Classical Tour of Albania
Berat is one of the best preserved Muslim cities in
is a very attractive Ottoman settlement along the banks of
the River Osum. It is divided into three quarters with the
castle at the top of the hill, Mangalem quarter beneath and
the Gorica quarter across the river. Originally there
was just the Gorica bridge downstream from the main
settlement connecting the two parts of the city. There is
now a modern foot suspension bridge.
The area has been settled since the C4th BC when a walled settlement was built on top of the cliff. This was one of the largest settlements in the region with links to Apollonia and Byllis. It was sacked by the Romans around 200BC and later conquered by Julius Caesar. Little is known about its history in Roman times but it continued to be an important ecclesiastical centre in Byzantine times. It was taken by the Bulgarian Empire in 860 and they held it until 1018 when it was retaken by the Byzantines. It survived an attack by the Angevins in 1280. Byzantine power waned and it eventually came under Ottoman rule in 1471 and remained in their hands for 500 years.
Berat was a strategic point on trading route where route from south met the lowland plain. There was a rapid period of urban development in the C16th when new housing grew up outside the castle.
Today Berat, along with Gjirokastra, is one of the best examples of Ottoman architecture withnarrow cobbled streets and houses with white washed walls and tile roofs scrambling up the hillside. It is often referred to as the ‘city of a thousand windows'.
Berat was declared a Museum City in 1961 and escaped destruction during Communist times. It was declare a World Heritage site in 2008.
We stopped in Hotel Mangalemi in the Mangalem quarter. This is a typical Ottoman house with a lot of character. The stone ground floor would originally have been used for storage with the living quarters above, with open balconies.
A passageway leads to a courtyard behind the hotel.
We had time before visiting the castle for a short guided walk around the Mangalem quarter and the Islamic Centre. Just down from the hotel is the Gate of the Pasha.
Inside are the ruins of the Pasha’s house which was bombed during the Second World War. It was originally a splendid building with two floors.
In the grounds is a Communist era Middle School.
Along the river front is the Bachelor’s Mosque which was built in the early C19th for the Bachelor’s Guild who were unmarried artisans who guarded the city at night. It has a portico, prayer hall and minaret. Around the top of the walls are murals painted between 1827-8.
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