There’s a Rumi quote that, ever since first reading it, has floated around in the confines of my mind – “Not eastern, not western – human.” The beauty and simple elegance of this verse affected me so much, I almost decided to get it as a tattoo in it’s original Farsi. Fortunately, I did some research first and discovered that this is actually a doctored phrase in English, and to Iranians it would be much more recognizable in it’s modernly used – and highly un-Rumi like – form of “Not eastern, not western – the Islamic Republic.”
Ever since my first exposure to Rumi, or Mevlana as he is known in the Middle East and Central Asia, I have always dreamed of making a trip to Konya. I first attempted to visit Mevalana two years ago – the first time I lived in Turkey. Unfortunately, fate intervened and I came down with a horrible stomach illness that prevented me from going.
With my time in Turkey this time around also rapidly drawing to a close, I decided that not visiting Mevlana would be inexcusable. So, I firstly set out to Ankara. In Turkey’s push to ultra-modernize, large swathes of the country are now being connected via high speed trains. The Konya-Ankara line is one of the first completed, and is absolutely magnificent – clean, smooth, and fast, the line permits easy day trips with only about a two hour ride each way.
Konya is a rich city in history and it has much to be proud of. Formerly the capital of one of the mini-Seljuk kingdoms, Konya rose to fame as the city where Rumi lived, preached, and died. The city is also the burial sight of Shams-i Tebriz, the wandering dervish who inspired Rumi’s mystical fervor. This religious history continues to be well attested – Konya has the highest number of mosques of any city in Turkey. From what I’ve seen, it also has the highest number of teyzeler of any part of the country.
Teyze means ‘aunt’ in Turkish, but also functions as a respectful way in which to address women significantly older than yourself. There is, however, a very stereotypical form of teyze-ness: ideally, the woman should be no taller than five foot three, she must be wearing a colorful headscarf, and she must have absolutely no qualms with elbowing anyone aside. Konya was awash with packs of this type of teyze, hurriedly making their way through all the city’s monuments.
With a modern layout and a feel of Ankara, laid over and around the medieval highlights, a trip to Konya is wonderful. At the train station tour officers also hand out maps to any interested, highlighting possible self-working tours of the city. The city also offers cheap bus tours of all the sights, culminating with a visit to Rumi’s tomb – definitely the main draw of the city for most tourists.
Stay tuned; more on Rumi in the next post!