Konya, in a whirl of its own

The heart of Turkey, Konya, a city of a million souls, squats slap in the middle of Anatolia's wild plain, surrounded by open, endless prairie.

Turkey's most culturally conservative city, Konya seems at first to be a place of tight head scarves and foreboding beards, of ostentatiously observed pieties and forbidden beers. But uncovering Konya is easy – for here, at the heart of the old city, in his tomb of turquoise tiles, is Jelaluddin Rumi.

Rumi was a mystic, a Sufi saint who loved all religions, and whose own religion was love. His followers would (and still do) lose themselves in trance and dance, sometimes spinning like tops for hours on end – and that doesn’t mean migraine inducing techno beats.

These whirling dervishes are now the symbol of Turkey's tourism campaigns, and you can sip tea in your Istanbul hotel lobby watching some poor bloke in a tall beige felt hat whirling for your entertainment. For the real thing, though, come here. Come to Konya and you come to Turkey's soul.

Rather than making Konya a halt on a bus tour, stay for a few days, soaking up the feeling, eating some of Turkey's best lamb, seeing its best Seljuk architecture and – maybe – falling in love with Rumi.

Turkish Airlines flies to Konya via Istanbul from Heathrow, Stansted, Birmingham and Manchester, from £219 rtn inc taxes, TurkishAirlines.

Istanbul to Konya by rail costs from around £24 return, or around £36 return by bus. Hotel Balikcilar has rooms or around £70 (and also serves cold beers – very important with all that whirling! HotelBalikcilar.

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