I read Elif Shafaq’s Forty Rules of Love in 2014 and ever since I have wanted to visit this city. Right in the heart of Turkey, surrounded by the vast Anatolian farmlands, sits the city of Konya with history engraved at every corner. Rumi or Melvana as known in Turkey needs no introduction. Rumi lived in Konya for the last forty years of his life. It was in this city that Rumi wrote the famous Mathnawi. Shams of Tabraiz after wandering through the Middle East finally met his spiritual companion, Rumi, in this very city. It was this meeting in 1244 that completely changed the course of Rumi’s life. You have to visit Konya if you are a Rumi fan, a History fanatic or if you just love food, Konya’s lamb centric cuisine is amazing. Konya is a must visit, In Rumi’s own words:
“Whoever you may be, come Even though you may be
An infidel, a pagan, or a fireworshipper, come
Our brotherhood is not one of despair
Though you have broken
Your vows of repentance a hundred times, come.”
It was around midnight, I was on my bus to Konya. I woke up thanks to a few teenagers sitting behind me. Five minutes later one of them asked me where I was traveling to? Soon all five of them were eagerly listening to me and my traveling experience in Turkey. One of them commented that i had explored their country more than they had. They were super nice and I loved my next two hours with them. Super entertaining! When they discovered I was from Pakistan, they told me that they did not like Indians, maybe they assumed that i would hate Indians. It was funny, I kind of enjoyed it. But then I realized that my host in Konya, Siraj was from India, so I tried to tell them that Pakistanis and Indians don’t necessarily hate each other. We have the same culture, history, traditions and pretty much the same language. But they were just too busy convincing me that they didn’t like India and that they loved Pakistan and respected Pakistan for being the only atomic power in the Muslim world.
One of them had just joined the Turkish Army (the guy who is saluting in the picture). All of the were childhood friends and all hailed from the city of Yozgat, which they call claimed to be the most beautiful city in the World.
The guy in the Adidas shirt was very interested to know about Pakistan. His name was Selcuk Bugra Saglam and i really enjoyed his company. Perhaps, i was the first Pakistani he had met.
Soon we were entering Konya. As i began to pack up my stuff the boys invited me to their city, Yozgat. But I told them that I wouldn’t be able to come because I was running short on time. But i promised that if i come to Turkey again, i will definitely come to their town and give them a chance to be my hosts. I also offered them to visit Pakistan, where i would be more than happy to host them. They gave me their passport photos and told me to keep those photos in my wallet so I don’t forget them. I had only one picture of myself so I gave it to one of them and asked them to not forget me either. They instantly folowed me on Instagram and asked me to follow back so we stay in touch. It was a sweet gesture by them. Even today as I write this blog from my home in Pakistan, I have their photos in my wallet.
At 2am we reached Konya, the bus stopped I got off the bus and the boys got off with me. Each one of them hugged me as we said good byes. They got back on the bus and the bus departed for Yozgat, which was another four hours away.
Reaching Konya was a relief for me. I was in the city of Rumi. In that moment I felt a sense of satisfaction as if a long due wish had been fulfilled. In all of that happiness I missed the bus to my host’s house. And just to make matters worse, it was last bus of the night. Public transport would open in the morning now. And my host lived in Bosna hersek, in the outskirts of konya. I couldn’t walk that much. All of a sudden I was in a city where I knew no one, I had no idea where the bus stop was or where I could get a cab from. I knew nothing. In that moment I also realized how Jon Snow feels all the time.
In that hopeless situation I walked to the main road. There were no people. It was scary. So scary that I decided to put it on my snapchat. Snaps shared below. I had almost prepared myself to sleep on the road but that’s when the biggest, craziest coincidence of my life took place. It’s too good to be true.
Close to 3am I saw two guys walking and it was obvious that I would ask them for help. So I went to them and showed them the address of Siraj’s house on google maps. They were the only humans I saw at that hour of the night. And in a city of 2million people these two guys turned out to be Siraj’s house mates and they were going to his place too. For a moment we were shocked at how it happened. How did I run into them and they turned out to be the right people. They didn’t know I was coming and this wasn’t coordinated. Destiny works in mysterious ways. We took a cab and soon we reached Siraj’s place. His friend Rasul showed me my room. Siraj had brought dinner for me and it was put on the table next to my bed. It was around 5am. I had food and went to bed. Below is my text to Siraj that I sent him just before going to bed.
The next day I woke up, everyone had left for work. So I spent an hour on my Izmir blog and published it. With one task done I started my journey to Rumi’s mausoleum. Siraj had texted me the route and it took me around an hour to reach Melvana.
I was so excited to finally visit this place but at the same time it was worrying me. Rumi’s resting place had occupied such a big space in my bucket list for so long and now all of a sudden it was off that list. I was there.
I took a walk around the museum, it was majestic. I walked through all of the mini tombs built in the museum and spent an hour reading all the details. Outside the mausoleum you could see people reading Quran, people reading Rumi’s literature and people just sitting doing nothing. I entered the mausoleum, stayed there for a little time. Read everything in English that was there, couldn’t read the Turkish text. By the time I walked out, I though that I had spent an hour at the mausoleum. I was surprised that I had spent close to 3 hours there. It was just beautiful.
While walking back to the metro station I brought Turkish ice cream. In Konya they were giving the date flavored ice team, it was not offered in Istanbul. At least it was not available in the areas of Istanbul that I visited. The date flavored Turkish ice cream was superb. If you are traveling in turkey, please try it!
I got a Konya transportation card. Meanwhile I got a text from Siraj, we planned to get together at Bosna Hersek station and from there we would go for Dinner. Siraj came to Turkey for his undergrad and got a job soon after doing his masters. Now he was working for a hardware company and managing their operations in Asia/Pacific region. We talked about India, Pakistan, Turkey and everything. I really enjoyed his company and got an insight into how the corporate world was in Turkey for foreigners. We went to a place for dinner followed by a chai place and finally a dessert place, after all the Turkish hospitality, it was time for Indian hospitality. New experience for sure!
Siraj told me how Indians and Pakistanis formed one community here. I had witnessed it in Australia too, makes me wonder why the two countries can’t live peacefully.
We took a long walk back home, it was fun. Back at home Rasul made us some tea. Over tea we discussed Turkish politics this followed by more tea and more tea. As our conversation started getting deep into the world of politics, we probably ended up discussing half of the world history. It was a lot of fun. Siraj knew Turkish so he would translate Rasul’s questions for me. It was a great conversation.
Late in the night I deciced I should go to bed. In the morning I would leave for Ankara so I said everyone good byes and thanked Siraj for being such an amazing host.
Next day I packed my stuff and texted my high school friend, Jalal in Ankara, if it would be possible for him to host me.
So yeah I will be living on the campus of METU with my friends who are studying there. If I get caught I would be in a lot of trouble.
Konya was amazing. So glad to have finally visited this city. Off we go, Ankara next!