Konya wears many hats. Not only is it the spiritual centre of Rumi’s Sufism and an important pilgrimage site, but it’s also a bustling university city and a major economic and industrial centre. Situated in the Central Anatolian Plateau in Turkey, Konya is famously the home of the whirling dervishes and was once the capital of the Sultanate of Rum, the era in which many of the city’s most admirable monuments were built.
Well-known as the home of Sufi-thinker, Rumi, Konya is one of Turkey’s more conservative cities, and most local women choose to cover up with head scarfs and the five-times-daily call to prayer can be heard throughout the city. If you visit Konya you’ll find Islamic architecture in all corners of the city, from ancient madrasas to grand mosques, whilst many travel to Konya simply to witness the dance ceremonies of the whirling dervishes in the birthplace of Mevlevi Sufism.
Known as Iconium in antiquity, Konya has a history which stretches back to at least 3000 BC. Civilisations such as the Persians and Romans have all left their unique influence on the city. In the 11th-century Konya was conquered by the Seljuk Turks and became incorporated into the Sultanate of Rum, thought of as the Golden Years of Konya. Nowadays, Konya is a thriving university city, where the traditions of bygone eras blend seamlessly with the forward-looking attitude of its youthful population. One of Turkey’s most compelling cities, be sure to visit Konya for a taste of authentic Seljuk culture and devout spirituality, in a city which perfectly balances the new and the old.
With such a fascinating history, there are countless things to see in Konya. As the spiritual centre of Mevlevi Sufism, you cannot miss out on visiting Mevlana Museum, home to the mausoleum of Rumi himself, the famous Persian mystic and founder of Mevlevi Sufism, known more widely as the Whirling Dervishes. It’s the best place to learn all about the teachings of Rum and the practices of the dervishes, although you’ll need to head to the nearby Mevlana Cultural Centre if you want to watch the Whirling Dervishes and their hypnotic ceremonial dancing.
To discover more of Konya’s religious heritage, the Iplikci Mosque, dating from the 13th-century is free to visit and hosts daily prayer services. When it was built, this rectangular-shaped mosque was one of the few in the country to have a minaret. Another minaret that punctuates Konya’s skyline is that of the Ince Minaret Madrasa. Also known as the ‘Slender Minaret Madrasa’, this 13th-century Islamic School now functions as an interesting Museum of Stone and Wood Art, showcasing decorative items from both the Seljuk and Ottoman eras. Its stone facade is particularly photogenic with intricate relief carvings depicting geometric shapes and patterns.
If you’re looking for the perfect place to snap a panoramic photo of the city, head to Alaaddin Hill. This artificial hill, built by a Seljuk Sultan, looks out across the flat plains of Konya and is home to the Alaaddin Mosque, the oldest and largest in Konya, as well as the remains of the once grandiose Seljuk Palace, former residence of the sultans. Today, the hill has been converted into a public park, granting pleasant views across the city, particularly at sunset.
A short journey outside of the city will bring you to one of the most popular places to visit in Konya, the historic village of Sille. Easily reached by a short bus ride from the city, Sille is like an open-air museum, unchanged over the centuries. It is best-known as an example of peaceful coexistence between Christianity and Islam, as, until the 1920s, the village was inhabited by Greeks.
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