Monday, December 28, 2009

Konya, Turkey

By Chuck and Claire
December 23, 2009

We spent several days planning our Christmas trip to Cappadocia (pronounced Kappadokya). The distance, the mountains and the possibility of snow made it easy to decide on a rental car and hotels. On the way, we needed to stop, breaking the trip in two. Our sights were set on Konya, where we had reservations for the night. We had counted on a 5 hour trip; as usual we underestimated the time, arriving in 7.5 hours.

The purpose for stopping in Konya was to see the Mevlâna Museum; this has the tomb of Celaladdin Rumi, founder of the whirling dervishes, a mystical Islamic sect; he is better known in the West as the poet Rumi: His masterwork has 25,000 verses!

He is known for his tolerance, as evidenced by this excerpt from his work:
Come, whoever you may be,
Even if you may be
An infidel, a pagan, or a fire worshipper, come
Ours is not a brotherhood of despair.
Even if you have broken
Your vows of repentance a hundred times, come.

Rumi died on 17 December, 1273; this date is known as his “wedding night” as he was then joined in mystical union with Allah. After his death he was known to his followers as Mevlâna: Our Guide. His son, Sultan Veled, organized his followers into the Mevlevi, the whirling dervishes. This group was outlawed by Attatürk, father of modern Turkey after WWI. But, the group manages to survive as religious fraternities or cultural associations. I was interested to find that a number of Ottoman sultans were Mevlevi Sufis (mystics).

Over 1.5 million people visit the museum annually; most of them Turkish. There were several older women in the hall, delivering silent, ecstatic prayers as they moved from tomb to tomb. [I have seen this same position at the large Christian community church in East Davis: Arms extended, parallel to the body, curved up, with palms facing toward one's face, rocking arms back and forth.] The museum contains some of Mevlâna’s clothes, his prayer rug, a number of manuscripts (Korans, prayer books)--one dating as far back as the 9th century AD; this very early one is a Christian work on gazelle skin. There are Moslem prayers on grains of rice and a copy of the Koran so small the copier went blind; miniatures are highly prized in this culture. There is a Persian prayer rug that has 3 million knots. Finally, there is a small casket that has some strands of the beard of Mohammed The Prophet.

We had some trouble locating the museum, but finally managed to find a place to park our rental vehicle; I stayed with the car to see about parking fees; Claire went to the nearby Tourist Information office; she got several helpful brochures and maps and the info dude marked the way to our hotel! A traffic cop approached me almost immediately; I tried to introduce myself as an American and tried to ask where I had to pay. He indicated that it was free for the first 15 minutes—I think.

The only activity other than the museum that first day was to shop for two soft drinks, a doner (meat sandwich), 4 shortbreads and a notebook. It was such a busy, congested large city—quite a change from our little Kaş (pronounced kosh). The room was adequate and the service quite satisfactory; they even believed us when we insisted that we had been quoted a rate of TL 80, not the 100 they wanted to charge. The breakfast, included, had a very wide variety of cheeses along with the usual olives, bread, and ҫay (chai or tea). I felt adventurous at the time; but, I would not repeat some of the selections.

Figuring out how to get into this huge, rather ugly and gloomy city was daunting. The smog was incredible and the traffic something we haven’t encountered yet in Turkey. However, the man at the Tourist Information Office was so nice. His English was perfect and he wanted to know where I was from, where we were staying, if we liked Turkey, etc. I told him we loved Turkey and were here for 2 months. He raised his eyebrows in surprise, smiled and wanted to know more. I told him we were camping and currently staying in Kaș. He said he loved Kaș and that I should visit his cousin at the Cash and Carry. He was extremely helpful and carefully went over the map of the city he provided. With all the congestion, it was a minor miracle that we made it. The hotel people were very hospitable and carried our bags in then moved some markers that held a parking spot and guided Chuck carefully into the space.

We were lucky to be close enough to walk to the museum. I realized that I had forgotten to grab a scarf for my head so I borrowed Chuck’s neck scarf. When we arrived we had to put plastic booties over our shoes. I must say, I was quite moved by this small museum/shrine. It felt like a very holy place and was gorgeous inside. There are 65 sarcophagi on the platform flanking Mevlâna’s tomb. The tombs are covered in beautiful velvet shrouds with gold embroidery but Mevlâna and his son bear huge, green turbans, symbols of spiritual authority; the number of wraps denotes the level of spiritual importance. I was also fascinated by Mevlâna’s prayer rug and how worn it was from years of use.

Mevlâna’s tomb

The outside of the museum has a striking fluted dome of turquoise supposedly visible from some distance. With the smog it was impossible to see it until we were almost upon it.

Our hotel room was pleasant and it had hot water but the bed felt like we were sleeping directly on the box springs. I was tired and crawled into bed with my book while Chuck went out for food and a little shopping. I missed my comfy memory foam mattress back in Homer. However, breakfast was a marvel!

The large container holds hot water. Normally, there is a tea pot on top full of ҫay but the waiter was filling it in the back room when I took this picture. I found out from a fellow diner that you pour some ҫay in your tea cup and add hot water to it. This determines the strength.

Various unidentifiable cheeses


Anonymous said...

How did I survive 2 1/2 years in the Middle East and not eat olives? (Sheila)

Chuck and Claire said...

I don't know Sheila. Back home, olives, esp. Kalamata olives, are a staple and I begin to worry when our supply gets low. Maybe this is part of what we love about Turkey -- the food!