Whilst staying in Kruja, Albania, we visited the “Castle”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/200217-review-kruja-castle and from a viewpoint in the grounds, noticed high on a hill an isolated building which we were told was near a Bektashi teqe: Bektashism is regarded as the fourth religion in Albania and a form of Islam.
In the afternoon our driver suggested taking us up Mount Kruja. The drive took around 30 minutes as the road was narrow with lots of hairpin bends, switchbacks and was on the edge of the mountain – it was not a journey for the feint hearted. On arrival, we parked up near a viewing spot where a board provided some background.
The Temple, or teqe, of Sari Salltiku marks the beginning of the history of temples in Albania. The erection of the temples is related to the Bektashi missionaries who settled in the areas during their missionary journeys, decades before the Ottoman armies appeared. The work of Sari Salltiku began in the first half of the 14th century and the temple was named after the Bektashi missionary, or Baba, Sari Salltiku. It was ‘dedicated to the dervishes of holy sacrament who fought to end the practice of sacrificing girls in ritual sacrifice’.
A steep flight of around 60 steps led down to the teqe, built into a cave approximately 15m deep by 4m high. It has been used as a place of worship since the 1700s.
At the bottom we found a green tiled roof with a series of hooks on a line and our driver told us they were for sheep. I made a slitting throat motion and he shook his head from side to side, which in Albanian means ‘yes’. Nearby was a stone trough, presumably for washing, with a sheep’s head carved above it and a bust of the baba.
Venturing on and further down into the cave, we took our shoes off at the entrance of what looked like a green and white Doctor Who Tardis which led us into a smaller, long, narrow cave, with lit candles on either side.
A little further were two tombs: one more modern and an older one, draped with a green cloth and with six small posts. People were walking round the latter and holding and kissing the posts. Bearing in mind all the hands touching them, we decided to touch, but not kiss.
Continuing onwards, and down yet more steps was an inexhaustible water flow from a small tap. In front was a long queue of devotees wanting to either wash their hands or have a drink.
During the period of atheism, the teqe fell to ruin in 1967 but reopened in 1991 with the demise of communism.
The temple is one of hundreds that dot the region but is one of the most important and the second largest pilgrimage site in Albania. It is visited by pilgrims, citizens and tourists of all religious beliefs with the peak being between 14th August and 14 September. This explained why it was so busy on our visit on 5 September.
Back towards the viewpoint, we had excellent view of the castle, town and bazaar and we could also see numerous lakes heading out into the distance. The isolated building we’d seen from the town appeared to be a large hotel/restaurant which had fallen into disrepair.