I don’t know anyone who has been to Konya. In fact, I don’t know anyone who has ever mentioned that they would like to go to Konya.
But, I know a lot of people interested in philosophy, mysticism, Buddhism, yoga and meditation. In other words, I know a lot of people who are interested in spirituality, self-discovery and inner-peace. They readily travel all over the world, to sanctuaries and sacred places where they can fulfil their dreams, but none of them consider going to Konya.
However, that’s very strange because possibly Konya is one of the most spiritual places that you can find. It’s a birthplace of the Mevlevi order and Whirling Dervishes and a resting place of one of the greatest philosophers, mystics and poets – Rumi.
It could be that people in the West don’t know very much about Rumi, because frankly speaking, I didn’t know anything about him before I went to Konya. However, in other parts of the world, especially in Turkey and Iran, Rumi is well known, celebrated and honoured.
Konya has several other important aspects. It was the capital city of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum and it was also an important Ottoman city. This means that on top of vast Seljuk heritage, there is also Ottoman heritage.
The same as Istanbul and Bursa, Konya is an open air museum and it’s fascinating. It is included in a UNESCO Tentative List of World Heritage Sites.
MY HOTEL IN KONYA
I stayed in a fabulous four-star Bera Hotel. When you move deeper into Turkey, away from usual touristic hot spots, it’s a different game. I’ve experienced the same in Bursa and Aydin, where I also stayed in excellent hotels. But, in Konya and later in Ankara, my hotels were much better and much cheaper.
As a matter of fact, the hotel in Konya was probably the best of all places where I stayed and it was also the cheapest. Perhaps, I was lucky because I was there in August when most people choose to go to the sea-side summer resorts.
The Bera Hotel is not in the centre, but it’s not far from there either. From the hotel, it normally took me approximately 15 minutes walk to reach the most central part of Konya, so I would say that the location was pretty good.
If I ever go back to Konya, I will choose this same hotel again. It was really excellent.
WHAT TO SEE IN KONYA?
There are several layers of history in Konya. When I decided to include Konya in my travel itinerary, I knew that it was an important Ottoman city. But, I certainly didn’t think that it was that important. I didn’t expect to find two monumental imperial mosques there, on top of all other Ottoman heritage.
Then, I discovered that it was also the capital city of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum. That threw me a bit off balance, because I didn’t know anything about the Seljuk Empire. Finally, I also found out about Rumi and the Mevlana Museum.
In other words, there are three major aspects through which you can explore Konya. So, in order to properly understand and appreciate what I was going to see, I read and learnt about it all.
Indeed, there is a lot to see in Konya and it would be too much for one post. So, I will write this post as a general overview of the city.
In my following posts, I will write a bit more in detail about each of Konya’s three fascinating aspects.
HACI VEYISZADE MOSQUE (1996)
I saw the Haci Veyiszade Mosque when I arrived to Konya. I took a tram from the bus station and got off at the stop right in front of this mosque. But, I didn’t pay too much attention, as I was carrying my luggage and I also had to find my hotel.
I noticed that it was a big mosque and that it somehow looked slightly different, although I couldn’t really say why. I assumed that it was an Ottoman mosque.
Certainly, with its impressive size, the Haci Veyiszade Mosque dominates the skyline. It’s located in Kultur Park, in the central part of the city, although slightly detached from the most central area, where everything else that you want to see in Konya is.
I decided to go back to this mosque the following morning, right after I had left my hotel. My plan was to visit this mosque and then to continue exploring the city.
It’s a new mosque. Although it looks like an Ottoman era mosque, this is a neo-classical Ottoman architecture. An interesting point is that the architect chose the Ottoman, rather than the Seljuk style, for this new construction.
But, that’s understandable. Ottoman era mosques, built after the conquest of Istanbul, are visually much more attractive as they are modelled on magnificent Haghia Sophia.
This mosque follows the same pattern.
Seljuk and early Ottoman era mosques are more modest in their architectural expression, although in my opinion, they are equally impressive.
A good example is the monumental Grand Mosque in Bursa, a magnificent structure, built in a period that marks the beginning of the rise of the Ottoman Empire.
Construction of this mosque started in 1986 and it lasted for 10 years. The mosque opened for prayers in 1996.
One more interesting observation about this mosque is that it has the longest minarets of all mosques in the Konya region. They are 78m tall. That’s why you can see it, or at least you can see its minarets, from many different parts of the city.
Certainly, there is a little historic value in this mosque, especially in a city so rich in history and with historic monuments densely packed close to each other. Still, it’s very interesting to visit, and if you happen to be in Konya, you shouldn’t miss it.
Kultur Park is right behind the Haci Veyiszade mosque. There is a big fountain, with swans, in the middle of the park. There are also some stunning views of the mosque.
On the other side of the park, I came across an Ottoman fountain, that looks exactly the same as the Saraybosna Kardeşlik Fountain in Bursa.
Unfortunately, I didn’t see any inscription and couldn’t find any information about this fountain. It’s interesting that exactly the same fountain in Bursa is well marked and it takes a prominent place, in an important square.
In Konya, it’s almost insignificant. Perhaps, that’s because there are many other far more important historic sites and fountains like this one go almost unnoticed.
KENT MEYDANI (OLD TOWN SQUARE)
The Seljuk Civilisation Monument is in the middle of the the Old Town Square. Apparently, this square was completely restored in 2013.
What you can’t see in the photo below are several Seljuk era constructions scattered around the square, that I will mention in my next post.
The Alaeddin Hill is directly opposite the Old Town Square. This is where the most central part of Konya starts, where everything that you want to see is.
The Alaeddin Hill, which is now a park, is possibly one of the most important places in Konya.
That’s where the magnificent Alaeddin Mosque complex is. It was built in 1235 and it served as the “Mosque of the Throne” for Seljuk sultans. Apart from the mosque, the complex also includes a mausoleum with eight Seljuk Sultans of Rum.
From the mosque, you will come across a monument, with the following inscription: TÜRK çocuğu – Senin ve Yurdun için can veren ULU ŞEHİTLERİNİ unutma.
It means: TURKISH children – dying for you and your homeland, remember the GREAT MARTYRS!
A beautiful staircase, with a fountain between the two flight of stairs, takes you to Mevlana Street.
Mevlana street is Konya’s main street. It runs from the Alaeddin Hill on one side, to the big square on the other side with two of Konya’s most magnificent historic structures.
Almost all important historic buildings are either in this street or close-by.
The first historic structure that I came across was the İplikçi Mosque. It’s difficult for me to describe the feeling that I had when I saw the inscription at the entrance of the mosque stating the construction date as 1202.
What was I supposed to think when I saw this more than 800 years old Seljuk era religious temple? It’s hard to comprehend the time scale when something is so old and it’s equally hard to put it in its proper historic context.
The Şerafettin Mosque is almost directly opposite the İplikçi Mosque, but on the other side of the street. Unfortunately, this was also one of many historic structures under restoration. Only a very small part of the mosque was open for prayers, with scaffolding both outside and inside.
The Konya Valiliği building is directly opposite the Şerafettin Mosque. This building is the Town Hall.
The colourful historic Bedesten Çarşı starts at this point. This Ottoman era bazaar is the same as in other Turkish cities that I visited, with numerous shops and an abundance of goods on offer.
The whole area is well kept and you get that special oriental feel in the market. There are several important historic structures in this area.
One of them is the Ottoman era Kapi Mosque, built in 1658.
The other one is the magnificent Ottoman imperial mosque – the Aziziye Mosque, built in 1874. This 19th century structure was the most recent historic building that I saw in the city.
Otherwise, the whole area is full of character and charm, despite the fact that it also seems a bit neglected. But, that very unique atmosphere is so appropriate as a perfect setting for such magnificent historic structures.
SELIMIYE MOSQUE & MEVLANA MUSEUM
At the other end of Mevlana Street, you will arrive to the big square, with two of Konya’s most magnificent buildings – the Selimiye Mosque and the Mevlana Museum, next to each other.
I was taken aback when I saw these two buildings for the first time. I certainly didn’t expect to see such an impressive Ottoman imperial mosque, especially after I had already seen the Aziziye Mosque.
As for the Mevlana Museum, I expected a small, modern day building and certainly not this magnificent 13th century structure, with a green dome, that you can see in the photo below.
At that point, I connected the famous Whirling Dervishes with Mevlana and Konya, especially as I had already visited the Mevlana Museum in Istanbul.
One more interesting place to see in Konya is the Martyrs Museum. This museum is close to the Mevlana Museum.
THE REST OF KONYA
Outside of the historic area, Konya is a modern city. It’s interesting and it definitely has its own identity. Kazim Karabekir street is where you should go, it’s a pedestrian street with shops, coffee shops and restaurants.
Every day, after an exhaustive walk, I sat in Çamlıca Pastanesi. It’s an excellent cafeteria, where I had a much needed rest from the oppressive heat.
But, there are many other similar places in this street, so you should explore it. There are also some interesting shops.
Otherwise, it’s nice to just sit aimlessly and watch people and the world around you.
I remember talking with a receptionist in my hotel in Kusadasi. I mentioned to him that I was planning to visit Konya. He immediately said that it was very different, very traditional. I didn’t quite comprehend what he meant, but when I came to Konya, it was clear to me.
Konya is a very pious city. Unlike in Izmir and Antalya, almost all women wore the traditional religious attire. I can’t recall seeing a single girl or a woman without a hijab. Mosques were very busy at prayer times, although it was the same in Bursa.
I walked a lot and I passed by a lot of restaurants and bars. It was in the middle of the summer and everyone was outside. But, I didn’t see anyone drinking alcoholic drinks, not once. Not a single beer. You would think that men like to drink beer, especially when it’s so hot outside.
I fancied a drink in the evening, but I couldn’t find a single place with alcohol on the menu. But I managed to find one shop in the whole city, where I bought two cans of beer, for my hotel room. This tekel shop is in Atatürk street, that runs parallel with Kazim Karabekir street. I believe it’s the only shop in the centre of Konya where you can buy alcohol.
There is so much to see in Konya and, now that I’ve been there, I am surprised that it’s not more popular, especially with people from Western Europe. I refer to my statement at the beginning of this post when I said no one I know has been to Konya or has ever mentioned it as a potential travel destination.
In my next posts, I will delve into Seljuk and Ottoman aspects of Konya and the magnificent Mevlana Museum.
Finally, I hope that this and my next posts will inspire some people to visit this fascinating city.