The Emin Gjiku Ethnological Museum, a beautiful complex of traditional houses, lies hidden among the more modern and recently constructed high-rises in Kosovo’s capital of Prishtina.
It is a pleasant place to visit and escape the bustling urban noise while cooling off under the shade of giant trees in the archaic garden. If you are lucky, you might also get to sample Kosovo’s most famous culinary specialty, flija, which is a layered pie brushed with cream and traditionally cooked out in the open using a spherical metal lid.
This is the main family house where you can learn about the life cycle life according to the cultural norms at the time. There is a room for each cycle showing the birth, life and death rituals. Every period of life is portrayed through music and artifacts.
In the birth room you can listen to lullabies and rock the cradle, which is called “djep” in Albanian. As you walk up the stairs, there is a room that houses a traditional spinning wheel among many other elements, showing you the daily crafts of Kosovo Albanians in the older days.
When coming down, as you are ready to leave the main house, you enter the last cycle of human life where you have a chance to listen and see mourning rituals.
We are here getting ready to enter the guesthouse. Upon entrance, we will sit in the main room—commonly called “Oda” in Albanian.
Oda played an important role in the development of the Albanian culture. It was a meeting place for the elders and where community leaders would gather to discuss village matters and bring about decisions. The elders would often reconcile here families that had suffered from blood feuds, which claimed the lives of many through generations.
This is the çardak, a window enclosed porch. It would usually be located on the first floor or on an upper level, though it sticks out from the main house walls. In this case, it looks down on the beautiful and archaic garden of the Emin Gjiku complex.
This was a common place for the family to invite guests for a cup of tea or coffee and discuss their recent familial or community developments.
This is the Women’s Room. Beautifully hand-tailored clothes fill up this part of the house. Sitting here in lotus pose (as this is a common pose in our culture as well) with a slight variation, we sit in “bagdash,”—a seated position most commonly used when eating at a very low rise table called sofra, or when in the guest room,”Oda.”.
The Warrior I pose fits in with the warrior themed decorations in the corridor of the Emin Gjiku family house. I am also wearing a plis, the traditional Albanian brimless felt cap made from sheep wool. It is thought that a similar cap was also worn by Illyrians. The shape of the cap varies depending on the region across Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and Macedonia.
Back to the Women’s Room in Emin Gjiku’s house—here you can see the wooden drawers which are full of handcrafted silver jewelry. You can also get a sneak peak of the folk clothes.
Garments significantly vary from region to region all around the Albanian territories and Kosovo so there are quite a diversity of them displayed—from everyday clothes to ceremonial dresses. Some tend to be more colorful and lively, while others are of a darker tone.
Here is a variation of kneeled warrior pose, more of a dancing type pose—as we have a distinctive dance in our culture, what we call “valle,” particularly danced in wedding ceremonies.
(Photos by Rina Hapçiu)