IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF RUMİ..., Figen Tunalı | 26.02.2014

"Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come." 

And thus it was with these words that my road to Konya began. Rumi appeals to each, "Whoever you are," and was one who even would fret to be a burden upon the road he set out on, that his own steps might cause it pain. I too set out to pray and pay respects, though ended up amazed every step of my trip through the astonishing city of Konya. This is the city that was the capital of the Seljuk Empire. Within it visitors are presented with a magnificent harmony of science, art and religion in each and every madrasa, museum and mosque. Konya, which is built over the plains, is easy and quick to navigate with its trains, minibuses, and regular buses. I noticed that with the beautiful newness and warmth brought by spring that it was possible to walk just about everywhere on my list from the city center of Alaaddin Hill.  How lovely it would be to sit back and relax in that park, drinking a cup of tea... but my time was limited and the list of things to see endless.

"The path to the Truth is a labor of the heart, not of the head. Make your heart your primary guide! Not your mind. Meet, challenge and ultimately prevail over your nafs with your heart. Knowing your ego will lead you to the knowledge of God."

The first thing I did was to go into Alaaddin Mosque right next to the park. With columns dating back from its origins as a Byzantine church, a gorgeously decorated wooden pulpit, an altar with elegant tiles consisting of every shade of blue, and the tombs of the Seljuk Sultans, Alaaddin Mosque was like a piece of the whole of Konya.

Rumi first met his mentor Shams-i-Tabrizi in Iplikçi Mosque. I wonder at which corner the eyes of these two Sublime beings first met. Is it really just the small windows at the highest point of the high walls that illuminates the massive interior? Or could it be the light illuminating off the elder's prayers? I ended up deciding that it was just the ingenuity of the architectural wonder of the Seljuk period.

"To be one with the truth for just a moment, is worth more than the world and life itself..."

Iplikçi Mosque, the Tomb of Rumi and the Mosque of Shams-i-Tabrizi are all in this gut-wrenching threesome, and anyone who has heard of Rumi or Shams will feel a subtle sadness. The line at the entrance to the Mevlana (Rumi) Museum in place of the tomb of Shams leaves a strange feeling of desolation. From the time of walking towards the tomb up to putting on our shoes our hands were open in prayer the whole way. As much as I'd have loved to stay in that place of peace, but there was no cause to be any more burdensome on the road. The representations inside the museum with the ideas of "Soaring with decay, pouring forth without crumbling" of the fireplayer, the errand boy waiting for acceptance into the Dervish convent (Someone going into the Dervish orders for the first time) and board for learning how to whirl were all incredibly moving.

"Even if a single day in your life is the same as the day before, it surely is a pity. At every moment and with each new breath, one should be renewed and renewed again. There is only one-way to be born into a new life: to die before death."

The tombs of the three followers of Rumi who are in so many tales and books and in his teachings are what you see right when you enter the museum. With the fortune of coming across this, I took the time to take some photos of the tomb of the Three who've been mentioned as "a brotherhood in life and death."

"Patience does not mean to passively endure. It means to look at the end of a process. What does patience mean? It means to look at the thorn and see the rose, to look at the night and see the dawn. Impatience means to be shortsighted as to not be able to see the outcome. The lovers of God never run out of patience, for they know that time is needed for the crescent moon to become full."

Just as I found myself wondering whether I should finally try Konya's famous dish, "Etli Ekmek" (literally "meat bread"), I came across the fine, beautifully adorned doors of Karatay Madrasa. Even though I was hungry, it would be a tragedy to come all the way to Konya without having visited the madrasa, so in I went. The interior of the Madrasa with its wooden and stone-carved doors and Seljuk tiles and gorgeous Kufic script are all some of the most beautiful examples of their kind. The pool inside the Madrasa that now is just represented by a small stream was once used as a calming sound to prevent those in study from getting confused or speaking over one another and basically operated as natural sound insulation.

"Bring into motion your amber-scattering tress; bring into dancing the souls of the Sufis. Sun, moon and stars dancing around the circle, we dancing in the midst—set that midst a-dancing.”

Since it happened to be a Saturday afternoon when I was there, I managed to catch a "whirling Dervish show" that's organized weekly at the Mevlana Cultural Center. In the last part, the music quietened down and the only thing one could hear was the sound of the breathing of the whirling dervishes. In a place of hundreds of people the only sound you could hear was the "whoo" of their breath.

The Aziziye Mosque is worth seeing just for the unparalleled beauty of its minaret, but its Baroque-Rococo style the fact that it's only mosque in Turkey with windows larger than its doors all add to its appeal as a truly gorgeous work.

"And do not gossip behind anyone’s back – not even a seemingly innocent remark! The words that come out of our mouths do not vanish but are perpetually stored in infinite space and they will come back to us in due time. One man’s pain will hurt us all. One man’s joy will make everyone smile."

When I went to Konya one of the other things that surprised me was the nearby village of Sille with its fairy chimneys and churches built into volcanic rocks that remind you of Cappadocia. The unique "oriel houses" of the Greeks who were there until 1924 blend with the village's contemporary Inner-Anatolian architecture and the small-windowed stone houses. Children of this quaint village compete with one another for who can give the best tour of their hometown.

"I'll send you a photo" I told one of them, "what's your address?" "Sille Elementary School, Mustafa Kasap" he told me and added, "Actually it's little Mustafa Kasap! Uncle's son's name is also Mustafa, he works in the cafe in the square so if you don't write "little Mustafa" the letter will go to him. But you'll forget, lots of people say they'll send something but nobody's ever sent me anything!" So that's why you should go to both Konya and Sille. If you're followed by kids with black nylon shoes, hand-knitted vests and haircuts with the shaver set on 3 then you should definitely listen to what they have to tell you about Sille. And if... you take a photo all together please don't forget to send it to them for the story of a lifetime that they have to tell you.

"While everyone in this world strives to get somewhere and become someone, only to leave it all behind after death, you aim for the supreme stage of nothingness. Live this life as light and empty as the number zero. We are no different from a pot. It is not the decorations outside but the emptiness inside that holds us straight. Just like that, it is not what we aspire to achieve but the consciousness of nothingness that keeps us going"

Some of the foods you have to try in Konya include okra soup, meat bread, tandoori lamb and tirit (a local feta cheese dish). There are specific famous places to eat each one of these dishes, so if you ask 10 people on the streets of Konya something like "Where should I go to eat meat bread," you can be sure you'll get the same answer 10 times. When you go to one of these places, know that it's possible that you'll sit at the same table I sat at, or the one next to it, and drink out of the same mug of ayran (a traditional yoghurt-based drink) that I drank out of, even if our tastes aren't identical. We'll have smelled the same smokes out of the furnace and heard the same sounds. Today we've walked the same roads, been shocked by the same things, felt the same sense of both happiness and sadness. Even though we're completely different people... This is how Konya teaches one to think.

Note: All quotes of Rumi are from the Masnavi.

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