Baktashi is one of the three sects of Islam. This specific sect can only be found in Albania, Northern Greece, and very few parts of Kosovo. The Baktashi tekke is at the top of Mt. Tomori, Albania's second tallest mountain. A tekke is a building that is usually round and is used for spiritual retreat and character reformation. The Baba (which literally means "father") lives in and is the head of the tekke as well as, has the authority to give spiritual guidance. Near the tekke there is a long, stone walkway that leads to an area for prayer, a small cemetery for previous Babas, and at the end of the path is where animal slaughter takes place. A festival is held each year during August/Ramadan and is when the Baktashi ask for peace and luck in the new year.
All along the newly cobblestone walkway there are small herds of sheep. Each family picks a sheep to buy and sacrifice. A sheep costs about the equivalent of $100 US dollars, which is a lot of money for Albanians. Once the sheep has been chosen it is taken to the slaughtering area. When approaching the slaughtering area one can see two long rows of butchers butchering sheep one right after another. It really is quite a site. The way the sheep are killed for this specific sacrificial festival is by slitting a sheep's throat then allowing the animal to die by all the blood spilling out of it. Once the blood begins to seep out of the sheep, it is customary to put a bit of the sheep's blood on one's forehead while reciting a prayer. After the blood has left the animal, the butcher hangs the sheep up by it's hind legs and begins to prepare the sheep for eating.
One of the most interesting things I learned, while observing the slaughtering process, was that all the insides of a sheep are bundled together in a ‘bag’. The ‘bag’ contains all of the organs and is neatly packaged up inside the animal. This bag looks exactly like a white, GLAD, plastic garbage bag. The fact that all the organs and everything else are in this ‘bag’ it makes butchering a sheep a quite easy and a pretty fast process. No offense to my dad, but it took these butchers about half the time it takes my dad to gut and fillet a fish. It's pretty unbelievable!
Once the sheep is ready to be cooked, the owners take it to an area where there are numerous spits. The spits are low to the ground and are manually rotated. The entire hillside was covered with people roasting sheep. Not only was this experience very interesting and unlike any I have had so far in my life, but all the meat was really good. For lunch and dinner that day I ate lamb/mutton shish-ka-bobs. And they were awesome!!
The festival lasts for 10 days, but most families only go up for a day and a night, which is what my group did. All the Albanians were interested in why we came to the festival and were very welcoming. It was fascinating to see a religious animal slaughter with my own eyes. It was definitely an unforgettable experience!