The Magical Mystical Tour

Begun in January 2013 this series of posts in Archers of Okçular that epitomises what living in and exploring Turkey and Turkish life is all about. It has given me considerable pleasure to save and resurrect them – I hope you enjoy them again too.

Part 1 – Kızılcabölük

Magical? Absolutely! Mystical? Sort of, depending on your ‘inner self’. It was also to prove to be so much more with people adding a delightful and surprising element to the whole trip. Our aim was to visit some of the old, painted village mosques around Denizli that have their foundations firmly rooted into the traditions of Sufism. Our hope was that there would be someone available and willing to let us in and, if possible, to make a photo record that we could share with you. Our expectations were mixed – were they met? You’ll have to read on to find out.

mm1The small farming town of Kızılcabölük near Tavaş is a place of many mosques and few visitors. It is home to the Hanönü Camii (in front of the Han) which has an unusual history because it was built by Ümmi the daughter of Köse Mehmet Ağa sometime around 1697. There is a date above the mihrab that indicates redecoration in 1895. With a modern, concrete mosque jammed in alongside, the state of the exterior did not bode well for what we might find inside. Broken metal sheets were nailed across the entrance, sections of the roof were falling away and there was a general air of filth and dilapidation. Pulling aside a corrugated sheet of metal we ‘broke in’!

Standing at the door and looking inside left me with a mixture of wonder and profound sadness. This had once been a place vibrant with colour and life and it wasn’t difficult to picture how it might have looked when adherents of this inner, mystical form of Islam gathered together for worship.

Glory in Decay – ceiling Hanönü Camii
mihrab, mimbar and rotting floorboards
colonnade and women’s gallery
the ornate mihrab
the name of God left to rot

Now, water dripping through the ceiling was rotting plaster, floorboards and the faded but still beautiful ceiling panels. That no one cares was obvious – why, was not.

Back at the kahvehane (coffee house) for a morale reviving çay (tea) and a chat with the locals we were directed next door to the Textile Museum. This turned out to be a super little place with a delightful curator (the people bit) who took us on a conducted tour (as I said, there are not many visitors). He knows his stuff and had some of the machinery up and working for us. The mechanical ‘computer’ on the still functioning and in use loom was a source of considerable joy to this old boffer.

our curator and guide at the textile museum
the man knows his stuff
the amazing mechanical ‘computer’ on this still working loom

Is it worth a special trip? No! But if you are anywhere near Tavaş then it surely is. To find such a place in such a town was a surprise and a treat and deserves some support. Just head for the centre of Kızılcabölük and ask at any of the coffee houses; the mosque and museum are right there – at least one will still be standing this time next year!

to be continued . .

Alan in Okçular