This ethnographic museum and house of former Albanian leader Enver Hoxha, provides a rich insight into the lives led by the upper-classes in the 19th and 20th centuries, and offers an interesting insight into a key period of Albania’s history.
If you find yourself walking through the beautiful cobbled streets of Gjirokastra, and ask for directions to the Ethnographic Museum, the locals may respond with a puzzled look. If you cleverly change the question, and ask for Enver Hoxha’s house, you’ll most likely get your answer within seconds, and accurate instructions to reach it! Though officially called The Ethnographic Museum, Enver Hoxha’s childhood home is still better known to locals by its former name. This former leader’s powerful image still arouses a strong sense of curiosity in Albanians, who remain fascinated with his personal life. Even foreign tourists, who want to learn more about Albania, soon realise that much of the country’s history can be discovered inside the childhood home of Enver Hoxha.
The castle neighbourhood “Palorto”, is home to some of the country’s most famous houses: that of the internationally-known Albanian author, Ismail Kadare, and those of the Cabej, Babaramo and Fico families. All of these houses represent constructions of rare architectural value, but none quite possess the magnetic pull of Hoxha’s house. The locals say that this 3-storey house was burned when Hoxha was only eight years old, and rebuilt after the country’s liberation in 1944, becoming a museum in 1966. Initially, the museum displayed the dictator’s various activities and the martyrs of war, but following the fall of communism in 1991, it was transformed into an ethnographic museum. Though the house no longer contains Hoxha’s personal items or original furniture, it carefully details the traditional life of an upper-class family from Gjirokastra.
The rooms appear still-functional, decorated with artistic objects that convey the culture of wealthy families of the 19 century. The ground floor, predominantly built in stone, was used for the winter. The first floor has traditionally low ceilings and small windows, while the second floor, higher than the others and worked mostly in wood, houses the guest room. The third floor holds the most beautiful room of the entire house, called a cameretta: a big, open space with high ceilings, where women conversed and looked out onto the town. In its entirety, the house does not only give an idea of a leader’s childhood dwellings, but instead a significant part of Gjirokastra’s culture – a culture that this important city gave to the entire nation.