Sarande is a coastal town in Vlore, southern of Albania. Geographically, it is situated on an open sea gulf of the Ionian Sea in the central Mediterranean, about 14 km east of the north end of the Greek island of Corfu.
The city is known for its blue deep waters of the Mediterranean. Near Sarande are the remains of the ancient city of Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage site. In recent years, Sarande has seen a steady increase in tourists, many of them coming by cruise ship. Visitors are attracted by the natural environment and its archaeological sites. It has a large Greek population and is considered one of the two centers of the Greek minority in Albania
Sarande is from the name of the Byzantine monastery of the Agioi Saranda , meaning the “Forty Saints”, in honor of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. Under Ottoman rule, the town in the Turkish language became known as 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 Italian occupation of Albania 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
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).
The city was probably raided by the Ostrogoths in 551 AD, while during this period it became also the target of piratic raids by Gothic ships. In a medieval chronicle of 1191 the settlement appears to be abandoned, while its former medieval name (Anchiasmos) isn’t mentioned any more. From that year, the toponym borrows the name of the nearby Orthodox basilica church of Agioi Saranta, erected in the 6th century, ca. 1 km (0.6 mi) southeast of the modern town.
In 1878, a Greek rebellion broke out, with revolutionaries taking control of Sarandë and Delvinë. This was suppressed by Ottoman troops, who burned twenty villages in the region.
The synagogue, which dates from the 5th or 6th century C.E., is located in the city of Sarande, a coastal city in Albania, opposite the Greek island of Corfu. The synagogue underwent various periods of use, including its conversion into a church at its last stage, prior to being abandoned.
Initial excavations at the site were conducted some 20 years ago when Albania was under tight Communist rule. At that time that the building was identified as a church.
Working in the past few weeks at the site, in the framework of the joint expedition, have been Professors Gideon Foerster and Ehud Netzer of the Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology, together with Albanian archaeologists Kosta Lako and Etleva Nalbani. Also working this year on the project was a French expert on mosaics, Marie-Pat Raynaud.
This year the archaeologists concentrated on revealing additional rooms adjoining the elongated hall whose mosaic floors depict such features as a seven-branched candelabrum (menorah) flanked by a citron (etrog) and a ram’s horn (shofar), symbols associated with Jewish holidays. The newly exposed rooms (which in fact were an extension of elongated hall) contain more of the decorative mosaic paving, including representations of fish, a popular theme in the ancient world. The joint Albanian-Hebrew University delegation intends to return soon to the site to continue uncovering the basilica section of the synagogue, which today lies under a main street in Sarande. The construction of the basilica, close to the elongated hall, was the last major development of the synagogue.
It should be noted that in a Jewish cemetery in the southern Italian town of Venosa there is a tombstone dating from 521 C.E. bearing the name of Augusta, daughter of Yishai, head of the Jewish community of Anchiasmon (Onchismus), the ancient name for Sarande. Sarande at that time was located in the Epirus area in Greece.
Housed in Sarande’s old customs house overlooking the town wharf, this interesting museum contains many fascinating photographs from the communist era alongside a rather motley collection of ethnographic relics. Particularly worth seeing are the early-20th-century photos, which illustrate how much the town has changed in a relatively short time.
The Mesopotam village is known for its 13th century Orthodox Church dedicated to St. Nicholas. The monastery is thought to have been built in 1224 or 1225. Its double apse makes it unique in its genre, and some researches have advanced the hypothesis that this was due to the monastery being used by two religious rites (catholic and orthodox).
The Blue Eye is a water spring and natural phenomenon occurring near Sarande, southern Albania. A popular tourist attraction, the clear blue water of the river bubbles forth from a stunning, more than fifty-metre-deep pool. Divers have descended to fifty metres, but it is still unclear what the actual depth of the karst hole is.
This is the initial water source of Bistricë river , 25 km long, which ends in the Ionian Sea south of Sarande.
The source stands at an altitude of 152 m and has a discharge rate of 18400 l/s.
The immediate area 1.8 km2 is a Nature Monument and is characterized by oak and sycamore trees. In summer 2004, the source was temporarily dried up.