Sunday, November 23, 2014


I have already – some years ago – read from somewhere that Muslims in Albania ate pork. But this is too sensitive for me to say it in our country. It is like telling Javanese that the founder of the Demak sultanate in the 16th century was in fact a Chinese (Radin Pateh; a Muslim though).

To me, it was perfect understandable. Albania was a Communist country, but strangely not a Soviet Union satellite. It had been a close ally of Maoist China for many years. Religions were swept largely underground, so even though Albanians are now free to practise Islam, pork and wine are no longer taboos to them.

Our tour guide Lito was not shy to disclose the fact that he is a pork-loving Muslim. He claims that pork is eaten by most Albanians, even though they are Muslim. He said he had to hide this truth from Muslim tourists though. He was candid enough to share with us a couple of anecdotes where he found himself totally lacking as a Muslim to his charge.

Tirana, which is the capital of Albania, still retains the “Soviet-era” ambience. We were quickly shooed away by a guard when we walked too near to a rather dull building purported that of the president’s. The monumental building designed by the ex-dictator’s daughter is still there, but in a state of total neglect. Surprisingly, we were told that she is now one of the richest individuals in the country!

Dictator's pride
Lito was proud to tell us that the accommodation that was afforded us was a five-star hotel. Apparently there were only two hotels with such classification in Tirana. In reality, it didn’t have much of a class; two of the three lifts were out of service. The lobby smelt of age. Even though we wanted to support tourism, there was hardly anything that can qualify as a representative “souvenir” from there.

Out of service - at least they tell you

But Albanians are a hardy lot. They formed substantial minorities in the adjacent countries. And I believe they are a very shrewd lot. The tour company that is taking us through the Balkans is actually owned by Albanians.
Can you see "UFO' on the wall of the university? A faculty/school dedicated to that study in Albania?

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