In Konya, goat heads, Sufis, music, fun

October 1, 2013



leaving Istanbul behind

leaving Istanbul behind


sunset from 30 thousand feet

sunset from 30 thousand feet


so amazing

so amazing


almost there...

almost there…



We got off the plane on the runway. I like those. You get the air, the view. I can’t help smiling. I’m looking around and it is definitely another world. Far away horizon with mountains against the last light of the setting sun. I am surrounded with very Turkish people. This is not Istanbul. Most women are at least wearing a scarf and the men have this look, checkered or striped shirt and trousers and leather shoes. I head for the washroom and I smile when I see the floor hole toilet. It is sparkling clean, I take a picture because I’m thinking how some of my friends would react… like I did the first time I encountered one of those! I get my bag, head out, the shuttle is there almost ready to go.

sparkling clean floor toilet

sparkling clean floor toilet


I get on the bus, it’s 7:09 PM. The concert tonight is at night. I should be able to make it in two hours. I put the guitar in the luggage rack and the bagalama on my lap as I already know it won’t fit up there. After a few minutes the thought comes to me that I actually have no idea where I’m going. I know it’s Mevlana Kultur Merkesi, I know there is a Mevlana mosque on the way but that’s it. And I decide not to worry about it. The bus makes a few stops, I look outside for clues. I can see we are getting closer and closer to downtown. I see a sign: Mevlana with an arrow. OK we’re heading in the right direction.

We pass some old piece of wall that I will learn later is the remnant of a Seljuk palace… that is very old… I hear something about Mevlana and get out of the bus. The street is bustling. A bit like in Istanbul minus the zillions of tourists. I walk a bit, ask a young man who was sitting on a delivery scooter where the Mevlana Kultur Merkesi is. He says it’s really far, I never know what that means as what’s far for many is not for me… but he points to the dolmus (mini bus) and says it will go there. I thank him and continue, see my mini bus, get in, pay the fee (1.5 lira) and get dropped off right at the art center.

Mevlana Kultur Merkesi

Mevlana Kultur Merkesi


Wow. Made it. I chuckle.

sorry not a good photo, but the women's group from Morocco

sorry not a good photo, but the women’s group from Morocco

The concert features a group of women from Morocco, all singers. It’s quite good. At then end I get back out and walk back towards town, with two instruments and my backpack on. The air is good. Taxis and dolmuş and busses honk at me, that’s how they get their customers.. but I walk instead. I pass the Mevlana museum and find myself back downtown. I’m trying to find Hiç Cafe. A few friends had told me that it was “the” place to go to to meet friends. I ask one guy, he sends me in one direction. I ask another he sends me in the opposite direction… hm… then I see this guy standing by a hotel and ask him.

He spoke English:

“Oh, it’s this way… well let me take you there.”

The guy literally took me to the door of the cafe. As we walked he asked me questions.

“Where are you staying?”

“I don’t know yet. I may meet some friends at the cafe.”

“You can come to my friend’s hotel, 35 lira for you.”

Thirty five lira is the cost of the hostel in Istanbul. It’s about $16.

“I might do that, thank you.”

“that includes free breakfast! A buffet, you can eat all you want and stuff your pockets too! We lock the doors at midnight”

I laughed.

He leaves me at the door. I walk in. It’s a very cool space. I ask the young man if they have food. I have not eaten except for a tiny sandwich on the plane, that was hours ago and now I”m starving. They have pasta, or “macarna” as they call it here. And of course tea. He takes me to a corner table. There are musicians playing, few people there but the atmosphere is really neat. A few seconds later, the waiter comes around and to my surprise, covers me with a shawl. The cafe is an open sky space so it was cold. I felt it was such an amazing gesture… He brings me home made pasta, hot tea. I was so hungry at that point I was shaking.

Hiç Cafe

Hiç Cafe

I watched a few songs, then looked at the time, almost midnight. I think I’ll make it to that hotel. The price is right, especially with the free breakfast!

On my way out I see posters for upcoming shows… and guess what I saw… Erkan Ogur… OH MY GOD! He’s one of the most amazing musicians I have ever heard and one that made me really want to come to Turkey… I dreamed I could see him live… and he plays here on Wednesday… I wasn’t planning to stay here that long but… I have to see this.


At the hotel all goes well, I get my room and… Guess what?  There is a BATH TUB.  Yes.  A BATH TUB!!!!!!!   Those who know me know that I like taking baths.  I have not had a bath in four months!!!!   There are next to zero bath tubs in Istanbul.  I was ECSTATIC!!!  I was jumping around totally nuts… totally completely happy.



In my room I realized I was really thirsty. Water I need. I went to the reception and asked for water. The guy whom I had met on my way to Hic cafe was there.

“Here, let me give it to you.”

“Thank you.”

“Hey you should sit with us and have a beer!”

“Ah dunno… it’s late, I’m really tired…”

Then another guy who was there said:

“After a beer or two you’ll sleep like a baby!”

Then I think, what the heck. Why not?

I chatted with them for a while, Yuksel and Abdullah. One is a carpet salesman, the other a real estate agent. Abdullah used to have a sport bike, Honda CBR 600. I tell him I have a bike too. We talk bikes for a while.

Then, another man appears. I cannot remember his name… he put newspaper on the table that was there in front of us, brought a plate with greens, left… and came back with another plate. I smelled it first… then I saw it.

A goat. Two goats. Two heads with everything in there, eyes, teeth. I squealed… they laughed I turned away… I was jumping up and down…. YIKES!!!! I could not look! Tried to look winced and hooted again. They are laughing. I mean… this is like… a goat! I used to have goats… but we got the milk… and yeah the meat too but not like this… not a full head… the only thing missing is the skin… I look again…. I’m totally grossed out, laughing and squealing all at once..

I will not eat this! I think.

They laugh, bring the tray on the table.

“Gel! Otur!” Come! Sit down!

“Holy shit! Holy shit!” I’m thinking.

Then, the man who brought this gets his fingers right in there… into the cooked flesh, under the bones, he does that with a sort of .. gusto… dunno how to describe, just almost violently, grinning all teeth out. He grabs a piece of flesh and almost puts it in my mouth….

Yok! Yok! I say (No! No!)

Then I think: well, they’re all eating it… they say it’s good. You’re here, when is it that you’ll be offered goat’s brains? And girl just grow some balls real quick like…

So. I ate it.

I am torn between grossness and a feeling of running away and the funniness of this situation and the fact that it actually doesn’t taste bad! Kind of like fish…

Who would have thought…??!!

I eat a bit more. I don’t really go for it myself but I did eat it. The man makes a sort of sandwich with the greens, onions and the goat stuff…

The next night I was hit with a major case of the runs… which I tend to think would be because of this… but now I can say I did it!


I wake up early (for me that is) to enjoy the free breakfast. The spread is amazing. Olives galore (4 kinds all delicious) vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers, 2 kinds of vegetable salads. Many types of yogurt spreads, breads, jams, 4 types of teas, cheeses, egg salad and more… some I have no idea how to eat.

With a full stomach I head out. Mevlana museum.

The place is packed. There is a love for Mevlana that is very present in all the people there. Part of the buildings are Seljuk, really old.

Mevlana mosque

Mevlana mosque




sufi banner

sufi banner

instruments from the time of rumi

instruments from the time of Rumi


the way to Rumi's tomb

the way to Rumi’s tomb

outside the center, the old Seljuk walls

outside the center, the old Seljuk walls


ancient book

ancient book


It’s hard to grasp that I am actually here, where Rumi was. Lived. Breathed. I see his tomb and tears stream out of my eyes… I cannot explain. The place is amazing…

After that I decided to walk around Konya a bit. It is so different from Istanbul. As I walk by the hotel Yuksel from last night is there. He takes me to his shoppe. A tiny rectangle in a back alley with the sign cicim on the door. He opens the door on blackness and a man who was sleeping on rugs gets up in a hurry. This little space is covered in gorgeous rugs. He starts showing me all kinds of rugs, cushion covers, different styles, techniques colors. I realize that he wants me to buy… I say that I can’t carry this as I am back packing… “you can ship it.” he says… I say that I really don’t have a budget for this kind of thing… “for you this one only 100 lira…” tempting but… what am I going to do with this? I have no home… and the more stuff the harder it is to move and so far I have needed to move often… so no.

But Turks are very tenacious. He keeps trying, showing me more and more things, trying to make me fall in love with something… the poor man doesn’t know that I have cured my “materialism” so after a while I leave.

Mosque and market

Mosque and market




motorcycle... truck

motorcycle… truck


I keep walking. The city is so different than what I’ve known so far. I was sticking out in Istanbul, here I am like a blinking neon advertisement… I wander up a small street and one man approaches me.. “Would you like some tea?” I raise my hands in the refusal gesture so common here and say Teşekkur ederim. (thank you which means no here)

a bit later I wander back up and the guy is there again…

“Are you sure you don’t want some tea?” He was so nice, I decided, what the heck, lets visit his shoppe. Another carpet salesman. We chat for a bit. He has traveled extensively around the world, has been in Canada, knows a bunch of places for which he proceeds to show me pictures.

We chat for a while, he seems civilized enough. We get to talk about tonight’s concert, at the Festival, he says he’s going, I am going too, so why not meet and go there together. It’s a walking thing so I agree.

8:20 PM we meet and go see the concert…

the show is mind blowing… so perfect. I was mesmerized.

He then offers to take me for dinner to his favorite place. We walk there, it’s past the Alladin Park in a very old building. Well I have been in Turkey for 4 months but I have not had a “feast” made of Turkish food as I cannot afford these kinds of dinners… he says I am his guest… and to enjoy. So I did… Eggplant, yogurt spread, grilled lamb, salad, raki, it was amazing! The best food I’ve had since I left Asbjorn’s kitchen!

We chat, have a good time… all is well. I cannot believe the grace shown to me…


I walk back in the hotel, I hear my name. Abdullah. I walk towards him and he looks somewhat aggressive.

“What happened today?”

“What do you mean?”

“You were supposed to call me, we were going to drive out, then I was going to show you around and then go to the concert and then up to the teras and have raki together.”

I am a bit taken aback. Yes I said I might call but the day happened and I never got around to calling him until it was too late…

“I’m sorry I should have called, I guess I fucked up.”

He didn’t know what fucked up meant, I tried to explain.. he then gestured for me to sit on the couch next to him. I reluctantly did. He started to show me something on his laptop… then his tone got angry…

“You were supposed to call me..” that stayed hanging in the air like burnt engine oil.

“Well, I’m sorry but things happened and I didn’t.”

Then he got into a speech that was word for word the talk of a jealous boyfriend…

“It’s two AM. Where were you?”

“I was with friends.”

“What did you do?”

“I went to the concert and then we ate.”

“We were supposed to do that together… How much did you drink? What did you eat? Then what did you do?”

I couldn’t believe my ears… I got up.

“Well dude, I’m sorry I didn’t call you. I should have done that but I didn’t and so be it.” Then he said something about something 90% Turkish and when I told him I didn’t understand what he meant he wave me off with disgust. I turned around and left. There is no point in discussing anything. I realized the guy was into some kind of game I’m really not into. The next day I learned that him and Yuksel actually kind of stalk any foreign woman who comes to the hotel. They stay by the door and try their little game… so if you ever go to Konya and go to the Sema hotel, ladies beware. Those guys are trying to collect trophies, if you get my meaning… they are not friendly.


oops… I’m so sick… been sick all night. I believe the goat’s brains did not go down well. It’s major diarrhea all night long. I did not sleep. I stayed in bed all day. Then went out for the concert.. from Pakistan. It was so different… It took some getting used to… but it still was very powerful… I went back to bed and slept until noon.



In Turkey, one moment I feel like a total outsider and the next I cannot believe the generosity of the people.


Today I started by going out.. it was hot so I didn’t wear a jacket, just a sleeveless t-shirt. Well… I have this big tattoo and Konya is pretty conservative… to say it mildly. Most women are covered head to toe, long skirts, jackets, scarves and that even if it’s really hot… in about 30 seconds and I felt completely out of place… the silent stares and mostly the bad juju sent my way is palpable. “should have brought the jacket..” I thought. I went back to the hotel immediately and put the jacket on heat or no heat… Covering my arms at least… It was much better.


I was out looking for strings for the bağlama. I had spotted a store on Google Maps, but in Turkey Google maps is usually wrong. I walked for a while, down to the area, I had drawn a little map, got there… checking the businesses but no luck… I want to ask someone but I have to find the right person. I asked a man sitting outside a döner place (he looked like the owner) about the address.


Is this the right street? I askedç


He answers speaking pretty fast and what I got that the place is “kapat” (closed) so I asked in my bad Turkish if there was another music store around?


He answers the same way again and I get that it’s uzak, (far) and we could go arabayla… by car… but I don’t really want to get in the car with a stranger… I mean, it would probably be OK but at this point I don’t want anymore uncomfortable one on ones if I can avoid them… then he says something about the bus, but I replied that I don’t know how it works… He gets up, “Bekle” he says (wait) then he hails a dolmuş that was coming down the street, (a mini bus). He talks to the driver, I understand something about bağlama strings and that it’s uzak… the man tells me and signals with his hands to get it, the driver says “gel!” (come!) so I get in, wave at my helping angel and ask the driver “how much?”


“Tamam” (OK) he says waving his hand dismissively… I am getting a free ride… It is pretty full in there, a few people are standing up. We’re going back towards my hotel, I see a mosque under renovations that I had seen the day before. I stick out so much it’s kind of funny. One man asks the driver a question, I hear bağlama. One man turns to me and speaks really fast… I hear “bağlama strings” and “do you play? And Yabancı (foreigner) Where are you from?


I answer:

“Bağlama ögreniyorum… Canadalıyım… (I am Canadian) He must be in his late 50’s, 60’s, it’s hard to say here as life is much harder than in North America and people wear that hard lived life on their faces. The dolmus stops. The man talks to the driver, looks at me and says : “Gel!” so I follow. There is a woman coming down too. The man had been talking to her so I’m guessıng that maybe they’re together… but she walks to far behind so I’m not sure… should I walk behind? What to do? At one point the woman goes a different way and I keep following him, getting closer. He asks questions, sometimes I understand, sometimes not… Talk about being a stranger in a strange land!


I get about 25% of what he says… We are walking through the pazar, places I would not have known to find on my own… we end up on the main street, near Alladin park, he says something about the park ahead and how pretty it is. At the park we turn right, heading into another neighborhood, it looks old, the roads narrow, the buildings have much character. There are an endless stream of tea houses. All the men sitting there on the short stools drinking tea and chatting… he takes a sharp right, he actually walks quite fast! We turn on a small street and again he surprises me with a quick right hand turn: “Saz Evi” says the sign. Ahhh! Says I. A tiny little saz store… he signals me to wait, he walks in, talks to the people, there are about 4 men sitting in a circle in there. I wait outside.


“Gel!” he gestures at me to come in. I do.


It’s a small space, one tiny work bench in the back, a desk with a credit card machine and a glass display underneath with strings in there. The walls are lined with saz, short neck, long neck, divan… all is wood colored, ancient looking. The owner offers me tea. Which I first understood as “where are you from” to which I answered Canada and they all laughed because he had asked me if I wanted tea!


There is a small intercom on the wall, the man who took me there orders tea… An intercom solely to order tea… Only in Turkey. A man walks in with a tray and puts the tea down, grabs a little ticket on the desk and walks out.
We chat a bit, trying to speak,


Calisiyor musun? (Do you play? )


Biraz… (a little)


Oh I’m so shy… Since I’ve been here I’ve been shy to play the bağlama in front of Turks because I’m so much of a beginner… they hand me the “divan” saz, it is huge! The divan saz is two sizes bigger than what I’m used to play. I said “It’s too big!” They hand me a long neck one.. it’s really nice. The owner makes them. It feels nice, the tuning is the same as mine so I give it a go…


Strangely, I am comfortable. The instrument is nice, I asked how much it would be, he says 350 lira. I would have to come back to try it but I would definitely love to buy an instrument from a small shoppe like this. And the price is half of what it is in Istanbul.


We spend the next 30 minutes or so exchanging songs and trying to communicate. At one point I felt it was time to go. I said: “Ben gidiyorum!” Everyone stood up. Thanked the owner gratefully for the strings, shook hands with everyone, it was funny as I was trying to answer their goodbyes with the right words. We’re all smiling and shining. That moment is so beautiful, I kept smiling most of the way back to the hotel.



Day three concert, Turkey. Sufi ensemble and dervishes… What can I say… I was taken again. This music, the whirling really lift my soul. My whole being.


At the concert, my neighbor was a man from Jordan. A calligraphy artist here on some art study project. He was all excited to tell me about getting his photo taken with Rumi’s great, great… great grand daughter.


Dervish ceremony

Dervish ceremony

the beginning

the beginning


And here is a little video…


I am floating… this is amazing… really… truly. I am so blessed.





2 Responses to “In Konya, goat heads, Sufis, music, fun”

  1. Charlotte Says:

    No more goat brains for you, dear. 😉

  2. francoise Says:

    Rumi, I love it. It is a group at Victoria I am hoping to see very soon. Quelle belle experience que tu vis ma belle Danielle. Je t’aime. Mon coeur est avec toi……

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