This Whistle Stop Tour was written exclusively for Fethiye Times by Casey Russell.

Located on the wide flat plateau of Central Anatolia, Konya is the embodiment of 13th Century Seljuk culture, and a modern, bustling university city rolled into one…

Whistle Stop Tours - Konya
View of  Konya and the surrounding mountains. Photograph by Casey Russell.

The 2016 Islamic Capital of The World is a place where modern Turkey meets its ancient Anatolian past, and today, it has become a popular destination that draws visitors from all around the world.  The main reason for its popularity and tourism?  Its close links with Rumi, the famous Iranian/Afghan Poet and philosopher.  

Another reason that it has become popular as a tourist destination is the fact that in December each year, travellers and tourists come from around the world to the Mevlâna festival, where the world renown Whirling Dervishes meditate with their long and hypnotic spinning dance, which consists of five, 10 minute spinning sessions. 

See the Mevlana at the Rumi festival in Konya

This ritual was created by Rumi himself, and he believed that the music and dance combined let an individual liberate himself from anxiety and pain. He mixed the ritual with his very strong Islamic leanings, thus, creating his own version of Islam.

If you’ve come to Konya to witness the Dervishes in reallife, why not learn about their history and their beginnings…

The Mevlana Museum

The Mevlana Museum is the place to discover this information.  

The museum is located in the grand 13th century Mevlana Mosque.  Within the mosque are the tombs which supposedly hold Rumi, and his followers within them.

It’s easy to find the mosque, as it’s located at the end of Asanli Kisla Caddesi, and also because it has one of the most recognisable mosque domes in Turkey, which is an exquisite turquoise.

Whistle Stop Tours - Konya
Konya sign in front of the Mevlana mosque and museum with its distinctive turquoise dome. Photograph by Casey Russell

When I went to the spectacular and largest centre of pilgrimage in Turkey, it was the week of the Whirling Dervish – this is “Rumi Festival” week which commemorates the philosophers demise, so it was especially busy, but the staff at all of the dance venues were very helpful and especially excited at seeing a British family learning and exploring their culture and history.

Upon entering the Mevlana mosque, you wander through a pretty garden before coming out underneath the “Dervisan Kapasi”-(which translates as “Gate Of The Dervish)-  you come into a small courtyard which has the Ablution fountain in the middle.  In the courtyard, the sound of the Ney-(a type of flute used by the Dervishes), hauntingly echoes around the walled garden.

Along the side of the courtyard, are the former living quarters of the dervishes which exhibit some of their personal belongings. Qurans, beautiful tiles, their traditional wear and their sacred robes and an assortment of other intriguing pieces.  Inside the building at the end of the courtyard, artefacts indicate what life was like for the Dervish, illustrating their daily routines and replicating their accommodation.

The most exciting part of the Mevlana museum is as you enter the mosque itself. Inside the tombs of Rumi and followers are adorned in long plush silk and velvet robes, and have verses from the Quran scribed on the walls beside them.  On some of the walls and ceilings there are beautiful tiles and scribe which decorates the interior, giving a splash of incredible turquoises, blues, reds and greens.

Whistle Stop Tours - Konya
Rumi’s tomb inside the Mevlana mosque. Photograph by Casey Russell
Whistle Stop Tours - Konya
Ceiling of the Mevlana Museum. Photograph by Casey Russell

Please note, that when you go into the mosque, you will be asked to remove your shoes.  Women may be asked to cover their shoulders and head, and shorts are exceptionally disrespectful, so make sure to wear the appropriate attire.

I’d recommend visiting the Mevlana museum quite early in the afternoon, when the atmosphere is at its peak.  However, if you want to admire the artefacts and exhibits in peace then your best choice would be to visit in the late afternoon when the hubbub has settled down.

Konya isn’t just about it’s association with Rumi and the Mevlana, however.  

No, in fact the city has so much more to offer, but unfortunately, people don’t get to experience this as they are so intrigued with the other things.  Here are some examples of what else you could get up to whilst in Konya.

Alaaddin Mosque

At the other end of Mevlana Caddessi, Konyas second most religiously important building stands, on a small tree covered, green grass hill.  

Alaaddin Mosque, the thirteenth century building, was designed and built for Alaeddin Keykubad I.  

When I went to Konya, however, the mosque was undergoing restoration, so unfortunately the inside was closed, and the outside had scaffolding all around.

The garden that surrounds it was beautiful to walk around, and it was especially picturesque, as there was a deep, cold covering of snow.

Opposite the hill, on the other side of the road called Adiye Boulevard, there are many tea cafes and gardens, who are especially welcoming to visitors.  You’re bound to get a free gift from the cafe owner, whether it be cups of çay or pieces of Baklava.

Also on Adiye Boulevard, are two museums really worth a visit…

The Wooden Artefacts/Stone Carving Museum and the Tile Museum

The first is the Museum of Wooden Artefacts and Stone Carving, which is inside the former 1264 “Seminary for the Slender Minaret mosque”.  

Now, however boring this name might sound, it really isn’t.  

Inside this museum are incredible pieces of stone and wood that have been carved and decorated so stunningly with intricate images of birds, animals and nature, whilst others are decorated with verses from the Quran, or have quotes from Rumi himself. Absolutely stunning work, utterly impressive!

Whistle Stop Tours - Konya
Stone carvings outside the Stone Carving museum. Photograph by Casey Russell.

Likewise, the Tile Museum, which is built inside the former Seljuk Theological school, has been restored and now showcases a wide variety of incredible ceramics that were discovered during excavations around the area in more recent years.

What’s also noteworthy about the museum is that the ceramic tiles on the walls and ceiling of the dome are in outstanding condition, so you can stand and admire the patterns and colours of them for hours.

Sahib-I Ata Vakif Museum

The prettiest museum in Konya in my opinion, would have to be the Sahib-I Ata Vakif museum, which displays religious artefacts and items.  I think it’s the prettiest because of the spectacular amount of variety in the shades and tones of the blue coloured tiles used in the intricate decoration the interior of the mosque.  

Whistle Stop Tours - Konya
Interior of the Sekih-Ata Vakif Museum. Photograph by Casey Russell

This museum sits on Sırçalı Medrese Caddesi.  

Nearby, on Larende Caddesi, is the Konya Archeological museum.

Konya Archeological Museum

Containing archeological items that come from many points in the periods of Konyas long history, artefacts include terracotta and ceramic jars/amphora, Roman glassware, and also the skeleton of a baby clutching a necklace made using stone and bone.  Also, there are grand, grand scargophogi which are in beautiful condition.

Whistle Stop Tours - Konya
Tomb in the Archeological museum. Photograph by Casey Russell

Atatürk House Museum

A museum which I don’t think really gets the recognition that it is worthy of, is the Atatürk House museum.  

Whistle Stop Tours - Konya
Atatürk house museum. Photograph by Casey Russell

Atatürk visited Konya thirteen times, his first being in 1920, and his last in November 1937.  This was the building he stayed at during each of his visits.  It was given as a gift from the people of Konya to Atatürk.

Built in 1912, it has undergone several restorations and renovations, and the museum  has a showcase of many of Atatürk’s belongings, such as his typewriters, his outfits, candleholders, walking sticks and even letters he wrote.  The gardens outside of the house were also very pretty, as it had snowed (again) the night before.  

When we went, it was surprisingly quiet, but you must make sure to visit whilst in Konya, as it gave an intriguing introduction and insight into the famous man, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk…

Konya Science Centre and Planetarium

Something that doesn’t have anything to do with Konya’s culture that is definitely worth a visit, is the Konya Science Centre and Planetarium, which is built in a large, impressive building just north of he town.

Whistle Stop Tours - Konya
Konya Science Centre. Photograph by Casey Russell

The museum, which opened a few years ago, is one of the most advanced science centres & Planetariums in Turkey, and the exhibition halls give information about the science of our body, famous Muslim scientists and scholars and their advancements in science and technology, and there are usually varying events taking place.

Shopping in Konya

Konya’s Bazaar and streetlife is a place where east and west truly come together.  For example, the nut man will be selling a wide variety of Iranian dates, local nuts, spices, herbs, and dried flowers…next door to the outlet shop, selling fakes of the latest Gucci attire.  

Whistle Stop Tours - Konya
Spice stalls in the Bazaar. Photograph by Casey Russell

It’s Interesting to see how life can integrate so well, for example, one minute you’ll notice a group of men standing listening to the latest Turkish pop music, and the next, a family pass on their horse drawn carriage.

Whistle Stop Tours - Konya
Konya streetlife. Photograph by Casey Russell.

You’ll find that when you wander the streets, the shopkeepers will be especially pleased at talking to people from Western Europe, and they will almost certainly engage and converse in their known English.  You may find yourself being invited into his shop, where he will give you free cups of çay, and invite his friends and family to come and meet you.  

Another possibility for shopping in Konya is to go to one of the large shopping centres in the city.  Here, you get your usual Turkish brands like LC Waikiki and Koton, as well as international shops like Marks and Spencer’s and H&M.

I’ll also recommend that when you explore the Bazaar, and you become peckish, make sure to go where the locals go, as the restaurants they go to are usually very cheap and the food is top quality.  

To conclude, Konya is a city in Turkey that you shouldn’t miss.  This becomes apparent when you are there, and you realise how the old and new, East and West,  fits and blends so neatly together.  I enjoyed Konya so much, that it’s probably one of, if not, my favourite city that I’ve ever visited.  

I’d recommend you all go!  

It truly is a place where everyone is welcome, and I think Konya really illustrates Rumi’s main teaching.  Tolerance.  He even said himself:

“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.”

This, I think, sums up Konya…

A few tips for exploring Konya 

Be respectful, whether it be in the Bazaar or wandering around the museums and gardens. 

Konya is an extremely conservative and important religious place, so behave in the correct manner.  

Do not wear shorts whilst exploring, as this is considered disrespectful.

Stay vigilant.  Pickpockets operate in the main squares and bazaar, so be wary.

Despite being a very conservative and Islamic place (and the fact that they’re  banned!) Alcoholism and Drug use are surprisingly a very serious issue in the city.  

Getting there

Konya can be reached from Fethiye by car in under 7 hours.  Buses also operate regularly to Ankara, where a connection can be caught to Konya.  

Going by train and flying is also an option, where you fly to Istanbul or Ankara, and catch a connection either by aircraft or rail to Konya. 

Featured photograph of Selimiye mosque and Mevlana mosque and museum by Casey Russell.

Casey Rusell

“I am Casey Russell, a 15-year-old home schooled traveller, writer, photographer and sailor.

I live aboard my familys Oceanis 45 foot sailing yacht and travel extensively throughout the mediterranean for most of the year exploring the lost islands and hidden archaeological treasures of the region.

Photography is a hobby of mine and this year i am keen to explore new techniques and effects, the articles that I write are always accompanied by awesome images.

So, Come along with me on my travels and let me show you the hidden corners of this magical region…”

To read more articles by Casey please visit his blog, “Adventurer in Training”