Focus of Sufic mystical practice and teaching for the Middle East, Konya is a place of pilgrimage for the whole of the Muslim world. This sprawling city has overrun the surrounding mud-walled villages and at its heart is the medieval Selçuk capital, which tugs at the hearts of all pious Turks and is often spoken of with more pride than the better-known tourist resorts. This was the adopted home of Celaleddin Rumi, better known as the Mevlâna (Our Master), the Sufic mystic who founded the whirling dervish sect, the Mevlevî; his writings helped reshape Islamic thought and modified the popular Islamic culture of Turkey.
The "backwardness" in fact goes some way to creating what for many visitors is Konya's charm. This may be Turkey's eighth largest city but there are relatively few private cars on the road and bikes have a higher profile than in İstanbul and Ankara. Konya is surrounded by some of Turkey's most fertile countryside (the region is known locally as "the breadbasket of Turkey"), and its parks add a splash of greenery to the ubiquitous light-coloured stone. However, the city can seem bleak in winter and sun-bleached in summer, and you'll find this contrast the rule rather than the exception for Turkish inland towns.