Adana and Konya: So this is Turkey then

So the boat from Turkey worked in prinicple.  Four hours late in leaving (people didn’t even show up until two hours after) and somehow eight hours early I beached at Taşucu at ten at night, tired, disoriented, and with absolutely no idea what was there.

It would be fair to say that I hadn’t really planned this part (or, indeed, any part).  For a while the Internet had been swearing blind that a direct Girne – Istanbul route was running, but pretty much no-one in the TRNC seemed to agree (yes, I know, the Internet is a brazen liar).  Only boat on offer, then.

A taxi tore out of the dark, preying on the people escaping customs, before spotting us, the only tourists on the boat, Scottish, Iraqi and Sri Lankan,  holding up the Turkish labourers who were looking for work in Cyprus as the border guards reacquainted themselves with passports and their own visa laws.

”Bus station?”

Sod it.  ”Evet.”

The bus station obviously has one goal in existence: getting people on buses.  Reps from the myriad of bus companies patrol the corridors of all Turkish bus stations, shouting destinations like metronomes, escorting you to their booths, like wraiths on commission.  ”Adana?”

I’m fairly sure this is a city I need to go to.  ”Adana.”

”Bus in 20 minutes,” he says, taking my money.  No time to think, no time to plan.  The bus passes an open cheap hotel on its way out of the bus station, dragging me the 200km along the southern coast of Anatolia to where I think Adana is.  I sigh.

Adana is a big damn place, which I first realise when the bus pulls in at four in the morning.  The bus stations in Turkey are small shopping centres as well, with kebab shops and gift stores fighting for space with bus kiosks and internet cafes.  It’s the main method of intercity travel, as the trains are slow, unreliable and with limited reach.  Correspondingly, its station is in direct correlation.

After a quick nap (I elected to sleep behind a wall on some barely used balcony, much to a police officer’s surprise at six), I figured I could deal with what I wanted to see in half a day and be on.  This was before my quest to find the local Atatürk museum (every city has one somewhere and asking after it endears you to people) was interrupted by the central mosque which I had totally not seen coming.

Set in the middle of a lovingly maintained park and surrounded by the skyscrapers and traffic of a modern city, Sabancı Merkez Camii, built in the late 90s in emulation of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul (note the six minarets, which in Turkish style is reserved for the largest of mosques, and are hıgh enough to compete with skyscrapers) has the privilege of being the largest mosque in Turkey.  The inside is the usual that one sees in such mosques, which mainly attract me for the abstract art – Islam forbids the creation of human imagery and as such people have responded with beautiful geometric forms.

The internal columns lead, I suspect, to the minarets: the call or adhan is generally piped up through microphones to the speakers that adorn all the minarets I’ve seen.  In Lefkoşa, I was even told that the Selimiye, the largest in the cıty, uses recordings.

Just next door sits Adana’s Archaeological Museum.  The main reason I came was for the exhibit an Adanan in the Buffer Zone had told me was here: specifically, Çatal Hüyük.

But it wasn’t.

I am shining with rage.

Dealing with the fact that half the museum is being renovated or has been recently robbed or something was made a little easier by walking around their outdoor display, which has the vibe of an upmarket garden centre.

Mostly sarcophagae from the Roman Period with some columns and pottery thrown in for good measure, this stuff is ten a penny in museums in Anatolia and the Levant.  That’s not to say that it’s bad, but none of it has any labels for the non-professional and I’m not that hot on this sort of thing myself.  Neither is outdoors a good place to keep stone, as pretty as it is.

Somewhere in time a master mason is crying.

This column pedestal (what date? hell if I know) is a lovely example of what happens when limestone meets rain.  Geologists will tell you that limestone dissolves in water, a process speeded by the slight acidic solutes in rain.  Basically what this means is limestone artefact + rain = exceptionally bad idea.  Those pits and scars could easily have been there at the time of removal, but this ain’t doin’ her no favours.  As least the Hittite stuff is under a half-cover.

 With the taste of slight defeat in my mouth, I caught a bus and cruised on to Konya.

Konya is renowned amongst Turks as one of the most conservative cities in the country.  The headscarf, despite being frowned opon by Atatürk, later outlawed and, in the view of  secularists (largest element: the army) a symbol of religion over state, is now worn almost universally by the female population.  This is despite it remaining illegal, although the AKP, the moderate Islamist government attempted to overturn the law and even defends wearers who recieve discrimination from the largely secular education system.  The conservatism of the city itself is unsurprising, given that it’s the origin city of Mevlevi Sufi Islam and hosts what was once their primary base.

Sufism is the third branch of Islam, after Sunni and Shia, and the closest Christian analogue is perhaps Gnosticism, although the comparison isn’t perfect.  The Mevlevi branch follows the work of Rumi (later ‘Mevlana’ in Turkish) a Persian Sufi who preached a non-negotiable, universal tolerance of all religions and that God could be approached in this life through mystic use of dances and chants.  Charity, love, and awareness are also stressed.

English translation of Rumi’s teachings, from Lefkoşa Mevlani Museum.

Setting up in Konya at the invitation of the Seljuk sultan (who at this time held his capital here) Rumi continued to teach and build his order here until his death in AD 1273, after which it spread throughout Turkey and beyond.  Outlawed by Atatürk in 1925, the order continues to exist today: the government permits their dervish dances as a tourist attraction, but anything else is technically a crime.

Not that people seem to care:

Whilst tourists make up the numbers, the majoirty of visitors are headscarved women, as well as a number of burka-wearing ladies whose bus proclaimed them to be Iranian.  It’s a pilgrimage site that crosses Sunniı-Shia boundaries (hell, it’s debated whether Sufism is a separate branch at all) with all the standard rules of behaviour in Islamic buildings as well as no indoor photography.

 From here, I found Konya’s archaeological museum.  The same deal with garden sarcophagae and steles (what is this about?) but at least this time the local archaeologist was actually on hand, and hearing we shared professions kindly spoke French with me about these unlabelled materials, and despite my French being worse than my Turkish we did manage to agree that that stele was a Persian in leather armour, rather than the legionary in lorica segmenta that my eyes refused to stop seeing even after he proved me wrong.

What else was there?  Well, this is already too long, so here’s your teaser.

Answers on a postcard.


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2 responses to “Adana and Konya: So this is Turkey then”

  1. Lewis "Dr. Fez" Dougan says :

    That’s one of the statuettes of a female goddess from Catal Huyuk(sp?) right? There’s a picture of one in that giant book in the house. So you found the exhibit?

    • cdougan says :

      You’re damn right it is. That’s just a photo: the original is in Ankara which is pretty much the only big city in Turkey I’ve missed. Also worth noting that the head is speculative as it was found without one.

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