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Tirana (Albanian: Tiranė or Tirana) is the capital and largest city of Albania. It is located at 41.33°N, 19.82°E in the district and prefecture with the same name. Its population is estimated officially at 353,400 in 2003, though other estimates put the figure as high as 700,000. Founded in 1614, it became Albania's capital city in 1920.

Located on the Ishm River, Tirana is Albania's chief industrial and cultural centre. The principal industries include agricultural products and machinery, textiles, pharmaceuticals and metal products. Tirana has experienced rapid growth and established many new industries since the 1920s.

Tirana is presently trying to develop a tourist industry, although this effort is hampered by the political instability in the region, owing to military conflicts during the 1990s in Albania and neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and the Republic of Macedonia.

Skanderbeg Square (Photo by Marc Morell)

Cultural Elements

The mosque Ethem Bey which was begun in 1789 by Molla Bey and finished in 1821 by his son, Haxhi Ethem Bey, great-grandson of Sulejman Pasha is a significant landmark. Another landmark located near the Ethem Bey mosque in Skanderbeg Square is the clock tower (Kulla e Sahatit) which was built in 1830. In 2001, the construction was finished on the biggest church of Tirana, Catholic Church of Saint Paul.

Tirana also features the University of Tirana, founded in 1957, and many 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.


Tirana was founded in 1614 by the Ottoman general Sulejman Pasha, who built a mosque, a bakery and a Turkish sauna, and named it "Tehran", as a tribute to his military victory at Tehran in Persia (now Iran). The small town was selected as the temporary capital of Albania (as a compromise between South and North Albania) by the provisional government established at the Congress of Lushnjė (January 1920). In November 1944 the communist government of Enver Hoxha was established there.

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 a period of rapid industrial growth, raising the population to 137,000 in 1960. In the late 1990s Tirana experienced its fastest population upsurge as Albanians from the north moved to the capital in hopes of a better life.

Currently, the city suffers from the problems of overpopulation such as waste management, lack of running water and electricity. The problem is exacerbated by an aging infrastructure. Despite the problems, Tirana has also experienced a very rapid growth in the contruction of new buildings. It is alleged that many of these buildings are the result of money laundering operations.

The current mayor of Tirana, Edi Rama, has tried to beautify the city scape by cleaning up the banks of the Lana and painting old buildings.

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.

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