educational tours to Turkey
(Dates approximately June 10-21, 2023)
Come and join us on our next Illuminated Tour to Turkey, led by Omid Safi!
We are optimistic that the global situation of COVID-19 may allow us (insha'Allah, God-willing) to continue our tours to Turkey in June 2023. We are now registering interested participants with a deposit.
If you seek to go beyond mere cliches
and instead desire to experience the beating heart of this ancient and sacred tradition
in a way that is gentle, educational, and spiritual, join us.
The goal of these Illuminated Tours is not to merely see the highlights,
but to experience their inner light.
If you are interested, email us at [email protected]Secure your spot
Are you looking for something far beyond common touristic experiences, and getting into the heart of Turkey? Join us!
What do you get by coming on an "Illuminated Tours" instead of going on your own?
The buildings are still just as beautiful, and the people are just as kind. But you get more out of the experience when you are part of an experience to discuss the inner meanings of the sites, the deeper teachings of the religious traditions, and the fascinating historical context of Turkey, all along being led by someone with over 20 years of bringing groups to these wonder-filled sites of awe and beauty.
When you are inside the Hagia Sophia...
...you’ll learn about why there are no columns inside, and what that tells you about the spirit of God. We will talk about both the harmony and the tension that has existed among Muslims and Christians inside this site.
When inside the Sultanahmet Mosque (“Blue Mosque”)...
...you’ll learn about what this mosque has to do with the Hagia Sophia church/mosque across the street from a thousand years before it. And what all of that has to do with Rome and Jerusalem, and the celebration of the Prophet Muhammad.
When inside Rumi’s shrine...
...you’ll learn about why Rumi invites you to set foot on the path with all of your imperfections, and all of your brokenness. We will embark on a close study of Rumi’s writings based on authentic sources, and learn why the spiritual practice of the Dervishes is about a balance of activity and repose.
When in Bursa...
...you’ll see what the water fountain inside has to do with Paradise, and how to experience the Ulucami Mosque as a labyrinth of calligraphy designed to see the Face of God.
Why travel through Turkey with Omid?
Over the last twenty years, about a thousand friends from twenty countries have joined us in these journeys to Turkey and Morocco. These trips are designed to rejuvenate your heart and soul, engage the intellect and refresh the spirit. Our Illuminated Tours to Turkey are designed to be a gentle and deep immersion, far beyond touristic headlines and cliches. Our goal is nothing less than learning about the heart of this rich, ancient, and thriving sacred culture, and in the process, your own heart.
Omid's love for Turkey and Turkish traditions is contagious, and has ignited a love for this sacred place in the hearts of both those new to this place and seasoned travelers alike. If you seek to go beyond mere cliches of bellydancing, "East meets West," and instead desire to experience the beating heart of this ancient and sacred tradition in a way that is gentle, educational, and spiritual, join us.
Omid is a professor at Duke University specializing in Islamic spirituality and contemporary thought. He has published extensively on the foundational sources of Islam and Sufism. His Memories of Muhammad is a biography of the Prophet Muhammad. His most recent book is Radical Love: Teachings from the Islamic Mystical Tradition (published by Yale).
Omid is an award-winning teacher, having been nominated ten times for professor of the year awards. On Illuminated Tours, you will receive the same passion for sharing of knowledge and enthusiasm in creating a community.Learn more about your Teacher
Let us explore these sacred places together, rejuvenate your soul & make lifelong friends.
What might you get to see & experience?
We will begin our journey together in Istanbul, spend a few days exploring this magnificent city, take a day trip to Bursa, fly to Cappadocia, undertake a pilgrimage to Konya, and fly back to Istanbul together for the culmination of our journey. We arrange for all the logistics of your travels inside Turkey. In every city we will combine on-site lectures with evening discussions.
All in all, we have a good five days in Istanbul. This magnificent city has so much to offer, and we will make sure you get to see an abundance of its treasures as well as have enough free time to explore the city by yourself or with friends. As a group, we usually visit Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Sultanahmet Mosque, Suleymaniye Mosque, Gulhane Park, Kucuk Hagia Sophia, Sokollu Mehmet Pasha, Turkish and Islamic Art Museum, Rustem Pasha, and/or other sites. If there are places like the St. Chora church, the Basilica Cistern, Hamams, the Bazaars or anything else you would like to see, you will have enough free time and we can give you some recommendations on these places!
We often have a chance to meet with Cemalnur Sargut, a female Sufi teacher, and visit the Sakirin Cami, the first women-designed mosque in Turkey.
We plan to take a daytrip from Istanbul to Bursa to visit Ulucami, the Silk bazaar, and to take in the wonders of this charming first Ottoman capital. The Ulucami is a sacred and mystical mosque, a marvel to experience the calligraphic inscriptions as a sacred labyrinth calling us back and back to God, who already is with us.
From Istanbul, we will fly to Cappadocia via a Turkish Airlines domestic flight (we will arrange for this flight). There, we will stay in a beautiful, charming, and luxurious "cave hotel"... We will have a full day Cappadocia tour through Uchisar, the point where you can see a great part of the region from the top of the natural fortress, as well as the open air museum through Goreme Valley. Lunch will be served at a local restaurant. The last visit will be to Zelve. Together we will explore places where local artists share their handmade crafts, as the area is known for its handicrafts like onyx and pottery. One evening, we will take part in a Sama (Turkish: Sema) ceremony from the Mevlevi Order (commonly known as "Whirling Dervishes"). We will preparing by discussing how the Whirling has a deep connection to the Prophet Muhammad, as well as how the goal of the Sama is not simply about whirling.
As the highlight of our tour, we will partake in a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Mawlana Rumi. As is traditionally done by lovers of Rumi, we will begin by paying our respect at Shams-e Tabrizi’s Shrine.
We will patiently study Rumi's teachings, and undertake a guided pilgrimage through his shrine. There will be ample time for you to also experience this sacred site on your own. We will also visit several further historic sites during our time in Konya, before we fly back together to Istanbul for our closing days there.
To close the circle, we will have one last dinner together in Istanbul, before we all say Farewell to each other. By that time of your departure, we hope that you might agree: you came to see Turkey, but you will leave with deep and meaningful friendships as well.
Our sacred Caravan - A Word about Group Travel
Some of you are veterans of traveling in a group context, for others this is a new experience. Our programs are by intention intimate, designed to foster a sense of community and collective seeking. Most of our travelers have never traveled in a group before, and you may not have either. But together we can undertake this journey, and insha'Allah make life-long friendships.
It is admittedly an unusual experience, where for a few days you will spend many hours in the company of new friends. Many people, I dare say most, find it extraordinary how friendships can form and deepen in such a short amount of time, and you may well come away with friends for a life-time. Others may become mindful of how they need a few hours each day for private reflection and solitude. There is no one right way, and we will honor each others' needs.
It is the qualities of our journey (openness to cultural exploration, spiritual seeking, and refinement of community) that have attracted our participants. Those common qualities often serve to form meaningful friendships.
We ask all of us to treat our group as a community, and to look out for the welfare of all. These simple acts of kindness go a long way towards making a happier experience for everyone.
Here is one of the lovely hidden gems of our sacred caravan: Many have dreamt of coming to Turkey. In retrospect, they also talk about how meaningful the friendships they have made have come to mean to them well after the safe return home.
*COVID UPDATE: We are optimistic that the situation of COVID-19 may allow us (insha'Allah, God willing) to continue our tours to Turkey in June 2023. [We hope to have a separate program to Morocco in March 2023.] Participants will be asked to follow the guidelines of the CDC & WHO, plus the policies of Illuminated Tours. For further details, check the FAQ at the bottom of this page.
Cost & Registration
We are honored you read all the way until here. If this journey sounds like a good fit for you,
we would love to have you email us using the link below to answer any lingering questions and help your get registered.
Cost of Land-only portion, per person, based on double-occupancy:
$ 3,950 [to be updated for 2023]
$1,000 of the above cost is needed as a deposit to secure a place.
Further details about the refund policy are in the FAQ section below.
There is a $800 single supplement for those desiring a single room on this journey. Single rooms are extremely limited, and probably not available for Cappadocia.
Who can come on these tours?
Do I need to have any reading material?
What background do I need to have?
What’s the language of these tours?
I'm not Muslim, and have never traveled to the Middle East. Can I still take part?
What if I am coming alone? Will I be alone?
Can children come?
Steps for registering
What is, and is not, included?
Testimonials from past Participants
Over the last twenty years, about a thousand friends from twenty countries have joined us in these journeys to Turkey and Morocco. Here are just a couple of feedbacks from past participants:
Gol Joya J.
"Dr. Omid Safi's Educational Program and Tour of Turkey was immensely rewarding for me. I had the opportunity to see and do things which would not have been possible otherwise: visits with Sufi scholars, trips to little known mosques and shrines; and learned things I would not have found in a guidebook: insights into historical sites and monuments. Dr. Safi's poetic and mystical commentary brought a whole new meaning to seemingly lifeless objects in museums. In addition to all this, I met a wonderful group of people of all ages, from whom I learned, but also had a really fun trip."
Gwen & John M.
"My husband and I participated in the Illuminated Tour to Turkey in October, 2018 with 25 people whom we had never met. During our travels, we shared laughter and tears and so much love that by the end of the trip, we had become a family. It was difficult to say “goodbye.” Many of us are still in touch a month after returning home. I think this was the greatest gift of all…the connections we made with each other as we spent time in Istanbul, Bursa, Ankara, Cappadocia and Konya, visiting holy sites, beautiful mosques, and places of historical significance. We learned so much about the history and the culture of Turkey and experienced the heart of Islam and Sufism with Omid, a wonderful guide who became a dear friend along the way. It was a unique and transformative experience. Thank you again for an amazing, incredible, heart-expanding experience! It was one of the most meaningful of my life!"
Prof. Tehseen T.
"Prof. Safi considers it a privilege to share his immense knowledge of the aesthetic and historic aspects of the many, many places you experience and people you get to know in these weeks. He has a gift for teaching through stories full of rich anecdotes and much humor. Along with this careful guidance he makes sure that everyone has the space to be their own guide. I learnt so much, from everyone. The entire trip is impeccably organized with the utmost care given to detail."
“This tour was merely the beginning of a lifelong journey of understanding and reflection, I can’t think of a better guide on the path than Omid and Illuminated Tours.”