We stopped in Konya for a number of reasons. First, it was convenient on our route from Selcuk to Cappadocia (a direct bus would have taken 11 hours). Second, it had a reputation as a religiously conservative although hospitable city. Third, it was where the famous Persian poet and mystic Rumi settled in the 13th century. Finally, it was the home of the whirling dervishes. Although the kindness of the locals is renowned today, it was not always so. St. Paul was chased out for offending the locals when the town was Greek and its name was Iconium. We had a much warmer welcome.
The bus station is on the outskirts of town, along with a new university. We took a taxi to the pension we had identified from our Lonely Planet Guide, left our bags, and headed out to see all of the famous sites.
We took our time enjoying the relaxed urban culture of the city. We stopped in a several mosques and perused the markets as we walked towards the famous Konya museum. In the above left picture, notice the "Oriental Style" of the Minarets, notably different from the needle-nose Ottoman style minarets from Istanbul and Selcuk. Konya is a city with a longer Turkish history, whereas many of the sights in Istanbul are Greek and Roman. On the right picture is a dried fruit and nuts stall where Andy purchased half a kilo of dried figs. That may not sound like a lot, but that bag of figs seemed endless despite his generosity in sharing. (The seller, who apparently didn't see many foreigners, also gave each of us a handful of raisins.)
Our first destination was the Konya museum, a former mosque where the aforementioned Rumi is buried. It is a glorious structure with a beautiful turquoise cone, octagonal chimnies, and several minarets. (A clearer picture, taken at night, is at the bottom of the page.) Most of the visitors were locals, devoutly praying and taking photographs. Women were required to cover their hair on the premises.
Rumi's tomb can be seen in the above left photo, the sarcophagus complete with turban and robe. The tomb remains a site of pilgrimage and devotion. Known to the locals as Mevlana, Rumi was one of the first truly ecumenical theologians. Perhaps Konya's hospitality can be traced to one of his more famous sayings:
"Come, come again, whoever, whatever you may be, come:The locals are clearly proud of this saying. Tapestries and posters of this phrase in dozens of languages were on sale at the museum shop.
If Konya has a "local color," it's turquoise. The mosque where Rumi is buried is topped by a turquoise cone, and tiles of the same color adorn many smaller mosques and old buildings. And even some residential buildings are painted in bright turquoise, as seen on the above left. On the above right is the inside of Konya's only church, built 200 years ago by French Catholics. There were many Turkish tourists, predominately schoolgirls, studying the stations of the cross.
I would surmise that every woman over 30 wore a scarf over the hair, and a majority of women in the teens and twenties also covered up. There's something culturally amusing to see scarf-covered women in front of a McDonald's restaurant, located in the heart of Konya's downtown. This Turkish pastry shop was also located in Konya's downtown.
As I aluded to before, Konya's architecture is older and more Eastern than Ottoman Istanbul or Turkish Ankara. Konya has a longer history, or at least a longer Turkish history. It's mosques were built by the first Turks to arrive in Anatolia, the Seljuks, and the architecture consequently looks more Persian, even Central Asian.
We returned to our pension in the afternoon to freshen up, and then headed out for a night on the town. We first saw the eerie illumination of the mosque minarets and the turquoise cone at the Konya museum where Rumi lies, and we then headed downtown to find a meal and some dinner. Even at 10pm the city was bustling with commercial activity, but we could not for the life of us find a restaurant that served alcohol. Alas, Konya is too devoutly Muslim for its regular establishments to server liquor. We eventually found what looked to be a very upscale bar that sold us expensive beer in dirty glasses. We had one drink each and left, making up for it by purchasing pastries at the local baker.
We spent a comfortable night in our pension and caught a bus early the next morning to Goreme and the extraterrestrial landscape of Cappadocia.
Thanks to Dad, amateur theologian, for helping with the written content on this page.
|c. 2005 Christopher Gunson|