The small town of HACIBEKTAŞ was chosen by one of the greatest medieval Sufic philosophers, Hacı Bektaş Veli, as the location of a centre of scientific study. It was renamed in his honour after his death, and his tomb is located within the Hacı Bektaş monastery complex. The main part of the complex, however, dates from the Ottoman period, when it was the headquarters of a large community of Bektaşi dervishes.

Hacıbektaş is also well known for its onyx, by far the cheapest in the region – the relevant shops are located in the street that leads up to the monastery.

Construction of the monastery complex started during the reign of Sultan Orhan in the fourteenth century, and it reopened as a museum in 1964. It comprises three courtyards, the second of which contains the attractive Aslanlı Çeşmesi, the lion fountain, named after a lion statue brought from Egypt in 1853. The sacred karakazan or black kettle (actually a cauldron) can be seen in the kitchen to the right of the courtyard. Important to both the Bektaşi sect and the janissaries, the black kettle originally symbolized communality, with possible reference to the Last Supper of the Christian faith.

To the left of the courtyard, the Meydan Evi, where formal initiation ceremonies and acts of confession took place, bears the earliest inscription in the complex, dated 1367. Its beautifully restored timber roof shows an ancient construction technique that’s still in use in rural houses in central and eastern Anatolia. It’s now an exhibition hall containing objects of significance to the order, including musical instruments and a late portrait of Hacı Bektaş, apparently deep in mystical reverie.

The third courtyard holds a rose garden and a well-kept graveyard, where the tombs bear the distinctive headwear of the Bektaşi order. The tomb of the sage is also located in the third courtyard, entered through the Akkapı, a white-marble entranceway decorated with typical Selçuk motifs including a double-headed eagle. A small room off the corridor leading to the tomb is said to have been the cell of Hacı Bektaş himself.