Monday, December 12, 2011

Whirling Dervish Festival

The Mevlana Festival, known to us English speakers as the festival celebrating the acclaimed poet and philosopher, Rumi, was one whirlwind of a weekend, pun intended. We left Duzce at 6am with two friends and a little white car. Because of the cold front that came through, the drive was slow, avoiding icy patches up the road on the mountain and taking care of heavy fog. Six stops to clean the windshield, one car-swap in Ankara and 8 hours later, we finally made it to Konya. We drove all that way for the Mevlana Festival, the largest global festival devoted to the Sufi's. Konya is the sight of Rumi/Mevlanas burial and the majority of the later part of his life. First stop was meeting the other Fulbrighters and dropping off our stuff at their adorably 1970's deco apartment provided by their university. I can't tell you how nice it is sometimes to just speak English without trying. No having to explain jokes or watch your words or actions. We could just let loose and be silly. We grabbed lunch together at this great place in Konya, famous for their etli-etmek, a dish of flat bread with sprinkled herbs and ground beef. Twas quite delicious, though I only snuck a bite because of the whole bread allergy thing. What a drag.

We visited the Mevlana museum, which houses Rumi's tomb. It was magnificent. Never have I stood in front of a grave and felt a sense of holiness like I did that way. The simplistic majesty of his tomb and the near tangible religiosity wafting through the air was inspiring. As we left the museum, and tried to keep warm from the bitter cold eating through our jackets, we were lucky enough to witness a lunar eclipse. A baby slice of a red moon appeared from darkness, and became brighter, fuller and more yellow over the course of about twenty minutes. That was a first in my life. Never have I ever seen a lunar eclipse.

It was, I suppose a fortuitous evening. After watching our eclipse, we walked to the 8:00 showing of the whirling dervishes. Inside Turkey, from coast to coast, tickets were sold out. And this is only the second biggest weekend. The grand finally is December 17, but this weekend was also huge, celebrating his marriage and wedding. Sufi's from all over the world were in attendance, from Asian to Turkish to all kinds of Arabs. It was a beautiful mix. We sat down and waited for the world famous show to begin. It is, after all, the birthplace of the whirling dervishes, and is most famous for them. We had high expectations. But, being a ceremony and all, we were enterained by two MC's, a band, a singer and three speakers for a good hour in Turkish. About twenty minutes in, my focus was shot. I was bored and anxious to see the show. It finally began. I wouldn't do it justice by using my words, so I tried to record video for you all to see. It is of the beginning, middle and end. Both the beginning and end involve beautifully blended instrumental accompaniments and a prayer. It was inspiring to say the least.

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