I always wanted to watch the great Sufi Festival in Konya/Turkey where the Islam sect originated. But, as it takes place in December, it never coincided with my stay in Turkey.

However, when I recently visited Istanbul, I was delighted to see adverts for the Whirling Dervishes, performing on a daily basis in the Cultural Center of Istanbul. The dancers are members of the Istanbul based Sufi lodge. As I didn’t want to miss the chance to finally see the Dervishes, albeit outside of Konya, I bought a ticket. It’s TYL 25 and the performance lasts for an hour from 7pm to 8pm.
The Cultural Center is, surprisingly, located in the Sirkeci Gare, famous for once being the final destination of the Orient Express. The station is in the historical Sultanahmed district and can be reached by any streetcar going towards Eminonu or, if you happen to stay in Sultanahmed, on foot.

turkeydervishesipq425The venue is an all purpose community center, a single rather small hall, where folding chairs were set up in a horseshoe form.
As it was off season, only about 50 spectators attended, but the hall wouldn’t seat more than 70 anyway. Four musicians dressed in traditional black and white, opened the performance and played a strangely heart rending music for about 30 minutes. An usher at the door, handed out leaflets, which gave a good overview and explanation of what is Sufism.

Thereafter, five dancers appeared. The normal performances in Konya feature many more dancers, but the reduced number of the Sufi lodge allowed a better view of the fascinating whirls and movements. To my great surprise, two of the dancers were women. The men were dressed in black coats and white garments, but the women wore orange and yellow costumes under their black cloaks. I didn’t know that there were female dancers, it’s after all also called a “Brotherhood” and I couldn’t ascertain how this came about. It was a brilliant spectacle, but I still want to go to the festival in Konya.