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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Oral Literature  |  Legends



Legend of Ali Dost Dede of Gjirokastra

Travelling through southern Albania in 1670, Ottoman traveller Evliya Chelebi (1611-1684) recounts the legend of a holy man venerated in Gjirokastra at the time.

When Ali Dost Dede died, the whole population of Gjirokastra, convinced that he had expired of the plague, took to the hills and the villages in the 'Gjirokastra Landscape' by Ksenofon Dilocountryside, leaving the blessed body of the great saint unburied in his cell for forty days and forty nights. Later, some of the citizens returned from the countryside and ventured to open the door of the cell. What should they see but the corpse of Ali Dost lying there, pointed in the direction of Mecca, and the blessed body still warm and fresh. All the populace of the province marvelled at this fact. Certain generous benefactors prepared the corpse for burial. While they were completing the ritual cleansing of the body, they noticed the words “Ali Dost” (Ali the Friend) inscribed by some divine quill on a portion of red flesh on the saint’s chest. The whole population marvelled at this wonder and washed and buried the saint in the courtyard of the Tekke Mosque, to the accompaniment of prayers and incantations. Even today people come from all parts to visit the site. May his mystery be sanctified.


[extract from: Robert Dankoff and Robert Elsie (ed.): Evliya Çelebi in Albania and Adjacent Regions (Kosovo, Montenegro, Ohrid), Leiden 2000, p. 81. Translated from the Ottoman Turkish by Robert Elsie and Robert Dankoff.]