Saturday, December 19, 2009
Şeb-i Arus (the Night of Union) ceremonies, which are held annually on Dec. 17 to commemorate the death of Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi, a religious thinker and Sufi who wrote poetry in Persian, have attracted growing interest from both domestic and foreign visitors.
However, for the event to draw more tourists and boost the city’s economy, more should be done to promote and advertise the occasion.
The city hosted more visitors than ever before at this year’s ceremonies, which took place on Dec. 7 to17, stated Murat Peksomlu, a head manager at Dedeman Hotel in Konya. He attributed the rise in the number of visitors to the books written on the life story of Rumi and his close friend Şems-i Tebrizi, who, also a Sufi, introduced Rumi to a new perspective on religion.
“Elif Şafak’s novel ‘Aşk’ [The Forty Rules of Love] and Ahmet Ümit’s ‘Bab-ı Esrar’ [The Secret Door] have been very influential in attracting the attention of their readers to Konya, Sufism, Rumi and Tebrizi. Therefore, the number of visitors has increased every year since 2007, which was declared the year of Mevlana by the Culture and Tourism Ministry. However, we should take more steps to increase the interest of foreign tourists, especially those from Iran,” stated Peksomlu while speaking to Today’s Zaman.
This year more than 1,000 Iranian tourists came to the Şeb-i Arus events because of Rumi’s great importance in Persian culture: First because of he is from the Persian city of Khorasan, and second because he wrote his poems in Persian. Roya Maleki, an Iranian student from Kerman who came to visit Rumi’s tomb, stated that Konya is the second most important city after Mecca in terms of religion.
“After visiting Mecca and becoming a pilgrim, people, especially in Kerman, are expected to visit Konya,” noted Maleki, holding Rumi’s “Divan-ı Kebir” (the collection of Rumi’s poems) in her hand.
Peksomlu noted Konya’s great potential to attract tourists from Iran and underlined that hotel managers from Konya paid a visit to Iran in May to establish contacts with Iranian tourism agencies and lead the initiative to start direct flights from Iran to Konya.
Although the hotels were satisfied with the number of visitors staying their hotels during the event, the visitors from Turkey and foreign countries have not created a notable boost in the city’s economy.
When asked how many carpets he sold over the last 10 days, Recep Topal, the owner of Karaman Carpets, said: “Sadly, I have to say that I only sold one carpet. More tourists visit Konya, but they only come to watch the ceremonies. Something should be done to bring them to the streets for shopping.”
Picture: On the last day of the Şeb-I Arus ceremonies, whirling Dervishes mesmerized the audience, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and CHP leader Deniz Baykal.