Albania, on the Balkan coast of the Adriatic Sea, is almost the land that time forgot. Waiting to be rediscovered, it is a country rich in natural resources, history, traditions, and culture. Romans, Byzantines, Slavs, Venetians, and Ottoman Turks all left their mark. In modern times, after briefly gaining independence, Albania endured decades of oppression under Italian Fascist, Nazi German, and hard-line Communist rule, and was in the iron grip of the Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxa for thirty-seven years. It emerged from total isolation in the 1980s, cautiously at first, and then with gusto. Student protests in 1991 led to the fall of the Communist regime, since when the country has made remarkable progress toward democratization and economic stability. It has been welcomed into the international community, becoming a member of NATO in 2009, and applying for EU membership in the same year. While many European countries are experiencing economic decline, Albania has enjoyed strong economic growth. It is open to foreign investment, and eager to share its culture with the world.
Albanians are sociable, hospitable, opinionated, and proud. Family counts above all else. Close-knit, even clannish to Western eyes, they also have unique history of religious tolerance. Even under Nazi occupation they provided a safe haven for Jews. Most Albanians are nominally Muslim, but society is very secular, and people of all religions live together in harmony.
Cultures Smart! Albania gives you the key to understanding modern Albanians. It explains their customs and traditions, offers insights into social values and attitudes, and equips you to engage with people in an informed and open way. It is impossible to visit this extraordinary country without being fascinated by its unusual cultural heritage, appreciating its beautiful coastline, and enjoying the friendliness of its people.