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BBC: Kukësi, the first city nominated for the "Nobel" prize

2023-12-08 16:30:00, Kulturë CNA

BBC: Kukësi, the first city nominated for the "Nobel" prize

The prestigious British media "BBC" has dedicated an article to Kukes, the north-eastern city of Albania, where it describes it as the first city nominated for the "Nobel" prize.

The BBC reports that at the height of the war in Kosovo, Kukësi hosted more than 400,000 refugees. 

"Despite having a population of only 16,000, the small town, which is 20 kilometers from the border, welcomed a staggering number of refugees in makeshift homes and camps. Kukësi made a splash around the world and in 2000 became the first city to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The fame was short-lived. Already facing a host of crises after the fall of Albanian communism in 1992, once the war in Kosovo ended and refugees returned home, Kukësi experienced an exodus of its own, as 53% of residents left Albania's poorest city in looking for economic opportunities abroad", writes the British media.

It is further said that, now with the new international airport of Kukes, tourists are being lured by the generosity of the area's residents, their unique history of housing the Kosovar Albanians, mountain hiking trails and communist relics.

BBC: Kukësi, the first city nominated for the "Nobel" prize

In the article written by the tourist blogger, Richard Collett, the meeting with the tourist guide Bujar Kovaçi, who explains the history of the north-eastern city, is also mentioned.

“As the Nobel nomination showed, the people of Kukes are used to welcoming visitors – something I began to understand when we stopped outside a tower in Kukes' main square, which serves as a memorial to those who sought refuge here in 1999 and a small ethnographic museum. Kovaci explained how Kukësi managed to host hundreds of thousands of refugees from families who opened their homes to 90,000 people, while also setting up tents throughout its square, along the banks of the river and in the surrounding fields.

Until the city's sudden burst of fame in 2000, history, like the waters of the Drin River, had apparently forgotten Kukës for centuries. Founded by the ancient Illyrians, Kukësi was a territory ruled by the Roman, Byzantine and then Ottoman empires until Albania became an independent nation in 1912. After World War II, people saw how Kosovo Albanians were involved in The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, while Kukësi found itself on the border of the increasingly paranoid communist dictatorship of the Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha.

Hoxha ruled Albania with an iron fist, building a vast network of underground tunnels and bunkers throughout the country. However, those below Kukës, which began in the 1970s and stretch for about 7 km below the city, are the largest in Albania, with enough space to house the entire population of Kukës in case of war. The tunnels are still there and Afrim Cenaj, whose father served underground as an officer in the Albanian army in the 1980s, now leads tours in what the locals call the "underground city", the article points out./ CNA

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