Zekate House in Gjirokaster, Albania
This stunningly restored Ottoman mansion is rich in history.
Gjirokastr is a picturesque town in southern Albania known for its namesake castle and quaint cobblestone streets. The city's historical region is an archaeological collection of idyllic architectural gems, but one stands out from the crowd: the Zekate House.
Gjirokastër was a component of Rumelia, an Ottoman Empire province in southeastern Europe, at the turn of the 19th century. Rumelia was divided into divisions of administration, each of which was led by a pasha. Gjirokastër was a member of an organisation commanded by Ali Pasha, a political figure infamous for his ability to negotiate and the atrocities committed to his name. Ali Pasha would deal brutally with dissident aspects and generously reward loyalty. Ali Pasha's generosity to his allies comprised constructing an imposing tower house in Gjirokastër, which he subsequently presented to the town's administration, Beqir Zeko.
The house's name, Zekate, is a descriptive variant of the surname Zeko, built between 1811 and 1812 using regional stones and wood. This structure is a fine example of Ottoman architecture in Albania.
Zekate House has four floors, all accessible via wooden stairs. The lower level, referred to as katoqi, was designated for food storage, firewood storage, and the storage of all appliances used for cooking. Women spent almost all their time on the first level, and a big room with an ottoman indicates that this may have served as the equivalent of a living space. The sleeping areas are on the second level, with a fireplace, primitive bathrooms, and a hammam.
Finally, the top level has three open rooms, two with large windows to mitigate summer heat and one with fewer, smaller windows and a massive fireplace appropriate for winter.
The audience chamber between the two towers is quite spectacular. It is painted with vivid floral designs, and its tinted windows contribute to the room's vitality. A conventional sofa wraps around the room, and a big rug covers the entire floor. This accommodation leads to a balcony with a stunning view of Gjirokastr Castle and the Drino Valley.
Apart from the stones, Zakate House is notable for preserving the original construction's wooden elements, such as the staircase, built-in wardrobes, lattice woodwork, ceiling, and the complicated framework supporting the roof.