The Galata Mevlevihanesi (Galata Mevlevi Lodge) is a museum dedicated to preserving an aspect of Turkish culture that many people know little about – the Sufi traditions of the Mawlawi and the history of the Mevlevi Sufi Islam sect.
Built in 1491, the Galata Mevlevihanesi was the first Mawlawi lodge in Istanbul. The original building burned down in 1765 and the one we see today is the restoration of its replacement which is dated from 1796. It ceased to function as a Sufi lodge in 1925 and opened as a museum in 1975. Between 2005 and 2009 it underwent a major refurbishment.
On the first floor, there are exhibits of Mevlevi clothing, displays of turbans and various other accessories important to the day to day life of the sect. There are also other curious artifacts included such as clay pipes and fountain spouts that were unearthed during the restoration of the lodge.
The gilded hall of Sema with its lovely painted ceiling is located on the second floor. This is the only place in Istanbul where on Sundays you can still watch the dervishes perform their whirling Sema ritual.
Also on the second floor, are exhibits dedicated to the art of calligraphy and ebru (marble painting) and a separate section devoted to traditional Turkish musical instruments.
The cemetery, located to the right of the museum, is full of stones with graceful Ottoman inscriptions, including the ornate tomb of Galip Dede, the 17th-century Sufi poet. The shapes atop the stones reflect the headgear of the deceased, each hat denoting a different religious rank.
The art of Ebru is the art of marbling – a process of sprinkling and then brushing color pigments on a pan of oily water and then transferring the pattern onto paper. Traditionally brushes of horsehair bound to rosewood twigs were used along with a tray made of pinewood and natural earth pigments. Believed to have been invented in 13th century Turkestan, it then spread to Anatolia by way of China, India and Persia. Seljuk and Ottoman calligraphers used marbling to decorate books, imperial decrees, official correspondence and documents.