Konya, the largest city in Turkey in terms of size, is renowned both domestically and internationally for its rich history dating back to the first settlement of mankind at Çatalhöyük and its role as a gateway on the Silk Road in the Middle Ages. It was home to renowned sophists and pioneers of divine love, and the birthplace of whirling dervishes and the Mawlavi religious order. Many great philosophers and scholars, such as Mawlana Rumi, Muhiddin Arabi, Sems-i Tabrizi, Kadı Burhaneddin, and Sadreddin Konevi, have met here.
The capital of the Seljuk Empire in the past, Konya is an open-air museum city with the finest examples of ancient civilizations, and is renowned for its religious celebrations. It is also one of the most populous cities in Turkey, with a strong industrial and agricultural base, as well as a rich culture, tradition and economy. Its unique masterpieces have even earned it a place on the UNESCO World Heritage list, leaving visitors breathless when they visit.
Konya, a glorious and breathtaking city, is home to many ancient, valuable and historical monuments, as well as natural wonders such as the Ivriz Hittite Rock Monument and the traditional rocky houses of Çatalhöyük, the first known human settlement. The city is also home to numerous mosques, representing the Islamic faith, as well as madrasahs (colleges of the past), stone bridges over streams that enabled safe transportation during medieval times, Turkish baths, and caravanserails that provided protection from pirates and welcomed travelers with joy and peace. All of these structures still shine like pearls, reminding us of the golden past.
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Konya is the largest city in Turkey, covering an area of 41,000 square kilometres in the heart of Anatolia at an altitude of 1,016 metres above sea level. It is bordered by the provinces of Ankara to the northwest, Isparta, Afyon and Eskisehir to the west, Mersin, Karaman and Antalya to the south, and Aksaray and Nigde to the east. It is 262 kilometres from the capital city of Ankara, 714 kilometres from Istanbul, and 564 kilometres from İzmir. Konya is a bridge connecting the Mediterranean and Central Anatolian regions, with the E-5 highway, running from the Taurus Mountains to Cappadocia, forming a backbone of the main transport system. According to the latest census, the population is 2,161,000 making it the seventh most populous city in Turkey in terms of density. It is experiencing a rapid rate of growth, with large numbers of people migrating from all over the country.
Konya is easily accessible by air, rail, and road. The railway connection was established in 1898, and there are daily express trains from Istanbul and Ankara to Konya. Additionally, a high-speed train runs twice a day from Istanbul to Konya and the journey takes about 1.5 hours. Domestic airlines offer daily flights from both Ankara and Istanbul to Konya, taking about an hour. The road trip from Istanbul to Konya takes about eight hours, or five from Ankara, via the E-5 highway. The Turkish government is investing in new projects in order to provide better and faster connections to Konya in the future. Furthermore, there are direct flights from some European capitals to Konya throughout the year.
GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
Konya is a huge city, the largest in terms of size. The most populous towns in the province are Eregli, Aksehir, and Beysehir. One of the largest lakes in Turkey, Beysehir, is located in Konya and serves as a winter home to many endangered birds and plants. Konya’s climate is continental, with hot and dry summers and cold, rainy winters. The temperature difference between day and night in summer is 16-22 degrees Celsius, and in winter it decreases to 9-12 degrees Celsius due to increased moisture. Snowfall is common in winter and usually remains on the ground for three months. April and May are particularly wet months, with frequent rain showers. The main characteristic of Konya’s climate is the late start and end to the summer season. Summer drought, which is typical of a steppe climate, results in the production of high-quality wheat and barley, making Konya the grain depot of Turkey with its fertile fields.
The name Konya is derived from the word “icon”, which is accepted as a holy depiction. It has various myths and legends associated with it. According to one of the stories, a memorial was erected as a city’s gratitude for the person who had slain a dragon, and this event was depicted on a picture. The memorial was called Iconium, which eventually gave rise to the Roman name Augusta Iconium and the Byzantine name Tokonion. Later centuries saw the city called by various other names, such as Stancona, Konien, and Conia. The Arab troops changed Conia to Kuniya in the 9th century AD, which eventually evolved into Konya, the name that it is known by today.
Konya is renowned throughout Turkey for its delicious cuisine. With its unique dishes, it boasts an incredible wealth of culinary delights. Copper pots, golden trays, and dishes served in the Seljuk palaces still reign in Konya. The most interesting feature of Konya cuisine is the traditional wedding receptions. It is a great custom to attend the receptions and sample the famous dishes, such as the “wedding rice,” a tradition that dates back to the Seljuk Empire. The menu consists of yoghurt soup, rice with meat, semolina halva, gombo, and apricot compote. These dishes are typically only found in wedding season, but can also be sampled separately in restaurants. Other main dishes of Konya cuisine include bread with lamb mince cooked in a traditional oven, Fırın kebab made of boned lamb cooked in copper boilers for at least twelve hours, cheese pan cake, Mawlana flaky pastry with lamb mince, Arab vaccine paste soup, flour halva, and cream dessert with milk.
Konya is one of the oldest settlements in Turkey, with its history dating back to the prehistoric era. Excavations in the centre of Konya, known as Alaeddin Hill, have already proven this theory. Other excavations in Harmancık Hill, located 15 kilometres away, and Çatalhöyük, located 52 kilometres away in the southeast of Konya, have revealed ancient settlements with well-preserved examples from the prehistoric period. Çatalhöyük is renowned among archaeologists and scientists as one of the first settlements of mankind in the world. The powerful Hittite Empire in Anatolia and Syria dominated the land of Konya in the 13th century AD. After the end of the Hittite reign, Phrygians, Lydians, Persians, and Alexander the Great all invaded the area.
By the time the Roman Empire was the main authority in Asia Minor, Konya was a well-established city known as Iconium. In the early days of Christianity, the city gained a religious identity and St. Paul stopped in Konya and visited Kilistra during his missionary journeys between 47 C and 57 C AD. With the advent of Islam, the Arab Empire began to expand and Konya was raided several times during the sieges of Constantinople, being captured by Arab troops between the 8th and 9th centuries. The first Islamic formations emerged around Konya in this era. After the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, the Seljuks raided the Anatolian cities and eventually conquered Konya and its surroundings.
In 1076, Suleyman Shah made Konya the capital of the Anatolian Seljuks. During the First Crusade, Sultan Kılıçaslan I defended the city, keeping it as the Seljuk capital until 1277. During the reign of Alaeddin Keykubat I, the city was surrounded by high walls and its population swelled to 50,000, making it the largest city of the empire. Today, many monuments, madrasahs, mosques, caravanserails, and famous buildings remain as visible reminders of the Seljuk Empire’s heritage centers in Konya. After the Seljuks, the Turkic state Karamanoglulları controlled Konya and its neighbors for a long time, exchanging control with the Ottomans a total of sixteen times.
In 1467, Mehmet II, the conqueror of Constantinople, captured Konya and established permanent Ottoman rule in the city. During the Ottoman period, Konya was the capital of the Karaman province. After the Russian and Balkan Wars, Albanian, Circassian, and Bosnian refugees from the Balkans and Caucasus countries were settled in and around Konya due to its fertile plantations. During the War of Independence from 1919 to 1923, Konya was a hub of Turkish resistance and great protest meetings were held there to support Ataturk’s liberation. The city was also a center for treating wounded soldiers from the front and gathering supplies to send to the military.
THE MAIN SIGHTS IN KONYA
One of the masterpieces of the Seljuk Empire, the oldest mosque in Konya City, was built in 1156 on the panoramic Alaeddin Hill overlooking the city on behalf of Sultan Alaeddin Keykubat I, the most successful sultan who made so many edifices in the empire. The architect was Mehmet bin Havlan. The mosque is close to the old Seljuk imperial palace, so six previous Seljuk Sultans were buried in the courtyard with great artworks adorning their sarcophagi. Alaeddin Mosque has been restored and renovated several times since its construction up to the present day.
Çatalhöyük, thought to be one of the earliest settlements of mankind, is located 52 km away from Konya and was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2012. This Neolithic city, founded around 9000 years ago, is situated on the southern Anatolian plateau and covers an area of approximately 14 square acres. It is composed of 18 Neolithic layers, spread across two large mounds, which provide evidence that humans began transitioning from rural to city life in Çatalhöyük.
INCE MINARE MUSEUM
Existing in the west of Alaeddin Hill in the county of Selçuklu, Konya, this building was constructed in 1264 AD by Vizier Ali Ata Fahreddin during the reign of Seljuk Sultan İzzeddin Keykavus II. Its architect was Keluk bin Abdullah. The crown door of the museum is a masterpiece, showcasing stunning calligraphy in Arabic and some of the most exquisite examples of Seljuk period stone workmanship. It is highly recommended to view the beautiful stone inscriptions, reliefs, wooden door wings, tombstones, and Seljuk stone sarcophagis.
KILISTRA ANCIENT STONE CITY
Kilistra Ancient City, an unbelievable, nostalgic, and original stone settlement, is located 49 km southwest of Konya City in Gökyurt Village. This ancient city captures attention with its dreamy ambiance and impresses visitors with its magical landscape, amazing natural beauty, and historical fabric. Kilistra Ancient City was founded on a natural rock formation in the early Byzantine period on the line of five different areas. It was important to ensure privacy during its foundation and construction, as it appears as a large rock mass when viewed from a distance. As a result, Kilistra is a hidden Byzantine settlement.
Mawlana Museum is the second most visited museum after Topkapı Palace Museum, renowned as the burial place of the eminent Turkish philosopher, Rumi, who is celebrated all over the world. Not only is the museum the burial place for Rumi and his family members and friends, but it is also accepted as the birthplace of the Mawlavi religious order and a renowned shrine for Sufi devotees of Mawlana. Spanning an area of approximately 18,000 square metres, the remarkable and vast museum sees a grand celebration held on the anniversary of Rumi’s death day (17th December) each year, known as the ‘Wedding Day’ by his admirers. For anyone visiting Konya, a visit to this renowned museum is a must.
Sille is a former residential area located 8 kilometers away from the downtown area of Seljuk district in Konya. Recent excavations suggest that the first settlement at Sille dates back to 6000 B.C. Up until 1925, Sille was a Greek village, and even though it is now a small settlement, most of the houses are still in the traditional Greek style. As such, Sille is an important stop for tourists visiting Konya, offering a rich history full of fascinating exploration.
SILLE AYA ELANA CHURCH
The Aya Elana Greek Orthodox Church in Sille village is a remnant of the former Greek inhabitants who emigrated to Greece under the 1925 agreement. This magnificent and invaluable place of worship is one of the oldest churches in Anatolia, revealing its deep and rich historical roots. As a symbol of Orthodox faith, it is visited by both domestic and foreign tourists annually.
SULTAN HANI CARAVANSERAIL
The imposing Sultan Hanı Caravanserail, once used to provide overnight accommodation for caravan merchants and their camels during their transit across Asia Minor in the Middle Ages, is the largest of its kind still standing on the Konya-Aksaray road. This grand structure was built by Muhammed bin Havlan in 1228. Every twenty miles along the Silk Road, a caravanserail like Sultan Hanı was used as a stopping point for traders.