Four hours south of Ankara, Konya embodies the historic and the contemporary, the whirling dervish and the global economy.  The Neolithic settlement at Çatalhöyük, on the Konya plain outside the city, dates back at least 9,000 years; since then, Konya has been home to Hittites, Phrygians, early Christians such as Saint Paul, Seljuks, and Ottomans.  Serving as the capital of the Anatolian Seljuk Empire under Suleyman Shah between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the city was home to the celebrated poet and philosopher, Mevlana Jalal Al-din Rumi, founder of the sect known as the “Whirling Dervishes”  Rumi’s philosophy emphasizes love and tolerance, calling for the achievement of ecstasy and unity with God through highly disciplined, trance-like worship.

Rumi forms the cultural and religious center of Konya’s identity today, and on his death anniversary in mid-December each year, elaborate ceremonies and commemorations are held.  Konya’s most famous building is the Green Mausoleum of Mevlana Celaleddin (Jalal Al-din) Rumi.  The former whirling dervish seminary attached to the mausoleum has been converted into a museum devoted to manuscripts of Mevlana's works.  Konya harbors other fascinating sights as well, including the Aladdin Mosque and Palace, a top Aladdin Hill, both fine examples of Seljuk thirteenth-century architecture and planning.  Karatay Medrese, also constructed in the thirteenth century, stands to the north on the hill, and is now a museum displaying the best examples of Seljuk tiles and ceramics.  Seljuk art and architecture can be seen at the Ince Minareli Medrese, the Sırçalı Medrese, and the Iplikçi Mosque.  The Archaeological Museum houses, among its many treasures, the famous Sidemara Sarcophagus from Antioch.  Keep in mind that Konya is known as one of the most religiously conservative cities in Turkey, and modest clothing and behavior is encouraged.

Also worth a visit are the Neolithic ruins at Çatalhöyük, where the East Mound rises twenty meters above the Konya plain.  Once one of the largest Neolithic settlements on earth with more than 8,000 people, the mound comprises thirteen levels of building, each containing roughly one thousand structures.  People at Çatalhöyük lived in tightly packed dwellings that were connected by ladders between the roofs instead of streets, and were filled in and built over when they started to wear out.  Skeletons were found buried under the floors, and most of the houses may have doubled as shrines.  The settlement was highly organized, but there are no obvious signs of any central government system.  Little remains of the ancient center other than the excavation areas, which draw archaeologists from all over the world between June and September.  Near the site’s museum stands the experimental house, a reconstructed mud-brick hut used to test various theories about Neolithic culture.

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