Gjirokastra City

Gjirokastra, description

Gjirokastër or Gjirokastra, is a city in southern Albania, whose inhabitants are called Gjirokastra. City included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO in 2005, as one of the few surviving examples of cities in the Balkans Ottoman trade.

Origin of name

The origin of the name of Gjirokastra has a fabulous explanation and two others with more historical nature. According to legend, during the final siege of the city by the Turks, Princess Argjiro sister city master jumped from the castle walls with her ​​son from falling into the hands of the enemy alive.

From here came the name “castle Argyro”. (But it seems impossible after the city’s name is mentioned at the time of   Byzantium, ie before the Ottoman conquest).

According to an explanation of the less poetic, the city is named for the Greek word silver,  Argyrokastron, from the gray color of the walls, streets and roofs of stone, which twinkle like silver when wet from rain. One explanation is the name of a local tribe that lived near Gjirokastra:  argjir. For the first time mentioned the name of Gjirokastra in   the thirteenth century. The beginnings of the town of Gjirokastra by Apollon Bace Researcher thought to be the seventh century after the fall Hadrianopolit XIII, Castle of Gjirokastra is thought to be initiated by the Albanian prince Gjin Bue Shpata, who gave the city the name, Gjinokastër.

Historical and Touristic Places to be visited in Gjirokastër:

  • The historical center with the Bazzar
  • The Castle where you can visit also the Gun’s Museum
  • Ethnografic Museum
  • The characteristic houses of  Zekateve, Skendulateve, Babametos, Kadarese, Hani i Zagorise, Dulajve, ect.
  • “Antigonea” – in the Drinos Valley
  • The roman site of Hadrianopolit shek.II ps.k. close to village Sofratike
  • Natyral Park of Viroit, Sotires


Geographic scope
Located in southern Albania, Gjirokastra stands on the steep slopes of the river valley Drinos in a position prevailing over a landscape rich in history, which outlines the boundaries of the high mountaintops. This is the “city of a thousand steps” that includes hundreds of home-Ottoman-style tower with distinctive stone roofs, wooden balconies and stone walls sometimes bleached with lime. The turn ruled by the magnificent castle perched on a steep hill, Gjirokastra is an enchanting city with a turbulent past. From the bastion of feudalism in Ottoman jewel important center of Italian fascist invaders, the city has seen many rulers and has inspired many poets, writers and artists. City population 40 000 inhabitants, is the economic center of the district administration with the same name.


Today’s City of Gjirokastra includes the Old Town, the castle (first nucleus of residence) and Ottoman style neighborhoods, built on ridges, which come away from the castle to the bottom of the valley, where the buildings are modern and complex university. Extend traditional neighborhoods radiate around the castle with names: Cfakë, Dunavat, Manal, Palorto, Varos, Meçite, Hazmurat, Old Bazaar. The early history of the city is relatively unknown. Because of its proximity to the classical and Hellenistic centers: Delirium (Antigonea) and Roman city near the village Sofratikë Adrianopolis is often thought that the earliest settlement in Gjirokastra is the medieval castle. But on this thesis are doubts within the castle after revelations have brought to light pottery in 4 different stages before the Ottoman housing: V centuries – II BC, centuries V – VII j, IX-X centuries and centuries XII – XIII. The earliest traces of these phases led to a substantial wall built with blocks, which suggests that there was an important fortification before the Roman period on this side of the river valley Drinos (prior to 168 BC).
For the first time in historical sources mention the city in 1336, when Byzantine chronicler writes Johan Kantakuzeni Argyrokastron. Under the Despotate of Epirus, the city and the surroundings were under the rule of the feudal family Zenebishi. As the Ottoman Empire expanded into Europe in the late XIV, Gjirokastra fell under the influence of sultans and its rulers became his vassals. One Zenebishët mention that led a group of men under the command of Sultan Bayezid I (1389-1402), when it was defeated by the Mongols in the battle Timurlengu Ankara, in 1402. On 1419 the city fell under the rule of Turkey’s full, while according to tax records in 1431-32, he had 163 home.
Castle has always been primarily military function. While there were dwelling within the walls, they were designed to garrison and important dignitaries. Meanwhile, during the Middle Ages, the city was held outside its walls. Discoveries of early settlements in the city has not, though, in an episcopal residence that was under the old memorial, missing today Enver Hoxha, was found a beautifully carved capital of the thirteenth century. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the city, as the main center of the Sanjak of Albania (Sandzak main administrative units called Turkey in the early period of the Ottoman Empire) and the city flourished as a result, his quarters were enlarged in 1583 with 434 home, marking almost duplication within a century. This occurred primarily because of a general movement of population from rural to urban. The growth continued when regional administrative center moved to Delvin , in the time of Sultan Suleiman the brightest (1520-1566). In November 1670, the Turkish traveler, Evliya Çelebi , after a trip through Kosovo in December 1660, and a trip to northern Albania and Montenegro in February 1662, began his third trip and more in the Albanian territories. This time he went to Albania to the south. After a short stay in Delvin, slime and Kardhiq , he came to the town of Gjirokastra, Turkish Ergiri , where he surprised many of the habits of Gjirokastra. And thus described:
“… Open City is situated on 8 hills and valleys all around the fortress with multi home with stone roof and surrounded by gardens and vineyards.Each of these well-built houses has a tower. Walls of the courtyards are built with a type of white granite, wrought by master stonemason, though they Ankara bricks from clay. Walls have such rich and the poor. Stones square cut found not only in the cities of Tyre and Manises in Anatolia …Ways of building external walls of houses do not have friends in the world. They are all 20 inches high, made of red sandstone blocks, just stone on stone, no mud, lime and plaster. Walls and houses are centuries since the time of the infidels. The city has a very good climate, and for this reason, people have healthy bodies … Gjirokastër mourn their dead relatives to 40-50 or even 80 years … for this reason I called Gjirokastra “city of wailing”. It is a great wonder as professional mourners to wail that feeling … ”
Gjirokastra was an administrative center as the seat of Qadi (judge) and very flat glass that survived until today date back to this period. The city’s population seems to have remained the same in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
On 1811, the city fell into the hands of Ali Pasha. He was concerned that the new fortification works were carried in the hold, and build a 12 km long aqueduct, which take water to the mountain of Sopot. Water stone was inscribed by famous British painter Edward Lear, who traveled enough in this province. Water was demolished in 1932, but the neighborhood “Dunavat” has remained one of his bow, which is known as the “Bridge of Ali Pasha”.After Ali Pasha was killed by the forces of the Sublime Porte (so called court of the sultan in Istanbul), the city continued to function as the administrative center, trade center of cattle, wool, felt, dairy products, silk and embroidery. In 1880 the Assembly of Gjirokastra actively supported the cause of self-determination and resistance against Ottoman rule. In 1908, he opened the first Albanian school in the city with the name “Illyria” and then created a series of patriotic associations and clubs. In the early twentieth century Gjirokastra became a major issue, while define its borders today. For a period following the declaration of Independence on November 28, 1912, she was part of the “Autonomous Republic of Epirus” under General Zografos, which sought union with Greece, but after World War I, the Entente powers (Britain, France and Russia) persuaded Greece to withdraw its claims in this space with an Albanian majority. The current limit was ratified in 1921. With the announcement of Panvaresise Gjirokastra Gjirokastra and began to look to Europe and the nearest European country is attractive and Italy where traders begin to attend its markets and adolescents universities. In this important historical period thanks to collaborations with Italy in Gjirokastra will have seen developments or European elements, will be society than in 1932 will bring for the first electric light in Gjirokastra, in this period begin to arise Banks First Banca Nazionale d’Albania as the Banco di Napoli, built the first hotel and the Hotel Royal Hotel Savoia and begins to function as airport with daily flights to Tirana and other cities. SATA Society will link with daily bus lines to Tirana Gjirokastra, Saranda port while each day will have to ferry ports italiane.Ne this period begin to build the facilities of a new architectural style in Gjirokastra and they are numerous: banks, Zigai, villas Kokalari, Papavangjeli, etc. Lyceum. During the reign of King Zog (1828-1939) Gjirokastra became one of the most important cultural and economic. In this period was built the great castle prison (in the north), the prison held political prisoners in the communist era and today is part museum attached to the castle. During the fascist occupation that followed, the city was a center of resistance against Italian forces and then those Nazi. Regions around Gjirokastra was “liberated” in 1944.
Years of effort put communism a large-scale industrialization, but also efforts to protect the unique cultural heritage of the city. The collapse of communism at the end of 1990, the economy of Gjirokastra found already in rapid decline. To maintain full employment of the population, the communists were overloaded with work force needs beyond the old industrial complex and inefficient.So the fall of communism system, caused catastrophic loss of thousands of jobs. With thousands emigrated or were headed in Tirana looking for work. The riots that followed the fall of communism marked the robbery at the National Museum of Arms. Great statue of Enver Hoxha collapsed, leaving in place a bar restaurant parking. Once started out slowly from the initial chaos after the fall of communism, Gjirokastra fell in 1997 to a new chaos after the collapse of fraudulent pyramid schemes, where thousands of families lost their savings. A significant part of the Bazaar were burned or damaged during this time when the city languished in a state of siege and people fighting for survival in a violent environment and in the absence of law. The crisis caused another massive emigration and abandonment of historic buildings, which began to break and fall. City-museum days seemed distant, at a time when the state was unable to perform its legal duty to fund the maintenance and preservation of historic buildings in Gjirokastra .
The castle is built on a rock, and around it there were many trees, which prevent erosion and landslides. East of the castle walls have cracks deeper and requiring immediate intervention. Without this intervention Albanian heritage property is in danger of losing. Gjirokastra city was declared a museum in 1963 and in 2005 was declared a World by UNESCO .