Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Konya: Mevlana Rumi's city



After Eskisehir, next stop was Konya. We traveled by a Turkish Railways high speed bullet train - yes, Turkish Railways have high speed trains running on several key routes connecting Ankara and Istanbul to other parts of the country. Konya, Mevlana Rumi's city, is connected via bullet trains to both Istanbul and Ankara.

Many observers suggest Konya is Turkey's most religiously conservative city – the heartbeat of Islam in Turkey.

The main square in Konya with the Selimiye Mosque in the foreground and the Mevlana Rumi shrine complex (with the green tower) in the background (Photo: Imran Ahmed)
Even before arriving in Konya I got a whiff of this conservatism while looking for hotels. One of the hotels stated on its booking conditions that couples must show proof of marriage at the time of check-in! (Ticket: check; passport: check; marriage certificate: check!)

The influence of Rumi is felt everywhere – not only in the in the notable absence of stores selling alcoholic beverages. Indeed, Konya thrives on religious tourism (and it does a good job at it too). Much of this tourism revolves around followers paying homage to Rumi at his tomb.

Rumi's tomb is ensconced in a complex, including a museum devoted to his life and the beliefs of his Mawlawiyah Order. Amazingly, entry to his tomb and attached museum is free (good on you, Turkey!).

Rumi's grave inside the shrine complex (Photo: Imran Ahmed)
Rumi was born in 1207 in Afghanistan – then a part of the Persian empire - and died in 1273 in Konya. Over his lifetime, Rumi developed a unique Islamic philosophy through his teachings. His philosophy was beautifully expressed through his poetry which was written mainly in Persian and Arabic, but also in Turkish and Greek. It were his teachings that ultimately led to the establishment of the Mawlawiyah Sufi order.

Though Rumi was born into a family of theologians – his father was a mystical theologian, author and teacher – it was Rumi's meeting and subsequent relationship with Shams al Din of Tabriz (1185 – 1248) which greatly affected his religious views. Shams, best known for his Forty Rules of Love, became Rumi's spiritual mentor and guide until his disappearance in 1247.

Undoubtedly, Konya is Rumi's city. It is hard to escape Rumi's influence – it permeates the entire city. Rumi's influence gives the city a unique character. To be sure, Konya has other attractions, e.g. museums and even some beautiful gardens (Alaeddin Hill), the city is one big shrine to the Great Mevlana.

Turk kahvesi or Turkish coffee served konya style (Photo: Imran Ahmed)
Enjoy Konya not only for the Mevlana but, more importantly, for what he represents: tolerance, positive reasoning, goodness, charity and Love.

Come, come again, whoever you are, come!
Heathen, fire worshipper or idolatrous, come!
Come even if you broke your penitence a hundred times,
Ours if the door of hope, come as you are. 

- Rumi

Stay tuned for my next post on Adana – home of the famous Adana Kebab!


Imran is a Singapore based Tour Guide with a special interest in arts and history. Imran has lived and worked in several countries during his career as an international banker. He enjoys traveling, especially by train, as a way to feed his curiosity about the world and nurture his interest in photography. Presently, Imran is spending ten weeks (March – May 2019) in Turkey exploring the country. He is available on twitter (@grandmoofti); Instagram(@imranahmedsg) and can be contacted at imran.ahmed.sg@gmail.com.

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