The Beat, the Beat Goes On ~ By Freida Blostein (2012), ROHS Alumnus & CE Group Traveler

The Whirling Dervishes:  they twirl and spin, and they are not dancers. They are devotees, practicing the Islamic branch of Sufism, taking cue from 13th century poet-leader Rumi. Sufism does not preach, Sufism sings, sings of love and a life lived artistically. The dervishes twist to the inner song of ney (flute), the beat of Islam.

To Love is to reach God.
Never will a Lover’s chest
feel any sorrow.

And we saw them today. In white skirts that flare, faces serene, solemn. They had a certainty in them that I will never have. That’s all they do, by the way. They twirl. No acrobatics, no jumps, no disco moves. More a hypnotizing prayer wheel of flesh than any kind of dance. Dervishes are not dancers, after all. They are religion.

The Dervishes merely continued the rhythmical nature our day had assumed in the morning however. After a late night of wandering for Kacey and I, we awoke far past our over ambitious goal of 9 AM. It was near noon when we finally all assembled and headed for the Grand Bazaar.


The Grand Bazaar is a maze of shops and stalls. Getting lost is easy. Finding the perfect purchase is hard. The Grand Bazaar has its own beat too, quick and simple, found in a shopkeeper’s aggressive patter or in the back and forth exchange of negotiation. By the end of today we were all bargainers. Cheyenne’s unassuming voice pushed prices lower, Kacey and I may have traded in both Turkish Lira and cheek kisses to secure better deals. Like all those countless ancients before us, we stepped in time to the tune of trade.

After a successful morning in the Bazaar, we had a brief lunch and respite and headed to the Dervishes. It was something I was glad to see, but as Kacey put “Maybe not something I would see again.” Though the music was unlike anything I had ever heard, entrancing, I felt like an intruder. I would not watch someone pray. The Whirling Dervishes are beautiful but also sad. Their rhythm is one I can never fully experience, and their twirls are captivating but monotonous.

There are happier beats in Istanbul, quicker songs. The biggest surprise of the day came in the evening. In the main square we stumbled across a concert, but not a typically Turkish one. Stretching their repertoire to include what seemed like the entirety of the musical Grease, this band delighted Kate and I. Can you imagine? In the lights of the minarets of the Blue Mosque, steps away from the Hagia Sophia, munching on salted, roasted corn and baklava….. in the background someone croons:

                  Summer days…but oooh summer nights!

To top of the night, all four girls indulged Chisnell in a surprise treat of Ottoman candy and a round of our own; singing “Happy Birthday.” The beat goes on after all, year after year.

Bappy Hirthday, Chisnell.

Reverence, love, life, trade, song, food and drink…. Summer days in Istanbul.

But, oh man, summer nights.

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