Whirling dervishes: a spectacular dance in Istanbul

If you go to Istanbul, you can’t miss the whirling dervishes. A centuries-old religious tradition that still endures, and which has become another tourist attraction in the city with the greatest mix of cultures in the world. Also known as Mevlevi, they belong to a Sufi order with a strong presence in Turkey.

Today, we can contemplate his hypnotic dance in many corners of the country, especially in Istanbul. If you are going to travel to the city, reserve a time to delight yourself with this beautiful and historical dance. We tell you where.

Who are the Whirling Dervishes

gyrophagous dervish dance

The dancing whirling dervishes or mevleví are a particular order of dervishes. This means that they are members of a tariqah or, as you may know it better, a Muslim religious brotherhood.

The dancing whirling dervishes were constituted with the aim of achieving religious ecstasy. For this, his tool is dance. Not just any, but a peculiar spinning dance. Others tariffs They have as a ritual the repetition of sacred phrases or the search for a state of hypnotism.

Nowadays, the activity of the dancing whirling dervishes continues with the same objective. But also, has become a tourist attraction. Those who visit Istanbul should add this centuries-old dance to their list of things to see.

How is the mevlevi dance

The dance of the dancing whirling dervishes is performed only by men. The dance is accompanied by musicand the instruments used are the flute, drums, drums, kamachés and lutes.

The mevleví stretch their arms and turn on themselves, usually with long white robes, although they can also be colored. This movement aims to seek that spiritual ascent to know the truth.

Where to see the whirling dervishes

dervish dance

The current of Sufism, especially rooted in Istanbul, is to which this tradition belongs. In this city there are several points where you can go to see the rituals of the mevleví and, of course, his famous dance. The spaces destined to this type of acts are known as “mevlevihane”.

In the main Turkish city we can find several. There are more tourist ones, since dance has become a business, and also more authentic. If you have time you can get to know both, since the former are organized in more central and accessible areas.


To see the real dancing whirling dervishes you have to access more peripheral areas of the city. Of course, you should know that they accept tourists without problem.

You always have to show respect to your ritual, so you have to abide by a set of rules. Dress must be appropriate for the place of worship. You cannot enter with a mobile phone or cameras, as it is a ritual. In addition, men and women are located in different areas.

As for the places to see the dancing whirling dervishes in action without having to abide by these more ritualistic rules, we highlight three. In Karagümrük Tekke, every Monday there is a performance. You can also go to Galata Mevlevihanesi on Sundays or Silivrikapi Mevlevihanesi on Thursdays.

What you can’t miss in Istanbul

blue mosque

If you are going to travel to Istanbul, there are plenty of things to do and to visit, in addition to contemplating some of the rituals of the whirling dervishes. Do not forget that you are in a city with a very long history.

You may have your route set, but we remind you of three places that you cannot miss. It is essential to visit Hagia Sophia, an imposing construction that has been a mosque, an Orthodox basilica, a Catholic cathedral and today a museum. The greatest example of the mixture of cultures that has passed through what is now Istanbul.

Another very prominent place is the grand bazaar, where you can buy almost everything you want in its innumerable stalls. Lose yourself in its streets and enjoy the marketing. You can also liven up your visit to the bazaar by having tea at one of its stalls.

By last, the Blue Mosque is another of the treasures of the city. A place of worship that can shelter 10,000 people. Without a doubt, one of the most impressive mosques you can visit.

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