Mevlâna Museum

Mevlâna Museum information

Prices
admission ₺5, audio guide ₺10
Opening hours
10am-5pm Mon, 9am-5pm Tue-Sun
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Lonely Planet review

For Muslims and non-Muslims alike, the main reason to come to Konya is to visit the Mevlâna Museum, the former lodge of the whirling dervishes. It's Celaleddin Rumi (later known as Mevlâna) that we have to thank for giving the world the whirling dervishes and, indirectly, the Mevlâna Museum. Calling it a mere museum, however, makes it sound dead and stale, but the truth coudn't be more different. As one of the biggest pilgrimage centres in Turkey, the museum constantly buzzes with energy.

For Muslims, this is a very holy place, and more than 1.5 million people visit it a year, most of them Turkish. You will see many people praying for Rumi's help. When entering, women should cover their head and shoulders, and no one should wear shorts.

The lodge is visible from some distance, its fluted dome of turquoise tiles one of Turkey's most distinctive sights. After walking through a pretty garden you pass through the Dervişan Kapısı (Gate of the Dervishes) and enter a courtyard with an ablutions fountain in the centre.

Remove your shoes and pass into the Tilavet (Koran reading) room, also known as the calligraphy room due to its calligraphic displays.

At the entrance to the mausoleum, the Ottoman silver door bears the inscription, 'Those who enter here incomplete will come out perfect'. Entering the mausoleum, look out for the big bronze Nisan tası (April bowl) on the left. April rainwater, vital to the farmers of this region, is still considered sacred and was collected in this 13th-century bowl. The tip of Mevlâna's turban was dipped in the water and offered to those in need of healing. Also on the left are six sarcophagi belonging to Bahaeddin Veled's supporters who followed him from Afghanistan.

Continue through to the part of the room directly under the fluted dome. Here you can see Mevlâna's Tomb (the largest), flanked by that of his son Sultan Veled and those of other eminent dervishes. They are all covered in velvet shrouds heavy with gold embroidery, but those of Mevlâna and Veled bear huge turbans, symbols of spiritual authority; the number of wraps denotes the level of spiritual importance. Bahaeddin Veled's wooden tomb stands on one end, leading devotees to say Mevlâna was so holy that even his father stands to show respect. There are 66 sarcophagi on the platform, not all visible.

Mevlâna's tomb dates from Seljuk times. The mosque and semahane, where whirling ceremonies were held, were added later by Ottoman sultans (Mehmet the Conqueror was a Mevlevi adherent and Süleyman the Magnificent made charitable donations to the order). Selim I, conqueror of Egypt, donated the Mamluk crystal lamps.

The small mosque and semahane to the left of the sepulchral chamber contain exhibits such as musical instruments, the original copy of the Mathnawi, Mevlâna's prayer rug, and a 9th-century gazelle-skin Christian manuscript. There is a casket containing strands of Mohammed's beard, and a copy of the Koran so tiny that its author went blind writing it. Look to the left of the mihrab for a seccade (prayer carpet) bearing a picture of the Kaaba at Mecca. Made in Iran of silk and wool, it's extremely fine, with some three million knots (144 per square centimetre).

The matbah (kitchen) of the lodge is in the southwest corner of the courtyard. It is decorated as it would have been in Mevlâna's day, with mannequins dressed as dervishes. Look out for the wooden practise board, used by novice dervishes to learn to whirl. The dervish cells (where the dervishes lived) run along the northern and western sides of the courtyard. Inside are a host of ethnographical displays relating to dervish life.

The complex can get oppresively busy, and seeing any of the contents of the museum display cases can be a pushing and shoving, head-ducking affair. Come early on a week day if you want to see all the items in peace. On the other hand, the atmosphere on busy days is almost addictive and more than makes up for not being able to properly examine the museum pieces.

Beside the museum is the Selimiye Camii , built between 1566 and 1574 when Sultan Selim II was the governor of Konya.