A pretty garden and a table laden with cheese, ham and good bread: a typical summer evening scene on the Prince's Islands, a popular haunt for wealthy Istanbul residents.
But the dozen or so people sitting around the table haven't come to exchange polite gossip. For the past four hours, they have been listening intently to a popular Sufi mystic discoursing on the love of God. "Bring unity to your heart and you create a temple of Allah, do that and you feel an irrepressible desire to dance," says the man, holding up his arms like a whirling dervish, clicking his fingers.
The past five years have seen a huge surge in interest in Sufism among urban, secular-minded Turks. Almost every television channel now has a program about Islamic mysticism. In bookshops, only books peddling conspiracy theories outsell the primers in Islamic mysticism and the new translations of Ibn-i Arabi.
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Nicolas Birch specializes in Turkey, Iran and the Middle East.