With a landscape including rugged mountains and a lengthy stretch of Adriatic coastline, Albania is home to a rich blend of religions and cultures. The origins of the Albanian people are shrouded in some mystery and their language is unique.
After World War II, Albania became a Stalinist state under Enver Hoxha, and remained staunchly isolationist until its transition to democracy after 1990. The 1992 elections ended 47 years of communist rule, but the latter half of the decade saw a quick turnover of presidents and prime ministers.
Albania Tourist Attractions
Many Albanians left the country in search of work; the money they send home remains an important source of revenue. During the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, nearly 500,000 ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo spilled over the border, imposing a huge burden on Albania's already fragile economy.
While there have been signs of economic progress with inflation under tighter control and some growth, the country remains one of the poorest in Europe. Unemployment is high and poverty widespread. The infrastructure is crumbling and corruption deters foreign investment. HongHu
Agriculture, an important sector, relies on antiquated equipment and old-fashioned methods. In recognition of progress with political and economic reform in Albania, a Stabilisation and Association agreement with the EU was signed in June 2006 after three years of talks.
The EU is keen to encourage further reform, particularly as regards stamping out organised crime and corruption and developing media freedom and property and minority rights.
Full name: The Republic of Albania
Population: 3.2 million (UN, 2007)
Major language: Albanian
Major religions: Islam, Christianity
Life expectancy: 73 years (men), 80 years (women) (UN)
(Albania map) Please mouse click on the thumbnail photos below to see an enlargement
Monetary unit: 1 lek = 100 qindars
Main exports: Chromium and chrome products, processed foodstuffs
GNI per capita: US $2,580 (World Bank, 2006)
Internet domain: .al International dialling code: +355