Where to see the Turkish Whirling Dervishes in Istanbul

Everybody has heard of the Turkish Whirling Dervishes and of its exotic and picturesque dance style. Nevertheless, they are originally from the Konya region of Turkey, dervishes are real and their performances are considered both a form of spiritual practice and a tourist attraction you can admire in the main cities of the country. In this article, we will show you the best options to see the traditional Turkish Whirling Dervishes in Istanbul.

What are the Turkish Dervishes?

Turkish dervishes are Sufi practitioners who belong to a specific branch of Islam known as the Mevlevi Order or the Whirling Dervishes. They are distinguished by their distinctive form of meditation called sama or sema, which involves whirling in a circular motion, accompanied by music and chanting. The practice is said to aid in achieving a state of spiritual enlightenment and communion with God. The Mevlevi Order was founded in the 13th century by the Persian mystic Rumi and has since spread throughout the world. Today, Turkish dervishes continue to uphold the teachings of their Sufi masters and participate in public performances, which have become a popular tourist attraction. 

Where to see Turkish Dervishes in Istanbul?

While some dervish ceremonies take place in private for spiritual purposes, others are open to the public as a cultural attraction. There are several places in Istanbul where you can see Turkish dervishes perform their traditional whirling dance called Sufi whirling or sema. The most famous place is the Galata Mevlevihanesi, also known as the Galata Mevlevi Lodge. This is the headquarters of the Mevlevi order and features regular performances of the sema ritual. Other places to see dervishes include the Hodjapasha Cultural Center, the Istanbul Sirkeci Terminal Station, and a Monastery in Fatih. It is recommended to check the schedules and availability of each place before visiting.

Hodjapasha Cultural Center for a Turkish Dervishes show

This is the most touristy option of all but even though it could be very convenient. It is easy to get tickets for a Whirling Dervishes show and performances are colorful, very picturesque and entertaining. You won’t see a real performance with authentic believers eager for their mystic approach to god but you will be able to admire the dancing as it should according to the proper ritual. 

Hodjapasha Cultural Center is a cultural and entertainment venue in Istanbul, Turkey. It is located in the historic Sirkeci district, close to the famous Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia. The center is housed in a beautifully restored Ottoman-era building that was previously used as a Turkish bath. Today, the venue hosts a variety of events, including traditional Turkish dance and music performances, exhibitions, workshops, and cultural tours. Visitors can witness mesmerizing whirling dervish shows and experience authentic Turkish hospitality at the center’s café and restaurant. The Hodjapasha Cultural Center is a must-visit destination for those seeking a glimpse into Turkey’s rich cultural heritage.

Sirkeci Terminal Station and Dervishes in Istanbul

The Sirkeci Terminal Station is a major train station located in Istanbul, Turkey. It was built in the late 19th century and served as the terminus for the Orient Express. In a hall of the historic building, Les Arts Turcs organizes shows for 20 euros for adults and 15 euros for kids. You can purchase the tickets on their website. At the moment of writing this article the show will be in the Sufi Center in Sultanahmet due to restoration.

Dervishes in a real Monastery in Fatih

This is probably the most authentic ceremony you can buy a ticker for. The ceremonies are every Thursday at Emav Kultur merkezi. This is not a monastery as you might expect, rather a Culture Center in a regular neighborhood of Istanbul. In the place you will be welcomed by a representative of the Sufi community. They will introduce you to their culture and try to make you feel integrated and confortable. You will listen to their music and be eye-witness the Whirling Dervishes Ceremony.

The ceremony is fully real, so you cannot interfere with the show or disturb it in any way. However, you will be able to take some pictures or videos and they will offer drinks and sandwiches to make you stay cozy. The ceremony can be long and the dervishes can be late at starting since they could be finishing their prayers. You can buy tickets to the show with Les Arts Turcs

Galata Mevlevihanesi and Turkish Dervishes in Istanbul 

Galata Mevlevihanesi is a historic building in Istanbul. It served as a center for the Mevlevi Sufi order. It was built in the 15th century and served as a meeting place for the whirling dervishes, followers of the Mevlevi order. The building housed a semahane, or ritual hall, where the dervishes performed their religious dances and ceremonies. Today it is a museum and cultural center, showcasing the history and traditions of Sufism in Turkey. 

Mevlevi Whirling Dervish hall is in Galipdede Caddesi, at the end of Beyoğlu’s İstiklal Caddesi in Istanbul. Dervishes still whirl in the hall on an irregular schedule, with different groups doing the whirling on different dates, but usually starting at 5:00 pm. There is no way of booking tickets in advance so far. To be sure of getting tickets, we recommend going to the museum and checking the schedules, so you can buy a ticket (TL50).

Useful information about the Turkish Whirling Dervishes in Istanbul

What are the Turkish Whirling Dervishes?

The Turkish whriling dervishes are Sufi practitioners who belong to a specific branch of Islam known as the Mevlevi Order

Are the Turkish Whirling Dervishes a tourist show?

The Turkish Whirling Dervishes are not a tourist show. They are part of a sufi religious ritual to get closer to god. There are shows in which you can admire the whirling perfomances as an imitation of the proper ritual.

Where can I watch Turkish Whirling Dervishes in Istanbul?

There are some places in Istanbul where you can watch Turkish Whirling Dervishes. The most recommend ones are Hodjapasha Cultural Center, Sirkeci Terminal Station, Emav Kultur merkez and Galata Mevlevihanesi.

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