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The World Centre Of...

Ask those handful of people who have even heard of Albania what the country is the world centre of, and you are likely to receive depressingly predictable responses - human trafficking, drug smuggling, organised crime and the like.

These assertions are, of course, disputed and not only by patriotic Albanians. But what is truly indisputable is that Albania is the world centre of Bektashism. Many of you may well be saying to yourselves at this point 'What?' And it is true that Bektashism, to say the least, is not well known.

So I hope, in a number of forthcoming posts to say a little more about Bektashim, and perhaps, in the process, say a little more about Albania. For today, here is a little background information.

Bektashism is a Sufi order. Sufism is part of the Islamic tradition, and is often described as a 'mystical' tradition. The order was founded by Haji Bektash Veli in the 13th C. Haji Bektash Veli came from Nishapur in Iran but spent most of his life in Anatolia (modern turkey) as a missionary.

During the Ottoman era Bektashism spread into the Balkans, and became particularly strong in what is now Albania, particularly the south. Thus in 1925 when Kemal Ataturk banned all Sufi orders, the Bektashi took the obvious step and moved their world headquarters to Tirana.

Like all religious communities in Albania the Bektashis were repressed and then banned during the communist era. Following the collapse of communism the Bektashi community reemerged and has been recovering slowly.

Bektashism has much in common with Shia Islam, especially the veneration of Imam Ali and the Twelve Imams, but has also been influenced by other branches of Islam and according to some - especially their detractors - by non-Islamic forms of religion.

One of the centres of Bektashism is at Kruja. Visitors to the castle can also visit two burial sites containing the tombs of leaders of the community. If someone from the community is on hand it is also possible to visit the meeting house - or teqe - where you will be given a warm welcome and boiled sweets. The pictures below are from Kruja. The gentleman who showed us round is Neki Emin.


Anonymous said…
Trust me when I tell you this mate: all this noise over Islamic reformation would come to fruition should the West be smart enough to sponsor the Bektashi brand of Islam.

Then all the world would be a much happier place
strangeMAN said…
I know you probably do this because you enjoy it, but I would like to thank you, for I am honored to see a non-Albanian emphasise the positive sides of my country (culture, tradition, etc.) I am not a believer, but thanks man. You are an institution.
ローラ said…
brilliant! I knew this would be about bektashis the second I read "world centre"!

you are totally still the bestest.

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Welcome to Our Man in Tirana. I moved to Tirana, capital of Albania, in October 2005 and left in October 2007. This blog is a mix of photographs, reports, links, impressions and, undoubtedly, prejudices relating to the city and the country.

Since I am no longer in Tirana I am no longer updating this blog. However, there are over 300 posts covering this two year period and I hope that they are still of some interest.

So if you are curious about Albania or if you are planning to visit I hope this blog will be of value.

Miss Globe 2007

On Saturday, we were at the Rogner meeting with an expat friend who was leaving Tirana. It was breakfast time, and as our friend was finishing his tea the breakfast room started to fill up with over-dressed (or under-dressed) young women wearing blue sashes. These were the contestants for the Miss Globe 2007 beauty pageant being held in Tirana tonight at the Palace of Congresses. High heel boots and mini-skirts - or in a couple of cases micro-skirts, or possibly just belts - have never struck me as obvious breakfast attire, but the girls seemed happy enough tottering and wobbling around with their tea and toast. I'm not sure why they were wearing their sashes - perhaps in case they forgot which country they came from.
As we were leaving they were boarding a large coach which I had seen a number of times around the city in the last few days for their next trip. I'm not sure how some of them made it up the steps, or how they managed to sit down, but perhaps these are the kinds o…