By Mynyr Nazifi
Since first learning as a young child about Haxhi Bektash Veli and his mystic teachings of peace and love, it has always been a dream of mine to visit his shrine (tyrbe) in central Turkey. So when Dervish Eliton Pashaj told me that Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım officially invited our Teqe to visit this blessed place and take part in the Sultan Nevruz celebration and Sufi Festival, I was honored to make the pilgrimage, along with Toni Leska, to represent the First Albanian Teqe Bektashiane in America. Having always taught my children and grandchildren the importance of our Bektashi faith, I decided to bring along my grandson Adrian, a Hollywood movie producer, in order to share in this once in a lifetime experience. Toni also brought along his two young daughters.
Departing from Detroit took us over fourteen hours of travel to finally arrive in Ankara, Turkey, which was the first stop on our trip. Here we joined hundreds of Sufi Muslims from all across the world. On our first night in Turkey, the group gathered to eat a traditional Turkish dinner and meet one another. While many of us did not speak the same language, we found common ground in our love for Haxhi Bektash and his teachings.
The next morning, our group of nearly four hundred Sufi representatives boarded buses for the long drive to visit the sacred grounds. During our ride, I was pleased to speak with many Bektashis from around the world, telling them of our American Teqe and the great work of Dervish Eliton in continuing Baba Rexheb’s vision of spreading the teachings of Haxhi Bektash in America and around the globe.
After a long ride, our first stop was the Haxhi Bektash University in the city of Nev şehir, a top Turkish institute of higher education built in honor of the saint.
After touring the campus and listening to several speeches that discussed Haxhi Bektash Veli and his teachings, the group traveled a few more hours to the actual Haxhi Bektash shrine. Upon arriving at the town built around the holy shrine, we entered the sacred grounds to see the tyrbes of Haxhi Bektash and Ballëm Sultan, among many other dervishes, babas and dedebabas resting there.
As a proud Bektashi who has made it my life’s mission to spread the teachings of Haxhi Bektash Veli, this was one of the most profound and powerful experiences of my life – an experience that I feel very blessed to have shared with my grandson Adrian, since it is through our children and grandchildren and the respect for our religion that we teach them that Haxhi Bektash and his lessons will live on.
The next day, our group of Sufi representatives joined thousands of Muslims from around Turkey to take part in the main Sufi Festival. During the event, we watched ceremonial dances, listened to discussions on religion and heard a speech by Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım. After the Festival, Adrian and I parted ways with Toni, his daughters and the rest of the Sufi Muslims to visit our relatives in Macedonia and celebrate Sultan Nevruz there.
After showing Adrian so much of our Bektashi culture in just a few days, we decided to extend our stay to make a short trip into Greece to visit two more religious locations, Teqeja e Durbalis and Teqeja e Katerine.
On our way back to the United States, Adrian and I spent a week-long layover in Istanbul enjoying the rich Turkish culture—a culture that owes great thanks to Haxhi Bektash because as it has been said “pa Haxhi Bektash Veli, nuk do kishte Turqi! Without Haxhi Bektash Veli there’d be no Turkey!” While in Istanbul, we were lucky to visit the shrine of Imam Husain’s sisters along with a few other Bektashi tyrbes.
Overall my trip to Haxhi Bektash Veli’s holy shrine was far greater than I could have ever imagined as a young boy first learning of our beautiful religion. Thanks to Dervish Eliton and his connections to the Turkish festival organizers, I feel very blessed to have shared this once in a lifetime experience with my eldest grandson.
Knowing firsthand how profound of an experience it is to visit this hallowed place, I hope all of those wishing to make the trip themselves God’s blessing so they too can make this important Bektashi pilgrimage.