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A whirlwind tour of Turkey this December should include Konya's Mevlana Festival, wherein the brotherhood of whirling dervishes perform their iconic spinning ritual for a full week in honor of a mystic philosopher who believed in the spirituality of dance.
Mevlana was a 13th-century Sufist poet and philosopher who believed that closeness with God could be achieved through dance, according to Lonely Planet. His followers are the Mevlevi, also known as the whirling dervishes, and their most iconic tradition is a hypnotic spinning dance that's performed throughout the Islamic world.
Part of what makes the brotherhood's dance entrancing is the members' wardrobe. As they spin endlessly in circles, their long, white, flowing robes billow out from the waist, making them resemble human tops. Their distinct, conical felt hats only contribute to this feeling.
While the famous dance can be seen throughout the year, the whirling dervish festival in Konya is a unique event capped with a special dance to Mevlana's spiritual union with Allah. Unlike the faster twirling of the other dervish dances performed throughout the week, the festival finale is a slow, trancelike spin wherein dancers cast off black shrouds to the intoned prayers and verses of scholars, the beat of kettledrums and the whisper of flutes.
?While the festival is but one week of the year, there is still plenty of opportunity to see whirling dervishes every Saturday night in the province. To get a better undertsanding of the brotherhood and its practices, the Mevlana Museum offers a collection of artifacts and preserved dervish sleeping cells, where members of the brotherhood lived, slept and prayed.
The museum, as described by The Telegraph, is a beautiful and somber place, with light filtered through stained-glass windows spilling onto Melvana's sarcophagus and his son's tomb. Also connected to the museum is a mosque, where travelers can marvel at delicate crystal lamps, ancient prayer rugs and strands of Mohammed's beard scented with rose.
Celebrating with respect
Getting festive in Konya may be difficult but its not impossible. As one of Turkey's most intensely religious provinces, its hotels and restaurants do not serve alcohol, according to Frommer's. However, it still has one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption in the country. Travelers wishing to get in the spirit need only remember to be respectful of the region's traditions, including wearing appropriate dress and observing calls to prayer, which send the city into silence throughout the day.
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