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Experiencing Albanian Culture: Bektashi Fests and Celebrations

by Juliane Zimmerman

Intern at Elite Travel Group

Today’s Albania is known as a country of religious freedom and plurality, where faith is more of a private matter than a societal one. Despite that, or maybe even because of it, the religious sites and events of all faiths can give great insights into the country’s history, culture and community life.

Bektashi Order

One especially intriguing religious community in Albania is the Bektashi order, which represents a mystical tradition of Islam (Sufism). The origins of the Bektashi order can be found in modern-day Turkey, from where it spread to the Balkans. Its teachings are attributed to the 13th-century saint and philosopher Hajji Bektash Wali and intend to lead believers the mystical path that brings them to utmost nearness in their relationship with God. Besides that, Bekatshis adhere to the principles of the so-called Twelver Shia, another Islamic school of thought which recognizes Imam Ali as the rightful fourth successor of the Prophet Mohammed and therefore gives great importance to the Imam’s reverence.

Even though the order was forbidden and its members heavily persecuted under the regime of Enver Hoxha (1946-1992), the Bektashi Order today has its headquarters in Albania’s capital Tirana and the community’s tekkes can be found all over the country.

Experience Bektashi Culture and Traditions

The Bektashi tekkes are interesting places to visit all year round. But if you want to get a firsthand experience of both particularly Bektashi and more general Albanian culture and traditions, you should make sure to visit an annual fest that is celebrated there! In contrast to for example more conservative schools of Sunni Islam, the Bektashi community practices a relatively ‘relaxed’ form of Islam. Its members are for instance allowed to drink alcohol and there is no segregation between men and women. The community is also very open towards outside visitors and explicitly promotes a message of peace and interfaith tolerance. Two great Bektashi fests to visit are:

The Pilgrimage to Mount Tomorr

Every year on August 24-26, pilgrims from all over Albania and beyond climb Mount Tomorr to visit the Bektashi sanctuaries on the summit. The summit is said to have held religious significance since ancient times. The shrine that exists there today is dedicated to Abaz Ali who is remembered for his strength in war and his bravery in the Battle of Kerbela.

Founding Day of the Ali Postivan Tekke

On May 14th, the establishment of the Ali Postivan Tekke – which is one of the largest Bektashi complexes in the region – is celebrated. Believers from all over the country travel to Permet for the occasion, there is food and dance, and wishes for peace and humanism are exchanged among all participants.

There are many other Bektashi fests and celebrations taking place throughout the year! You can browse through the events on our website or contact us for more information.


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