Konya, Turkey’s 7th most populated city and the capital of its largest province, is a historic city located in Central Anatolia. Once known as Iconium, Konya was the capital of the Seljuk empire for 211 years from 1097 to 1308.

Konya, one of the most conservative cities in Turkey, has always been known for its deep-rooted connections with Islam and in particular with Sufism. In the 13th century when Konya was the capital of the Seljuk Empire, two famous Sufi philosophers called Konya home. These two Mystics were Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi and his companion in the quest for divine love, Shams of Tabriz.

The works of Rumi and Shams have, throughout the centuries, greatly influenced the city of Konya and in turn Anatolia, the Middle East and the world. Many people from all corners of the globe travel to Konya in search of spiritual enlightenment and awakening. Inspired by the spiritual journeys of Shams and Rumi, thousands follow their footsteps in a desire for a stronger connection with God.

“East, west, south, or north makes little difference. No matter what your destination, just be sure to make every journey a journey within. If you travel within, you’ll travel the whole wide world and beyond.” – The Forty Rules of Love, Elif Shafak

Mevlana Museum

The Mevlana Museum is located in the former mausoleum of Rumi which also functioned as a dervish lodge. Following the closure of all religious lodges in Turkey in 1926, this complex was converted into a museum. The museum is composed of the central structure which is made up of a mosque and a mausoleum, alongside the surrounding tombs, former kitchen and chambers. The mosque looks seems plain and simple in comparison to other mosques in Konya and Turkey. However it also a unique mosque because of the bright turquoise dome which is located right above Rumi’s sarcophagus.

The museum is visited by pilgrims who have in a way been inspired by the teachings of Rumi. It was packed with visitors from all over the world. Among the crowds there were handfuls of faithful pilgrims, who recited the ‘Al-Fatiha’, the opening surah of the Quran.

The museum is well organised and the exhibitions are simple, yet very well-preserved. In each of the chambers surrounding the mausoleum there are displays of artefacts that shine a light on the dervish way of life and the Mawlawi order of Islam. There are several rooms in which Mawlawi clothing, traditional musical instruments and handwritten books are displayed. The former kitchens of the dervish lodge are also well restored and feature reconstructions of what life in the lodge would have looked like in the 1300s.

Aziziye Mosque

This beautiful mosque was built in its current state in 1874 in the baroque style that was popular in the Ottoman empire at the time. It sort of reminded me of the Hagia Triada in Istanbul with its minarets and dome. The inside was full of devout muslims of all ages listening to the daily sermon and praying.

İnce Minare Medresesi Museum

This very well restored madrasa is today the home of a vast collection of stone and wooden artefacts. The madrasa was built in 1279 and is a great example of Seljuk era architecture with its imposing rectangular entrance. The stonework on the gate is very impressive, with various patterns and calligraphy etched into the rock. I was greatly pleased with the conditions of the museums I visited in Konya. Albeit small, they were all well-kept and easily accessible.

The stonework on display in the museum was truly eye-catching. I was particularly interested in the styles of calligraphic writing and the decor around the various epitaphs and the complexly carved wooden doors. The interior of the madrasa, with its intricate tiles, is also noteworthy and striking.

Karatay Medresesi Museum

The Karatay madrasa is another one of Konya’s museums. Inside there is a collection of geometric tiles, some of which date back to the Seljuk era. Geometric tiles are an important decorative element in Islamic cultures because creating figures of humans is forbidden. Therefore various styles of calligraphy and tile work developed and became prominent in mosques and other religious buildings and palaces under Islamic influence.

Church of St Paul

The church of St Paul is a fairly sized Catholic church, built in 1910, that can be found right beside the Aladdin Hill. I was quite intrigued to find such an imposing church in such great conditions right in the centre of Konya. It turns out that the church was recently restored and is still active.

Sille

A 20 minute drive from Konya takes you to the charming village of Sille. Sille was in its heyday a highly populated town with a large Greek population. The Orthodox Greeks in Sille lived in tranquility alongside their Muslim neighbours for over 700 years. After the Turkish war of independence and the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, the Greek community, which had resided in Sille continuously for centuries on end, moved to Greece. Sille became largely abandoned and fell into a state of disarray. In recent times the tides have turned for the better. The local municipality started restoring some the old houses, churches and mosques in the village and with time, Sille earned its spot on the map. Today it is teeming with tourists who stroll the picturesque streets and visit the historic sites. Sille is a must-see place, which I’m sure will continue to develop as time progresses.

Hagia Elenia Museum

One of the most visited places in Sille is the church of Hagia Elenia, a humble church which was restored by the local municipality in 2012. The reasonably sized church was crammed with visitors, both domestic and foreign, who were mesmerised by the ornate iconostasis and the decorations throughout the church, which now functions as a museum. I think it was a great move for Sille and for Konya to preserve and promote their Greek heritage. Throughout Turkey there are hundreds of derelict Armenian and Greek churches which are a very important part of Anatolia’s historic fabric, so I’m hoping that other towns, villages and cities also begin to protect and restore their historic relics regardless of their origin.

The careful restoration of the icons and frescoes within the church was undertaken by a team of experts and took over a year. The area surrounding the church was also rearranged and there is a gift store and cafe, as well as some old Greek tomb stones on display right next to the museum.

Sille Chapel and Time Museum

On top of a hill overlooking the village of Sille, is an ancient graveyard with both Muslim and non-Muslim tombs. At the very peak of the hill, there is an old chapel which was also restored in 2012 and is a unique museum of time, featuring a small but very rich exhibition of historic clocks and related antiques.

My day trip to Konya was a fantastic experience. It was nice to get to know a Turkish city from scratch and explore all the historic and cultural sites in the city. I have always been very interested in Mawlawi Islam and Sufism and by visiting Konya I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the scope and various aspects of these mystic elements of Islam. I was also able to see Turkey from a different perspective. Overall, I thought Konya was a very clean city with great infrastructure, lovely parks and fascinating museums. Several historic sites (most notably the Aladdin mosque) were going through conclusive restorations, so I’m sure that by my next trip to the city I’ll have even more to see!.

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” – Rumi

 

Published by Kenan Cruz Cilli