Albania or Shqiperi, Albanian or Shqiptar
Our country is widely known under the name Albania, our language Albanian, and us Albanians. There are many theories about the etymology of this name. However, we, do not call our country Albania. Instead, we say Shqiperi for our country, Shqip for the language, and Shqiptar for the people. These names are believed to have derived from the word “shqiponje”, which means eagle in Albanian. The explanation about why we say this comes from an old Albanian legend called “Tale of the Eagle”.
Tale of the Eagle
The old tale describes the story of a young boy, who while hunting in the mountains, saw a big eagle flying above his head with a snake in its mouth. The eagle took the snake to her nest in the left it there. The boy became curious and got near to the nest.
He noticed that inside the nest there was a baby eagle, in danger because the snake was still alive and ready to poison it. So, he killed it and took the eagle home with him. Suddenly, along the way, the youth heard above him the loud whir of the great eagle’s wings.
“Why do you kidnap my child?” cried the eagle. “The child is mine because I saved it from the snake which you didn’t kill,” answered the youth.
So, the mother eagle said to him: “Please give me back my baby and I will give you as a reward the sharpness of my eyes and the power of my wings. You will be invincible and people will call you by my name.”
Thus, the youth gave back the eaglet. Years later, it would always fly above the head of the youth, now a grown man, who with his bow and arrows killed many wild beasts of the forest, and defeated many enemies of the land. During all of these feats, the eagle faithfully watched over and guided him.
Amazed by the valiant hunter’s deeds, the people of the land chose him, king, and called him Shqiptar-Son of the Eagle, and the land Shqiperi- Land of the Eagles.”
A National Symbol
Besides the tale, the eagle is also our national symbol. Our flag has a black, two-headed eagle in the center, which represents the north and the south. We also make a hand gesture, which mimics this figure. In important events such as soccer matches, concerts or even when Albanians are abroad, they never forget to proudly make the eagle sign.
So, when you decide to visit, don’t be surprised when you hear the words Shqiperi or shqiptar all the time. Stay tuned for more old tales that explain the meaning behind our country, our attractions and our customs.