How to Whirl Like a Dervish + 8 Other Things You Don’t Know About Turkey

Here are a few random quotes from famous people about the country of Turkey:

  • Alphonse de Lamartine (French writer, poet, & politician) –  “If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.”
  • Christian Louboutin (footwear designer) – “Inspiring because it has its own code of architecture, literature, poetry, music.”
  • Roger Waters (renowned musician) – “The loudest fans in the world.”

And below are a few random facts you probably didn’t know about Turkey including the art of whirling like a Dervish, where Muhammad’s sword is kept and exactly how many people work in the Grand Bazaar. To learn more about this unique country, we recommend going there and hiring great guides who will gladly take you to all the sites below and share even more fascinating facts.

The Blue Mosque was built by a 25-year-old

Famous for its 20,000 hand-made ceramic tiles, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul was built by architect Mehmet Aga who was in his mid 20′s. (He died in 1617 at the age of 27, one year after the mosque’s completion. His body is buried outside of it.) The Mosque is unique in the Muslim world because it features six slender minarets while most mosques have a maximum of four. Legend has it that the Sultan who commissioned the mosque demanded it feature altin (gold) minarets but the architect misheard him and built alti (six) of them. The Blue Mosque is active so non-worshippers must use the north entrance where symbolic chains hang from a gate, encouraging visitors to bow their heads before entering.

Hagia Sophia was once the largest enclosed space in the world

Visitors should explore this world-famous church-cum-museum under the trusty guidance of Ali Yalniz who, on his Istanbul Classical Tour, will give you the lowdown on its fascinating history including the fact its dome is the second largest in the world (after the Patheon in Rome) and it was the world’s largest enclosed space for more than 1000 years.

Ephesus was built in the 10th century BC but it still had central heating

The Greek and Roman ruins at Ephesus are impressively well-preserved, making it one of the best archeological sites in Turkey. This is definitely a must-see, especially under the guidance of Taner Kara whose tours of the terrace houses (“the houses of rich”), and The House of Virgin Mary and The Basilica of St. John will give you a comprehensive look into one of antiquity’s centres for trade and religion. As you will learn, Ephesus is a treasure trove for history enthusiasts, and Taner helps uncover the stories behind the city’s mosaics and frescoes, as well as the ancient heating systems made of clay.

Pamukkale’s hot springs are purported to cure heart disease

Also knows as the “cotton castle,” Pamukkale is considered one of the natural wonders of the world with its stunning calcium travertines. It also features therapeutic hot springs that are purported to cure rheumatism, and kidney and heart disease. One of the best ways to tour this area is by the side of veteran guide Murtaza Kalender who’s Pamukkale Tour will give you a private showing of the incredible terraces of carbonate minerals.

Cappadocia is the site of 600 rock-cut churches

With its unique geological, historic, and cultural features, the area of Cappadocia is not to be missed. Like Pamukkale, it too is one of the geological wonders of the world featuring “fairy chimneys,” and rock cut temples. (In fact, there are over 600 of them here, most of them hand-built by monks and hermits.) According to guide Nesime Kaya her Cappadocia in Two Days trip is one of her favourites, not least of all because it features wine-tasting and a hot air balloon ride!

Topkapi Palace is the resting site of Muhammad’s sword

To see holy relics like Muhammad’s cloak and sword, beautiful views of Bosphorus (the strait between Europe and Asia), and to learn how the sultan and his court lived in the 15th Century, Topkapi Palace is for you. Take a Highlights of Istanbul tour and learn such facts as the palace’s kitchens once consisted of 800 staff who prepared up to 6,000 meals per day. Also, the Tower of Justice, which symbolizes the eternal vigilance of the sultan against injustice, was made tall enough to see from afar to assure everyone of the sultan’s presence at all times.

There are over 26,000 people working in the Grand Bazaar

For an authentic taste of life in Istanbul, the Grand Bazaar is the place to go. It has been running for over 550 years and is home to more than 26,000 employees selling everything from gold bracelets to carpets to turkish delight treats. Having been rebuilt without a plan after several earthquakes and fires, the bazaar is maze-like, but the roads and lanes that cross each other at various angles are what make it a unique and charming destination.

Whirling Dervishes were once outlaws in Turkey

The Whirling Dervishes (aka the Mevlevi of the Sufi Order who follow the teachings of the 13th century poet Rumi) were once outlawed by the Turkish Republic in 1925. Today, however, tourists can enjoy the spectacle of spinning practitioners in Istanbul and Konya. The unique form of dancing (called “sama”)  is the Order’s way of remembering God and, while it takes years to perfect, here are some steps to get you started on your own whirling dervish path:

  1. Ensure you have plenty of space and your favourite music
  2. Raise your right arm so it’s perpendicular with your heart and extend your left arm to shoulder level or towards the sky
  3. Fix your gaze on your front hand so as to avoid motion sickness
  4. Begin spinning counter-clockwise using your dominant foot. (Some use the ball of the foot as an axis for the spin while others use the heel)
  5. Go slowly at first and gradually lengthen the duration of your whirling. After each session, spend time standing still or lying on the floor to recover

Patara Beach is the breeding ground for Loggerhead turtles

After a day of guided tours, nothing beats heading to Patara beach to rest your weary legs and fact-filled brain. This beach is a hit because, at 14 kilometers long, it is one of the longest stretches of sandy beach in the Mediterranean. What makes this spot even more heavenly is the lack of visible buildings, save one small café (Patara is only backed by sand dunes and ancient ruins), and the fact it is the breeding ground of endangered Loggerhead turtles.
If you enjoyed this article, you may want to check out  This Video of Turkey is Magical!

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