A Voyage of the Soul
A Visit to the Harabati Baba Tekke of Tetovo, Macedonia
By Emin Lelić
The beautiful Harabati Baba Tekke is a large complex of gardens and old-fashioned buildings existing within a world of its own, safeguarded by massive stone walls on all sides. Once stepping foot through the enormous main gate, the transcendence of time first strikes the visitor, along with the indescribable beauty and seemingly untouched serenity of the secluded Bektashi tekke. Old stone buildings lay scattered throughout the rectangular-shaped compound, barely visible through the many trees, bushes, and flowers.
The enchantment of the scene breaks down the barriers of time, through a mixture of late Ottoman architecture embellished with the modern addition of electric lamps illuminating the many cobblestone paths. In this expanse is a small fountain constructed on the order of one of Tetovo’s old aristocracy, Rexheb Pasha, in honor of Imam Husain. A much larger one sits in the very middle of the whole complex. Called a şadirvan it covered by a huge gazebo and is surrounded by an elevated sitting platform. The very sight of it is uncomplicated, yet it is perfectly planned and thought-out, giving the structure a beautiful heaven-like nature, transforming the onlooker into an entirely different dimension.
The harmony and peacefulness only serve to gradually unveil the depthless magnitude of this new, but yet so familiar world, where space and time do not exist, where there is no beginning and no end, where there are no paradoxes and contradictions, worries and hopes. Here is only splendor and unity. The souls of the hundreds and thousands who had once entered this same dimension, or who will some day come and enter, seem to be circling about, carrying with them all the beauty and love that they have experienced at that one moment when everything became one, and together with you they have entered this endlessness. Pulled by the attraction of a particular soul, you are transformed into an old dervish, a poet who sat in the same place centuries ago, and was suddenly entranced into this same world that you are now in. You become now that old dervish, who inspired by his love, came to the şadirvan to finally put together an ode that had been lying scattered and unorganized in his head. As suddenly as you became that old dervish you become a young traveler, who has come to find the answer to all his questions on life in this tekke. But just like you two centuries on, he also was drawn into this other dimension with one look.
And so it goes, forever and forever, becoming one with other souls, some from the past some from the future, all united in this never-ending universe, where time and space have no real value. As you are become all these other people, while in reality remaining yourself, it strikes you that all this is there only for you… All these souls are in reality you, and you them! Although before you have time to think about the implications of that, you are again altered.
It is the 13th century, and you are the prince of a small kingdom somewhere in Anatolia. You know you are you, but you are not really you; you are the Hunkar, the Spiritual Monarch. You are wearing a simple dervish vest, a hayderiyyah, made out of sheepskin, and you are walking at the foot of a steep mountain. Then it ends with the blink of an eye. And you realize that your endless journey was in reality only a moment. The everlasting souls have disappeared, and your disappointment is intense at the abrupt end of this flight into timelessness, until it is washed away by a deep recognition that everything you are searching for is inside you.