These two fortified historic centres are remarkably well preserved, and this is particularly true of their vernacular buildings. They have been continuously inhabited from ancient times down to the present day. Situated in the Balkans, in Southern Albania, and close to each other, they bear witness to the wealth and diversity of the urban and architectural heritage of this region.
Berat and Gjirokastra bear witness to a way of life which has been influenced over a long period by the traditions of Islam during the Ottoman period, while at the same time incorporating more ancient influences. This way of life has respected Orthodox Christian traditions which have thus been able to continue their spiritual and cultural development, particularly at Berat.
Gjirokastra was built by major landowners. Around the ancient 13th century citadel, the town has houses with turrets (the Turkish kule ) which are characteristic of the Balkans region. Gjirokastra contains several remarkable examples of houses of this type, which date from the 17th century, but also more elaborate examples dating from the early 19th century.
Berat bears witness to a town which was fortified but open, and was over a long period inhabited by craftsmen and merchants. Its urban centre reflects a vernacular housing tradition of the Balkans, examples of which date mainly from the late 18th and the 19th centuries. This tradition has been adapted to suit the town’s life styles, with tiered houses on the slopes, which are predominantly horizontal in layout, and make abundant use of the entering daylight.
Criterion (iii) : Berat and Gjirokastra bear outstanding testimony to the diversity of urban societies in the Balkans, and to longstanding ways of life which have today almost vanished. The town planning and housing of Gjirokastra are those of a citadel town built by notable landowners whose interests were directly linked to those of the central power. Berat bears the imprint of a more independent life style, linked to its handicraft and merchant functions.
Criterion (iv) : Together, the two towns of Gjirokastra and Berat bear outstanding testimony to various types of monument and vernacular urban housing during the Classical Ottoman period, in continuity with the various Medieval cultures which preceded it, and in a state of peaceful coexistence with a large Christian minority, particularly at Berat.