Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Konya – Home of Mevlâna

The Muslim holy city of Konya is well worth an overnight stop if you are planning a tour around Turkey.

If, like us, you arrive in town by train (see separate posting), or by bus, don’t do what we did and walk in to town! Both the gar (railway station) and the otogar (bus station) are quite a way out of the centre and the walk, particularly on a hot day with luggage, is not easy. My advice would be to take a taxi.

Don’t worry if you haven’t any accommodation booked. We tried to book on-line before travelling to Konya, but could only find expensive options, so we winged it, and had no problems finding a room, even in August. Just ask the taxi driver to drop you off close to the Mevlâna Museum, and you will have many choices of hotel close by.

We stayed at the Hotel Yaşin, and paid only 60TL for a double en-suite room with breakfast. It was very clean, very comfortable, and the couple who ran the place were very helpful, organising a taxi to the otogar for us when we left.

Konya is a modern, lively city. I think we were there on the busiest day of the year for weddings and circumcisions. Everywhere we turned, we saw either a bride and groom in their marriage finery, or a small boy dressed in the distinctive costume which signifies his sunnet (Turkish for circumcision). This was accompanied by the constant cacophony of car horns as convoys of revellers drove through the streets. However, Konya is also probably the most conservative city in Turkey. There are very few uncovered women and hardly any shorts-wearers, despite the heat. My advice is to cover up with loose, cotton clothing so as not to draw attention to yourself or to offend local sensibilities.

Konya is the home of the Whirling Dervishes, a religious order founded by the sufi (Muslim sage), Mevlâna in the 13th century. The dervishes still whirl and, if you are in Konya on a Saturday evening in the summer, you can enjoy a free outdoor performance of their ritual dance in the grounds of the Mevlâna Museum. We weren’t aware of this, and arrived in the city on a Sunday!

The Mevlâna Museum itself is a highlight of any visit to Konya, and a bargain at only 2TL per person to get in. However, it is extremely busy in season, and I would recommend getting there early in the day (the Turks are renowned for not getting going until after lunch!). It opens at 8.30am every day except Monday when it is closed all day.

You may be surprised, as we were, at the number of tuk-tuk type vehicles to be seen on the modern city streets. These mini-trucks have been adapted to carry many, many family members, as well as produce and the odd sheep! They are a colourful sight!

There are many superb restaurants in the centre of Konya, none of which serve alcohol. If you want a beer, you will need to go out of town – there is a row of licensed cafés and bars on the road leading to the otogar. However, I think you should forego the alcohol and try one of the central restaurants. I can particularly recommend the Rose Garden Restaurant which overlooks the rose garden of the Mevlâna Museum and serves good food at reasonable prices.

When leaving Konya, it is very easy to buy onward bus tickets from any of the agents on the street opposite the museum.

TOP TIP – dress conservatively!

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