Tag Archives: geography

The Big Circles of Jordan

The Big Circles are a collection of 12 giant circular stone structures spread across parts of Jordan and Syria. Despite they being over 2,000 years old, very little archaeological attention has been given to them and they remain largely unknown, even among local experts.

The circles were discovered in 1920 by a British pilot named Lionel Rees when he flew across the deserts of what would become Jordan. The pictures Rees took of these immense stone circles became some of the earliest aerial archaeological photographs of these structures. For reasons unknown, Rees findings were ignored and promptly forgotten. It took another 60 years before anyone noticed them again. It was only in the last 10 years, they have started to gain more attention through the work … Read the rest

The Sapphire Mines of Ilakaka, Madagascar

Ilakaka is a small town in the south west of Madagascar along Route Nationale 7, the main road linking the capital city Antananarivo to the port of Toliara. Twenty years ago, Ilakaka practically didn’t exist with barely 40 residents. In less than ten years, its population soared to 60,000 as people from all over Madagascar began flocking here in search of sapphires.

Sapphire was discovered in southern Madagascar in the late 1990s. Until then, Ilakaka was little more than a truck stop with a small collection of huts and a few dozen residents. When word of the discovery got out, Ilakaka swelled to tens of thousands of residents, and this sleepy hamlet became the sapphire capital of the world supplying nearly 50% of all the sapphires … Read the rest

There’s No Un-Hearing This Scientist’s Explanation of Fermentation

Ginger Beer in Sydney

I’ve been to maybe half-a-dozen tastings in my life. A flight of whiskies at a Scottish distillery; a beer sampler at a brewery in Sydney; and a couple of cellar-door wine evenings.

Most of them have been shambolic affairs, although there’s a pattern to them. At first everyone’s a gourmand, sincere about the early vanillin note on this one and the woodruff aftertaste on that one. But after you’ve gone through 10 or 12 varieties of shiraz, it’s a bit different. Your teeth are redder than a betel addict’s, everything tastes like second-hand tea leaves, and you might as well have gone to the pub.

I’m hoping this one will be a little different, partly because it’s ginger beer on show tonight … Read the rest

Delicious, Flaky Pastries Not Quite Like Grandma Used to Make

Burek in Dubrovnik

Ottawa, 1989.

When we were children, my grandmother, Mariette Setton, would take the Voyageur bus from Montreal to stay with us. These trips happened about once a month, and I loved them.

Grandma would take us all to the fast food joint of our choice, stuff us with grease, and then spend the weekend telling us how wonderful we were compared to our father when he was our age, back in Egypt, the old country they had fled in the 50s as very unwelcome Jews.

When not stroking our egos, grandma would spend most of the weekend making “cheese bits” and “spinach bits.” There was a routine to this.
First, she complained that she had to work all weekend like the Hebrews of … Read the rest

St. Pierre and Miquelon: The Last French Colony in North America

About 25 kilometers off the coast of Canada, in the North Atlantic, lies a tiny bit of France. It’s a string of islands belonging to the archipelago of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, which—despite being located nearly 4,000 kilometer away from the mainland— are still under French control. These islands represent the last foothold of colonial France in the Atlantic.

The islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon were first set foot on by Europeans in 1520, and they became a French colony is 1536. For the next few centuries the islands moved back and forth between the British and French as they squabbled over who should rule over which geographic portion of the foreign continent. Eventually, France gave up all of its North American colonies, which at … Read the rest

A Close Encounter With a Monk and a Chocolate Muffin

A muffin in Laos

We woke to the bang-clang of metal against metal. The tak bat had begun.

My husband and I slipped out of bed and into shoes. We left the hotel room door open, just so, to the street, but prayed our small son would continue to sleep as the meditative procession of monks started to move through Luang Prabang.

Dawn after dawn, the faithful feed the faithful. Orange-robed monks walk barefoot and single file. They receive handfuls of sticky rice, fruit, incense, and sweets from men and women who sit or kneel, shoeless and sashed, along the route. No one speaks.

The daily Buddhist ritual of almsgiving knits the community together, as it has for hundreds of years. Pots full of food let … Read the rest

Always Eat the Fish Eye At the Bottom of the Bowl

Fish broth in Barranquilla

It’s Carnival in Barranquilla. There are marimondas, negritas Puloy, ITALgarabatos, monocucos, and many other traditional figures joyfully wandering in every street. There is dancing in all the ways the locals know: cumbia, mapalé, chandé, fandango, porro, merecumbé, bullerenge. There are kids, adults, pets, houses, and cars dressed up in colorful costumes.

A very well-organized recocha (which Urban Dictionary defines as “to be disorderly in the name of fun”) reigns in the town. There also is, of course, lots of alcohol involved. It’s been like that for more than a century, so the mayor and the police have agreed to make an exception from the recent national law that forbids the consumption of … Read the rest

Underwater Mailboxes Around The World

Remember the last time you were diving underwater and suddenly remembered an important letter that you had to post that very instant? Yup, it has happened to all of us. Fortunately, these five places has us covered.

Hideaway Island, Vanuatu

UnderwaterPostOfficeVanuatu

The underwater post office off the coast of Hideaway Island in the island nation of Vanuatu is one of the most famous in the world. It was established in 2003 and is located in 3 meters of water. The post office provides special waterproof postcards that tourists can drop into the submerged post box with their own hands, or ask the staff to do so.

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The Dolerite Columns of Coastal Tasmania

The coastline of the southern Tasmania, in Australia, is composed of stunning rock columns that protrude up to 300 meters from the sea level. These rocks are what geologists call dolerites, with its distinct elongated shape and hexagonal columns.

Dolerites form when molten rocks pushed up from the deep underbelly of the earth cools quickly and crystallizes to form small visible crystals in the rock. When the rate of cooling is just right, the rocks shrink in volume, causing the creation of cracks. The cracks allow the rocks in the interior to cool, resulting in more cracks. At the end, you get a large block of rock with long vertical and symmetrical cracks creating five or six sided columns. The columns can be just a few … Read the rest

From Feeding Gods in the Temple to Mortals in the City

My favorite place to eat in Mumbai is A. Rama Nayak’s Udupi Sri Krishna Boarding, a real mouthful of a name for a simple place. Set in a leafy South Indian enclave called King’s Circle, Rama Nayak’s occupies a pair of bright, breezy rooms up a flight of stairs in a nondescript building next to the Matunga Central railway station. Crowded, Formica-topped tables flank narrow aisles patrolled by a small army of lungi-clad kitchen attendants who ladle food relentlessly from small metal pails onto banana-leaf plates until you tell them to please-god-stop.

The food is simple, unchanged since the restaurant first opened its doors in 1942. Set lunches and dinners rotate through the week. You’ll get chutneys and bright-red mango pickle and a little … Read the rest

The Universal Struggle to Get to the Bar Before Happy Hour Ends

Wine in Amman

It is 5 p.m. in Amman, and I’m frantically dialing my bank in Pakistan to complain why a transfer hasn’t gone through. My Urdu seems accented and strange, as if I haven’t spent most of my life speaking the language.

I rush out of the house. It’s a Thursday night, the start of the weekend, and I want the same ritual as that of people working in offices everywhere–to get a drink. I emerge to the beginnings of rain, and shrug on a jacket and wrap my head in a scarf. It’s April, and yet I am still dressing like early winter.

I almost run to the stop for servees cabs: the shared-taxi service that runs in older Amman neighborhoods. There’s a queue … Read the rest

Fresh, Ripe Tomatoes: the Culinary Opposite of Airport Curries

Breakfast in Cyprus

As the rosy-red flesh of tomatoes basked in the light streaming through the stone-and-timber window frame, I could sense Karen’s reluctance as she mentally prepared herself for that first bite.

Less than 48 hours earlier we were in the U.K., slack jaws mechanically processing a lukewarm airport curry, a flaccid coda to our exploration of Scotland’s bonnie but slightly stodgy shores.

The tiny, cobblestoned village of Vavla, in Cyprus, was our new home, and we were hoping for something, anything, to resuscitate our neglected taste buds.

Over mugs of hot coffee, we could hear our hosts Donna Marie and George nattering back and forth in the kitchen; she with her Yankee drawl, rusty from disuse, he with his thick, gravelly, Greek-inflected English sporadically … Read the rest

Djerbahood: The Street Art Drive That Transformed A Tunisian Village

The sleepy little village of Erriadh on the island of Djerba—once known as the “island of dreams”— is not part of Tunisia’s tourist circuit. It’s primarily a pilgrimage site, being home to the largest and oldest synagogue in North Africa —El Ghriba— which is in continuous use for over 2,000 years. Other than a few thousand pilgrims, the village sees very little foreigners. There are no large businesses or hotels in Erriadh; only small houses with traditional Berber architecture featuring open courtyards and domes. But over the last few years, this has been changing. Erriadh’s primary attraction today is street art.

djerbahood-1

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