Blagaj Tekke • Sufi Dervish Monastery
Blagaj Tekke - Dervish Monastery
Sufi Dervish OrdersThe first time I heard the word “Sufi” was in the 1985 movie The Jewel of the Nile, with Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas. The Jewel was a Sufi holy man. Sufism is the inner mystical dimension of Islam. Practitioners of Sufism often belong to different orders formed around a grand master referred to as a Mawla who maintains a direct chain of teachers back to the Prophet Muhammad. These orders meet for spiritual sessions (majalis) in meeting places known as tekke. Tekkes had a very active social role, and they encouraged science, art, humanitarian work as well as with the spread of Islam. Several different Dervish orders have lived in the Blagaj Tekke including the Bektashi, Halveti, Kaderi and now Naqshbandi. No whirling dervishes here – it is the Dervishes of the Mevlevi order that spin in the “Sema” dance where they pass into a state of meditation in which they praise God.
Blagaj TekkeThe Blagaj Tekke was created between 1446 and 1520 and has had a tumultuous history to its reconstruction and tourist attraction today. It was first mentioned in a 1664 Travelogue by Evliya Çelebi on his travels. By the 1800’s, the Austrian-Hungary regime had all Tekke’s shutdown. The next record comes in 1851, when at the request of Achik-pasha, Omer-pasha Latas (Ottoman General) had the Tekke reconstructed including two musafirhanas (charity houses for guests) to be used for the accommodation of travelers. In the 1900’s the Tekke was destroyed by both rock slides (1949 & 1951) restored and then in 1952, the dervishes were expelled from the Tekke under Communist rule. Before the Bosnian wars in the 1990’s, the dervishes started to return to the Tekke as a gathering place. Finally in 2012, formal restoration was carried out by the Turkish travel agency Fidan Tours. The Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina ceded the Tekke to Fidan Tours for use for 33 years.
Blagaj Tekke ComplexThe meeting/prayer room of the tekke has the characteristics of the Turkish baroque and is the only monument in Bosnia built in that style, and this can be seen on the wooden ceiling. The hamam, a turkish bath, has heating under the floor and it is covered with a beautiful starry holed dome for the natural light to enter through it. The Turbeh, a mausoleum built next door to the tekke contains the relics of Sari Saltuk and Achik Basha, lslamic missionaries of Turkmenian origin who lived and practiced Sufism at in the mid 13th century. Legend says that Sari Saltuk ordered eight coffins to be made after his death and sent to eight countries, but only one of them would contain his body. Pilgrims would travel and look for his real tomb and at the same time spread Islam. It is believed that the tomb in Blagaj contains his remains.
Buna RiverThe Blagaj Tekke was built at the base of a 200m cliff wall and next to a cave. The cave leads to an underground karst river that flows out to create the Buna River. Little boat rides will take you into the cave for a quick look. The water provides much needed cooling breeze in the hot Bosnian sun. There is a little restaurant across from the Tekke & overlooking the water that serves cool drinks, tea, Turkish coffee and traditional Bosnian. Try the Maklube (Meat, rice, and fried vegetables placed in a pot) or Ćevapi (Bosnian national dish, grilled minced meat, with onion on the side and tasty bread).
Town of BlagajThe town of Blagaj historically was the capital of the region under the Ottoman’s. The mountain, called Hum, is topped by a ruined castle that belonged to Herzog (“Duke”) Stjepan responsible for giving Herzegovina its name. Today, it is a small community with a few shops and houses. Entering into Bosnia & Herzegovina, I walked into a religious melting pot (Catholic, Orthodox, Islam). The people of Bosnia are some of the MOST WELCOMING & NICEST I have encountered. Clothing: Walking into the Tekke, women will be given a floor length wrap-around skirt to cover your legs, a scarf to cover your head and you will be asked to remove your shoes. The women handing these out are VERY kind in helping you (and honestly their graciousness is welcomed in comparison to the scolding you receive in Italy for having anything showing). That being said – it’s a conservative country with a lot of religious places – so cover up out of respect for the place you are a guest. Bus: There is a bus that runs from Mostar to Blagaj.
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