KONYA, TURKEY - A Turkish saying goes: When there's trouble in the world, come to Konya. So, on a wet November day, Halit Tuten and his friends found themselves hundreds of miles from home, shoulder to shoulder with fellow worshipers and pilgrims – as well as the odd curious tourist – searching for some kind of peace.
At first glance, this sprawling metropolis isn't an obvious destination for a spiritual journey. Set in Turkey's agricultural heartland, Konya is a booming center of commerce and trade whose factories churn out much of the country's wheat and sugar.
But Mr. Tuten and his friends haven't come to see Konya's utilitarian present. They're here to get a glimpse into its mystic past, to a time when dervishes whirled their way to enlightenment and Christians, Muslims, and Jews gathered to listen to the words of a holy man, and his message of peace and tolerance.
The 13th-century philosopher and mystic poet Mevlana Jalludin Rumi, whose message of peace still reverberates centuries later, is buried in the center of the city, in a spectacular green-tiled mausoleum.
This past year, UNESCO, the United Nation's cultural agency, celebrated the 800th anniversary of Rumi's birth. Across Europe, there were concerts, lectures, and dervish dances – a ritual of the Mevlevi Sufi order Rumi belonged to, which is known in the West as whirling dervishes for these frenzied spiritual dances – culminating in December with the annual whirling dervish festival in Konya.
For many of the faithful, this recognition has been too long in coming. Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern, secular Turkish state, shut the country's dervish lodges and banned their dances.
Rumi's tomb was then reopened as a museum, and dervish dances were permitted only for a short period each December. Today, the mausoleum is still run by the Turkish state, but for many of those who visit, it remains a holy place.
Read the whole story at: http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0102/p20s01-wome.html
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