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Konya: The Center of Islam and Birthplace of Sufism

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One member of our group, David has read poems and studied writings of Rumi every day for the past 30 years so traveling through this bastion of Islam region where Sufism and whirling dervish orders flourished and Selcuk culture was centered was especially a highlight for him. If you have any interest in Rumi, Sufiism and Whirling Dervish, it's worth reading up a bit before arriving here about Rumi's life and teachings, but if not it's such a great opportunity to learn more especially the way we do it on this trip. Konya is not just a bus stop to see the Mevlana Museum ("Mevlana" is another name for "Rumi") and his mausoleum. Visiting the mosque in Konya and where Rumi is buried along with the displays of beautiful Korans and many objects of life used by mystic Meveli Sufis, some of whom were also Ottoman Sultans are impressive, but what's even more moving here are the 1.5 million Muslims who come here to worship and pray for Rumi's help.

Although Sufism and all religious practices were banned under Ataturk's new constitution separating religion from politics, he quickly realized that tolerance was so central to the Mevlana's teachings and his contribution to Islam in Turkey that Sufis were among the first orders of Islam subsequently recognized by the government of the new Republic.

Come, whomever you may be,
Even if you may be
An infidel, a pagan, or a fire-worshipper, come.
Ours is not a brother hood of dispair.
Even if you have brokn
Your vows of repentance a hundred time, come.
Rumi

But our 'Wild style' of understanding Islam and Sufism is as much experiential as it is intellectual, beyond just visiting the Mevlana Museum and Mausoleum. For example, we visit an intimate Whirling Dervish sema (ceremony) in a very atmospheric refurbished caravanseri just outside of Urgup near our hotel. When we went to the early sema (5:30 PM, instead of the other one at 9 PM) our guide arranged a private sitting with one of the dervishes. We all had questions and enjoyed an open and revealing conversation about his life, personal practice and questions many of us had of the symbolism, orchestration, chanting and music of the ceremony we had just seen. Catherine is a practicing minister for whom we have already arranged a private luncheon with a historian when they return to Istanbul, and this was just one of the unique insights we don't write into our itineraries but that our guides here arrange for Wildland travelers whenever possible.

One other personal experience of Islam that we don't mention in itineraries because we prefer to make it a surprise, and it cannot be guaranteed, is a personal "concert" of sorts with the Imam at a beautiful mosque on our road trip through Anatolia. Alper has a personal relationship with him and calls ahead to let him know when our travelers will be passing by so he tries to be available for a private sitting with us. He's amazing and brings tears to some of us as he demonstrates inside his beautiful wooden structure mosque with blue tiles his sing-song call the prayer for which he won the equivalent of the national "Imam Idol" competition in Turkey! Like the private session with the sufi mystic, our Imam answered questions about Islam, shared his path to becoming an Imam, and for those who wish, including Catherine our traveling minister, he will demonstrate and pray together as Muslims do.

It's moments like these that make us so proud and appreciative after 25 years of the deep understanding and sometimes even a personal spiritual consciousness we gain on a Wildland Adventure as a result of the exceptional guides who truly enjoy sharing more meaningful and personal dimensions of their country and culture with our type of travelers who are truly seekers.

 

Keeping it wild,
 

Kurt Kutay

 

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