Archive | June 2014

Unique UNESCO: World heritage wonders

Throughout hundreds of years, the people that have inhabited Oman have been responsible for establishing a fantastically rich array of culture and tradition. They also continue to be the proud guardians of a magnificent geographical landscape and biodiversity.

The Sultanate of Oman currently has four UNESCO World Heritage Sites that as per the UNESCO organisation’s set of criteria are recognised as having ‘outstanding value to humanity’. But did you know that Oman also has a tentative list’ of heritage sites that are shortlisted for inclusion in the World Heritage Site list? There are currently eight. Here’s a look at each one.

Rostaq and Al-Hazm Forts
Rostaq Fort is located at an oasis at the foothills of the Jebel Akhdar mountains, near Nizwa. It has been an important town and marketplace since Persian rule in pre-Islamic times. Al-Hazm Fort is nearby, on the western bank of the Wadi Far. It has an unusually large design and contains the tomb of its builder – Imam Sultan bin Seif II.

Qalhat City
Qalhat is an ancient harbour city, about 20 kilometres north of Sur. It was considered an important sea port before 1,500 BC and welcomed ships coming from India, Yemen, Dhofar and other regions. Even artifacts from as far away as China have been found here.

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(The tomb of Bibi Miriam near the ancient harbour city of Qalhat)

Prehistoric Bisyah and Salut Settlements
This multi-period archaeological site clearly indicates that the area was a focus for occupation from the late 4th millennium BC until Islamic times. Salut especially has been linked with the first arrival of Arab tribes in Oman from different regions across the Arabian Peninsula. It is located on a rocky outcrop near Bisyah, in the Dakhiliya region.

Oman’s four already established UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Nizwa Falaj Daris: This is Oman’s biggest falaj irrigation system, and one of five collectively listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The origin of this system, which uses gravity to channel water to villages, dates back to around 500 AD in Oman (some archaeological evidence suggests as early as 2 500 BC). Location: Dakhiliya Region Longitude: 22° 59’ 56”N Latitude: 57° 32’ 9.8”E

Land of Frankincense: The frankincense trees of Wadi Dawkah and the remains of the caravan oasis of Shisr/Wubar and the affiliated ports of Khor Rori and Al-Baleed vividly illustrate the frankincense trade that flourished here for centuries.
Location: Dhofar Province Longitude: 18° 15’ 11.99”N Latitude: 53° 38’ 51.32”E

Archaeological Sites of Bat: The sites of Bat, Al-Khutm and Al- Ayn lie near a palm grove in the interior of the Sultanate of Oman and form the most complete collection of settlements from the 3rd millennium BC in the world. The necropolis of Bat represents especially well-preserved evidence of the evolution of funeral practices during the first Bronze Age.
Location: Al Dhahira region Longitude: 23° 16’ 11.50”N Latitude: 56° 44’ 42.00”E

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Bahla Fort: The oasis of Bahla owes its prosperity to the Banu Nebhan – the dominant tribe in the area from the 12th to the end of the 15th century. Bahla Fort’s unbaked brick walls and towers are a reflection of the genius and ingenuity of these people.
Location: Oasis of Bahla, near Nizwa Longitude: 22° 57’ 51.01”N Latitude: 57° 18’ 4.00”E

The Treasures of Cultural Colombo

At just 37.31 square kilometres, Colombo is a small city by world standards. But in so many ways, it packs a big punch!

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Historical Influences
Due to its position along ancient trading routes, the port of Colombo was well-known to the great seafarers – the Arabs, Persians, Greeks, Romans and Chinese – for thousands of years. Indeed, Sri Lanka has a documented history that spans over 3 000 years. Its geographic location and deep, safe, harbours made it of great strategic importance from the time of the ancient Silk Road through to World War II. More recently, Colombo (and the rest of Sri Lanka) was subject to three periods of European colonialism – first by the Portuguese in the early 1500s; then by the Dutch; and then finally by the British – before the country as a whole assumed the status of an independent republic in 1972. Of course, South Indian influences are very visible in many aspects of Colombo and Sri Lankan life. Sri Lanka is also home to many religions, ethnicities and languages. It has an especially rich Buddhist heritage – some of the first known Buddhist writings were composed on the island.

All of the above influences from all corners of the world have moulded Sri Lanka into an extremely rich mixing pot of culture and diversity. And Colombo represents a microcosm of this. There is no real starting point or pre-determined route from which to explore Sri Lanka’s capital city of Colombo. Instead, due to its small area, the traveller would be happier experiencing bits and pieces of the city in a spontaneous, unplanned way. If you did have somewhere in mind to explore, the traditional Colombo way to get there would be in the back of a Tuk Tuk taxi! These motorised, three-wheeled chariots are the backbone of Sri Lanka’s transport system and a very effective – if rather quirky – way to get around the city.

Shop Till You Drop
Going shopping is a good way to explore any city. The Pettah Market is the place to shop for anything from fruits to clothes to electronics, all at wholesale prices. But be warned – this is true market-style shopping, where bargaining is serious business. It is not for the faint of heart! Pettah Market has been described as an ‘exhilarating slice of Asian life.’ It is a wonderful place to experience the bustling energy of Colombo. Lakpahana, in Cinnamon Gardens, serves as a base for the Sri Lanka Craftsmen and Artisans Association. Here you can buy high quality wood carvings, silverware, masks, gem stone jewellery, textile products, and much more. According to most shopping reviews, prices are generally very good.

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Park Life
Visitors keen to ‘escape the city’ for a moment will find they are never far from a park or recreation space in Colombo. The Galle Face Green is the most popular of these. Its mile-long walkway is situated right next to the shoreline, and is lined with palm trees and patches of greenery. The place is always a beehive of activity – with people and families and their children having picnics, playing games, flying kites, watching the sun go down – generally just having a ball. Street vendors serve up traditional-style snacks and beverages all along the promenade. Beira Lake lies in the heart of a built up and busy part of Colombo, but the immediate surroundings of the lake are a sanctuary of calm and quiet – the gigantic trees offering protection from the mid-day sun. The Viharamahadevi Park (formerly Victoria Park) is a public park located next to the National Museum. It is the oldest and largest park in the city (built during the British rule of Sri Lanka), and it also happens to have a huge Buddha statue and a series of water fountains within its grounds. All of the above attractions and many more can be observed from the upper deck of a bus on one of the Colombo City Bus Tours.

Things to See
The Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque, in Pettah, is now over 100 years old. Every surface of the mosque’s minarets and domes has been painted in a striking red and white colour scheme. It is spectacular to look at. The National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka, in Colombo’s Dehiwala region, are also the location of the Colombo Zoo – home to a bunch of animal species (including elephants), as well as an aquarium, aviary, reptile house, and butterfly garden. At the National Museum in Cinnamon Gardens, you’ll encounter a fascinating range of art, carvings, statues, and other interesting items from Sri Lanka’s past – as well as weaponry and other paraphernalia from the colonial period. A short way away from Beira Lake is the Buddhist temple of Gangarama Vihara, which is one of the most revered temples in the country. It is decorated with brass work, stone carvings, and other Buddhist art. There is also a museum on the premises.

Cricket Culture
Sri Lankans are absolutely passionate about their cricket – watching a match is possibly one of the most culturally appropriate and thrilling things you can do in Colombo. The Ranasinghe Premadasa Stadium in Maligawatta has hosted over 100 one day internationals, and is where the Sri Lankan national side often play. If they happen to be playing while you’re in town then don’t miss out on the action!

Culinary Colombo
Most Colombo-style cooking involves a rice dish served with a curry of fish, chicken, or mutton, combined with other curries made from vegetables, lentils and even fruit. Side-dishes include pickles, chutneys and sambals. Coconut milk features strongly too – adding a distinct flavour to many dishes. Don’t leave Colombo without sampling a Kothu Rotti – a quintessential Sri Lankan snack of sliced-up bits of rotti, blended with combinations of chicken, beef, egg, onions, tomatoes and green chillies. Being in such close proximity to the ocean, sea food is obviously a big part of Colombo cooking. A sea food dish bought from a street vendor or eaten at a restaurant on a beach is a defining Colombo experience. After a few of these, you’ll want to stay forever!

Jaipur – The Pink City of India

A holiday to Jaipur, the Pink City of India, is filled with fun and excitement. Jaipur tourism has taken all sorts of steps necessary to make this city a major holiday destination.
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Tourism in Jaipur must involve a journey on the train “Palace on Wheels” to this city. You can board this train and travel like a king and come to this ancient city. In fact, tourism is a major industry in Jaipur. The grand mahals of the kings and queens, the beautiful gardens, parks and the temples of the city have given a spurt to the tourism industry of the city. You can take a look at the magnificent forts and palaces that play a major role in promoting Jaipur tourism. Every year a large number of tourists come to this city to explore the rooms, halls and the interiors of the Jal Mahal and the Amber Fort. One can take a walk on the paved path of the Sisodia Rani ke Bagh.

Jaipur is the cultural hub of India. The handicraft industry is pretty strong over here. The city is known for its mirror work, bandhni work, stonework, silver jewellery and other local handicrafts. The handicraft industry thus plays a major role in promoting Jaipur tourism. Foreigners come over here to buy a large number of articles starting from traditional jewellery to decorative articles. A large number of hotels and resorts have come up over the past few years. As many international tourists come over here for a vacation, a 18 International Destination large amount of foreign exchange is earned by the tourism industry in Jaipur. The city municipality and the government of the state has preserved the national heritages and monuments of the city so as to attract more and more tourists over here. Jaipur is a majestic and impressive doorway into the glorious and rich past of India.

Jaipur tourism has continued to grow each year, and is known for its endless opportunities of sightseeing, dining out, shopping and adventure. An immense cultural background, spectacular forms of art and performance and some of the most impressive forts and palaces in the world have rightly made Jaipur a phenomenal tourist destination. The number of places to see in Jaipur and the sightseeing opportunities are practically limitless. The city has been home to the Rajput race and also shows influences of Mughal architecture and culture. Apart from this, one can also visit the various temples that are to be found in the city.

Apart from sightseeing, the next favourite thing to do in Jaipur is shopping. The city of Jaipur boasts of bustling bazaars and markets, which offer tourists a chance to buy every kind of keepsake you can possibly imagine. From pottery, antiques and jewelry in semi-precious, precious and cheap varieties to textiles, handicrafts, gems and leather goods, you can get just about everything in the markets of Jaipur. Some of the markets that you can pay a visit to are the Nehru Bazaar, Kishanpol Bazaar, Jauhari Bazaar and Mahiharon Ka Rasta. The collection of goods, sparkling colors, endless varieties and great bargaining options will keep you busy for hours and hours. Shopping is an integral part of Jaipur tourism and if you are visiting for a short time you should keep at least two whole days aside just for the shopping experience. Trust us, it’s so fabulous that you will not regret it!
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If you enjoy culture and celebrations, visiting Jaipur can be an amazing treat. There is a strong culture of celebrating festivals and organizing fairs in Jaipur. These events add a touch of sparkle and festivity to daily life in this beautiful city. The bustling city of Jaipur is known for its tradition of celebrating each and every occasion and event with full pomp and show. On any ordinary day the city is bright, colorful and full of enjoyment, but when there are fairs and festivals, it is as though the entire city becomes magical. Some of the unique festivals that tourists in Jaipur must try and attend are the Kite festival, the Elephant festival, the Gangaur festival and the Teej festival.

Knowing the climate of Jaipur is very important for tourists who are interested in planning a trip to the city. The city has a very warm climate given its location in the desert state of Rajasthan. The term ‘extreme’ has often been used to define the climate and weather of the region. Summer season in Jaipur is marked by immense heat and it is a bad time for visitors to plan a trip since it is too hot to do anything. At the same time, winters can be mild and pleasant during the daytime but are very cold in the night, so this time should be avoided as well. All in all, the best time for Jaipur tourism is between mid-July and till the end of October.

Mount Everest: Because it’s there

Mount Everest
At 8,848 metres, Mount Everest is the world’s highest mountain. Would you ever dream of climbing it? And making your way safely back down to tell the tale? Many have done so. Tragically, many have also tried to, but never returned from the mountain’s icy, rocky slopes. Here’s a look at the culture of climbing the world’s greatest mountain.
On 29 May 1953, the New Zealand mountaineer Edmund Hillary and the Nepalese Sherpa-mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers to successfully reach the summit of Mount Everest. But in the decades leading up to this day, many climbers and expedition parties had been enthralled and seduced by the idea of climbing the world’s highest mountain, and many attempted to do so. One of these men was George Mallory, an English mountaineer who took part in the first three British expeditions to Mount Everest in the early 1920s, and he might have even reached the top.
During a 1924 expedition, Mallory and his climbing partner both disappeared forever on the mountain’s north-east ridge during their attempt to make what would have famously been the first ever ascent of Everest. The pair were last seen when they were about 245 metres from the summit. Whether he or his climbing partner ever reached the summit before they died remains a mystery. Since then, the mountain has attracted more and more climbers every year to Base Camp – the rudimentary campsite below the mountain that is used as a launching point and return base for expeditions.

Climbing Modern Everest?
These days, there are two main climbing routes up Everest. One approaches the summit from the south in Nepal (the standard route) and the other from the north in Tibet. Most attempts are made during April and May before the summer monsoon season. As monsoon season approaches, a change in the weather conditions reduces the average wind speeds high on the mountain, making it easier for climbers to summit. For the standard southern approach to the climb, mountaineers fly into Kathmandu and spend several days here arranging climbing gear, going through logistics, and stocking up on food and supplies. Climbers then fly into Lukla, in the north-eastern region of Nepal, and make their way overland to Everest Base Camp. The altitude at Base Camp for the southern route is already over 5 300 metres so climbers spend about one or two weeks here or more, acclimatising their bodies. To begin the ascent, climbers must then pass through Everest’s notorious Khumbu Icefall multiple times. Even with safe climbing methods, this section is extremely dangerous due to shifting ice and deep crevasses. Once through the Khumbu Icefall, climbers reach Camp 1 at 6 065 metres, and then make their way to Camp 2 (6,492 metres) before having to ascend the sheer wall of ice named the Lhotse Face to get to Camp 3 (7,470 metres).

mount-everest-89590_1280

After this, they cross a section of the climb called the Geneva Spur to reach Camp 4 (7,925 metres), and push on to Camp 5 (7,925 metres) where many climbers spend their first night in the so-called ‘Death Zone’ – the altitude at which the oxygen available for breathing is dangerously low. The majority of climbers use bottled oxygen in order to reach the summit, although some have reached the top successfully without it. If all is going well, and if weather conditions allow, climbers head up to an altitude of 8,440 metres to a spot called The Balcony, which offers the opportunity for a brief rest from climbing, and then on to the Hillary Step which is one of the most challenging elements of the climb. Once they have negotiated this, they must trek the final few feet to reach the summit.
It all sounds straightforward on paper but of course it’s not! Once a climber has reached the top, their Everest adventure is far from over. Statistically, coming back down from the peak is far more dangerous than ascending it – and most accidents occur during this time. While Everest is not the most technically difficult mountain to climb, the challenge in reaching its summit lies in dealing successfully with debilitating effects of altitude and freezing temperatures – and negotiating the ever-present danger of extreme weather shifts, avalanches and rock falls, and the physical and mental effects of over-exhaustion. The previously mentioned George Mallory is famously quoted as having replied to the question ‘Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?’ with the statement, ‘Because it’s there’.
These most famous three words in mountaineering have been at the heart of why countless mountaineers have succeeded – and failed – in climbing Mount Everest. We are presented with life, and therefore we live it. We are presented with a big mountain, and therefore we attempt to climb it. Just because it’s there!

Everest Info…
• The majority of climbers use bottled oxygen in order to reach the summit. The Italian Reinhold Messner was the first to climb the mountain without oxygen, along with Peter Habeler, in 1978. Two years later, Messner surpassed the achievement, reaching the summit solo – and again without bottled oxygen.
• On 23 May 2013, Japan’s Yuichiro Miura again became the oldest person to reach the summit of Everest, at the age of 80.
• These days, mountaineers that attempt Everest are highly experienced. However, in the last few years, there have also been a large number of lesser experienced (but still capable) climbers that have hired professional mountaineering guides to assist them to the top. Because of this, the main route to Everest’s summit has been clogged with people during the few days each year when weather conditions are right for the attempt.
• On 19 May 1975, Junko Tabei, a Japanese mountain climber, became the first ever woman to reach the mountain’s summit.

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