The construction of the Galata Mevlevi House complex started in 1491, and is the oldest Mevlevi House in Istanbul. Mevlevi houses are complexes of buildings where sufi-mevlevi dervishes live and practice their philosophy since the time of Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi. The cultural significance of these buildings is due to the values of hospitality and tolerance that they represent. Today, this cultural heritage site, visited by many local and international visitors, is a museum affiliated to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated 2007, the 800th anniversary of Rumi’s birth, as the “Year of Rumi.” UNESCO also mentions that the length of the Sema Ceremony has been truncated to cater to commercial requirements, and a number of musical styles related to the rituals are in danger of disappearing altogether. Thus the threat to this intangible heritage can only be eliminated by preserving, restoring and reusing the tangible heritage – the house of the Mevlevi philosopy.
The Galata Mevlevi House Museum is a complex of buildings and the outdoor surroundings located in an area of approximately 6800 m2. The complex consists of a Sema House, a library, an old laundry, Seyh Galib’s and Halet Said’s mausoleums, a graveyard called the “garden of silence”, a fountain and a cistern. Since 2004, the Hüsnü M. Özyeğin Foundation has conducted preliminary studies, research and a survey for conservation, restoration and the adaptive use of this heritage as a museum. The restoration of the Sema House building took place between March 2007 and September 2008.