hero & leader of the Republic of Turkey), the Medrese of Karatay (with amazing tiles covering the whole ceiling)...

The best free map we got was at the premises of Karatay Municipality, where they serve hot black tea (for free!). The premises are on the right when you face the entrance of Mevlana Museum (you cannot miss it as it is so famous and has a green-tiled minaret).

Lastly, we had great experience with local food. It is abundant, a good variety and very low-priced. Tastes are different and nice. Usually based on meat, you can also find vegetables on the table and a wide dessert menu. Just walk into a restaurant that serves stews and choose your dish.

There are a ton of souvenirs & gift ideas to take home: menthol / cinnamon / orange-flavored candies, dried pastries, sweets, dried fruit pastes… for young ones. Lots of religious & traditional items such as drawings, tiles, books, CD / DVDs, rugs, carpets… for the wise.

A 3-day stay is essential and you can get the basic done. If you have more time, you can go to nearby towns & enjoy the countryside. We are sure you will enjoy the ride !