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Prizren: Historic Stage Set for the Future

The heart of cultural heritage in Kosovo, Prizren is host to film lovers from around the world every year in the International Dokufest.

Shkumbin Brestovci

DOKUFEST, The International Documentary and Short Film Festival, is the largest film event in Kosova and probably also of the South East Europe. The Festival is organized in the summer in the picturesque and historical town of Prizren which attracts numerous international and regional artists. In this annually organized festival films are screened twice a day in three open air cinemas as well as in two regular cinemas.
 Except for its films, the festival is also well-known for lively nights after the screening. Various events happen within the scope of the festival: workshops, DokuPhoto exhibitions, festival camping, concerts, which altogether turn the city into a charming place to be.

The city of Prizren lies in the southern Dukagjini plane of Kosovo, on 640 square kilometers of territory. During history it was known as Theranda, a name which belongs to town of Suhareka nowadays. Prizren has a significant role in the region, business and economy wise, because of its geographic positioning in border with Albania and Macedonia. The city lies at 400 meters above sea level, while some of its surrounding hills of Sharri Mountains reach heights up to 2000 meters.

There are 240,000 in habitants in Prizren and its 74 surrounding villages, with diverse ethnic origins living in harmony, making the city cultural diverse. Except for the majority Albanians, the population is mostly Bosnians, Turks, Roma, Egyptian, Ashkali and a small number of other minorities. During the 11th century it was known as an important urban settlement. In 1019, it was the headquarters of the Byzantine Empire Church. During Serbian rule (12th till 14th century), the region became inhabited by Slavic population.

During the rules of Kings Dushan and Urosh, from time to time, Prizren served as the headquarters of these kingdoms. After occupation by Ottoman Empire (1455), there was a temporary loss in its significance, however it soon became a powerful economic, cultural and administrative (Sandzak and Vilayet administrative centers).

 In 19th century, Prizren was the second largest business and trade center in the Albanian territories, with more than 1,500 stores. Prizren holds a crucial role in the history of the Albanian National Movement; it was the host of the Albanian Union of Prizren, established on July 10, 1878. The temporary Albanian Government (1881) was also settled in the city of Prizren, presided by the famous citizen, Ymer Prizreni. Prizren has inherited a lot from its sensational past, especially compounds of cultural and historical values.

Among the most visited are: Shatirvan Square, the Fortress and the surrounding compounds, Church of Saint Premta, Church of Saint Saviour, Bajrakli Mosque, Safi Sinan Pasha Mosque, city’s Hamams (Turkish public baths), the city’s water sources, Stone Bridge and a large number of traditional folklore houses, inherited through centuries. Prizren is located, at around one and half hour time bus drive from the capital Prishtina. Bus lines from Prishtina, Gjakova and Ferizaj run on a regular basis. There are also direct lines from Prizren to Skopje, Albania and Belgrade.

In order to see the best of Prizren, one may need a full day’s time. Initially, it is recommended to park outside downtown, if travelling by car, since parking is an issue in downtown Prizren.

Behind Hotel Theranda, located in downtown Prizren, is the Sarachane / Kukli Beu Mosque, which was built in 1534. Next to the mosque is the Halveti Masjid (of the Dervish sect), more than 350 years old. While couple meters away is the house of Hasan Sheu, which is an 18th century house. Gazi Mehmet Pasha Hamam is located right behind the Kukli Beu Mosque. The Hamam was built in 1573, and was used by both men and women in separated rooms, functioning till 1926. Still near the Hamam, is the Emin Pasha Mosque.

On the way down further, the Katip Sinan Celepi Mosque is located, dating back to 1591, to be followed by the compounds of the League of Prizren, with the Bajrakli Mosque (or Gazi Mehmet Pasha Mosque, as it is also known) within its compounds, being among the most beautiful mosques in Prizren, built in 1566.

Several traditional and old houses are located on Xhevdeet Doda Street, being among them the house of Ymer Haxhi Prizreni, prime minister of the temporary government of the League of Prizren. For more information, please refer to: http://sq.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Ymer_Haxhi_Prizreni The Maksut Pasha Mosque is located opposite to the League of Prizren, has an old cemetery in its yard. Close to it, is the masjid followed by the Sa’adi Tarikhat, which was established by the Grand Masjid of Gjakova.

Rrapi Marashit, the two meter wide tree, is another rare attraction and natural beauty, which requires specific climate conditions.The monuments lay among both banks of the river, on which the 16th century Stone Bridge was built. On the other side of the river, is the Sinan Pasha Mosque, being one of the most beautiful and main mosque in Prizren; built in 1615.

Couple of meters away, after you pass the Shatirvan Square, the Saint George Cathedral is located.

The cathedral is still being protected by KFOR Troops. Not far from the cathedral, you may also visit the Church of Saint Savior, belonging to the 14th century and built in Byzantine style. Along the way, leading to the city’s fortress up on the hill, there is another Orthodox Church; located on the right hand side of the road, just below the fortress walls. On the way there, you may see the old houses, many of them being abandoned and empty nowadays. On top of the hill, is the city’s Fortress, from where one can have a beautiful view on the city and Pashtriku Mountains. Being known for its traditional values, Prizren also offers a taste of traditional food; mostly offering grilled specialties.