Gjirokastra or Gjirokaster, is a city in southern Albania, whose inhabitants are called Gjirokastra.The city is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2005 as one of the few surviving examples of the Ottoman-style commercial cities in the Balkans.
Located in southern Albania, Gjirokastra stands on the steep slopes of the Drino River valley, dominating a landscape rich in history, whose boundaries are outlined by the top of the mountain peaks. This is the “city of a thousand stairs”, which includes hundreds of Ottoman-style houses with distinctive stone roofs, wooden balconies and stone walls sometimes lined with lime.
Overwhelmed by its magnificent fortress rising on a rugged hill, Gjirokastra is a magical city with a troubled past. From the bastion of feudalism to the Ottoman jewel, then the important center of the Italian fascist invaders, the city has known many rulers and has inspired many poets, writers and artists. The city contains a population of 40,000 and is the economic and administrative center of the district of the same name.
The present-day city of Gjirokastra includes the Old Town, the castle (the first settlement nucleus) and the Ottoman-style quarters, built on crests, coming from the fortress to the valley floor where there are contemporary buildings and university complex. The traditional neighborhoods lie in the form of a rays around the castle with the names: Cfakë, Dunav, Manalat, Palorto, Varosh, Meçite, Hazmurat, Old bazaar.
The earliest history of the city is relatively unknown. Because of its proximity to the classical and Hellenistic centers: Jerma (Antigonea) and the Roman city of Adrianopolis near the village of Sofratica, it is often thought that the earliest settlement in Gjirokastra is the medieval fortress. But on this thesis, doubts have arisen as the discoveries inside the fortress have revealed pottery in 4 different residential stages before the Ottoman period: in the V – II centuries BC, the V – VII centuries, the IX-X centuries and the XII-XIII centuries. The earliest from these phases brought traces of a considerable wall made with blocks, suggesting that there was a significant fortification of the Roman era on this side of the Drino River valley (before 168 p.e.s).