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New Europe

Day Twenty-five: Tirana to Krujë

Bektashi sacrifice 
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The sheep is sacrificed to bring good fortune to the family working abroad.
Michael Palin - New EuropeIn the afternoon Illir and I scramble up the mountain to a monastery of the Bektashi religion, one of the offshoots of the Sufi order of Islam. Brought from Turkey by babas (fathers) or dervishes, it was never an institutional, organised religion, relying instead on personal communication with God through mystical folk beliefs, often close to paganism.

We are accompanying a young pilgrim from the village below who is taking a sheep to be sacrificed by the baba. His mother had a dream in which members of the family working abroad appeared to her and the sacrifice is the best way to stave off any harm the dream may have intimated.

After a slow climb through scrub and scree and dramatic limestone overhangs we reach the complex of buildings on the top of the mountain and are led into the presence of the baba. He is dressed in a thin white robe with a long green jacket over it and a multicoloured band around his waist. On his head is a green fez-like cap. He's clearly a prodigious smoker, his white beard stained almost mahogany around the mouth.

He sits, looking vaguely impatient, on a bed of cushions in front of a carpet with a large stag pictured on it. On the walls are framed pictures of holy men, the largest of which depicts an illustrious convert to Bektashism, Pasha Tepelena, builder, statesman, friend of Lord Byron and one of the most enlightened of Albania's Ottoman rulers.
A Bektashi sacrifice 
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The baba, the Bektashi holy man, lights up after doing the business.
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  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day Twenty-five: Tirana to Krujë
  • Country/sea: Albania
  • Place: Krujë
  • Book page no: 64

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  • Miscellaneous
  • Day 3 
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day 34 
  • Full Circle
  • Day 22 
  • Pole to Pole