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Istanbul's old Galata Lodge readies for opening after a four-year restoration

ISTANBUL - Anatolia News Agency | 9/20/2011 12:00:00 AM |

One of the cultural landmarks in Istanbul, the Galata Mevlevihane in Beyoğlu has undergone a four-year restoration work and is ready for an official opening

Galata Mevlevihane, the lodge used by Mevlevi dervishes built in 1491 in Istanbul, the Ottoman capital city, has been restored and is anticipating its official opening.

“We are ready to open the museum,” Galata Mevlevihane Museum Director Yavuz Özdemir said, adding that the museum was expected to open this month. “We are waiting for the order from the Culture and Tourism Ministry.”

Located on Galip Dede Street near İstiklal Avenue, Istanbul’s unique original dervish lodge will open to visitors in the coming days with a new facelift after a four-year restoration process.

“The large garden of the dervish lodge has been restored for use as an area where people can escape the crowds of Beyoğlu,” he said. The Galata Mevlevihane was closed to visitors in 2007 and restored with contributions from the Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Agency.

Speaking to the Anatolia news agency, Özdemir said the Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi mentioned in his travel books that the dervish lodge had included nearly 100 rooms.

The lodge was damaged in an earthquake in 1509. It has undergone restoration work since the early 17th century and additional structures turned the site into a social complex, according to a document from the museum’s archive, Özdemir said.

Further extensive damage occurred in the Tophane fire in 1765, he said, adding that the lodge was restored and took its current shape from restoration work in 1959-1960. The building served as a school from 1925 to 1957 and reopened as the Divan Literature Museum on Dec. 27, 1975.

Although the lodge had been restored for visitors, cultural events could be organized too, Özdemir said. “The dervish lodges on the lower floor of the semahane (the building where dervishes performed their whirling dance) have been opened to public visitors,” he said.

“Our semahane building is one of the most special buildings that still survive. This is thanks to the protection by the Culture and Tourism Ministry,” he said. The washhouse, Adile Sultan Şadırvan (water-tank with a fountain), is also among the cultural features of the lodge that still survive with the oldest structure being the Hasan Aga Fountain built in 1649, he added. Some unknown hand-carved works on the walls of the lodge had been discovered during restoration work, he said.

The museum

Entry to the Galata Mevlevihane museum is made through a narrow gate, at the end of the large courtyard, there is a three-story semahane building, Özdemir said. “We will organize sema [whirling dervish] performances and Turkish music concerts here,” he said, adding that showcase performances in the surrounding area took place before the restoration occurred. “Objects being displayed here have been removed and visitors will be able to view the original sema area,” he said.

The museum’s main exhibition rooms are the dervish lodges located on the lower floor and visitors will get information about Sufism (the dervish religion) while seeing related artworks, he said. The tools used in the kitchen are on displayed in another room next to Mevlevi dresses, Özdemir said. The most important feature of dervish lodges is their kitchen, called “matrah-ı şerif,” he said.

“Mesnevi,” the Persian religious text written by Rumi, is being exhibited and 18 couplets from the text are displayed in the museum.

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