Nikaj-Mertur is the result of a unique coexistence between two clans with different cultures and traditions that joined into one.
The remote location of Nikaj-Mertur has contributed to the preservation of its cultural and natural heritage, making it a special spot to experience while in the Albanian Alps. Regardless of the season, there are always opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Visitors can experience all four seasons on a typical summer day in Nikaj-Mertur: winter on top of a mountain where the snow never melts, fall during nights in the valley, spring with the never-ending flower blooms, and hot, moist summer temperatures on Lake Koman.
Songs and Dances
Various majakrahut, kreshnik, lute, wedding, cradle, and other folkloric songs have been written and performed in Nikaj-Mertur. These folkloric songs and valle (traditional dances) are often accompanies by instruments like the lahuta, the çifteli, the flute, and the traditional drum— all of which are handmade by traditional luthiers and makers.
Over the course of generations, locals have also passed down their oral traditions. These old fairy tales and legends often depict mythological beings like the zanat e malit (Northern mountain fairies), dragons, witches and wizards.
Lahuta. A single-stringed fiddle used to accompany folkloric songs or epic poetry. It is one of the oldest and most primitive European string instruments that is still played and used today.
Çifteli A plucked string instrument with only two strings, very popular among in Northern Albania, Southern Montenegro, and Kosovo.
Sharkia, A plucked and fretted chord instrument that usually comes with six strings. The body of the sharkia is usually carved out of a single piece of wood.
Fyelli or the traditional Albanian flute, is a wind instrument made from locally sourced wood and is used by mountain shepherds when calling to their sheep and dogs.
Gjethja A folk instrument typically used by shepherds to produce a range of sounds and melodies.
Rites of Birth and Death
Childbirth is one of the most important events in people’s lives, for it represents the continuation of a family’s livelihood and legacy.
A baby’s first haircut is also a special ceremony that creates familial bonds. A respected male figure is chosen to cut the baby’s hair and be the godfather, or kumbarë. The mother of the baby traditionally prepares gifts like a shirt, socks, or towels for the godfather and his family. The godfather’s mother often receives gifts like soap or apples. These rituals create strong bonds between two families that would otherwise not be related.
In Nikaj-Mërtur, as in some areas of northern Albania, such as Dukagjini, Berisha, Malesi e Madhe etc., the honor of the dead is done by men through what is called the "mammal of men" and the mourning of women.
In Nikaj-Mertur, just like in the Dukagjini, Berisha, and Malesi e Madhe areas of the Albanian Alps, the men are responsible for honoring the dead by performing rites like the gjama e burrave and the vajtimi i grave (“The women’s wail”).
The gjama e burrave (“Men’s Lament”) is one of the oldest and most enchanting death rites in the region. It is thought to be of pagan origin and has been passed down orally from generation to generation. To perform this rite, a chorus of ten or more men gathers, often striking their chests and scratching their faces as they sing. The gjama e burrave is the most ancient and authentic way the men of Nikaj-Mertur have to express their grief.