Where to See the Whirling Dervishes in Istanbul?

Image of a Whirling Dervishes performance in Istanbul, Turkey.

by Erlend Geerts

in Sightseeing

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?

Whirling Dervishes in action in Istanbul, Turkey.

Whirling Dervishes in action.

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.

Photo Sources (1) (2)

What's Next

{ 65 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert Ramey November 2, 2010 at 3:17 am

Having just returned from Istanbul I’d like to take issue with the statement about the Sirkeci train stations performance something to be avoided due to lousy acoustics and noisy surroundings. That’s pure nonsense. It’s quite quiet at night and he acoustics are wonderful. It’s a magical, serene experience. Something to be seen.

Go! See it and judge for yourself.

Robert Ramey
Zachary, Louisiana
USA

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Erlend Geerts November 2, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Hi Robert,

Of course I appreciate your comment. The Sirkeci train station’s setup may have improved since the time I experienced it and wrote the article. I just wanted to point out to our readers that it certainly isn’t/wasn’t the best place in town. Thanks to your comment, people have even more choices on where to catch this magical experience.

Kind regards,
Erlend T. Davis

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Karen Hammial January 6, 2011 at 4:37 am

What is the best thing for a tourist to do on a public holiday in Istanbul in order to avoid all the crowds?

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Erlend Geerts January 6, 2011 at 7:56 am

Hi Karen,

thanks for your question. As you may have read here on Wit Magazine, most Istanbul tourist attractions are open during national holidays. As for avoiding the crowds, could you please let me know what specific public holiday you have in mind?

Kind regards,
Erlend

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KAREN HAMMIAL March 7, 2011 at 4:53 am

HAS THIS REOPENED YET:
“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. Unfortunately, the dervish hall is closed until December due to restoration works.”

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Erlend Geerts March 13, 2011 at 10:51 am

Hi Karen,

I’m afraid not. It is scheduled to reopen in December 20102.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Dani March 18, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Regarding the reopening of the tekke above. It is scheduled to reopen in December 20102? Please correct the error. We will be in Istanbul in April 2012 and are interested to see the show.
Thanks
Dani

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Erlend Geerts March 25, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Hi Dani,

You are right, sorry for the misprint. It has been corrected.

Have a nice trip.

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Ben Sutherland April 7, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Please give me the addresses where we can see dwirling devirnishes near Grand Bazaar
Time of performances (duration,where to get tickets and costs
Thanks very much
Ben

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Erlend Geerts April 8, 2012 at 12:38 am

Hi Ben,

The location you were looking for is the Press Museum (Basın Müzesi) close to the Grand Bazaar. However, due to construction this place is closed until December 2015. So, the easiest option is to take the tramway to the Sirkeci train station (Eminönü) and catch them there.

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anchal April 30, 2012 at 6:53 pm

what is the time of the performance at the sirkeci train station?

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Erlend Geerts April 30, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Hi Anchal,

According to their website, there is a show daily at 19:30.

Kind regards,
Erlend.

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anchal April 30, 2012 at 6:56 pm

also, in which other city can we see the dervishes whirl? i believe you can see them perform in konya as well as cappadocia.please give me details for the same

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Erlend Geerts April 30, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Hi Anchal,

This site is about Istanbul, so I’m afraid I don’t have that information for you. Maybe contact the Istanbul branch via the website mentioned in my previous comment.

Erlend.

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Zahara May 3, 2012 at 11:49 pm

Hi Erlend

Thanks for such a helpful page! I believe the Sirkeci Train Station is the place also called the Hodjapasha Culture Center ( http://www.hodjapasha.com/ )?

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Erlend Geerts May 4, 2012 at 9:48 am

Hi Zahara,

Thanks a lot for your appreciation.

The Sirkeci Train Station and the Hoca Paşa Kültür Merkezi (Hodjapasha Culture Center) are two different locations, but not too far from each other. You can see both on this Google Map

Kind regards,
Erlend

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hfriday May 9, 2012 at 10:17 pm

I am just fascinated by the whirling dervishes! I definitely will be seeing them but what else is there to see and do regarding the whirling dervishes? Museums? Historical places? I heard Konya is the place to delve into the world of whirling dervishes but it’s simply too far from Istanbul and not feasible for us. Any suggestion would be appreciated!

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Deborah Ann July 28, 2012 at 11:50 pm

Hi everyone! Couple of weeks ago i attended to a whirling dervish ceremony at Sultan Ahmed. It was so amazing. The groups’ name is Istanbul Sufi Ensemble. The musicians were so professional and dervishes were looking fascinating. The place is called Writers Union of Turkey and it is only 3 minutes by walking from Sultan Ahmed tram stop.

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Sahar August 13, 2012 at 12:02 am

I visited http://www.rumimevlevi.com/en/contacts and it seems that semas are being held everyday at the Galata Hall but you’ve said that the Hall is closed till Dec 2012. I’m confused :S

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Erlend Geerts August 13, 2012 at 10:45 am

You’re right, the hall recently opened. I’ve seen the signs myself last week. So yes, by all means, go see them there.

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Aimee Lowe September 5, 2012 at 11:22 pm

Can you tell me if the Galata Hall location holds daytime service? If yes, do you know the times? We are looking for a quick weekday glimpse of the dance, as we have our 2 yr daughter with us. We tried last year but the museum was shut. Also I presume the Galata Hall is the same as the Galata Mevlevi Museum, please confirm.

Thank you

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Erlend Geerts September 7, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Hi Aimee,

The best place to see them is indeed the Galata Mevlevi Museum. Unfortunately, based on the latest news on their website, they only have performances in the evening.

Erlend

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Carson Maynard September 19, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Erlend, I just had to thank you for your *extremely* helpful articles. You’re answering questions that I never even knew to ask, and your responses to reader questions have been enlightening. Many, many thanks! I think I’m going to go read the entirety of the website now :)

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Erlend Geerts September 27, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Hi Carson,

Thanks a lot, this means a lot to me.

Erlend

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Brenda October 12, 2012 at 1:27 am

Amazing performance. At first I thought we would be bored watching this for an hour, but I could have watched it all night. It is such a peaceful dance and they are very skilled and obviously dedicated.

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Gail January 23, 2013 at 11:35 pm

Hi, Erlend

I plan to see the whirling dervishes at The Galata Mevlevihanesi this June 2013. Do you have any ideas where can I get the tickets from? I looked at their website they mention only day and time to see this religion ritual. Thanks

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Erlend Geerts January 24, 2013 at 7:33 am

Hi Gail,

Have you tried the reservation request form on their site?

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Gail January 24, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Thank you. It’s very helpful :)

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Gail January 26, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Hi, Erlend

Another question, I have been successfully reserve it but they put me into the different venue which is Kizlaragasi Mehmed Aga Medresesi Culture and Arts Center. I don’t know where that is? No website? Have you experience that location before? I don’t want to go to tourist-trap place and end up spend double price of money.

Kind Regards,

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Leia March 12, 2013 at 8:23 am

Hi:
Thank you for your great information!
I have one question: we’d like to see a dervishes dance when we visit Instanbul the first week of April. Do we need to reserve ahead of time? We are staying in Sultahnamet. Which one would be best?
Thanks!!!

Leia

Reply

Erlend Geerts March 13, 2013 at 10:44 am

Hi Leia,

Yes, I would make reservations just to be sure. You can do so on their website.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Scott Goldsmith April 29, 2013 at 12:46 am

My wife and I and another couple will be in Turkey in October. We would like to observe the traditional Dervish ceremony. The tour offers an option in Cappadocia, but we would prefer to see it in Istanbul (we have quite a long day in Cappadocia). Could you tell us:
What the cost of a show is in Istanbul in dollars.
Which place is the best to see this ceremony.
Whether seeing it in Cappadocia is preferable for some reason.

Thank you.

Reply

Erlend Geerts April 29, 2013 at 7:47 am

Hi Scott,

The best place to see the whirling dervishes is Mevlevi Whirling Dervish hall in Galata, Beyoğlu (see end of article for link). Tickets cost about 50 TL.

Whether to best see them in Cappadocia or Istanbul, I can’t answer that since I’ve never seen them in Cappadocia. But my guess is the experience will not be better than the one in Istanbul.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Mira Matovic May 7, 2013 at 12:50 am

Hallo, Erlend!
I read your answers to questions about Dervish ceremony, are you available to other questions about Istanbul?

I have visited Istanbul 2 years ago, but I wanted to come back again this year, I feel like I’ve missed to see so many things..

The last time we stayed seven days, for two days we took the professional guide suggested by our Hotel , one day Istanbul in English – Cistern, Blue Mosque, Aya Sofia, Kapali carsi, Top kapi, the other Bosphorus tour in Italian with Rustem Pasha Camii, Misir carsi, Camlica hill, Dolmabahce palace. Both tours were very good organized, well done and we enjoyed both of them very much.

Now I am coming back to Istanbul 19.05.2013., will stay until the 24.05.2013, and would like to see again, with the guide, Top kapi (I feel the last visit was too short..) and Suleymanie Mosque, with both tombs. (are they in reconstruction now?) Do you have any suggestions about the tours that cover Top kapi and Suleymanie mosque? If none, would you suggest one of the guides at the entrance of Top kapi, since they (I believe..) can take the tour in Harem too?

I would also like to visit both Mihrimah’s mosques, at Uskudar and Edirnekapi, and haven’t seen any offers from any tourist agency. Do you know about any? (If not, I’ll study them myself and do them on my own.. )

The other thing I’d like to see is Buyukcekmece bridge. From what I understood, it is rather far away, but there should be both boats and busses that run there. Do you have any suggestion of any site I might consult for the info how to get there? Or do you know how can I get there? I have a pick up from the Ataturk airport at the day of my arrival, in your opinion would it be sconvenient if I asked the hotel manager that the driver takes me to the bridge, and waits for me for an hour, before taking me to the hotel?

I’ll do the Dervish ceremony where you suggested.

Thank you..
Mira

I apologize if I am waisting your time, but I hope you’d be able to give me some answers.

Reply

Erlend Geerts May 7, 2013 at 7:41 am

Hi Mira,

Let’s do the guide part first. As with everything, there are excellent and lesser quality guides. I can’t personally recommend a guide, but if I were you I would ask your hotel to suggest a good one instead of picking one from the Topkapi entrance.

The Süleymaniye restoration works have been completed, and the same goes for most of Topkapi Palace. The last time I visited Topkapi Palace, there were no longer obligatory tours for Harem. People would visit it on their own, with or without an audio or real guide.

The bridge in Büyükçekmece you’re talking about is the Mimar Sinan bridge. It’s indeed quite a bit from the city center. There is a sea bus, but only on weekdays and only one in the morning and one in the evening. So, a whole day in Büyükçekmece may be a bit too long. Sure, after visiting the bridge you could have a nice walk by the bay of the Sea of Marmara, enjoy some food by the seaside and visit the newly opened Maramara Park shopping centre or visit Tüyap if there happens to be a fair that interests you at that time.

You could ask your hotel manager to take you there quickly, but I doubt he’ll agree to that, certainly not during rush hour. You can reach Büyükçekmece by metrobus or with the 145T from Taksim, both going to Beylikdüzü after which it’s only a 5 min taxi ride to Büyükçekmece.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Mira Matovic May 9, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Thank you very much for the info!

Best wishes,
Mira

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Mukesh May 7, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Just saw one at the train station. Very interesting. Amazing how they could do that, disciplined not to feel dizzy or tired. Interesting experience and highly cultural.

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S Weinberg May 23, 2013 at 11:03 pm

Saw the dervishes at the Sirkeci tram stop in the train station conference room. You can only get tickets to that ceremony by going there and buying them ahead of time (same day ok) from the shop at the entrance to the station. It was a wonderful experience. It felt awkward to applaud at the end as it was a ceremony or rite, not a performance. I felt like we ought to stand and bow to them in gratitude. Please remember, no camera flashes during the ceremony.

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Erlend Geerts May 24, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Hi,

Thanks a lot for sharing this.

Erlend

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archana May 31, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Hi,

i wanted to know if we can catch a show in the afternoon. we have just a day in istanbul and have opted for the bosphorous cruise which starts at 8:30. so any time before 6:30 should be good.

thanks

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Erlend Geerts May 31, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Hi Archana,

I’m afraid there are no afternoon sessions, as mentioned in the post.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Carol S June 11, 2013 at 1:22 am

Dear Erlend,
We will be in Istanbul via a cruise ship. Where would you suggest that we view the evening sessions. I would like one that is easy to get to from the ship. Thanks
Warm regards,
Carol

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Erlend Geerts June 11, 2013 at 9:16 am

Hi Carol,

You can watch them either at Galata Mevlevihanesi (Galata Lodge) or at the Sirkeci train station. Since the cruise ship will dock in Karaköy, both options are easily reachable.

To get to Galata Mevlevihanesi you need to walk to Tünel and take the old metro up to Istiklal Caddesi, from where it is a short walk downhill to the venue in Galata.

To reach the Sirkeci train station, basically, all you have to do is cross the Galata Bridge. It’s about a 15-20 minute walk to station. Alternatively, you could take the tramway for three stops.

Hope this helps,
Erlend

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Carol S June 16, 2013 at 2:00 am

Dear Erlend,

Thanks so much for your help! I really appreciate it!

Carol

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Erlend Geerts June 17, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Hi Carol,

You’re welcome. Glad I could help.

Erlend

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RK June 26, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Hi Erlend,
I may sound completely silly… (even after scanning through the comments, I have this question)

I am traveling to Istanbul in the end of Sept,2013 and I want to know if I can catch the Whirling dervishes show on saturday at Galata Mevlevihanesi? I went through the site –
http://www.rumimevlevi.com and http://www.galatamevlevihanesimuzesi.gov.tr/homepage.html‎

I dont know if the Whirling dervishes show is there on saturday or not because the latter says sunday only and the former lists a lot of places without mentioning the days for the individual venue.

Is Galata museum and Mevlevihanesi the same place?

Reply

Erlend Geerts June 26, 2013 at 11:26 pm

Hi RK,

It’s easy to overlook, but at the top of the rumimevlevi site, you can see a scroll announcing that their performance takes place daily.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Babar November 12, 2013 at 1:47 am

Hi Erland,
Just a bit confused here. The Sirkeci Train Station performance, is that daily as well at 1930hrs or is that just the Galata performance? About the Train station performance, would you know if it runs in December, also how much does it cost? Should I be booking tickets in advance even in December?

And needless to say, amazing website! I found you through the Nat Geo Traveller magazine :)

Babar

Reply

Erlend Geerts November 13, 2013 at 7:57 am

Hi Babar,

As stated on the Whirling Dervishes’ site, they perform daily at 19:30 at all the locations mentioned on their reservation form (http://www.rumimevlevi.com/en/reservation-request-form), unless mentioned otherwise.

I’m pretty sure this is not different in December, so no need to worry. It’s been a while that I’ve been to one, but expect something around 60 TL per person.

In December, I would just drop by one evening and try my chance. If the place is full, make reservations for the next day.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Babar November 14, 2013 at 1:30 am

Cheers Erland! :)

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amira February 14, 2014 at 7:23 pm

what is your advice about taking professional shoots with tripod ..should i ask for permission before attendance ?and if so , any idea how long it will take ?
thank you

Reply

Erlend Geerts February 15, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Hi Amira,

Yes, I’m sure they have rules regarding this. Just send them an email or contact them through their website.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Beenish March 14, 2014 at 11:57 am

Hi Erlend,

I also tried to visit the site above to book tickets for the dervish performance but the link isn’t working. Is there another website/link I can try?

Many thanks for your help.

Beenish

Reply

Erlend Geerts March 17, 2014 at 9:55 am

Hi Beenish,

Not that I’m aware of.

Erlend

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Sid April 2, 2014 at 4:36 am

I will be staying Fatih. Which place will be the nearest and best for watching Whirling Dervishes?
Are there different types or just different names such as Semas/Rumi etc

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Erlend Geerts April 3, 2014 at 5:40 pm

That would be the Press Museum (Basın Müzesi).

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Tom April 2, 2014 at 8:22 pm

Hi, we will go to Istanbul in May.
Does anyone know where else in Instanbul one can listen to classical turkish court music (ottoman music, NOT folk music). Sema-events are just one possibility for this but show only one particular part of this classical music.

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Beenish September 14, 2014 at 11:15 am

Hey, I am travelling with my siblings to Istanbul for 3 days. Its my wedding present from them and I am super excited about it. So, on top of my list are the dancing dervish, I see that there are many options. My aim is reasonable ticket prices and best quality. Preferably on the 28th of September 2014 and near central Istanbul. Suggestions?

Awaiting your response, because then I have a whole list of additional questions :).

Many Thanks!
Bee

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Erlend Geerts September 14, 2014 at 9:29 pm

Hi Bee,

You’re lucky then, Sunday 28th you can watch them at the Dervish Lodge at Tünel, at the end of Istiklal Caddesi. Make sure to get your tickets on Saturday afternoon though, at the door.

Please read the comments section of every article before you ask any further questions. They contain valuable info, just like the one I just gave you.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Marcelo September 15, 2014 at 10:13 am

Dera Erlend
I would like to see the Sema at Istambul in this week. But, I wanted to ask you if there’re these ceremonies not for tourist, just for the native people and where?
Thanks a lot

Reply

Erlend Geerts September 16, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Hi Marcelo,

The one in Galata Mevlevihanesi is not there for tourist, they just allow you to attend. So, go for that one. Keep in mind it’s only on Sunday. Get your tickets on Saturday afternoon, on location.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Sara November 14, 2014 at 11:56 am

Hi Erlend, me and a friend will be here for this sundays Sema in Galata Mevlevihanesi. excactly where and when do we buy the tickets, we will use public transportation, can we just show up at the sunday before 19.30?
Thanks Sara

Reply

Erlend Geerts November 14, 2014 at 7:42 pm

Hi Sara,

There is only one session, which is on Sunday. Since ‘seats’ are limited, you do well to buy your tickets starting 14:00 on Saturday. There is no online sale, so you must buy them there. At the very end of Istiklal Caddesi (Tünel) just go straight for 50 meters, you’ll see it on your left.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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Kyle November 19, 2014 at 3:47 am

Hi Erlend… My wife and I will be in Istanbul for only one day (November 26). We would like to see the dervishes, if possible. We are staying very close to the Topkapi Palace. Where would be the closest place for us to be able to see the dervishes?

Thanks in advance for your help.

Kyle Mathis
Hockley, TX, USA

Reply

Erlend Geerts November 19, 2014 at 6:37 pm

Hi Kyle,

In that case I suggest go to Les Arts Turcs, a cultural tourism company, and make reservations for that day’s evening session. You can find more details online, just look for their name.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

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