Turkish Whirling Dervish

A whirling dervish, or samazen. The whirling is part of a Sufi ritual begun by Rumi, famous poet and mystic. Evidently he heard some apprentices beating gold and speaking a dhikr – “there is no God but Allah” – and it made him so happy, he spread his arms and started twirling for joy. My understanding is that the hands are bent to receive God’s kindness and channel it to earth.

This doll is part of a small collection. When I’m travelling, I usually buy one as a memento; (the carved doll on the home page was my first). This one, which is about 5″ and made of plastic, I got in Turkey (see my other Turkish souvenir). It’s a fascinating country — lots of ancient ruins from Greek and Roman times, temples, statues, mosaic floors. At the remnants of Troy, which we visited on a rainy day, I remember a big, hulking stone ramp up to what was the main citadel. It certainly exuded the power and darkness of the old legends.

I had an experience in Istanbul that I will never forget. We were out in the evening, going to the main square – Taksim. Crowds everywhere. Many women in full length black dresses, heads covered, but faces revealed. Occasionally I would glimpse colorful socks above black shoes as they walked which made me smile – a flick of fashion mostly concealed. We came to a tiny girl at a street corner selling packets of tissue. She was crying and trying to leave but her older sister pushed her back out into the crowd. Something was said that made me understand she wouldn’t be allowed to go home until all the packets were sold. I immediately bought one from her. BUT, and here’s my ongoing regret, why didn’t I buy the remaining 2 packets? They were ridiculously cheap. It was late, the child was in tears; with all of her packets sold she could have gone home. My stomach turns even now as I write this. Why I didn’t do the kind thing? A real failure of compassion.

On a more cheerful note – Taksim was fascinating. A huge market. I saw piles of a nut honey concoction advertised as “Viagra”, fish lined up perfectly on ice with their fins all facing the same direction, and a man pushing a wheelbarrow full of dead goats destined for the ubiquitous shawarma stands, and women in windows of little restaurants demonstrating the making of pita bread, working with long wooden rolling pins. I want to write about my experience with the cotton pickers, but that will save for another post…


  1. You never know, if you’d bought all the packages, they might’ve upped her daily quota? You’re so lucky to have gotten to travel so much. I’d love to see the whirling dervishes. I never knew that about their hand positions. Cute little guy 🙂

    • Terri says:

      I WAS lucky to travel. My family got me started and once that foot starts to itch, nothing stops it. I was also lucky to have a job for several years that sent me around the world. Conferences – you work and see the inside of the hotel for days, then you take a couple off to see the outside. And since it was a global company, I got to see some fabulous “outsides.”

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