Top 3 Places to Watch Whirling Dervishes in Istanbul
After a traveller asked this question: “where should i watch whirling dervishes in Istanbul?”, we thought it would be better if we direct the question to whirling dervish addict, Istanbul travel specialist Janet and here is her awesome reviews and suggestions;
1- Cemberlitas Press Museum, Sultanahmet , Istanbul
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 19:30pm
Cost: 35 TL
This venue is a nice, simple building (the museum actually has on display [during the day] documents related to the history of the Turkish press as well as some old artefacts and printing machines). Seating offers good views for all, with staggered chairs (like an auditorium) that rise as the rows run towards back of room. The venue also allows people to sit on large pillows at the very front of the chairs, on the floor.
I was lucky enough to have a front row seat to the side (across from musicians) and it was a personal delight to feel the breeze from the nearby Dervishes “skirt” (ego`s shroud) each time they passed me, as I felt caught up in the spiritual “journey” of the Sema ceremony.
This location is easily reached in Sultanahmet. Taxi cost from Taksim side is no more than 10-20 lira (depending on traffic). This performance was by far, the most “folksy,” musical and least spiritual of all I have seen in Istanbul and Turkey, but it was quite enjoyable to view the performance with Turkish artists/musician performing rather than the Sufi musicians.
I believe they also now have the “Dances of Colors” performances at Press Museum as well.
2- Hodjapasha Cultural Center (Hocapaşa Kültür Merkezi), Istanbul
Every Monday ,Wednesday , Friday , Saturday and Sunday at 19:30
Cost: 50 TL
This location was originally a Turkish Hamam (or bath) and it`s located just north (up the hill) from Sirkeci train station area.
Of all the venues I’ve seen the Whirling Dervishes in (Istanbul & Cappadocia), I personally find the Hojapasha Center to be one of the most inspiring for this ceremony, with its beautiful carved stone interior. The lighting and overall ambiance help create what I feel to be the most ‘mystic’ experience for seeing the Dervishes. No pictures or video are permitted during the ceremony but they now perform several minutes at the end so people can video or photo the scene.
I would highly recommend Hojapasha venue if the Galata Mevlevi Temple is closed. In April/May 2011, there was still talk of Galata not being reopened until Fall 2011 or middle of 2012.
3-Sirkeci Train Station
Every Tuesday and Saturday at 19:30
Cost: 40 TL
As this was the first place I`ve ever seen the Whirling Dervishes in Istanbul, it holds a special place in my heart. I also am fond of the location due to its historical significance as the terminus for the Orient Express from Europe.
The Sirkeci Station venue is good because the performance room is not elaborate at all, and aside from its historical significance (which isn’t apparent once you’re seated inside), there is nothing that really dominates the venue, aside from the performance itself. This is significant as it viewers get a chance to really focus on the chanting, the music, and the Semazens and Sema ceremony without any distractions. Personally I think the fewer the distractions the better, as you’re really coming to see the Dervishes, not the venue.
One drawback of this venue, however, is the seating. Usually there are 3 or 4 rows of chairs all lined one behind another, so if you’re unfortunate enough to come later or once the first, front row is filled with people, your view might be somewhat obstructed so definitely come a ½ hour early for good seating.
This post is written by owner of World Travel Warehouse Inc. Janet Camsell. A Canadian Travel Agency which is specialized for Turkey, Greece, Middle East & Europe tours.