July 25, 2014

1161 BANGLADESH (Dhaka) - National Martyrs' Memorial in Savar

Located at about 35km northwest of Dhaka, the capital city of the country, Jatiyo Smriti Soudho, the National Monument for the Martyrs of the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 (which brought independence and separated Bangladesh from Pakistan) was designed by Syed Mainul Hossain and inaugurated at 16 December, 1982. The monument is composed of 7 isosceles triangular pyramid shaped structures, with the middle one being the tallest. The highest point of the monument is 50m. There is an artificial lake, and several mass graves in front of the main monument. From the main gate one can see the monument axially, but to reach there one has to walk through different levels of red pavements and cross a lake - all these representing the struggle for independence.

1160 CAMBODIA (Siem Reap) - Traditional Apsara dancer

Apsaras are female spirits of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist mythology, assimilated to some extent with nymphs from european mythology. They are youthful and elegant, and superb in the art of dancing, being associated with fertility rites. They are often the wives of the Gandharvas, the court musicians of Indra. They dance to the music made by the Gandharvas, usually in the palaces of the gods, entertain and sometimes seduce gods and men. They are said to be able to change their shape at will, and rule over the fortunes of gaming and gambling. Apsaras represent an important motif in the stone bas-reliefs of the Angkorian temples in Cambodia, about which I wrote here.

July 23, 2014

1159 MARTINIQUE - Woman dressed into traditional Creole clothes

Located in Lesser Antilles in the eastern Caribbean Sea, Martinique, as also Guadeloupe, is an overseas region of France, so its culture blends French and Caribbean influences. The city of Saint-Pierre was often referred to as the "Paris of the Lesser Antilles". Most of Martinique's population is descended from enslaved Africans brought to work on sugar plantations during the colonial era, generally mixed with some French, Amerindian (Carib people), Indian (Tamil), Lebanese or Chinese ancestry. Many Martinicans speak, in addition to French (official), Martiniquan Creole, a subdivision of Antillean Creole that is virtually identical to the varieties spoken in Saint Lucia and Dominica.

July 22, 2014

1158 MADAGASCAR - Les baobabs amoureux in Morondava

Once upon a time, a young man and a young woman of two nearby villages fell in love from each other. Unfortunately both had already an assigned partner and had to marry separately in their respective villages. However, the impossible couple dreamed of a common eternity life and having a child together and secretly asked help to their god. Both baobabs were born and now live they for eternity as one as the couple always wished. So says the legend that appeared the two baobabs known as Les baobabs amoureux (the Lovers baobabs), located at 7km to the northwest of the famous Avenue or Alley of the Baobabs, a prominent group of baobab trees lining the dirt road between Morondava and Belon'i Tsiribihina in the Menabe region in western Madagascar. Along the 260m of the avenue are 20-25 trees about 30m in height, known locally as renala (Malagasy for "mother of the forest"), a legacy of the dense tropical forests that once thrived on Madagascar.

July 21, 2014

1157 POLAND - The map and the flag of the country

Located between Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kaliningrad Oblast (a Russian exclave) and Lithuania, Poland is an almost unbroken plain reaching from the Baltic Sea in the north, to the Sudetes and Carpathian Mountains in the south. Within that plain, terrain variations run in bands east to west. The Baltic coast has two natural harbors (Gdańsk Bay and Bay of Pomerania), and the northeastern region, with more than 2,000 lakes, is densely wooded and sparsely populated. Its capital and largest city is Warsaw, established on the Vistula River at about 1300 by the Płock prince Bolesław II of Masovia, known as the city of palaces, royal gardens and grand parks.

July 20, 2014

1155, 1156 UNITED STATES (South Dakota) - Presidents and Founding Fathers

The Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore (Lakota Sioux name: Six Grandfathers) near Keystone. Sculpted by Danish-American Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln Borglum, it features 18 m sculptures of the heads of four United States presidents: George Washington (1732–1799), Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), and Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865). Historian Doane Robinson is credited with conceiving the idea of this sculpture, in order to promote tourism in the region. Construction on the memorial began in 1927, and the presidents' faces were completed between 1934 and 1939. Upon Gutzon Borglum's death in March 1941, his son Lincoln Borglum took over construction. Although the initial concept called for each president to be depicted from head to waist, lack of funding forced construction to end in late October 1941.

Mount Rushmore is controversial among Native Americans because the United States seized the area from the Lakota tribe after the Great Sioux War of 1876. Members of the American Indian Movement led an occupation of the monument in 1971, naming it Mount Crazy Horse. In 2004, the first Native American superintendent of the park was appointed. Gerard Baker has stated that he will open up more "avenues of interpretation", and that the four presidents are "only one avenue and only one focus." The Crazy Horse Memorial is being constructed elsewhere in the Black Hills to commemorate the famous Native American leader and as a response to Mount Rushmore. It is intended to be larger than Mount Rushmore and has the support of Lakota chiefs; the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation has rejected offers of federal funds.

1152-1154 ARUBA - The map of the country

Located about 1,600km west of the Lesser Antilles in the southern Caribbean Sea and 27km north of the coast of Venezuela, Aruba forms, together with Bonaire and Curaçao, a group referred to as the ABC islands. On the other hand, Aruba and the other Dutch islands in the Caribbean are often called the Netherlands Antilles or the Dutch Caribbean. It is one of the four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along with the Netherlands (which comprises not only the European land, but also Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba), Curaçao and Sint Maarten. A generally flat, it lies outside the hurricane belt, and, unlike much of the Caribbean region, has a dry climate and an arid, cactus-strewn landscape. It has white sandy beaches on the western and southern coasts of the island, relatively sheltered from fierce ocean currents.


Aruba's first inhabitants were Caquetíos Amerinds from the Arawak tribe, who migrated there from Venezuela, and Europeans first learned of it following the explorations by Amerigo Vespucci and Alonso de Ojeda. Because it had low rainfall, it was not considered profitable for the plantation system and the economics of the slave trade. Since 1636, it has been under Dutch administration, which left the Arawaks to farm and graze livestock, and used the island as a source of meat for other Dutch possessions in the Caribbean. The population is estimated to be 80% mixed Black/White/Caribbean Amerindian and 20% other ethnicities, and the Arawak heritage is stronger on Aruba than on most Caribbean islands. The official languages are Dutch and - since 2003 - Papiamento, a language derived from African and Portuguese languages with some influences from American Indian languages, English, Dutch and Spanish.

Aruba has one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean region, its economy being dominated by tourism, gold mining, phosphate mining, aloe export, and petroleum refining. About three quarters of its gross national product is earned through tourism or related activities. The capital and largest city of Aruba is Oranjestad (Orange Town), located on the southern coast near the western end of the island. The town was built around Fort Zoutman shortly after it was built in 1796, and was named in 1820 after the first King Willem van Oranje-Nassau (William of Orange-Nassau) - the first heir to the Dutch House of Orange.

July 19, 2014

1151 UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (Abu Dhabi) - Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Built between 1996 and 2007 in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the eighth largest mosque in the world (with a capacity for 40,000 worshippers), and is considered to be the key for worship in the country. It was initiated by the first Ra’îs (president) of the UAE, HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who wanted to establish a structure which unites the cultural diversity of Islamic world, the historical and modern values of architecture and art. It features 82 domes, over a 1,000 columns, 24 carat gold gilded chandeliers and the world's largest hand knotted carpet (5,627 m2). The main prayer hall is dominated by one of the world’s largest chandeliers (10m in diameter, 15m in height and weighing 12 tonnes). There are four minarets on the four corners of the courtyard which rise about 107 m in height. The courtyard, with its floral design, measures about 17,000 m2, and is considered to be the largest example of marble mosaic in the world. The mosque's first ceremony was the funeral of its namesake, Sheikh Zayed, who is buried at the site.

July 18, 2014

1150 MONTENEGRO (Kotor) - A couple in traditional costumes

Slavs (including Croats and Serbs) have lived in the area of Montenegro since the 6th and 7th centuries in the medieval principalities of Doclea and Zeta, and the area got its present name (Montenegrin: Crna Gora, which means Black Mountain) during the rule of the Crnojević dynasty. It was part of medieval Serbia during 13th century and first half of the 14th century, but Ottoman conquest of the Balkans resulted in separation from Serbia and re-emergence of Zeta. In the 19th century national romanticism among the South Slavs fueled the desire for re-unification. Regarding the linguistic and ethnic identity of Montenegrins, there is an ongoing controversy, some supporting the ideea that they aren't a distinct group, but only a subgroup of Serbian people. Whatever the truth, the many similarities between Serbs and Montenegrins not be questioned. The Bay of Kotor, known also as Boka, is a winding bay of the Adriatic Sea, in fact a ria of the disintegrated Bokelj River which used to run from the high mountain plateaus of Orjen. The inhabitants of Boka and adjacent regions are the Bokelj or Bokez people, who are an ethnic South Slavic community, many of whom nationally identify as being Montenegrin, Serb or Croat, or others. Most are Eastern Orthodox, while some are Roman Catholics.

0398, 0509, 0862, 1148, 1149 BRAZIL (Paraná) - Iguazú Falls (UNESCO WHS)

Posted on 28.11.2012, 18.02.2013, 15.11.2013, and 18.07.2014
"It is said that many years ago, there was a big and monstrous serpent which lived in the Iguazú river and its name was Boi. Once per year, the guaranies had to sacrifice a beautiful maid as an offer to Boi, by throwing her to the river. All the tribes, including the ones which lived far away, were invited for this ceremony. One year, a young boy whose name was Tarobá, became leader of the tribe. When Tarobá knew the beautiful maid Naipí was the chosen girl for the sacrifice, rebelled to elderly members of the tribe and tried in vain to convince them of not offering her. In order to save Naipí, he decided to kidnap her the night before the sacrifice."

"So he put her on a canoe and escaped by the river. But Boi knew about this; she became furious and her anger was so deep that she vent over her back, split the river forming the falls  catching Naipí and Tarobá. Boi turned Tarobá into trees, that we can observe from the upper circuit, and the long hair of the beautiful Naipí into the falls. Then Boi submerged in the Devil's  Throat and from this place she watches Naipí and Tarobá never come together again... however, on sunny days the rainbow surpasses Boi's  power and join them..."


Taller than Niagara Falls, twice as wide with 275 cascades spread in a horsehoe shape over 2.7 kilometres of the Iguazu River, Iguazú Falls (named also Iguassu Falls or Iguaçu Falls; in Portuguese Cataratas do Iguaçu, and in Spanish Cataratas del Iguazú, from the Guarani words for Big Water) is actually the result of a volcanic eruption which left yet another large crack in the earth. Lying on the Argentina - Brazil border, in the place where the Iguazu River tumbles over the edge of the Paraná Plateau, 23 kilometres upriver from the Iguazu's confluence with the Paraná River, it was discovered by the Spanish conquistador Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1541 (do you remember the fascinating movie The Mission?). In March 1944, when she saw it,  Eleanor Roosevelt exclaimed "Poor Niagara!" It seems to be only a legend, because Eleanor Roosevelt never saw this waterfall (read here), but it is as beautiful as that from the beginning of my post.


The waterfall is shared by the Iguazú National Park (Argentina) and Iguaçu National Park (Brazil), the two parks being designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1984 and 1987, respectively, because "conserve one of the largest and most spectacular waterfalls in the world comprised of a system of numerous cascades and rapids and almost three kilometres wide within the setting of a lush and diverse sub-tropical broadleaf forest. The permanent spray from the cataracts forms impressive clouds that soak the forested islands and river banks resulting in a visually stunning and constantly changing interface between land and water."


The two parks also "forms the largest single protected remnant of the Paranaense subtropical rainforest, which belongs to the Interior Atlantic Forest. The rich biodiversity includes over 2000 species of plants, 400 species of birds and possibly as many as 80 mammals, as well as countless invertebrate species." In 2011 it was announced as one of the seven winners of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.