|A small Greek minority also resides in the country.
Albania’s climate is Mediterranean, with hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Summers along the coast are moderated by sea breezes. Around 40% of the rain falls during the winter months.
Situated on the coast of the Adriatic Sea and bordered by Greece, Macedonia and the Yugoslavia Federal Republic, lies Albania.
The descendants of the ancient Illirians, the Albanian people form a homogeneous ethnic group with a common language (although various dialects do exist).
There are an estimated seven million ethnic Albanians in the world, but fewer than half of them live within the boundaries of the Albanian state. The largest concentrations of Albanian-speaking people are found in Yugoslavia and Macedonia, and during the last decades many Albanians have emigrated to Europe and the US. No country in Europe has a more homogeneous population than Albania, where non-Albanians account for only 2 percent of the total population. Greeks, concentrated mainly in the southeast, and Slavs, almost all of them Macedonians, constitute the largest minorities. In 2001 Albania’s population estimate was 3,510,484, resulting in an average density of 122 persons per sq km (316 per sq mi). Albania has had one of the highest birth rates in Europe, while the death rate has been one of the continent’s lowest.
Albania has six National Forests, 24 nature reserves and 2000 natural monuments. Albanian flora is rather rich beginning with evergreen Mediterranean plants and ending with Alpine fir. 36 percent of Albania is forested with mixed stands of willow, poplar, elm, pine, oak, and white beech trees. Albania claims distinction for a rich and varied fauna, which is linked with the diversity of geographical landscape and its location on the roads of emigration of birds.
Albania has a mountainous geography. About three-quarters of its territory consists of mountains and hills with elevations of more than 650 feet (200 meters) above sea level; the remainder consists of coastal and alluvial lowlands. The North Albanian Alps, an extension of the Dinaric mountain system, cover the northern part of the country. With elevations approaching 8,900 feet, this is the most rugged part of the country. It is heavily forested and sparsely populated, and most people there make a living at forestry or livestock raising.
Traditionally, Albania has been 70% Sunni Muslim, 10% Roman Catholic (mostly in the north) and 20% Albanian Orthodox, making it the only European country to have a Muslim majority.
From 1967 to 1990 it was also the only officially atheist state in the world, and many churches were converted into cinemas and theatres.
The spiritual vacuum left after the fall of communism has in part been filled by US evangelists, but new churches and mosques are springing up all over the country.
Albanian food has been strongly influenced by Turkish food. Grilled meats like shishqebap (shish kebab), romsteak (minced meat patties) and qofte (meat balls) are common dishes. Lunch is the main meal, although eating out in the evening in Tirana is increasingly common. Ice cream (akullore) is very popular, and the coffee is either kafe turke and strong enough to walk over to your table by itself, or kafe ekspres (espresso).
There is a large variety of white and red wine. Other local drinks are raki (brandy), konjak (cognac), uzo ( like Greek ouzo) and various fruit liqueurs.