During the turmoil of dictatorial rule, the people of Belsh, along with the rest of Albania, were compelled to abandon their millennia-old religions, cultures, and histories. However, the tide turned with the remarkable discovery of a hidden 2,300-year-old underwater shrine dedicated to the Goddess Aphrodite, known as Aferdita in Albanian. The people of Belsh not only battled to protect this ancient treasure but also wholeheartedly embraced the lost customs of their ancestors with an annual festival. This renaissance not only reignited a vibrant sense of community spirit and a deep connection with their ancestral heritage but also transformed Belsh’s Lake Seferan into an enchanting tourist hotspot. This paved the path for impactful public-private collaborations, fuelling the growth of sustainable tourism.
Keywords: heritage, archaeology, cultural reclamation, festival, underwater