Tuesday, February 9, 2016

City Guide: Luanda, Angola


Luanda – Capital & Largest City in Angola

Luanda was formerly known as Sao Paulo da Assuncao de Loanda, the capital as well as the largest city in Angola. It is the country’s most famous and important city, major industrial, cultural, urban centre and primary port. It is situated on the coast of Angola with the Atlantic Ocean and is both the chief seaport of Angola as well as its administrative centre.

It is also the capital city of Luanda Province and the third most populous Portuguese speaking city in the world after Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, both in Brazil. Besides it is also the most populous Portuguese speaking capital city in the world ahead of Brasilia, Lisbon and Maputo. It has metropolitan inhabitants of more than 6 million. Luanda is divided into two sections, the Baixa de Luanda – lower Luanda, the old city and the Cidade Alta – upper city or the new city.

The Baixa is located near the port, having narrow streets together with old colonial buildings, though huge new constructions have now covered huge spaces beyond these traditional limits, together with various previously independent centres like Viana have been unified in the city.

Seat of Roman Catholic Archbishop

Luanda is considered to be the seat of a Roman Catholic archbishop and is also the location of several of Angola’s educational institutions inclusive of the private Catholic University of Angola as well as the public University of Agostinho Neto. Moreover, it is also the home of the colonial governor’s Palace and the Estadio da Cidadela, the main stadium of Angola having a total seating arrangement of 60,000.

A totally new satellite city known as Luanda Sul has been built and the capital city of Luanda is constantly growing. The inhabitants of Luanda are mainly members of African ethnic groups, generally Ambundum Ovimbundu and Bakongo. The official and the most extensively used language is Portuguese though many Bantu languages are also used mainly Kimbundu, Umbundu and Kikongo. There is substantial minority population of European origin, particularly Portuguese together with Brazilians as well as other Latin Americans.

A significant community of Chinese has been formed over the last decades and a smaller Vietnamese community. There are few immigrants from other African countries also comprising of small expatriate South African community.

Luanda – Mixed Race

Several people of Luanda are a mixed race of European/Portuguese and native African. Since the mid-2000s, immigration from Portugal seems to have increased owing to the recession and poor economic situation of Portugal. The port of Luanda functions as the largest port of Angola, connecting Angola to the rest of the world. Major expansion work of this port is also in progress. A new port is being developed at Dande around 30 km towards the north.

Luanda is the beginning point of the Luanda railway which goes east to Malanje. Civil war has left the railway non-operative though the railway had been restored up to Dondo and Malanje. In recent years, the population of Luanda had grown tremendously owing to large part to war-time migration to the city that tends to be safe when compared to the rest of the country. In 2006, however, Luanda has envisaged an increase in violent crime especially in the shanty towns which surround the colonial urban central.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Minoan Palace of Knossos, Greece


Palace of Knossos Constructed by Minoans

The Palace of Knossos is placed south of modern day Heraklion towards the north coast of Crete. Constructed by a civilization known as the Minoans, it covers an area of 150,000 square feet which is the size of over two American football fields and was surrounded in ancient times by a town. Knossos is the ancient Minoan palace.

King Minos who was famous for his wisdom and later one of the three judges of the dead in the underworld would give his name to the people of Knossos and through addition, the ancient civilization of Crete – Minoan. The settlement had been established much before 2000 BCE but destroyed probably by fire. Some claim that it could be tsunami. Knossos has been recognized with Plato’s mythical Atlantis from his discussions of the Timaeus and Critias.

It is also known in myth as the most legendarily, through the story of Theseus and Minotaur. As per the myth adjoining the ancient city, King Minos had hired the Athenian architect, mathematician as well as inventor Daedelus to design the palace and the palace was constructed so smartly that no one who entered in could find their way back without a guide.

Knossos Flourished Through Maritime Trade/Overland Commerce

Other versions states that the palace itself had been redesigned in this way though the labyrinth in the palace which had been built to house the half-man/half-bull, the Minotaur. To keep Daedelus from disclosing the secrets of the palace, Minos had him and his son Icarus locked in a high tower at Knossos as prisoner. However, Daedelus had fashioned wings made of wax and bird’s feathers for him and his son and managed to escape from the prison.

But Icarus flew too close to the sun and his wings melted and he fell to his death.Minotaur, the monster-child of the wife of Minos flourished on human sacrifice with Minos making demands on the gallant youth of Athens to feed the beast. It was Theseus of Athens who with the help of Minos’s daughter Ariadne killed the Minotaur and freed the young people, returning triumphantly to his home city.

Under the rule of Minos, Knossos seemed to flourish through maritime trade and overland commerce together with the other great cities of Crete, Kato Sakro and Mallia. The city was destroyed and then re-built, twice.

Ceremonial & Political Centre of Minoan Civilization/Culture

The site gained importance when it had been excavated and restored by a team led by British archaeologist Arthur Evans, in the early 20th century. The palace of Knossos had been the ceremonial as well as the political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture.

 The palace had been abandoned at some unknown point of time towards the end of the late Bronze Age, ca. 1380-1100 BC. The abandoning inhabitants were possibly Mycenaean Greeks who could have earlier occupied the city-state and were utilising Linear B as its administrative script opposed to Linear A, the earlier administrative script.Based on the excavation at the site, the first palace had been massive in size having very thick walls.

The ancient pottery that were discovered throughout Crete at several sites, portray that the island was not united under a central culture at this time and hence the walls of the palace were probably constructed to this size and thickness for the purpose of defence.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Gradara, Italy


Gradara – Medieval Village of Italy

Gradara one of the medieval villages of Italy is situated along the border of Le Marche and Emilia Romagna. It is a famous destination for day trippers and provides some of most amazing historical attractions, comprising of the imposing fortress which is considered to be one of the best preserved monuments.

One can catch incredible glimpses of this village which has a castle placed on the hill overlooking the waters of the Adriatic Sea. Towards the opposite end one can see olive groves as well as farms with fields and vineyards which are eye catching. The entire village arouses a feeling of serenity and tranquillity with rows of cypress trees and farm cottages that are gracefully lined all along the hillside.

 In 1150 during the Middle Ages, the nobles Pietro and Ridolfo De Grifo had begun building the main part of the caste and over the years the ownership of this land had been transferred to the Malatesta family. This medieval village has a natural beauty in the midst of pristine surroundings.

Castello Malatestiano should not be missed and the best attractions are the glimpses of the history with plenty of fascinating facts. Besides this one can visit the historical museum and the Olive Trees Garden, the Church of Saint Giovanni which has the lovely wooden crucifix.

Fortress of Gradara – Best Preserved Medieval Structures

People who intend on recalling some of the stories of the past could visit the amazing destination where the internal rooms of the castle reminds you of the powerful families who had ruled there in the past. The beautiful castle was constructed around the 11th century by Pietro and Ridolfo De Grifo.

One can view the brilliance of the architecture design of the castle and its intricate details comprising of the three polygonal tower blankets. Besides this, one can also see the double wall as well as the drawbridges which tend to define the majestic fortress.

The fortress of Gradara together with its town signifies the best preserved medieval structures in Italy with the two surrounding walls protecting the fortress and makes it one of the most fascinating destinations. Around 1150, it is said that the donjon had been constructed by the De Griffo family. However, it was the Malatesta family who had built the fortress together with the two surrounding walls between the 13th and the 14th centuries which gave Gradaraits current appearance.

One of the Prime Art Centres

Gradara is also said to be one of the prime art centres that had a theatre in 1289 which recounts one of the heart wrenching stories of the ill-fated love between Paola Malatesta and Francesca Polenta. Besides this, one can also go on a tour of the Granada castle which will take you on a historic journey from the heart of the village to some of the historical attractions of the amazing location.

One can also get the opportunity of seeing some of the best paintings and attractive architecture of the interior design and furnishing that were used there in those times. The town has been distinguished for its outstanding reliability and density of the ancient living centre.

 The management of the road system in the historic centre provides enjoyment and visiting by foot with a great experience while exploring the attractive sites of this amazing destination.

6 Great Mods for Your UTV

If you're still driving the side-by-side that came off the lot, you're missing out on prime opportunities for customization and accessorization. Here are just a few ways to trick out your UTV and make it your own.

1. Lifts

Lifts serve a dual purpose for UTVs. Not only will they add a little pizzazz to your vehicle, but they'll also prevent rocks and debris from hitting, denting and rusting your bottom frame. This makes your lift a multipurpose tool for safety and style.

2. Lights

LED lights are all the rage for side-by-sides, and it's easy to understand why. You can add them to everything from your bumper to your overhead mount, and in addition to looking cool, they'll also illuminate your path during even the darkest of nights. You don't want to mess around with safety while driving your UTV.

3. Audio Systems

There's nothing like blaring some good old-fashioned rock music while the wind whips through your hair. Even if you aren't into Guns N' Roses, however, a good stereo system can help you with things like GPS navigation and radio communications from one vehicle to another. This is invaluable if you use your UTV for racing or deep off-roading.

4. Enclosures

Enclosures are another way to add personality to your UTV while also reaping real-world safety benefits. Buy them in any color or with any pattern; decorate your vehicle however you'd like. They'll all protect you from the elements and keep you safe from harsh environments.

5. Cold Weather Gear

Speaking of harsh environments, if you have to take your UTV out during snowstorms, it's critically important that you prepare for the weather before you go. Make sure your heater is fully operational; double-check the seams on your enclosures and doors; invest in plows or skid plates. You don't want to get stuck in sub-zero temperatures without protection.

6. Tires

These can be costly accessories, but they can also be worth the expense if you buy and use the right kinds. Don't be satisfied with the tires that came on your factory-issued UTV. Do some research and figure out the best make and model for you.

These are just a few mods that will improve the speed, power, performance and aesthetic of your UTV. For more information, including how to find and purchase these side x side accessories, check out sites like SidebySideStuff.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Kaaba -Masjid Al-Haram

Masjid Al-Haram

The Kaaba – A Cuboid Shaped Building

The Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is a cuboid shaped building which is the most sacred site in Islam as well as the oldest and the most Famous Cultural monuments in the world. According to the Quran, the Kaaba had been constructed by Abraham – Ibrahim in Arabic and his son Ishmael – Ismaeel in Arabic, after the latter settled in Arabia.

The building is said to have a mosque constructed around it known as the Masjid al-Haram. Muslims all over the world face the Kaaba while praying irrespective of where they are. This is known as facing the Qiblah. The Kaaba is also known as Kaaba Muazzama. Being the most sacred site of the Muslims it is considered the `House of God’ just like the Tabernacle and Holy of Holies in Judaism. The present height of the Kaaba is 39 feet, 6 inches with the total size amounting to 627 square feet.

 The interior of the Kaaba is 13 x 9 meters and the walls are one meter wide. The floor inside is 2.2 meters higher than the place where the perform Tawaf. The ceiling and the roof are two levels made of wood and were reconstructed with teak capped with stainless steel. All the walls are made of stone where the interior stones are unpolished and the exterior are polished.

Subject to Danger – Natural Disasters/Human Attacks

The Kaaba had been reconstructed recently as close to four years ago and had been subjected to danger by natural disasters like floods as well as human attacks. One of the Five Pillars of Islam wants every Muslim who is capable of performing the hajj pilgrimage, at least once in their lifetime.

Multiple parts of the hajji need pilgrims to make tawaf, which is the circumambulation seven times around the Kaaba in a counter clockwise route. During umrah or lesser pilgrimage, tawaf is also performed by pilgrims but the most amazing times are during the hajj when millions of the pilgrims assemble to circle the building on the same day.

The total number of pilgrims from outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to perform hajj in 2013 was officially reported as 1,379,531. Saudi Arabia had reported in 2014, of having completed Hajj permits for 1,389,053 international pilgrims and 63,375 for residents.

The Holiest Shrine in Islam

Pilgrimage to holy site is main principle of all faiths and the Kaaba which means cube in Arabic is a square building which is gracefully draped in silk and cotton veil and is the holiest shrine in Islam. The Muslims in Islam tend to pray five times a day and these prayers after 624 .C.E had been directed towards Mecca and the Kaaba instead of Jerusalem.

 This direction or qibla is marked in all mosques enabling the faithful to understand in which direction they need to pray. Most of the Muslims tend to undertake the hajj or the annual pilgrimage to the Kaaba at least once in their life if they are in a position to do so. On arrival at Mecca, the pilgrims draw together in the courtyard of the Masjid al-Haram around the Kaaba and the circumambulate or walk around the Kaaba where they hope to kiss and touch the Black Stone or al-Hajar al-Aswad that is embedded in the eastern corner of the Kaaba.