Table of Contents The Greek Ruins of Pergamum Table of Contents

One of our stops was the city of Konya, the former capital of the Seljuk Empire. The Seljuk Turks conquered Anatolia before being conquered by the Mongols in the 13th century, and they were followed by the Ottoman Empire. Konya's architecture is older and more Eastern than Greco-Ottoman Istanbul or Turkish Ankara. Intricate stone carvings adorned mosques, gates, and fortresses.

Konya's mosques were built by the first Turks to arrive in Anatolia, the Seljuks, and the architecture consequently looks more Persian, even Central Asian. The iconic Blue Mosque in Istanbul has point minarets (see more on the next page of photos). In Konya, the top of the minaret looked like a royal balcony.

The city is also famous for Rumi, known to the locals as Mevlana, one of the first ecumenical theologians. His sarcophagus lies in a stunning Mausoleum that now serves as the Konya Museum.

In the evening of our day in Konya, my traveling companions and I headed out to see the mosques in all their illuminated glory. The markets were closing, women and men were heading home, many stopping by the Halal butchers that sold every part of a cow and sheep carcass imaginable. Following that, we decided to try and find a bar. Alas, Konya lives up to its conservative Muslim reputation -- we scoured the downtown and finally came to an establishment serving alcohol at the edge of town. The place was seedy yet upscale and had a Miller sign outside. Against our better judgment we sat down for beer, which was sour and had sediment at the bottom of each glass. What was worse, they were five bucks each. That will teach us to drink beer in a town like Konya!

Konya is called one of the most conservative cities in Turkey, but it was one of the friendliest places we visited. Head scarfs were common, but so were lip rings and hair dye. Just another reminder that conservative Islam is not incompatible with globalization.