A Brief Guide to Konya, Mevlana Rumi’s Resting Place
Experience the devotional ceremony of the whirling dervishes, visit the tomb of Mevlana Rumi and explore centuries-old ancient towns from Konya, a hidden cultural gem. It’s just three hours south of Ankara, the country’s capital.
While most visitors to Turkey only know the most popular places such as Istanbul or Cappadocia, we recommend taking a trip to Konya. It is located in central Turkey and considered one of its most conservative cities. It’s a city that has historical sights, religiously significant monuments and remnants of the Seljuk empire. And it’s one of central Anatolia’s largest and continuously inhabited cities. Moreover, it was also known for its beautiful earthy coloured carpets that were quite popular in Europe. In fact, it was Marco Polo who made it known that carpets in Konya are quite distinct and beautiful in his travel writing.
Today, of course, it’s a bustling city that blends old and new! It has an expansive park, an ancient bazaar and even a butterfly sanctuary.
A Seljuk City
Konya was the capital of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum that existed between 1000s to the late 1200s. The city is the best place to see Seljuk architecture that date to that time. The sultanate conquered and controlled most of central Anatolia, which was then called ‘Rum’, meaning ‘Roman’. You can see Seljuk works all the way in Selçuk city in the Aegean province of Izmir today.
This was also the time when the Mongol Empire was at its peak. To escape the Mongol onslaught, intellectuals, artists and theologians from the Middle East moved to Konya. Among them was the Sufi scholar, Rumi’s father Bahaeddin Veled. He moved from Balkh, Afghanistan to Konya. In fact, Rumi, whose original name is Jalal al-Din Muhammad Balkhi, later gets his name from the land he grew up on, meaning ‘from Rum’ (Anatolia).
The Seljuks used Persian as the court language even though they were from Central Asia and of Turkic origin. It’s one reason why we see Persian used in Rumi’s poetry and works, although there is also some Greek, Arabic and Turkish.
They built stunning architecture, castles, caravanserais called hans and bazaars along the Silk Road from Capppadocia to Konya and beyond. Their primary material was carved stone for ornamental designs, found in all structures throughout their kingdom. These include the Alaeddin mosque, the Alanya castle, and religious schools called ‘Medrese‘ such as the Karatay Medrese, which is now a museum with an exhibit of beautiful tiles and has a beautiful tiled ceiling too. It was built by Celaleddin Karatay, then governor of the city. You can learn more about the beautiful painted tiles of Turkey in is the place.
Let’s now explore all the sights and attractions you can visit while in Konya and beyond!
Mevlana Museum & Mevlana Cultural Centre
Konya is the hometown and also the resting place of world famous poet and Sufi philosopher Jalal al-Din Muhammad Balkhi, commonly known as Mevlana Rumi. The city attracts both Muslims and non-Muslims alike to the Mausoleum of Rumi where you can learn about his life and his work.
The Mevlana Museum is located in the centre of the city and should be the first stop in this city. The site where it is today was originally the rose garden of the Seljuk palace and gifted to Rumi’s father by the Seljuk Sultan Keykubad. It also had a dervish lodge.
Famously known as the Green Dome and in Turkish as the “Kubbe-i Hadra”, the tomb is where Mevlana rests. Considered “green,” it is actually covered in colourful turquoise tiles, with the last repair done in 1964 to include Kutahya tiles. It was built by architect Bedrettin who was from Tabriz, Iran. It was built within a year of Rumi’s departure from earth.
The tomb is inscribed with calligraphy and religious prayers. Gold and silver embroidered cloth covers the tomb which was gifted by the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid to the dervish lodge. The surface of the sarcophagus is decorated with geometric and floral motifs. The inscription belts consisting of couplets taken from the Masnavi and Divan-ı Kebir, a volume of poems written by Rumi and an anthology of Rumi’s poems, respectively. In front of the mausoleum is an old silver cage structure built in 1597 with poetic quotes. The repairs for the mausoleum were carried out during the Karamanid principality and Ottoman era periods, such as during Sultan Bayezid’s time.
The walls, columns and arches of the tomb are beautifully and ornately decorated with calligraphy. Red, green, blue and gold colours were used heavily in traditional Malakari style fashion, an Ottoman design technique.
The lodge was initially closed by after Ataturk wanted a secular Turkish Republic and closed by religious institutions. It was converted into a museum and started operations in 1926. Dervish artifacts, historical objects and the life of the Mevlavi order are included in the museum grounds and buildings and gardens. This is a must stop on your list when in Konya. Plan to stay here at least a few hours, and even more if you choose to explore the neighbourhood.
To witness Konya’s Mevlevi order’s whirling dervishes devotional ceremony called “Sema,” head to the Mevlana Cultural Centre. They perform every Saturday evening at 19.00 pm. Tickets costs 30 liras per person. The center has a huge sema hall for the ceremony and now you can take away a marvelous spiritual experience, one to remember for a life time.
At least 9500 years old, this late neolithic site in present-day Konya province is a legendary site for archaeologists and history enthusiasts alike. It’s one of the oldest human settlements in the world! It is still being excavated today and has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located southeast of the city of Konya and less than an hour away from the city centre.
It is an important site because we get to learn more about the Neolithic Period or the New Stone Age. It was a time when people started to settle down and store wild wheat and barley grains they collected. Eventually, they began to save and plant the seeds and then raise animals too. Çatalhöyük may have been one of the first places where people started growing food instead of hunting and gathering.
Discovered accidentally in 1958, the site dates back to at least 7000 BCE and contains several houses, pottery, mural art and figurines. Two different mounds divide the site. Excavators have found artistic and cultural differences between the two mounds, indicating changes in cultural and settlement practices that are still being interpreted today.
There are claims that Çatalhöyük was probably one of the most complicated societies of its time. Archaeologists have also found precious stones such as obsidian and ceramics, decorated pottery, bone tools and clay figurines, even human remains and wall paintings in the ancient houses. Culturally, the people had religious rituals, feasts and even worshipped a mother goddess such as the Phrygian origin goddess, Kybele.
It is believed that at a time when most of the world’s people were wandering hunter-gatherers, as many as 10,000 people lived at Çatalhöyük, making it a game-changer in the world of ancient archaeology!
Alaeddin Hill & Mosque
In the centre of the city you can find the Alaeddin Hill and the mosque on top of the hill. The hill is actually an ancient Neolithic mound that was later settled by the Byzantines and then the conquering Anatolian Seljuks. It takes its name from the Seljuk sultan Alaal-Din Kayqubad.
There are also the remnants of the Seljuk palace and royal tombs within the grounds of the adjacent park. Nearby you can visit the Karatay Medrese, a religious seminary that now serves as a museum displaying beautiful tile work.
Konya Tropical Butterfly Garden & Park
Opened in 2015, the first butterfly sanctuary in Turkey and one of the largest in Europe, this butterfly garden and park is reported to have 10,000 butterflies and 45 species. It also has tropical plants and insects.
Inside, you can expect it to be tropical – hot and humid year round. You can find exhibits and information on butterflies and their classifications. Interactive presentations and documentaries about insects such as the life of the butterfly life cycle of butterflies and other insects is especially enjoyable for kids.
Adjacent to butterfly sanctuary is a big garden. It’s a huge area of 3500 m2 with a 1,600 m2 butterfly flight area offers habitat to 15 species of butterflies. There are 98 species of plants in the garden and thousands butterflies can be found here. You can choose to take a nature guide with you while you walk around and learn more information about the unique flora and fauna here!
Right near the Mevlana’s Tomb is the ancient and historical Bedesten Bazaar. It was the center of commercial life for thousands of years from the Romans to the Seljuks and then to the Ottomans. It was built by Kadri Çelebi in 1538, during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. At that time, the covered bazaar was built in a classical style like the Grand Bazaar and houses mosques such as the historical Kapu and Aziziye mosques.
It still maintains its commercial vitality as one of the city’s most important shopping place. It has around 40 streets and is frequented by both locals and tourists. Being a center of attraction with its variety of clothing, accessories and household goods for artisans, antique enthusiasts, handcraft art fans, couples preparing for weddings and families, those who visit the Bedesten, besides shopping, can enjoy traditional tea brewed on coal and traditional restaurants in historical buildings. You should definitely try the local specialties – Etli Ekmek, Tirit Kebab andYağ Somunu here. Head to Pideci Hasan Şendağlı for these two, you won’t regret it!
Kultur Park & Area
Enjoy a nature break at the Kultur Park (culture park), located not far from the Alaeddin Hill. At night, you can enjoy a light show at the fountain just as the sun is setting. During the day, you can stroll in the amphithreatre, the rose gardens and do some people watching with the swans in the park’s pond.
Not far, you’ll also find the Stone and wood works museum called the İnce Minare Taş Eserler Müzesi, a beautiful example of Seljuk architecture. It is housed in an architecturally interesting building with one minaret. It is noted for its ornate entrance, domed courtyard, and decorated bricked minaret.
Another stroll further north will take you to the Ferhuniye neighbourhood with historical Ottoman houses, dervishes lodges and tombs. The municipality is also set to open a new museum and culture centre dedicated to history of the Seljuk empire and its sultans called the Payitaht Museum.
Konya Science Center
It is considered the country’s first interactive and bilingual institution. There are hands-on exhibitions on science, technology & space, film screenings and even a planetarium. For instance, you can find exhibits about human anatomy and the body, solar system and the universe.
The centre has a section on muslim scientists, inventors and scholars. There’s an exhibition gallery about the principles of flight, the theory of vision, number systems and trigonometry and chemistry. For example, there are exhibits on flight, citing Evliya Çelebi’s (who has quite a reputation in Turkey) narration of the Çelebi brothers’ attempts of flight in Ottoman Istanbul. A model of al-Jazari’s (who’s from Cizre in present day Turkey) medieval elephant clock in the form of an Asian elephant is delightful.
The centre also hosts star gazing nights with telescopes so you can glimpse at the moon and other planets. If you’re with kids or youngsters, this is a great option to spend a few hours or an evening here.
Located at one end of the Bedesten bazaar, Aziziye Mosque is a beautiful example of the mix of Ottoman and Baroque architecture with its calligraphy, tiles, and its two minarets. It was restored after a fire in 1875 by the mother of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Aziz, hence the name “Aziziye“.
The architecture of the building also shows European influences, with its huge arched windows and carved stone minarets with balconies. Its large baroque windows and dome are striking for a mosque. Inside, you’ll find blue, gold and green colours, a large chandelier and gilded stucco, usually seen in European cathedrals.