The small town of Kruja (or Krujë when in a sentence with a preposition as in "to", "in" or "from" Kruja) is located 32 kilometres northwest of Tirana at the foot of sheer Mount Krujë (Mali i Krujës), at an altitude of 560 metres with a population of around 16,000. Krujë's old bazaar is well preserved, but now houses mainly souvenir shops where traditional Albanian costumes, musical instruments, old books and memorabilia of the Communist days can be bought. With its cobbled streets and little mosques it is a very photogenic place.
George Kastrioti (Gjergj Kastriot), born in 1405, was the son of a local ruler who was taken hostage with his two brothers by the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I, to ensure obedience by their father who had opposed him. The boy converted to Islam, attended military school and led many battles to victory. He obtained the title " İskender Bey", meaning "Lord Alexander", in Albanian "Skënderbeu". In 1443, during a battle against the Hungarians, he switched sides with 300 of his men and trekked to his native Krujë. He captured its castle, converted to Christianity, raised the double-headed eagle flag and fought for many years against the Turks, winning 13 battles, until his death in 1466. Krujë eventually fell in 1478 and a year later Albania was part of the Ottoman Empire.
The citadel or castle of Skanderbeg is built on an isolated spur of the limestone mountain-wall of the Krujë range, and has spectacular views of the surrounding region. The site is still inhabited and home to a large museum dedicated to Albania's national hero; it was designed by Enver Hoxha's daughter and son-in-law and displays paintings and replicas of armour; Skanderbeg's original helmet and sword are kept in a museum in Vienna. On the edge of the spur is the Dolma Teqe, a place of worship for the Bektashi branch of Islam built in 1789. Bektashism is considered to have blended a number of Shi'a and Sufi concepts, although the order contains rituals and doctrines that are distinct unto itself. The veneration of Imam Ali is central to Bektashi faith and a portrait of him is prominently displayed in the main room. Another small "tekke", the Teqja e Baba Maksurit, is just outside the citadel of Krujë along the path leading into town. Along the same path is also a "hamam", an Ottoman bath house. The citadel of Krujë also includes a beautifully restored 19th Century house of an affluent Albanian family during the Ottoman epoch that now serves as the Ethnographic Museum. Its rooms are wonderfully preserved with original furniture, fittings and weapons hanging on the walls giving a good impression of life in those days.