One of the advantages of living in a country of many religions is the preponderance of public holidays. This week we had the Bektashis to thank for a holiday on March 22 - the festival of Nevrus. I have to confess that I knew nothing about the Bektashi community before I came here and my knowledge remains sketchy. Tracing their origins to the 13th century Islamic teacher Haji Bektash Veliu the Bektashi order is part of the Sufi tradition. Sufism is generally described as a more mystical Islamic tradition. The Bektashis are usually described as practising a more liberal (or more heterodox - depending on your point of view) kind of Islam. Their traditions were influenced by local folk religions and Christianity. Centred in what is now Turkey, they were expelled from that country by Kemal Ataturk in 1925 and established their world headquarters in Tirana. I have read some claims that the influence of Bektashi Islam is one of the reasons for the relative religious harmony in Albania. Their
Dogs It good to know that my years of peace-making and conflict-resolution skills have not gone to waste. Two of our sweet good-natured gentle dogs tried to tear each other’s throats out the other day. Having dragged Bella off Sampras, little timid Sampras set upon Bella – a dog about twice her weight. So I dragged Sampras of Bella before she got thrown off and was standing there on one leg with Sampras by the scruff of the neck in one hand, while trying to keep Bella at bay with the other foot. Good old Dougal, being a bit thick, seemed to think it was all a great game and as I wobbled on one leg he jumped up on me so that we all went down in a heap at which point Bella promptly attacked Sampras again. Only a few well-aimed kicks finally separated them, at which point I switched from peace-enforcement mode to conflict-resolution mode. I was about to pull out my portable flip-chart and give the dogs a seminar on the importance of mutual respect and the benefits of dialogue as a means o
It turns out that British Commandos weren’t the only allied forces involved in the raid on Sarande in 1944. Landing with the British were 200 men from the 1st Parachute Squadron of the Assyrian Levies . The Levies were attached to the RAF and came into existence as a result of the Paris peace conference of 1919. Britain decided to try and maintain control in its mandated Middle Eastern territories through air power. As a result the RAF recruited the Levies – who were also known as the RAF levies – from among the local population, primarily the Assyrians. They, rather than regular British troops, provided security for airbases and troops on the ground. The 1st Parachute Squadron was made up of roughly 150 Assyrians and 50 Kurds. In the picture below, taken in 1945 the Albanian flag is clearly visible in the front row. As far as I know they landed with the Commandos on ‘Sugar Beach’, north of Sarande, and were then shipped to a southern landing point known as ‘Parachute Beach’. The Levie
This is Bella aka Big Dog. She's the boss. So laid back she's horizontal. Then there's Dougal - named for Father Dougal McGuire. Like Father Dougal he's excitable and a bit thick, even if he is behaving himself in these pictures. And this is Sampras: "Well... you know, rabbits, tennis, you know that whole connection there." (Father Dougal McGuire) This is Rusty - because he is a sort of rusty colour. And, finally, in a rare display of enthusiasm Bella returns with Rusty after chasing a car. I tried to get them to chase a stick but they were having none of it.
Albania lost their first friendly in the run up to the Euro 2008 qualifying stages last night against Lithuania. Albania are in Group G - not the toughest group, but not the easiest either, with Romania, Bulgaria and Holland involved as well as Belarus, Slovenia and Luxembourg. Having gone ahead against Lithuania from a penalty, Albania conceded an equaliser within two minutes. Just before half time Lithuania scored again. In the second half Albania created a stack of opportunities looking for their second goal, but some off-target shooting and good goalkeeping kept them at bay. Lithuania defended in depth and played on the break even winning a penalty at one stage which was well saved by the Albanian goalie. Throughout the game Albania were playing against not just Lithuania but also the pitch and the weather conditions. The surface at Qemal Stafa is poor at the best of times, but after many days of constant and often heavy rain in Tirana it was worse than ever. During the game there