Culture in Sharr Mountains

Culture around Sharr mountain is very rich in diversity. From very basic ways of living which include farming and hunting, to creating music and following religions. Most of the traditions are being lost through modernisation and commercial intervention which is slowly destroying such an authentic way of life.

The region is inhabited by several ethnic groups, such as Albanians, Bosniaks, Gorani, Serbs, Torbeshi, Macedonians and Turkish, who speak different languages, practice different religions and have specific customs and beliefs. Such a culturally diverse population has enriched the architecture, arts, cuisine, clothing, music, etc, which have been established in such a way that responds to the specific needs of each.

The basic traditions that exist in the area are heavily based on utilising the land around to produce materials that everyone uses in their daily life. Whether it be rearing sheep for wool to make clothes or farming to have food to eat; these crafts rely on having a good relationship with the land around them.

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Chickens in Vrbeštica/Vërbeshticë

The mountain offers almost everything that one could want to use in their life. The hard part is that a lot of vegetables cannot grow so high up and so the only place to get them is further down the mountain. To do this most people would sell other things that they have like wool or tools to get enough money to purchase the things which cannot physically grow that high up. When a person living in a small village requires tools for farming then they ask a blacksmith to create them or even make it themselves. It is this skill with these resources… around us which have paved the way to a sustainable life.

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Volunteers of GAIA very focused in a wood-craft activity

As with all areas of the world, food variety is very specific in different regions of the world and even inside each country. Around Sharr mountain, many different types of plants, food and herbs grow naturally in the fields. People would go hiking up into the mountains very often to find these ingredients such as bear garlic and thyme to cook with. There would be small sections where certain foods exist which requires local knowledge and experience to find effectively. Combined with this is the practice of hunting certain animals. Small game is the most common size of animal which can be hunted for example hares and birds, plus larger game which can include animals such as the roe deer and boars for food.

Music in this area is also very rich with varieties that distinct one region of the mountain from another. Many traditional instruments are used, such as tapan (drum), kaval, tarabuka, cifteli, etc, creating complex melodies with or without lyrics. Just like the music, dances also reveal the cultural diversity of the region.

There are a lot of challenges that are involved with living in the mountains and the cultures that have formed around these problems. The main challenges that people will face comes from the weather and the variety of crops that grow. If the weather is poor one year then the yield will be bad and so money or surviving may be a problem. Special skills are required for hunting and gathering resources around and can depend heavily on the environment.