To prepare for the ritual ahead, Omer Kilic and his 14-year-old son dress in white robes, drape black cloaks over them and don cone-shaped hats called “sikke”.
The tennure robes symbolise funeral shrouds, the cloaks a tomb and the hats a tombstone — outfits that are part of a centuries-old tradition performed by the whirling dervishes of Türkiye.
The dervishes, a Sufi order of Islam rooted in mysticism, are chiefly known for the “sama” ritual in which they spin in unison with prayers and verses from the Quran.
Kilic has belonged to the order for 23 years. Now a tennure tailor, he is teaching his craft to his apprentice and son, Toprak Efe Kilic.
Kilic says the religious path first appeared to him in a dream. He decided to start training as a dervish a few days later.
Each year, the dervishes of the Mevlevi order perform their unmistakable act of devotion in the Turkish city of Konya, where thousands of people attend a weeklong series of events and ceremonies that mark the death of the 13th-century Islamic poet, scholar and Sufi mystic Jalaluddin Rumi.
Rumi, known as Mawlana in Türkiye, was born in 1207 in Balkh, a city now part of Afghanistan. He settled in Konya in central Türkiye, where he died on December 17, 1273.
He is regarded as one of the most important Sufi philosophers, and members of the Mevlevi order follow his teachings.
Instead of mourning his death, the ceremonies in Konya celebrate what his followers believe is Rumi’s union with God. The main feature of the “Sheb-i Arus”, or “night of the union,” is the ritual in which the whirling dervishes revolve with their right hands symbolically turned up toward God and their left hands turned down toward the Earth.
Ahmet Sami Kucuk, the head of the dervishes in Konya, described the whirling as an “end” and a state one attains after years of training and discipline.
In 2005, the UN cultural agency proclaimed the practice as an example of “the oral and intangible heritage of humanity”.
The structure holding Rumi’s tomb in Konya is a museum, which is visited by thousands of people every year. One visitor, Mohammad Mobeen Dervesh, a Kashmiri living in the United Kingdom, said all lovers of God come to the site to honour Rumi.
Two years after the Covid-19 pandemic’s strict lockdowns, tourism official Abdulsettar Yarar said the site attracted more than 3.1 million visitors this year, 10 percent of them from abroad.
READ MORE: Who was Rumi? Five interesting facts