Albania is a small European country with many mountains, castles, and archaeological sites. It’s located across from Italy, separated by the Adriatic Sea. Let’s explore this country and what life is like there!
Population: 3 million
Key Cities: Durrës, Tirana, Elbasan, Vlorë
Official Language: Albanian
Major Religions: Muslim, Orthodox, Roman Catholic
Bordering Countries: Greece, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia
Size: 11,100 sq. miles
Lowest point: Adriatic Sea at sea level
Highest point: Mount Korab at 9,068 ft.
Albania, located on Southeastern Europe’s Balkan Peninsula, is slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Maryland.
It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea, and the land is mostly hilly and mountainous (lots of tall mountain ranges).
Forests and swamps are also common in Albania. Summers are warm and dry, and winters are mild and wet. In the mountains, however, winters are often severe (very cold) and summers are mild.
Albania is home to many diverse animals and plants, including over 3,250 plant species, 350 bird species, and 80 species of mammals.
In about 2000 BC, the land now known as Albania was settled by a tribe of people called the Illyrians. The Romans took over in the 3rd century BC, and Albania became part of the Roman Empire.
Over the centuries, Albania was ruled by many different empires. It was part of the Byzantine Empire, Bulgarian Empire, Serbian Empire, and Ottoman Empire.
Under the leadership of Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeu, the Albanians fought for independence from the Ottoman Empire during a national revolt in 1444, but the Ottomans were too powerful.
In 1912, the Albanian Declaration of Independence formed the first nationally recognized independent Albanian state.
During WWII, Albania was invaded by both Germany and Italy. It was part of the Kingdom of Italy until 1943.
After the war, Albania became an independent communist state, the Socialist People’s Republic of Albania.
The country remained under communist rule for 40 years before holding a democratic election in 1992, electing president Sali Berisha.
Today, Albania’s government involves a president, prime minister, and Parliament. Albania is currently working to be admitted to the European Union.
Major industries in Albania include textiles and clothing, oil, lumber, and food processing. Tourism is also a growing industry, especially in the capital city of Tirana.
Main crops in Albania are wheat, corn, and potatoes. About half of all working Albanians have jobs related to agriculture.
Albania’s economy is growing, but it’s still one of the poorest countries in Europe. Growth is slowed down because the country doesn’t have an organized system of transportation or energy.
Unemployment is another problem in Albania. Because it’s difficult to find jobs, many citizens leave to live in other countries.
Albanians follow customs called The Kanun, a set of cultural practices that focus on Honor, Hospitality, Right Conduct, and Kin Loyalty (Family Loyalty).
In Albanian culture, promises are kept, and people are supposed to help and comfort others. This is one reason that Albania offered help to the Jewish people during the Holocaust.
In addition, guests are respected and honored.
Many Albanians will spend an entire month’s salary (all the money they earn in a whole month!) to serve a nice meal for visitors.
Popular Albanian holidays include Independence Day on November 28 and the Muslim holiday Bajram, which is a day of forgiveness, peace, and unity.
To celebrate Bajram, Albanians roast sheep and share the meat with family, friends, neighbors, and the less fortunate.
Another holiday is Dita e Veres, a festival celebrating the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Parades, bonfires, and concerts are held in the city of Elbasan.
Albanians eat traditional foods and sweets during this celebration, especially ballakume, a huge cookie made from sugar, butter, corn flour, and egg yolks.
Mother Teresa- humanitarian/Nobel Peace Prize winner
Jim Belushi- actor
Dua Lipa- singer
Rita Ora- singer
Eliza Dushku- actress
Hamdi Salihi- soccer player
Fun Facts About Albania
Albania is known as one of Europe’s most “at-risk” countries for natural disasters, especially flooding. In 2010, major floods forced as many as 7,000 families to evacuate.
In Albania, nodding your head means “no,” and shaking your head means “yes.”
Albanian buses, which are called furgons, don’t follow a schedule. They come and go as they please (or when the bus fills up).
In the evenings, locals take a walk known as xhiro. People go outside to talk to their neighbors and stretch their legs, and some roads are even closed to cars during the xhiro.
More Albanians live outside of their home country than those that live in Albania.
The country’s population is just 3 million, but there are 7-10 million Albanians living outside of Albania.
70% of Albania is covered by mountains.