Istanbul, the cultural hub of Turkey, is known for its rich history and tradition. One such tradition is the Whirling Dervishes Show, a mesmerizing spiritual experience that has been around for centuries. Considered as one of the most mystical ceremonies in the world, this unique dance performance is a must-see for anyone visiting Istanbul. During the performance, you will get supernatural sensations.
The ritual is typically accompanied by Ney, a traditional Turkish instrument whose wonderful rhythm and voice make the show unique. It is also one of the best ways to experience Istanbul’s entertainment by night. This incredible night is incredibly easy to experience with several tourist passes, as well as online booking.
What is Whirling Dervishes Show (Sema)?
The whirling dance show, or ceremony, known as “Sema” in Turkish, is a mystical ceremony that was inspired and developed by Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi (1207-1273), a world-famous Islamic mystical poet, theologian, and spiritual teacher (Sufi). It dates back more than 800 years and comes from the city of Konya.
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Sufis (Mevlevi in Turkish), also known as Dervishes, devote their lives to seeking and finding a closer connection with God. And according to Mevlana’s devotees, this mystical quest for God is accomplished through worship, prayers, a sophisticated musical repertoire known as “ayin,” and this one-of-a-kind whirling dance rite. Whirling Dervishes are Sufis who performs this whirling dance event, also called “semazen” in Turkish.
The Sema Ceremony is the spiritual and cultural highlight of the Whirling Dervishes Show. The ceremony represents the journey of the soul to union with the divine. The dervishes wear long white robes, symbolizing their burial shrouds, and a tall brown hat, symbolizing their tombstone. The dance itself is a form of meditation, with the dervishes whirling in a circular motion, arms outstretched, while the music plays.
Enjoy Whirling Dervishes Show on Video
Where to experience the Whirling Dervishes Dance?
The best place to see the Whirling Dervishes Show in Istanbul is at the Hodjapasha Cultural Center, located in the historic Sirkeci neighborhood. This restored 550-year-old Ottoman Turkish bathhouse provides an intimate and authentic setting for the ceremony. There also several other venues such as Sirkeci Orient Express Hall and Galata Mevlevi Museum & Lodge.
Galata Mevlevi Museum & Lodge
This renowned center and museum for Mevlevi culture are situated at the end of Istiklal Avenue in Taksim, through Tunel Square. Galata Mevlevi Lodge is a museum that displays Turkish calligraphic art, music, and artifacts from the Mevlevi tradition.
Yenikapi, Eyup & Ismail Dede Efendi Mevlevi Lodges
Yenikapi Mevlevi Lodge is located in the Yenikapi area, Eyup Bahariye Mevlevi Lodge is located in the Eyup district, and Ismail Dede Efendi Mevlevi Lodge is located in Cankurtaran. During the peak season, they perform Whirling Dervishes every day at 19:00.
Pro Tip: Because the performance is quite popular with most tourists, you should get your tickets at least two or three days in advance, as many dates sell out rapidly. The best and most convenient approach to watching the Whirling Dervishes Show at Sirkeci Orient Express Hall is to get your tickets online. A ticket may not be available at the location’s ticket window. And it’s less expensive than the one at Hodjapasha Culture Center.
Hodjapasha Culture Center (Highly Recommended)
This is Istanbul’s most popular Whirling Dervishes Performance location, located in Sirkeci near the Sirkeci railway station and situated in a refurbished 550-year-old Ottoman Turkish bath.
Every day at 19:00, the performances begin (Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday in winter). They also have the Rhythm of the Dance Show (Turkish Dance), a collection of traditional dances performed by skilled dancers.
Orient Express Hall in Sirkeci (Highly Recommended)
Tour Booking Advice
This prominent site for Whirling Dervishes Performance in Istanbul is in Sirkeci Train Stop, in the Historical Orient Express Hall, just a short walk from Sirkeci Tram station.
Tips for Attending the Whirling Dervishes Show
Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your experience:
- Book your tickets in advance, as the shows can sell out quickly.
- Arrive early to get a good seat and take in the ambiance of the venue.
- Respect the spiritual nature of the ceremony by refraining from taking photos or using your phone during the performance.
- Dress appropriately, as the venue is a place of worship.
- Sit back, relax, and enjoy the hypnotic and mesmerizing experience.