Dervish traditions: Turkish Tombs I

Come and explore Haydarpasha's dervish history.One the quirky features I love about Istanbul are tombs dedicated to dede or senior dervishes that turn up in the most unusual places. A dervish is a member of a Muslim religious order who has taken vows of poverty and austerity. Most often associated with the Sufi religious order, there are various orders of dervishes in Turkey, such as the Mevlevi or Whirling Dervishes as they are known to tourists, and the lesser known Nakşibendis and Bektaşi dervish groups. Almost all of them trace their origins back to specific Muslim saints and teachers. Their tombs are always pale mint green in colour and located in odd places, such as in the garden of an apartment block or right in the middle of a path. No matter how inconvenient the location, Turkish people believe it is bad luck to move them.

The Turkish Demir Yolu - railway

There are many such tombs in unexpected places in Istanbul, but I have two favourites. The first is probably the better known, because it is located amongst the railway lines of Haydarpaşa Railway Station. Built in 1909 on the Asian side of Istanbul by the Anatolian Railway, Haydarpaşa was the terminus for the Baghdad and Hedjaz railways. Two German architects, Otto Ritter and Helmut Conu, were hired to design the new building. They chose a Neo-classical structure, and German and Italian stonemasons crafted the embellishments on the facade of the terminal. A small German neighbourhood in the nearby Yeldeğirmeni quarter of Kadıköy was established to house the engineers and craftsmen who worked on the project.

The namesake of the famous Haydarpasha RailwayDervish Haydar Baba's tomb







Many Turks worked on the project too, and when plans were drawn up to lay the tracks a decision was made to move the tomb of Haydar Baba. Buharalı Haydar Dede, to give him his full name, was the head or sheik of a Nakşibendi lodge, and is believed to have died around 1700 AD. It’s rumoured that the night before the work was due to start the supervisor of the works had a dream. Haydar Baba appeared before him and said it would make him uncomfortable if they moved his grave. Shaken but undeterred the supervisor shrugged off his unease and went back to work the next day. However the following night Haydar Baba came to the supervisor again and repeated his statement more forcefully this time, placing his hands around the supervisor’s throat and squeezing tightly. Naturally afraid, the supervisor called a halt to the work and had the new lines laid on either side of the tomb, leaving Haydar Baba undisturbed.

You can find more on dervish traditions and Turkish tombs in Istanbul in the complete version of this essay in the second edition of my book, Inside Out In Istanbul: Making Sense of the City.

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About Goreme1990

I’m Lisa Morrow, the person behind I was born in Sydney, Australia and grew up a leafy middle class North Shore suburb. After finishing high school I went to Sydney University but failed to find my niche. After working as a public servant, cleaner, sales assistant, waitress, bar maid and car counter, I went overseas. Once there I hitchhiked through the UK, travelled in Europe and arrived in Turkey just as the Gulf War was starting. My three months stay in the small central Anatolian village of Göreme changed my life. On my return to Australia I earned a BA Honours Degree in Sociology from Macquarie University. An academic career beckoned but the call to travel was louder. After several false starts I moved to Turkey and lived there for ten years. In 2017 I moved to Lisbon, Portugal, but continue to travel regularly to Istanbul. In addition to my blog I've written a travel narrative memoir called "Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom: Adrift in Istanbul" and two collections of essays, "Inside Out In Istanbul: Making Sense of the City" and "Exploring Turkish Landscapes: Crossing Inner Boundaries". I have a regular segment on San Francisco Turkish radio and in early 2017 I released an audio walking tour called "Stepping back through Chalcedon: Kadikoy Walk", through VoiceMap. In addition I write for various international and Australian magazines and websites, as well as for this blog. A full list of my published articles, with links, can be found on the Writing on Turkey and Writing Beyond Turkey pages.
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