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Albania is a country in southeastern Europe. Most of its western boundary is along the Adriatic Sea or the Ionian Sea to the south. To the northwest lies Montenegro, while to the east, running from north to south, it is bordered by Kosovo, Macedonia, and Greece, with which it shares its longest land border. Its lowest point is sea level at 0 feet (0 m), and its highest point is Maja e Korabit at 9,068.24 feet (2,764 m). Its area of 11,099.66 square miles (28.748 sq km) makes it a bit smaller than the state of Maryland.
Albania’s capital is Tirana, also styled Tirane, and its official name is Republic of Albania, which in local form is Republika e Shqiperise. Having achieved independence from the Ottoman Empire on 28 November 1912, it is termed an “emerging democracy, and has both a president, who is chief of state, and a prime minister, who is head of the government.: There is a unicameral assembly and the country is divided into 12 counties, called qarqe. Elections are held every four years.
The 3,619,778 residents of Albania — an estimate from July of 2008 — are mainly between age 15 and age 64, with people living about 77.78 years. The population is 95% Albanian, 3% Greek, and the other 2% includes Gypsies, Serbs, Macedonians, and Bulgarians. Greek organizations estimate the Greek population as being far higher, up to 12%.
The majority of the residents — some 70% — are Muslim, while about 20% are Albanian Orthodox Christians, and roughly 10% are Roman Catholic. The literacy rate for the entire population is 98.7%, with men having a slightly higher literacy rate than women in the 2001 census.
Although more than half the population is employed in agriculture, only about 20% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) comes from the agricultural sector. A lack of modern equipment and small plots help keep returns small. There are also energy shortages. Services make up the bulk of the GDP, but a significant element comes from Albanians in Greece and Italy, estimated at about 15%. These two countries — Greece and Italy — are also Albania’s most important trading partners, both for imports and exports.
Cheese and yogurt made from goat and ewe milk, as well as corn are mainstays of the Albanian diet, with rice gaining more of a role recently. Fish is served more often near the coast, but some of the population is virtually vegetarian due to lack of other choices, and pork is avoided by the largest sector of the population due to the beliefs of Islam.
Some regional dishes include corba and supa ves limua, soups made with rice and lemon, similar to the flavors in Greek avgolemono; lakruar, a pizza-like dish in which a round of bread is topped with seasoned vegetables and cheese; quofte, a meatball dish; and several drinks from fruits and vegetables, including dukagjin from grapes; hardic, from wild berries; orme, from cabbage; and raki, a kind of grape brandy.