Back to homepage

Features

Inter-religious Institute established in Albania- a pioneer idea to bring together all stakeholders of interreligious dialogue and cooperation

Inter-religious Institute established in Albania- a pioneer idea to bring together all stakeholders of interreligious dialogue and cooperation

TIRANA, Nov. 1 – The Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) and the Interreligious Collaboration Centre Elbasan  (IRCCE) have recently just established the Institute for Religious Studies and Cooperation – the first of its kind in the country – to

Read Full Article
The future of outdoor tourism in Albania through the caves of Tropoja

The future of outdoor tourism in Albania through the caves of Tropoja

Exploring caves is a huge part of nature tourism, nowadays called ‘ecotourism’, a new model of tourism with the potential of attracting more and more tourists from all over the world. Caves are crucial to the industry of tourism, due to

Read Full Article
Pristina’s ‘Hapësira’ rebirths society from underground

Pristina’s ‘Hapësira’ rebirths society from underground

By Sidonja Manushi Pristina is a force to be reckoned with. In addition to many of its native musicians making international headlines, its steadily growing underground techno scene strongly testifies to that. “It’s not an aesthetically beautiful city,” a Spanish

Read Full Article
Drita Ivanaj chants the anthem of education and culture

Drita Ivanaj chants the anthem of education and culture

By Sonja Methoxha A buoyant lady extends her hand to me in a firm handshake, which means she is reliable, and starts talking as if she already knew me for a while. She does not speak Albanian very well, as

Read Full Article
A “Mirror” for women to find themselves

A “Mirror” for women to find themselves

By Sonja Methoxha   A little girl spends her growing days listening to her grandfather’s tales in Gjirokaster about history and life. She is surrounded by images of strong women who influenced her to become a strong woman herself. She

Read Full Article
A weekend at Neranxi

A weekend at Neranxi

By Sonja Methoxha Countless colorful product pictures are hung on a long white corridor which leads to a large backyard. A black van which serves coffee, cold beverages and fast foods appears. The music in the background puts the cooks

Read Full Article
‘Bread, salt and heart’ through the eyes of a Kuwaiti lens

‘Bread, salt and heart’ through the eyes of a Kuwaiti lens

By Sidonja Manushi  On February 19, the National History Museum hosted for three days a special photo exhibition from a far-away artist who might have managed to capture the essence of being Albanian much better than some of the local

Read Full Article
Replacing ‘me-time’ with ‘we-time’ at Tirona vs Partizani

Replacing ‘me-time’ with ‘we-time’ at Tirona vs Partizani

By Sidonja Manushi  Willingly – and excitedly even – going to a football match in Albania as a woman is worth it even just for the looks on people’s faces when you tell them you’ll be spending your Friday evening

Read Full Article
Editorial: A sleep walking patient aiming for the abyss

Editorial: A sleep walking patient aiming for the abyss

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL There is only one thing worse than a full blown democratic crisis and that is ignoring it, normalizing the current state of affairs as just an administrative glitch with some teargas protest flare. Any doctor will tell

Read Full Article
Albania launches new ‘Be Taken’ tourism campaign with appeal to overcome prejudice

Albania launches new ‘Be Taken’ tourism campaign with appeal to overcome prejudice

TIRANA, Feb. 27 – In an appeal to Northern Irish actor Liam Neeson to come and discover Albania on his own following his notorious comments about the Balkan country a decade ago in the award-winning ‘Taken’ movie, Albania has launched

Read Full Article
WP_Query Object
(
    [query_vars] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 41
            [paged] => 1
            [error] => 
            [m] => 
            [p] => 0
            [post_parent] => 
            [subpost] => 
            [subpost_id] => 
            [attachment] => 
            [attachment_id] => 0
            [name] => 
            [static] => 
            [pagename] => 
            [page_id] => 0
            [second] => 
            [minute] => 
            [hour] => 
            [day] => 0
            [monthnum] => 0
            [year] => 0
            [w] => 0
            [category_name] => features
            [tag] => 
            [tag_id] => 
            [author] => 
            [author_name] => 
            [feed] => 
            [tb] => 
            [comments_popup] => 
            [meta_key] => 
            [meta_value] => 
            [preview] => 
            [s] => 
            [sentence] => 
            [fields] => 
            [menu_order] => 
            [category__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [ignore_sticky_posts] => 
            [suppress_filters] => 
            [cache_results] => 1
            [update_post_term_cache] => 1
            [update_post_meta_cache] => 1
            [post_type] => 
            [posts_per_page] => 10
            [nopaging] => 
            [comments_per_page] => 50
            [no_found_rows] => 
            [order] => DESC
        )

    [tax_query] => WP_Tax_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                    [0] => Array
                        (
                            [taxonomy] => category
                            [terms] => Array
                                (
                                    [0] => 41
                                )

                            [include_children] => 1
                            [field] => term_id
                            [operator] => IN
                        )

                )

            [relation] => AND
        )

    [meta_query] => WP_Meta_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                )

            [relation] => 
        )

    [date_query] => 
    [post_count] => 10
    [current_post] => -1
    [in_the_loop] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [current_comment] => -1
    [found_posts] => 629
    [max_num_pages] => 63
    [max_num_comment_pages] => 0
    [is_single] => 
    [is_preview] => 
    [is_page] => 
    [is_archive] => 1
    [is_date] => 
    [is_year] => 
    [is_month] => 
    [is_day] => 
    [is_time] => 
    [is_author] => 
    [is_category] => 1
    [is_tag] => 
    [is_tax] => 
    [is_search] => 
    [is_feed] => 
    [is_comment_feed] => 
    [is_trackback] => 
    [is_home] => 
    [is_404] => 
    [is_comments_popup] => 
    [is_paged] => 
    [is_admin] => 
    [is_attachment] => 
    [is_singular] => 
    [is_robots] => 
    [is_posts_page] => 
    [is_post_type_archive] => 
    [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 966f38bcb727023b3698e1aa764fb67e
    [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 
    [thumbnails_cached] => 1
    [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => 
    [query] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 41
            [paged] => 1
        )

    [request] => SELECT SQL_CALC_FOUND_ROWS  wp_posts.ID FROM wp_posts  INNER JOIN wp_term_relationships ON (wp_posts.ID = wp_term_relationships.object_id) WHERE 1=1  AND ( wp_term_relationships.term_taxonomy_id IN (41) ) AND wp_posts.post_type = 'post' AND (wp_posts.post_status = 'publish') GROUP BY wp_posts.ID ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC LIMIT 0, 10
    [posts] => Array
        (
            [0] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 143456
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2019-11-08 09:53:02
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-11-08 08:53:02
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 1 - The Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) and the Interreligious Collaboration Centre Elbasan  (IRCCE) have recently just established the Institute for Religious Studies and Cooperation - the first of its kind in the country - to provide a positive model for the entire region and beyond. The implementing partners are jointly working to design the next year activities involving all relevant stakeholders from religious communities, community organizations and academia.

The three main objectives of this initiative are first for the institute to conduct scientific religious research and studies, next to support interreligious dialogue starting from the grassroots level and finally to promote the Albanian model of religious harmony whenever it’s applicable abroad. 

“The reason why we thought this is timely is because whatever has existed so far has been very sporadic, so there is no systematic encouragement of interreligious dialogue; there are only different small projects here and there, which do not really connect the religious community with other stakeholders, so our effort is to create connections with other parts of the society,” said Alba Cela, Deputy Director of AIIS. 

The Inter-Religious Centre, in line with this rationale, also aims to build bridges between the country’s religious and secular communities in order to create common social approaches, to conduct studies on the culture of dialogue, intercultural studies, studies on all faiths and religions, as well as their relations to all aspects of social life. 

According to the Executive Director of the Interreligious Centre Dr.Arben Ramkaj, what is innovative about this new idea is the cooperation in itself of a well-established think tank likes AIIS with a local centre, in order to bring together national and local knowledge together. 

“Our expectations are to eventually turn into a cooperation centre not only for Albania, but the entire Western Balkans, and to promote the country’s harmonic religious model among many communities, including those who once experienced conflicts, and why not eventually produce academic materials which could be used in the field of education,” Ramkaj said. 

The project is also supported by the expertise of Open Europe Consulting, which brought its director and one of its experts in Tirana for two days to assist with the initial stages of the institute’s establishment. 

The project’s target and phases include phase one, the baseline study, the establishment of an interreligious network and Advisory Board and a draft concept of the institute and envisioned implementation strategy; phase two, which is the institute’s actual establishment, as well as that professional support and scientific backup, the start of regional initiatives at the grassroots level and gaining project funding; phase three, which foresees the institute’s potential inclusion in policy-making and regular funding.

“Albania is the country with the biggest ground for this project’s success - it has tradition, the history, the traces of the past still present, and we found during the mapping that in Albania there is already this tradition of religious harmony and that with communism a big part of that was destroyed, but that there is still place to study and promote it. So to establish this in a country where people are already open to that, is important,” said Andrea Mewaldt, director of Open Europe. 

The first brainstorming session held sought to address issues such as radicalization and extremism, the lack of foreign funding - the religious communities in Albania have small financial sources due to the lack of repropriation by the state - and the education of new clerics. 

The education of new clerics, which is a particular problem as a big number of new clerics in Albania study abroad, bringing back home a religious culture that differs from the traditional Albanian one. Different studies have shown that foreign influences play an important role in the radicalization of vulnerable people. 

The Institute for Religious Studies and Cooperation will create a network among the religious communities, government and non-government organizations and different donors to also provide additional support for other grassroots initiatives and to eventually reach a stage to make policy recommendations valid for initiatives of interreligious cooperation

 
                    [post_title] => Inter-religious Institute established in Albania- a pioneer idea to bring together all stakeholders of interreligious dialogue and cooperation
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => inter-religious-institute-established-in-albania-a-pioneer-idea-to-bring-together-all-stakeholders-of-interreligious-dialogue-and-cooperation
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 09:53:02
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 08:53:02
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143456
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [1] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 143306
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2019-10-15 11:10:09
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-15 09:10:09
                    [post_content] => Exploring caves is a huge part of nature tourism, nowadays called ‘ecotourism’, a new model of tourism with the potential of attracting more and more tourists from all over the world. Caves are crucial to the industry of tourism, due to its growing popularity in developing countries, where hundreds of caves are visited each year. It is safe to say that caves have now become a complex natural resource in the tourism market of many countries.

There are currently over 5000 explorable caves by tourists around the world. This form of tourism attracts around 250 million tourists each year, with expenditures reaching 2 billion dollars, employing around 200 thousand people and generating a total income of 100 million dollars per year. As natural resources, caves could have great potential to develop tourism and consequently stimulate economic growth, living standards of residents in the areas where the caves are located as well as help the government increase environmental awareness and educate its people on the protection of environment.2

Transforming caves into resources of nature tourism transcends common economic boundaries. Based on contemporary advancements, many countries see this as a way to not only improve the standard of life but to also develop urban and rural areas in particular. Promoting the tourism of caves in Albania could strengthen the economic well-being of the hosting community as well as create additional instruments for the protection of the environment. 

There is an abundance of fascinating caves with great potential to enhance tourism activity in Albania, yet they remain dormant, untouched and unexploited. While they are found all over the country’s territory, most of them have not been used in function of nature tourism. However, considering caves as possible tourist attractions could alleviate poverty in local communities.  Based on this, many countries such as Brazil, Russia, Indonesia and Australia have undertaken initiatives to develop tourism in caves and put them in the spotlight of attractions.

 

Caves of Tropojë 

Tropoja is located in the northeastern part of Albania, as part of the Kukës District. Its is bordered by the Municipality of Has in the southeast, by the municipality of Shkodër in the west, by the Municipality of Vau i Dejës in the southwest and that of Fushë-Arrës in the south. In the north it is bordered by the Republic of Montenegro (31 km) and in the east it is bordered by the Republic of Kosovo (81 km). At 1057 km2 , Tropoja has the second biggest surface in the country. It has a population of 20.517 people based on the 2011 census, while according to the Civil Registration system, that population reaches  28.216 people. It is comprised of eight local administrative units: Bajram Curri, Fierza, Bujani, Lekbibaj, Llugaj, Bytyçi, Margegaj and Tropoja. The center of the Municipality is the new city of Bajram Curri, with 7500 residents and a surface of 162 hectares. Bajram Curri is found 260 kilometres from Tirana, the capital city of Albania and 120 kilometres from Prishtina, the capital city of Kosovo.

The territory of the Tropoja Municipality lies in the Eastern Albanian Alps and the area of Malësia e Gjakovës. Its geological composition consists of limestones, in which the process of karst is quite developed; being magnetic and terrigenous (clays, sand, conglomerates, sandstones, etc.) in the northeastern part. The terrain is mainly mountainous, extending from 170 meters up to 2582 metres above the sea level, while the average height above terrain reaches 1105 metres. 

Due to the large dispersion of limestone rocks, their tectonic cleavage and optimal climate and topographic conditions, the process of karst is very developed in the territory of Tropojë municipality, making it widely known for its karst caves.

Some of the caves in Tropojë are ranked as the biggest in Albania and the Balkans. They are found in the National Park of Valbonë and the Natural Municipal Park of Nikaj-Mërtur. So far, the karst caves below have been discovered in the territory of Tropojë Municipality.

 

The National Park of Valbonadra
  1. The Cave of Haxhi - Found in the ‘Dry Point’ (Maja e Thatë) near the village of Valbonë, via the Bajram Curri- Valbonë- pedestrian road.
  2. The Cave of Ice - Located near the village of Valbonë and can be visited by following the Bajram Curri- Valbonë- pedestrian road.
  3. The Cave of Dragobia - Found near the village of Dragobia via the Bajram Curri – Dragobi – Valbonë – pedestrian path 
  The Natural Municipal Park of Nikaj - Mërtur
  1. The Black Cave - Otherwise known as: The Cave of Qereç, The Blowing Cave. The cave is located near the Village of Qereç Mulaj, Upper Curraj and can be found by following the Bajram Curri – Lekëbibaj – Upper Curraj – pedestrian road.
  2. The Cave of Perr Boshi - Found in the mountain of Bosh, within walking distance of 6-7 hours from the Upper Curraj village. It can be visited by following the Bajram Curri – Lekbibaj – Upper Curraj – pedestrian road.
  3. The Cave of Shtar - Located 3.25 kilometres from the Village of Big Vrana, in the mount of Shtreza, 1427 metres above the sea level. This cave can be found by following the Bajram Curri – Lekbibaj – Big Vrana – pedestrian path. 
  4. The Cave of Barn Swallows - The name stems from the barn swallow nests around its walls. The cave can be found via the Bajram Curri – Lekbibaj – Big Vrana – pedestrian path leading to the mountain of Kakia.
  5. The Lonely Cave - The cave happens to be between the Cave of Shtar and that of the Barn Swallows. To get to the cave, the way is through the Bajram Curri – Lekbibaj – Big Vrana – pedestrian path.
  6. The Kakveri Cave - Located near the village of Upper Curraj, in the eastern foot of the Kakia mountain slope and can be visited by following the road of Lekbibaj – Big Vrana (the motorway) – Ndërmajës Groove (3-4 hours walking distance) or by following the pedestrian road from the Upper Curraj Village (5-6 hours walking distance)
  7. The Cave of Mark Shytani - The cave is named after the shepherd who discovered it. It is found near the Upper Curraj, at the foot of Bosh mountain top. It can be explored by following the way of Bajram Curri – Lekbibaj – Curraj i Epërm – pedestrian path on the way to the Bosh mountain.
  8. The Cave of the River - The cave was discovered and explored in 2009 by the Italian speleologist group, Faentino. However, as of today it still hasn't been fully explored. The road to the cave is through Bajram Curri – Lekbibaj – Upper Curraj – pedestrian path, taking almost two hours. 
  9. The Cave of Muladea - Found at the foot of the Mountain of Iron close to the village of Qereç Mulaj. The cave can be reached by following the Bajram Curri – Lekbibaj – Qereç Mulaj – pedestrian path on the way to the foot of the Mountain of Iron.
  10. The Cave of Kolë Gega - Found near the Lake of Koman, by the southern slope of the Suka of Maz mountain, 510 metres above the sea level. It is reachable through the Bajram Curri – Lekbibaj – Palçë – pedestrian path.
[post_title] => The future of outdoor tourism in Albania through the caves of Tropoja [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-future-of-outdoor-tourism-in-albania-through-the-caves-of-tropoja [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-18 12:36:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-18 10:36:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143306 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142011 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-05-31 10:30:46 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-05-31 08:30:46 [post_content] => By Sidonja Manushi [caption id="attachment_142013" align="alignright" width="300"]60179457_2370223829904029_6247740688989945856_o photo by: Anyla Ademaj // Boiler Room Kosovo 2019[/caption] Pristina is a force to be reckoned with. In addition to many of its native musicians making international headlines, its steadily growing underground techno scene strongly testifies to that. “It’s not an aesthetically beautiful city,” a Spanish friend who’d visited long before I did said, “but there’s such a powerful vibe to it. You feel as if things are happening.” Words along those lines have become a common description for the second youngest capital in the world, while their truth comes alive when one enters the Rilindja Warehouse (Rebirth, in Albanian), to attend a Hapësira (Space) event. Now, it’s common knowledge that music can make statements surpassing political and ideological divisions. For the 2015-founded NGO, techno does exactly that, while managing to represent, symbolically, an entire generation of post-war youth. “What brought Hapësira into life was lack of space for youth, in terms of showing their abilities and their creative mind,” Arbnor Dragaj, one of its co-founders, told Tirana Times. Conceived by a handful of strong-willed individuals whose core-value is freedom of expression and creation of a space that will not judge anyone but instead will serve as a platform or a getaway out of daily stress and life’s hardship, Hapësira does more than destroy the physical barriers limiting the youth - it pushes them to think outside their own mental boxes. Even symbolically, this is a fitting theme. The Rilindja Warehouse, where I first came to know the Hapësira community, has almost accompanied the NGO step-by-step, becoming host to some of their most noteworthy events. This relationship was crowned on Hapësira’s 15th party, when the international broadcaster Boiler Room arrived at the venue and enabled millions around the world to enjoy the performances of DJs such as Anthony Linell and Umwelt, and local rising DJs the Balkans are no stranger to, such as Toton and Hapësira’s very own, one of its co-founders, Uran B.   In the past, the warehouse used to house the printing process of a number of classic texts in Albanian, as well as the first Albanian newspaper in then-Yugoslavia, ever. This cultural past adds a poignant meaning to the post-industrial landscape which times and time again fills with techno sounds, and separates Hapësira from your average party-organizer. Techno, like literature, like painting, reinvents the generation by offering it a space where “youth can dance away its troubles.” In a four-year span, the Hapësira community evolved from serving 200-300 to almost 1500 people and its events inspired a number of other organizations to act with social benefit in mind. “In our perspective the greatest collaboration is when everyone is giving the best out of themselves to the community/audience they serve, as a result each of us (as a puzzle) complete the bigger picture,” Arbnor said. On top of the ever-growing number of dancers attending Hapësira’s event from all around the region, the enormous support can also be viewed from the help going towards the capital’s vulnerable communities in goods, which Hapësira collects from attendees in exchange for discounted event tickets. “SRF initiative along with bigger crowds have bloomed, from 50kg goods collected in first event, now up to 500kg. This also brings a totally different spirit to the party itself, as people are not coming only to have fun for themselves, but they also lift the mood and enrich the tables of the families in need, all this making the events more cheerful,” describes Arbnor. Currently only available during their events, the SRF is expected to live on a weekly basis as the NGO establishes itself permanently. [caption id="attachment_142014" align="alignright" width="300"]60127445_2370224216570657_7499379122087395328_n photo by Anyla Ademaj[/caption] Ironically enough, what Hapësira does for Pristina’s estranged, isolated youth is a lesson for the entire region which, although relatively peaceful for the last two decades, lacks in what it offers its youth and consequently, in what it takes back from them in energy and creativity.  “In the Albanian language, Rilindja means Renaissance or Rebirth, which is exactly what we need as a society.That shall definitely come from the underground. When we first created Hapësira, which came out of need for a free space to empower our passion, Rilindja was also there at its heart, because we needed to be reborn, and where best than Rilindja, which used to enlighten our society through books and inform them through newspapers in the crucial times for our people. Our hope is to awaken the youth, to inspire them to think independently and freely outside the box. Music - techno - and industrial spaces such as Rilindja, have the power to intrigue those thoughts and hopefully will also inspire action,” Arbnor concludes. In a region where culture, art and education is anything but a priority, it remains to the people on the ground to make a difference and awaken a passionate response in those who have the power within them to make a change. Dancing to techno beats among strangers who share a like-minded vision of change and evolution is one of the purest, most genuine feelings one can experience and one which Hapësira is pioneering. The future foresees turning Hapësira into a Cultural Alternative Centre which can serve the community in many additional ways. Once settled into a permanent home, Hapësira plans to extend its activities in various events, not only in entertainment but infotainment as well, while also looking to bring these events outside of Kosovo too. The immediate future, on the other hand, is expecting one of the most legendary techno names inside Rilindja on June 8 - Zak Khutoretsky, also known as DVS1, will be visiting Pristina to once again make history in the way one country’s underground scene is establishing itself from the rubble.   [post_title] => Pristina’s ‘Hapësira’ rebirths society from underground [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => pristinas-hapesira-rebirths-society-from-underground [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-05-31 10:30:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-05-31 08:30:46 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142011 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 141547 [post_author] => 338 [post_date] => 2019-04-29 13:31:33 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-29 11:31:33 [post_content] => By Sonja Methoxha A buoyant lady extends her hand to me in a firm handshake, which means she is reliable, and starts talking as if she already knew me for a while. She does not speak Albanian very well, as she left the country with her mother in 1939, when she was five, and returning to her home-country became possible only in 1993. World War II and Enver Hoxha’s communist regime of 40 years meant a whole lot of changes for Albania. She always wondered as to what had happened to the country during that time.  Even though she missed Albania and Tirana only through her vague memories, her return had a deeper purpose: to carry on a legacy. In 1996 she opened in Tirana the Martin & Mirash Ivanaj Institute, a foundation to serve education and culture for Albanian pupils and students. Drita Ivanaj is the only heir to these two Ivanaj brothers. Her father, Martin Ivanaj, was ultimately Chief of the Supreme Court of Albania. Starting off as a lawyer in Korca and then briefly in Shkodra, he established the first modern Civil and Penal Codes for the judicial system in Albania, rendered many judgments in a variety of fields, and started a collection of legal documents contained in over 20 manuscripts intended to be published after his retirement. Unfortunately, after the Italian invasion of Albania in 1939, followed by World War II, and the Albanian dictatorship, these precious documents were pilfered and disappeared together with the considerable collection of 16,600 books of the Ivanajs’ private library. Drita’s uncle, Mirash Ivanaj, after graduating with two degrees from the University of Rome (‘La Sapienza’ of today), started his career as a teacher, who became also headmaster of the high school “28 Nentori” (November 28) in Shkodra. During the 1930s King Zog asked him to serve as Minister of Public Education. The King knew that the Ivanaj brothers, and especially Mirash, did not agree with his ruling, “but you [Mirash] are the only one I can trust to give a valid contribution to our country”.  So Mirash opened the first public schools in Albania, known as the Ivanaj Reform of 1936. He later resigned from this position, as his reforms created a lot of opposition due to the educational standards he sought to apply throughout the Albanian educational system. Large portraits of her family members adorn one of Drita’s office walls, where she has a large desk, a work table for holding meetings, and a setup of chairs and coffee table to share with visitors some relaxing moments. The corridor outside her office is filled with display cabinets, in which various items of her past are exhibited, such as some of her father’s and uncle’s documents, old photos, a family tree, objects and mementos inherited from her relatives on both maternal and paternal sides. The paternal family tree shows ancestors since 1444, during Skanderbeg’s era, while her maternal heritage, dating back to 1664, includes prelates, and distinguished society members, such as Lady Collins, her maternal grandmother’s aunt, who was Lady in Waiting to Queen Victoria in London. DSCN0815 DSCN0820 The Ivanaj Foundations of New York and Tirana that Drita founded, are lodged and occupy an entire floor in the new building complex located in the heart of Tirana e Re that includes offices and training rooms, a full size Library suitable for study and research, a Conference room with telecommunication facilities, and a large hall (Salla Ivanaj) for special events, and social activities. The overall setting of this Institute is a well-lit and technically equipped environment, with spacious areas, and comfortable climate conditions that contribute to a quiet and relaxed atmosphere for visitors and occupants alike. The land on which this complex was recently erected (and completed in 2017), belonged to Drita’s family, and included the residence that her father and uncle built when they returned from their studies in Italy and settled back in their country. The original 2-story villa of the Ivanajs was first confiscated and became the headquarter of the Italian occupying forces during WWII. Later on it was seized and used by the communist regime for a variety of purposes, such as the National Informative Service (SHIK), and as a bureau and depot at the service of the Guards of the Republic. Drita started the proceedings of retrieving her properties in 1995, but could only set foot back into them in 2009, after indescribable hurdles of all sorts. “When I finally entered into my property that was stripped of everything, I saw they had removed even the toilets,” says Drita in amazement. Drita happened to be born in Italy, but from Albanian parents, and thus always had Albanian nationality. Her mother was Italian and met her future husband, Martin, while studying in Rome. Her father, however, had promised his in-laws to have their daughter return for visits, after their wedding since they had to reside in Albania. Her mother also acquired Albanian citizenship by marriage. Mirash on the other hand remained unmarried throughout his life since the woman he loved untimely passed away from natural causes at a young age. So, they all settled in Tirana where the Ivanaj brothers built their residence. Drita recounts with a smile that Tirana had only 30 thousand residents back in the 30s, and in the area of Tirana e Re where she lived then there were only three villas. “I was raised here, in this particular lot of land where now you see the garden of this complex,” says Drita, but, after the first 5 years, and the development of WWII, she lived in Italy with her mother for the next 12 years, where she grew up and finished her initial studies. On Apr. 7, 1939, the Italians invaded Tirana. There was a turmoil in the city, no one knew what was happening on that day, and most left to return at later times. Her father and uncle were also involved in trying to figure out what was going on in various state offices, and at the end of that day they also left the country and ultimately reached Istanbul. Drita and her mother never saw them again. Her father died 14 months later in an Istanbul hospital from a kidney infection, whereas her uncle returned to Albania six years later at the end of WWII. Enver Hoxha was ruling the country by then. Mirash was allowed to resume his teaching profession, while he was in the process of getting back the Ivanaj residence that, by them was housing 10 other families. He lived in one small room of it with a single bed, table and chair. Mirash was also asked to be politically involved, but he refused, and months later one night he was arrested. While he was Minister of Public Education he had granted former dictator Hoxha a scholarship for his studies in France. But after three years Mirash cut the funds, as Hoxha was failing his exams, and spending his money on women and entertainment. A senseless trial process was held against Mirash by the government, as versus many other persons then. Mirash was tortured for several months prior to his trial, and then he was absurdly accused and condemned for being an enemy of Albania due to alleged collaboration with Americans. He was thus convicted to prison for seven years. At sentencing time when the judge asked his reaction, Mirash replied with a question that became the quote that shaped the nature of a 40 year long dictatorship and suffering of the Albanian people: “Is there a law that has a power over one’s thought?” He was allowed a letter a month, with which he kept contact with Drita and her mother. Correspondence was of course censored, Drita says, but it was enough to just keep some sort of contact. Only 12 days prior to his release, Mirash died due to unspecified stomach and intestinal complications. By the time Mirash died the first medical school had opened in Tirana. The bodies of the deceased prisoners were given to this faculty to conduct autopsies for anatomical studies since there were not provided with any other practical teaching methods in the laboratories. However, she recalls in gratitude that the medical students refused to touch the body of her uncle Mirash. Although Drita lived with her father and uncle for only five years of her life, she inherited their intellect, strength, will, and dedication. Martin and Mirash were the youngest children among eight in the family. Having lost both their parents at a young age, they only had each other, when they studied abroad. They, however, constantly sustained themselves, having each other’s back. They were prolific writers, were actively involved in students’ organizations and excelled in everything they did. When Drita left for Italy, she had only her mother, who was the one to pass along to her family history and education. She constantly reminded her that “life is the ultimate school”, and Drita learned the lessons well. She first completed her studies in Italy receiving a Baccalaureate Degree in Science. In 1951 she and her mother emigrated to the USA, and settled in Manhattan. Drita was left alone when her mother passed away eight years later; nevertheless, through her fierceness and the many experiences she had overcome, Drita managed to outplay life in her own way, and today she runs two educational and cultural foundations with inestimable heart. Drita received also a Baccalaureate Degree of Art in New York. She attended the IBM Systems Science Institute, and took a variety of other courses, for which she obtained specializations in Business Management, Information Systems, Computer Operations, Tactical and Strategic Planning. Her first career was in business management. She managed the representative office of the Italian FIAT conglomerate in the USA for 15 years, way before the company started importing cars into that continent. She directed large contracts administration to provide specialized materials produced in the USA, but needed for the manufacturing of equipment in Italy that served other European countries, and even a new car factory built in Russia. For all this work she dealt with large contractors in the USA, such as General Motors, Lockheed, Boeing, Budd etc., and handled the purchases and shipments overseas of what eventually went into the production of equipment servicing the fields of aviation, naval engines, railroad cars, trucks, etc. Later on she also took care of setting up the launching of cars importing, and established car rental plans for American tourists that wanted to visit Italy. During the 15 years in this business, Drita also diversified her learning by taking evening classes in a variety of subjects, eventually zeroing in the then emerging computer industry. In the mid 1960’s she took a course in data processing and software programming. She blithely recalls how her class included 15 people, all of whom wanted to start a better job, while she already had a good one in management, but was seeking instead a change in her career path. “I am of those people that when I make a plan, I also have a backup one in case the first does not work out, so I am prepared for what to do next. I also take full responsibility for my actions and decisions”,   Drita adds in a serious manner, and, thus, she explains how, among six different offers that became available to her at that time, she accepted a job opportunity in data processing at Columbia University, where she continued the rest of her Information Systems career until retirement. When Drita came on board, Columbia had six large mainframes, dedicated to academia work and research, but no administrative digitized systems to manage 10,000 employees (at different level of service, from professors and lecturers to gardeners, janitors, security personnel, etc.), plus thousands of students and alumni, numerous department faculties and their administrative staff, payroll processing, and financial reporting. Drita’s business background and her years-long experience in management gave her an advantage in achieving the objectives set for the computerization of administrative systems, and, within 6 months of her new employment at Columbia, she was promoted Project Manager and brought to successful conclusion several large applications and related computerized systems that affected several departments across the University Campus. The complexity of the things she managed and solved gave her the reputation of a problem-solver. At Columbia she dealt with telecommunications, had access to operational hardware, interacted with academia, dealt with and supported the administration in a variety of ways. She also managed the renovation of the university’s main computer center (a 70 million dollar installation at the time), provided technical assistance and management consulting to students, colleagues and department members, and handled a data processing reorganization on campus that involved more than 120 individuals. She compiled procedural manuals for administrative staff, and in 1985 introduced computer security on campus, for which she also wrote a newsletter, and conducted specific training. “When I hear today about computer security issues, it makes me laugh,” says Drita, who thinks of herself now as a dinosaur in the field. During her career at Columbia (over 22 years in 9 different positions) she was a member of several systems organizations and associations, for which she held office and organized meetings, trainings and courses, and annually participated in their variety of seminars, assemblies, and conferences. Throughout her working careers, thoughts of Albania resurfaced from time to time. In 1975 she decided to visit Turkey to retrace where her father and uncle had been and where her father was buried since 1940.  She sifted through old correspondence to find names and addresses, where her uncle lived and she confesses that her visit there was one of the most emotional episodes in her life. Her uncle had left two sealed packages of documents for her with some local acquaintances, not knowing whether she would able to ever fetch them. Once she arrived in Istanbul she visited the cemetery where her father was buried, paid the overdue rent she had no knowledge had accumulated for it there, and the whole visit turned out to be a greatly moving experience.  She found a beautiful headstone with two inscripted lines in Albanian for which she needed help in translation. The cemetery office staff put her in contact with an Albanian journalist, whose last name was Prodani. On the phone he asked her who she was. When he found out she was Drita Ivanaj, he insisted in meeting her that evening at 6 p.m. in the lobby of the Hilton hotel where she was staying. She recalls a mature gentleman coming in, about 20 meters away, who, after spotting her, walked toward her and said: “You are Drita Ivanaj. You are the spit image of your father!” - laughs Drita. The journalist, however, soon became very emotional and the next day took her to the ex-consul of Albania in Turkey, who, he knew, had the packages that her uncle Mirash had left for her. From them she found out many details and some mementos, how her uncle had gone to Jerusalem to help his friend, Qemal Butka, a former mayor of Tirana, and how he had traveled to support other Albanians during his stay in Turkey. Some clues that relate to her uncle’s trial later on in Albania also surfaced from the content of these packages. Many years later, in 1995, she was able to bring her father’s remains home in Albania and buried him beside her uncle. The first time she returned to Albania was in 1993. The communist regime was overthrown by protesting students in 1991, the borders opened to allow free movement of domestic citizens and Albanians who had left the country years ago, and democracy was emerging. Former Prime Minister and founder (also former leader) of the Democratic Party, Sali Berisha, was serving in office as President of Albania in 1993. A number of all democracy martyrs of the country, were granted by him posthumous decorations in November 1992. At that time the government had organized such a ceremony in Shkodra and, as Drita later found out, Mirash Ivanaj was the first in that list of awards, as the father of Albania’s public school system. But Drita, the only living heir of him, was living, uninformed, in New York and thus no family member was present to accept such a reward. Drita thankfully recalls: “In 1993 someone came looking for me in New York knowing that I existed, but nobody knew where I was. So I came to Albania in May 1993, and they redid the entire ceremony for me in Shkodra in the fall of that year. Then, I had the unexpected great pleasure and the honor of meeting some of my uncle’s ex students who were then 85 years old. I was amazed as to what they remembered from their life as students in his time.” When Drita returned in 1993 she was amazed about how many people knew of and greatly regarded her family. She learned from them many details that she was not aware of. Former students of her uncle shared their memories with her, and during the ceremony held in Shkodra she also learned how her uncle had built the first sports field in Albania. Over the years she was disappointed in learning how many people have used surviving documents of her family for their political purposes, and pilfered some of them from national archives. Explicit handwritten note appended by her uncle to private documents: “not to be made public unless specifically approved by my niece Drita”, were totally disregarded and abused.  She had the nerve to face these situations and exposed who had no right to such mishandling and used the Ivanaj name for their own political purposes. Meantime, a long term family friend, historian Sherif Delvina, when he found that Drita returned to Albania, conducted on his own, unsolicited research in the National Archives, and collected several hundred judgments and legal documents bearing the signature of Martin Ivanaj which he put at Drita’s disposal, soliciting her to publish them one day. The disappointing and unacceptable experiences indicated above brought to light several issues and the fact that especially students of jurisprudence do not have much documentation from the past that they can study and use as reference in the solution of today legal cases. This means that they don’t have an archive of past similar cases and thus have no precedence they can rely upon. And this was confirmed to her by lawyers she has dealt with and students of law, who admit hardship in this achievement. Drita stands firmly as an individual that believes in fundamental transparency of actions and justice, and situations such as the ones she was involved with and subjected to, are unacceptable and must be fought. This is one of the reasons why Drita thinks the past is so important, because one can learn from it, avoid the traps of similar mistakes, and learn how to cope with certain similar situations. ‘If there is no precedence, one cannot know something has happened before, and wheels have to be reinvented…..that is why it is so important to learn the past, in order to build the future” says Drita. And her past is what has brought her back and she is here today. She established the Ivanaj Foundation first in New York in 1995 and the Ivanaj Foundation Institute in Tirana in 1996 for the advancement of Albanian education and culture. It took her more than a quarter of a century of persistent hard work and faith in her vision to build these institutions that carry on the legacy her family left. She admits being amazed by what she has achieved. Since she is still working and putting every bit of energy in the path she is pursuing, she doesn’t have time to contemplate about her past, and on what she did to make all this happen. “But I feel happy that at least I’ve reached these results so far,” Drita cheerfully comments. She hopes her work will remain and continue to be expanded also after she will be gone. She says she is trying to set up whatever exists in such a way that it will perpetuate the scope and the goal that the Ivanaj brothers had worked for throughout their lives for the benefit of their country, for which she also feels strongly about, as they did. Drita always wanted to return to Albania and establish an Ivanaj Foundation. Coincidentally, many years after she did, she found, mentioned in a document her uncle left, that he had expressed the wish that his niece would establish one day a foundation on her father’s name. She dedicated her work to both of them, for the positive impact they had on Albania in the past, but also to her life indirectly, as a message of strength and love for one’s country and people. She took early retirement to dedicate her full time to this path. The foundation in New York serves the purpose of fundraising among foreign donors and Albanian ethnics, born and raised in the US for many generations, to carry out programs and projects in Albania and surrounding neighboring countries. She does not have children of her own, but she wants to leave this portion of contribution for the youth of Albania to use. The various trainings and workshops the Ivanaj Institute in Tirana has organized have brought so far many positive results and smiles on children, both for providing better learning practices and teaching them something new, but also for establishing stronger communities. She has perceived the kids always being ready to interact and the parents being more than grateful for their children to be able to spend time in something useful, engaging, and fun. This has proven to Drita that her investment in Albania is having a positive effect in the changes that are ongoing and will continue in one of the youngest countries in the world, thanks to its youth. “We need fresh blood, a blood which doesn’t carry the problematics of the past, but knows the values of its past and thus should and can create a better future for itself,” she declares in hopeful tone. Regardless of some issues that Albania is facing right now, such as the justice reform which might take a while, but will certainly give constructive future results, or the institutional bureaucracies and complexities that do need reforms to better serve the country, or the heartbreaking brain drainage that has affected the country, but could be reversed, Drita feels that Albania also has a host of other valuable assets to offer. Our country has many beautiful resources and not only natural ones. We are living in a world of transformation, which indeed provides many challenges, but, she says, life is a school and we should not be indifferent. We should be open to learning and take the lead ourselves; start working and collaborating with each other as a single entity and not as separate units. “Democracy is freedom, but that implies self-discipline of actions, while the key to success are coordination and organization,” is Drita’s concluding statement. DSCN0816 DSCN0818 Note: this article is a suggested edit by the MMIFI press office, thus appears different from print [post_title] => Drita Ivanaj chants the anthem of education and culture [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => drita-ivanaj-chants-the-anthem-of-education-and-culture [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-04-29 13:53:47 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-04-29 11:53:47 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=141547 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 141425 [post_author] => 338 [post_date] => 2019-04-19 14:25:44 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-19 12:25:44 [post_content] => By Sonja Methoxha   A little girl spends her growing days listening to her grandfather’s tales in Gjirokaster about history and life. She is surrounded by images of strong women who influenced her to become a strong woman herself. She defines her views as feminist, as she has admitted that to many of her friends, but Irda Haruni is simply the representation of a strong female who took her life under her own control, sustaining herself for about 11 years since she was a university Law student, and due time by believing in herself, she has started building her journey into fulfilling a lifelong dream: becoming a writer. Irda recently published her first book, a collection of poems titled Pasqyra (Mirror in English). The poems are written over a span of 10 years and are dedicated to girls and women who are constantly trying to find and be themselves in a patriarchal society. She is inspired by the stories of the women of her family, but also of the women she met during her pathway. During the promotion of her book in Tirana she said that the book “is absolutely dedicated to girls, and here are many strong girls here, and I’d like to thank you for growing me.” However, the poems aren't simply directed to women, but to society as a whole, as we all are in constant interaction with one-another. And as women are already put into motion in demanding their equal rights and deserved appraise for their efforts, perhaps the change would happen when men would start respecting and treating women worthily. IMG_1715   A lady with short, red hair and bright, black aways meanders among the crowd, greeting and thanking everyone who managed to join to her book’s promotion amidst the rainy day of April 11, at Mondial Hotel in Tirana. There were no chairs in the event. People were standing, drinking wine, talking to each other. Irda had decided to associate the book with 10 photos she took while in Italy where she studies. Each picture is based on a poem from the book, and show the hardships that women face against prejudices of society. And she wouldn't even have made a promotion if it wasn’t for the idea of the photo exhibition, but it also served the purpose of evading long speeches and to let the visitors to immerse themselves into her art. “Of course I am a feminist, I have made that obvious in all tables, even with boys. I really believe in this cause, and I wanted the messages to be strong and clear for everyone, especially to you who have children today. So I wanted you to have this clear as an instruction from me,” said Irda during her book promotion in Tirana. The promotion took place in her hometown of Gjirokaster at Argjiro Hotel on April 8, because family members are there. Old relatives, schoolmates and childhood friends, old school teachers and family friends attended the event in support to Irda. Tirana though, has her friends. Pasqyra has 111 poems about women and life. The book was published in Gjirokaster on April 8, and in Tirana on April 9. She printed 300 books, out of which only 50 were left to be dispersed in libraries, as the rest were already sold during her promotion. “I started writing when I was a little girl, but I decided to publish the book now because the time came, as it was becoming more serious when I noticed that I couldn’t break loose from writing,” told Irda Top Channel during her promotion in Gjirokaster. The poems run smooth. There is a honesty about the reality the way this woman sees it. She doesn’t feel like lying, because she does not have time to play games. But the truth she provides tastes bittersweet, that is why it can be swallowed easily as the allegories and metaphors she uses spread around in a dissociated dance, in a search of its identity, following an inaudible rhythm until it return to its starting point again. Poems on self, love, nature, friendship, ideals, all derive from a soul on its path to discovery, which after seeing its roots to its being, it is now boldly making them visible to the world, and sharing its wisdom. The book is only offered in the Albanian language, which is Irda’s mother tongue. After she finishing her second degree in Italy for which she is currently studying, she will will start slowly translating the book in English and make it available for Kindle through Amazon, and also start planning on a second project. She promised her next book to be a novel, as her second poem collection is already halfway. The following poem is titled It Should be a Reality was suggested by Irda as a representation of the book’s message, and comes translated as a courtesy of the author.  

It Should be a Reality

 

A girl is born

And no balloons

A young blood fairy eternally

But what can this world confess

Without your soul’s mystery?

And young blood wouldn’t raise

For it’s not just a tale

Nor their veins blue as ice

Can’t make your name fade

FEMALE

[caption id="attachment_141427" align="aligncenter" width="749"]IMG-0432 *How insane! In a bottle, how could your perfume be imprisoned, that you are a half God?[/caption] [caption id="attachment_141428" align="aligncenter" width="876"]IMG-0433 *1000 years today it is still the same...[/caption] [caption id="attachment_141429" align="aligncenter" width="736"]IMG-0434 *Beautiful, just like the earth you say, but my bosom you infringed[/caption] [post_title] => A “Mirror” for women to find themselves [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => 141425 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-04-19 15:20:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-04-19 13:20:23 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=141425 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 141413 [post_author] => 338 [post_date] => 2019-04-19 14:05:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-19 12:05:31 [post_content] => By Sonja Methoxha Countless colorful product pictures are hung on a long white corridor which leads to a large backyard. A black van which serves coffee, cold beverages and fast foods appears. The music in the background puts the cooks on the a dancing mood. Less than 10 meters away is the entrance to a building with a small ice cream stand in front to cool the heat, and on the right to this building there is an improvised outdoors restaurant covered by a white canopy thronged by people enjoying warm food. The 25 year-old company in raw materials importing and processing, Neranxi, organized the 11th edition of its annual Professional Culinary Fair during Apr. 13 and 14 at the grounds of its headquarters, under the slogan “to promote tasteful culinary and longevity.” The fair aims to promote the company’s new products, new culinary trends, and to also promote healthy eating in leading a healthy life by preventing diseases through food. The Neranxi Culinary Institute is also situated in those grounds. 25 chefs of various nationalities with international experiencing are training students at the Institute that want to have a career in the art of culinary. Each of the chefs were at a specific section within the building, and assisted by their students they would cook their countries’ traditional foods. Visitors had a chance to taste Asian, Russian, Italian, Greek, Albanian, Spanish, and even Israeli traditional foods among others. This also serves as a way to learn a new way of cooking. “God acted very generously when he created the world, and there is nothing missing there that the human needs. We only need to learn how to use them,” said president Nikolaq Neranxi during the fair inauguration. 57234055_2285839658142552_5531984457831022592_n   Meats, fish, herbs, canned foods, fragrant aromas that arouse one’s appetite enter the vision of a visitor’s once getting inside the building. This is the cooking stand. Large tables with food samples, chefs talking to consumers, visitors serving themselves while tasting a cup of wine, cooks rushing to finish orders and serve them to anticipating taste hungry persons. Walking along there is a cocktail center named “Mixiology,” where bartenders would prepare colorful drinks for the thirsty visitors. Pastry stands with 100 percent gluten free flour and dough for intolerant consumers, pizzas, ramen, salads, cakes and sweets. The most attractive section was obviously the chocolate one which was appropriately named the “Chocolate Laboratory.” A new product introduced this year was the “Magic Unicorn” ice cream, which general Manager Efi Neranxi, who is also the oldest daughter in the Neranxi family, called it “beautiful and childish product, which has the power to bring childhood back also in adults, because every person is first and foremost a child within their-self.” I tried a sample of the ice cream and I can personally say that it did taste like childhood memories. IMG-0470 Efi Neranxi told me that the spring fair seeks to bring a celebration to all clients, collaborators and consumers, a day of gathering to share all new products, tastes, and technological innovations in food processing that bring the final consumer products. During the years this event has vastly increase by the number of visitors, companies that join Neranxi’s board for further collaboration, and participating culinary professors and especially students that find this fair as a good opportunity to practice their skills. More than 4000 people visited the event on Saturday, and even more showed on Sunday, regardless of the rainy weather. This event has proved attractive for consumers not only to learn about new products that enter the market, but also because the chefs and cooks in the stands can explain to clients what a certain product is, its nutrients and health benefits, how to use it, and also offer various ways of cooking it. Thus this way the fair aims to get more in touch with consumers and educate them about products. Representatives of collaborative companies to Neranxi, as in product furnishing but also equipment provisions, come annually to the fair, and some usually use this event to market their products to final consumers and especially business owners that deal with foods, such as restaurant, bars, or bakery owners. Considering how large the company is and its ongoing expansion, other consumer goods products are constantly approaching it for potential collaboration. Yet, Neranxi philosophy considers a responsibility towards customers and guaranteeing them high-quality products with European standards that hold international patents. As Neranxi president mentioned it in his speech, these guaranteed products also guarantee a healthy life. “It is in our selection of flavor and especially quality of products, because food is the main medicine for people today. We have taken the responsibility to please people with savory foods, but also to increase awareness for a healthier eating which prevent diseases, but that are also curative,” said president Nikollaq Neranxi. IMG-0459 Data have shown that Albanians are suffering more from cancer, cardiovascular and mental health diseases, and obesity is on the rise. These prevalence of these diseases is increasing year after year because of the wrong food regimes, lack of physical activity and the country's quick urbanization. A study on population health evidenced that Albanians are not regular consumers of fruits and vegetables and thus lack nutrients to treat diseases. But as doctors are leaving their jobs and country, the medical-pills industry is booming, which has arose some other concerns among patients and relevant parties for either fake or expired medication. Concerning was the fact that the company is not approached much by local farmers. They have business partnerships with domestic farmers for local Albanian herbs and such as oregano, bay leaves, lindens, “mountain tea,” or blueberries, and other products present in our territories. However, they would like to have a higher approach from the farmers and their products, so they wouldn’t have to supplement the market through importing the missing products it needs. On another note, restaurant owners have been using this fair as a human resources opportunity. Efi Neranxi said that by May when the classes and training in the Institute finish, all the trained cooks are hired and they are usually left only with the teaching staff. It is not only due to the nine-year long teaching experience that the Institute provides and its qualified staff with contemporary methods, but also due to the prestigious teaching settings and high-quality laboratories which replicate real-life restaurants. An interesting object the company has which was praised by Efi Neranxi is the black van, or “the bus.” The bus is used to serve street food, sandwiches, toasts, chips, coffee, juices, or simply fast foods using organic materials from the company. This bus was used as part of a program initiated by Neranxi on 2018, and in 2019 will be permanently used in a new social platform that the company is initiating. “The company has always taken care of those who haven’t had many opportunities or luck in life, and the company will of course sponsor incoming students at the Culinary Institute by providing free classes to them, so they can have a safe future in this field,” shared Efi Neranxi. IMG-0472   This fair is organized 100 percent by the private company, as it is also sponsored by it, and takes place within the grounds of the company headquarters. This trio creates a combination of factors and elements which makes it unique and also familiar for the consumers as it makes one feel at home, even though inside a big company. All family members work for the company and its expansion is both due to the family oriented business model, as well as providing healthy food choices for everyone. Efi Neranxi shared that her father would always say “if I feed my children with the products I trade, then the rest of you are safe.” 57490384_2286148211445030_4968406833594105856_o (1) 56965453_2285805211479330_4606420474421837824_n IMG-0475 IMG-0447   [post_title] => A weekend at Neranxi [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => a-weekend-at-neranxi [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-04-19 14:05:31 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-04-19 12:05:31 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=141413 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 141103 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-28 18:30:17 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-28 17:30:17 [post_content] => By Sidonja Manushi  On February 19, the National History Museum hosted for three days a special photo exhibition from a far-away artist who might have managed to capture the essence of being Albanian much better than some of the local ones. Ebtisam Al-Houti is a Kuwaiti artist who got introduced to Albania due to her husband’s position as the Ambassador of Kuwait to Tirana, but who fell in love with the country, its nature and its traditions completely on her own. “Albania is a unique country that you will not get bored to visit and live due to its diverse cities with rich history, culture, art, museums, archeology and ancient architecture. It is a rare example of the cities whose heritage and architecture have been preserved through the ages. Albania has charming nature, magnificent natural resources, beautiful mountains, plains, rivers and lakes, which fascinated me by nature and environmental tourism. In which I have memories that will not be forgotten,” she said, painting the country through the eyes of a wanderer, as much as a photographer. Born in Kuwait in 1958, Ebtisam Al-Houti is an artist mainly fond of photography. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Kuwait University. Soon thereafter, Al-Houti was assigned to the position of senior psychologist and deputy head of the Psychological Counseling Unit at the Faculty of Education at Kuwait University from 1995 to date. Al-Houti’s connection to the art of photography began in the Republic of Benin in 2011. It was during this time that she was drawn to the picturesque nature and splendor of the arts, as well as to the beauty of expression of the people of Benin. Since that time, Al-Houti has focused on developing her photography and enhancing her skills. It was perhaps this mixture of the love to travel and the desire to explore and understand the culture of all the countries she visits that gave birth to the exhibition’s unique character. Titled “Albania, hospitality’s bright smile,” Al-Houti’s pictures capture one of the most trademark, yet hardly understood, traits of Albanian custom - that of hospitality. Albanian hospitality is one of those things tourists mention the most when asked about what they found remarkable in the country. Despite the country’s small size and big - sometimes bad - reputation, the average Albanian is friendly and peaceful. With family and communal ties strongly preserved, Albanians remain giving and hospitable, in a world fast-changing to individualism and ties based on interest. “Most of the people of Albania, regardless of the different cities, religions and social levels, and despite the existence of cultural and ethnic differences among its members, are peaceful and friendly, and maintains the strength of family ties. It is a nation that coexists with different groups of society in natural harmony,” Al-Houti said. Her exhibition did not escape the attention of high-rank officials either, the most noteworthy among whom was Albania’s President Ilir Meta, who posted pictures with the artist in his official Instagram page. “A warm meeting with Kuwaiti artist Ebtisam Al Houti, engaged over the last years with promoting one of the biggest and most important Albanian characteristic and value, hospitality,” Meta wrote, adding he “appreciates Al Houti’s efforts to strengthen brotherly ties with the Kuwaiti people and to create a guide for foreign tourists, an indication of Albania’s humane values and fairytale beauty.” “Bread, salt and heart” is one of the most used Albanian expressions and probably the motto to remember this exhibition by. Used by Albanians when they invite someone into their houses even if they have nothing to offer other than bread, salt and an open heart, Al-Houti took this expression and manifested it with images. The exhibition includes photographs taken in six Albanian cities, embodying the spirit of hospitality through a series of cultural discoveries and exchanges between the people of Albania and the artist. Among them was Tirana, the country’s capital, Shkodra, the cradle of Albanian culture, Korca, the city of arts and museums, Berat, with its ancient architecture, Mirdita, with its magical nature and Gjirokastra, the city of leaders. “I honestly enjoyed all the cities that I visited in this work, which contains so many beautiful memories, that I have lived and enjoyed from the warm welcoming ... and the wealth of meeting the wonderful families and wonderful friends ... along with valuable historical information,” Al-Houti said, describing her travels. While in Tirana, the artist was invited to a house that was built in 1927 and was greeted by most of the women of the extended family “who showered me with love, generosity, welcome and a flood of warm emotions.” The photographs show a variety of treats traditionally offered in the capital, from home-cooked food and thana juice, hasude dessert and the flavorful Turkish coffee, especially prepared on a wooden fireplace. Similarly, in Shkodra she visited a home that was built 200 years ago; during that visit, Al-Houti engaged in an interesting discussion about the ancient city over Turkish coffee and a local dessert known in Shkodra as “hajimakula.” In Korca, she was hosted at a house which was built over 100 years ago. As the artist describes in her photography book, “discussion covered a variety of topics, with a great deal of ease and spontaneity, coupled with a beautiful spirit of people who were proud to display their love and pride in their city and the abundance it envelopes.” There, she was offered fragrant apples that make Korca famous all over Albania, as well as homemade peach jam and juice. The hosts’ own honey, decorated with almonds, made an excellent addition to the aesthetic selection of Korca’s photographs. Reminiscing on her experience traveling through the country, Al-Houti said the hospitality found in Albania is incomparable with any other country she’s visited. “Frankly, I did not find the level and beauty of Albanian hospitality except in the Gulf countries to which I belong and some Arab Islamic countries that have the same cultures and traditions,” she said concerning the subject of her art. In Berat - which has made it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its magnificent architecture - she was hosted in another old, carefully preserved, house. As a traditional treat, she was offered homemade quince jam and Turkish coffee. Mirdita might have been the most unique of locations Al-Houti visited, despite her saying she was not able to pick a favorite one. Mirdita is known as the city of valleys, long-distance tours, waterfalls, ecotourism and natural resources. The 200-year old house she visited in Miredita was located on an ancient travel path, and contained no modifications that would cause its original splendor to diminish. Among the stories told in that house, Al-Houti learned that years ago, the current residents’ great grandfather would host travellers who passed through searching for a place to stay. He would take anyone in need in, offering them food and a place to stay for free. In Miredite, she took pictures of freshly-squeezed grape juice, grilled chestnuts, seasonal fruit, lacnor for dessert and Turkish coffee. Interestingly, the area’s chestnuts are some of the country’s best. Gjirokastra is the last of cities, but definitely not the least one - if anything, it is the cherry on top. In Gjirokaster, a rare example of preserved architectural wonder, Al-Houti visited a house built 400 years ago - what she called “a truly beautiful architectural masterpiece.” Extending their hospitality, the hosts offered her homemade fig and cherry jam, fresh pomegranate juice and saltines. If there is one thing that Al-Houti’s photographs depict is that hospitality offered with sincere love will always be accompanied with abundance. It was also the thing that made her feel more at home, among the nature, history and culture. “Is there anything more important than the strength of family bonds among members of one family, and the strength of social relations between members of society of all sects and religions and acceptance of the other opinion? That is the basis of building and the strength of the community accompanied by the whiteness of the heart and spirit and the nature with which God created man. I hope that Albanian people will adhere to the blessings that God has given and not neglect them,” she asked, drawing parallels between Albanian custom and the practices and core values represented in the teachings of Islam that she was raised by. Ultimately, it is the graciousness that remains throughout the visit of a guest and the way Albanian hosts bid farewell at the door with the hopes of seeing them again that made “Albania: Hospitality’s bright smile” one of the most interesting exhibitions to grace the National History Museum and which will give the artist, and other visiting after her, a reason to return to Albania.     [post_title] => ‘Bread, salt and heart’ through the eyes of a Kuwaiti lens [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => bread-salt-and-heart-through-the-eyes-of-a-kuwaiti-lens [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-04-01 11:15:30 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-04-01 09:15:30 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=141103 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140835 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-08 10:17:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-08 09:17:28 [post_content] => By Sidonja Manushi  Willingly - and excitedly even - going to a football match in Albania as a woman is worth it even just for the looks on people’s faces when you tell them you’ll be spending your Friday evening watching legendary Tirona vs Partizani. But it’s definitely not the only reason. A football match is very much like a ritual. Actually, considering how F.K.Tirana fans call their team God, calling it a ritual is probably the most fitting word. Tirona fanatics come at a derby such as the one against Partizani (which remains undefeated by FK Tirana over the last five years) about six to five hours ahead of the game. They sit in small, not very fancy, but shady under trees coffee shops, wearing blue and white hats, shirts, scarves, and think ahead of the moment they won’t be able to drink inside the football stadium by downing as many beers as possible. Of course, part of the gathering process is dividing the hiding spots for all those firecrackers and pyro that we see explode inside important derbys like this although we know it’s illegal. Here too, girls are invaluable, hiding most of the equipment in places no one dares search them and sneaking in bottles of rakia as if it’s water much more efficiently than their fellow male trouble-makers. Too bad only a handful of girls attend matches, let alone be club fans who enjoy to harmlessly break the law. By the time police start arriving around the Selman Stërmasi stadium (home ground of the club named after eminent KF Tirana player, coach and president, Selman Stërmasi), chants dipped in excitement and cursing can already be heard, just like the occasional tipsy fan cracking a joke and then smiling devilishly at the young boys still leaving an elementary school close-by. At this point, beers are being passed around from one person to the other, and I’m guessing it’s not because the store is too far away, but because these fans communicate as if they’re part of a family and, in a family, sharing is caring. Another reason is that when you’re drinking time flies and, before anyone knows it it’s already one hour and a half to the game; a clear sign that entering any minute later will mean too much traffic at the entrances. Seeing even tourists - sun-kissed Germans and Dutch youths with a passion for football probably having found out about the game - sitting around the stadium’s edges, makes entering the stadium at 4:30 pm actually make sense. Passing through those gates marks the moment things stop making sense - or even need to. Gate D slowly starts filling up with blue and white, with men, boys and children (and the occasional girl) banging their feet on the old plastic chairs that haven’t had someone actually sit in them in ages. They chant old and new songs and shout at the opposing side of the field, where a considerably smaller group of red-dressed fanatic fans is supporting FK Partizani. “I know half of the guys there. We don’t really hate each other. But in this stadium we do. And in this stadium, we need to crash them,” a man noticing me take pictures of the ‘reds’ tells me confidently, and then turns in their direction holding his middle fingers up. Not being allowed to bring many supporters at a Tirana home game, Partizani has gone all out and hired a Partizani-clad paraglider roam around the stadium about an hour before the match starts, forcing you to turn your eyes on the sky. Tirona fanatics do not spare their curses at him too. As expected, the match itself doesn’t hold much of a significance. Not because it is dull, although none of the teams ended up scoring a goal, but because the feast and atmosphere that surrounds it is much more remarkable. A football stadium - maybe more so than stadiums of any other sport - is a place where you can feel truly alive for 90 minutes. It is the kind of playground that makes you forget your routine, stress of daily life, that annoying co-worker or the insecurity of the future. Those moments of cheering over a ball and a football jersey are priceless and can be felt just as passionately in a pitch somewhere in a village as they do in the most crowded of stadiums. Sometimes, during wine conversations with male and female friends who consider themselves too intellectual to watch football - and especially an Albanian match attended by “hood guys” - I have heard that football is particularly likable for apathetic boys who need to belong in a group, often lacking individuality. But the need to belong to a group, be part of something bigger than ourselves, is part of being human, that which Aristotle called being a “social animal.” And, in a world constantly asking you to prove, offer or possess something to feel as if you belong, rare are the places that remain without judgment and criteria, but rather welcoming of whoever is willing and capable to cheer and let go of societal norms for almost two hours. Consider it as your get-out-of-the-comfort-zone activity for the next time you get a chance to watch a live football match. [post_title] => Replacing ‘me-time’ with ‘we-time’ at Tirona vs Partizani [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => replacing-me-time-with-we-time-at-tirona-vs-partizani [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-08 10:17:28 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-08 09:17:28 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140835 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140740 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-01 11:11:10 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-01 10:11:10 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL There is only one thing worse than a full blown democratic crisis and that is ignoring it, normalizing the current state of affairs as just an administrative glitch with some teargas protest flare. Any doctor will tell that a right diagnosis is the first step for treatment. They might rightly add that the diagnosis needs to be timely. If a patient loses time, pretends that symptoms are temporary and not serious he will inch towards the inevitable much sooner leaving the doctors helpless. What is happening now in Albania is the revelation of all the grave symptoms created by the failure of the governance model and the crumbling facade of the democracy. Yet many actors of the society go on acting as if things are completely normal, as if there are only some small surmountable obstacles to political life. The same is valid for most of the international community that seems to have directed its criticism only to one side. One can only shrug at the irony of these declarations claiming that the crisis is ruining Albania’s image and touristic potential when the house is indeed on fire. Albania is now in the midst of a double representation and institutional vacuum: it has no Constitutional Court and no formal opposition in the Parliament. Even the most basic checks and balances that guarantee the monitoring of executive power and keeping it within the limits of the democratic game are missing. The gap leaves the entire system in a frightening disarray. For as much as the majority and the Prime Minister continue the mantra of “keeping the contract with the electorate” and the international community plays at being a moderator for the sake of ‘negotiations’ or ‘image related issues’ or the simple preservation of stability,  then what we have is a normalization of a situation that is far from being acceptable. It seems like an effort to make a nightmare look tolerable. Albanian democracy needs a strategic rethinking and reestablishment of the most basic rules of the game starting with the process of elections which the genesis of all evil that follows. It further needs the safekeeping of institutional checks and balances and their protection from the aggressive and blind show of force of majorities. It needs a real chance of giving each indispensable actor in the system its role to play with responsibility and vision. Downplaying the seriousness and scope of the crisis, ignoring the powerful messages that come from the popular and political discontent might serve short term political goals and lengthen the shelf life of the already damaged facades. It can only go so far as to maintain a fragile negative stability. However borrowing the opening metaphor right now it seems as if a team of doctors were to rest in complete indifference while their patient sleep walks into an abyss. [post_title] => Editorial: A sleep walking patient aiming for the abyss [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-a-sleep-walking-patient-aiming-for-the-abyss [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-01 11:11:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-01 10:11:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140740 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140721 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-02-27 17:32:53 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-02-27 16:32:53 [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 27 – In an appeal to Northern Irish actor Liam Neeson to come and discover Albania on his own following his notorious comments about the Balkan country a decade ago in the award-winning ‘Taken’ movie, Albania has launched its new promotional campaign ahead of the peak tourist season. “Hey Liam, we love watching your films, and we think you are very talented. But we got a bone to pick up with you. You've made people of the world think that we Albanians are criminals, thugs, and always on the look out for daughters to kidnap. Well, maybe it's time for us to show you our specific set of skills, take you on a plane because we think you will be taken by Albania,” says a popular Albanian comedy actor in a newly released promotional video. Dubbed “Be Taken by Albania,” the promotional video features popular Albanian destinations and tourists enjoying themselves amid appeals to get to know Albania's history, traditional handicraft, castles, fjords and valleys, glacial lakes, canyons and flamingos surrounded by the warmth and friendliness of all the locals. The new campaign follows an earlier “Albania, Go your own way” that has been branding Albania’s emerging tourism since 2014 leading to more and more tourists discovering Albania as “a new Mediterranean love” and “Europe’s last secret”. “We've been taken by Albania. Now it's your turn!” foreign tourists say in the video. Quoting Kosovo-Albanian actor Arben Bajraktaraj who starred as Marko from the northeastern Albanian region of Tropoja at the 'Taken' movie, tourists are urged to come and prove that “the house of an Albanian belongs to God and to the guest.” Speaking at the launch of the campaign this week, EU Ambassador to Albania Luigi Soreca, invited foreign tourists to overcome media or movie prejudice about Albania and be taken by Albania to leave with a smile on their face and the desire to come back." "How not to be taken by the beautiful Ionian Riviera, the majestic mountains of the North, the rich cultural heritage and history of the country, the delicious food and warm hearted people? Not to forget the vibrant city life of Tirana," said Ambassador Soreca. An Italian national, Soreca is featured in the promotional video, rafting on the Osumi Canyon and saying "I've been taken by the beauty of the Osumi Canyon. Now, it's your turn!” Rolf Castro-Vasquez, the CEO of Tirana International Airport, who has been living in Albania for the past 14 years, says the people are the most surprising and positive thing he has discovered about Albania. "When you come to a new country, you always think about how you are going to be treated, or what the culture is. In Albania, the people are very kind and friendly, exactly the opposite of what the average European thinks," he is quoted as saying in an interview with the ‘Taken by Albania’ portal. "The country is safe, and also the hospitality of the people is simply amazing. I would invite anyone to come to Albania to explore its treasures: first of all the beauty of its nature, and its rich cultural heritage, and not forgetting also economically, Albania has much to offer foreign investors," says Castro-Vasquez who regularly rides his motorbike around Albania. Albania, where tourism is turning into a key industry, is described as “a place where routine will melt under the midday sun, and where you'll reinvigorate a zest for the undiscovered and experience the grit of nature beyond the confines of a map.” “In a Europe that’s been tamed and explored, with rules and order around every corner, Albania is the last defender of the rugged. A place where the mountains have no roads, the rivers flow wild, and the beaches are unspoiled by the concrete promenades of the West,” says the promotional portal. The travel and tourism industry has grown to become one of the key drivers of the Albanian economy, officially generating €1.7 billion, some 12 percent of the country’s GDP, from more than 5 million tourists. Albania has made it to a series of top under-the-radar and affordable destinations for 2019, hinting the country’s emerging and fast growing travel and tourism industry is set for another golden year, although a tense political situation in the run-up to the June 30 elections could have some negative effect unless everything goes smooth. The most important ratings come from prestigious Lonely Planet and booking.com, but also a number of travel writers, recommending Albania as a still off-the-beaten-path and budget destination. Several outdoor tour operators in the country offer hiking, rafting, biking, horse riding and birds watching adventures in the country, while cross-border tourism is gaining an upper hand with the opening of several mountain hiking trails. The communist past is also what fascinates tourists about Albania, which was cut off from the rest of the world under a hardline Stalinist dictatorship. [post_title] => Albania launches new ‘Be Taken’ tourism campaign with appeal to overcome prejudice [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-launches-new-be-taken-tourism-campaign-with-appeal-to-overcome-prejudice [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-02-27 17:36:28 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-02-27 16:36:28 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140721 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143456 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-11-08 09:53:02 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-11-08 08:53:02 [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 1 - The Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) and the Interreligious Collaboration Centre Elbasan  (IRCCE) have recently just established the Institute for Religious Studies and Cooperation - the first of its kind in the country - to provide a positive model for the entire region and beyond. The implementing partners are jointly working to design the next year activities involving all relevant stakeholders from religious communities, community organizations and academia. The three main objectives of this initiative are first for the institute to conduct scientific religious research and studies, next to support interreligious dialogue starting from the grassroots level and finally to promote the Albanian model of religious harmony whenever it’s applicable abroad.  “The reason why we thought this is timely is because whatever has existed so far has been very sporadic, so there is no systematic encouragement of interreligious dialogue; there are only different small projects here and there, which do not really connect the religious community with other stakeholders, so our effort is to create connections with other parts of the society,” said Alba Cela, Deputy Director of AIIS.  The Inter-Religious Centre, in line with this rationale, also aims to build bridges between the country’s religious and secular communities in order to create common social approaches, to conduct studies on the culture of dialogue, intercultural studies, studies on all faiths and religions, as well as their relations to all aspects of social life.  According to the Executive Director of the Interreligious Centre Dr.Arben Ramkaj, what is innovative about this new idea is the cooperation in itself of a well-established think tank likes AIIS with a local centre, in order to bring together national and local knowledge together.  “Our expectations are to eventually turn into a cooperation centre not only for Albania, but the entire Western Balkans, and to promote the country’s harmonic religious model among many communities, including those who once experienced conflicts, and why not eventually produce academic materials which could be used in the field of education,” Ramkaj said.  The project is also supported by the expertise of Open Europe Consulting, which brought its director and one of its experts in Tirana for two days to assist with the initial stages of the institute’s establishment.  The project’s target and phases include phase one, the baseline study, the establishment of an interreligious network and Advisory Board and a draft concept of the institute and envisioned implementation strategy; phase two, which is the institute’s actual establishment, as well as that professional support and scientific backup, the start of regional initiatives at the grassroots level and gaining project funding; phase three, which foresees the institute’s potential inclusion in policy-making and regular funding. “Albania is the country with the biggest ground for this project’s success - it has tradition, the history, the traces of the past still present, and we found during the mapping that in Albania there is already this tradition of religious harmony and that with communism a big part of that was destroyed, but that there is still place to study and promote it. So to establish this in a country where people are already open to that, is important,” said Andrea Mewaldt, director of Open Europe.  The first brainstorming session held sought to address issues such as radicalization and extremism, the lack of foreign funding - the religious communities in Albania have small financial sources due to the lack of repropriation by the state - and the education of new clerics.  The education of new clerics, which is a particular problem as a big number of new clerics in Albania study abroad, bringing back home a religious culture that differs from the traditional Albanian one. Different studies have shown that foreign influences play an important role in the radicalization of vulnerable people.  The Institute for Religious Studies and Cooperation will create a network among the religious communities, government and non-government organizations and different donors to also provide additional support for other grassroots initiatives and to eventually reach a stage to make policy recommendations valid for initiatives of interreligious cooperation   [post_title] => Inter-religious Institute established in Albania- a pioneer idea to bring together all stakeholders of interreligious dialogue and cooperation [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => inter-religious-institute-established-in-albania-a-pioneer-idea-to-bring-together-all-stakeholders-of-interreligious-dialogue-and-cooperation [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 09:53:02 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 08:53:02 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143456 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object] => stdClass Object ( [term_id] => 41 [name] => Features [slug] => features [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 41 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 629 [filter] => raw [cat_ID] => 41 [category_count] => 629 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Features [category_nicename] => features [category_parent] => 0 ) [queried_object_id] => 41 [post__not_in] => Array ( ) )

Latest News

Read More