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Read about the people of Albania in this section.  I think I can safely say that I have never found a more friendly or hospitable people than the Albanians.  They will do anything to help a stranger out, if they can.  A miserable contrast to some of the folk who live in my country, England.

 

The character of the Albanian people reflects their climate and the Mediterranean location of their country.  That is, they are excitable, kind, generous, and taken to obvious displays of emotion.  My over-riding memory of dealing with Albanians is their friendliness.  Absolutely nothing was too much trouble for them, and they were always willing to help a stranger in their country.  This is perhaps not surprising, as the Albanian people are under influence of the 'Kanun' - a spiritual guide that states (among other things) that they must show hospitality to strangers.  This again was evident during the Kosovo crisis, where Albanians happily took Kosovan refugees into their homes for food and shelter.

In the cafe

Albanian styles and fashions are very much influenced by Italy.  Italy is just across the Adriatic sea, and so Italian television channels are easily obtained in Albania.  In fact, most Albanians can speak some Italian, as a consequence of years of watching Italian TV.  In general, Albanians enjoy nothing more than standing around chatting, or sitting in the many bars in Tirana drinking raki (an extremely potent spirit made from grapes) and putting the world to rights.  When I worked in Albania, my hosts (in the top picture) would offer me copious quantities of cognac and raki, even first thing in the morning, and refused to allow me to pay, even though their salaries are low (skilled workers are paid around $5 per day).

Main street

A most interesting experience was waiting at Rinas airport for a number of visitors relating to the project that I was working on at the time.  This involved a wait of around 6 hours.  At Heathrow this would have been hard to endure, but at Rinas it was fascinating.  First thing of interest was the attitude of the Albanian police.  They repeatedly tried to move back the crowds waiting for people from the airport entrance, for no apparent reason other than to display their authority (they are armed as well).  Next, a woman collapsed, and everyone nearby rushed to her aid.  My Albanian colleague Besnik told me that she had just been informed that her father was dead.  Once again, I was amazed at how sympathetic and helpful strangers were to this woman.  This would never happen in England.  It really is fascinating to see another culture in action.

Field

The final two pictures on this page show how Albanians like to amuse themselves in their leisure time.  Both pictures were taken in the Dajti mountains - a range that is around 20 km from Tirana (it is interesting to note that the roads used to get there climb steeply up a mountain side, and are used by Albanian driving instructors and their pupils ...).  The picture above shows a group of Albanian school children playing football and generally having fun.  The picture below shows a couple of chalets where holidaymakers can stay for a while.  In contrast to Tirana, the air is fresh and the scenery beautiful in this part of the country.

Holiday Homes

To finish up, I would simply state that the Albanians are a very friendly people.  They are a bit intolerant by western standards - homosexuality and being a member of an ethnic minority (e.g. a gypsy) may elicit a negative reaction, as England's black footballers discovered when they played an international game in Tirana recently.  However, where many sources deliver warnings about travelling around in Tirana or going out at night, all I would say is that in three weeks I never once felt threatened or in any danger from the local population.