The Magical Mystical Tour

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.

Hanonu Mosque KizilcabolukThe 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.

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 Fenn, Okçular Köyü

17 thoughts on “The Magical Mystical Tour

  1. You have made me feel very guilty for driving through without stopping. However the state of the roads when I was last there made just getting to Denizli a matter for wonder and appreciation.

  2. Alan, your photos were so beautiful that we didn’t notice all the ‘rot’ or anything else that wasn’t absolutely gorgeous. We love those types of places where the mixtures of colors and textures are so naive which, of course, makes them so unique. It sounds like the kind of place that we would love to visit – thanks for turning us on to it.

    1. Hello SDs, unique for sure, under-appreciated and, in this case, unloved. That said, I aimed for flash-free photos to bring out the natural colours – as they were all hand-held they came out fairly well. Those that follow give a good cross section of this type of mosque.

  3. One of my favorites about Turkey was the jaw-dropping beauty inside mosques. Even this stately old lovely has it.

    1. Hello again Bobbi! Decaying it may be, but those fine ‘cheek-bones’ shine through – more to come in a couple of days.

    1. Nope! There was a new concrete job jammed in alongside – but it was just a mumble and shrug about the old lady. Real shame!

  4. How sad that this beautiful building has been left in this condition. There’s so much preservation and restoration going on here in Antalya, I’m surprised there aren’t government incentives for repearing something like that.

    1. Hi Ellen, it is sad – as you’ll see in later posts there are places that have been waiting 5 years for some help with repairs. I think that this government would be happy to see relics of Sufism fade away – if there is no local money to maintain them they are doomed over time.

  5. These buildings tell a lot regarding the culture and history of the place and of the people. Too bad these weren’t taken cared of to be preserved for the next generation to still see these wonderful places.

  6. Alan,

    I really get the mix of “wonder and sadness” you felt upon walking in. I have felt this at seeing much less lovely camis that we have come across on our own ramblings. Thanks again for sharing this!


  7. Though the roof was already falling away, I must say that this is still a magical tour. What you have seen and experienced was perfectly awesome.

    1. Hello Jim and welcome to Archers. This first example was a very sad sight, but you are right, it was a magical tour!

  8. What a gem of a place, and how sad to see it is so unloved 🙁 now that you put the place on the map, we all want to go and hopefully raise awareness, many thanks – keep traveling 🙂

  9. . . it was a very depressing beginning to the mystical tour. That what followed was such an uplifting experience and an enduring memory more than made up for the initial disappointment – read on!

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