Konya – the city of Rumi
We started super early today. The drive from Pamukkale to Cappadocia was about 800 kilometers driving past the Pamukkale terraces where lots of balloons were lifting off in time for sunrise.
The landscape was different from what we had seen so far. No more cotton fields or olive trees but lots of pine plantations. There were some hills but soon the disappeared too and the landscape became flat and baron.
Two hours later we stopped for coffee and toilet break. The place had a very nice quality textile, health products and souvenirs. One of the best souvenirs to take home is the ‘Evil Eye,’ the blue colored eye believed to be the eye of the sky by the old Shamanism belief. It is called ‘Nazar’ and is used to wade off the evil spirits.
Outside there were several trucks of sugarbeets, which had white skin but would turn red when boiled. Potatoes come in two colors as well – white and yellow, yellow one tastes much better than white. Turkish cook their potatoes and eggplants very well.
A stinky smell filled the bus and continued to linger on. It was from a shallow lake that fills up in winter but was half dry and muddy in autumn.
We crossed many small villages on the way. Turkish people are very hospitable to their guests but not very welcoming to the new settlers in their villages. Most of the time the villages are all related. They don’t have any fence around their houses. People can knock on each other’s houses and can walk in any time. A house is always ready for a guest.
The land around the village is owned by the villagers. It was given to them centuries ago. The owners sell the land to each other within the village. It gets passed on to the children on his death. Male and female children have an equal share.
Turkey is a Muslim country ( 99% of the population is Muslim) but is not governed by sharia law. A man can’t divorce his wife by saying “I divorce you” three times. A divorce can only be granted by the court. The ratio of arranged and love marriages was fifty-fifty in the previous generation. Now ninety percent of the marriages are love marriages.
The gay people are accepted in society since the Ottoman period ( early nineteen hundred) but gay marriages are not accepted. It is in fact very easy for gay people from neighboring Islamic countries to migrate to Turkey. All they have to do is to declare their sexuality and say the feel unsafe in their own country.
We made a small stop to see a marble query. Turkey has a lot of marble. All the hills around us are of marble and had small queries here and there.
We are crossing the orchards of cherry trees. Turkey is the second biggest producer of cherries after Japan.
Surprisingly Turkey’s biggest industry is car production. Because of the cheap labor, political stability and proximity to Europe, European companies prefer to make their cars in Turkey. Turkey is now working on making their own car, one hundred percent made in Turkey. They already make locally made jeeps, buses, and trucks but not cars.
The second largest industry is mining. Turkey exports a lot of marble and copper. Number three is chemicals or textiles. Tourism comes at number four. The average number of tourists is 40 – 45 million each year, It is much below 70 million in France, Spain, and Italy.
We reached Konya around lunchtime and had the traditional Konyan lunch of lentil soup, pide bread, meat casserole, and rice served on a hot iron plate and baklava like a dessert.
Konya was founded by Romans in the second century as Iconium (from where the word Icon comes from). It is the origin place of Mevlevi Order (Sufism) founded by the follower of Jalaluddin Muhammad Balkhi known to the Western world simply as Rumi. Rumi was a 13th-century Persian poet, Sufi mystic, and Islamic theologize. We visited the Mevlevi Museum which was the old madrasa and has the tomb of Rumi. The museum is visited by one million people each year.
The Konyan people are practicing Muslims and conservative compared to the rest of the country. We saw more women with burqa than any other place during our long journey through the country. Also, there is no bar, no nightclub, no nightlife in this city of one million people.
What it is famous for is the whirling Dervish who wears a white robe and long cap and swirls around in a meditative way to soft music with one hand up towards the sky and other towards the earth depicting their connection with the divine and sharing of knowledge with earthly beings.
Our last comfort stop before reaching Cappadocia was near the one of the largest and well preserved ‘caravanserai.’ Built in the 13th century these caravanserais provided comfort and protection to the traders passing through these trade routes.