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Image:Skanderbeg Square in Tirana.jpg
Skanderbeg Square (Photo by Marc Morell)

Tirana (Albanian: Tiranë or Tirana) is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Albania. It was founded in 1614 by Sulejman Pasha and became Albania's capital city in 1920.

Tirana is located at 41°19′48″N, 19°49′12″E (41.33°N, 19.82°E) in the eponymous district and county. Its average altitude is 90 metres above sea level. It is on the Ishm River, about 20 miles inland.


[edit] Population

In 1703, Tirana had 4,000 inhabitants and by 1820 there were 12,000. The city’s population rose to 30,000 at the 1930 census and 60,000 in 1945, despite the intervening years of foreign occupation and war. During the 1950s, Tirana experienced rapid industrial growth, raising the population to 137,000 by 1960.

After the end of the communist dictatorship, Tirana experienced its fastest population growth in the early 1990s when people from rural areas moved to the capital to find a better life. In 1990, Tirana had 300,000 inhabitants, but since then, the large-scale influx from other parts of the country has increased the population to over 700,000.

In 2003, its population was officially estimated at 380,400, although other estimates put the figure as high as 1,000,000.[citation needed]

[edit] Name

There are a number of theories concerning the origin of the name:

  • from the word "Theranda", used by Greek and Latin sources to refer to the area, after the local term "te ranat", meaning fallen material, in reference to the composition of the terrain from hard earth carried down by water from the nearby mountains.
  • from "Tirkan", the name used by the sixth century Byzantine historian Procopius to refer to a castle, first built in the first century BC, on Mount Dajti, the ruins of which still stand.
  • from "tyros", the old Greek word for dairy, reflecting the fact that local shepherds gathered here to trade dairy products.
  • from "Tiras" whom the ancient Thracians worshipped. They named many places in the Thracian area after this god.
  • an often-repeated explanation, though ultimately fallacious, is that Tirana was so named by Sulejman Pasha after the Persian capital Tehran, to mark his conquest of Persia in the 17th century. This seems to be contradicted by the use of Tirana’s name in its current form (il borgo di Tirana) appearing in a Venetian document of 1572.<ref>ISBN 86-7179-039-8 Mirjana Detelić: Градови у хришћанској и муслиманској епици, Belgrade, 2004</ref>
  • When Sulejman Pasha was at the location of what would become Tirana, he came across an elderly woman and asked her what she was doing. She replied, "Po tir an" (spinning silk).

[edit] History

The area now occupied by the city of Tirana has been populated since Neolithic times, as evidenced by various remains discovered there. A castle, possibly called Tirkan, was built by Emperor Justinian in 520 AD and restored by Ahmed Pasha Toptani in the 18th century. The area had no especial importance in Illyrian and Classical times. There were medieval settlements in the area at Preza, Ndroq, Lalmi and Petrela Castle. In 1418, Marin Barleti, an Albanian Catholic priest and scholar, the first to write a history of Albania, referred to "Plenum Tyrenae," a small village. There are references to "Tirana e Madhe" and "Tirana e Vogël" (Greater and Lesser Tirana).

The records of the first land registrations under the Ottomans in 1431-32 show that Tirana consisted of 60 inhabited areas, with nearly 1,000 houses and 7,300 inhabitants. The 1583 registration records that Tirana had 110 inhabited areas, with 2,900 houses and 20,000 inhabitants.

Süleiman Pasha Mulleti (or Sulejman Pasha), a local ruler, established the Ottoman town in 1614 with a mosque, a commercial centre and a hammam (Turkish sauna). The town was located along caravan routes and grew rapidly in importance until the early 19th century. During this period, the mosque in the centre of Tirana, the Et'hem Bey Mosque designed by Molla Bey of Petrela, began to be constructed. It employed the best artisans in the country and was completed in 1821 by Molla's son, who was also Sulejman Pasha’s grand-nephew. After 1816, Tirana languished under the control of the Toptani family of Kruja. The rule of Esat Toptani was so harmful to the city that little or no industrial development occurred until the 20th century.

On February 8, 1920, Tirana was chosen as the temporary capital of Albania, which had acquired independence in 1912, by the Congress of Lushnja. The city retained that status permanently on December 31, 1925. Since 1925, when they were banned in Turkey, the Bektashis, an order of dervishes who take their name from Haji Bektash, a Sufi saint of the 13th and 14th centuries, made Tirana their primary settlement. The first regulatory plan of the city was compiled in 1923 by Estef Frashëri. Durrësi Street was opened in 1922 and was called Nana Mbretneshë (Mother Queen). Many houses and surrounding properties were demolished to make way for it. The existing parliamentary building was raised in 1924 and first served as a club for officers. It was there, in September 1928, that Ahmet Zogu proclaimed the monarchy and styled himself as King Zog I.

The centre of Tirana was the project of Florestano de Fausto and Armando Brasini, well known architects of the Mussolini period in Italy. The Palace of Brigades, the government ministry buildings, the National Bank and the Municipality are their work. The Dëshmoret e Kombit (National Martyrs) Boulevard was built in 1930 and named "Zogu I Boulevard." In the communist period, the part from Skënderbeg Square up to the train station was named Stalin Boulevard. Tirana was occupied until 1944, first by the Italians, and then by the Germans. The Germans eventually withdrew and the communists seized power.

[edit] Climate

The average temperature varies between 44.0 °F (6.7°C) in January and 87.8°F (31°C) in July. Annual rainfall is 47 inches (1200 mm); the driest months are July and August while the wettest months are November and December.

[edit] Districts

The two oldest neighbourhoods are Mujos and Pazari, located between the geographical centre and Elbasani Street on either side of the Lana River. In 2000, the centre of Tirana, from the central campus of Tirana University up to Skënderbeg Square, was declared the place of Cultural Assembly and given special claims to state protection. In the same year, the area began a process of restoration under the name ‘Return to Identity.’ The area to the west of the university, adjacent to Saint Prokopi park, was formally reserved for the occupation of important government and party officials. It remains a desirable residential area.

[edit] Economy

Tirana is Albania's major industrial centre. It has experienced rapid growth and established many new industries since the 1920s. The principal industries include agricultural products and machinery, textiles, pharmaceuticals, and metal products.

Tirana began to develop in the beginning of the 16th century, when a bazar was established, and its craftsmen manufactured silk and cotton fabrics, leather, ceramics and iron, silver, and gold artifacts. Sited in a fertile plain, the Tirana area exported 2,600 barrels of olive oil and 14,000 packages of tobacco to Venice by 1769. In 1901, it had 140,000 olive trees, 400 oil mills, and 700 shops. Tirana is currently trying to develop a tourist industry, although this effort has been hampered by the lack of infrastructure and the perception of political instability in the region,.

[edit] Education

Tirana hosts the University of Tirana, founded in 1957, and other governmental and social buildings such as the Albanian Institute of Sciences, the Academy of Arts, the Agricultural University, the Military Academy, the Institute of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the People's Assembly, and the High Court. In 2002, the first private university in Albania was opened in Tirana. University of New York Tirana is an American-accredited university with hundreds of students offering American style education and diplomas in different areas of studies. The language of instruction is English. Since 2003, up to six other private universities have opened in Tirana and have attracted thousands of students. These universities are Universiteti Kristal, Universiteti Marin Barleti, Universiteti Zonja e Keshillit te Mire, Universiteti UFO, Fakulteti Juridik Luarasi, and Fakulteti Juridik Justinian.

[edit] Environmental problems

Tirana cleaned up

Currently, the city suffers from the problems of overpopulation, such as waste management, lack of running water and electricity as well as extremely high levels of pollution from the 300,000 cars moving around the city. The problem is exacerbated by an aging infrastructure. Despite the problems, Tirana has also experienced a very rapid growth in the construction of new buildings, especially in the suburbs, where many of the new neighbourhoods do not yet have street names.(BBC).

In recent years, pollution has also become a very big problem for Tirana as the number of cars has increased to several orders of magnitude. These are mostly older, diesel cars that pollute much more than the newer models in circulation elsewhere in Europe. Additionally, the fuel used in Albania contains larger amounts of sulphur and lead than that allowed in European Union countries. There is, however, a unique trait to the city that effectively moderates the impact of air pollution: the Saint Prokopi park, a vast forested park in the outskirts of the city, absorbs and purifies much of the polluted air.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Tirana was the focal point of violent demonstrations that ultimately led to the collapse of the communist government.

[edit] Transport

National and international transport links have developed over recent years as demand has increased. Until recent years, overland connections through Greece and Montenegro have had various problems with bureaucracy or security. The following section is liable to change and is only indicative.

[edit] Bus

International coach services connect to Greece, via Korçë and then taxis to the border, to Kosovo, and to Republic of Macedonia. Coach and minibus services run, according to demand, to the coast and northern and southern Albania from different locations in Tirana. Local transport within Tirana is by bus or taxi.

[edit] Rail

There are regular passenger services to Durres and Pogradec, via Elbasan. The railway station is north of Skenderbeg Square, in Boulevard Zogu I. There are no international passenger services, although freight services operate through Shkodër to Montenegro.

[edit] Air

Rinas Mother Teresa Airport is located 25 kilometres north-west of the city, off the road to Durres. Albanian airlines using Rinas include Albanian Airlines and Ada Air. Flights run to Athens, Rimini, Bari, Rome, Bologna, Zürich, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Vienna and Priština, among other places.

Several foreign airlines also serve Rinas Airport: Alitalia (from Rome and Milan), British Airways (from London), Austrian Airlines (from Vienna), Adria Airways (Ljubljana), Jat Airways (Belgrade), Malev (Budapest), Olympic Airlines (Athens), Hemus Air (Sofia) and Turkish Airlines (Istanbul). British Airways added services in 2006.

[edit] Sea

Tirana’s port is Durrës. Passenger ferries sail to Trieste (Italy), Koper (Slovenia) and there is a fast catamaran service to Bari (Italy).

[edit] Notable people

  • Ismail Kadare - Although born in Gjirokaster, Kadare spent most of his life in Tirana. A world-renowned writer, translated in more than 25 languages, Kadare has authored over 25 books. He has been often mentioned as a serious candidate for the Nobel Prize in literature. In 2005, he was awarded the prestigious Man Booker International award. He now lives in Paris, France.
  • Inva Mula - A famous Albanian opera singer.
  • Edi Rama - Politician, artist, and popular mayor of Tirana.

[edit] Landmarks

Statue of Skanderbeg in Skanderbeg Square
  • Skanderbeg Square: the central hub of the city, named after the Albanian hero, Skanderbeg.
  • Et'hem Bey Mosque: at the south east corner of Skanderbeg Square - begun in 1789 by Molla Bey and finished in 1821 by his son, Haxhi Et'hem Bey, great-grandson of Sulejman Pasha.
  • The Clock Tower (the Sahat-Kulla,) next to the Et'hem Bey Mosque, was started by Haxhi Et’hem Bey around 1821-22 and was finished with the help of the richest families of Tirana. Its installation was the work of the Tufina family. In 1928 the Albanian state bought a modern German clock and the tower was raised to a height of 35 metres. The clock was damaged during World War II and it was repaired in July 1946.
  • Government buildings: at the south end of Skenderbeg Square
  • National Museum: north side of Skenderbeg Square
  • The headquarters of the Bektashi Sufi Order can be found in the eastern edge of the city.
  • Roman Catholic Church of Saint Paul: completed in 2001, the largest church in Tirana.
  • Orthodox Church of St Prokop was built in 1780.
  • Catholic Church of Saint Maria was built in 1865, paid for by Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria.
  • The Tabakëve and Terzive bridges (respectively in front of the Parliament building and on Elbasani Street) date from the beginning of the 20th century.
  • The mosque that is also the tomb of Kapllan Hysa (near the monument to Ushtari I Panjohur (‘the unknown soldier’)) was built in 1816.
  • The National Library was established in 1922, with 5000 volumes.
  • The Fortress of Petrela, 12 kilometres from Tirana, dates from the fourth century BC. It took its current form in the 13th century, under the rule of Topiaj, and later became the property of the Kastriotis.
  • The Palace of Culture (Pallati I Kulturës), where the Theatre of Opera and Ballet and the National Library stand, was completed in 1963 on the site of the former Trade of Tirana building, with the first brick being placed by Soviet president Nikita Khruschev in 1959.
  • The monument to Skënderbeu, raised in 1968, is the work of Odhise Paskali in collaboration with Andrea Mana and Janaq Paço. It commemorated the 500th anniversary of the death of the national hero.
  • The monument to Mother Albania, 12 metres high, was inaugurated in the Dëshmoret e Kombit cemetery in 1971.
  • The Academy of Sciences building was completed in April 1972.
  • The Gallery of Figurative Arts was created in 1976 and includes around 3200 works by Albanian and foreign artists.
  • The International Cultural Centre, formerly the Enver Hoxha Museum, was inaugurated in 1988. Popularly referred to as ‘the Pyramid’, it was designed by a group of architects under the direction of the dictator’s daughter, Pranvera Hoxha, and her husband Klement Kolaneci.
  • The National Historical Museum was built in 1981. The ornamental mosaic on its facade is called "The Albanias".
Image:Tirana Albania pano 2004-07-14.jpg
Panoramic view of Tirana as seen from Dajti Mountain

[edit] Twin or partner cities

[edit] External links

[edit] Articles

[edit] References



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