Administrative Unit Shkrel – Malësi e Madhe
“In my studies to learn something about the Shkrel’s tribe and its inhabitants, I’ve had the same success as Hahn and Ecquardi.”, – says a famous scholar of this area, Franc Baron Nopça.
Shkrel is an administrative unit of the municipality of Malesi and Madhe, about 10 km north-east of Koplik and only 20 km from Shkodra, with an area of 20,282 hectares. Shkreli was an Illyrian tribe that arrived in this area in the XI century from Dalmatian lands. Once established here, they found four small tribes: the Xhaji (a Dukagjin tribe), the Vukelaj, the Kolaj and the Kapllaj. The first of the inhabitants of Shkrel to come to these lands was Lek Shkreli with his four children, with whom he created four large villages: Vrrithi, Dedaj, Bzheta and Zagora. Now Shkreli has 12 villages: Dedaj, Bogë, Bzhetë, Bzhetë – Makaj, Upper Lohe, Vrrith-Razem, Vuç – Kurtaj, Zagorë, Qafëgradë, Reç, Repisht, Kokpapaj.
Since 2015, the local government in collaboration with an international institution has declared Shkrel a “Regional Natural Park”, while the new law calls it the Municipal Natural Park, but it is also known as the “Gate of the Alps”. There are two important tourist routes through Shkrel: one in Theth and the other in Razem, and the whole park is crossed by the canyon of “Përroi i Thatë” (Dry Stream).
The number of population in this area had numerous fluctuations, with the largest population decline seen during the wars in the Balkans, with less than 300 families. The number increased sharply in the years between 1945 and 1990 going to 1500 families, to then begin the continuous decline to date, in which we only have 881 inhabited houses (statistics processed in the summer of 2017 by VIS Albania).
From an archaeological point of view, Shkrel is known for the first fortified settlement of Marshei from the Iron Age, but various archaeological materials have been found in many other places, which confirms that it was the first inhabited place in this province, as well as the Ballexa Castle, another first known settlement of our history.
“Each house in Shkrel welcomed guests. After dinner we sang Albanian songs that are unique”, says Edith Durham in her writing, a tradition that continues today, where Reç, in the shade of chestnuts, developed the tourism of restaurants, Razma in the middle of the pine forest, the hotel tourism while Boga along its valley has developed guesthouses and campsites to accommodate guests who can enjoy all three of these villages in one day, as the distance between them is only 20 minutes, traveling anywhere along the Dry Stream Canyon.