Review: World Headquarters of Bektashi Liberal Sect of Islam
Attraction - Others
The religion of the Dervishes, although they don’t practise whirling here
Bektashism is a Sufi order founded in the C13th and introduced to Albania after the Ottoman Conquest. It became widespread in the C19th. It is a dervish sect combining elements of Shia and Sufi thought into a unique blend of Islamic belief and philosophy. It is a very liberal form of Islam and allows pictures of the Prophet. Women don’t have to be veiled and both men and women can pray together. As well as celebration Ramadan they also celebrate Nevruz Day which marks the start of the start of the new year and is a public holiday.
The order was founded by Balim Sultan (1457-1517) and his picture, along with one of the with the Prophet, can be see on the front of the administration building.
The Bektashi traditionally attracted people from all classes and were found throughout the Ottoman Empire. Ali Pashi was one of their followers. Its headquarters were originally in Turkey but after disagreements with Mustafa Kemal Ataturk over religious reform, it moved to Albania in 1925. The practice ceased during Communist times. It has now built a new modern headquarters on the edge of the city.
A splendid archway leads into the headquarters with a large brick built Administration Block with the white Inn of the Dervishes behind, which is the guest house. Beyond is the recently completed Tekke building (mosque) used for worship, which has a museum in the basement. At the far end of the site is a small stone build mausoleum with three rooms containing splendidly carved wooden tombs of important members of the sect. Later tombs are outside the building. Pilgrims come to touch the tombs and then light a candle in the lamp house.
Visitors are allowed in the Tekki, museum and mausoleum. There is also a small shop near the entrance.
The Tekke was finished in 2016 and is a splendid building with a colonnade of pillars forming a walkway round the outside. The inside is stunning with a circle of tall dark marble pillars supporting the dome. The two columns on either side of the Mibrab can spin and give warning of earthquakes or landslips. The inside is covered with beautiful islamic designs. Make suree you have your camera with youas it is very photogenic!
Steps lead down to the museum in the basement. Round the walls are large display panels, all in Albanian, about the order and past members. There are examples of costumes worn by members of the sect. Small display cabinets have personal objects from some of the leaders of the sect.
At the far end is a reconstruction of the room in the masjid where special guests would be served coffee by the Dervishes.
There are paddles used for the preparation of Ashura, the special sweet made from wheat, legumes, corn figs, grapes walnuts, honey and cinnamon which is eaten to break the fast on the tenth day of mourning after a death.
When I read about this on the itinerary my immediate though was it sounded a bit boring. It certainly wasn’t. The Tekki building is beautiful. Even though there is little information in English in the museum, there was sufficient to hold the attention. I was really glad we had visited.
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.