Konya is Turkey’s equivalent of the ‘Bible Belt’, located in Central Anatolia. There are two myths in regards to how Konya received its name, the first relates to Perseus and the second to two friends. In the first legend, it is thought that Perseus killed a dragon, which was destroying towns. As a symbol of gratitude, the town’s people erected a monument to honour him. It is this event that the cities name arose; Ikonyon, Ikonyum, Iconium. In the second myth, two dervish friends of Allah were travelling to the west, when they flew over Anatolia and asked each other ‘Shall I land?’ The answer was sure land, or in Turkish ‘Kon ya’.
Konya is a city with considerable history, but now a combination of old and new. The area has 21 mosques, 5 churches, a market district and university.
There are several different thoughts on how old Konya really is, but it is definitely known to be one of the most ancient settlements in Anatolia. Some excavations have shown evidence the area was inhabited during the Neolithic Period, or late Stone Age of 7000 BC, with others believing the region was first inhabited between 4000 – 3000 BC.
The city first came under the influence of the Hittites around 1500 BC. This reign only lasted until 1200 BC when Indo-European Sea People took control of the area. The area of Konya then went through several other chains of command, including; the Phrygians in the 8th century, the Xenophon, the Cimmerian invaders in 690 BC and the Persian Empire until Alexander the Great took control. After the death of Alexander the Great, like so many other towns, Konya came under the rule of Selecus I Nicator, then the king of Pergamon. However after the last king of Pergamon, Attalus III died without an heir, the empire was turned over to the Romans.
Once the Roman Empire took control of Konya, known as Iconium then, the town was visited several times by Saints Paul and Barnabas. In Chrisitan legend, Konya is the birth place of Saint Thecla. There is little left to indicate Konya was ever Chrisitian, besides a few ruined churches.
During the battle of Manzikert in the 10th century the Seljuk Turks took control of the area, and it became the capital of the Anatolian Seljuk Sultanate until the 13th century. It was through this influence, that wealth prospered in Konya throughout the 12th century and Seljuk Sultans endowed the area with great fetes of architecture. Most building had a distinctive Turkish style, with roots in Persian and Byzantine.
In the beginning of the 14th century after becoming an emirate, the city was captured and fell into the Ottoman Empire. By the 19th century the city had become run down and it wasn’t until a railway to Eskisehir was built in 1896, that the city was revived.
SIGHTS AND ATTRACTIONS
The Mevlana museum is by far the most important place to visit in Konya. Mevlana (meaning Our Guide in Turkish), was a philosopher and the founder of Whirling Dervish. Mevlana, formally known as the Seljuk Sultanate of Rumi fled to Konya in 1228 after the Mongol invasion. His father was a preacher and passed away in 1231. The Seljuk Sultan who invited Mevlana to Konya originally offered his rose garden as a resting place for his father. Mevlana did on the 17th of December 1273, the night now known as his wedding night with Allah and was buried next to his father. Mevlana’s successor then decided to build a mausoleum over the graves, with construction being completed within a year.
Mevlana’s son organised his followers into a group, known as Mevlevi, or the Whirling Dervish. In the following centuries, thousands of Whirling Dervish lodges were opened throughout the Ottoman Empire. However Ataturk saw these lodges as a disadvantage to the advancement of the Turkish people and banned them from performing in 1925. A few orders survived and the Konya lodge was reopened as a cultural association in 1957.
The Mausoleum is a cylindrical drum, which originally rested on four pillars. The conical dome is covered in faience and the interior is decorated with wood carvings and catafalques. The sarcophagus of Mevlana is covered with brocade, embroidered in gold with verses from the Koran. Mevlana’s son was also buried in a chamber next to his and his fathers.
The Aladdin Mosque is Konya’s most important monument. The building served as a ‘Mosque of the Throne’ for the Seljuk Sultans of Rum. Construction took place through the mid 12th century, to the mid 13th century.
In 1080 when the Seljuk’s overtook the region, a Christian Basilica was converted into the mosque. Most of the materials from the church and from nearby Byzantine structures were used in the refurbishment and conversion of the building. It has an elaborate main entrance, which leads into a courtyard, with two marble tombs. In 1235 a large room was added, supported by 42 columns.
The two large tombs found in the courtyard are home to the Seljuk dynasty and according to inscriptions the first sarcophagi house 8 of the Seljuk Sultans of Rum. However the second mausoleum was unfinished after the death of the last Sultan and is known now as the ‘Anonymous Mausoleum’, since it is unknown who is buried inside.
INCE MINARET MEDRESE
Ince Minaret Medrese is a 13th century school constructed between 1258 and 1279. The building designed and constructed by the Seljuk Sultanate vizier Sahib Ata Fahreddin Ali is highly decorated with stone facades includes relief work of scripts, geometric patterning and vertical ribbon-like lines. It was restored in 1956 and is used as a museum for stone and wooden artefacts from both the Seljuk and Ottoman eras.
Karatay Medrese was a religious school built in 1251 by the Emir serving the Seljuk Sultan. In 1955 the school was transformed into a museum and has been enriched with artefacts collected from the Royal Palace in the 1970’s.
The Whirling Dervish Ceremony, also known as Mevlevi worship or sema, is a ritual dance representing a union with god. The dance appears on the UNECO’s third proclaimation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The Turkish version is one of many throughout the world; however it is the most pure and smooth.
The Dervishes dress in long white robes, with full skirts and black luminous capes, which symbolise their worldly tomb. They also wear conical hats, as a representation of their tombstones.
The ceremony begins when a scholar who has committed the entire Koran to memory, known as the Hafiz, says a prayer for Mevlana and recites a verse from the Koran. Music then follows, including; kettledrums and reed flute. The Whirling Dervishes begin when the master, seyh bows and then they circle around the hall three times, dropping their black hats and capes as a symbol of their deliverance from worldly possessions. Then one by one each of the Whirling Dervish spins on to the floor, as a symbol of relinquishing their earthly life, to be reborn with their god. They hold their right arms up to receive blessings from heaven and their left arm down to indicate the communication with earth. The master walks amongst them throughout the performance checking that the ritual is being performed correctly.
The ritual is repeated over and over, until the Hafiz recites another passage from the Koran, sealing the union with god.