A Mayoral Makeover

Mention Albania, and you are likely to remember little more than the scenes of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing there from war-torn Kosovo in 1999. Six years on, it's time to take another look — thanks largely to Edi Rama, the iconoclastic mayor of Albania's capital, Tirana. He's used his outsized personality (and physique) to transform his hometown and, with it, much of the country's politics. "It's like Tirana got out of bed after a long time, as a beautiful woman," says Rama, who towers over his countrymen at nearly 2 m.

The beauty starts on the...

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