1. Whirling Dervishes – Istanbul, Turkey
Demonstrating their faith and devotion through a religious ceremony known as the Sema, dervishes-properly known as semazens-are members of the Mevlevi Order, a sect of the Sufi branch of Islam. The men who perform this swirling dance are outfitted in long flowing skirts and whirl counterclockwise by spinning on their right feet (following the orbit of the planets and stars) with one hand pointed up (to receive divine blessings) and one hand down (to pass them along to those on earth). It’s a dizzying experience to watch—but not so, somehow, for the dervishes themselves.
When to Go: A number of venues in Istanbul offer performances year round, including the Hodjapasha Cultural Center, which is within close walking distance of top attractions like the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace.
Try This at Home: Lessons for this very special dance are extremely hard to come by in Canada, but the Jerrahi Sufi Order of Canada, based in Toronto, occasionally hosts whirling dervish performances.