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July 8, 2002

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Albania is the only Muslim-majority (70%) European country. We don't see much Islam here. Cafes and bars overrun downtown Tirana. Pizza, gyros, and hamburgers seem to be the national food. Girls walk the streets in tight tank-tops that reveal their bodies and a new way of dressing for Muslim women. Rarely do we hear the call to prayer. Albania has a hard reputation for crime - other Europeans tried to warn us off coming here, although we don't experience anything but a relaxed atmosphere in Tirana. Crowds of gaily dressed people walk the streets and sit in the plentiful cafes. Most drink beer. Statues of past heroes stand in the squares and small parks. The most interesting man in Albanian history, as far as the tourist knows, is King Zog, because we all wish we had a leader named Zog.
The mural called 'Albania' faces Skenderbeg Square, the heart of the city. Next door is the 15 storey Tirana International Hotel, the tallest buildiig in the country.
Statue of Skenderbeg beneath the red flag of Albania - Skenderbeg was a great war hero of the resistance against Turkish occupation - he won all battles against the Turks yet after his death, the Turks claimed all of Albania from 1479 until 1912.
These women, dressed conservatively by Tirana standards, walk down Rruga Ismail Qemali, the street where Communist Party leaders lived. The Communist regime prohibited 'regular' citizens from walking this street, and when Communism fell, people thronged here to see how the Party bosses lived in style.