Galata Mevlevi Museum
Lonely Planet review for Galata Mevlevi Museum
The semahane (whirling-dervish hall) at the centre of this tekke (dervish lodge) was erected in 1491 and renovated in 1608 and 2009. It is part of a complex including a meydan-ı şerif (courtyard), çeşme (drinking fountain), türbesi (tomb) and hamuşan (cemetery). The oldest of six historic Mevlevihaneleri (Mevlevi tekkes) remaining in İstanbul, the complex was converted into a museum in 1946.
The Mevlevi tarika (order), founded in the central Anatolian city of Konya during the 13th century, flourished throughout the Ottoman Empire. Like several other orders, the Mevlevis stressed the unity of humankind before God regardless of creed.
Taking their name from the great Sufi mystic and poet, Celaleddin Rumi (1207–73), called Mevlana (Our Leader) by his disciples, Mevlevis seek to achieve mystical communion with God through a sema (ceremony) involving chants, prayers, music and a whirling dance. This tekke's first şeyh (sheikh) was Şemaî Mehmed Çelebi, a grandson of the great Mevlana.
Dervish orders were banned in the early days of the Turkish republic because of their ultraconservative religious politics. Although the ban has been lifted, only a handful of functioning tekkes remain in İstanbul, including this one. Konya remains the heart of the Mevlevi order.
Beneath the semahane is a fascinating exhibit that includes displays of Mevlevi clothing, turbans and accessories. The mahfiller (upstairs floor) houses the tekke's collection of traditional musical instruments, calligraphy and ebru (paper marbling).
The hamuşan is full of stones with graceful Ottoman inscriptions, including the tomb of Galip Dede, the 17th-century Sufi poet whom the street is named after. The shapes atop the stones reflect the headgear of the deceased, each hat denoting a different religious rank.
See the boxed text 'Seeing the Dervishes Whirl' for details of the weekly sema (whirling-dervish ceremony) performed here.