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Albania puts its past behind it

After social and economic upheaval in the 1990s, Albania is at last beginning to reveal a more positive side to its nature. Guy Norton reports from Tirana.

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TO CALL THE Albanian capital Tirana a work in progress doesn’t capture half the picture. Gleaming office towers, glamorous shopping malls and chic cafés and bars nestle cheek by jowl with rubbish-strewn wastelands, complete with the seemingly compulsory contingent of flea-bitten dogs and even mangier looking down-and-outs. The city’s roads offer a similarly catholic mix. The new access route into downtown Tirana from the equally new terminal at Mother Teresa airport is undoubtedly as good as any you’ll find in the region. However, even the very centre of Tirana has some roads that seem to have been built – in the very loosest sense of the word – to a uniquely Albanian formula: nine parts pothole to one part tarmac. It’s no surprise then that Range Rovers and Porsche Cayennes are the marques of choice for the country’s financial elite – off-road vehicles really are a practical form of transport.

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