Culture/Traditions

The culture of the Gjirokastra district is characterized by a wealth of folk costumes, musical traditions and regional customs.  The area is famous for wood and stone work, as well as for its dairy products and raki (an alcoholic drink) production. The cheese of Gjirokastra is very famous, and this product is well distributed around the country. Some small farmers produce honey and many of them cultivate grapes, apples, nuts etc.

Tourists love to try our renowned local dishes,  some of them uniquely produced in Gjirokastra. Some examples are Qifqi and Oshaf: respectively vegetarian rice balls and a unique dessert made of sheep milk and figs.

Gjirokastra Costumes

Albania’s rich and varied culture is reflected in the wonderful array of traditional costumes. Each region and village has its own distinctive style of dress, and even in the Gjirokastra region, there are many different types.

Historically, Albanian’s clothing allowed strangers to gain information directly at first glance — region of origin, marital status, family’s wealth and position, age, and more.

Specialized craftspeople handmade these garments from cotton, wool and imported silk, decorating them with elaborate patterns and scenes thread in gold and silver also with small river pearls.

Lord Byron was delighted by the beautiful costumes. In 1808 he wrote to his mother:

“I have some very ’magnifique’ Albanian dresses, the only expensive articles in this country. They cost 50 guineas each and have so much gold they would cost in England two hundred.”…

A popular Albanian expression states “Lunxhiotët goxha malldarë/florinë s‘dinë ta mbajnë/e bën cohë e kanavadhë” which implies that people of the Gjirokastra region would rather display their gold woven into their costumes, than save their money.

“But of all surprising novelties, here or anywhere else commend me to the costume of the Arghyro Kastro women! …Suppose first a right white linen mask fixed on the face, with two small slits cut in it for the eyes to look through. Next a voluminous wrapper of whit, with broad buff stripes which conceals the whole upper part of the person and is huddled in immense folds about the arms, which are carried with the elbows raised, the hands being carefully kept from sight by the heavy drapery; add to these, short, full, purple calico trousers, and canary-coloured top-boots, with rose-coloured tassels and what more amazing incident in the history of female dress can be fancied ?”

 (Edward Lear, 19th century painter and poet).

Iso-polyphony music

Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity (2005)

Traditional Albanian iso-polyphonic music can be divided into two major stylistic groups as performed by the Ghegs of northern Albania and the Tosks and Labs living in the southern part of the country. The term iso is related to the ison of Byzantine church music and refers to the drone accompanying polyphonic singing. The drone is performed in two ways: either it is continuous and sung on the syllable ’e’, using staggered breathing; or the drone is sometimes sung as a rhythmic tone, performed to the text of the song. Rendered mainly by male singers, the music traditionally accompanies a wide range of social events, such as weddings, funerals, harvest feasts, religious celebrations and festivals such as the Albanian folk festival in Gjirokastra.

Albanian polyphonic music has been recognized by UNESCO since 2005 as an “intangible cultural heritage”
For more information, please visit www.isopolifonia.com

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