Edi Rama — from art school to city hall

Born in 1964 in Tirana, Rama is the son of a famous sculptor and a prominent dentist and learned about Christianity from his Catholic grandmother. Divorced, he has a 15-year-old son who speaks Greek. Rama himself speaks four foreign languages. He has also played with the national basketball team and studied at Tirana’s Art Academy, where he later taught. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, he held a series of large open debates with guest speakers who included former political prisoners. Amid the anarchy and corruption that followed the fall of communism, Rama began writing articles against Sali Berisha. In 1995 he went to Paris on a scholarship and continued writing against the regime. During a visit to Tirana in 1997, he almost lost his life when he was attacked by men wielding iron bars; he accused Berisha of being behind the attack. In 1998, when he returned for his father’s funeral, he accepted Fatos Nano’s offer to become culture minister, although he did not join the Socialist Party. In 2000 he stood as an independent for the post of mayor of Tirana and won 57 percent of the vote. The first thing he did was to have building facades painted in bright colors. After re-election in 2001 with 71 percent of the vote, he also received the World Mayor 2004 award in a worldwide Internet vote. Asked why someone would want to visit Tirana, he replied, «To see something completely different from what they imagine.»