Monthly Archives: February 2014

The ‘lost’city of Petra

The city of Petra, capital of the Nabataea Arabs, is one of the most popular archaeological sites in the world.  Located 262 km south of Amman, Petra is the most significant site and tourism attraction in Jordan and it is visited by scores of tourists from all over the world. Petra is one of the new seven wonders because of the uniqueness of its structure. Petra is an outstanding example of the superiority of ancient civilization. It was carved into the mountain by the Nabataea’s 2000 years ago.

Petra was first established around the 6th century BC by the Nabataean Arabs, a Semitic people who laid the foundations of a commercial empire that extended into Syria. In AD 106 Trajan annexed the Nabataean Kingdom as part of the province of Arabia. It is one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites, where ancient Eastern traditions blend with Hellenistic architecture.

The Crusaders constructed a fort there in the 12th century and Petra returned to its ancient splendour, but soon they withdrew, leaving Petra to the natives until the early 19th century, when it was visited by the Swiss explorer Johan Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812 during his expedition, which was funded by the British Royal Geographical Society, in the Levant, Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula.

Due to the century long lapse in time before its rediscovery, Petra was named the ‘lost city’. It was also described by the English poet Bergen as the unique astonishing eastern city. The many earthquakes that hit Petra triggered a slow decline for the city, which was not halted by its designation as an Archiepiscopal See.

Engraved in Nature

Situated between the red sea and the Dead Sea, this Nabataean caravan-city was an important crossroad between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia. The mountains surrounding it are riddled with passages and gorges. An ingenious water management system allowed extensive settlement of an essentially arid area during the Nabataean, Roman and Byzantine periods. It is one of the world’s richest and largest archaeological sites set in a dominating red sandstone landscape.

An exceptional uniqueness in the ‘lost city’ resides in the vast extent of elaborate tomb and temple architecture; religious high places; the remnant channels, tunnels and diversion dams that combined with a vast network of cisterns and reservoirs which controlled and conserved seasonal rains, and the extensive archaeological remains including of copper mining, temples, churches and other public buildings.

The synergy of Hellenistic architectural facades with traditional Nabataean rock-cut temple/tombs including the Khasneh, the Urn Tomb, the Palace Tomb, the Corinthian Tomb and the Deir (“monastery”) showcases an outstanding artistic achievement and an outstanding architectural ensemble of the first centuries BC to AD. The varied archaeological remains and architectural monuments from prehistoric times to the medieval periods bear significant testimony to the now lost civilisations which succeeded each other at the site.

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The statues of the Rapa Nui, Easter Island

Ahu Akivi - Rapa Nui

 

The local name of Easter Island is Rapa Nui. It is a volcanic, Polynesian island, guarded by huge stone statues.

The statues were probably built to portray the significance of the cultural heritage of the society.

The unique statues weigh hundreds of tons and rise above 9 feet. There are over 800 and are found all over the Easter Island. These statues have been counted among the wonders of the world and 3,000 people live among the statues on the island today.

SOCOTRA ISLAND….waiting to be discovered

Some call it the world’s most abnormal getaway while others call it the jewel of Yemen. Either way you see it, the Socotra Island embraces all these features because of its unique cultural tradition. The island is also held by some to be the location of the original Garden of Eden. It is a place of botanical and zoological treasures nurtured by many generations of islanders. For hundreds of years, the Socotra Island has been under the radar of early explorers and naturalists. During prehistoric times, the uniqueness of the island attracts not only scientist but also naturalist and eco-tourism enthusiasts.

It is the world’s tenth richest island for endemic plants and the biggest island in the Middle East stretching to about 125 kilometers in length and 45 kilometers across.

Long ago the Socotra Island was a part of Africa and Arabia, now separated by Aden. The isolation from the outside world for about 20 million years favoured the evolution and conversation of new species.

The island is part of the archipelago in the Indian Ocean, so isolated that a third of its plant life is found nowhere else on the planet. Famous among these threes are the dragon’s blood tree

Dragon Blood Trees

Dragon Blood Tree

that look like flying saucers perched on trucks. Also found on the island is Adenium Socotranum which are trees that look like elephants legs with pink flowers on top.

Adenium Socotranum

Adenium Socotranum

Birds like the Socotra sun-bird, Socotra starling, and Socotra grosbeak are found nowhere else on earth.

Socotra starling

Socotra starling

Tourism on the island is at its early stage of development. However, the Socotra Island is visited by about 2000 tourists on average. It attracts people with its rich flora and fauna unfettered by world progress. Hopefully the rich biodiversity and socio-cultural heritage will not lose its appeal considering the increase of popularity despite the fact that already many popular sites in the world have been altered by the tourist flow.

Grand Canal, Venice: Float in ecstasy

Venice is one of the most romantic cities in the world. Itis the perfect destination for your wedding, honeymoon or a romantic weekend break.VeniceItaly, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and home to many attractions and sights.

One of the things that make Venice ‘the city of romance’ is the Grand Canalalso known by Venetians as Canalazzo, the major water-traffic corridor sweeping through this beautiful city. It is the main street of Venice.The Canal Grande snakes through the city of Venice in a large S shape, traveling from the Saint Mark Basin on one end to a lagoon near the Santa Lucia rail station.Shaped like a backwards “S,” a medieval sign of wonder and mystery, the Grand Canal down the ages has witnessed plenty of both.Only a few bridges cross the Grand Canal: the Accademia Bridge, the Rialto Bridge and the bridge near the station at Ferrovia. Stand on these and watch boats pass by filled with fruit and vegetables, slabs of soft drink and building materials because Venice is still a city without cars and everything the city needs has to be transported by water or handcart.

……it’s like magic sunset_over_grand_canal_venice_italy-other

The Grand Canal is one of the best ways to see the beauty of Venice. It is one of the most travelled water ways in Europe and the most popular in Venice, Italy. The canal is an ancient water route lined along its length with buildings. The best way to capture these Venetian buildings is to travel by the Vaporetto, the water bus. The Grand Canal was traditionally the high-rent district in Venice; houses were larger, and decoration was on a much grander scale. This makes sense when you consider that the Canal offers much greater opportunities for everyone to see the buildings facing it.

Vaporetto

A Vaporetto (plural: vaporetti) is a water bus that takes both locals and visitors to the places they want and need to go throughout Venice. Because traveling the canals is the easiest way to get around the city, the vaporetti has long been the most efficient and cost-effective modes of transportation.Riding in the front offers the best views,so if you’re able to grab the forward seats, go for it. This will give you the opportunity to snap a lot of great pictures along your journey. During the summer, however, the vaporetti can become quite crowded, so the front seats are at a premium.

venice-gondola 

There is always time for a gondola ride

Couples can take a romantic Gondola ride along the Grand Canal.Gondolas were once the chief form of transportation through the canals of Venice. Today, they are generally used as sightseeing vessels for tourists willing to shell out quite a few euros for a ride on these historic rowing boats.Gondolasare tourist vehicles that visitors can hire for sightseeing purposes or purely for the opportunity to say they rode on one of these historic vessels. Many hire them for a romantic journey and, each year, hundreds of couples become engaged while sailing through Venice’s canals.Taking a trip with your spouse in Venice and failing to ride a Gondola is like going to New York and ignoring the statue of liberty. Many tourists also take advantage of a romantic gondola ride along the waterway, which is an especially memorable way to experience the canal.gondola-ride-

These traditional and symbolic boats have been used as transport around the Venetial waterways for more than 10 centuries. Venice Gondola rides are without doubt the number one must-do attraction in Venice. Gliding through serene waters, while serenaded by your gondolier, against the stunning backdrop of Baroque building is an experience you won’t soon forget. A Venice Gondola Ride is truly one of the best ways to enjoy this enchanting city. Do you want to sweep your partner off their feet? Include a serenaded Gondola ride starting from the city center at Piazza San Marco,pass the Grand canal under the ‘Bridge of sighs’ (where you can steal a make out session). Stop at the church of Chiesa di Santa Maria, treat them at the nearby Trattorries (casual cafeteria) which serves tradition Italian cuisine.

Whether you’re feeding the pigeons at Piazza San Marco, riding the Vaporetto (water bus), searching for cheap bargains at San Polo, every sceneryalong the Grand Canal  looks like it was exclusively made for lovers.

Go shopping along the Grand Canal. Take your spouse to restaurants and enjoy the delicious Italian cuisine.

Here are someinterestingfun facts about Venice and the Grand Canal include:

1.            The city has 118 islands and more than 150 canals and 400 bridges.

2.            Venice only has twoofficial canals, Canal Grande and CanaledellaGiudecca.

3.            When two houses are linked by an arch, that’s a sign that the same family owned

4.            There are over 170 buildings on the Grand Canal including restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues.

5.            The Grand Canal is approximately 2.5 miles long and averages at a depth of about 16 feet

6.            Until the 19th century, there was only one bridge that crossed the Grand Canal.

7.            The Grand Canal divides the city of Venice in to two parts.

8.            Over 15 million tourists visit Venice each year.

9.            Lord Byron, the English poet swam the length of the canal after a liquid night on the town. One of his spurned mistresses threw herself into it. The husband of George Eliot, the British novelist (alias Mary Ann Evans), fell into it from a hotel window.

10.          The legendary Venetian lover Giacomo Casanova courted contessas and courtesans in his private love boat before winding up in “The Leads,” the attic prison in the Doge’s Palace, from where he dramatically escaped through a hole in the roof.

Angkor Wat: An ancient revelation

Buddhist_monks_in_front_of_the_Angkor_Wat

 

First a Hindu temple, then subsequently a Buddhist religious settlement, the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia is the largest religious monument in the world. The city of Angkor was built in year 200 during the Fun Kingdom and covers at least 385 square miles. In 1874, the French naturalist Henri Mouhot rediscovered it and the reconstruction and preservation of the temples began. It is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-east Asia. The Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent ruins of the different capital of the Khmer Empire.

Khmer architecture evolved largely from that of the Indian subcontinent, from which it soon became clearly distinct as it developed its own special characteristics, some independently evolved and others acquired from neighboring cultural traditions. The result was a new artistic horizon in oriental art and architecture.

Not just a temple

From the 9th to the 15th century, these remains include the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations.

At the beginning of the 9th century the two states that covered the territory of modern Cambodia were united by Jayavarman II, who laid the foundations of the Khmer Empire, the major power in south-east Asia for some five centuries. One of the sites was in central Cambodia, to the north of Tonle Sap (Great Lake), where half a century later Jayavarman’s son, Yashovarman, was to establish Yashodapura (later called Angkor), the permanent capital of the Khmer Empire until the 15th century.

For hundreds of years, Angkor was the center of the Khmer kingdom. The site is a confirmation of the distinctive concentration of features testifying to an exceptional civilization. The architecture and sophisticated layout  of the structure bear witness to a high level of societal unanimity within the Khmer empire.  It is a heritage site where the natives of Khmer gather to exalt and acknowledge the existence of higher deities. The inhabitants venerate the temple deities and organise ceremonies and rituals in their honor with prayers, music and dance.

Angkor is therefore a major historical site representing cultural, religious and symbolic values as well as exemplifying superior architectural, genuine artistic and archaeological significance.

THE AMAZING SIGIRIYA

Sigiriya, the spectacular ‘Lion rock’ fortress, stands majestically overlooking the luscious green jungle surroundings, and is one of Sri Lanka’s major attractions.As legend goes,this was built by King Kasyapa, a son of King Dhatusena. King Dhatusena was overthrown and walled in, alive by Kasyapa in 473 AD. Kasyapa fearing an invasion built this impregnable fortress at Sigiriya.

Considered to be one of the most amazing and beautiful places to visit in Sri Lanka, Sigiriya has also been proposed to rank as the Eighth wonder of the world. Also known as the ‘lion mountain’ Sigiriya has been confirmed as an epitome of the ancient architectural tradition of Sri Lanka. It has been preserved from the first millennium and its buildings, pathways, trees and water gardens remind you of the magnificent fame of Sri Lanka’s past.sigiriya-1128a-092810

The most significant feature of this place is considered to be the ‘lion staircase’ which lies at the top of the rock. The staircase resembles a gigantic figure that towers against the spectacular granite cliff giving the site a majestic outlook. There are a number of paintings and carvings on the surface of the rock but some of them have worn out with the passage of time. The painting on the roof of the Cobra HoodCave is of major significance.

A magical monument

The water gardens is the gateway to the Lion Rock, it situated in the Sigiri gardens on top of the rock. The beautifully and elaborately landscaped water gardens contain a complex network of underground water distribution system, which provides water to the Royal baths, the many little moated islands and fountains. Some fountains still work during the rainy season. An intriguing view of the Gardens could be seen from halfway up the rock.

About halfway up the rock is a guarded gallery of frescoes painted on the sheer rock face. Called the ‘Heavenly Maidens’ this painting is similar in style to the paintings of Ajantha in India. Only 22 out of an estimated 500 pictures now remain. Flash photography is not allowed at this site. Beyond the gallery, there is a pathway that circles the sheer face of the rock, and is protected by a 3m high wall.

This place is really amazing and a great place to visit and experience the rich cultural past of the country. The Lion Rock will remind you of the greatness of ancient history and how much our ancestors exploited nature’s gifts.

There are many tourist destinations in Sri Lanka, the Lion Rock is one of the main attractions. You don’t want to miss it anytime you get a chance to visit Sri Lanka.

Top 7 Things to do in the Seychelles this Valentine

Seychelles Island

Seychelles Island

The Seychelles have been popularly known as one of the most idyllic island getaways in the world. They are a romantic beachcomber’s dream come true. Picture yourself with your partner walking hand in hand along a long stretch of white sand beach bordered by clear aquamarine water. The only footprints in the sand for miles are yours. Stop to share a kiss in the shade of an elegant palm. Take a cooling dip in the clear aquamarine waters. Soak up the sun at the water’s edge. Dine and wine under the stars as you reminisce about all the funny things and moments you have shared together and talk about the happy days to come in the future. This could be your honeymoon in the Seychelles.

You can make one of these islands your very own honeymoon paradise as the royal couple Will and Kate did. Celebrities, statesmen and tycoons from the world over enjoy them too. Hollywood stars like Brad Pitt, Pierce Brosnan, Jennifer Aniston, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Douglas and Katharine Zeta Jones have fallen in love with them. Beatle George Harrison and comedian Peter Sellers bought land here, and a bunch of other stars and dignitaries have been to the shores.

Here is a list of things you can do in Seychelles

Beach party

Seychellois love to have fun! From time to time there are some nice beach parties around the island. For example in Baie Lazare where they throw parties sometimes. At parties you can enjoy good beer and delicious Seychellois food!

Hiking

Explore the walking trails of La Digue, in the Vallée de Mai and on the east coast of Praslin. Other great trails lie on the islands of Aride, Mahé and Silhouette.

Scuba diving

Explore numerous dive sites in the waters between La Digue and Praslin Island as well as to the south at Anse Marron Bank. Explore the ocean depths to see various marine life including turtles, parrot fish and sharks. Spearfishing is illegal in the Seychelles, which is probably why the fish here are unafraid of divers. Don’t miss the annual Subios underwater festival held in November.

Snorkelling

Head for any of the semi-submerged granite boulders and you’ll be amazed at the number of colourful tropical fish swimming about. For some of the best snorkelling in the Seychelles, take a trip to Felicite, Coco, Sister and Marianne islands.

Game fishing

Hook the big one: go after black, blue and striped marlin, sailfish, yellowfish and dogtooth tuna, wahoo and barracuda – just a few of the game fish found in the waters around the Seychelles. For saltwater fly-fishing, head to Alphonse and Desroches islands.

Sailing

Explore the calm waters and coves of La Digue, the third largest of the inner isles.

Shopping

Look for local handicrafts including textiles such as batik, basketwares, table-mats and hats, traditional ornaments and model boats as well as jewellery made from green snail shells.

Scuba diving is one of the most popular activities in the Seychelles with more than 900 species of fish and 100 species of coral easily seen in clear water. Hiking and walking tours allow you to easily explore the islands’ flora and fauna. Windsurfers, canoes and sailing dinghies are available for hire on most of the popular beaches, as well as waterskiing and paragliding at many resorts.

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