The historic city center constitutes a World Heritage of UNESCO, since 2005 and with the innumerable houses of stone, composes a rich “mosaic”, which proves the rich legacy left behind by those who inhabited the area over the centuries.
Being hanged by a rock on the slopes of the Valley of the Drin, the unique architecture of Gjirokaster harmonizes with its surroundings; the houses are made of stone, as if they were a natural continuation of the landscape.
Ismail Kadare describes extraordinarily the color and the atmosphere of the city in one of his books (Chronicle in Stone, 1971), which takes place in Gjirokaster: He writes that everything in the city is ‘old and made of stone, from the streets and fountains to the roofs of old houses.
There is something special about this city. Besides, it can’t be such coincidence that two of the most influential figures-each and every of them gained reputation for a different reason- was born in Albania in the 20th century. Enver Hoxha ruled Albania from 1944 until his death in 1985. Originally from Bektashi family (order of Sufi Islam), Hoxha ruled for forty years in Albania. Today, the house, where he was born, has turned into an ethnographic museum.
Gjirokaster gave birth to Ismail Kadare, who in the long course of world literature managed to seduce the public and critics. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature and the first Booker Prize (2005).
Although there is some evidence to support that the city was inhabited in the first century BC, historical sources indicate that the Gjirokaster was founded in the 12th century under the Byzantine Empire. It became a big mall during the Byzantine period, before it ends up to the Ottomans in 1417 and becomes the administrative and commercial center.
According to Turkish travelers who visited the city in 1670, at that time Gjirokaster had about two thousand houses, eight mosques, three churches, two hundred and eighty shops five sources five inns. Greatness! As for the two hundred stone buildings that surround us and I’m looking forward to photo shooting them, date from that period.
The Ottomans fled officially from Albania between 1912 and 1913 as a result of the First Balkan War. In the following four decades until 1944, the city changed ‘notables’ several times, when Gjirokaster changed definitively into the sovereignty of Albania.
Under the communist regime, the city developed into an industrial and commercial center and the regime of the city- museum’s status as the birthplace of Enver Hoxha was given.