The best place to witness the Whirling Dervishes is of course in Konya, where the Mevlevi order (tarikat) was founded in the 13th century. But also in Istanbul, you have plenty of opportunities to see the Dervishes whirl. And because of the many choices, visitors often ask me: “What is the best place to watch a Whirling Dervishes performance, and what is it really all about?”
What Are the Whirling Dervishes?
The Whirling Dervishes took their name from Jelaleddin Rumi (1207-1273), the mystical poet and great Sufi master, called Mevlana (our leader) by his disciples. Sufis seek a close relationship with God, and for Mevlana it was through chants, prayers, music and a whirling dance.
This ceremony (sema) can be witnessed by visitors just like you. Keep in mind though that although it may look a bit like a performance, it is still a religious ceremony. Refrain from talking, leaving your seat or taking pictures with a flash while the dervishes are spinning.
Where to Best Catch a Whirling Dervishes Performance?
The Galata Mevlevihanesi, or tekke, is a undoubtedly the most famous Mevlevi Whirling Dervish hall. It is located on Galipdede Caddesi, not far from Tünel at the end of Istiklal Caddesi. Also called the Galata Lodge, the first and only original dervish hall in the city. It is undergoing comprehensive restorations, and will reopen its doors in December 2012.
The Rumi Mevlevi also perform in two different locations: the Press Museum (Basın Müzesi) close to the Çemberlitaş Hamam and the Grand Bazaar in Sultanahmet, and the event hall of the Sirkeci train station. Unfortunately, the Press Museum (Basın Müzesi) is now also undergoing restoration works and will not open its door before December 2015.
Whirling Dervishes ceremonies (semas) can be witnessed every day at 19:30, except on Mondays. Tickets are normally 35 TL, but on Saturday 45 TL. Keep in mind though that semas are popular among tourists, so buy your tickets well in advance. For more information or how to order ticket, visit the site of Rumi Mevlevi.