Tolerance and Hope

Today Nebje lives and works in a three-storey building perched on a hilly street with a breath-taking view over lake Shkodra. In the summertime - during the school holidays - she invites young girls over and shows them how to weave. She initiates them into the profession, sends them away with some money and teaches them independence. As for her own independence, Nebije is proud of her life: carrying heavy bags up and down the hill, welcoming clients and taking good care of them, giving 12 women a place to work in a village of 500 in which she is the only employer. A handful of old men station themselves by her house and appear to have nothing better to do than gossip. “They should come in and help instead of just staring and criticizing!” she suggests defiantly. But she doesn’t really mean it, she is in charge and she will keep on her path. It’s just more difficult in a patriarchal society. Working with her are women of different religions, reflecting the multi-cultural stratification of Albania, a country where 70% of the population is Muslim, 20% is Orthodox and 10% is Catholic. Despite its diverse socio-cultural and religious make-up - or probably because of it - tolerance prevails. The nation that endured occupation by the Ottoman Turks until the 5th century has a strong sense of identity and pride that has fascinated travellers for centuries.

Text: Marta Galli
Photos: Pauline Thurn und Taxis