Saturday Night in Istanbul: Whirling Dervishes

The Whirling Dervishes

So, I realize that I didn’t do a very good job of keeping my blog updated whilst in Turkey. Sure, I posted, but since my mind was on Istanbul, the details were sparse and the pictures were few. Very anti-Traveling Scholar. I’m gonna Quentin Tarantino this a bit, and go back in time to Saturday, so bear with me.

I posted a re-cap of my Saturday morning wherein Alex and I took a trip to Topkapi Palace for the morning. The Palace was gorgeous and packed with some serious history, but like I mentioned on Saturday, make sure you know what you’re looking for if you visit: there’s a lot to see and we missed the mosque and Mohammed’s cloak, which was one of the main draws for Alex. On the bright side, we did get to see someone’s beard… Joseph’s, maybe? I know I posed this question on Saturday, but I have an honest question about this stuff: how do they know toย whom beard hair belongs? How do they know that that was Moses’ rod on display and not just some random rod that was laying around from someone who lived at roughly the same time? How can they be sure it’s a certain prophet’s tooth (weird, I know)? I just don’t really get how they can be sure this stuff is legitimate, but I’ll go with it. When stuff is ‘graded’ by it’s relic level (i.e. ‘first-grade relic’), who is doing the grading and how are they justifying this? These are all the things that go through my mind when I’m wandering through museums. Same thing happened in Malta when I saw St. Paul’s wrist bone, but I didn’t want to be a skeptic while in church. Now that I’m out of a holy perimeter, I’m honestly wondering. If anyone knows, I’d be interested to find out. In the mean time, I’m going to trust that UNESCO (or whoever grades these things) is not being paid under the table to grade relics for countries looking for an influx of tourism.

Topkapi Palace

Cynicism aside, Saturday night involved a pretty cultural experience for our dynamic duo. We had planned on taking a boat over to Asia to have dinner, but we decided instead to catch the ceremony of the Whirling Dervishes at the Press Museum in Istanbul. I had heard of the Whirling Dervishes before heading to Turkey, but didn’t really know much about them or the religious aspects of the ceremony. Al had been wanting to check out the performance (can you call it a performance? I’m going to, but I don’t know if that’s right…) after taking an Islam class in undergrad. A professor had mentioned it was a must-see, so, taking that to heart, we caught the 730P ‘performance’ on Saturday evening.

The Whirling Dervishes

The ceremony is a religious one involving music, the chanting of poetry and the reading of the Koran, effectively putting the dervishes in a trans-like state. The entire thing including a 20 minute concert of sorts lasted about an hour. I’m not sure how they can physically whirl in circles for 30 minutes, but it was an interesting experience. Check out the video:

After the ceremony, we grabbed coffee down the street from our hotel and chatted up locals while looking out at the Blue Mosque and the busy streets. In true Shan & Al fashion, we were back in our hotel and in bed by 11P, tired after a pretty long day of sightseeing and walking around hilly Istanbul.

It was an awesome trip, but I’m happy to be back in London and back into the groove of routine. With that, I’m off to my AM seminar — the last core seminar of my Masters existence!

Catch up with you later,