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It was a rainy Thursday evening in Chiang Mai, and we’d heard the day before that at Payap University there would be a free performance by some Turkish ‘Whirling Dervishes’. They’re on a world tour sponsored by UNESCO, to mark the 800th birthday of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi – the 13th century Persian, Muslim poet, jurist, and theologian.
A friend of ours in Chiang Mai told us that this paticular group performed in London and sold out very quickly – so we thought we’d go and check it out. We turned up ticketless & wet at Payap University, waiting about 20 minutes outside, then were presented with our 3 tickets. We were sitting 5 rows from the front, in seats that would surely have cost $100 or more in the UK!
As we waited in the auitorium, the mostly Thai audience fiddled with their bleeping mobiles whilst a Turkish man explained in English some of the history behind the Whirling Dervishes. The performance then began with some music from a 6 or 7 piece group playing traditional Turkish instruments. Living in a musical void – Thailand, where all we ever hear in the way of music is karaoke pop, we were absolutely mesmerised by the beautiful sounds coming from the band (you can listen to a clip of the music below).
After a while the dancers came on, whirled around alot and left us feeling dizzy. They dance as if they are in a trance repeating the poetry of Rumi: “Come, come, whoever you are, come and come yet again, come even if you have broken your wows a thousand times, wanderer, idolater, worshipper of fire, ours is not a caravan of despair, this is the date of hope, come, come yet again, come.”
The show was amazing and if you ever have a chance to go and see “Whirling Dervishes of Rumi from Turkiye” -do go!