Shkodra is a city in northwestern Albania, it is one of the oldest and most historic places in Albania, as well as an important cultural and economic center. During many different epochs it has retained its status as a major city in the Western Balkans, due to its geostrategic positioning close to the Adriatic and the Italian ports, but also with land-routes to other important cities and towns in neighboring regions. Its importance is heightened by the Lake of Shkodra to the west of the city—the largest in the Western Balkans—that straddles Albania and neighboring Montenegro. The population of Shkodra is 95,907, while Shkodra County has a population of 217,375.

Shkodra is an important educational and industrial center. The city produces various mechanical and electrical components, along with textile and food products. Luigj Gurakuqi University of Shkodra is one of the more prestigious learning centers of Albania. The public library of the city contains more than 250,000 books. Several other cultural institutions exist, such as the Cultural Center, the Marubi Photo Archives, the Artists and Writers Association, the Migjeni Theater the Gallery of Arts, and the Museum of History.

Shkodra is the center of Albanian Catholicism and the most prominent city of Roman Catholics in Albania. Historic cultural architecture includes the Castle of Shkodra, the Turkish Bath, and the Lead Mosque. The Castle of Shkodra became famous during the First Balkan War when it was protected by the Turkish general Hasan Riza Pasha and Esad Pasha. Many festivals take place on an annual basis such as Carnival, Children Festival, Lake Day, and Shkodra Jazz Fest. Shkodër is also famous for its Islamic scholarship. The site of the only institution in Albania which provides high-level education in Arabic and Islamic Studies.

City tunes differ from the rural music of the land, but both enjoy popularity in Shkodra. Northern music is a refined combination of romantic and sophisticated undertones with oriental-sounding scales and a constant interplay of major and minor. It bears a significant affinity with the sevdalinke of Bosnia and the neighboring region of Raska Oblast in Serbia, but differs from them in their extreme forms while maintaining a typically Albanian quality through the exceptional fluidity of rhythm and tempo. Early descriptions of such music groups, which date from the end of the 19th century, suggest use of the violin, clarinet, saze, defi, and sometimes Indian-style harmonium and percussion (provided by rattling a stick between two bottles). Today, the accordion and guitar have replaced the more exotic instruments.



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