Rugova Mountains

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The view of Rugova Mountains from Peja City

Rugova (/ˈrɡɒvə/) is a mountain region located in the north-west of the city of Peja, in Kosovo. It is the third region of Bjeshkët e Nemuna (The Cursed Mountains), and is also known as the Albanian Alps. In 2013 it was announced as a national park by the Parliament of Republic of Kosovo.

Rugova is an ethnographic region,[1] with a great importance for the literary branches such as lexicology, etymology and onomastics. Rugova is a suitable region for hiking, skiing, mountaineering, paragliding, picnics, etc.

It was ranked as the fourth most important center for winter sports by the International Ski Federation (ISF) with the base in Lucerne. Furthermore, in April 2013, Peja won the award of Tourism for Tomorrow for the project Peaks of the Balkans.[2]

Rugova is rich with many landform elements such as caves, waterfalls, glacial lakes, high peaks, tunnels, etc. The highest peak is Hajla (2403 m), however Qafa e Qyqes (Cuchoo's Neck) also has an equal importance, because one can observe the whole city of Peja from it. From Guri i Kuq (1522 m) one can also observe places such as: Gjeravica, Boriqe (Three border region), Maja e Mariashit (Peak of Mariashi), Maja e Hekurave (Iron Peak), Shkëlzeni and the lake of Plava. Volujaku is also a high peak (2014 m).

Four kilometers from Peja you can find the only via ferrata in the Balkans.

Rugova offers good living conditions even though the number of residents has dramatically decreased.

Rugova Map


Lugu i Shkodres

The term “Rugovë” derives from the word “rrugë” which means “street”, as a lot of very important roads have crossed this region. The only route that connected Albania with Montenegro went through Rugova. The oldest name “Shtupel” dates back to 1292, and it represented the two Rugova’s villages : Shtupeqi i madh and Shtupeqi i vogël. The meaning of this nomenclature is related with the word “stëp” which represented the individual who was involved in making dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.

All the names of the villages of Rugova root in the Albanian language. For example, the village of Dugaivë is based on the word duka which represented a member of nobility; Kuqishta is named after the red rocks and stones that can be found in this area; Reka e Allagës is derived from a noble in the region of Rozhaja and Stankaj from Stank Nika who was very famous. However, there has always been a tendency to change these names and give them Slavic connotations, due to the conflicts between Serbs and Albanians.

The naming in Rugova is based on some features, such as:

  • Natural: Gropa e Borës, Kërshi i Madh, Qafa e Deshve, Neqinati etj.
  • Ethnographic: Guri i Nuses, Qafa e Dasmorëve, Livadhi i Gjakut, Sheu i Qyqes etj.
  • Historical: Kodra e Trimave, Vorret e Shehitëve, Hajla e Keqe etj.
  • Native: Bjeshkët e Kelmendit, Bregu i Kishës, Kroi i Nikçve, Maja e Nikë Dedës, Lugu i Shkodrës, Qafa e Rexhajve etj.
  • Masterly: Maja e Lopëve, Guri i Çobanit, Llazet e Kuajve, Kërshi i Cjapit, Shpella e Martinit etj.

Rugova is enriched with new toponyms every now and then. For example, some of these new toponyms are: Kodra e Shkollës, Lëndina e Shkollës etj. [3]


Rugova Lake

Rugova is placed on a latitude of 42°44’N 20°3’E, in a distance of 93 km from Prishtina. It covers a territory of 20330 ha and lies from East to West in a longitude of 23 km. It is between the mountains of Hajla, Shtedim, Lumbardh and Kopranik. The Lumbardhi River splits the mountain in half thus forming a valley and a canyon (Rugova Gorge).[4]

85% of the territory is covered by forests, while 15% by alpes pasture. The terrain is rugged with limestones and bluff slopes and deep-narrow erosive gorges. Mountain sites are with a slope of 15°-30° but occasionally they reach 45°-90°. The terrain is composed of various forms of numerous karst such as caves, natural tunnels, waterfalls, glacial lakes etc.[5]

The region of Rugova is divided into 13 villages (Shtupeqi i Vogël, Shtupeqi i Madh, Reka e Allagës, Drelaj, Pepiq, Malaj, Kuqishtë, Dugaivë, Haxhaj, Stankaj, Bogë, Shkrel dhe Koshutan) and five small neighbourhoods (Llaz, Bellopaq, Pecaj, Ujëmirë, Dreshaj). These villages are 2–7 km far from each-other.

Many important roads pass through Rugova: Shkodra’s valley relates Rugova with Tropoja and Shkodra, Qafa e Çakorrit leads to Plave and Guci, Qafa e Dasmorëve relates Rozhaja and Qafa e Hajlës with Dacaj and Husaj.[6]


Winter in Rugova
Spring in Rugova

Rugova has wet continental climate with mountain influence, short and hot summers, but long and harsh winters. Spring is belated and the temperatures change within a day. Sunny hours are not very long. High level of precipitation is a result of clashes between hot/humid tropical and continental climates. Maximum precipitation is in December (372.6mm), and minimum in July (0.3mm). Annual minimum and maximum are 540.6 mm and 1336 mm, respectively.

Snow is present on the peaks until August, with a depth ranging from 30 cm to 2m.

Average temperature during springtime fluctuates from 4.4 °C – 7.5 °C, during summer from 10.6 °C – 17.2 °C, during fall 5.2 °C and in winter from -10 °C until -15 °C. [7]


Kaça, typical fruit
A flower in Rugova

Rugova region is characterized by a multitude of habitats such as meadows, pastures, bushes and shrubs, forests, foothills, holes, slopes, streams, gorges, river water, pond water, caves, karst pits, half-wet properties, almost dry properties and limestone, acids with red, purple and black colours, coastlines and valleys, massive rocks and shed stones.

This variety of habitats indicates high diversity of vegetation.

Rugova's region vegetation is present as in central Europe altitudes, but it also grows plants that are characteristic of Balkans or only for this region. Rugova region distinguishes four areas of plants (beech, oaks, coniferous forests and alpine pastures):

Beech zone[edit]

This area lies at the height of 800-1000m and it is quite rich. It mainly occupies the lower part of the region and is represented by Dudi ( Morus ), Ahu ( quercus ), Qarri. We can also find Mëllëza ( ostrya carpinifolia ), Krekëza ( Acer monspessulanum ), Frashëri ( Fraxinus ) etc. Herbaceous vegetation consists of Tërfil ( Clover ), Vjollcë ( Violet ), Grashinë ( Vicia ), Flokëzi, Makthi ( Melilotus), Zhabinat etc.

Oak Zone[edit]

It lies above the beech zone at the height of 1000-1600m but it can be found in lower areas too. Oak forest constitutes a generally degraded forest, where a massive cut for use as coal and heat is seen. This forest is young, with thin and tall trees, and in shrub forms too. Oak zone forms a strong shadow, therefore low vegetation is rare and favours the growth of funghi.

Coniferous zone[edit]

In the upper part of the beech you can find ‘’’Rrobulli’’’ that reaches the height of up to 2200m altitude, making it the highest limit of tree vegetation. These forests are composed by black pine, white spruce, black spruce etc. Coniferous forests are dense, while the plant cover is composed of kserofile ( xerophyte ) vegetation that favours funghi growth. Perennial herbs are: Fiershqipja ( Pteridophyte ), strawberries, blueberries, blackberries etc.

Alpine pasture zone[edit]

Characteristic of this zone is the lack of the forest. This zone is mainly formed from herbaceous plants and shrubs. The main species are:

The types of vegetation are:

  1. Beech forest. 600-1000m
  2. Oak Forest. 800-1000m
  3. Coniferous forest (Rrobulli). 1300-2200m
  4. Broadleaf forest.
  5. Mediterranean Coniferous forest.
  6. Mesophyte Herbaceous plants.
  7. Xerophyte Herbaceous plants.

Campanula foliosa is a perennial plant that grows in subalpine meadows and on the foot of forests. In Rugova region this plant can be found in Neqinat.

Phyteuma orbiculare is a perennial herb of alpine pastures. In Rugova it is found in the peak of Rusolia.

Asyneuma trichocalycinum is a perennial herb of subalpine forests. This plant is also found in Neqinat.[8]


Rugova consists of an entirety of habitats that are very suitable for the abundance of living organisms. The region features a rich fauna both in diversity, spread or rare and endangered species.

Great importance for Rugova and for the life in it, have pets such as: sheep, horses, donkeys, mules etc.

Colored sheep
Paradise horse in Rugova
A goat
Order Insectivora
Family Erinacidae (Hedgehogs)
Family Talpidae (Moles)
Family Soricidae (Shrews)
Order Rodentia
Family Sciuridae (Red Squireel)
Family Grilidae (Crickets)
Family Muridae (Rodents)
Order Chisoptera
Family Rhinolophidae (Horseshoe Bat)
Order Carnivora
Family Ursidae (Bears)
Family Canidae (Dogs)
Order Lagomorpha
Family Laporidae (Rabbits)
Order Artiodactyla
Family Suidae (Ungulates)

Poultries in Rugova region are :

Insects of Rugova are:

  • Ditëshkurtët,
  • Flatrafortët dhe
  • Fluturat (butterfly)

Fish that can be found are :



A Waterfall In Rugove

Rugova consists of a very dense water network. Although soil-rock limestone do not favor the presence of water, silicate plates do. They tolerate abundant water flows.

In the southern part of the area is the glacial lake of Kuqishta (1900m) which is filled with fresh water during all the seasons, and the lake of Drelaj (1800m), which dries up during the hot summer. Some lakes are also found on the northern part of the area, but all of them are unstable.

The water source in Haxhaj and the other one at the foot of the peak of Jelenku, gather in Kuqishtë, and create the Lumbardhi river, which is the main reservoir.

A twenty-five meter long waterfall is located at the sixth kilometer, it starts in the cliff and it flows into the river.

A water flow

In the northern side of the river, we can distinguish these trends:

  • Gurra e Saku Ramës and Shentë e Pepajve in the eighteenth kilometer.
  • Gërka e Koshutanit, gathers the water of the three villages, and the so-called Sheun e keq, to be shed in the seventeenth kilometer.
  • Sheu i Rek Allagës, which gathers water from Kroi i Hajlës and from three other villages, and then it flows in the water.
  • Sheu i Nikçve which bears water from Lugu i Shtedimit and Sheu i Llazeve, passes by two corn mills and it flows in at the thirteenth kilometer.
  • The river of Shushica is placed in the east part of the region, and it flows in Drini i Bardhë.
  • Some small streams floods from the southern part of the region, for example: Sheu i Llazit të mullinit, in the nineteenth kilometer.
  • Sheu i Përvarës, which brings water from Lumbardhi and Guri i Kuq, and flows in the river.
  • Milisheva river in the fourth kilometer flows in the Lumbardhi river.

These water streams are very strong, especially during the rainy seasons such as spring, autumn, and at the end of winter, when it is also noticed a big induce of sand and mud. All of these streams and shadoofs are potable, especially in the beginning of their flows. The presence of water in this region is very beneficial and contributes in the development of touristic centers. [10]


Great Cave

In the region of Rugova, the caves are present almost everywhere, and not fully explored.

Very often these caves became shelters for refuges and politically persecuted individuals, not just Rugovians but also Albanians from all areas. Although researchers did not have the appropriate attention, the natives have written novels about these caves.

Some of the largest caves are: Cave of Karamakazi (third kilometer), Cave of Ruta e Gurrës (Drelaj), Great Cave and Cave of Radavc in the North-East of Rugova.

Radavc Cave is the most researched cave and simultaneously the greatest. This cave, at depths of 30–40 m consist of corridors where the water had been found, while in depths are three small lakes.

In this cave was found the femur of a human leg which is estimated to be over 2.40 m and a container with a capacity of 80-100L. This place can host about 30,000 people, similar to what the city of Peja could host at that time. [11]


Cochoo's Neck, Shtupeqi i Vogel

In the Ice Age the Albanian Alps were covered with ice up to Vermosh, and the Cursed Mountains as a part of them too. The region of Rugova was more covered with a thickness of ice compared to the other mountains in Kosovo, therefore in this place we have a greater spread of glacial forms, especially in the crests of the mountains where Glacial Lakes were formed, as: the Lake of Kuqishta,the lake of Drelaj etc.

A big part of the glacier was released to the river Mbushtria, the flow of Lumbardh and Ibri rivers in Rozhaja, forming thick horizons of moraine.

Peja glacier was 25 km long, which formed the Rugova Gorge, sinking large amounts of morena material (260m), which was the biggest morene in the Balkans region.

Low relief are settlements along the Mbushtria river, a part of Shtupeqi i Madh and partly Kuqishta village.As shaped pits are the villages such as: Drelaj, Koshutan, Haxhaj and Llaz-Bellopaqi, which is the deepest pit in the region, formed by tectonic movements or it might be a crater of a volcano. Kuqishta and Shkreli villages are in the form of hills. Shtupeqi i Madh is a valley slope. Steep terrains are the villages such as: Pepaj, Malaj and Shtupeqi i Vogël. Dugaiva is known as a mesa.Rugova is also an area of natural hazards such as: landslides, rock slides and also any slight contusion.

Rugova Canyon

At the ninth kilometer lies the active part whereof the snowslip starts, from Bjeshka e Lumbardhit, which with a high speed crosses the river Mbushtria and blocks the road in a 6–8 m height of snow. Meanwhile at the fifteenth kilometer lies the periodic snowslip. In 1982, due to deforestration, in the village of Koshutan a very large avalanche fell and 11 residents died.[12]


The early history[edit]

The Balkans has been inhabited since prehistoric times. There are signs that Rugova has been populated since the time when people lived in caves. This was proven by the femur of a man's foot found in the cave of Radavc, but also by a petroglyph that is believed to be from the time of Pelasgians.[13] As an ethnographic province, it is not sufficiently studied by sciences, as archeology. The early history of this place is best transmitted through the traditions of this place.

Medieval and Ottoman Period[edit]

The official documents about Rugova belong to the 13th century but this area was massively populated two centuries later. After the invasion of Balkans by the Ottoman Empire (1389) Rugova was known as a part of the Sanjak of Scutari meanwhile from the 16th century it was part of the Sanjak of Dukagjin. Rugova became a part of the Kosovo Vilayet after the new administrative division that happened in the 19th century.

The highland had a kind of autonomy from the Ottoman Empire.[14] They were exempted from the obligations of the Ottoman Empire, but time after time there were conflicts between the natives and the invaders. In 1638, the Ottoman Empire sent an army of 15,000 soldiers to invade this region. However, their attempt was unsuccessful because soon the Ottomans were forced to turn away. Eleven years after that, in 1649, highlanders attacked the Meduni's castle. Three days after the attack they occupied it and won more autonomy. The fighting restarted in 1700 when the High Porte charged the Pasha of Peja to vanquish Rugova, whereby 27 families moved from Rugova to Peshter, Novi Pazar.

The Rugovians supported the war against the Ottoman Empire by participating in the Austro-Turkish War in 1737-1739. Besides all, the greatest contribution was given for the national movement.[15]

The Albanian National Movement[edit]

Rugovians were always ready to fight for freedom. They participated in the Assembly of the League of Prizren in 1878 (representatives: Sali Jaha, Çelë Shabani), and were crucial to the result of the Battle of Noksic, which was the first victory of the League of Prizren. They also participated in the Assembly of Peja in 1899 (11 representatives), and the Assembly of "Verrat e Llukes" in 1903 (two representatives). Rugovians had a key role in the armed uprising in 1904, attended also by the Peja and Gjakova. After the Young Turk revolution opposition, in 1908, Rugovians found themselves in front of the Ottoman army, equipped with 24 cannons. Also, in the Albanian uprisings that characterized 1912, Rugova was also bloody. Meanwhile, on the 28th of November 1912, Rugova sent, in Vlora, 60 villagers in support of Independence of Albania. After the London Conference of Ambassadors in 1913, Kosovo had been definitively divided from Albania.

The brutalities to change the religion and ethnicity of the inhabitants of Rugova from Albanian to Serbian Orthodox coupled with the disarmament of Albanians, the deprivation of fundamental rights resumed throughout 1913 and 1914. During the years 1915 - 1918, Rugova was occupied by Austro-Hungary while Serbian authorities reinstated it in 1918. In Rugova, in 1919, an armed uprising erupts.

The natives fought against the 3rd Serbian Army. Most prominent leaders were: Zhuj Selmani, Sali Rama, Ker Sadria, Zhuk Haxhia etc. During these years, 410 Rugovian houses were burned. The Kaçak movement, as in Kosovo, was also organized in Rugova. [16]

World War II[edit]

Rugova was under the Italian power during the World War II. In this period the first municipality was formed, headed by Zhuj Ker Bardhi and the first Albanian school was opened in this area.[17] In the meantime, in 1942, because of the betrayal by Montenegrin, the border was closed. Under war circumstances, four bands were formed for defensive reasons, composed half of civilian and half of military formations.

  1. The band of Zhuk Haxhia
  2. The band of Sali Rama
  3. The band of Rizë Zymeri
  4. The band of Sak Fazlia[18]

Among the fighters, there were female-fighters who defended their honour with weapons, as was the case of Bekë Maliqa (Bekë Alia) who killed 7 soldiers.

The National Liberation Movement in Rugova had a short life because the natives had lost their faith. In November 1944 Rugova and Peja were liberated.[17]

Rugova after World War II[edit]

With the formation of Yugoslavia, Kosovo was proclaimed as the Socialist Autonomous Province of Serbia. As in any other period, there were conflicts between the Rugovians and the regime. The clashes with the communists began since 1945. In Rugova, the Albanian Anti-Communist National-Democratic party was formed with the mayor Sylë Mehmeti (he died in the prisons of Yugoslavia). This was the first party in Kosovo and operated until 1952. During the Yugoslavian period many Rugovians were active in the organization of the protests and demonstrations in the whole Kosovo. While Rugova became the center of major covenants to stop the feud, first in 1970 and then in 1990 when the great action of conciliation had started by Anton Çetta. Rugovians had rejected the power many times as in the case of schools, electrification etc. So there were many political prisoners. In the nineties the LDK (Kosovo Democratic League), Intellectual associations, humanitarian association and the council of Albanians returnees were formed. [19]

Kosovo War[edit]

Rugova was a shelter of the great patriots such as Hasan Prishtina, Haxhi Zeka etc. Therefore, during the last war in Kosovo, Rugova had a main role in this aspect, sheltering the population who were left homeless and were seeking for a way to get into Montenegro and possibly Albania. In Rugova also acted a branch of KLA, commanded by Smajl Hajdaraj, known as “The 136 Rugova Brigade”.

There were continuous attacks and confrontations, burning of houses by Serbians and human massacres. During this time there were families, who did not let go of their lands even for a moment. These families gave large contributions and helped the KLA by supplying them with food, medicines, and other tools. Many natives joined this brigade and there were many people who helped by supplying weapons.

The Rugovian lawyer, Bajram Kelmendi, was the first one to press charges in Hague against the criminal, Milosevic.[20]

Rugova had major material damages and lost its most notable people during this war.


Rugova Canyon

Ethnically, Rugova is a pure area with a population of approximately 100 inhabitants known as gheg who came from Kelmend (Malësia e Madhe).[21] Therefore the population is divided into tribes who are part of the great brotherhoods of Kelmend: Lajç, Nikç, Muriq, Vukël and Selcë. According to a legend, generations were created by the four sons of the tribe leader, with the origin from Bishtanini. The sons of Nikë Deda come to the land of Rugova, and they named villages by their names such as Drelaj from Dreli, Stankaj from Stank, Pepaj (Pepiq) from Pepi, Nokshiq from Noku etc. However, a part of inhabitants settled here to revenge.[22]

The first official census dates back to 1484 noted in documents of the Ottoman Empire for Shkodra.[23] According to these documents, during the 15th century Rugova had 69 houses with 114 inhabitants. In the documents there are also data for some villages of Rugova, thus we can suppose that Shtupeq (38 houses during that time) and Boga (2 houses in that time) were separated from the region of Rugova.

For more than 436 years there has been no evidence or data on the population. Because of the hostility with the regime, inhabitants frequently boycotted registrations.

Later on, since 1921 they organized them themselves as shown in the table:

Year Inhabitants
1921 915
1931 2176
1948 2873
1953 3097
1961 3275
1971 3368
1981 2451
Years Natality
1948-1953 +7.7%
1953-1961 +5.7%
1961-1971 +2.8%
1971-1981 -27.2%
1948-1981 -14.6%

Year Women Men
1900-2000 49.14% 50.86%

A lot of emigrations happened because of the several wars, but the massive ones were those after the World War II, especially after the 1960s when the pressure from Yugoslavian regime rose. [24]

Life in Rugova[edit]

A view from a village

Rugova is a special, ethnically pure Albanian environment which has been maintained for years.[21]

Since Rugovians were isolated from Ottoman Empire as part of Sanjak of Scutari for a long period of time they could only trade with Shkodra. However, from the year 1959 Rugova belonged to the municipality of Peja.

The tribal organization was very similar to medieval times since the only decision-making form was that of “Kanun of Lek Dukagjini”. This organization imposed the overall lifestyle. The house-like towers, were composed of large groups of people with around 50-70 members. Each house had their own family background which determined how they were treated from the society, whether with great honour or humiliation.

Rugovians are a model of typical Albanian, hospitable, generous, brave and loving. Above all, they are proud and trustworthy, traits which are mentioned throughout history. In addition, they are very hard-working, mostly involved with farming. Their lifestyle has gone through changes, long ago a family used to have up to 1000 sheep and around 50 cows and horses. Nomad shepherds, during the winter would move to the Dukagjin Region and in Peshter, Montenegro for months until the winter was over. The head shepherd was an uneducated and self-taught veterinarian.[25]


Until recently, due to the barriers that separated the mountains from the valleys, Rugovians would only marry within their mountain territory. Rugovians would never marry with someone from their own tribe, no matter the circumstances.

Rugovian nights were characterized with the gathering of men in “oda” (chamber) where traditional games and songs were combined with traditional instruments such as lahuta and çiftelia. These "odas" were lightened only by pine sticks or naphtha lamps until 1983, when Rugovians stubbornly opposed Yugoslav power of this region and electrified the place.[26]

The typical Rugovian women had an important role in the family; they were treated equally to men and it would not be a surprise to see them fight next to their men during wars. At times, women denied their female traits and took the role of their father’s son. These females were called “burrnesha” who changed their names, never got married, attended Odas and led their families, just as Amazons in antiquity.[13]

Apart from housework and raising children, women were also involved in handcrafting and sewing clothes and qylyms (rugs). Rugovians celebrate Spring day, Saint George Day(Shengjergj) and they are highly devoted to their Traditional Games.[27]


Patriarchate of Peć 2010

Rugovians were never very religious and they were never concerned with Muslims or Catholics. The nation came always first. Their religion is filled with a lot of elements of paganism.[28] Nevertheless, they stayed true to the identity of their ancestors and until 1703 there were no traces of Muslims, whereas other regions had already converted to that religion.[29]

Mosque in Drelaj

Struggling to protect their religion, in the 20th century and refusing to convert to Orthodoxy, there was a war with an other goal. Accepting the orthodoxy meant you were treading your nationality. In essence, this was the destination: the assimilation. Hundreds of Rugovians died in the wars of that century, but no one lost the nationality.[30]

All of the 13 villages had had churches until the Ottoman Empire came and demolished them. The first mosque was built in Drelaj in 1915, the second in Koshutan and the third one in Shtupeq i Vogel. The first imam was Mulla Sylë Rugova. All the other imams of Rugova's mosque, lived in Peja. Today in Rugova there is only one church in Kuqishte and the two mosques of the 20th century in Drelaj and Shtupeq i Vogel. Also, Peja's Patriarchate is situated in the entrance of Rugova, built in the 13th century, this was the main monument for Serbians in Kosovo. Since 2003 it has been protected by UNESCO, while for more than 300 years it was protected by a rugovian family,[31] called "vojvoda" meaning "sentry".

Culture and Tradition[edit]

Rugovian extendable table

The Cursed Mountains in general, and Rugova in particular are known for traditions and laws. The characteristics of this region are the costumes, dance, dialect, traditional games etc. Although the tradition there is still alive, a basic role is preserving of this tradition is played by the Native Ensemble "Rugova" which promotes all the values of this area.

Cultural investments are growing steadily. The amphitheatre in Malaj has been restored, which is currently being used for cultural meetings, whereas the amphitheatre in Reka e Allages is being used for the "Film Fest" presentations.

Apart from these, some traditional food are continually cooked there such as: flia, leqeniku, shëllira, maza e zier etc.


Main Page: Traditional clothing of Kosovo

Rugovian Women's clothing

Rugova has its own traditional costumes and we can find significant differences to women’s clothing.

Women’s clothing is filled with embroidery and beads with different colors and symbols. It consists of a tufted caul with short sleeves. On it, it is worn a dress embroidered with 120 parts, combined in a belt. A black vest is worn over the caul, called kracë. Qystek is issued from the neck to the waist. In the front part are settled some belchers, while pështjellaku is settled at the back whereon is settled shoka.[32]

Rugovian white maud

A red headscarf is placed on the head, from the wrist to the elbow are the black sleeves, and socks are also black. Leather socks (opingat) are the same for both men and women. Besides tirqi(Albanians traditional clothing) and plis(a white hat) that we face everywhere in Albania, characteristic of men of this region is the white maud which is placed on the head, and it is over three meters long. Maud is placed from the age 7 until they die, it serves to cover them after death.

Tirqit are worn with a caul, a belt, a vest and a kind of a black tunic (xhurdi).

Examples of tirqi are braies in Gaul, kilt in Scotland which remind us the Bavarian kilotons.[33]

Depending on the age the clothing changes. So, we have the type of clothing for girls, women and old women; boys clothes, men and elders

Pyrrhic Dance[edit]

Pyrrhic Dance is a mythical dance which has always been played by highlanders. This Crete's warrior dance was created from Korybantes (guards of the baby Zeus).

Korybantes to prevent Cronus from finding the place where his son, Zeus, was hidden, they covered the cries of the baby by the brandishing of their swords. Dorians took this dance to Sparta. Alexander the Great before the cede against Persia danced this dance, while Julius Caesar, after his stay in Illyria, made this dance known in Italy. The Albanologist Thelloczi asserts that Illyrians danced with swords in their hands as do Albanians today.[34]

Women have also their dance with handkerchief. There is also the combined dance which is danced by both women and men.



This region has a homophonic music, similar to the North Albanian region. Music is present in the life of Rugovians not only in weddings and other important events but also in the daily life: Men used to sing during the meetings in the “odas” and women while doing the daily work. The most special thing is that music was also played in funerals when a brave and outstanding person died. This was the greatest condolence and this kind of singing featured a particular privilege. Rugova has 54 epic songs dedicated to its heroes.[5] The oldest men who played the lute was Hysen Selman Husaj (1791-1876).[35] The most characteristic instruments are: Lahuta(lute), çiftelia and sharkia. It is worth to mention the melody created by leaves and the top-side singing (majekrahu) which is one of the most important singings of this area. In the past the top-side singing was used by two or more people as a way of communication from one hill to another.[36]

This area also possesses the famous instrumental Vallja e Rugoves(the dance of Rugova) which today is listened in weddings all over Kosovo and Malesia.

The Pyrrhic dance is also danced with this instrumental. Rugova remains as a “workshop” for the creation of epic songs and lullabies (ninullat). The lullabies (songs that are sung to the babies) are with a great importance because from these songs the babies got the best wishes for their future.

Traditional Games[edit]

Those games have a very important place in the culture of Rugova. Except all, organization of those games unites rugovians every year giving them an enjoyment. Every August, residents and immigrants play, dance, sing in a form of great picnic.

The participants demonstrate their physical skills. The games are allowable only for men. There are rules, judges and also the awards for winners. The traditional games have six disciplines:

The climbing up a pole[edit]

Arm Wrestling
Rope tow team

It is about climbing up to a shilor which is an 8-meter wooden pole. The goal is to touch the tip of pole as soon as possible, without any tools. Those who can do it within the shortest period of time are declared as winners.

Stone throw[edit]

The participants should throw a stone which weighs about 7 kg. The one who is able to throw the stone the furthest is declared as the winner of the race. This discipline comes from antiquity and it was played by Illyrians. Also, the other discipline called rrasa, which means "shoot by hand" which is played only by shepherds, comes from antiquity. The symbolic of this was "Do not touch my land, my stones will judge you".[37]

Arm Wrestling[edit]

There is a special table for this kind of discipline. Two participants are against each-other so the race is organized using elimination system. This discipline was played by Skanderbeg when he returned in Kruja. Because of this, in Romania this is called "Skanderbeg Game".


Free style wrestling is practiced. A regular fight lasts for five minutes, and it can continue for two more minutes. For every victory, the participant collects points and at the end, the winner is declared based on the collected points.

The shot-put[edit]

This discipline is based on the shoot of llastar (5-meter high tree with a diameter about 13 cm while near its top it is about 8 cm). The participants shot it using their hands. The winner is the one who throws the llastar farther.

Rope tow[edit]

This race is a teamwork, which consists of five members. The rope is thick and about 12-meter in length. There is a small flag in the middle. The team that can tow the rope and the flag in the middle is the winner. Usually, this is a competition between two tribes, two villages or two families. [38]


The form of phonetic speech is Gheg with the exception of the diphthong "ua" and the verbal traits that belong to the Tosk dialect. In the composition is stored Shkodra’s dialect. The biggest difference is in the vowels. The letter a is more pronounced which in articulation sounds like o. In some cases the letter a switches to i for example “livdoj” instead of “lavdëroj”, “gjimoj” instead of “gjëmoj” etc. The letter e vanishes while talking for example “çuditshe” instead of “çuditeshe”, “skuqshe” instead of “skuqeshe” etc. The letter ë is only stored before some consonants and in accusative. The most notable features are nasalization and denasalization which means that nasal vowels predominate. Diphthongs are fundamentally stored in exception of the diphthongized "oe" which is not heard at all. [39]


"Perparimi" High School, Drelaj

As a place which was occupied for hundreds of years, in Rugova education was forbidden. For a long period of time, education was in Serbian language with a tendency of assimilation. Even though these intentions were not met, this led to a very high level of illiteracy. The majority of the population were not educated up until the first half of the 20th century.

Despite the difficulties and obstacles, the desire for learning was always present which is proved by holding outdoor classes or in the private homes until 1930 when in Kuqishte the first elementary school was built. Later, in 1946 “Perparimi" Elementary School in Drelaj was opened. 6 years would pass until the first high school in Kuqishte was built and in 1956 the first generation of 17 pupils would graduate, which represented the first success of this region in the field of education. During the years 1947-1969, 8 more schools in other villages would open, branches of "1 Maji" High School in Haxhaj. Those schools had a lot of students. Apart from the absence of conditions, rugovians were faced with pressure from the Yugoslavs. This is proved by burning the house-school in 1953, the prohibition of income, trying attempts to close those schools. Extremely valuable contribution was given by teachers, among whom there were also women.

Despite these, rugovian schools and classes have reaped success in extracting generations and prominent personalities. The High School "Perparimi" also had its own magazine called "Gurra" in Albanian language, which among others examined the problems that Kosovo faced during that period.

On the desks of these schools the signing of petition for recognition the Republic of Kosovo which began, was later signed by the whole of Kosovo. During 1998/99 the school in Haxhaj turned into barracks of Kosovo Liberation Army while the school in Drelaj was illegally occupied from Montenegrins.

Nowadays in Rugova only one high school is still open,in Drelaj,and one class in Shtupeqi i Madh. The number of pupils that attend those classes is too low.[40]


Water factory "Rugove"

The economy of Rugova has always been based on its natural resources and doubtless on its labour power.

Livestock has always played its main role. Rugova always supplied the markets of Peja, Plava and Berane. Today, its products are only sold in the Peja markets.[41]

Cheese factory "Rugove"

Its forests are a very important resource, while the agriculture is a supplementary branch. In the time of Yugoslavia, an agriculture cooperative was opened where many natives were employed. But with fraying of relations between Kosovo and Serbia this cooperative was also closed.

Hydro power of Rugova has been utilized since the end of the war. The factory of water "Uje Rugove" is operating now there as well as the cheese factory as a part of the same company.


Rugova has large and attractive resources for tourism development. Lately, tourism has taken off. Mountain climate, nature beauties, the varied flora and fauna, investments in infrastructure such as: construction of commercial buildings, hotels, restaurants and private houses to serve and shelter the tourists, are the main factor enabling tourism. A large contribution is given from the Rock Climbing Association “Marimangat” which attracts locals and tourists to join them through adventures in these mountains. This association also enabled the building of “Via Ferrata”, the first and the only in Balkans, which enables climbing rocks for each one of the curious passersby.[42] Very attractive is also the Green Path which is used for walking and cycling around the mountains. Recently, Rugova`s announcement as a National Park marks the fulfilling of conditions for foreign investors.

Tourism in Rugova is divided into two branches: Business tourism and household tourism.

Business tourism[edit]

Business buildings suit the highlander nature of Rugova Mountains. Besides of the prosperous menu from European tables they also offer traditional foods. Motels and villas for long stay offer conditions and comfort for a wonderful vacation. Places that contribute more to the development of tourism are:

  • Hotel-Restaurant “Gryka” – Shtupeq i Madh
  • Restaurant “Mulliri”- Drelaj
  • Hotel “Rudi” – Bogë
  • Resort “Berati” – Bogë
  • Restaurant “Rugova Camp” - Shtupeq i Madh
  • Hotel-Restaurant “Ke Luani”-Bogë.
  • Neighborhood “Hani” - Shtupeq i Madh
  • Eko Hotel “Magra Austria”-Bogë
  • Villas “Kodra” –Bogë *Hotel “Rugova Relax” – Bogë

Each from the aforementioned places has its particulars that in one way or another attracts visitors. Thus, for example “Gryka” possesses two bears, “Mulliri” is the most antique restaurant built on the foundations of a mill, “Magra Austria” is provided with an internal pool and some other restaurants and hotels enable riding (horsemanship) and such activities that correspond to Rugova`s nature.

Household tourism[edit]

This tourism is represented from 6 home-hotels which offer place to stay as a guest house and where better than in any other place tourists set to know local traditions and the life of residents there. This tourism is developed from these resorts:

  • “Shqiponja” - Drelaj
  • “Lagjja e Kaprojve” - Reken e Allages
  • “Hajla Hut” - Pepaj
  • “Llazi i Ujkut” - Pepaj
  • “Sali Jaha” - Malaj
  • “Ariu” - Hokaj


Due to the historical past, sports in Rugova started developing later than in other countries, although there are sufficient resources. Today Rugova has several ski areas (one of them is equipped with a telpher), trails for hiking, parachuting runway etc. Also climbing rocks and mountaineering are towards development.


Boge, Rugova

Up to 1974 skiing was a part of mountaineering. Rugova is known as a cradle of skiing in Kosovo and Balkans. “Rusolia” was the first club from which were formed three other groups: “Peja”, “Alpi” and “Rugova”. “Rusolia” club has participated in the Olympic Games too.[43]

The most advanced track it is placed in Bogë, but it has many favorable tracks in other places too, for example: in Stankaj. In Bogë we can also find two skiing schools “Dardani” and “Ke Luani”.[44][45]


Mountaineering presents a recreation and sporting activity which has started in Peja in 1928.

Mountaineering, unlike Alpinism (hiking), means walking on the ground and climbing in height without any tool until you encounter with difficulties of nature: high craggy rocks.

Within the mountaineering group works the rescue group with the consisting of 30-40 people who help in cases of nature disasters.

Mountaineers march in four marching lines:

  • The southern side of the region (6 streets)
  • The Western and Northern side of the region (1 street)
  • From the centre to North (3 streets)
  • The Northern side (2 streets)
  • The eastern side (1 street)


Notable people[edit]

  • Ibrahim Rugova, the first President of Kosovo
  • Bajram Kelmendi, lawyer
  • Nekibe Kelmendi, deputy
  • Azem Shkreli, writer
  • Majlinda Kelmendi, judoka
  • Adrian Nikçi, footballer
  • Zymer Neziri, albanolog
  • Ramiz Kelmendi, writer
  • Çun Lajçi, actor
  • Esad Mekuli, poet
  • Nazmi Lukaj, journalist
  • Bashkim Lajçi, archaeologist
  • Ali Kelmendi, national figure
  • Nebih Muriqi, professional painter
  • Sali Mekaj, president of the Court of the Appeals in PRISHTINA
  • Ali Lajçi, ex-mayor of Peja
  • Sali Lukaj, politician
  • Salih Lajçi, Director, and he was commander of "Brigada 136 Rugova".


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External links[edit]