Konya is one of the first inhabited cities in the history of mankind, and still contains traces of many ancient civilisations which give it the atmosphere of a museum city. Because of its locations in the middle of the barren Anatolian steppe, it used to be one of the most important trading centres on the Silk Road. The fertile land around the city means Konya is also the heart of Turkey’s grain industry, with farming a major industry. Steeped in tradition, it is one of the most conservative and religious places in the country and best known as the adopted home of Celaleddin Rumi, the Sufi mystic who founded the Whirling Dervish sect. Today it is still a centre of Sufi practice and teaching, and one of the highlights for visitors is the Mevlana Museum, the former lodge of the dervishes. And also Konya has protected its name for centuries. Legend says that Perseus killed a dragon that had been ravaging the town. The people set up a special monument to honour him, a stone obelisk with an icon of Perseus carved in it. This event gave the city its name, Ikonyon, Ikonyum, Iconium.
Mevlana Museum: The Mevlana museum, located in Konya, Turkey, is the mausoleum of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, a Sufi mystic also known as Mevlana or Rumi. It was also the dervish lodge (tekke) of the Mevlevi order, better known as the whirling dervishes. Sultan Ala al-Din Kayqubad, the Seljuk sultan who had invited Mevlana to Konya, offered his rose garden as a fitting place to bury Baha ud-Din Walad (also written as Bahaeddin Veled), the father of Mevlana, when he died on 12 January 1231. When Mevlana died in 17 December 1273 he was buried next to his father. Mevlanas successor Husamettin Çelebi decided to build a mausoleum (Kubbe-i-Hadra) over his grave of his master. The Seljuk construction, under architect Behrettin Tebrizli, was finished in 1274. Gurcu Hatun, the wife of the Seljuk Emir Suleyman Pervane, and Emir Alameddin Kayser funded the construction. The cylindrical drum of the dome originally rested on four pillars. The conical dome is covered with turquoise faience. However several sections were added until 1854. Selimoglu Abdulvahit decorated the interior and performed the woodcarving of the catafalques. The decree of 6 April 1926 confirmed that the mausoleum and the dervish lodge (Dergah) were to be turned into a museum. The museum opened on 2 March 1927. In 1954 it was renamed as Mevlana museum.
Selimiye Mosque: Konya Selimiye Camii (mosque), right next to the Mevlana Museum, is an example of the Ottoman style of mosque from the great period of Ottoman architecture. Its founder was Sultan Selim II (the Sot, 1566-74), who endowed the mosque while he was still an Ottoman prince and governor of the province of Konya. It was finished after he became sultan. If you’ve visited Istanbul, you will notice the similarity to other Ottoman mosques, although this one is smaller and not as finely proportioned. A curiosity is the spire on the mimber (the wooden pulpit): it’s shaped like the cylindrical green tiled dome over the tomb of Mevlana Jelaleddin Rumî, as shown in the photo to the right. In the historic photo in the right-hand column, men sit beside the Selimiye Mosque beneath a sign that reads: It is forbidden to sit beside the mosque.
Alaaddin Mosque: The Alaeddin Mosque (also spelled Alaettin) is the largest and oldest mosque in Konya, constructed by the Seljuk Sultan of Rum in 1221. It lies on Alaettin Hill, the site of Konya’s original acropolis. The Alaeddin Mosque has some interesting architectural features, such as columns of different sizes and decorations incorporated from different periods. The interior includes a tomb chamber with the sarcophagi of a dozen Seljuk sultans.
Alaaddin Castle: The shopping-mall arcade chain that became Aladdin’s Castle began as American Amusements, Incorporated, in the early 1970s. It was purchased and renamed Aladdin’s Castle by Bally Manufacturing Corporation in 1974. Over the next several years, the number of store locations grew from 20 in 1974, to 221 in 1980, to 360 when the chain was spun off in 1989.
Ince Minare Museum: The Ince Minare Medrese (Seminary of the Slender Minaret) is among Konya’s finest and most impressive Seljuk Turkish architectural masterpieces. Located on the west side of the Alaettin Tepesi hill near the Great Karatay Medresesi, the Ince Minare is one of Konya’s must-see buildings. Though built (1267) as a Muslim theological seminary, it has been restored and is now Konya’s Museum of Wooden Artifacts and Stone Carving. The exhibits inside are significant, but it is the building itself that you come to see. Its grand portal, heavily and completely carved with Seljuk decoration and Quranic inscriptions, is among the finest of all Seljuk grand portals. Exhibits within the museum include elaborately carved wooden mosque doors and decorative panels, marble panels carved with typical Seljuk designs of birds, lions, angels and double-headed eagles and even a few elephants. Keep in mind the buildings original purpose: the main hall, with its restful, refreshing pool of water, was the center of seminary life. The large eyvans (alcoves) were used for classes, the smaller rooms as living quarters.
Karatay Medresseh: The Buyuk Karatay Medresesi, on the north side of Alaettin Hill near the Ince Minare Medrese and just down the hill from the Alaettin Mosque, has Konya’s finest Seljuk Turkish tile work in it. Your guide will show you to the dome of the medrese which is spectacular in its dark and light blue Seljuk tiles. The squinches supporting the dome are just as elaborate, and significant amounts of the tile work in the eyvans (alcoves) and the main hall have survived. The water pool at the center of the main hall has a curlicue drain to generate a musical ripple to soothe those at study in the seminary. This elegant seminary was endowed by Emir Jelaleddin Karatay, one of the Seljuk Turkish empires greatest generals, statesmen and grand viziers.
Sahip Ata Mosque and Madrasah: The Seljuk vezir Sahip-i Ata Fahrettin Ali was one of the Seljuk Turkish Empires great builders. Besides Konyas sublime Ince Minare Medresesi, he endowed this kulliye (mosque complex) south of Konya’s Alaettin Tepesi, and had it built between 1259 and 1283, just when the Mongol invasions and overlordship was bringing an end to the golden age of the Seljuk architecture. The formal entrance to the complex is a fine Seljuk tac kapi, or monumental gateway, an asymmetrical but harmonious structure with its own grand and unusual minaret. The gate was beautifully restored in 2006-07. The center of the complex was of course its mosque, only part of which has survived the centuries. What has survived is much smaller and quite simple, except for the mihrab (prayer niche) with its mosaic tiles in geometric designs. Behind the mosque, the fine medrese (theological school), has been beautifully restored (2006-07) as a Museum of Seljuk Arts (Sahip Ata Vakiflar Eserleri Muzesi). Its classic Seljuk cruciform configuration has four eyvans (three-walled rooms) for classes, a central pool for the sound of water, and exquisite dark-and-sky-blue Seljuk tile work. Off to one side of the main medrese structure is a turbe (tomb) chamber containing cenotaphs of Sahip-i Ata himself, his daughter, sons and grandsons. (The actual tombs are beneath, underground.) Long, graceful Quranic inscriptions high on the walls and arches are fine reminders of the artistic excellence of Seljuk tile makers and architects. The complex also had a tekke, or dervish hall, and a hamam, currently under restoration. Just west of the Sahip-i Ata Kulliyesi is Konya’s worthwhile Archeological Museum, with artifacts from the Neolithic excavations at Catal Hoyuk.