The small town of Hacıbektaş wasn’t on my schedule for the day. I was passing through and decided to stop and I’m glad I did. Although I have to go back and see more, I really enjoyed my short stay in the town and it produced one of my best memories of Turkey.
Hacıbektaş was named after Hacı Bektaş-ı Veli, an Alevi mystic and founder of the Bektashi Order. Originally from Iran, he came to the town in the 13th century and remained there until his death in 1271. The town was originally named Karahöyük but was renamed in honor of Hacı Bektaş, whose tomb and monastery are an important pilgrimage site for Alevis and Bektashis to this day.
When I arrived, I went to visit the complex, Hacıbektaş Külliyesi. Visitors are greeted with a large statue of Hacı Bektaş and an arched doorway that marks the entrance to the complex, which opened as a museum in 1964. Outside of the complex, vendors were selling all kinds of religious goods.
Once inside, I realized everything was closed except for the shrine containing the tomb of Hacı Bektaş. Unfortunately for me, it was a Monday which happens to be the only day the museum part of the complex isn’t open. I was able to walk around the grounds but all of the rooms were closed. There’s a kitchen, guesthouse, laundry room, mosque, and a cemevi (Alevi house of gathering).
One of the highlights of the grounds is a beautiful fountain with a lion that spills water from its mouth. I also enjoyed the flowers in the garden.
As I approached the shrine, I removed my shoes and entered. Once inside, I was highly impressed by the patterns painted on the wall, the chandeliers, and the glass cases holding religious items.
There were several tombs inside. The most interesting was that of Güvenç Abdal, described as the most beautiful woman in the world by Hacı Bektaş.
One small room holds the tomb of Hacı Bektaş. It’s called Huzur-u Pir (Presence of the Master), and has a high domed ceiling with extraordinary decorations all around it.
Although there are a few more things to see in town, I didn’t have time to see them. However, one of my best memories of Turkey took place at the small bus terminal while I was waiting for my bus to Nevşehir.
The friendly man who sold me the ticket started asking questions and as I responded in Turkish, he kept getting excited. He offered me a glass of tea, asked me to wait, and returned with four other men from other bus companies. They would each ask me a question and would smile and pat me on the back as I answered in Turkish. It made them incredibly happy to hear a yabancı (foreigner) make an effort to speak their language and it was very encouraging to me. Some Turks, even if I made a minor mistake, would be unforgiving and tell me my Turkish was terrible after having lived so long in their country, but these men made me feel very comfortable and confident about my Turkish skills.