The Magical Mystical Tour 3

Our mystical tour moves on . . salvaged from Archers of Okcular first posted February 2013

Boğaziçi and Kocaköy

mm1Finding the village of Boğaziçi from our base in Pamukkale meant a drive of about a hundred kms – first south to Denizli and then east to the junction of the D595 Uşak Yolu. I find this a rather sad stretch of road having covered it several times; rather like driving through an industrial wasteland with only the view of the beautiful snow-capped mountains to redeem it. Follow the Uşak road and just after the village of Denizler fork right for Baklan. Then take the second turning on the right (approx 3kms) signposted to Boğaziçi and look out for the minaret.

Boğaziçi is a very small town and having found the old mosque (tucked in behind the new one) locked and shuttered we made enquiries at the nearby belediye offices. Here, yet again, we came face to face with that most wonderful of Turkish traits – a willingness to drop everything, talk, drink tea and help a guest/stranger. We were taken to the tea house, phone calls were made and the keyholder of the mosque was located – miles up in the mountains cutting wood!

now we are really trucked!

‘Problem yok!’ (No problem!) We had a car and a willing guide was found and off we set, twisting and turning along dirt roads that were a mixture of dust, puddles, ruts and quicksands! At one stage we were forced over to the edge to let a huge grading machine through before finally coming  to a forced stop by two trucks, one of which was suffering a serious health problem! Undaunted and without a word our guide got out and set off along the track – we had no idea if or when we might see him again. Twenty minutes later he returned triumphant with the key and we were on our way back to Boğaziçi.

nondescript, unused and jammed in behind the new mosque

Boğaziçi mosque was built around 1774; well, there is an inscription that dates the kalemişi (painting) to that date, and it was repaired and repainted in 1876. There are similarities of style with the mosque at Belenardıç so the same artist may have carried out the work. With floral and geometric artwork inspired by Sufi beliefs and geometric and cross-banding decoration to the ceiling and beams that are reminiscent of some of the earliest medieval mosques of Anatolia, what awaited us inside was magnificent. The warmth of the colours is incredible, I’ll let the photos speak . . .

the mihrab
part of the fabulous ceiling
 mimbar and fallen plaster, early signs of neglect
beautiful geometric and floral designs on the women’s gallery
stunning in close-up



The village has registered a foundation to try and save this beautiful piece of Turkey’s heritage, there is hope that it might have a future.

mm4Kocaköy and its Şalvan Mosque, so-called because that was once the village name, lies about 28kms north west of Boğaziçi as the crow flies (a lot further by country roads), through attractive landscape and tiny villages. It is a poor little place with a beautiful outlook over a sweeping valley. We parked at the mosque and set out to find the kahvehane (tea house) where we were immediately engaged by some young men who sent a boy off to find the imam. Meanwhile we were joined by Yaşar, groomed, dressed in a suit and looking every inch a ranking bureaucrat  With the arrival of the imam the four of us set off back to the mosque and so began one of the most enjoyable interludes that J and I have ever experienced on this type of visit.


Yaşar was an astounding fount of knowledge about the mosque, history, old cultures and customs – in many instances the imam deferred to him and listened as intently as we did. The Şalvan Mosque was built around 1800 and the exterior is far more elaborate and well cared for than any other of the village mosques we have seen so far. There is an inscription above the door saying that it was ordered by Hatip Mehmed Ağa, son of Hacı Musa, in that year.

Inside my reactions were mixed – the walls were painted an almost luminous green and there was an ugly, white tiled mihrab with just a small part of the original exposed.

enough said!
the amazing ceiling
richly decorated women’s gallery
another section of ceiling
a rather novel hoca!
Yaşar, J and Imam deep in discussion

Yaşar explained that much renovation had been carried out because of the poor state of the plaster-work and in the process everything, including the wooden pillars were covered in a sort of roughcast and then painted. What might have once been unique depictions, ‘Heaven’ on one wall ‘Hell’ on the opposite, were forever lost. All was not totally lost however, our eyes were drawn up to the ceiling that, although in need of some repair and restoration, remains intact and it is stunning!

Our time in this mosque followed by a visit to the restored village çeşme (spring) and then back to the teahouse for more tea and talk is an enduring memory. Can you imagine sitting in a steamy kahvehane in rural Turkey, discussing politics, religion, French philosophers, archaeology, the state of the environment and much else with a farmer dressed in an immaculate business suit and an imam who is also an animal farmer and who could give Omar Sharif a run for his money. I’ll tell you this, we have an invitation to go back for more exploration and chat and I do believe we’ll take them up on it! Yaşar wants to take us to the Menderes valley just below the village where ancient underground grain stores of stashes of wheat and barley were discovered by the villagers with amphora so large that two men could get inside.

Our plan was to make a great loop back to Pamukkale via the town of Güney. There was an ulterior motive to this as the Pamukkale wine company have their facility here and it is possible to buy mixed cases of their excellent products at wholesale prices – so we did! We had also eaten nothing since breakfast so coffee and cakes at the pastane (pastry shop) were called for. This led to another enjoyable and time-consuming interlude with several young teachers over shared coffee, cakes and then more tea! By the time we left it was dark with the long and winding road across country back to our hotel ahead of us – but what a day!

. . stay tuned for the final episode of magic and mystical . .

Alan in Okçular

The Magical Mystical Tour 2

Continuing our tour of discovery of enchanting old mosques.


Akköy and Belenardıç

Dhikr_Rifa-iyyaThis is supposed to be a ‘mystical’ tour, seeking out village mosques that have their foundations firmly rooted in the tenets and traditions of Sufism. Sufism has had a chequered history of misunderstanding and persecution but its influences on music, poetry, painting, calligraphy and much else have been profound. In making this tour I find that being able to take a moment to conjure up mental images of bygone times have added greatly to the experience. Times when candles flickered and worshippers swayed and circled rhythmically chanting, perhaps to the soft and beautiful whisper of the ney.

Our dismay at the poor condition of the Hanönü camii at Kızılcabölük meant that we approached the mosque at Akköy, a few minutes drive from Pamukkale, with some misgivings. It, like Hanönü, was crowded by a very new (2008) mosque.

not a lot of promise

Outside it looked a trifle sad with broken windows and bags of coal stacked in the entrance. As it was nearly prayer time we sat and waited for the imam and congregation to arrive. When they did the key was produced and we were invited to carry on whilst they got on with their devotions in the new building.
What greeted us as we stepped over the threshold took my breath away for here was everything that we might have hoped for.

the stunningly beautiful interior

Built around 1877 and redecorated in 1909, this is a gem that shines and sparkles. Although no longer used for prayers it is used for study and instruction and is so obviously cared for and loved.

the ceiling and cupola

Look at the stunning cupola and wooden ceiling, the vivid blue cypress trees intertwined with flowers – in Islamic visual art a representation of the beloved’s figure and the reunion of lovers. The names of the artisans and artist who created this treasure are lost in time, so here are some photos by way of tribute to them and to whet your enthusiasm for your own visit.

the elaborate and metaphoric mihrab
the Day of Judgement, Hell, Heaven and Ka’ba
the women’s gallery

The imam and his congregation were very welcoming and delighted that interest was being shown. The new mosque has been very nicely decorated with tiles and painted decorations and is worth a visit when you are here – these people were proud of both.

Belenardıç lies up in the mountains 20 kms north of Pamukkale; the road is narrow and winding but good for driving. It is a small and poor village of less than 400, most of the buildings are in sad condition with many in a state of collapse.

so much looked like this
once again an unpromising exterior

The mosque lies at one end of the village square and the kahvehane, our first port of call, at the other. Coffee and tea houses are a great source of help and hospitality – as a visitor you will not be allowed to buy your own tea. Having struck up a conversation with the men who were sitting outside smoking and joining them for tea, it wasn’t long before someone went off to speak with the muhtar and gain permission for us to enter the mosque.

the beautiful and elaborate mihrab framed by Koranic verse
evening sun illuminates this working mosque

Built in 1884 by ‘Mehmed, son of Ali of the Denizli Hafız Ağazade’ and painted the following year. The paints used in these mosques are referred to by locals as ‘made from roots’, ie they are made from natural dyes. The mihrab is highly symbolic and depicts a lamp behind parted curtains and refers to the 24th Sura of the Koran (Al-Nur, The Light). It is surrounded by Koranic verses.

the simple and rustic women’s gallery

The walls are painted with flowers, moons and stars, and apocalyptic images of heaven and hell. High up you will see the names of four caliphs and the grandsons of the Prophet (PBUH). There is much simple carving and incising of the ceiling beams.

incised beams and caliphs’ names

Gaining entrance to this beautiful and much loved mosque was to experience old technology; a finger is pushed up through a small hole in the door jamb which lifts a locking latch and allows the door to open. As it opens a further latch lifts and holds the door in place – a simple and very effective system. Once again, photographs will save a thousand words.

the ‘secret’ locking system
the locking/latching mechanism

Having satiated ourselves we retired to the kahvehane for more talk and tea. Evening was drawing on and it was getting cold so we stepped inside and were hit by a wall of heat from the soba and steam from the customers! We were also greeted by a wall of curiosity written large across many faces – J has a set piece address for these situations so we were soon joined by a few of the extra curious as the rest got back to their games of ‘Okay’. After the joy of discovering this gem of a mosque for ourselves we were able to wind down with an hour of tea and good company – a perfect end to the day.

I hope these posts will encourage you to explore off the beaten track, what you will discover will likely be (as ‘Bones’ used to say in Star Trek) ‘. . life Jim, but not as we know it!’

Alan in Okçular

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