This week we will see Turkey’s oldest and culturally rich cities – Konya, known in the Roman times as Iconium. The city of Konya served as the capital city of the Seljuk Turks between the 12th and 13th centuries and emerged as the cultural destination of the country.
The period between the 12th and 13th centuries saw tremendous political, religious and political growth thanks to the Islamic mystic Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, the founder of a Sufi order known popularly as the ‘Whirling Dervishes’ in the West or ‘Mevlevi’ Order in the East. One of the most outstanding architectural buildings is the remarkably green–mausoleum that of Rumi. Also part of the mausoleum is an area that was once the dervish seminary which now is a museum containing manuscripts of Mawlana’s work and several artefacts of the teachings of the Mevlevi order.
There is an annual ceremony or ‘Urs’ held here, during the month of December, to commemorate Maulana Rumi and the Mevlevi order where mystics of the order, clad in a white robe, whirl around the hall in a trance–like state or ‘Sema’ to the traditional tune of the Sufi musicians, symbolizing their infinite love for the creator. The Sema is now a huge spectacle in Konya, attracting thousands of tourists every year.
The Alaeddin Mosque (also spelt as ‘Alaettin’) is the biggest and oldest mosque in Konya, built by the great Seljuk ruler Sultan Alaeddin Keykubat in 1221, atop the Alaettin hills. You will find the remnants of the Seljuk Imperial Palace on one side of the Alaeddin Mosque. There is also a museum, the Karatay Madrasah, which exhibits the strikingly bold Seljuk ceramics. The İnce Minareli Madrasah, constructed in 1264, found on the other end of the mosque, is visited for its eye–dazzling ornate Seljuk portal. Take a few steps on around the mosque to find the Sahip Ata Complex and the Sırçalı Madrasah. If archaeology fascinates you, then Konya’s Archaeological Museum is a must see. At the Koyunoğlu Museum, you can find an assortment of collection from old kilim rugs to natural history. Inside the museum complex, the İzzettin Koyunoğlu house that has been restored represents the stylish and opulent way of life of the Konya family of the bygone era.
There is more to come on the medieval city of Konya in the concluding part of the blog.