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Konya

Konya
This city is a place of pilgrimage for the whole of the Muslim world as it is the focus of Sufic mystical teaching and practice.  The city sprawls out overrunning the mud walled villages that surround it and at its centre is the medieval Seljuk capital.  It was the adopted home of Celalâddin Rumi better known as Mevlâna (Our Master) who was a Sufıc mystic and established the whirling dervish sect; it was his writings that helped to reshape Islamic thought and changed the popular Islamic culture of Turkey.  

Today Konya’s reputation is known as one of Turkey’s most religious and conservative cities and a stronghold of Islamic fundamentalists although the people here are very tolerant of outside visitors.  This is the 8th largest city in the country but is a rather backward place with few private cars on the road and has a much higher ratio of bikes than either Ankara or Istanbul.  

It is also known as “the breadbasket of Turkey” surrounded by fertile countryside, and has green parks that add colour to the light coloured stone that is seen everywhere.  

History

The city’s history is long and impressive with remains being found dating back to the 7th millennium BC and had an acropolis that hosted the Hittites, Phrygians, Romans and Greeks.  Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas gave sermons from here after being ousted from Antioch in 235 AD and the earliest of the Church councils met here during Byzantine times when it was known as Iconium.  In 1071 during the western Seljuk era it was the seat of the Sultanate of Rum, and became home to Seljuk Sultans’ and it was Alâeddin Keykubad, their most distinguished of sultans, who founded a court of artists and scholars here in the 13th century which was of great benefit to the arts and philosophy of the Seljuk dynasty.  

There are many buildings that were built at that time still standing and the Konya Museum displays examples of their masonry, unique tile-work, woodcarving and carpets, all of which became the basis of Ottoman art forms.  

Transportation

The main bus station is 15km from the city centre and trams there will bring visitors to the Alâeddin Park where there are dolmuş minibuses that run to the centre or you can walk from there.  The train station is slightly nearer with dolmus minibuses or taxis available and Konya’s airport has a shuttle bus that runs to the centre.  The compact city is easy to navigate, and the historical monuments, hotels and restaurants are all central and within walking distance.  

Things to do in Konya

Dervish Festival

Konya has a dervish festival held annually in December where tickets can be booked at the tourist office although advance booking is recommended as the tickets always sell out.  Advance hotel reservations are also advisable at this time and the room rates can rise quite substantially.  

Places to Visit in Konya

Mevlana Museum

The Mevlâna Museum is a must place to visit and is housed in a former tekke, the first lodge of the Mevlevî sect, that is easily found because of its fluted turquoise dome that rises above Rumi’s tomb. Most of the buildings here were constructed in the late 15th and early 16th centuries by Sultan Beyazit II and Sultan Selim I and next to the museum office is a library that contains 5,000 volumes on the Mevlevî and Sufıc mysticism, and there are tombs of Mevlâna, his father and other important men of the order here.  The semahane where the dervish dance was performed is thought to be the best in Turkey and has exhibits of dervish original musical instruments including a ney (reed flute) that novices do not buy for themselves but are given by their spiritual and music teachers who make them and the reeds used grow throughout the south-eastern region of Turkey.  

There are also beautiful carpets and rugs that were gifts on display here including a 500 year old silk carpet from Seljuk Persia that is believed to be the finest ever woven with 144 knots to the square centimetre and took five years to complete.  There is a latticed gallery above that was for women spectators and in an adjoining room is a casket containing hair from the beard of the Prophet Mohamed which is on show with some excellent illuminated medieval Korans.  

Seljuk Palace, Alaeddin Mosque and Karatay- Ince Minare Medrese

Other points of interest in the city are the remains of a Seljuk Palace and the Alâeddin Mosque whose construction began in 1130 and was completed in 1221, the Karatay Medresesi built in 1251 and the Ince Minare Medresesi that is now a gem and woodcarving museum.

Sircali Medrese

There is the 13th century Sırcalı Medrese that has excellent blue glazed tile work and the Archaeological Museum houses the only pre- Seljuk remains in the city including Hittite artefacts and Roman sarcophagi.  

Koyunoglu Museum

The Koyunoğlu Museum, donated by a family with the same name, has an eclectic and interesting private collection of Konya’s ethnography.  Konya’s oldest mosque to have survived intact dates from 1202 and is still in use and sits at the edge of the daily bazaar, and inside the bazaar is the Ottoman mosque the Aziziye Camii which has unusually styled Moghul minarets.  

Bazaar

The bazaar is very traditional and sells unusual alternative healing remedies such as daisy water and leeches.  

Facilities

As the city is rather conservative this has slowed down the culture of eating out and finding restaurants that serve alcohol are rare, and fast food establishments can be found dotted around the town.

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