On the to do list of nearly every traveler to Turkey is seeing a performance by the Whirling Dervishes. The ritual, which has been performed for hundreds of years, is part of a religious service for the Sufi Dervishes, a Muslim sect. In much the same way other religions practice meditation, the Dervishes whirl in an attempt to free their mind and reach perfection.
Ironically, despite being on of the biggest tourist draws in Turkey, the Dervishes were actually disbanded by the Turkish government in the early 20th century. However, the Dervishes survived and are once again whirling throughout Turkey.
I had the chance to see two Whirling Dervish performances during my time in Turkey. The first time was at a touristy cave dinner in Cappadocia. While beautiful, it was obvious that the performance was just that, a performance. It lacked a soul.
Anxious to see something more authentic, my wife and I made our way to Konya, the heart of Dervish culture. After touring the ancient Mevlana museum, a former hub of Dervish activity and the burial site of their founder, we made our way to the courtyard for the weekly Whirling Dervish performance.
Surrounded by a large crowd of mostly Turkish tourists, we were privileged to watch an hour-long performance. Whether these were “real” Whirling Dervishes or just paid actors I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that their movements were much more graceful, and they seemed to be putting their soul into the performance.
How they managed to spin for nearly an hour without falling over, I’ll never know. I got dizzy just watching them spin so gracefully; their robes billowing out as they twirled. However, with each spin, the look of peaceful meditation was mesmerizing.
If you ever get a chance, head to Konya, Turkey for their excellent Whirling Dervish performance.