Ostensibly a museum of musical instruments, this dervish hall, rebuilt in 1766 by Sultan Mustafa III, is hired out to three Mevlevi whirling dervish associations, who perform on Sunday at 5pm for tourists. Even in 1877, Edmondo de Amicis described his disappointment: ‘Even among the dervishes “the flame of faith flickers on a burnt-out wick”. The famous dance seemed to be nothing more than a routine theatrical performance.’ For the real thing, look elsewhere. But during the week it is a peaceful, timeless place to sit and contemplate.
THE MEVLEVIHANE IN EVLİYA ÇELEBİ’S DAY By Caroline Finkel
The 17th-century traveller Evliya Çelebi describes the lodge of the Mevlevi order of dervishes at Galata as standing on a high hill just outside the ‘Tower Gate’ in theGalata city walls. In his time it had 100 dervish cells. He had a personal association with the place, because his family graveyard was in the cemetery of this lodge, on the slopes leading down to the dockyard district of Kasımpaşa on the Golden Horn. Evliya saw sufism as an integral aspect of his persona, and although he belonged to a different order, he moved freely among them all. When travelling, he reported which orders were active in each place, often adding notes on their leaders. The Galata Mevlevi lodge is said to have been founded in the late 15th century by a vezir of Bayezıd II (1481–1512) who was hunting in the area, and was the first Mevlevi lodge established in greater Istanbul.
Caroline Finkel is the author of Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire 1300–1923 and co-author of The Evliya Çelebi Way: Turkey’s first long-distance walking and riding route, both available from cornucopia.net post-free to subscribers.