From Gjirokastra to THE TEKKE OF MELAN
To get to Melan take the road to Glinë east from the National Road. The road runs up to the bottling plant of the famous Glinë mineral water which can be seen from across the valley. Take the road behind the plant, which has a concrete paved surface for a few kilometres and leads through the villages perched on the skirts of the mountains. Continue straight on and resist all temptation to take tracks or roads to the side even though the middle way narrows considerably when it reaches the village of Grapsh, 4 km from Glinë. From here the road descends in curves to the Tekke of Melan which is entered alongside a small aqueduct that originally brought water to the shrine. The grove of tall ancient Cyprus trees is clearly visible from the track and also from the valley below.
The site has a long history. A massive wall of polygonal and rectangular blocks encircles the end of the promontory suggesting an Epirot or Illyrian fortification. This is supported by finds of ceramics from the 4th-century BC. The wall was reconstructed in the 5th or 6th-centuries AD when many of these ancient hilltop sites were refortified as the power of the Roman Empire declined. It is possible that these are the remains Justinianopolis, a 6th-century city for which a definite site had not been confirmed. Melan may also have been a fortified site in the middle ages as a small single-naved church exists in the undergrowth on the southern side of the fortified enclosure. A cobble-stone road takes visitors up to the Tekke of Melan past a fine Ottoman fountain, the original destination of the aqueduct. At present, it serves as a religious centre for the Bektashi Shia: Muslims who celebrate the annual festivals of Greater Bairam, Lesser Bairam and the Nevruz Holiday. There is a Dervish in permanent residence. The present Tekke buildings were erected in 1800 by Father Ali from Gjirokastra whose tomb is in the Turbe in front of the main Tekke structure.
The main building consists of a circular prayer hall with annexed rooms and galleries. The façade of the building has a fine upper gallery and the whole is constructed in typical Epirot style with the well-cut stone blocks typical of the area. The current Tekke of Melan was built on top of a previous Bektashi monastery, which was led by Father Hasan. Originally the Tekke was situated on the main route north along the eastern side of the valley. The English Baron Cam Hobhouse passed by in 1809 with his friend Lord Bryon during their journey from Prevesa to visit Ali Pasha at Tepelenë. This road was superseded when Ali Pasha erected a series of bridges and causeways across the low lying river plain.