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Konya, one of Turkey's oldest continuously inhabited cities was known as Iconium in Roman times. The capital of the Seljuk Turks from the 12th to the 13th centuries, it ranks as one of the great cultural centers of Turkey. During that period of cultural, political and religious growth, the mystic Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi founded a Sufi Order known in the West as the Whirling Dervishes. The striking green-tiled mausoleum of Mevlana is Konya's most famous building. Attached to the mausoleum, the former dervish seminary serves now as a museum housing manu­scripts of Mevlana's works and various artifacts related to the mysticism of the sect. Every year, in the first half of December, this still-active religious order holds a ceremony commemorating the Whirling Dervishes. The controlled, trance-like turning or sema of the white-robed men creates a fascinating performance for the viewer.

Alaeddin Mosque was built on the site of the ancient Konya citadel in 1220, during the reign of the great Seljuk sultan Alaeddin Keykubat and commands the Konya skyline. To one side of the mosque are the remains of the Seljuk Imperial Palace. The Karatay Medrese, now a museum, displays bold and striking Seljuk ceramics. On the other side of the mosque, the Ince Minareli Medrese of 1258 is remarkable for its marvelous baroque Seljuk portal. Other Seljuk works include the Sircali Medrese and the Sahip Ata Complex. Visitors find Konya's Archeological Museum of exceptional interest. The collection of the Koyunoğlu Museum is a varied one, from natural history to old kilims. Within the museum complex, the restored Izzettin Koyunoğlu house illustrates the way of life of a prosperous Konya family in the last century.

Sille, 10 km north of Konya, has the Byzantine Aya Eleni church and several rock chapels with frescoes.

Akşehir, to the northwest, is known throughout Turkey as the birthplace of the 13th-century humorist Nasrettin Hoca, whose mausoleum stands in the town. The 13th-century Ulu Mosque and the Altınkale Mescidi are other monuments worth seeing. The Sahip Ata Mausoleum has been converted into the town's museum. On the way south to Beyşehir stop at Eflatun Pinar next to the lake to see this unusual Hittite monumental fountain. Several interesting Seljuk buildings are scattered around lovely Beyşehir, on the shores of Lake Beyşehir, Turkey's third largest lake. In the southwestern region of the lake is the pristine wilderness of Lake Beyşehir National Park. Among the monuments are the Esrefoglu Mosque and Medrese, and the Kubad-Abad Summer Palace across the lake.

Another medieval palace stands on Kizkalesi Island, opposite the Kubad-Abad Palace. Haci Akif Island also offers relaxation and recreation to visitors. Çatalhöyük, 45 km south of Konya, is a fascinating Neolithic site dating from the eighth millennium B.C., which makes it one of the world's oldest towns. Archeologists have determined that holes in the roofs of the mud houses were the entrance doors. The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara houses the famous temple (reconstructed), along with mother-goddess figures and Neolithic frescoes from the original site.

Surrounding Karapınar, 96 km east of Konya, are numerous crater lakes; the most famous is the lovely Meke Crater Lake, 7 km southeast of Karapınar. On the north side of the road to Eregli, 8 km from Karapınar, lies Aci Crater Lake. In the center of the lake is an island which is a natural wonder. Surrounding Ereğli, one of the largest counties in the province of Konya, are yellow cherry trees. The Ereğli Archeological Museum displays many Hittite, Roman, Byzantine and Seljuk artifacts.

At İvriz, a Hittite site 168 km east of Konya and 18 km south of Ereğli, you can see one of Turkey's finest neo-Hittite relieves of a king and god of bountiful crops. Karaman was once the capital of the Karamanid Emirate, the first Turkish state to use Turkish instead of Persian as its official language. Fittingly, Yunus Emre, the first great poet to write in Turkish, lived here in the 13th century. The surrounding fortresses date from Seljuk times, although the town's most significant buildings, the Araboğlu, Yunus Emre and Aktekke Mosques and the Hatuniye Medrese, were all built during the Karamanid reign.

The Region of 1001 Churches, the Karaman region, 150 kilometers from Konya is a largely undiscovered, mystical land of gently rolling hills and valleys, towering mountains, with monasteries, churches and chapel complexes. It is a paradise for photographers, walkers, nature-lovers and explorers. The Hittites settled in this region where many of their remains, including inscriptions have been discovered. One of the highest mountains in this region, Mt. Karadağ (2288 meters), is locally called Mahalac; its ancient name was Angel Michael. On top of the mountain, Hittites constructed a temple; the altar of which still remains. There are also the 4th-century remains of a monastery, church and a chapel complex; called the Angel Michael Complex. There is also a beautiful view here. Visitors can still see the remains of churches and chapels at Madenşehir, 45 km from Karaman, on the northern slope of Mt. Karadağ.

Derbe, 30 km north of Karaman, was an important early Christian site; one of the many where St. Paul preached the gospel. Near Taşkale, 48 km east of Karaman, on the rocky northern slope of Yeşildere Valley, are the remains of the fascinating historical city of Manazan. Built during Byzantine times, the entire city of narrow lanes, houses, squares, storage facilities, chapels and cemeteries (occupying an area approximately three kilometers long and five stories high) was carved into the rocky hillside of the valley. Today, parts of the city are still used for storing wheat. South of Karaman up a steep narrow road are the remains of a beautiful Byzantine monastery, Alahan. Much is still standing, and there is some fine stone carving to admire. This magnificent location offers a breathtaking view.


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