Turkey ~ Along the Silk Road with a visit to a school, caravanserai, carpet shop and Whirling Dervishes

The internet was pitifully slow in Cappadocia, so I am playing catch-up on my blog. Warning, this is a long post.

February 19, 2014

Wednesday we traveled along the Silk Road which takes us through the flattest part of Turkey, going from Konya to Cappadocia.

School Visit

Happy faces excited to see us

Happy faces excited to see us

The Gate 1 Foundation is funded by a portion of the tour revenues.  In each country that they offer tours, they are giving back to the communities, often in the form of adopting a school in an impoverished village.  We visited one of the schools this morning.  We were given the option of bringing school supplies to donate to the classrooms if we wished to.  I was delighted to see several large piles of gifts left by our group.

At this particular school the foundation built a heating system, a bathroom facility was rebuilt and they are in the process of building a lunch room.  The principal of each school specifies where the need is the greatest.  This school has 114 children in kindergarten through 4th grade.  They are primarily farmers, sheep herders or peasant’s children.

Each classroom sang for us or gave gifts of their personal artwork.  They were particularly excited to see pictures of themselves.

Laughing at their picture

Laughing at their picture

Budding photographers

Budding photographers

Starting this year, the kids begin learning English in the second grade.

All the students waving goodbye

All the students came outside to say goodbye

The countryside we drive through will soon be green with wheat and barley plants.  We pass herds of sheep attended by a shepherd and occasionally a very large Kangal dog.

Caravanserai

The Silk Road was the route most traveled from Central Asia to Europe and Africa. Traveling via camel and carrying valuable goods, silk and spices, the merchants and traders needed protection from bandits and a safe place to over night.  Spaced out along the route at around 12 miles apart (the distance a camel can walk in a day) were caravanserais.

Entrance to Caravanserai

Entrance to Caravanserai

Consisting of a fortified outer wall with an opening large enough for a loaded camel to enter, the building was divided into an open air court with small shops/rooms down the sides.  These rooms were used to provide a variety of needed services to travelers, such as food, laundry, baths, medical or spiritual guidance.

Open air courtyard

Open air courtyard

Travelers could stay for up to three days for free.  They slept in the open air with their animals unless the weather became too harsh.

When it rained, or was too cold they would move into the back covered section of the compound.

Rear interior section

Rear interior section

Rear interior section

Rear interior section

Cappadocia

Home to several World Heritage Sites (UNESCO), Cappadocia is known for its rock formations. A volcanic area with a harder upper rock layer (head or cap) on top of a softer rock layer (neck) that through erosion has resulted in odd shapes. Called fairy chimneys, they resemble gigantic phallic symbols.

b

Spotting more formations of Cappadocia in the distance

Fairy Chimney formation - Three Graces

Fairy Chimney formation – Three Graces

Turkish Carpet Shop

One final stop before checking into our hotel was at a carpet factory. The informative lecture walked us through the steps it takes to hand weave the carpets including harvesting the silk threads from the cocoon stage forward. We also learned about the natural products used to die the wool, such as daisies for yellow, walnuts for brown, and indigo for blue.

The price of the carpet is determined by the number of knots per square inch, the intricacy of the pattern, and the skill of the weaver as well as the size. Hand made carpets can take several months to several years to complete.

Finally we check into our hotel where we will stay for two nights.

Our hotel in Cappadocia for two nights

Our hotel in Cappadocia for two nights – Dimler Hotel Urgup

This has been our least favorite hotel on this trip. The first room we were given reeked of cigarette smoke. The front desk was able to switch rooms for us. The replacement room smelled fresh, but the air conditioning did not work and the shower was awkward to use. The internet service was dismal and we were not able to log on for the two days we were here.  One redeeming feature was the bountiful evening buffet dinner with a delicious salad selection.

But our day was not over yet.

Whirling Dervish

One of the things I was most looking forward to seeing, the Whirling Dervish ceremony. A religious service set in an ancient caravanserai, the Sufis created a spiritually moving experience.

From the moment the nine men entered, until they departed an hour later I was spell-bound. The four musicians started with a solo singer/chanter whose deep voice vibrations reverberated through my body. Followed by a reed instrument then two string instruments and drums were added.

Musicians

Musicians

Slowly the four semazen (whirling dervishes) stepped onto the floor.  First with a bow followed by choreographed steps in a pattern around the stage.  Then one by one they started to twirl, arms floated gracefully to a position of meaning, with one hand reaching toward God and one hand turned downward. Almost in a trance like state, they twirled as if floating on air.

We were asked not to take pictures during the ceremony, but at the very end were allowed to take a few shots.

Gratitude Moment:  Today I am grateful for the opportunity to witness the moving spiritual Whirling Dervish ceremony.

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Have you ever visited a school in another country?  Your comments are welcome and appreciated!

About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our "next chapter". At a stage in life where traveling the world, taking pictures, and sharing our adventures with friends and family will be our dream come true.
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