|We arrived in Bursa which was a surprisingly large city of over one million people. It seemed very European because you did not see many single family homes despite the amount of countryside surrounding the city which is nestled into the side of the mountains.
The city was bustling and our hotel directly across the street from one of the more historical mosques. You really get a taste for the way the people live when you listen to their prayers which are broadcast over loudspeakers on the mosques throughout each city and town. I have never experienced anything like it.
In Bursa we were very lucky to join a group of local men, both young and old at one of their local hangouts - a shabby but comfortable tea house with a small wood panelled back room where they smoke, play instruments and sing before heading home for dinner. It really was a great experience to watch and participate in this daily activity. They were very warm and welcoming to the group.
Then we made our way to a Dervish lodge to see a Sema prayer. Many people have seen the Whirling Dervish but most do not understand exactly what it is.
The Mevlevi worship ceremony, or Sema is a ritual dance representing union with God... to put it simply. The Dervishes dress in long white robes with full skirts that represent their shrouds. They enter the room wearing a black cloak which they discard before performing which symbolizes deliverence from worldly attachments. They also wear a tall narrow hat which represents a tombstone.
The ceremony begins when the hafız (a special scholar) intones a prayer for Melvana and a verse from the Quran. More rıtuals are performed and one by one the dervıshes spin onto the floor as ıt ıs saıd that they relinquısh the earthly life to be reborn in mystical union with God.
The spinning continues at various speeds for 20 minutes or so until the hafiz again chants passages from the Quran, thus sealing the mystical union with god. It was really neat to watch and everyone found it astonishing that the Dervishes were able to spin for so long at once without falling.
We were then able to speak to one of the performers and join him for tea. It was very casual and we felt as though we were at home in this very relaxed environment.
Next stop is Selcuk and the world famous ruins of Efes.