Whirling Dervishes, Istanbul
First some practical information:
The Galata Mevlevihanes or Galata Mevlevi Lodge is also called 'Museum of Court Literature' and is near Tunel, in Beyoglu (there is a website link bottom of page).
Dervish orders were banned under Ataturk - hence the 'official' name of this place.
The ceremony and concert takes place on the second & last Sundays of the month, May to October at 5pm, with an earlier 3pm start November - April. Tickets are relatively expensive 25ytl (as of Dec 2005) but I would not have missed this experience for the world. Gets quickly booked up, so try to buy in advance. December is their holy period, and there wiill be events at different times then.
The lovely old lodge has a shady garden with an old ottoman cemetary next door. Inside the galleried hall there are displays of instruments. Sufi costumes and writings.
The name is of the lodge is taken from the title by which the C13th mystical Sufi poet, Rumi, was known: Mevlana (leader). It is a movement founded on the concept of love and communion with god- the dervish ceremony being one way of finding union.
Rumi wrote in a way that can seem very mysterious, because " just as the ocean can only fill the jug to its capacity, so Mevlana can only fit our words and perception in proportion to our capacity".
The event began with a concert of Sufi music - then the ceremony itself took began. It is hard to describe this extraordinary event. It has a grace and harmony that I have not expected. Every part of the ceremony, from costume and hats to order of events, has symbolic meaning - this is explained in the leaflets you will be given when you arrive.
Please don't take flash photos (they ask you not to): take away only the memory!
The Galata Mevlevihanesi, or tekke is a Mevlevi Whirling Dervish hall on Galipdede Caddesi just south of Tünel Square, at the southern end of Beyoglu's Istiklal Caddesi in Istanbul.
Several different Mevlevi dervish groups use the Galata Mevlevihanesi for their activities, so the sema you attend on Saturday day may not be by the same group as the one on Sunday.
The dervishes traditionally whirl every Sunday and some Saturdays throughout the year. Here's the schedule and how to buy tickets. (
The octagonal hall is a perfect place to witness the Mevlevî sema, or whirling worship ceremony. Buy your tickets in advance, as space is limited. More...
The Galata tekke has a long and revered history, having been founded in 1491 by a Ottoman grandee from the palace of Sultan Beyazit II. The tekke's first seyh (sheikh, leader) was Muhammed Semaî Sultan Divanî, a descendant of Mevlâna Jelaleddin Rumî himself.
The building you see is not the original, which burned in 1765, but its replacement, which was extensively restored between 1967 and 1972. (Another photo.)
Galip Dede, a renowned 17th-century sheikh of this tekke, is buried in an ornate tomb to the left as you enter from the street.
The building of the monastery of Mevlevi brotherhood houses a collection of Sufi musical instruments, dervish accessories and manuscripts of turkish poetry.
Twice a month there are concerts and perfomances of Sufi music and dances.
Sema is the inspiration of Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi (1207-1273) as well as part of Turkish custom, history, beliefs and culture... It symbolizes in seven parts the different meanings of a mystic cyle to perfection ( ASCENSION- MIRAC)
Contemporary science definetely confirms that the fundemantel condition of our existence is to revolve . There is no object, no being which does not revolve and the shared similarity among beings is the revolution of the electrons and protons in the atoms, which constitute the structure of the smallest particle to the stars far in the sky. As a consequence of this similarity, everything revolves and man carries on his life, his very existence by means of the revolution in the atoms, structural elements in his body, by the circulation of his blood, by his coming from the Earth and return to it, by his revolving with Earth itself.
However, all of these are natural unconscious revolutions. But man is the possessor of a mind and intelligence which distinguishes him from and makes him superior to other beings. Thus the whirling dervish or SEMAZEN causes the mind to participate in the shared similarity and revolution of all other beings.
The Sema ceromony represents a mystical journey of man's spiritual ascent through mind and love to PERFECT(Kemal) . Turning towards the truth , and arrives to the PERFECT. Then he returns from this spiritual journey as a man who reached maturity and a greater perfection, so as to love and to be of service to the whole creation ,to all creatures without discriminating in regard to belief, class, or race. .. The dervish with his head-dress (his ego's tombstone), his white skirt (his ego's shroud) is spiritually born to the truth , by revolving his black cloak, he journeys and advances to spiritual maturity through the stages of the SEMA.
Originally , Dervish Dance is performed in KONYA ( u can check my KONYA page)... However there also some ceromonies that u can find in ISTANBUL.... e.g GALATA MEVLEVIHANESI...
Entrance is 25 ytl
Dances of Colours consists of 2 activities, The Ceremony of Dervishes at Dervish Dede Efendi House and Dervish Ceremony followed by Turkish dances at FKM Theater. They organise in 2 different places because they want you to feel the culture in the right atmosphere.
I have seen the one with folk dances at FKM 2 years ago and it was amazing, professional dances, good stage, really authentic programme.
In september, I saw the dervishes with live music in a typical historical Turkish house. It is in the house of Dede Efendi( 18th- century Turkish musician who is considered as Turkish Beethoven) with his wonderful pieces. They give all this information before the ceremony starts.
I have seen dervish ceremony in other places in Turkey. On 17th of december, They have the big ceremony in Konya. As an event it is big and professional but it is a show with politicians, tv cameras etc... In the other places, none of them give you the feeling of this special culture. You can even find in restaurants, tea gardens. I dont want to say that this is the best, but I can say that in Dede Efendi House:
you feel very close to them,
you feel the spirit of this important musician,
it is very central but also in a typical Ottoman neighborhood( of course, you need to fo follow the map correctly),
the musicians and the dervishes are very good,
You can also discover the beautiful poetry of Rumi from a slayt show of 20 min,
The price is affordable(45 and 35 TL)
It is every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 19.30
For the performance dates at FKM Theater, you need to contact them, it is not very often.
You may see just 1 time in your life, try to feel it.
Sufi Music Concert/Whirling Dervishes There are a number of places that you can see this religious group in action. We saw them at the train station at Eminonu. We booked the tickets at the train station. The performance lasts about an hour. You get a small book which provides a brief explanation and history of Rumi the founder of the Mevlevii Sufi order and the Sema (whirling ceremony). Some tips: get there before 7pm and as you walk in sit to the right. Sufi Group of Istanbul Galata Mevlevi Lodge Every Sunday Wednesday and Friday at 19:30
We saw a whirling dervishes ceremony at Press Museum last June. The event was awesome and a great experience. The venue was really original, not established for touristic purposes. The dervish dancers are amazing, whirling hour hours.
The Dervishes are part of a mystical sect of Islam started by the famous poet of love, Rumi. There is a group of dervishes who perform by the Blue Mosque, but we were told on good authority that the group that performs by Galata Tower was more authentic. Every aspect of the Sema ceremony illustrates an aspect of our path to connection with god, ourselves, and our world. Absolutely mesmirizing and awe-inspiring to watch
If you entered the Sema you will leave both worlds:
the world of the Sema is outside both worlds.
I saw the Mevlevi Sema Ceremony at the Hocapsa Culture Centre which (in 2008) was converted from a 550 year old Turkish Bath. It is a beautiful setting for this ceremony. The Ceremony lasts 1 hour and is split into two. The first section is a Sufi music concert which is something of beauty to the ears... close your eyes and be transported somewhere higher....
The second section is the Whirling Ceremony which is graceful and spiritual journey. It ends with a reading from the Koran.
Photography is not allowed. You must keep silent throughout and there is strictly no clapping.
Seating is numbered and is in a horse-shoe around the "stage" on which the Whirling Ceremony takes palce. The Sufi's are on a low stage at the front of this. Children under 7 years of age are not permitted to attend.
The ceremony starts at 19:30 (except Tuesday and Thursday) but the doors are open from 18:30 and there are free refreshments. NB the waiting area is small and lacking in seats - it is not a comfortable hour to wait!
I was able to book my tickets at my hotel but you can arrange them direct.
They enter, the Sufi's begin, the Dervishes finish and then they leave... they leave you transfixed and in awe.
I am not a religious person but I can say two things 1) This ceremony moved me in a spiritual way, I left with a sense of inner calm. 2) Experiencing this ceremony was definitely a highlight of my journeys around Turkey.
Please note the photos I have uploaded on this tip were taken elsewhere as photography is NOT permitted here.
If you want to see the Whirling Dervishes you mıght as well see a still/pıcture of them as thats all you wıll see when you go to see them for 25 lıra at the railway statıon. The performance ıs essentially ın an old railway waiting room wıth plastic lawn chairs arranged ın a c shape ın two rows. There ıs hardly any cross ventılatıon ın the room and ıt was the height of summer. Not only is there no air conditioning but not even a fan. There was a chandelier and wall lıghts but many of the bulbs on them didn't work.
The show ıs some form of Sufi rıtual for tourıts but no one will explain to you what ıt is all about and what they are doing. The fırst half hour ıs taken up by musıcıans playıng some nondescript monotonous , nonstop Turkısh musıc. Thıs ıs followed by a group of eıght dancers ın traditional cloaks and caps arrıvıng very solemnly and bowıng to each other over 50 tımes through the show. After a very slow walk ın a cırcle they whirl wıth theır hands above theır shoulders ıncessantly for 5 mınutes, lıke wind up dancing dolls lıterally. They do thıs wıth theır eyes almost shut ın a trance or medıtatıve gesture, probably to avoid getting dızzy, for 5 mınutes. Then they stop, take a slow walk ın a cırcle again and start whirling once agaın. Thıs happens altogether 4 tımes and then they leave. There are no other actıons or explanations. The only good that comes out of the whirling ıs a lıght breeze when theır traditional skirts whirl up. Not worth the tıme or the money nor the dıre ınvonvenıence.
One can hardly find anything more touristy and at the same time so serious and real as a performance of whirling dervishes. It is absoloutely not a show, it is a performance of a spiritual act and should be regarded as such. No applauds or talking during the performance.
When I visited a performance it was held in the Sirkeci railway station. There are other venues, one of the more well known is at Hodjapasha. Clicking on the link will take you tou to their homepage, then click on "Contact" and there is a map showing where they are located. Tickets can be bought online.
There is also the possibility to visit the Mevlevi House on the Galata side. There is a ceremony every Sunday at 17.00.
Unfortunately I was not allowed to shoot photos inside the Museum House in order not to harm the ancient objects interior, but its a very worth museum to visit, with the explanations of old Dervish history and concerning subjects ...
It has a great and quiet large garden area, with several tombs of previous religious Sheiks and their followers.
Here you can see more photos on my "Travelogues" of the "Mawlavi House Museum" ... :
The oldest "Mawlavi House" in Istanbul is at Galata ridge at the top of the uphill which leads to Yuksekkaldırım Street. It was built in 1491 as a hunting farm and throughout the centuries it has been rebuilt and renovated many times and opened as museum in 1975 as an association which reflects the culture and art of its own age.
Contribution of "Mawlavi House" to Turkish culture that led to music and science together are very important during the centuries. So many people gathered around the Mawlavi Houses trained on miscellaneous branchies of art.
Enjoy ... :)
'' Sema '' represents a mystical journey of man's spiritual ascent through a mind and love to be able to reach to"perfect,pure love". Turning towards the truth, the follower grows through love, deserts his ego, finds the truth and arrives at the so called "perfect" level in the ceremony. He then returns from this spiritual journey as a man who has reached maturity and a greater perfection, so as to love and to be of service to the whole of creation.
The origin of sema is credited to Rumi (one of the biggest Turkish thinker), sufi (one who does not separate himself from others by opinion and who realizes the heart as the shrine of God)
master and creator of the Mevlevi's so called ''whirling dervishes".
Their ceremony is so emotional & unique, and one of the basic elements of Turkish culture.Mystical musical instruments are commonly used during the ceremony as well.
Mevlana cultural society of Istanbul is one of the best place to taste this unique cultural experience in an unbelieveable,fantastic atmosphere.It is highly recommended to watch one example of this amazing show during your Istanbul visit,especially for those who are highly interested to discover the inner cultural beuaties of Turkish culture.
The Mevlevi Dervish order was founded in the 13th century by the followers of the Persian Islamic scholar Jalal ad Din Rumi. The order is based on a specific interpretation of Islam and the rites and obligations of devotion to God. It grew in prestige in Turkey and the Levant, especially after its leaders established a blood relationship with the Ottoman Sultans. As a result, the order, which was based in Konya, had widespread political, social, economic and religious influence throughout the Empire. They had their own regiment in the army and established outposts in various sections of the Empire. With the proclamation of the Republic in 1923, they fell out of favour with the new governing class, and were banned in 1925. Many of their lodges were seized by the state (including this one), and they survived only by becoming apolitical organizations devoted to religious and social works. Despite the new establishment's hostility to the dervishes, their cultural and religious traditions are preserved to some extent, including in museums such as this one, in order to conserve the memory of the important role played by the dervishes in Ottoman society and politics.
There are many places around Istanbul where you can go and see the dance of the Dervesh whilst eating your meal and drinking your...alcohol!
Having been to an actual ceremony which moved me beyond my comprehension the only reason I went to one of these "shows" was so that I could take some photos!!!
The setting of the "dance" I went to was beautiful - up on a terrace with a full moon, glowing next to the dome of the mosque opposite... but there was no "experience" as there was at the ceremony... people clinked knives and forks and drank and spoke to the waitors to order more...
As I say it is good for taking photos and/or if you have children too young to go to a proper ceremony.