Konya, one of Turkey’s oldest continuously inhabited cities was known as Iconium in Roman times. The capital of the Seljuk Turks from the 12th to the 13th century, it ranks as one of the great cultural centres of Turkey. During this period of artistic, political and religious growth, the mystic Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi founded a Sufi Order known in the West as the Whirling Dervishes. The striking green tiled mausoleum of Mevlana is Konya’s most famous building. Attached to the mausoleum the former dervish seminary serves now as a museum devoted to manuscripts of Mevlana’s works and various artifacts related to the mysticism of the sect.
Every year, in the first half of December, this still active religious order holds a ceremony commemorating the Whirling Dervishes. The controlled, almost trance like turning of the white robed men creates a mystical experience for the viewer. Alaeddin Mosque, built on the site of the ancient citadel in 1220 during the reign of the great Seljuk sultan Alaeddin Keykubat, commands Konya’s skyline. To one side of the mosque are the scant remains of the Seljuk Imperial Palace. The Karatay Medrese, now a museum, displays bald and striking Seljuk ceramics. On the other side of the mosque the Ince Minareli Medrese of 1258 is remarkable for its marvellous baroque Seljuk portal.
After the decline of the Seljuqs, Konya was ruled by the Il-Khanid Mongols and later by the Turkmen principality of Karaman until it was finally annexed to the Ottoman Empire about 1467. The city was in decline during the Ottoman period but revived after 1896, largely through the building of the Istanbul – Baghdad railway, which passes through Konya. Improvements in the irrigation of the Carsamba plain led to an increase in agricultural productivity. Until 1923 Konya was the most important city of central Anatolia, overshadowing Ankara. Present industries include a sugar – beet plant, flour mills, and carpet factories.
Bauxite deposits were tapped by an aluminium – manufacturing complex established in the early 1970s. Konya is also the site of a teacher training school; High Islam Institute, an institute of Islamic learning founded in 1962; and Selcuk University, established in 1975. With its orchards, gardens, and monuments, modern Konya attracts a growing tourist trade. Its association with the Dervishes makes it a place of pilgrimage for Muslims. Christian monuments include the old church of Amphilochius inside the city and several shrines nearby.
The city is linked by air with Ankara and by road with the principal urban centres of Turkey. The surrounding area, consisting of plains at the base of the Taurus Mountains, has numerous oases, and irrigation schemes have further extended the amount of cultivated land. Wheat and cotton are the main crops grown on the plains. North of the city, the bare Anatolian steppe provides spring pasture and supports some dry farming. The products of the steppe include wool and livestock. Lead is also mined in the vicinity.