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A thousand stone steps to a unique city in Albania

By Nikolin Svetlana  : 

Girokaster (Gjirokastro) is a town situated in south Albania in the historical region of Epirus. It’s old city is a UNESCO World Heritage Sight known as a “city of a thousand steps.’ The city has hundreds of Ottoman-style tower houses with rare stone roofs, wooden balconies and stone paved streets. Gjirokastra was built by its rich landowners. Around the ancient 13th century citadel, the town has houses with turrets (the Turkish kule ) which are characteristic of the Balkans region.

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Gjirokastra contains several remarkable examples of houses of this type, which date from the 17th to early 19th century. There are more then 500 old houses which are protected as cultural architectural monuments. Well preserved Old Ottoman bazaar originally built in the 17th century together with a Mosque from 1757 makes it a unique site. Old Girokaster town is testimony of co-existance of different cultures of Aromanians, Greeks, Turks and Albanians.

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The town was one of six districts of the Bektashism in Albania, with its center at the tekke of Asim Baba and it retains a large Bektashi and Sunni Muslim population. Girokaster is home to a unique mixture of old Balkans’ urban life during the centuries.


(Nikolin Svetlana is Editor in Chief, a NGO activist for peace and dialogue and a writer based in Belgrade, Serbia and United Kingdom

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