Hacibektas district is 46 km (28 miles) away from Nevsehir. Arriving in the small Central Anatolian town of Hacıbektas, you will be startled to find yourself walking past a line of stalls selling the sort of merchandise that is conspicuous by its absence elsewhere in the country: triptychs showing Atatürk, Caliph/Imam Ali and Haci Bektas Veli; scimitar-like swords of Ali; miniature baglamas adorned with images of Ali; carpets woven with a picture of Ali set against a rocky landscape with a placid lion resting at his feet; and, rather more prosaically, plenty of empty plastic water containers, too.
The answer lies in the fact that Hacibektas is home to the shrine of Haci Bektas Veli, a medieval mystic who probably arrived here from Khorasan in what is now Iran some time in the 13th century and established the powerful and influential Bektasi order of dervishes, whose beliefs have much in common with those of the Alevis for whom Ali is especially important. Consequently, the little town has become a popular pilgrimage site for modern-day Bektasis and Alevis, particularly between Aug. 16 and 18, when it swells with visitors who come to take part in a three-day jamboree of music and dancing interspersed, unfortunately, with the inevitable politicking (most of it on the first day).
The focus of events is the shrine of Haci Bektas Veli, which has been turned into a museum. Newly renovated, this is now a great place to visit, offering lots of information on a dervish order that is often hard for an outsider to understand but which is unique in having been banned twice: once in 1826 when it suffered the same fate as the janissaries, many of whom were Bektasis, and again in 1925 when Ataturk banned all of Turkey’s dervish orders (the Bektasis having been permitted a new lease on life in 1863).
Many people visit Hacibektas from Cappadocia, in which case it’s worth knowing that there are two possible routes. The first follows the Kizillrmak from Avanos, offering wonderful vistas of unspoiled river as you near Gulsehir. The second, from Nevsehir, passes the Acik Saray, a rock-cut monastic complex that receives far fewer visitors than some of Cappadocia’s better known sites. It then passes through Gulsehir, where, on the outskirts, you can pause to visit the 13th-century Church of St. John with some of the finest frescoes in Cappadocia.
Hacibektas has only a couple of basic hotels and restaurants. Most visitors will be better off visiting on a day and stay Goreme, Urgup, Uchisar or Avanos cave and rock cut boutique hotels. There is not many travel agency do day trip to Hacibektas but Kairos Travel have daily tours to Hacibektas.
Haci Bektas Veli Museum – Dervish Dergah
When you visit the Dervish Dergah (lodge) in the center of the town, you will be introduced to the Alevi order, one of the biggest heterodox branches of Islam. The Dergah or Dervish lodge of Hacibektas became a museum in 1964. The entrance leads into a large courtyard, to the right of which once stood buildings accommodating the dervishes who worked the land and farm laborers employed by the lodge. These buildings were demolished when the lodge was being converted into a museum, and a wall was built here. At the far end of this wall is the Ucler Fountain symbolizing the Creator, Muhammed and Ali, a fundamental concept of the Alevi faith. An open space on the left is like a small park, and originally there were stables for the horses of guests, barns and other outbuildings here. At the end of the courtyard a gate leads into a second courtyard, where there is a pool with a border of flowers. You can drink from the holy water of the Lion Fountain. The inscription over this fountain explains that the lion statue was brought from Egypt as a gift to the lodge in 1853. The second courtyard was the busiest part of the lodge, with the asevi (refectory), pantry, hamam (baths), guest house, hall where the sacred services known as cem were held, and the pavilion where the lodge’s leader, the Dedebaba, received guests. The final gateway leads into the third courtyard where the tomb of Haci Bektas Veli stands. On the right are the graves of dervishes belonging to the lodge, and in the small mausoleum just beyond lie Balim Sultan and Kalender Sah, two great figures of the order. The ancient wishing tree in front of the mausoleum is one of the places where visitors stop. Before entering the mausoleum it is customary for visitors to embrace the cylindrical marble stone in the right-hand corner. If you can embrace it with two arms, then it is regarded as proof that your heart is clean and your intentions are pure. The tomb was built by Seyhsuvar Ali, lord of the Dulkadirogullari principality, in 1519 following the death of Balim Sultan.
The walls of the mausoleum are decorated with painted kalem isi, and there are examples of Bektasi calligrapher. The door is original. The mausoleum of Haci Bektas Veli himself is known as Pir Evi, and at the entrance are the graves of the baba’s of the order, dervishes who attained the highest degree. As you walk towards the Kirklar Meydani hall, on the right you pass the cilehane, a cell where the dervishes spent time alone in the presence of God. If you wish to see inside you must bend almost double, and a few minutes alone in that dark cell gives you an impression at least of what it must have been like for the dervishes who came here. On the raised platform to the left of the Kirklar Meydani are buried the descendants of Haci Bektas who sat on the ceremonial fleece of office and were known as celebi or bel evlatlari. In this hall where the dervishes performed the ceremonial dance known as the kirklar semahi, are now exhibited the twelve sided stones known as teslim tasi which the dervishes hung around their necks as symbols of the Bektasi order, earrings worn by unmarried dervishes who devoted their lives to serving their lodge, handwriting of the Caliph Ali on gazelle skin, beautiful examples of calligraphy, torches, censers, and the Kirkbudak Candelabra which according to the Velayetname came from India. Finally a small door on the right leads into the tomb chamber of Haci Bektas Veli, where visitors perambulate three times around the sarcophagus before offering up a supplication to Haci Bektas Veli. Near the lodge is Dedebagi, an open park scattered with trees, where visitors who have come for the commemoration ceremonies gather to picnic and drink the ice cold spring water from a fountain known as Sekerpinar.
This is a cave located on Mt. Arafat three kilometers east of town, which, according to some, was used by Haci Bektas-i Veli as an ordeal cell. A local popular belief holds a person who passes through the hole in the rock will be purged of his sins. Also on the hill are a sacred spring, the Hact Bektas-i Veli, Yunus Emre, and Ozanlar (Bards) monuments, and a theater seating 5,000 people. The tomb of Mahsun-i Serif, the great Turkish poet and composer, who died recently is also in Cilehane.
This site is located near Civril village about five kilometers north of town. The five huge rocks (Bestaslar means “Five Rocks”) are geologically unusual and there is a legend told about them that is related in detail in Velayetname. According to the legend, these are the five stones who came to witness that Haci Bektas-i Veli is telling the truth. You will learn all the legends about Haci Bektas and other parts of Cappadocia from your guide.
PLACES TO VISIT IN CAPPADOCIA
- Goreme Open Air Museum: cave churches with frescoes
- Pasabag: mushroom-shaped fairy chimneys, monks valley
- Devrent: animal-shaped fairy chimneys, imagination valley
- Ihlara Valley: the deepest gorge of Anatolia
- Uchisar: Roman rock-cut castle
- Ortahisar: Roman rock-cut castle
- Avanos: center of pottery since the Hittites
- Zelve Open Air Museum: a cave town with churches
- Kaymakli Underground City: the largest underground city
- Derinkuyu Underground City: the deepest underground city
- Hacibektas: center of Bektasi sect of Islam
- Gulsehir: first settlements in Cappadocia
- Cave Churches: churches located in the valleys
- Caravanserais: 13th century hotels on the silk road