Climbing the dictator’s pyramid in Albania

It is a 35-meter tall building on Nation’s Martyrs lane that was erected in 1988 to celebrate Albania’s dictator Enver Hoxha. Today, it is abandoned and ruined; and the youth likes to climb it to hang out at its top, as on a trophy won over history.

Originally, it was built by the dictator’s daughter soon after his death to maintain the personality cult, a typical propaganda technique used by totalitarian regimes like the Soviet Union and North Korea. It contained pretty much anything that the dictator had touched in his life, including his cars, a plethora of photos of him and even a few videos, which was rare at the time in isolated Albania.

This is what the Pyramid used to look like when it was still the Museum of Enver Hoxha (photo borrowed from this source)

After the fall of the dictatorship, it was paganised and converted into a cultural centre, then an entertainment centre and it even served as base by NATO and humanitarian organisations during the Kosovo war in 1999.

This used to be the entrance, the building is now closed.

Many discussions have been carried out about the future of the Pyramid, with Albania divided between those who wish to destroy it (there have been plans to replace it by a new complex to host the Parliament) and those who wish to keep it. In the meantime, no decision has been taken, and the Pyramid is still there, abandoned. The façade’s marble has been removed and the youth has undertaken to cover it with graffiti.

The right side is the least steep and it is the one that I climbed last week, like the dude you can see on the top.

Although abandoned and closed, the building is still accessible and it has become a national hobby to climb it and hang out at its top. Climbing can be done on the hard surface and is manageable; going down is a different story and everyone tries various techniques – I chose to crawl facing the slope as if I were rappelling.

Nowadays, people climb the pyramid and take selfies on the top. Then, to go down, everyone use the technique that works for them: standing, crawling, squatting…

Highly symbolically, the square on which the Pyramid lies has been brightened up by the addition of a new element in 1999: a Peace Bell serving as a memorial to those who died in 1997 following the collapse of the Pyramid Investment Scheme. The Bell was made from melted down bullets and features children dancing symbolising Albania’s hope for a better future (explanation borrowed from this source)

The Peace Bell in front of the Pyramid.

Next time you pass by Tirana, make sure to climb the Pyramid and to ring the Peace Bell !

Ringing the bell requires to climb again, but just a short wall this time!



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