Four thousand years ago, the people inhabiting what is now Cappadocia, a region in central Turkey, excavated an underground refuge to defend themselves against marauding bandits. As the centuries past, the digging continued and this refuge grew
In the early centuries AD, Christians used these rooms and tunnels to escape Roman persecution. The labyrinth of tunnels and rooms grew to a depth of eight levels.
Kaymakli's underground rooms include wineries, stables for livestock, living quarters, storage rooms and churches. The narrow tunnels, blocking stones and booby traps kept the people safe in times of peril. It is estimated that up to 3,500 people could live here.
The underground city of Kaymakli
The Sema, also more popularly known as the whirling dervish ceremony, is the inspiration of 13th of the Sufi mystic and Islamic scholar Rumi. Believed to have been born in a province of Afghanistan, Rumi settle in the Anatolia region of what is now central Turkey. (Note: I refer to Rumi as a "Turkish" holy man in the narration to keep the geography simple.) Rumi became a "Molvi" (teacher) and he attracted many followers and the Mewlewi Sufi order was founded after his death. Rumi's teachings spread throughout the Islamic world.
The Sema, more commonly known as the Whirling Dervish Ceremony, is a religious practice attributed to Rumi and the Mewlewi order. This ceremony has seven parts with each part symbolizing a stage in a mystic journey to perfection. Turning towards the truth, the devotee's seek to grow through love by deserting the ego and to return to be of better service to all creation.
The practitioners, called Dervishes, are dressed in a purposeful way. The tall hat represents the ego's tombstone. Their white skirts represent the ego's death shroud. The Dervishes are spiritually reborn when they remove their black cloaks. While whirling, the Dervish open their arms. Their right hands are directed to the sky ready to receive God's will and the left hand is directed to the earth. Gazing up, they turn from right to left pivoting around the heart. Revolving around the heart, the Dervish seek to embrace all mankind and all creation with love.
In 1925 the Turkish government ordered the dissolution of all Sufi orders and strictly limited the practice of the Sema. Despite this, the Mevleviyah order continues to exist and practice the whirling dervish ceremony.