”The Pomegranate Festival” in Shkodra

Today, I was lucky enough to be invited by Ceed Albania to visit ‘Festa e Sheges’ (The Pomegranate Festival) in Ana e Malit, not far outside of Shkodra.

Organised by the USAID- supported ‘Agro Tourism Albania’ project and the Swedish Embassy, ‘Festa e Sheges’ brought together local farmers, some artisans, and the community of Ana e Malit in the centre of the locality for a day of fun, food, and pomegranates. When the invite pinged into my inbox, I knew I had to go- food, drink, fresh produce, and (my favourite part of Albania) Shkodra- this was not an opportunity to be missed.

So, bright and early on Friday morning, we hopped into a car and headed out of the semi-organised chaos of wonderful Tirana and headed north towards the mountains. I love driving anywhere in this country- whether it is through colourful towns with hotch-potch buildings, or through the rolling countryside that is peppered with farms and mosques, there is always something interesting, beautiful, or new to look at. The road to Shkodra is no exception.


Accompanied by dramatic mountains for the duration of the journey, the path was flanked by fertile farmland just bursting with produce. As the season changed to Autumn, so to had the wares of the roadside vendors. Gone are the figs and plums of the late summer, instead replaced by shiny purple aubergines and sheges that ooze with intoxicating juice.

But it was not just the bounty that hangs from the boughs of the trees that changed during the transition from summer to autumn, there was something different in the air as well. Colours appeared muted and a haze seemed to fill the air because the sun, tired after a long summer, never fully rises in the sky. Tendrils of smoke rose from fires dotted around the countryside and the golds and oranges of fall foliage offered an incredible contrast against the pale and almost icy blue of the sky.

We travelled for two hours, passing towns and villages, and miles and miles of farmland before arriving on the outskirts of Shkodra. With Castle Rozafa rising above us and the river Drina snaking underneath us, we passed over a bridge before taking a sharp left.

Ana e Malit is a subdivision of the Municipality of Shkodra with a population of just over 3,500 people. Divided into ten smaller settlements including Bobot, Dramosh, Oblike, Vallas, and Vidhgar, it comprises mainly small holdings, each blessed with a few acres of land and very fertile land on which to grow a variety of goods.

We pulled up next to the school and as I opened the door, I was greeted with the sound of traditional music, complete with a local man singing his heart out. The idea behind the Festa was to create an event that would promote the agro-processing sector of parts of this area, as well as local culture and tradition.

There were around 10 stalls spread around the perimeter of the space as well as tables laden with delicious homecooked dishes, a local artist selling his work (more on that later), and of course, a number of stalls selling fresh and locally produced produce.

I headed immediately to the fruit and vegetable section and was suitably impressed by the quality of the goods on offer. Pomegranates almost as big as my head, perfect looking peppers, aubergines, beans, tomatoes, and kiwis, and dappled yellow and green lemons that gave off the zestiest and most enticing scent. Other tables were laden with sherbela honey, homemade red wine, pomegranate juice, olive oil, and green chilis in oil. I was spoilt for choice as I picked up a selection of items as well as having samples thrust upon me by the kind and incredibly friendly farmers and vendors.

As I perused the selection of stalls further, I took a closer look at some of the paintings on offer. Painted with oils, the artist had created some fantastic images of roses and local scenery. Enquiring with a man sat behind the table as to how much they were, I realised he was not the artist and that my poor level of spoken Albanian wasn’t going to get me very far, so I wandered on.

A few moments later, the gentleman approached me, this time with a young woman in tow. Using her as an interpreter, he told me that he was not the artist and he was in fact a history teacher and pensioner (he said this with a wide smile on his face) by profession. He opened his black leather satchel and took from it a stamp that would have been used to seal wax, explaining to me that it was over 120 years old.

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Today I went to an event in Shkodra which was organised by Ceed Albania along with USAID. "The Pomegranate Festival" brought together local farmers and some artisans to showcase their wares. One gentleman was showcasing some beautiful pictures of roses, I complemented him on his work and he returned a few moments later with this picture as a gift. Poppies are not only associated with Albania, but they are also my favourite flower and the subject of a tattoo I have on my arm. It's all these little coincidences that make me understand I am on the right path in life. Thank you to the lovely people I met today and for their incredibly warm, Albanian hospitality ❤ #thebalkanista #travelinspiration #instatravel #travelinspo #albanianlife #instadaily #travelblogger #lifestyleblogger #journalist #writer #beautifulalbania #photooftheday #pictureoftheday #tirona #english #expatlife #publicfigure #blogger #shqiperia #shqiptare #shqiperi #wanderlust #digitalnomad #citizenoftheworld #lifeisgood #shkodra #slowfood #agritourism #organicfarming

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We chatted, via the help of our interpreter before he finally introduced me to the artist. After complimenting him on his work, the artist scurried off, only to return with a painting that he wanted to give me as a gift. This painting was of the mountains that sat behind us, but in the foreground was a field of poppies. I was overjoyed to receive such a gift, not only are poppies quintessentially Albanian but they are also one of my favourite flowers, and the subject of a tattoo on my arm. I couldn’t help but think that this was another little coincidence that just reinforced the feeling that I am on the right path in my life.

I continued talking to my unexpected but extremely lovely translator, Samela. A psychology graduate and a Master of Science, she spoke excellent English and was more than happy to talk to me about the event, life in Albania and Shkodra, and a whole range of other things. She explained that she has been involved with a number of projects to promote environmental awareness and sustainability, as well as believing that it is important that Albania retains what makes it unique; its culture, traditions, and outstanding natural beauty.



We explored a bit more, sampling some local wine (Samela opted for grape juice) and flaky byrek, and even getting to try on some traditional Albanian garments. Unfortunately, I don’t think the designers had in mind a 188cm size 14 English woman when they were creating the stunning outfits, so was left with the option of purchasing just a hat that was worked with golden thread and small, shimmering beads. The work that goes into these items is truly outstanding, and some of the embroidery is so well done that it looks almost like metal engravings.


As my day at the festa came to a finish, I said my goodbyes to my new friends and headed off to the car, laden with local goodies like a very happy, British, donkey. It was a wonderful experience and as always, I was overwhelmed by the hospitality of the Albanian people. The food that was on offer here was of an incredible quality and I cannot wait to cook with the goodies, and then wash it down with a few glasses of sweet, pungent, homemade wine.


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The Pomegranate Festival in Ana e Malit, Shkodra

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