This singular building type has been introduced in the conquered areas immediately after conquest. It is designed to house the dervishes, that is members of a Sufi Muslim brotherhood. Among the numerous different brotherhoods it was particularly the Bektashi who played a crucial role by accompanying the conquering Janissaries and islamizing the conquered peoples, but also in teaching them new agricultural techniques. At the end of Ottoman rule many Muslims left for Turkey and therafter most of the tekkes have been abandoned or have disappeared altogether.When considering this constant emigration of dervishes and therefore the reduction of their tekkes, the more stunning it is to find one of particular significance and beauty, in our days. We are talking about the beautiful tekke in Tetovo.
Harabati Baba Tekke in Tetovo
The dervish lodge of Tetovo was built little by little by the Bektashi order, starting from the 16th century and gradually adding buildings according to their needs. In the centre of the large yard we find the oldest building, the turbe or mausoleum of the founding dervish and other Sheihs who followed him. It is a twelve-sided small building in the traditional building technique of timber frames filled with brick.
Nearby we find the exceptionally attractive shadirvan, a fountain that served also the purpose of relaxataion and dervish rituals. Perfect proportions and elaborate decorations render this fountain unique. Its wooden structure is divided in two parts: the first one contains a six-sided marble basin surrounded by cushions for relaxation while the second one, slightly elevated, is intended for rituals. Painted and gilded decorations at the ceiling of great beauty are a significant artistic achievement.
Another unit of this splendid complex is the meydan, an open veranda, used by the superior to receive his guests. Along the rectangular one-floor building runs a terrace sustained by wooden pillars. Its connecting arches under the roof show painted decorations. The most outstanding quality of this building is its rich fresco paintings, where rectangular fields with circular and star-like motives are lined up. Strikingly similar to the ones at the Aladza Mosque, a monument I presented in a previous post, this decoration was probably executed by the same artists.
The tekke is composed of several other buildings as for instance a prayer house, a guest house, a kitchen building or a freestanding fountain, but the most outstanding edification is the so-called Blue Tower or Fatima's Tower. It was a gift of Tetovo's ruler to his ailing daughter Fatima in order to give her the possibility to live on the grounds of the tekke. A striking tower-house with two floors, it shows a cubic stone base topped by a wooden upper floor, painted in bright blue. Under the characteristic Ottoman wide eaves we find a painted frieze. The blue shutters are divided in two halves where the lower part opens downwards to lean on them and the upper part lifts upwards to give shade. The interior of this tower is richly decorated with wood carvings and wall paintings.
Teresa Waltenberger, Architecture in Macedonia. The Ottoman Heritage, Skopje 2014