hidden europe 23

One summer of fame: Kukes in Albania

by Nicky Gardner


Remember Kukes? There was a time when the Albanian town was in the news every day. hidden europe visits the community that was once nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The casual visitor arriving in Kukës in northern Albania might be forgiven for thinking that there is no special reason to linger in this last town before the border with Kosovo. On the face of it, the place is lacklustre. Thirty years ago, residents of the old city of Kukës watched as their town was slowly engulfed by the rising waters of a new reservoir. The then Albanian leader, Enver Hoxha, congratulated the community for sacrificing their homes to Lake Fierza. It was all for the greater good of Albania, and the Tirana government rewarded the people of Kukës with a new town built on the side of the lake. It is a decent enough spot, surrounded by great mountains, but 1978 clearly was not a memorable year for Albanian architecture. There are some nice pieces of socialist realism, all now looking very dated, and a hefty dose of concrete. The new town of Kukës also has a very striking mosque, but that was built with Egyptian funding only in the post-Hoxha era. It has the air of a building that should more properly have been constructed on the edge of the Sahara desert rather than in a mountain valley in Albania.

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