Throughout its complex history of tribal wars and annexations, Albania has been part of the Bulgarian Empire, the Serbian Empire and the Ottoman Empire. The Kingdom of Albania existed in the Middle Ages, but the first independent Albanian state was founded in 1912, the Principality of Albania 1912-1925, the Albanian Republic (1925-1928), another Kingdom of Albania (1928-39) when it was occupied by Italy and then Germany.
After the Second World War, Albania became a communist state under Enver Hoxha, until he died in 1985, and then Ramiz Alia, the first official President of Albania (there have been other heads of state) who oversaw the disintegration of the state during the wider collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the fall of the communist regime in the early 1990s. Under the communist regime, Albania did well economically producing the major part of its own commodities domestically. However, the society was closed and isolated, and officially agnostic. After the fall of communism, Albania’s inexperience with capitalism and democracy led to the proliferation of pyramid schemes under duly elected but corrupt governments.
Today, Albania is still struggling for an identity and its borders with neighbouring countries, particularly Kosovo and Macedonia have changed many times throughout the ages. Albania is a member of NATO and has applied for membership in the European Union. The country has made strides towards democratic reform and implemented numerous economic reforms and despite a further set-back in 2008 with the global economic crisis, Albanians economy is gradually recovering. The service sector dominates the country’s economy followed by the industrial and agricultural sectors.
Officially now the Republic of Albania, the country is small in size and in population, but has many neighbours – Montenegro and Kosovo to the north, Macedonia to the east, and Greece to the south. The country has a long, rugged coastline along the Mediterranean, Adriatic, and Ionian Seas. The language and 36 letter alphabet is challenging and English is not widely spoken outside of the tourist centres.
Albania has vast expanses of forests, pasture lands and mountains. There are four major mountain ranges – the Albanian Alps in the north, the Korab Mountains in the east, the Ceraunian Mountains in the south and Skanderbeg Mountains in the centre. The coast touches the Adriatic Sea to the west and the Ionian Sea to the southwest that forms the Albanian Riviera.
Albania is a secular state without an official religion with freedom of religion being a constitutional right. 60% of the population is Muslim with Christians (Catholics, Orthodox and Evangelicals) making up another 20%. The country is ranked among the least religious in the world with religion playing an important role in the lives of only 40% of the population.
Tourism is a growth industry in Albania, but it is still in its naissance period. You will see many things that you will question. Come prepared for a unique experience and a desire to learn about the local customs and you will have a wonderful experience.