Sunday, August 4, 2013

Whirling Dervishes in Istanbul

Whirling Dervishes are from the Mevlevi Order which is a Sufi order founded in the 13th century by a Persian poet, Islamic jurist, and theologian. Dervish is a common term for an initiate of the Sufi path. We saw a formal one hour ceremony in a small hall in Sultanahmet which began with fifteen minutes of music followed by forty-five minutes of whirling prayer. The whirlers danced for about twelve minutes at a time before slowing and walking around before beginning again. We saw a fifteen minute movie before the "performance" explaining the path the Sufis follow as well as the history of the order. It made the ceremony much more meaningful and the audience could understand what they were seeing. At the end, it was difficult to know whether to applaud or not since we were witnessing a religious ceremony. The majority of the audience did, but I asked a young man at our hotel if that was appropriate. He said it really wasn't but understood the reaction. The single Dervish at the bottom performed at a restaurant near our hotel a couple of times a week, and we saw him on our way back after an evening out. These men lead regular lives outside of their Sufi activities and get paid to "perform." I used the Sony NEX 5n with the 10-18 wide angle lens for the indoor shot and the Sony RX 100 for the outdoor photograph.

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