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Tirana (Albanian: Tiranė 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.

In 1703, Tirana had 4000 inhabitants and in 1820 there were 12,000. The city’s population, estimated at only 12,000 in 1910, 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 in 1960.
Tirana Blloku
After the end of the communist dictatorship, in early 1990s, Tirana had its fastest population upsurge when people from rural areas moved to the capital to find a better life. In 1990, Tirana had 250,000 inhabitants and 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 as 380,400 , although other estimates put the figure as high as 1,000,000.
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 are extant.
  • from "tyros", the old Greek word for dairy, reflecting 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.
  • Sulejman Pasha was at the location of what would become Tirana, he came across an elderly woman. He asked her what she was doing and she replied, "Po tir an" (spinning silk).

    The area now occupied by the city of Tirana has been occupied since Neolithic times, evidenced by remains discovered there. A castle, possibly called Tirkan, was built by Emperor Justinian in 520AD (and restored by Ahmed Pasha Toptani in the 18th century), but the area had no especial importance in Illyrian and Classical times. There were mediaeval settlements in the area at Preza, Ndroq and 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 Vogėl" (Greater and Lesser Tirana).
    Tabaku Bridge
    The records of the first land registrations, under the Ottomans in 1431-32, show that Tirana then consisted of 60 inhabited areas, with nearly 1000 houses and 7300 inhabitants. The 1583 registration records that Tirana had 110 inhabited areas, 2900 houses and 20,000 inhabitants.

    When Süleiman Pasha Mulleti (or Sulejman Pasha), local feudal ruler, established the Ottoman town in 1614, with a mosque, a commercial centre and a hammam (Turkish sauna). The town was on caravan routes and grew rapidly in importance until the early 19th century and the death of Kaplan Pasha in 1816. During this period, the mosque in the centre of Tirana, the Et'hem Bey Mosque, was begun (1789) by Molla Bey of Petrela, employing the best artisans in the country. It was completed in 1821 by his son (who was also Sulejman Pasha’s grand-nephew).

    After 1816, Tirana languished under the control of the Toptani family of Kruja, with the rule of Esat Toptani being harmful to the city. Little or no industrial development occurred until the 20th century.

    On 8 February, 1920 Tirana was chosen as the temporary national capital by the Congress of Lushnja and acquired that status permanently on 31 December, 1925.

    Since 1925, when they were banned in Turkey, Tirana has been the primary centre in the world of the Bektashis, an order of dervishes who take their name from Haji Bektash, a Sufi saint of the 13th and 14th centuries. (Haji Bektash also blessed the Janissaries, the famed Ottoman fighting corps that originally comprised non-Muslim conscripts, many of them Albanians.)

    The first regulatory plan of the city was compiled in 1923 by Estef Frashėri. Durrėsi Street was opened in 1922 and was called Nana Mbretneshė (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 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 (of the former monarch), the government ministry buildings, the National Bank and the Municipality are their work.

    Tirana on November 20, 1944The Dėshmoret e Kombit (National Martyrs) Boulevard was built in 1930 and named "Zogu I Boulevard". In the communist period, the part from Skėnderbeg Square up to the train station was named Stalin Boulevard.

    Tirana was occupied until 1944, first by the Italians, and then by the Germans. After a battle between Albanian partisans and the German occupiers, the Germans withdrew.

    Districts The two oldest neighbourhoods are Mujos and Pazari, 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 Skėnderbej Square, was declared the place of Cultural Assembly, with 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 formerly reserved for the occupation of important government and party officials. It remains a desirable residential area.

    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, in 1769, the Tirana area exported 2600 barrels of olive oil and 14,000 packages of tobacco to Venice. In 1901 it had 140,000 olive trees, 400 oil mills, and 700 shops.

    Tirana is presently (2006) trying to develop a tourist industry, although this effort is hampered by the lack of infrastructure and the perception of political instability in the region, arising from military conflicts during the 1990s in neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

    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. Since 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.Its language of instruction is English. Since 2003, up to 6 other private universities have been opened in Tirana attracting thousands of students. Many other private universities are planned to be opened. The private universities are: Universiteti Kristal, Universiteti Marin Barleti, Universiteti Zonja e Keshillit te Mire, Universiteti UFO, Fakulteti Juridik Luarasi, and Fakulteti Juridik Justinian.

    Environmental problems
    Tirana cleaned upCurrently, 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 in the city (The Guardian March 27 2004). 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 of Tirana, where many of the new neighbourhoods do not yet have street names. (BBC).

    During the 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 is allowed in the EU countries.

    It is worth mentioning that there is a unique trait to the city that effectively moderates the impact of air pollution: The Saint Prokopi park - a very vast forested park in the outskirts of the city, that absorbs and purifies much of the polluted air.
    Tirana in Color
    During the late 1980s and early 1990s Tirana was the focal point of violent demonstrations which ultimately led to the collapse of the communist government. Tirana is also lacking parks. Especially in the last few years the mayor of Tirana, Edi Rama, has given so many permissions for buildings that there is no more space for parks or kids' areas.

    National and international transport links have developed over recent years as demand has increased. The following section is liable to change and is only indicative.

    Until recent years, overland connections through Greece and Montenegro have had various problems with bureaucracy or security.

    International coach services connect to Greece (via Korēė then taxi to the border) and to Kosovo and Macedonia (FYROM). Tirana People Coach and minibus services run, according to demand, to the coast, northern and southern Albania from different locations in Tirana.

    Local transport within Tirana is by bus or taxi.

    There are regular passenger services to Durres and Pogradec, via Elbasan. The railway station is north of Skenderbeg Square, in Boulevard Deshmoret e Kombit.

    There are no international passenger services, although freight services operate through Shkodėr to Montenegro.

    Rinas Mother Teresa Airport 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 (to Athens, Rimini, Bari, Rome, Bologna, Zürich, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Vienna and Priština.
    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.

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

  • Statue of Skanderbeg in Skanderbeg SquareSkanderbeg 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 Tabakėve 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 Kulturės), 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 Skėnderbeu, raised in 1968, is the work of Odhise Paskali in collaboration with Andrea Mana and Janaq Paēo. It commemorated the 500th anniversary of the death of the national hero.
    The monument to Mother Albania, 12 metres high, was inaugurated in the Dėshmoret e Kombit cemetery in 1971.
    Dusk in Tirana
  • 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".

    Courtesy: Pictures offered by