KONYA

Konya, one of Turkey's oldest continuously inhabited cities was known as Iconium in Roman times. The capital of the Seljuk Turks from the 12th to the 13th century, it ranks as one of the great cultural centres of Turkey. During this period of artistic, political and religious growth, thekonyamevlevi.gif (19309 bytes) mystic Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi founded a Sufi Order known in the West as the Whirling Dervishes. The striking green tiled mausoleum of Mevlana is Konya's most famous building. Attached to the mausoleum the former dervish seminary serves now as a museum devoted to manuscripts of Mevlana's works and various artifacts related to the mysticism of the sect.. Every year, in the first half of December, this still active religious order holds a ceremony commemorating the Whirling Dervishes. The controlled, almost trance-like turning of the white robed men creates a mystical experience for the viewer.

Konya Yeşil CamiiAlaeddin Mosque, built on the site of the ancient citadel in 1220 during the reign of the great Seljuk sultan Alaeddin Keykubat, commands Konya's skyline. To one side of the mosque are the scant remains of the Seljuk Imperial Palace. The Karatay Medrese, now a museum, displays bald and striking Seljuk ceramics. On the other side of the mosque the Ince Minareli Medrese of 1258 is remarkable for its marvellous baroque Seljuk portal. Other Seljuk works include the Sırçalı Medrese and the Sahip Ata Complex.

Visitors find Konya's Archaeological Museum of exceptional interest. The collection of the Koyunoglu Museum is a varied one, and among its displays one is devoted to natural history while another to old kilims. Within the museum complex the restored Izzettin Koyunoğlu house illustrates the way of life of a prosperous Konya family.

Sille, 10 km north of Konya, has a Byzantine church and several rock chapels with frescoes. Akşehir, to the northwest, is known throughout Turkey as the birthplace of the 13th century humorist Nasrettin Hoca, whose mausoleum stands in the town. The 13th century Ulu Mosque and the Altınkale Mescidi are other monuments worth seeing; the Sahip Ata Mausoleum has been converted into the town's museum.

On the way south to Beyşehir stop at Eflatun Pınar next to the lake to see this unusual Hittite monumental fountain. Several interesting Seljuk buildings are scattered around lovely Beyşehir, on the shores of Turkey's third largest lake, Beyşehir Lake. Among the monuments are the Eşrefoğlu Mosque and Medrese, and the Kubad-Abad Summer Palace across the lake. Another medieval palace stands on Kızkalesi Island, opposite the Kubad-Abad palace.

Catalhöyük, 45 km south of Konya, is a fascinating Neolithic site dating from the eight millennium B.C., which makes it one of the world's oldest towns. Archaeologists have determined that holes in the roofs of the mud houses were the entrance doors. Ankara's Museum of Anatolian Civilisations displays the famous temple, mother-goddess figures and Neolithic frescoes from the site. At Ivriz, a Hittite site 168 km east of Konya, you can see one of Turkey's finest neo-Hittite reliefs of a king and fertility god. Karaman, once the capital of the Karamanid Emirate, was the first Turkish state to use Turkish, not Persian, as the official language. Fittingly, Yunus Emre, the first great poet to write in Turkish, lived here in the 13th century. The surrounding fortresses date from Seljuk times, although the town's most significant buildings, the Araboğlu, Yunus Emre and Aktekke Mosques and the Hatuniye Medrese, were all built during the Karamanid reign.

Near Taşkale, 48 km east of Karaman, on the rocky northern slope of Yeşildere Valley, are the remains of the fascinating, historical city of Manazan. Built during Byzantine times, the entire city of narrow lanes, houses, squares, storage facilities, chapels and cemeteries (occupying an area approximately three kilometres long and five stories high) was carved into the rocky hillside of the valley. Today parts of the city are still used for wheat storage. South of Karaman up a steep narrow road are the remains of a beautiful Byzantine monastery, Alahan. Much still stands, and there is some fine stone carving to admire. This magnificent location offers a breathtaking view.