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Music Lesson and Whirling Dervish Recommendation - Istanbul, Turkey

My family arranged a visit to a Whirling Dervish ceremony when we visited Istanbul recently. We left our visit feeling very privileged to have been invited with welcoming arms to such a beautiful and impassioned worship service. This experience was not a show for tourists, but a very real religious ceremony that was opened to a small group of outsiders. The music, prayers, Dervish ceremony, and religious discussions were amazing to witness. It was all beautiful and breathtaking. We were touched, moved, and grateful for the experience. Different from other advertised Whirling Dervish ceremonies, this one took place at a Sufi monastery to the WEST of the old city, not across the Bosphorus on the Asian side of the city. We began our tour in an office building across from the Hagia Sophia and were transported by van to the monastery after a brief introduction to the Sufi beliefs. The trip to and from the monastery took us through very narrow streets in a humble neighborhood near some of the very old, original walls of the city. In our estimation, this all added to the value and meaning of the experience. I also cannot understate the kindness and generosity of spirit with which we were greeted and treated throughout our time on the tour. Typical of our overall experiences in Turkey, but with even more genuine outreach, warmth, and brotherhood.

Later in the week, I had also arranged for a private music lesson on the Turkish ney. I am a music educator in the U.S. and have fairly extensive experience with Western instruments. This was the first opportunity I have ever had to learn a non-Western instrument on a trip abroad. I had not been prepared for all that I would be able to experience with this lesson! My teacher, Murat DAGLI, started the lesson with a beautiful demonstration of the instrument. Absolutely mesmerizing instrument! He was SO patient with me over the course of two hours while I tried and tried to learn how to begin playing the ney. What an incredibly challenging but fun experience! Periodically during the lesson, he would play on the ney, sing songs, and explain the history and nuances of Turkish music. I walked away having gained an incredible appreciation for my teacher, for Turkish ney music, and for the tremendously kind people at Les Arts Turcs. I also walked away with a new Turkish ney of my own, but not before I was assisted in obtaining a padded case for the instrument from a local music instrument store so I could get my newly acquired instrument home safely.

Contact Information for the Les Arts Turcs:
Alp AKSAHIN - Les Arts Turcs / Art - Culture
Tel : 00 90 212 527 68 59
Fax : 00 90 212 511 21 98
Gsm : 00 90 544 220 10 22

Posted by
4 posts

I know this is an old thread (6 months), but I have a couple of questions:
1) Was this Sema presented by the Galata Dervish Monastery or by the Foundation of Universal Lovers of Mevlana? (both are listed in the RS guidebook for Istanbul).
2) Was this part of a larger tour? You mentioned being transported from Hagia Sophia to the location. How did you find out about the Sema?

My husband an I are traveling to Istanbul for a week in May and would dearly love to witness a real Sema. Thank you.

Posted by
2 posts

This particular group was not one mentioned in the RS Guide Book. It was one my husband found through Trip Advisor, and this group turned out to be excellent - and certainly authentic. I know that some of the Dervish monasteries are on the Asian side of Istanbul, but what set this one apart is that it is located on the European side. Their office, where we met for the tour, is right near the Hagia Sophia.

We arranged our own visit through this monastery's web site and were not part of a large tour group. In fact, this group only brings around 10-15 people at a time to their worship ceremony. I think that's partly why it left such an impression: it was a really intimate experience. It was touching that they invited us in the way they did.

Below is the web address to the particular Trip Advisor page where you can read additional reviews from people who have gone more recently, too. On this page, you will find a link to the Les Arts Turcs website.

Enjoy your trip! We certainly did!