Saranda or Sarandë is the capital of the District of Sarandë, Albania, and is one of the most important tourist attractions of the Albanian Riviera. It is situated on an open sea gulf of the Ionian Sea in the Mediterranean 2 nautical miles from the Greek island of Corfu. The city of Sarande has a population of about 30,000 (2001 estimate). Near Sarandë are the remains of the ancient city of Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Saranda’s current name derives from the name of the Byzantine monastery of the Agioi Saranda (Greek: Άγιοι Σαράντα), meaning the “Forty Saints” and honoring the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. Under Turkish rule, this became Aya Sarandi and then Sarandoz. Owing to Venetian influence in the region, it often appeared under its Italian name Santi Quaranta on western maps, This usage continued even after the establishment of the Principality of Albania, owing to the first Italian occupation of the region. During the second occupation in World War II, Benito Mussolini changed the name to Porto Edda, in honor of his eldest daughter. Following the restoration of Albanian independence, the city employed its Albanian name Sarande.
A short history of Sarande
In antiquity the city was known by the ancient Greek name of Onchesmos or Anchiasmos and was inhabited by the Greek tribe of the Chaonians. Onchesmos flourished as the port of the Chaonian capital Phoenice (modern-day Finiq). In AD 552, it experienced repeated attacks from the Goths.
In 1878, a Greek rebellion broke out, with revolutionaries taking control of Sarandë and Delvinë. This was suppressed by the Ottoman troops, who burned twenty villages in the region. The town was included in the newly formed Albanian state in 1913 under the terms of the Protocol of Florence.
It was occupied twice by Greece in 1913 and from 1914 to 1916, the second time by Greek insurgents from the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus. It was then occupied by Italy between 1916 and 1920 as part of the Italian Protectorate on southern Albania. Sarandë was again occupied by Italian forces in 1939 and was a strategic port during the Italian invasion of Greece. During this occupation, it was called “Porto Edda” in honor of the eldest daughter of Benito Mussolini.
As part of Northern Epirus, the city came under Greek rule on 6 December 1940 until the German invasion in Greece in April 1941. The Axis troops were expelled from the town by the British forces in October 9, 1940, who were supported by the Albanian National Liberation Movement and the Greek EDES resistance. However, the British troops soon withdrew from the region, leaving the region to the Albanian communist forces.
Given its coastal access and Mediterranean climate, Sarandë has become an important tourist attraction since the fall of Communism in Albania. Saranda as well as the rest of the Albanian Riviera, according to The Guardian, “is set to become the new ‘undiscovered gem’ of the overcrowded Med.” Tourism is thus the major economic resource, while other resources include services, fisheries and construction.