The Magical Mystical Tour 2

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 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.

Belenardic006_1incised 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

Ali Konyali

the locking/latching mechanism (Ali Konyalı)

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 Fenn,Okçular Köyü

28 thoughts on “The Magical Mystical Tour 2

  1. Wow, you’ve seen some special places there. Just lovely. Wonder why the modern is so oft preferred to the historical, yet the historical is still looked after. We’ve got friends here who own beautiful gülets but they all crave the big, shiny white cruisers. Maybe it’s a British quirk that we love all things traditional, old or well-crafted? This country will forever challenge our thinking, hence the reason we will never get bored or stop loving it.

  2. Definitely is stunning inside. I prefer the small mosques to the big ones as you can get a sense of community spirit.

  3. Our breath was taken away as well! We can only imagine what it must have felt like to enter such a modest-looking place and to fine such a wealth of exquisite art. How many places are like this in Turkey, we wonder?

    1. Hello again you guys! There are many – these are such delightful little gems, but we’ve stood open-mouthed inside Selçuk ‘Forest’ mosques – to me they are more wonderful that the great mosques of Istanbul or Edirne.

  4. Alan — thank you for this fascinating post and lovely pictures. It is so interesting to see the bleak exteriors can lead to such lovely interiors. We don’t see a lot of mosques around here in Rome so this was a special treat for me.

    1. thank you Trisha, glad you are enjoying the series (more to come). It is interesting how so many of these old, sometimes many hundreds of years old, village mosques are so delapidated on the outside and amazing inside. I hope the surprises never cease.

  5. What amazing interiors, those tiles, delicate designs are so amazing – such a shame not in good condition outside, hope some kind helping hand arrives to restorate. thanks for sharing!

    1. Amazing is the word! J and I loved finding and exploring these places – and the people are so Turkish – hospitable and kind.

  6. It is so sad to see these places got ruined by time. The history and culture of this place will soon be forgotten if actions will not take place right away.

    1. . . Hello again Sarah! . . there are some communities that do care and can raise the funds – others are desperately poor and need help – something that is sadly lacking; and others still care not a jot! With so much potential for interested visitors it is sad that some are neglected to death!

      1. my dear Alan,

        Turkey doesn’t care of his own people, why they worry about their historical places.

        1. . . there is much truth in what you say – but that is true of most governments around the world – particularly the US – you only have to ask how much is left of the Constitution and its Amendments.

  7. Wow – would have never guessed that such beauty could be found inside such a typical looking building. A good reminder to forget the flashy and just explore. I like this Magical Mystical Tour (and the clever title) – looking forward to see what’s next.

    1. Hi Turklish and welcome to Archers! The ‘ordinary’ often hides the extraordinary in this country – I doubt we will ever get weary of exploring. Glad you’re enjoying the tour.

  8. Alan,

    I am just catching up on the magical mystery tour – I love that you themed this one around Sufism and these amazing camis. My traveling feet are itching. Thank you for sharing all of this. I am hoping you might consider writing some about how your new understanding of Sufism might relate to your own life? Maybe too personal. 🙂


    1. my dearest friend, I am an atheist and have been since age 13! I appreciate the art, social impact, history etc without having a clue what it is that draws people into any form of religion. As Carl Sagan once said ‘Look at the universe, isn’t that wonder enough!’

  9. Wow, absolutely stunning decor and so much detailed patterns. So inspirational! I feel so inspired. Thanks for sharing this information.

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