Durbalı Sultan Bektashi Dervish Lodge

It is located on a rough field that can be viewed from the highway which connects Pharsala (Çatalca) to Velestino and Volos. The field is on the southwestern part of the old Örenli (İrini) Village. The lodge is the biggest Kızıl Deli Sultan Bektashi Lodge located in the area of western Thrace that has been connected to Greece since 1920.

Hasluck suggests that the Lodge was founded as a Mevlevi Dervish Lodge in the 17

th century and was turned into a Bektashi Lodge by Ali Pasha from Tepedelen in the late 18th century (1928, pp.531-532, 766-768).


However, Durbalı Baba is listed as a sheikh of the Lodge from 1480 to 1522 on a list of Bektashi Lodge sheikhs that belonged to the Lodge and published by Baba Recebi (1970, pp.269-273).

A Lodge used by Mevlevi Dervishes is mentioned as being nearby Çatalca in the original Mevlevi registrations in the Balkans which belong to Abdülbaki Gölpınarlı (1953, pp. 334-335, 247).


There are two tombs and a graveyard where Bektashi gravestones exist and buildings that belong to the lodge on the property of the Dervish Lodge. The two tombs are connected to each other with a structure that was built at a later date and functions as a tomb. The 6.90 mt. rectangular grave on the right is older. The tomb was built with alternating double rows of bricks and one row of cut stone. A dome rises on its pentagonal trimmer. There is a stone with a Bektashi headpiece (sikke) in the middle of the tomb. There is a colonnade on four coloumns at the tomb’s front wall. The colonnade has a plain roof today. It is guessed that it originally had three domes. The door of the tomb is ornamented with muqarnas. The tomb contains three sarcophagi belonging to Durbalı Baba, Cafer Sultan (Sheikh of the Lodge from: 1581-1596) and Mustafa Sultan (Sheikh of the Lodge from: 1655-1660), (Baba Recebi, 1970, pp. 269-273).

The second tomb was constructed in the name of Muharrem Baba. The tomb is 6.84 mt. and covered with a dome on an octagonal trimmer. There is an open colonnade on two thin columns and rounded arches at the entrance to the tomb. The date 27 M, 1288 (April 18, 1871) is inscribed in the marble near the door. Machiel Kiel founded an inscription at the entrance of the tomb (2005, p.419). But, it no longer exists.


The transcription of the inscription is:


The date 1286 (1869-1870) is written in the last line of the inscription, with ebced calculations [Date calculation was used in Arabic, Farsi (Persian) andTurkish Literature]. It is ascertained from the inscription that Muharrem Baba died in 1286. There are three coffins within the Muharrem Baba Tomb. There is an inscription in it and a Bektaşi headpiece (sikke) in the middle of it.

The transcription of the inscription is:


The date given in the inscription as 1286 (1869-1870) is the date when Muharrem Baba passed away.

The entrance from Muharrem Baba Tomb to the other goes through a window which was turned into a door. There are three sarcophagi in this section. Baba Seyyid is buried here.

The lodge was in contact with Bektashi Lodges in Albania during the Ottoman period. The Lodge was not included in the Treaty of Lausanne as the Bektashi people who lived in the area were not of Turkish origin but of Albanian origin. Therefore, it continues to exist as the “Albanian Monastery”. The lodge had been managed by Sırrı Baba since 1944 when the Communists came to power in Albania (Kiel, 2005, p.410). Baba Seyyid, the last employee of the Durbalı Sultan Lodge passed away in March 1972 and is buried in the hall that connects the two tombs. After Baba Seyyid passed away, the rugs, lamps and handwritten inscriptions were looted.


The Greek Government claimed 1300 hectares of the land that belonged to the charitable foundation of the Lodge in 1950 and the land was given to the villagers. The Lodge was only able to maintain 296 hectares of land and 700 sheep and goats. When Greece and Albania went to war with each other in that period, the Greek Government laid claim to the land. Fanatic Greek nationalists harmed the tombs and the gravestones in the 1990s.

Kiel claims in his 2005 article that the Durbalı Sultan Bektashi Lodge disappeared in the 1990s, before its history was written. He then goes on to make the claim that his essay about the lodge (that he visited in 1967, 1972 and 1974) has an historical importance (Kiel, 2005, p. 411).

As can be understood from the content of Kiel’s essay, he has not visited the lodge since 1974 and he did not see the inscription on the reverse side of Kani Pasha’s gravestone at the graveyard. However, in his essay that was published in 2009, he brought forward new information about the Lodge without mentioning this situation (Kiel, 2009, pp. 53-57).


The transcription of some of Kani Pasha’s Gravestone and the gravestones that have Bektashi headpieces (sikke) located in the graveyard of the tomb is:


Ya Hû

Gelüp kabri ziyâret eden insan

Okuya ruhuma bir fâtiha ihsân

Merhûm ve ma‘furün-leh



It can be understood from the transcription of the gravestone that Kani Pasha; was the son of Rüstem Pasha from the Leskovik dynasty and a Rumelian Governor, was born in 1848 and passed away in 1918. However, there is a place on the gravestone where "Turbalı Baba" is inscribed. This misinformation is also mentioned in the book called ‘Ottoman Architecture in Greece’ (p.225).

In the early 2000s, a group whose origin was Leskovik (a town on the southern of Albania) but who were living in Greece, found the Lodge. This Lodge has a great importance for them as the tomb of Kani Pasha from Leskovik was located there. They repaired the tombs and restored the


graveyard on the weekends. The group held various religious ceremonies known as "Kurban" (sacrifice) at different times of the year. The local Police interfered in the activites of this group and later forbid them from doing such. Later, a second Albanian Muslim group that lives in Athens and a third Albanian Muslim group that lives in Larissa came together. The Albanians from Larissa cleaned the graveyard and installed lights on the tombs. They have repaired the Lodge building and have decorated it with inscriptions of Hz. Ali (Kiel, 2009, p.55).

Many Greek intellectuals have started to show an interest in the Lodge and many articles concerning it have been published in several newspapers. Kostis Tsitsilikis, a Greek lawyer from Thessaloniki has made an appeal to the official Greek Government auditor in Athens so that the land will be given back to the Muslim community who is affiliated with the Lodge. A Greek community group that is interested in the preservation of historical artifacts wants to make architectural drawings of the Lodge and has written a formal letter to the government auditor in order to support the lawsuit in 2009. A 207 paged book concerning the Lodge was published by K.G. Tsikoumis (Tsikoumis, 2006).

As to whether the Durbalı Sultan Bektaşi Lodge and its lands will ever be returned to the Albanian Muslims in Greece, this will only be known in the future.

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