Culture and History
The roots of Konya are in Greek legends and mythology. Back then Konya was known as Iconium. Konya was the place where the Greek war hero Perseus slayed his enemies by casting them to stone, using the head of the demon Medusa and finding a city there in the celebration of his victory. Alexander the Great defeated Darius the third of Persia who held Konya in his domain, in 333 BC but soon after his death the empire broke and the reins of Konya fell in the hands of Seleucus. Konya was among the destinations where Saint Paul, who was among the twelve apostles of E’sa (RA) (Jesus Christ) where he preached the message of Christianity. Due to Konya’s relative proximity to the sea and the holy land of Jerusalem, it was often under invasion from first the advancing Muslim armies and then the Christian crusaders.
In 1084 the Seljuk’s invaded the city, renamed the city and brought along the golden age of Islamic Konya. The wealth and power of the Seljuk was consolidated when they conquered rival Turk and Persian territories of all of eastern Anatolia and mostly all of the Anatolian ports to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The rise of the Seljuk sultanate of Rum attracted immigrants from Persia and central Asia weary with Mongol invasions. Among those immigrants was the Maulana Rumi who became the face of Konya forever. The Ottoman era of Konya brought great development and growth. The Sultan’s son or shehezade were usually responsible for administering Konya themselves. Among the most notable were the Shehezade Mustafa and Shehezade Cem who went on to become Sultan Salem II. In 1922, Konya hosted the largest Turkish airbase that defended the southern part of the country in the Turkish war of independence.
The culture of Konya is heavy with the contemplation of the dervish looking inwards, into his soul to find God. At the end of the Turkish war of independence, when the state and religion were separated in the new Turkish constitution, all saintly orders were abolished except this one. Such is the importance of the dervish in Konya and in Turkey at large. The whirling dance of the dervish is not a dance at all; it’s a way of prayer. It’s a process of meditation in which the practitioner focuses on finding the inner essence of God, by blurring out the world. Konya is rich with Persian influences, in its architecture, poetry, music, cuisine, and lifestyle.