Without knowing what it was exactly, we went out of our way to catch the dervish festival in Konya. Here’s what I learned when we got there: this year marks the 735th anniversary of the death of the mystic Sufi poet Mevlana (or Rumi, as he’s referred to in the States).

Every year his followers gather in Konya, where Mevlana worked and is buried. For decades this was the only dervish ceremony allowed all year by Atatürk’s vehemently secular regime. The dervishes don’t perform, there is no clapping, there is only prayer, and the music and the relationships between the dervish pupils and teachers, rather than the whirling, are the central features of the process. The experience was mesmerizing.

Apart from the festival, the Mevlana Museum has a noteworthy series of roofs, and Konya is home to unique (and kind of gross) compacted powdered sugar candy. In Konya, we also found some good examples of food items we’ve seen throughout Turkey. This churro-like pastry (generally served cold and without the benefit of cinnamon I’m sorry to report).

This year, the Mevlana festival fell the same week as Eid-ul-Adha or Kurban Bayrami. The first dozen or so people we asked about this holiday could only explain that it involved slaughtering a goat or sheep. Eventually we learned that this holiday commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son. It’s something like the Turkish Thanksgiving: everyone spends time with family, eating ritually slaughtered goats, sheep, and cows, and donating the same to those less fortunate. The holiday lasted for eight days in Turkey. And each day’s evening news was dominated by footage of escaping livestock. We left Konya on the last day of Bayram?. The bus station was full of hundreds of families seeing their (mandatorily) enlisted sons back off to military service.

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