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Whirling Dervishes of Istanbul

Last updated: 10 February, 2024

Dressed in long white robes with tall hats symbolising tombstones, members of the Mevlevi order (more popularly known as whirling dervishes) are followers of the 13th-century mystic Mevlana Rumi, who would spin into ecstatic circles overcome by his love for God.

The sema ceremony recalls Rumi’s spiritual journey as the dervishes whirl to the Sufi’s haunting, hypnotic music. UNESCO recently placed the dervishes on its Intangible Heritage of Humanity list.

The Hodjapasha Culture Center, an Istanbul cultural centre housed in a 15th-century bathhouse, stages a haunting sema of dervishes whirling to a classical Turkish orchestra, and other traditional dances from across Anatolia.

Dances of Colours perform traditional semas in an equally authentic setting: the 19th-century home of dervish Ismail Dede Efendi.

Logistics

Price from: £10
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 13+
Frequency: weekly
When: Tuesday - Sunday
Duration: 75 minutes

Getting there & doing it

Shows usually last about one hour and 15 minutes. You can just turn up and buy a ticket, but capacity is limited in venues, so it’s advisable to book.

When to do it

Sema ceremonies are usually held at the Hodjapasha Culture Center every Wednesday and Friday, and at Dances of Colours every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday (check the venue’s websites for exact timings).

Destination guides

1

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Istanbul

  • Marmara Region, Turkey

Large illuminated mosque at night with sea in background

Destination guide

Exotic, inexhaustible and dynamic – East meets West head-on in this mesmerising city metropolis, famed for its extraordinarily rich history, superb food and shopping, and mind-blowingly magnificent, over-sized mosques.