One of my absolute favorite qaawalis is Khawaja Mere Khawaja composed by AR Rahman. It’s one of those songs I listen to every time I falter. The song was picturised in a bollywood movie, Jodhaa Akbar. You could put it down to acting but it was one of those pieces that bollywood got just right. And thus began my fascination with the whirling dervishes and Sufism.
Over the years, I have come across several translations of a Persian poet Rumi. Quotes, poems, twitter retweets etc. and the words always, always leave an impact. What I didn’t know was that Rumi was THE Mevlana and he was the founder of the Mevlevi Order. In short the whirling dervishes and one of my favorite poets were…like one! And imagine the double whammy when I discovered that Rumi had settled in Turkey and in fact his lodge and tomb stone were in Konya! *imagine bright white light and angel music of discovery* Hence a trip to Konya made to the top of the list.
I wanted to see a live Sema (the whirling dervishes) but I didn’t want to see a touristy show in Istanbul so I had to plan a trip around the Sema session on Saturday nights at the Mevlana Cultural Centre in Konya. I arrived from Goreme by bus around 1pm on Saturday. First things first, I went to the bus company that had duped me of a ticket to Goreme and gave them my 2 cents. At least they looked shamed. I realized it wasn’t them, it was the bus driver. Oh well. I have always believed in customer feedback.
To get to Mevlana Museum which is where the tomb of Rumi and his lodge is located, is a 30-minute ride on the tramvay from the Otogar. I checked into my hotel and left to explore the museum. The entry fee is only 3 TL and its probably not as popular with the tourists however it was packed. The museum is probably visited by the locals or the followers of Sufism more than just your average backpacker. I would have liked to enjoy and taken my time around the museum but it was stinking hot and full of pushy Turks. I will have to mention this – Turks have like no personal space boundaries. So I had people pushing and elbowing me. I made a quick tour around the museum, paid my respects at his tomb stone and left. I looked around the small trinket shops around the museum and went back to the hotel. The Cultural Centre is probably a 15-minute walk from the museum but I didn’t feel like walking so I took a taxi. The Sema starts at 9pm and its free. The centre is really well designed and quite impressive. As I walked to the doors, I felt this excitement like I haven’t felt in ages. I acutely remember when I was young and we used get all these shows in Fiji from all over the world which our parents took us to and it was that feeling or that just before the beginning of the school excursion feeling! The guy at the hotel had told me to sit in D-block. Bless him, it was the best place to be seeing the Sema from. The place was full locals and I’m sorry to say this but they were talking and carrying on and walking up and down and leaving while the Sema was happening. I’m not sure because it was free, it got all the riff-raff (pardon my snobbiness) or they were just that disrespectful. If they only knew the amount of money I spent just to be there for one night, I think that would give them something to chew on!
Anyway the Sema was beautiful. I almost feel cheated because of this little thing called my camera. Every time I got engaged in watching, I realized I had to take a picture. You see I may be traveling alone but behind me are some wonderful people to support this experience and I have to make sure they are as much a part of this as me.
You see I may be traveling alone but behind me are some wonderful people to support this experience and I have to make sure they are as much a part of this as me.