Destinations » Europe
» Southeastern Europe »
is the English name of the country, which the locals call Shqipëria. The name Albania
comes from the Greek and likely refers to the Illyrian tribe of people called the
"Albani" or is named after the town of Albanon and/or Arbanon. The local
name of Shqipëria is often translated to mean "land of the eagles" or
"children of the eagles." However, the root of this word has a completely
different meaning; the root, shqip, means "understanding each other."
Albania is somewhat of an anomaly in Europe as the people have no true relatives
in terms of ethnicity or language. However, the Albanians are descendants of some
of Europe's most historic people, making them among the longest current residents
on the continent. Despite these ancient roots, the people have changed many times
throughout history and today their culture and lifestyle reflects of that of Europe
in many ways, but there are unmistakable Ottoman Turkish influences as well.
Albanian history is similar to that of much of the region as the lands fell under
Byzantine rule and were closely tied to this empire for much of history. The people
converted to Christianity and adhered to the Eastern Orthodox traditions as did much
of the region. However, being far from the political center of the empire, the people
lived simple lives based on the lands as little wealth made its way to the region.
Plus the mountains made movement difficult so few changes took place.
This lack of political influence changed in the 1400s when the Ottoman Turks arrived
and took over the region. Despite resistance efforts, the people were taken over
and slowly adopted many cultural aspects found in Turkey. The greatest of these
influences came in the form of religion as the Albanians widely adopted Islam and
converted in large numbers. This conversion also put the Albanians at odds with
most of their neighbors, who maintained their Christian faiths.
The withdrawal of the Turks from the peninsula led to a stronger Albanian identity
and a legitimate argument for independence from neighboring countries. The Albanian
people had formed a distinct culture in many ways, from language and foods to religion
and architecture. This gave Albania independence, but many ethnic Albanians fell
outside their modern borders, including in Kosovo, which has led to strained relations
with many of their neighbors.
Today Albania continues on its own path with its own political agenda, its own culture,
and its own lifestyle based on the mountains, but greatly affected by modern technology.
These differences have led to a unique culture and lifestyle, but also economic
and political struggles as the country seems stagnant at many times. None-the-less,
the country is finding ways to move forward and tourists are only beginning to find
their beautiful coasts and all they have to offer.
Learn More About Albania:
Map of Albania: