Culture/Traditions

The culture of the Gjirokastra district is characterized by a wealth of folk costumes, musical traditions and regional customs.  It 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 Famous and this product is well distributed around the country. Some small farmers produce honey and many of them cultivate grapes, apples, nuts etc.

The local dishes are famous and most of the tourist love to try Qifqi a vegetarian meat ball and Oshaf which is the unique desert of Gjirokastra.

Gjirokastra Costumes

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

Historically, an Albanian’s clothing allowed strangers to learn all kinds of things about them at a single glance—region of origin, marital status, the family’s wealth and position, age, and more.

Specialised craftspeople handmade these garments from cotton, wool and imported silk, decorating them with elaborate patterns and scenes in gold and silver thread and 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 UNESCO-recognized since 2005 as an “intangible cultural heritage.”
For more information please visit www.isopolifonia.com

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