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Live Whirling Dervishes Experience in Istanbul

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Live Whirling Dervishes Experience in Istanbul

Are you searching for a unique and inspiring experience during your visit to Istanbul? Look no further than the live whirling dervishes experience near the city’s Old Town. This age-old religious ceremony offers a mesmerizing glimpse into traditional Turkish culture, and is an activity that you won’t soon forget. In this article, we’ll tell you what to expect from an authentic live whirling dervishes experience in Istanbul.

What Are Whirling Dervishes?

Whirling dervishes are an important part of Islamic culture that can be traced back more than 700 years to the days of the Ottoman Empire. The word “dervish” translates to “person of thirst” or “poor person”, referring to people who taught religious texts and ethics without expecting payment or donation in return. Whirling dervishes are Sufi, or Islamic mystics, who practice a ritual known as Sema.

Sema: The Traditional Whirling Ceremony

The Sema ceremony is performed in remembrance of Rumi, a popular 13th century Sufi master and poet. The ceremony begins with the recitation of verses from the Koran, followed by a process of kneeling, standing, and recitations by the whirling dervishes.

Since the ceremony relies heavily on music, traditional instruments are played such as the zurna (a loud, double-reed urban wind instrument) and the sıra (an oboe like instrument). The ritual then transitions into a series of whirling motions by each of the participants.

The dervishes assume a standing position to symbolize the human being eager to reach out to God and surrender to His will. They then proceed with several full turns while raising their hands towards heaven and lower them again, in order to express the unending cycle of life.

The ceremony ends when the dervishes return to their original position. This is interpreted as them returning to the world, but still containing their experience of oneness with God.

Where to See Whirling Dervishes in Istanbul

The Galata Mevlevi Lodge and tomb of Mevlana Rumi, located just outside Istanbul’s historic district, is the city’s most popular venue for live whirling dervishes performances. Here you can witness Sema, the traditional Ottoman ceremony practiced for centuries that’s believed to date back to the teachings of Mevlana Jelaleddin Rumi.

The performance usually takes place every Monday and Thursday evening at 6:30pm, and typically attracts an attendance of up to 100 people per show. The locale moreover promises an enriching experience, since it also includes visiting Mevlana’s tomb, accompanied by live traditional music and poetry recitals, as well as a small theater performance depicting the life of Mevlana.

If Galata Mevlevi Lodge is too far away for your liking, other popular places for whirling dervish performances in Istanbul include Abdullah Ağa Camii Mosque in Eminönü (Tuesdays at 19:00), Asirlik Aile Mektebi in Beyoglu (Monday-Thursday at 19:00), Lale Mosque in Beyoglu (Fridays at 18:00) and Sultanahmet Camii (Friday 17:00 and Sundays 19:00). 

The Ultimate Live Whirling Dervishes Experience in Istanbul

For those interested in witnessing a breathtaking live whirling dervishes performance without having to worry about bookings or tickets, we highly recommend checking out this 2-hour guided experience with GetYourGuide. You’ll go beyond the usual sights and delve into authentic local culture with an experienced guide by your side, providing you with interesting anecdotes about life in Istanbul and the history behind the Sema ceremony. Starting off with a brief seminar about dervish dancing and Rumi’s teachings, you’ll then be seated comfortably observing the colorful whirling performances and learning about the meaning of each motion. In addition, you’ll be welcomed with delicious Turkish snacks and drinks at the event’s conclusion before being dropped off at your hotel or nearby attractions in Istanbul area (transfer included).

Overall, reserving this experience provides invaluable insight into Turkey’s fascinating culture and heritage — something that you won’t easily find elsewhere in the city. You can walk away feeling inspired after having witnessed the traditional Sema ceremony up close and personal! So don’t wait any longer; book an unique experience of witnessing the whirling dervishes first hand while visiting Istanbul on GetYourGuide today!

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