Just Spin, Baby: A Night With the Whirling Dervishes in Konya, Turkey

whirling dervishes konya

The Whirling Dervishes are hands down one of the most ingrained images of Turkey for travelers. Members of an ancient religious sect (or something like that), the Whirling Dervishes are famous the world over for spinning in a mesmerizing trance-like state in order to honor God.

They also wear really cool hats.

While the Whirling Dervishes can be seen in a few places around Turkey, their home base is Konya, where they typically perform every Saturday night. We were lucky enough to be there for a hometown show, and here’s a play-by-play of our evening:

4:15 – Arrive in Konya and make our way to the hotel. It’s immediately evident that Konya is a nice-looking town made up of businesses, streets, pretty mosques, and – hey, would you look at that! – huge piles of sheep hides on the side of the road.

5:00 – After checking in, we head out for a mediocre dinner at the first place we see. It is a well-known rule that you are required to have a mediocre dinner at the first place you see after a long travel day, and this joint doesn’t disappoint. Well, it does, but you know what I mean.

5:42 – We head off to the stadium, I mean ceremony venue, and as if there was any doubt at what the Whirling Dervishes mean to Konya, we notice on our way that there are neon signs of the Whirling Dervishes attached to the light poles in town. I have only previously seen this sort of thing for sports teams in America, so they’re definitely a big deal here.

whirling dervishes konya

6:45 – After a bit of tailgaiting, the doors open to the ceremony hall and the scramble is on for the best seats. We are lucky to score two seats only a few rows up from the field, erm, praying floor.

7:00 – A gentle, gracious, and no doubt saintly old man appears and formally welcomes all of us to the ceremony. He details the importance of what we are about to see and the fact that these Dervi (as I am now calling them – a la the Flying Elvi from Honeymoon in Vegas) have practiced years for this. He kindly reminds us to have the utmost reverence for what we are about to see by remaining quiet and, above all, refraining from using flash photography.

7:05 – The Whirling Dervi enter the room, the lights go out, and the flash photography goes off like the Fourth of July. The nice old man just asked us thirty seconds ago to not use it, and now these people are flashing away like there’s a contest to see who can blind the most Dervi.

Man, us tourists suck sometimes.

whirling dervishes konya

7:30 – The Dervi are all in their places, and their leader is illuminated at the top of the floor by a ghostly light. Haunting music begins playing, and then slowly, one by one, the Dervi approach him, receive a blessing, and then take to the floor gently spinning with arms outstretched and attention focused on the heavens above.

8:00 – The floor has now been filled by Whirling Dervi and with the music playing, this truly feels like a worldly experience, the kind you travel for. The ceremony seems of another world, and I am honored to be here. The fact that the tickets were free is only a small part of why I am enjoying it so much.

8:45 – A rousing round of applause and chants of “One more whirl!” “One more whirl!” echo through the hall as the Whirling Dervi quietly exit the room, denying the crowd an encore but giving us all a once-in-a-lifetime experience.



This post originally appeared on TravelPulse

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