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Theth
Theth

Theth is an impoverished village in northern Albania's Shkodra region. Set among the peaks of the Shala mountains, Theth is isolated, and in times of snow, practically inaccessible. Edith Durham a famous English traveller and writer on the Balkans, visited the area in 1908. She wrote of its seclusion:

I think no place where human beings live has given me such an impression of majestic isolation from all the world. It is a spot where the centuries shrivel; the river might be the world's well-spring, its banks the fit home of elemental instincts–passions that are red and rapid."

Legend has it that Theth was founded 400 years ago by 6 brothers. Individual parts of the village still bear the names of these brothers. In a presentation at the International Peace Research Association, Antonia Young, an anthropologist who participated in a 2005 research project in Shala valley, suggested this "perceived family link" could be the explanation for the unusually low levels of internal conflict and blood feuds in Theth.  According to Theth's primarily Catholic inhabitants, the village was founded as a refuge to escape conversion to Islam by the Ottomans.

After the Second World War and and the country’s self imposed isolation, access to its markets in Montenegro and Kosovo dried up.

The fall of communism led to emigration and a declining population. Antonia Young's team only found 17 families who reside in Theth year-round. Many of these depend on remittances from relatives who have sought employment elsewhere in Albania and abroad. The inhabitants of Theth receive very little government assistance. They lack electricity as well as telephone or radio communication to surrounding villages.

UNDP is seeking to improve Theth's economic prospects by promoting tourism in the area. In cooperation with the German Technical Cooperation enterprise, GTZ, it has provided initial funds to seven households which will allow them to convert their homes into guesthouses. UNDP says this strategy could help the whole community:

"Despite the challenges to tourism development in Theth, the potential is enormous. Residents young and old can benefit from increased tourism by becoming local tour guides, while others can produce and sell traditional handicrafts as souvenirs."

May 2008

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