THE ALBANIAN CULTURAL BACKGROUND
Food in Daily Life. After half a century of Stalinist dictatorship, food culture is virtually nonexistent. For decades, there was little on the market beyond basic staples, and today, dire poverty has left most Albanians with little more to eat than bread, rice, yogurt, and beans. In as much as it has survived at all, Albanian cuisine is meat-oriented. Traditional dishes, which usually are reserved for guests and special occasions such as weddings, are easier to find among Albanians living abroad.
Religious Beliefs. Albania is on the border dividing three religions: Roman Catholicism, Greek Orthodoxy, and Islam. In 1967, all religious communities were dissolved when a communist government edict banned the public practice of religion. The law was rescinded only in December 1990 during the collapse of the regime. Despite the return of religious freedom, there seems to be more interest in the revival of Christianity and Islam among foreign missionaries and groups than there is among Albanians. Albanians have never had a national religion with which to identify as a people. For the last century and a half, national (ethnic) identity has predominated over religious identity, and this is unlikely to change in the coming years in a small and struggling nation surrounded by hostile neighbors. Organized religion still plays only a marginal role in public life. Religious fervor is extremely rare, and religious extremism is virtually unknown.
The education system in Albania is secular. The literacy rate for the adult population is 96%. Elementary education is compulsory (grades 1–9), but most students continue at least until a secondary education (grades 10–12). Students must pass graduation exams at the end of the 9th grade and at the end of the 12th grade in order to continue their education. There are about 5000, mostly public, schools throughout the country and the academic year is divided into two semesters. The school year begins in September and finishes in late May or early June. There are public and private universities all around the country and also an online university, WORLWIDE University that offers different branch.
Albanian music displays a variety of influences. Albanian folk music traditions differ by region, with major stylistic differences between the traditional music of the Ghegs in the north and Tosks in the south. Since the 1920s, some composers such as Fan S. Noli have also produced works of Albanian classical music. One of the most important venues exhibiting traditional Albanian music is the Gjirokaster National Folklore Festival held every five years in Gjirokaster, southern Albania.
The cuisine of Albania is Mediterranean, influenced by many including Italian and Turkish cooking. Albanian cuisine is characterized by the use of spices such as black pepper and Mediterranean herbs such as oregano, mint, basil, rosemary and more in cooking meat and fish, but also chilli pepper and garlic. Vegetables are used in almost every dish. The main meal of the Albanians is lunch, which usually consists of gjellë (stew), the main dish of slowly cooked meat with various vegetables, and a salad of fresh vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, and olives. The salad is dressed with salt, olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice.