Turkey 2002

Day 11 - Wednesday - Konya, Sultanhani and Ürgüp>

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The distance from Lake Egirdir to today's final destination, Ürgüp, was looking pretty scary, which was the reason for the 7am departure.

Around midday we reached our first sight-seeing stop for the day - the Mevlana Monastery in Konya, home of the mystical Islam sect known as Sufism and, in particular, the order of the Whirling Dervishes.

The city's religious significance is obvious from the start - unlike many of the places we had visited so far, the majority of people we saw (with exception of tourists) were wearing much more traditional Muslim attire. Inside the monastery itself - which houses the tombs of Mevlana, his immediate relatives and other distinguished Dervishes - pilgrims visiting the site were in tears, overcome with the emotion of being in such a holy place.

Interestingly, one of the things that the Sufis believe in is not to value material goods, and some will purge themselves of such goods to cleanse their souls. I thought about this as I, and many other tourists, stood filming with our camcorders, snapping away with our cameras, grabbing anything we could to remember this place that obviously had little significance to our daily lives. There seemed to be a strange irony in there somewhere.

Mevlana tomb

The area where the tombs were situated were exquisitely decorated, and adjoining this was a room full of artifacts that were equally stunning. Even if you understand little of the religious aspect of it, it's easy to appreciate the artistry of the items there.

We stopped for lunch in a fantastic restaurant on a balcony that offered great views of the monastery through the gaps in the vines that were trailing over the balcony woodwork.

We then had another leg of our long journey to make from Konya to Ürgüp. For this section, I somehow managed not to nod off (as invariably happens on the bus), and even managed to find some things of interest in what would turn out to be one of the most boring drives on earth. I felt sorry for our driver Safet. We'd all eaten, and most people had nodded off as we drove along a featureless, dull and very straight road that seemed to go on that way for miles.

I sat listening to DJ Shadow's 'The Private Press' (at times a quite surreal sounding LP), watching the occassional industrial building (finished or otherwise) slide past the bus windows. I found myself picking out details in the tedium: the way that the fields kept the same green/yellow hue for miles; the patterns that shadows of the clouds made on the distant hills, looking like markings on a cow; the similarity to some of the Arizona landscapes used in cigarette advertising (Welcome to Marlboro country); the strangely abandoned metre-long measuring stick by the roadside, not lying anywhere near anything that could be measured (what was it doing there?); the truck that drove past with the legend 'Fargo' on the front. I've seen Fargo. It's icy and cold in that film. Today it was pushing 30 degrees Celsius. You're thinking too much, Ian ...

Decorative image: the spire, Mevlani tomb, Konya

Spire of Mevlani Tomb, Konya.