Whirling Dervishes


In April 2015 I was in Istanbul, amegalopolis at the Western geographical boarders where 14 milion people live. The city extends itself on two sides, one belongs to the European continent and the other one belongsto the Asian continent. Istanbul is an amazing city: you can walk in the central streets and you can lose yourself inside the thousands of colours of the Gran Bazar, inside the smells of Spices Market, you can be surprised everytime you hear the voice of the imam from the mosquee.


A mix of cultures from different times that made this city as a unique place: you can see very high buildings and commercial centre, but also traditional kebab and hawkers of simit. Istanbul is a lot of things: the minarets of the mosquee, the orange sunsets, the bridges on the river. When I came to visit it, I wanted to attend a traditional cerimony: the whirling dervishes.


The cerimony of the whirling dervishes is an ancient costume which is executed by the sufi confraternity. The sufism is a mystical current of Islam which aims to distance from material and go towards a direct knowledge of God. The dervishes, with the support of the music, theycarry out a mystical and spiritual research. We arrived where the cerimony took place and three girlshave invited us to go inside.


We put off the shoes, as ruled, and we sit in a little waiting room. They will call us when the cerimony will begin. In the meanwhile, from the open door we can hear the prayer of the devotes, which is ever more persistent. I didn’t understand a word of the prayer, but the atmosphere was solemn. When the prayer was finished they called us and we went in a big room, with a side for visitors and another one for musicians. When everything was ready, the musicians began to play a muffled and whispered music, repetitive, such as a litany. The protagonists began to enter in the room: six or seven men with a long white tunic and a long cylindrical black headgear. They declaim a litany while walking in circle one behind the other, in a march in time, turning around the room. They stop.


The first man went to the center of the room. He starts to whirl, slowly, in himself. The others follow him and start to whirl in a circle. The rotation is always faster, following the music rhythm which is always more excited, the tunics move up the air in the room making wind, the dervishes have closed eyes, relaxed expression in their faces, the head is bended on one side, the arms are up, and they do not do anything but turn faster and faster, as fast as the music. A movement which enchant everyone who observe it. The cerimony involves the visitors in a kind of meditation’s condition which, at the end of the rite, is not just for the dervishes. At the end, after more than three hours, a spectator tell us which we were lucky, because that night the dervishes were very inspired and the meditation was longer.

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