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Argirocastro

town, southern Albania. Lying southeast of the Adriatic port of Vlore, Gjirokaster overlooks the Drin River valley from the eastern slope of the long ridge of the Gjere mountains. The town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005 for its well-preserved centre built by farmers during the time of the Ottoman Empire. A 13th-century citadel marks the centre of town, and several tower houses known as kule represent the typical architecture of the 17th century. A mosque and two churches also remain from the 18th century. Picturesque, latticed houses sprawl upon the spurs of the mountain, nestling under the shadow of the fortress built by Ali Pasa, the Turkish grand vizier, in 1811. A centre of 19th-century Albanian nationalism, the town was the site of a meeting of the Albanian League in 1880 at which a resolution was passed demanding full autonomy from Ottoman rule. In the First Balkan War (1912-13), the town was claimed by Greece, and between 1939 and 1944 it was occupied in succession by the Italians, the Greeks, and the Germans. Gjirokaster was traditionally a centre of the Bektashiyah order of Muslims. The Albanian Communist Party leader Enver Hoxha was born there in 1908 of Muslim parents; his home was converted into a museum. Pop. (2001) 20,630.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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