Thursday, 14 December 2017

URUGUAY: Montevideo, People Believe In God But Without Religion

Montevideo is the pleasant capital city of Uruguay, a country in South America.

It is situated on the east bank of the Rio de la Plata and is the southernmost capital city in South America.

Montevideo is the capital and largest city of Uruguay. According to the 2011 census, the city proper has a population of 1,319,108 about one-third of the country's total population in an area of 201 square kilometres (78 sq mi).

The southernmost capital city in the Americas, Montevideo is situated in the southern coast of the country, on the northeastern bank of the Rio de la Plata.

Montevideo was founded in 1724. For much of its early history, the city consisted of what is now known as the Ciudad Vieja (Old Town). By the mid-19th century the city began to grow eastward towards what is now known as Centro.

The demolition of the old fort that used to mark the eastern boundary of Old Town enabled the construction of what is now Plaza Independencia. Eventually Boulevard Artigas was built around Centro, but by 1910, suburbs were already developing beyond it which were later annexed into the growing city.

As the capital of Uruguay, Montevideo is the economic and political centre of the country. Most of the largest and wealthiest businesses in Uruguay have their headquarters in the city.

Since the 1990s the city has undergone rapid economic development and modernization, including two of Uruguay's most important buildings—the World Trade Center Montevideo (1998), and Telecommunications Tower (2000).

The headquarters of Uruguay's government-owned telecommunications company ANTEL, increasing the city's integration into the global marketplace.

The Port of Montevideo, in the northern part of Ciudad Vieja, is one of the major ports of South America and plays a very important role in the city's economy. The port has been growing rapidly and consistently at an average annual rate of 14 percent due to an increase in foreign trade.

The city has received a US$20 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank to modernize the port, increase its size and efficiency, and enable lower maritime and river transportation costs.

The most important state-owned companies headquartered in Montevideo are: AFE (railways), ANCAP (Energy), Administracion Nacional de Puertos (Ports), ANTEL (telecommunications),BHU (savings and loan),BROU (bank), BSE (insurance), OSE (water & sewage), UTE (electricity).

These companies operate under public law, using a legal entity defined in the Uruguayan Constitution called Ente Autonomo or autonomous entity.

The government also owns part of other companies operating under private law, such as those owned wholly or partially by the CND (National Development Corporation).

Banking has traditionally been one of the strongest service export sectors in Uruguay: the country was once dubbed the Switzerland of America, mainly for its banking sector and stability, although that stability has been threatened in the 21st century by the recent global economic climate.

The largest bank in Uruguay is Banco Republica (BROU), based in Montevideo. Almost 20 private banks, most of them branches of international banks, operate in the country Banco Santander, ABN AMRO, Citibank, Lloyds TSB, among others.

There are also a myriad of brokers and financial-services bureaus, among them Ficus Capital, Galfin Sociedad de Bolsa, Europa Sociedad de Bolsa, Darío Cukier, GBU, Hordenana & Asociados Sociedad de Bolsa, etc.

Tourism accounts for much of Uruguay's economy.

Tourism in Montevideo is centered in the Ciudad Vieja area, which includes the city's oldest buildings, several museums, art galleries, and nightclubs, with Sarandí Street and the Mercado del Puerto being the most frequented venues of the old city.

On the edge of Ciudad Vieja, Plaza Independencia is surrounded by many sights, including the Solis Theatre and the Palacio Salvo; the plaza also constitutes one end of 18 de Julio Avenue, the city's most important tourist destination outside of Ciudad Vieja.

Apart from being a shopping street, the avenue is noted for its Art Deco buildings, three important public squares, the Gaucho Museum, the Palacio Municipal and many other sights.

The avenue leads to the Obelisk of Montevideo; beyond that is Parque Batlle, which along with the Parque Prado is another important tourist destination.

Along the coast, the Fortaleza del Cerro, the Rambla the coastal avenue, 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) of sandy beaches, and Punta Gorda attract many tourists, as do the Barrio Sur and Palermo barrios.

The Ministry of Tourism offers a two-and-a-half-hour city tour[ and the Montevideo Tourist Guide Association offers guided tours in English, Italian, Portuguese and German. Apart from these, many private companies offer organized city tours.

Most tourists to the city come from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Europe, with the number of visitors from elsewhere in Latin America and from the United States growing every year, thanks to an increasing number of international airline arrivals at Carrasco International Airport as well as luxury cruises that arrive into the port of Montevideo that often participate on The Wine Experience.

Montevideo has over 50 hotels, mostly located within the downtown area or along the beachfront of the Rambla de Montevideo.

The old Hotel Carrasco, established around 1930 and a landmark of luxury for decades, has been renovated by Sofitel and re-opened in March 2013.The hotel has 93 rooms and 23 suites, a Spa, a large casino, restaurant, bar, library and cafe.

Other hotels are located in colonial buildings, such as the Hotel Palacio and boutique hotels, especially away from the downtown area, retain a colonial feel. One such hotel is Belmont House established 1995, located on the Avenida Rivera in Carrasco.

It is set amidst gardens and has 24 rooms and suites and is served by the Restaurant Allegro.

Montevideo is the heartland of retailing in Uruguay. The city has become the principal centre of business and real estate, including many expensive buildings and modern towers for residences and offices, surrounded by extensive green spaces.

In 1985, the first shopping centre in Rio de la Plata, Montevideo Shopping was built. In 1994, with building of three more shopping complexes such as the Shopping Tres Cruces, Portones Shopping, and Punta Carretas Shopping, the business map of the city changed dramatically.

The creation of shopping complexes brought a major change in the habits of the people of Montevideo. Global firms such as McDonald's and Burger King etc. are firmly established in Montevideo.

Apart from the big shopping complexes, the main retailing venues of the city are: most of 18 de Julio Avenue in the Centro and Cordon barrios, a length of Agraciada Avenue in the Paso de Molino area of Belvedere, a length of Arenal Grande St. and the surrounding streets in Villa Munoz and a length of 8 de Octubre Avenue in Union.

Montevideo has a very rich architectural heritage and an impressive number of writers, artists, and musicians. Uruguayan tango is a unique form of dance that originated in the neighborhoods of Montevideo towards the end of the 1800s.

Tango, candombe and murga are the three main styles of music in this city. The city is also the centre of the cinema of Uruguay, which includes commercial, documentary and experimental films.

There are two movie theatre companies running seven cinemas, around ten independent ones and four art film cinemas in the city. The theatre of Uruguay is admired inside and outside Uruguayan borders.

The Solís Theatre is the most prominent theatre in Uruguay and the oldest in South America. There are several notable theatrical companies and thousands of professional actors and amateurs.

Montevideo playwrights produce dozens of works each year; of major note are Mauricio Rosencof, Ana Magnabosco and Ricardo Prieto.

In recent years Montevideo nightlife has moved to Ciudad Vieja, where a large concentration of buildings cater for the recreational interests of young people during the night time.

Under a presidential decree of 1 March 2006 smoking is prohibited in any public place with roofing, and there is a prohibition on the sale of alcohol in certain businesses from 21.00 to 9.00.

A Cultural Centre of Spain, as well as Asturian and cultural centres, testify to Montevideo's considerable Spanish heritage. Montevideo also has important museums including Museo Torres García, Museo Jose Gurvich, Museo Nacional de Artes Visuales and Museo Juan Manuel Blanes etc.

The center of traditional Uruguayan food and beverage in Montevideo is the Mercado del Puerto or Port Market. A torta frita is a pan-fried cake consumed in Montevideo and throughout Uruguay.

It is generally circular, with a small cut in the centre for cooking, and is made from wheat flour, yeast, water and sugar or salt. Beef is very important in Uruguayan cuisine and an essential part of many dishes. Montevideo has a variety of restaurants, from traditional Uruguayan cuisine to Japanese cuisine.

As the capital of Uruguay, Montevideo is home to a number of festivals and carnivals including a Gaucho festival when people ride through the streets on horseback in traditional gaucho gear.

The major annual festival is the annual Montevideo Carnaval which is part of the national festival of Carnival Week, celebrated throughout Uruguay, with central activities in the capital, Montevideo.

Officially, the public holiday lasts for two days on Carnival Monday and Shrove Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday, but due to the prominence of the festival, most shops and businesses close for the entire week.

During carnival there are many open-air stage performances and competitions and the streets and houses are vibrantly decorated. Tablados or popular scenes, both fixed and movable, are erected in the whole city.

Notable displays include Desfile de las Llamadas or Parade of the Calls, which is a grand united parade held on the south part of downtown, where it used to be a common ritual back in the early 20th century.

Due to the scale of the festival, preparation begins as early as December with an election of the zonal beauty queens to appear in the carnival.

Church and state are officially separated since 1916 in Uruguay. The religion with most followers in Montevideo is Roman Catholicism and has been so since the foundation of the city. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Montevideo was created as the Apostolic Vicariate of Montevideo in 1830.

The vicariate was promoted to the Diocese of Montevideo on 13 July 1878.

Pope Leo XIII elevated it to the rank of a metropolitan archdiocese on 14 April 1897. The new archdiocese became the Metropolitan of the suffragan sees of Canelones, Florida, Maldonado–Punta del Este, Melo, Mercedes, Minas, Salto, San Jose de Mayo, Tacuarembo.

Montevideo is the only archdiocese in Uruguay and, as its Ordinary, the archbishop is also Primate of the Catholic Church in Uruguay. The archdiocese's mother church and thus seat of its archbishop is Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepcion y San Felipe y Santiago.

As of 2010, the current Archbishop of Montevideo is Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet, SDB, since his appointment on 11 February 2014.

Other religious faiths in Montevideo are Protestantism, Umbanda, Judaism, and there are many people who define themselves as Atheists and Agnostics, while others profess believing in God but without religion.

Carrasco International Airport is about 15 km east of the city center, in the suburb of Carrasco in the department of Canelones. The airport is linked to the city center via major four-lane divided arterial roads.

Route 101 the national highway running by the airport terminates at a roundabout where it connects to Avenida de las Americas, which in turn connects to Avenida Italia, which runs all the way to Centro.

People used to complain all the time about Carrasco's dilapidated and overcrowded old terminal. In 2009, Carrasco Airport opened a beautiful new terminal and expanded to eight gates, four jetways, four remote parking spots.

Unfortunately, to pay for the $134 million terminal, the government sold a lot of bonds backed by a USD $40 and $19 for flights to Buenos Aires airport fee charged to all departing travelers.

Based on where you are from, some airlines already include this fee in the price of the ticket,in the United States it is mandatory, but if your airline did not already charge you the fee, you will be required to go to the airport fee counter next to the check-in counters and pay the fee before you can leave the country.

You should be able to look at a fare breakdown of your ticket to see if this fee has been included, look for code WU in the tax lines.

Buses depart right outside the airport to Terminal Tres Cruces, just north of many major sites downtown easily walkable to hotels. Airport transfer by bus costs UYU56. Catch any bus that says Montevideo, just outside the departure doors at the post marked bus.

Once aboard a bus, keep your eye out for the Tres Cruces bus terminal if you intend to get off here, because the bus doesn't actually stop in the terminal, but just outside. If you are heading to/from Punta Carretas take the DM1 bus.

By remise Rate from airport to Downtown around UYS 800/950 (Uruguayan Pesos) or USD 40/45. The airport taxi to the center costs UYU1500 or USD70; metered and prepaid prices are about the same as of September 2012. Payment in USD is possible, but using UYU works out to be about 10% cheaper.

During weekdays one can take the normal radio taxi from the city to the airport for around 800 UYU, but be careful because some cab charge extra for carrying his bag and the other problem that the vehicles are small because using a security screen between the front and back .

Another possibility for travelers who are heading to Montevideo from nearby Buenos Aires is to take the high-speed ferry operated by Buquebus. A one-way ticket, tourist class, costs about UYU 2250 and takes just over 2 hours.

There are several boats a day. The ferry arrives in the Ciudad Vieja district of Montevideo, situated very close to downtown - a cab ride to a hotel in El Centro or Pocitos is much shorter and cheaper than from the airport.

Ferry service to Buenos Aires is also available via the same company Buquebus or ColoniaExpress via Colonia. The ticket can include the bus from Montevideo to Colonia, it is cheaper and about 1 to 2 hours longer than the direct crossing.

You can buy a bus ticket, about 188 Uruguyan pesos from the city terminal (Terminal Tres Cruces) to Colonia, 2 to 3 hours, stay a couple of hours or days, which is highly recommended, and then buy a ferry ticket in Colonia to Buenos Aires whicht takes about 1 hour.

If you book well in advance via internet, MasterCard works, even if it takes a couple of attempts you can get the Express service (1 hour) for around 500 UYU.

- Bus to Salto - 6 hour direct transfer is 640 pesos with Agencia Central SA - several departures throughout the day/night.

- Bus to Porto Alegre -a trip of about 12 hours, operated by two companies (TTL and EGA), departures every day about 8 pm and arriving at 8 a.m

- Bus to Sao Paulo - a 28 hour trip leaving every Sunday, serving cities like Florianopolis and Curitiba on the way, operated by EGA.

- Bus to Santiago de Chile -a 27 hour trip leaving every Monday, operated by EGA.

- Bus to Cordoba -about 12 hour trip leaving daily, operated by EGA

- Bus to Asuncion -a 26 hour trip leaving four times a week, operated by EGA.

- Bus to Colonia del Sacramento. Departures every hour, operated by two companies: COT and TURIL. There are two services: Directo no stops, time travel of 150 min and Parador stopping in all towns on the way, taking over 3 hours.

- Bus to Punta del Este. Departures every hour, operated by COP and COT, taking about 2 hours of travel. Most services are direct, but some make a stop at Piriapolis.

For those leaving from Porto Alegre, Brazil, there are two options: one that enters Uruguay via Chui and another via Jaguarao. For both, you start by taking the route BR-116 up to Pelotas.

Next, if you want to visit Chui, the southernmost city of Brazil, or the Santa Teresa Fortress or even see the beautiful beaches of the coast of Uruguay, then, at Pelotas, take the route BR-392 to Rio Grande and next the route BR-471 all the way to Chui.

Takes about 6 hours and 30 minutes to go from Porto Alegre to Chui. On June 6th of 2010 there were 5 tolls between those cities, a total of R$ 34.60, it's important to note that they only accept Brazilian Real.

Around 30 minutes after crossing the border, you can visit the Santa Teresa Fortress. An option is to stay a night at Punta del Diablo, in case you are too tired to keep driving to Montevideo. From Chui to Montevideo, just stay in route 9. Takes about 4 hours and 30 minutes.

Again, there are 3 tolls between Chui and Montevideo, each cost UYU 60.00. In this case, they do accept foreign money. However, it's strongly recommended that you pay in Uruguay Pesos, as they charge a lot more if you pay in Real or Dolar.

If you want the fastest route to Montevideo which is about 2 hours shorter than the first one, you should cross the border at Jaguarao. To reach this city, just stay in route BR-116. After that, take route 8 to Montevideo.

Montevideo is not a large city and it boasts a very efficient public transportation system so getting around is not difficult at all.

If you are not bashful about your Spanish, feel free to ask people which bus route you need to take to get to your destination as it can be the most effective and cheap option,UYU $33.

Alternatively if you know some Spanish there are two websites similar to Google Maps that are useful: Como ir and MontevideoBus. In addition there are both iPhone Bondi and Android SoloBus apps to help navigate the bus system.

It is useful to know that if you choose to ride a bus, upon boarding you will pay either the driver or the assistant who sits on the right-hand side of the bus or door-side a few seats from the entrance.

There is a small device that will dispense your receipt, make sure you hold on to it for the duration of your ride as sometimes company supervisors board buses checking for these receipts making sure no one is riding unauthorized.

If you are unsure where to get off you can always ask the driver or assistant to let you know when your stop is coming up and they'll be happy to oblige. Just try to remain visible so they can tell you,though if the bus gets full and you've moved to the back they'll yell out the street name.

It is also important to note that you do not need to have the exact fare as the driver or the assistant carry change. Of course, expect disgruntlement if you pay with a large bill.

The city's central terminal is called Tres Cruces. Aside from being a full-fledged mall, it sports companies with fully-equipped tour buses that can take you anywhere in Uruguay and even into neighboring countries. Expect UYU $376.00 one-way to Colonia, about 2 to 3 hours.

Efficient and on time. All destinations, timetables and hours are available online. Any bus from the airport marked Montevideo will reach Tres Cruces in about half an hour and cost 56 pesos.

It helps to ask the bus driver to inform you when to get off because the Tres Cruces terminal building is rather nondescript from some sides and you may miss it.

You can use a Remise a bit like a taxi but more professional and you can ask the company to send you a driver in your language, for example: you can rent it for an hour and the cost is approximately U$S16.

Taxis are plentiful but not too cheap, gasoline is expensive in Uruguay.

It helps to know a little Spanish. A ten-minute cab ride costs about UYU100. Taxis are metered and upon the end of your ride you are shown a chart depicting distance and cost though on some vehicles this chart will be on the window between you and the driver.

Generally there are two fare schedules. The first is for Monday-Saturday from morning to mid-evening. The second fee schedule is for Sundays and late at night, and is slightly more expensive. Tipping is not expected, but you might round up to an even number to be polite.

It is also not uncommon to sit on the front.

Car rental is cheaper if booked ahead but be aware that places like the airport and the ferry terminal charge higher rates than the same agencies in other locations around the city.

A few phone calls and a cheap taxi ride to a location other than the air or sea ports will save you half the rate for the same car at the same company.

Driving in Montevideo is not too difficult, especially for those visitors from Europe or developing countries that lack strict lane enforcement and have lots of roundabouts. Visitors from countries with few roundabouts and strict lane enforcement, like the United States, will find it baffling at first.

Road traffic in Montevideo is amazingly light outside of rush hour, and even during rush hour is relatively good compared to, say, North American cities of similar size.

It is not too hard to find parking in most of Montevideo. Indeed, if you do not see a Reservado sign, or red and white stripes or red paint on the curb, you can safely assume that one is allowed to park at any particular curb.

The only major obstacle for visitors is that from Monday to Friday, from 10 am to 6 pm, there is a Estacionmento Tarifa parking management system in place in much of the Ciudad Vieja and Centro.

To pay the tarifa for parking look for or ask for the closest Abitab office and make sure you know the number of your licenced plate. As of early 2016, rates in Plaza Independencia, downtown/Ciudad Vieja are roughly the equivalent of US$1 per hour.

You can pay in UY$ or US$ with not much difference given the very small amounts.

Montevideo is not a large city, and many of the sites can be seen in several days as they are clustered together.

Ciudad Vieja — Montevideo's Old Town. Enter through the portal called Puerta de la Ciudadela at one end of Plaza de Independencia.

Plaza de Independencia — The square at the end of 18 de Julio Ave., with the latter being the main commercial artery of the city.

Palacio Salvo — Next to Plaza Independencia. Once South America's highest building, the Palacio Salvo still dominates Montevideo's skyline.

Mausoleo de Artigas — This large monument in the Plaza de Independencia pays tribute to Jose Gervasio Artigas, one of the heroes of the Uruguayan Independence. Under the monument is the mausoleum, which is open on the weekends. It contains an urn with his ashes and two honor guards keeping watch.

National History Museum — Spread between five old historic houses, holds important bits of the country's history. No entrance fee.

The sexual diversity monument, erected in 2005, is located on Policia Vieja St., between Plaza de la Constitucion and Plaza Independencia. It reads Honouring diversity is honouring life; Montevideo is for the respect of all identities and sexual orientations.

It's South America's first monument dedicated to sexual diversity. Other places of interest to gay people include the Edificio Liberaij, where two gay Argentine bank robbers featured in the 1998 movie Plata Quemada died in 1965.

El Dia del Patrimonio, — On the last Saturday of September or beginning of October, all the museums and historical places of interest around the Plaza de Independencia open for free to the public.

There is also a large Murga, or a traditional South American parade in which all the Uruguayan political parties take part.

MAPI - museum of indigenous art and Uruguayan archaeology.

Museo Torres Garcia - displaying works of this most prominent Uruguayan artist.

Barrio Reus - a small neighbourhood with charming coulorful houses.

Palacio Legislativo - national parliament, the first one in South America and an iconic symbol of Uruguay´s long lasting democracy.

Museum of Natural History - built in the form of a mosque and located at the beach promenade.

Museo del Carnaval

MNAV - national museum of modern Uruguayan art.

Fortaleza General Artigas at Cerro - it now houses a collection of armoury. It is the original fort from which Montevideo originated.

Palacio Taranco - seat of the Museum of Decorative Art.

Mercado del Puerto - this is a covered market full of restaurants and some shops selling handicrafts. The main market is open every day during lunch hours. The restaurants around the exterior offer both indoor and outdoor seating, and they remain open for dinner.

Nacional - not only the name of the world famous football team but also the stadium where the first game of the first World Cup Uruguay 1930 was played.

Museo Blanes - museum of early Uruguayan art from the 19th to early 20th Centuries

Tiles Museum or Museo del Azulejo - exhibiting around 3000 tiles

National Museum of Anthropology and National History

Central Cemetery - a historic cemetery with sculptures

Punta Carretas - a shopping centre located in a former prison

World Trade Centre

Parque Rodo - Montevideo's main park with numerous amusement facilities

Castillo Soneira

Pittamiglio Castle, Rambla Gandhi 633. Interesting Castle. Must pay for a 45-mins tour to enter. Better to call and check the opening hrs. edit

The Rambla — This waterside roadway has people biking, fishing, drinking mate, and enjoying the great views. 22 kilometers-long (13.6 miles), the Rambla goes along Montevideo's waterfront. Lovely at sunset.

La Feria Tristán Narvaja Flea Market — Spend part of Sunday morning with the locals on Tristán Narvaja Street, where vendors sell everything from t-shirts to antiques to kitchen supplies. It's right off of 18 de Julio Ave. and the entrance is often marked by people selling puppies.

Pocitos — This barrio lies about 2 miles south-east of El Centro.

The Pocitos beach runs east from Punta Trouville for about a mile. Highrise apartments ring the beach along the Rambla, but going in-land a few blocks brings you into an older neighborhood reminiscent of San Francisco's Marina district.

Head uphill on 21 de septiembre St. from the Rambla at Punta Trouville for about 7 or 8 blocks to avenue Ellauri, turn left and walk another 4 blocks to Punta Carretas Shopping, a major shopping mall that is built on the remains of a prison,they preserved the prison gate inside the mall.

Walking — Montevideo is a relatively safe place. The city is built on a slight hill, the spine of which extends into the Rio de la Plata to create the point that was the original city or Ciudad Vieja.

From the Plaza de la Independencia, the main street that extends east from the plaza is 18 de Julio Ave. El Centro downtown is in this area and there will be lots of shops and places to change money.

You can walk around without worry almost anywhere, and there are lots of side streets and areas you can explore: be aware that the port area, just off the main tourist and port terminal areas, is considered dangerous by locals as much as by the police.

Parts of the city may appear run-down, but do not confuse this with it being a bad neighborhood. Along with Buenos Aires, this is one of the few cities in South America where poverty is not overly prevalent.

That being said, there is simply not enough money in Uruguay to construct lots of new, modern buildings, so buildings are kept in use for long periods of time.

Montevideo City Tour — Regular or Private City Tour around Montevideo or visiting wineries, Punta del Este or Colonia del Sacramento.

Mercado de los Artesanos — This market, located on the corner of Paraguay and Colonia streets, is fantastic! An array of artists and craftspeople converge here to sell wares made from leather, paper, woodwork, and various textiles.

Montevideo Leather Factory, Plaza Independencia 832. This factory has a wide range of leather garments at reasonable prices, and they offer custom-made jackets tailored to your measurements in 24 hours. Opening hours: SAT till 1700hrs, SUN till 1400hrs.

Manos del Uruguay — Several locations throughout Montevideo, including one at the Punta Carretas mall. Sells woven goods and other handcrafted items,a little pricey.

Punta Carretas Shopping Mall — A large shopping mall located in a former prison where the military regime used to torture dissidents. It has several levels, a food court, cineplex and full-service dining options.

It is currently the most upscale mall in Uruguay, although still small by U.S. standards and features several boutiques for international fashion brands.

The Sheraton Hotel is connected to the mall. The mall has ample parking, but because the developer had to build around the existing prison as part of the development deal, the parking garages are very confusing and difficult to navigate.

Montevideo Shopping Mall — Another large modern shopping mall in the Pocitos neighborhood of Montevideo. It has one huge parking garage which is easier to navigate then Punta Carretas but is not quite as upscale.

The not-so-big capital of a small country that is not often in the international news, and while not exactly a world center of gourmet gastronomy.

Montevideo is a city where one can eat wonderfully and relatively cheap, with plenty of local character though it's not the same cuisine as in Argentina, yet not too exotic for most tastes.

Meat — Uruguay is renowned for its meats, and Montevideo has many parrillas where they are grilled up to perfection. Although both Uruguay and Argentina are large exporters of meat, especially beef, and their meat is renowned for its top quality.

They still keep the best for themselves, while also being masters in the art of grilling it.

So, only going there can you eat the best meat and taste for yourself how outstandingly good it is. Steaks or bifes are typically served medium-rare, so if you like them well-done, be sure to specifically ask for that bien cocido.

Chivito — This is the local sandwich, made with meat,usually beef tenderloin, not goat as Argentines might guess from the name, slices of hard-boiled eggs, and vegetables. It can be served al plato or on a plate, which means it is going to take a fork and knife to eat it.

Like a hamburger, it is traditionally served with fries, but it is tastier, cheaper and much bigger than a hamburger. Several guidebooks call the chivito a cholesterol bomb.

After eating one or two of these delicious monsters, you will begin to understand why so many elderly Uruguayans have pot bellies not from eating at McDonald's.

Marcos Chivito is one of the best places in Montevideo to get these tasty treats, as well as La Mole, and some Carritos. An excellent choice is to try chivitos in Bar San Rafael.

Milanesa — similar to Wiener Schnitzel, this is a common meat dish in most of South America, including Uruguay. It consists of a thin slice of breaded beef although chicken and fish versions also exist.

Each slice is dipped into beaten eggs, seasoned with salt, and other condiments according to the cook's taste,like parsley and garlic. Each slice is then dipped in breadcrumbs or occasionally flour and shallow-fried in oil, one at a time.

Some people prefer to use very little oil and then bake them in the oven as a healthier alternative. Sometimes it may include a fried egg on top. A popular variation is the milanesa a la napolitana. It consists of a beef milanesa topped with ham, cheese and tomato sauce.

Fresh Pasta and Fresh Gnocchis — they are everywhere on the menus, with all types of vegetarian or meat sauces usually a cheap, filling and delicious option! Be sure to try cappelletti Caruso, a dish whose exact origin is controversial.

But definitely invented by a Uruguayan chef decades ago, consisting of cappelletti (tortellini) in a delicious mushroom cream sauce.

Desserts — In Uruguay, desserts are huge and plentiful.

There is dulce de leche a kind of creamy caramel, a totally addictive threat to diabetics, coming in several versions: lighter, darker, softer, thicker, plain or with vanilla or other flavorings, etc. on almost everything and stores that sell nothing but caramels.

Many places sell nothing but dessert, so pick the one with the best looking pastries and cakes and enjoy!

Churros — Find them for sale at the Parque Rodo. Try the sweet versions - they come with sugar on top, or filled with chocolate, dulce de leche or cream filling - or the cheese-filled ones.

Pizza — There are pizzerias all around Montevideo. Most make square pizzas, a traditional form in Uruguay. Muzzas or mozzarella are most popular.

The local style of dough is sometimes soft and airy as bread, but still crusty, and not merely baked, but wonderfully gratinated with the excellent Uruguayan cheese.

Look for pizza places that are fullest of local customers often, it's the simplest nondescript places that serve the best pizza, and it can be really, really good.

Faina — It's a mixture of chickpea flour and milk, which is baked in the pizza oven. Quality is varible among pizzerias, most delicious is the thin or de orilla part which is crunchier.

Cheese — Yes, just cheese. Uruguay has a traditional and strong dairy industry, and although the varieties are mostly the better-known European ones, such as mozzarella, Gouda or Parmesan, quality is usually superb.

As in France, just dropping by a supermarket and buying some bread, butter and cheese can make a surprisingly cheap and delicious meal.

And yes, there are also restaurants specialized in many international cuisines, as well as some gourmet places run by talented chefs - as well as American fast food chains.

K Fe, Corner of Juan Paullier and Maldonado, Cordon area: You will feel like in Lavapiez in Madrid, Friedrichshain in Berlin or a Melbourne back alley. Enjoy a coffee in the afternoon or a home cooked meal always veggie option in this unique rotiseria cultural in the hart of the city.

Clothes, design, exhibition, roots, dub, dubstep, urban art. Open from 12 pm to 2 am.

Cafe Bacacay — located very close to Plaza de la Independencia, right across the Teatro Solis and open all day for a coffee or a bite to eat, this cafe/restaurant offers a variety of very tasteful dishes going from traditional to more innovative cuisine. Service was excellent.

La Pasiva — This restaurant chain is found all over the city, and specializes in beer, hot dogs, and chivitos.

Le Corte — Classic restaurant not fast-food, in the Ciudad Vieja, with lovely decorations and great food.

Mercado del Puerto — This touristy area houses a dozen or so restaurants. Most offer grilled meat, and you can find good paella, as well. It is usually quite busy - just find an open seat to be served.

Montecristo — Located in Pocitos, this restaurant offers innovative dishes and is housed in a castle-like building that used to be the house of an alchemist.

Sidewalk cafes — Cafes abound in the city center along the pedestrian streets heading towards the Ciudad Vieja.

Estancia Del Puerto — Featured on Anthony Bourdain's 'No Reservations'. It's an All You Can Eat meat bar.

Cru — Considered Montevideo's finest restaurant, with a good sampling of Uruguayan New Cuisine.

Don Pepperone — With several locations around the city, a good bet for anyone seeking a taste of an American-style chain. This Italian-American themed eatery offers a wide variety of pizza as well as other pasta dishes.

Mate — this traditional hot infusion is ubiquitous, found everywhere in Uruguay. Mate is derived from the dried eponymous herb or yerba mate, which was originally used by the indigenous Guaraní people from southeastern South America.

Although the word yerba means herb in Spanish, when a Uruguayan says that, it's usually the mate herb one is talking about. Mate is traditionally brewed in a gourd and drunk directly from it with a special silver straw that also filters out the herb bits.

It is also drunk in Argentina, Paraguay, and southern Brazil. It contains a lot of caffeine and similar stimulants; so, if you're not used to it, it's advisable to avoid it in the evening.

Most locals in Montevideo prefer to drink their mate without sugar, called a mate amargo or bitter mate, though much less bitter than the name suggests. Gourds and horns are constantly being refilled with the brew from sun-up to sun-down.

There is also a much less popular toasted, milder-tasting version or mate cocido that is prepared and drunk in cups just like English tea,it often even comes in teabags, often sweetened.

Salus — A mineral water bottled in Uruguay. If you're a little apprehensive about drinking tap water, this is a great way to go.

Tutti Frutti — A mix of delicious freshly squeezed fruit juice with ice.

Beer — Beer is often sold in 1 liter bottles. You basically have a selection of typical lagers. The most commonly found are Patricia or Pilsen, with Zillertal also often available. You can also order a chopp, which is a draft beer and if not specified, it is normally Patricia.

Uvita — A specialty of Bar Fun Fun, a liquor drink served in a shot glass and tastes of raisins. It is a secret recipe and only served at Baar Fun Fun.

Medio y Medio — A special mix of sparkling wine and white wine made by Roldos, in the Mercado del Puerto

La Taqueria, Jose Marti 3373. La Taqueria, situated just a few steps from Pocitos beach, offers excellent Mexican food at very reasonable prices. Run by two friends, this is a great place to eat and drink in Montevideo among the locals. Service is excellent and English spoken as well. Try the Taco del Diablo and the mojitos.

Piedras de Afilar Art Hostel, Montevideo downtown, Andes 1261 (Esq. Soriano). Art Hostel placed at the very centre of Montevideo, + B&B, WIFI, BICYCLES, KITCHEN. Dorms from 250 Ur$ (13USD).

Boulevard Sarandi Hostel, Sarandi 405 (Esq. Zabala). New hostel open in July 2009. Clean and spacious. Breakfast, towel, Internet and Wifi included. Free use of the kitchen. Dorms from 240 Ur$.

Albergue Juvenil, Canelones. Nice HI-Hostel close to the center. With kitchen and internet access.

Unplugged Hostel, Luis de la Torre 930. Located in Pocitos, one of the nicest and safest neighborhoods of Montevideo, just a few blocks away from its famous coast. Dorms from US$12

Hotel Arapey, Ave Uruguy 925. Rambling art deco relic with large rooms and linens as old as the building. Private bath, fans, TVs, elevator. US$32/38 single/double.

Ciudad Vieja Hostel, Ituzaingo 1436. Located near the historical heart of the city and in the middle of Montevideo’s nightlife. Free breakfast, internet, kitchen access. Dorms from US$11.

Red Hostel, San Jose 1406. A hostel set in a renovated colonial home built in 1912. Typical hostel traffic, but very nice staff who like to hang out with their friends late at night on the hostel roof.

Splendido Hotel, Bartolome Mitre 1314. Rumor has it that this hotel was originally built by a former president at the turn of the 20th century for his mistress. The hotel is located near the Plaza de Independencia and the Teatro Solis.

Many of the best restaurants, music, bars, and sightseeing spots are literally within a few steps of the front door. Prices from US$11-38.

Pocitos Hostel, Av. Sarmiento 2641. In nearby Pocitos, a beach suburb ,is a purpose built hostel with free breakfast, internet, kitchen, fireplace, backyard and the most friendly and helpful staff.

They have bicycles for hire, don´t miss the bike ride from Pocitos to Carrasco (45 minutes) or Pocitos to Escollera, Old Town, 20 minutes. Dorms from US$ 12

The green hostel in the heart of the old city, 25 de Mayo 288 esq. Colon. checkout: 11h. Breakfast & wifi included. Bike rental. Dorms220$ Private700$.

Live MVD Hostel, Maldonado 1790,Bus #300 or #407 from Terminal Tres Cruces. checkin: 13:00; checkout: 11:30. This is a brand new hostel in the design district with cheap dorms and a central location. The owners, two girls from Montevideo, are super friendly and helpful.

Free breakfast with homemade bread, free bike rental, free Wi-Fi, and an art studio,you´re supposed to do a painting before you go. Very clean. English and some Portugues is spoken. USD 10.

Casa Sarandi Guesthouse, Buenos Aires 558. Intimate art-deco style inn, similar to a boutique hotel, in the Ciudad Vieja (Old City). Just three guest rooms, all with private bathrooms. Rooms are large with queen-size beds and antique furniture.

There's a cosy living room and a fully-equipped modern kitchen. The owners specialise in orienting guests to the city with a personalised check-in, handouts and daily recommendations of things to do. From 79 USD per night.

Hotel Embajador, San Jose 1212. checkout: 11:00. Nice and clean city hotel with a very good breakfast. The hotel is located parallel to Avenida 18 de Julio, hence very central.

Staff is friendly and speaks Spanish, English and some German. The hotel boasts a pool, gym, free-to-use Computers in the lobby, and free Wi-Fi on the rooms. Double from US$ 100.

Four Points Sheraton, Calle Ejido 1275. Close to one of Avenida 18 de Julio. In walking distance of Plaza Independencia and Ciudad Vieja. Has a pool and a small gym. Rooms are quite nice, but without balconies and you can't open any windows,a shame in the summer time. Friendly staff and an excellent restaurant.

Fully Equipped Short Term Apartments, Calle 21 Septembre in Pocitos. Very central and in a good neighborhood. Perfect solution if you plan to stay for several days and want to have the comfort of your own home.

Ibis Montevideo, Calle La Cumparsita. A 5-minute walk from the old town, this chain hotel has simple but comfortable rooms and is bookable over the internet.

Radisson, Plaza Independencia 759. Located heart of Montevideo's financial and commercial district. Features include a pool, gym, high-speed internet, and views of the city from the Restaurant Arcadia, located on the 25th floor.

Casa Sarandi Guesthouse, Intimate art-deco style guesthouse with just three guestrooms. All rooms are large with private bathrooms, great beds with imported linens and antique furniture. There's a cosy living room and a fully-equipped modern kitchen.

The owners specialise in orienting guests to the city with a personalised check-in, handouts and daily recommendations of things to do. Room with ensuite bathroom 89 USD per night.

Nh Columbia Hotel, Rambla Gran Bretana 473. This hotel is near the Ciudad Vieja with views of the Rambla. A modern hotel with a huge breakfast and free internet access, it has plenty of parking and a friendly staff.

Wearing or carrying items which may identify you as an affluent tourist can be a mistake. You shouldn't pack anything that you would be upset to lose. Leave expensive jewelry, watches and other items of value at home and only carry what you need.

That goes for credit cards and other documents as well; if you have no need for them leave them behind in the hotel safe, only take what money you are likely to spend with you.

Colonia - A pleasant little World Heritage colonial town. A nice chance to get away from the noisy city and relax for a while. Two hours away by bus.

Punta del Este - South America's most elegant and sophisticated beach resort, bustling and frequented by the rich and famous from all over the world in summer (November-February), quiet and almost deserted at other times of the year, but always beautiful.

About two hours away from Montevideo with easy access and frequent bus connections.

Piriapolis - Smaller, less famous, less sophisticated and quieter beach resort on the way to Punta del Este. One and a half hours from Montevideo.

Cabo Polonio - Secluded village on the open Atlantic coast with difficult access and no infrastructure, but outstanding beaches and an alternative lifestyle. Too far from Montevideo for a day trip.

Tourism Observer

Monday, 11 December 2017

YEMEN: Socotra, Most Alien Looking Place On Earth With Dragon Blood Tree Never Seen Anywhere

Dragon Blood Tree
Socotra is an island and three islets in the Indian Ocean, an offshore territory of Yemen, near the horn of Somalia.

Socotra or Soqotra, is an archipelago of four islands located in the Arabian Sea, the largest island of which is also known as Socotra. The territory is part of Yemen, and had long been a subdivision of the Aden Governorate.

In 2004, it became attached to the Hadhramaut Governorate, which is much closer to the island than Aden, although the nearest governorate was the Al Mahrah Governorate. In 2013, the archipelago became its own governorate, the Socotra Governorate.

The island of Socotra constitutes around 95% of the landmass of the Socotra archipelago. It lies some 240 kilometres (150 mi) east of the Horn of Africa and 380 kilometres (240 mi) south of the Arabian Peninsula.

The island is very isolated, home to a high number of endemic species; up to a third of its plant life is endemic. It has been described as the most alien-looking place on Earth. The island measures 132 kilometres (82 mi) in length and 49.7 kilometres (30.9 mi) in width.

In 2001 a group of Belgian speleologists of the Socotra Karst Project investigated a cave on the island Socotra. There, they came across a large number of inscriptions, drawings and archaeological objects.

Further investigation showed that these had been left by sailors who visited the island between the 1st century BC and the 6th century AD.

Most of the texts are written in the Indian Brāhmī script, but there are also inscriptions in South Arabian, Ethiopic, Greek, Palmyrene and Bactrian scripts and languages.

This corpus of nearly 250 texts and drawings thus constitutes one of the main sources for the investigation of Indian Ocean trade networks in that time period.

A local tradition holds that the inhabitants were converted to Christianity by Thomas the Apostle in AD 52. In the 10th century, the Arab geographer Abu Muhammad al-Hasan al-Hamdani stated that in his time most of the inhabitants were Christians.

Socotra is also mentioned in The Travels of Marco Polo; Marco Polo did not pass anywhere near the island but recorded a report that the inhabitants were baptised Christians and had an archbishop who, it is further explained, had nothing to do with the Pope in Rome.

However, but was subject to an archbishop who lived at Baghdad. They were Nestorians but also practised ancient magic rituals despite the warnings of their archbishop.

In 1507, a Portuguese fleet commanded by Tristao da Cunha with Afonso de Albuquerque landed at the then capital of Suq and captured the port after a stiff battle.

Their objective was to set a base in a strategic place on the route to India, and to liberate the presumed friendly Christians from Islamic rule.

Tomas Fernandes started to build a fortress at Suq, the Forte de Sao Miguel de Socotora. However, the infertility of the land led to famine and sickness in the garrison.

Moreover, the lack of a proper harbour for wintering led to the loss of many moored Portuguese ships, the most important of which was the Santo Antonio galleon under the command of captain Manuel Pais da Veiga.

Thus the Portuguese abandoned the island four years later, as it was not advantageous as a base.

The islands passed under the control of the Mahra sultans in 1511, and its inhabitants were Islamized during their rule.

However, in 1737, Captain de la Garde-Jazier, commander of a French naval expedition heading for Mocha, was surprised to find Christian tribes living in the interior of Socotra during a five-week stopover on the island.

He reported in a letter home that the tribesmen, due to lack of missionaries, had only retained a faint knowledge of Christianity.

In 1834, the East India Company, in the expectation that the Mahra sultan of Qishn and Socotra, who resided at Qishn on the mainland, would accept an offer to sell the island, stationed a garrison on Socotra.

However, faced with the unexpected firm refusal of the sultan to sell, as well as the lack of good anchorages for a coaling station to be used by the new steamship line being put into service on the Suez-Bombay route, the British left in 1835.

After the capture of Aden in 1839, the British lost all interest in acquiring Socotra.

In January 1876, in exchange for a payment of 3000 thalers and a yearly subsidy, the sultan pledged himself, his heirs and successors, never to cede, to sell, to mortgage, or otherwise give for occupation, save to the British Government, the Island of Socotra or any of its dependencies.

Additionally, he pledged to give assistance to any European vessel that wrecked on the island and protect the crew, the passengers and the cargo, in exchange for a suitable reward.

In April 1886, the British government, concerned about reports that the German navy had been visiting various ports in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean for the purpose of securing a naval base, decided to conclude a protectorate treaty with the sultan in which he promised this time to refrain from entering into any correspondence, agreement, or treaty with any foreign nation or power.

Except with the knowledge and sanction of the British Government, and give immediate notice to the British Resident at Aden of any attempt by another power to interfere with Socotra and its dependencies.

Apart from those obligations, this preemptive protectorate treaty, designed above all to seal off Socotra from competing colonial powers, left the sultan in control of the island. In 1897, the P&O ship Aden sank after being wrecked on a reef near Socotra, with the loss of 78 lives.

As some of the cargo had been plundered by islanders, the sultan was reminded of his obligations under the agreement of 1876.

In October 1967, in the wake of the departure of the British from Aden and southern Arabia, the Mahra Sultanate as well as the other states of the former Aden Protectorate were abolished. On 30 November of the same year, Socotra became part of South Yemen.

Since Yemeni unification in 1990, it has been part of the Republic of Yemen. Today, Socotra is the only region of Yemen not to be involved in the disastrous civil war, with no military confrontations or attacks having taken place on the island.

Socotra is one of the most isolated landforms on Earth of continental origin,i.e. not of volcanic origin. The archipelago was once part of the supercontinent of Gondwana and detached during the Miocene epoch, in the same set of rifting events that opened the Gulf of Aden to its northwest.

The archipelago consists of the main island of Socotra (3,665 km2 (1,415 sq mi)), the three smaller islands of Abd al Kuri, Samhah and Darsa, as well as small rock outcrops like Ka'l Fir'awn and Sabuniyah that are uninhabitable by humans but important for seabirds.

The main island has three geographical terrains: the narrow coastal plains, a limestone plateau permeated with karstic caves, and the Haghier Mountains. The mountains rise to 1,503 metres (4,931 ft). The island is about 125 kilometres (78 mi) long and 45 kilometres (28 mi) north to south.

The climate of Socotra is classified in the Koppen climate classification as BWh and BSh, meaning a tropical desert climate and semi-desert climate with a mean annual temperature over 25 °C or 77 °F. Yearly rainfall is light, but is fairly spread throughout the year.

Due to orographic lift provided by the interior mountains, especially during the northeast monsoon from October to December, the highest inland areas can average as much as 800 millimetres (31.50 in) per year and receive over 250 millimetres (9.84 in) per month in November or December.

The southwest monsoon season from July to September brings strong winds and high seas. For many centuries, the sailors of Gujarat called the maritime route near Socotra as Sikotro Sinh, meaning the lion of Socotra, that constantly roars—referring to the high seas near Socotra.

In an extremely unusual occurrence, the western side of Socotra received more than 410 millimetres (16.14 in) of rain from Cyclone Chapala in November 2015.

Socotra is considered the jewel of biodiversity in the Arabian Sea. In the 1990s, a team of United Nations biologists conducted a survey of the archipelago’s flora and fauna.

They counted nearly 700 endemic species, found nowhere else on earth; only New Zealand, Hawaii, New Caledonia, and the Galápagos Islands have more impressive numbers.

The long geological isolation of the Socotra archipelago and its fierce heat and drought have combined to create a unique and spectacular endemic flora.

Botanical field surveys led by the Centre for Middle Eastern Plants, part of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, indicate that 307 out of the 825 (37%) plant species on Socotra are endemic, i.e., they are found nowhere else on Earth.

The entire flora of the Socotra Archipelago has been assessed for the IUCN Red List, with 3 Critically Endangered and 27 Endangered plant species recognised in 2004.

One of the most striking of Socotra's plants is the dragon's blood tree or Dracaena cinnabari, which is a strange-looking, umbrella-shaped tree.

Its red sap was thought to be the dragon's blood of the ancients, sought after as a dye, and today used as paint and varnish.

Also important in ancient times were Socotra's various endemic aloes, used medicinally, and for cosmetics. Other endemic plants include the giant succulent tree Dorstenia gigas, the cucumber tree Dendrosicyos socotranus, the rare Socotran pomegranate or Punica protopunica, Aloe perryi, and Boswellia socotrana.

The island group also has a rich fauna, including several endemic species of birds, such as the Socotra starling or Onychognathus frater, the Socotra sunbird or Nectarinia balfouri, Socotra bunting or Emberiza socotrana, Socotra cisticola or Cisticola haesitatus, Socotra sparrow or Passer insularis.

Socotra golden-winged grosbeak or Rhynchostruthus socotranus, and a species in a monotypic genus, the Socotra warbler or Incana incana. Many of the bird species are endangered by predation by non-native feral cats.

With only one endemic mammal, 6 endemic bird species and no amphibians, reptiles constitute the most relevant Socotran vertebrate fauna with 31 species. If one excludes the two recently introduced species, Hemidactylus robustus and Hemidactylus flaviviridis, all native species are endemic.

There is a very high level of endemism at both species (29 of 31, 94%) and genus levels (5 of 12, 42%). At the species level, endemicity may be even higher, as phylogenetic studies have uncovered substantial hidden diversity.

The reptiles species include skinks, legless lizards, and one species of chameleon, Chamaeleo monachus. There are many endemic invertebrates, including several spiders such as the tarantula Monocentropus balfouri and three species of freshwater crabs,one Socotra and two Socotrapotamon.

As with many isolated island systems, bats are the only mammals native to Socotra. In contrast, the coral reefs of Socotra are diverse, with many endemic species. Socotra is also one of the homes of the butterfly Bicyclus anynana.

Over the two thousand years of human settlement on the islands the environment has slowly but continuously changed, and according to Jonathan Kingdon, the animals and plants that remain represent a degraded fraction of what once existed.

The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea says the island had crocodiles and large lizards, and the present reptilian fauna appears to be greatly reduced. Until a few centuries ago, there were rivers and wetlands on the island, greater stocks of the endemic trees, and abundant pasture.

The Portuguese recorded the presence of water buffaloes in the early 17th century. Now there are only sand gullies, and many native plants only survive where there is greater moisture or protection from livestock.

The remaining Socotra fauna is greatly threatened by goats and other introduced species.

The island was recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a world natural heritage site in July 2008.

The European Union has supported such a move, calling on both UNESCO and International Organisation of Protecting Environment to classify the island archipelago among the environmental heritages.

Most of the inhabitants are indigenous Soqotri people from Al-Mahrah tribe, who are of Southern Arabian descent from Al Mahrah Governorate, and are said to be especially closely related with the Qara and Mahra groups of Southern Arabia.

There are also a small number of residents of Somali and Indian origin. In addition, the island is inhabited by various Black African peoples, who are believed to be descendants of runaway slaves.

The Semitic language Soqotri, spoken originally only in Socotra by Al-Mahrah people, is related to such other Modern South Arabian languages on the Arabian mainland as Mehri, Harsusi, Bathari, Shehri, and Hobyot.

Soqotri is also spoken by Al-Mahrah minority populations in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar and Kuwait.

Almost all inhabitants of Socotra, numbering nearly 50,000, live on the homonymous main island of the archipelago.The principal city, Hadibu with a population of 8,545 at the census of 2004.

The second largest town, Qalansiyah (population 3,862); and Qad̨ub population 929 are all located on the north coast of the island of Socotra. Only about 450 people live on Abd-al-Kuri and 100 on Samha; the island of Darsa and the islets of the archipelago are uninhabited.

The archipelago forms two districts of the Hadhramaut Governorate:

The district of Hadibu, with a population of 32,285 and a district seat at Hadibu, consists of the eastern two-thirds of the main island of Socotra.

The district of Qulansiyah wa Abd-al-Kuri, with a population of 10,557 and a district seat at Qulansiyah, consists of the minor islands,the island of Abd-al-Kuri chief among them and the western third of the main island.

The islanders followed indigenous religions until 52 AD, when, according to local beliefs, Thomas the Apostle was shipwrecked there on his way to evangelize India. He then supposedly constructed a church out of his ship's wreckage and baptized many Socotrans.

After this, Christianity became the main religion of the island. They followed Nestorius, the Catholic Archbishop of Constantinople, who was later excommunicated for heresies. The Socotrans remained loyal to his teachings and joined the Assyrian church.

During the 10th century, Arab geographer Abu Muhammad al-Hasan al-Hamdani recorded during his visits that most of the islanders were Christian.

Explorer Marco Polo wrote in his travelogue that:

I give you my word that the people of this island are the most expert enchanters in the world. It is true that the archbishop does not approve of these enchantments and rebukes them for the practice. But this has no effect, because they say that their forefathers did these things of old.

Christianity in Socotra went into decline when the Mahra sultanate took power in the 16th century and became mostly Muslim by the time the Portuguese arrived later that century.

An 1884 edition of Nature, a science journal, writes that the disappearance of Christian churches and monuments can be accounted for by a Wahhabi excursion to the island in 1800.

Today the only remnants of Christianity are some cross engravings from the 1st century AD, a few Christian tombs, and some church ruins.

The primary occupations of the people of Socotra have traditionally been fishing, animal husbandry, and the cultivation of dates.

Monsoons long made the archipelago inaccessible from June to September each year. However, in July 1999, a new airport opened Socotra to the outside world all year round. There is regular service to and from Aden and Sana'a.

All scheduled commercial flights make a technical stop at Riyan-Mukalla Airport. Socotra Airport is located about 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) west of the main city, Hadibu, and close to the third largest town in the archipelago, Qad̨ub.

Diesel generators make electricity widely available in Socotra. A paved road runs along the north shore from Qulansiyah to Hadibu and then to the DiHamri area; and another paved road, from the northern coast to the southern through the Dixsam Plateau.

The former capital is located to the east of Hadibu. A small Yemeni Army barracks lies at the western end of Hadibu, and the former President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has a residence there.

Some residents raise cattle and goats. The chief export products of the island are dates, ghee, tobacco, and fish.

At the end of the 1990s, a United Nations Development Program was launched with the aim of providing a close survey of the island of Socotra. The project called Socotra Governance and Biodiversity Project have listed following goals from 2009:

- Local governance support

- Development and implementation of mainstreaming tools

- Strengthening nongovernmental organizations' advocacy

- Direction of biodiversity conservation benefits to the local people

- Support to the fisheries sector and training of professionals

Socotra was being considered as a possible site for the Yemeni jihadist rehabilitation program.

Public transport on Socotra is limited to a few minibuses; car hire usually means hiring a 4WD car with driver.

Transport is a delicate matter on Socotra because, as much as modern transportation has its advantages, road construction has been considered detrimental to the island and its ecosystem.

The most harm is being done by chemical pollution from road construction and road provoked habitat fragmentation.

For more eco-friendly alternatives, companies have started offering bicycle and enduro motorcycle tours on Socotra.

The only port on Socotra is 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) east of Hadibu. Ships connect the port with the Yemeni coastal city of Mukalla. According to information from the ports, the journey takes 2–3 days and the service is used mostly for cargo.

Yemenia and Felix Airways flew from Socotra Airport to Sana'a and Aden via Riyan Airport. As of March 2015, due to ongoing civil war involving Saudi Arabia's Air Force all flights to and from Socotra have been canceled.

Due to its remarkable biodiversity, with over a third of the local plant species found nowhere else, Socotra has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With over 40,000 inhabitants, though, it's not just a nature reserve.

The Island is new to tourism, so if you are looking for a luxurious vacation this is not the right destination. However, Socotra is a perfect destination for the adventurous and nature loving travelers.

Socotra takes pride in their eco-tourism and values their spectacular plant and wildlife that may sometimes be only found on this island.

Although the lodging and facilities may not be the same as more modern and developed locations, Socotra is a beautiful and magnificent destination choice. Great care is shown to both guests and the environment.

Socotra is an eco-tourism system with limited infrastructure and new to the international tourist market, and therefore the hotel accommodations are not quite like other destinations.

However there are four hotels in Hadibo: Taj Socotra Hotel, Hafijj Hotel, Socotra Hotel, and Summer land Hotel. These hotels may not be the most luxurious, but they do provide air-conditioning, televisions, and refrigerators in all of the rooms.

Most of the rooms at these hotels have their own bathroom, but there are a few rooms at the Hafijj Hotel and Socotra Hotel that must share bathrooms. Fortunately, there is a restaurant in each of the hotels with simple yet delicious cuisine.

Considering Socotra is a fairly new eco-tourism destination, their facilities are decent. In addition, there is also another hotel at the airport as well as multiple guest houses around the island.

The most popular lodging is actually camping on the beaches. There are several campsites that allow tourists to barbeque on the beach with beautiful mountain views in the background.

Tourists can choose to purchase camping tour packages which include a driver or guide that will show tourists around the beaches as well as provide meals during their stay. It is a fantastic way to enjoy the beauty and wildlife of the island.

An airport that provides fairly regular airline transportation was only constructed in 1999. Like everything else, infrastructure and transportation has only just begun in recent years.

There are also plans for new harbor facilities that will allow fisherman to sell and catch more easily and make importing food and fuel simpler.

In addition, there are also two information centers located at the airport and Hadibo.

Climate is an important consideration. And this depends on your interest. Nature enthusiasts should go from early October to late April. The monsoon occurs in July till mid-August ,during July in the south east and south west of the island, wind surfing activity can be arranged.

Wildlife and natural viewing is best from the end of January through May.

As of February 2012 there are flights from Sana'a/Socotra and Aden. These stop at Riyan Mukalla Airport. Yemenia Airlines offers one flight per week on Thursday morning; Felix Airways offers three flights per week on Monday morning, Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning.

Flight duration is about two hours.

Nearly all flights in and out of Yemen have been suspended due to the ongoing war and bombing by Saudi Arabia. The city of Mukalla where all flights to and from Socotra would normally stop is occupied by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, making it extremely dangerous for visitors if entry is possible at all.

Additionally, high levels of pirate activity around Socotra make visiting the island by sea very hazardous as well. With sea and air links severed, Socotra is thus essentially inaccessible for the time being until hostilities cease.

There is a public bus from the airport to Hadibo and from Hadibo to Qalansia. Beside these two buses, there is no public transport, but car rental with driver is available. There is a lot of walking and hiking along with camel back rides available.

Socotra is considered the jewel of biodiversity in the Arabian Sea. Although the region is small, it is characterized by unique land and marine biodiversity.

The interior of the island is dominated by the beautiful and green Hagghier mountains and limestone plateau. While on the outer coastline, breathtaking natural beaches have pure white sand dunes and palm trees.

Socotra Isand is very rich and is home to many rare spectacular species of reefs, fish, birds, plants, and trees which are not found anywhere else in the world.

The limestone plateau and the Hagghier Mountains are the richest areas for endemic plant species, but endemics are found throughout the island in every type of vegetation.

One of the most famous plants is the Dragon's Blood Tree or dracaena cinnabara which exists only on Socotra and nowhere else on the Earth. The tree got its name because if any damage is made to the bark then a dark red liquid oozes out.

There is also the Desert Rose or adenium obesium which looks like a blooming elephant leg. Also found in Socotra's landscape is the ever-strange and extremely rare Cucumber Tree. In addition there are over 120 species of birds and about 190 species of butterflies.

There is so much beauty all around the island, it is difficult not the appreciate to magnificent scenery and wildlife.

Camp, With a bit of water for washing, a good meal and warm sleeping surrounded by virgin nature, camping on the beaches will provide a very special break from the every day routine in civilization.

Hiking, The Scant, Tinnera, Firmihin, Dersmotin regions, are the most popular destinations for trekkers. Hiking is for everyone and even for those who are less athletic. However for more difficult and high altitude trails, it is recommended to be accompanied by a local guide.

Camel back ride, It is an opportunity to get to know and enjoy the spectacular scenery and relaxed the rhythm of ancient time. This is more of a less active adventure. The camel back rides provide a more relaxing ride over plateaus and colorful panoramas and mountains.

Surf, Socotra has excellent conditions for surfing. The best time to come for this activity is during the monsoon season from June up to late August. In July the wind speed can reach up to 60 mph and you have to be aware of such conditions.

Since the winds and be very rough it is recommended that only experienced surfers participate.

Scuba dive/ Snorkel, Dive into the tropical warm weather filled with coral reefs. Enjoy swimming among the hundreds of species of fish and marine life such as barracudas, monkfish, dolphins, rays and even mantas. Diving for all ages and levels.

Bird watching tours, This is for anyone who has an interest in birds. Excellent way to view nature and the highly diverse bird population while avoiding harming any wildlife.

Local boat safaris and fishing, Take one of the organized tours and be taken to incomparable destinations. The trip to Shouab beach is a half day tour to discover the beauty of this remarkable destination.

With the clear water and white sands you can snorkel and relax. While driving the boat, dolphins can be seen swimming right next to the boat.

Also go on a fascinating fishing experience with some of the locals.

Remarkable volcanic caves: Explore the Hoq Cave with its overwhelming beauty and variety of crystal decorations.

Beaches Shouab, Qalansia, Arher, Noget, Amaq among others

Wadis and fresh water pools Homhil, Wadi Dirhir and others.

Socotra is a remote island and therefore their cuisine is limited and simple. Local restaurants often serve fresh fish, chicken, goat, rice, and potatoes. The fish is highly recommended and all meals are typically served with flat Arabic bread.

There are also restaurants at each of the five hotels with a simple menu similar to that of the local restaurants.

Oranges, bananas, cucumbers, tomatoes, cheese, bottled water, and soft drinks can all be bought at shops in town. Vegetables can be bought also but they are more expensive because they must be shipped over.

If you are camping in Socotra, your driver/guide will be responsible for your meals typically some amazing freshly cooked fish, if the tourists would like to be liked by the local community, they should tip the driver and the guide.

Relying on the driver and the guide and not tipping them is not good, so help please

Since Yemen is an Islamic country, there are no alcoholic beverages provided except at five star hotels in the big cities mainland. It is suggested for tourists to bring their own alcohol if desired. Bottled water and soft drinks can be purchased at shops in town.

Bottled water is also available at the campsites, and tea is served with all the meals as well.

Malaria is not common, but malaria prophylaxis is recommended. Cholera is not on the island at all.

The hospitals offer less than adequate service, but pharmacies are located around Hadibo.

Tourism Observer

Sunday, 10 December 2017

USA: Devils Hole A Detached Unit Of Death Valley National Park

Devils Hole is a geologic formation located within the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, in Nye County, Nevada in the Southwestern United States.

Devils Hole, a detached unit of Death Valley National Park is habitat for the only naturally occurring population of the endangered Devils Hole pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis).

The 40 acres (16 ha) unit is part of the Ash Meadows complex, an area of desert uplands and spring-fed oases that was designated as a National Wildlife Refuge in 1984.

Devils Hole is a geothermal pool within a limestone cavern in the Amargosa Desert in the Amargosa Valley of Nevada, east over the Amargosa Range and Funeral Mountains from Death Valley.

Its waters are a near constant salinity and temperature (92 °F or 33 °C). The cavern is over 500 feet (150 m) deep and the bottom has never been mapped.

Devils Hole branches into deep caverns at least 300 feet (91 m) deep from an opening at the surface that is approximately 6 by 18 feet (1.8 by 5.5 m).

According to geologists, the caves were formed over 500,000 years ago.

The pool has frequently experienced activity due to far away earthquakes in Japan, Indonesia and Chile, which have been likened to extremely small scale tsunamis.

Devils Hole is the only natural habitat of the Devils Hole pupfish, which thrives despite the hot, oxygen-poor water.

It is an IUCN Red List endangered species. The pupfish has been described as the world's rarest fish, with a population of less than 200 since 2005.

Genetic information indicates that the pupfish species is as old as the Hole itself, which opened to the surface about 60,000 years ago.

The pupfish have been protected since being declared an endangered species in 1967.

Conflicts of the ownership and use of the groundwater around Devils Hole caused litigation in the 1980s.

The litigation triggered further protections of the pupfish. However, since the late 1990s, the pupfish population has substantially decreased.

The reasons for the decrease are unknown. Attempts to establish refuge populations of the pupfish through 2013 have failed.

Tourism Observer

Thursday, 7 December 2017

EGYPT: Visit The Great Pyramid Of Giza

The Great Pyramid of Giza also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza pyramid complex bordering what is now El Giza, Egypt.

It is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact.

Based on a mark in an interior chamber naming the work gang and a reference to fourth dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu, Egyptologists believe that the pyramid was built as a tomb over a 10 to 20-year period concluding around 2560 BC.

Initially at 146.5 metres, the Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for more than 3,800 years. Originally, the Great Pyramid was covered by casing stones that formed a smooth outer surface, what is seen today is the underlying core structure.

Some of the casing stones that once covered the structure can still be seen around the base. There have been varying scientific and alternative theories about the Great Pyramid's construction techniques.

Most accepted construction hypotheses are based on the idea that it was built by moving huge stones from a quarry and dragging and lifting them into place.

There are three known chambers inside the Great Pyramid. The lowest chamber is cut into the bedrock upon which the pyramid was built and was unfinished. The so-called Queen's Chamber and King's Chamber are higher up within the pyramid structure.

The main part of the Giza complex is a setting of buildings that included two mortuary temples in honour of Khufu one close to the pyramid and one near the Nile.

Three smaller pyramids for Khufu's wives, an even smaller satellite pyramid, a raised causeway connecting the two temples, and small mastaba tombs surrounding the pyramid for nobles.

It is believed by Egyptologists that the pyramid was built as a tomb for Fourth Dynasty Egyptian pharaoh Khufu often Hellenicised as Cheops and was constructed over a 20-year period. Khufu's vizier, Hemiunu also called Hemon, is believed by some to be the architect of the Great Pyramid.

It is thought that, at construction, the Great Pyramid was originally 280 Egyptian cubits tall 146.5 metres or 480.6 ft, but with erosion and absence of its pyramidion, its present height is 138.8 metres or 455.4 ft. Each base side was 440 cubits, 230.4 metres or 755.9 ft long.

The mass of the pyramid is estimated at 5.9 million tonnes. The volume, including an internal hillock, is roughly 2,500,000 cubic metres or 88,000,000 cu ft.

Based on these estimates, building the pyramid in 20 years would involve installing approximately 800 tonnes of stone every day.

Additionally, since it consists of an estimated 2.3 million blocks, completing the building in 20 years would involve moving an average of more than 12 of the blocks into place each hour, day and night.

The first precision measurements of the pyramid were made by Egyptologist Sir Flinders Petrie in 1880–82 and published as The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh.

Almost all reports are based on his measurements. Many of the casing stones and inner chamber blocks of the Great Pyramid fit together with extremely high precision.

Based on measurements taken on the northeastern casing stones, the mean opening of the joints is only 0.5 millimetre wideor 1/50 of an inch.

The pyramid remained the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years, unsurpassed until the 160-metre-tall or 520 ft spire of Lincoln Cathedral was completed c. 1300.

The accuracy of the pyramid's workmanship is such that the four sides of the base have an average error of only 58 millimetres in length. The base is horizontal and flat to within ±15 mm or 0.6 in.

The sides of the square base are closely aligned to the four cardinal compass points within four minutes of arc based on true north, not magnetic north, and the finished base was squared to a mean corner error of only 12 seconds of arc.

The completed design dimensions, as suggested by Petrie's survey and subsequent studies, are estimated to have originally been 280 royal cubits high by 440 cubits long at each of the four sides of its base.

The ratio of the perimeter to height of 1760/280 royal cubits equates to 2π to an accuracy of better than 0.05% corresponding to the well-known approximation of as 22/7.

Some Egyptologists consider this to have been the result of deliberate design proportion.

Verner wrote, We can conclude that although the ancient Egyptians could not precisely define the value, in practice they used it.

Petrie, author of Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh said - but these relations of areas and of circular ratio are so systematic that we should grant that they were in the builder's design.

Others have argued that the Ancient Egyptians had no concept of pi and would not have thought to encode it in their monuments. They believe that the observed pyramid slope may be based on a simple seked slope choice alone, with no regard to the overall size and proportions of the finished building.

In 2013, rolls of papyrus called the Diary of Merer were discovered written by some of those who delivered limestone and other construction materials from Tora to Giza.

The Great Pyramid consists of an estimated 2.3 million blocks which most believe to have been transported from nearby quarries. The Tura limestone used for the casing was quarried across the river.

The largest granite stones in the pyramid, found in the King's chamber, weigh 25 to 80 tonnes and were transported from Aswan, more than 800 km or 500 mi away. Traditionally, ancient Egyptians cut stone blocks by hammering into them wooden wedges, which were then soaked with water.

As the water was absorbed, the wedges expanded, causing the rock to crack. Once they were cut, they were carried by boat either up or down the Nile River to the pyramid.

It is estimated that 5.5 million tonnes of limestone, 8,000 tonnes of granite imported from Aswan, and 500,000 tonnes of mortar were used in the construction of the Great Pyramid.

At completion, the Great Pyramid was surfaced by white casing stones,slant-faced, but flat-topped, blocks of highly polished white limestone. These were carefully cut to what is approximately a face slope with a seked of 5½ palms to give the required dimensions.

Visibly, all that remains is the underlying stepped core structure seen today. In AD 1303, a massive earthquake loosened many of the outer casing stones, which were then carted away by Bahri Sultan An-Nasir Nasir-ad-Din al-Hasan in 1356 to build mosques and fortresses in nearby Cairo.

Many more casing stones were removed from the great pyramids by Muhammad Ali Pasha in the early 19th century to build the upper portion of his Alabaster Mosque in Cairo not far from Giza. These limestone casings can still be seen as parts of these structures.

Later explorers reported massive piles of rubble at the base of the pyramids left over from the continuing collapse of the casing stones, which were subsequently cleared away during continuing excavations of the site.

Nevertheless, a few of the casing stones from the lowest course can be seen to this day in situ around the base of the Great Pyramid, and display the same workmanship and precision that has been reported for centuries.

Petrie also found a different orientation in the core and in the casing measuring 193 centimetres plus 25 centimetres.

He suggested a redetermination of north was made after the construction of the core, but a mistake was made, and the casing was built with a different orientation.

Petrie related the precision of the casing stones as to being equal to opticians work of the present day, but on a scale of acres and to place such stones in exact contact would be careful work; but to do so with cement in the joints seems almost impossible.

It has been suggested it was the mortar Petrie's cement that made this seemingly impossible task possible, providing a level bed, which enabled the masons to set the stones exactly.

Many alternative, often contradictory, theories have been proposed regarding the pyramid's construction techniques. Many disagree on whether the blocks were dragged, lifted, or even rolled into place.

The Greeks believed that slave labour was used, but modern discoveries made at nearby workers' camps associated with construction at Giza suggest that it was built instead by tens of thousands of skilled workers.

Verner posited that the labour was organized into a hierarchy, consisting of two gangs of 100,000 men, divided into five zaa or phyle of 20,000 men each, which may have been further divided according to the skills of the workers.

One mystery of the pyramid's construction is its planning. John Romer suggests that they used the same method that had been used for earlier and later constructions, laying out parts of the plan on the ground at a 1-to-1 scale.

He says such a working diagram would also serve to generate the architecture of the pyramid with precision unmatched by any other means. He also argues for a 14-year time span for its construction.

A modern construction management study, in association with Mark Lehner and other Egyptologists, estimated that the total project required an average workforce of about 14,500 people and a peak workforce of roughly 40,000.

Without the use of pulleys, wheels, or iron tools, they used critical path analysis methods, which suggest that the Great Pyramid was completed from start to finish in approximately 10 years.

The original entrance to the Great Pyramid is on the north, 17 metres or 56 ft vertically above ground level and 7.29 metres or 23.9 ft east of the centre line of the pyramid.

From this original entrance, there is a Descending Passage 0.96 metres or 3.1 ft high and 1.04 metres or 3.4 ft wide, which goes down at an angle of 26° 31'23" through the masonry of the pyramid and then into the bedrock beneath it.

After 105.23 metres or 345.2 ft, the passage becomes level and continues for an additional 8.84 metres or 29.0 ft to the lower Chamber, which appears not to have been finished.

There is a continuation of the horizontal passage in the south wall of the lower chamber, there is also a pit dug in the floor of the chamber.

Some Egyptologists suggest that this Lower Chamber was intended to be the original burial chamber, but Pharaoh Khufu later changed his mind and wanted it to be higher up in the pyramid.

28.2 metres or 93 ft from the entrance is a square hole in the roof of the Descending Passage. Originally concealed with a slab of stone, this is the beginning of the Ascending Passage.

The Ascending Passage is 39.3 metres or 129 ft long, as wide and high as the Descending Passage and slopes up at almost precisely the same angle to reach the Grand Gallery. The lower end of the Ascending Passage is closed by three huge blocks of granite, each about 1.5 metres or 4.9 ft long.

One must use the Robbers' Tunnel to access the Ascending Passage. At the start of the Grand Gallery on the right-hand side there is a hole cut in the wall.

This is the start of a vertical shaft which follows an irregular path through the masonry of the pyramid to join the Descending Passage.

Also at the start of the Grand Gallery there is the Horizontal Passage leading to the Queen's Chamber. The passage is 1.1m or 3'8" high for most of its length, but near the chamber there is a step in the floor, after which the passage is 1.73 metres or 5.7 ft high.

The Queen's Chamber is exactly halfway between the north and south faces of the pyramid and measures 5.75 metres or 18.9 ft north to south, 5.23 metres or 17.2 ft east to west, and has a pointed roof with an apex 6.23 metres or 20.4 ft above the floor.

At the eastern end of the chamber there is a niche 4.67 metres or 15.3 ft high. The original depth of the niche was 1.04 metres or 3.4 ft, but has since been deepened by treasure hunters.

In the north and south walls of the Queen's Chamber there are shafts, which unlike those in the King's Chamber that immediately slope upwards are horizontal for around 2 m or 6.6 ft before sloping upwards.

The horizontal distance was cut in 1872 by a British engineer, Waynman Dixon, who believed a shaft similar to those in the King's Chamber must also exist.

He was proved right, but because the shafts are not connected to the outer faces of the pyramid or the Queen's Chamber, their purpose is unknown.

At the end of one of his shafts, Dixon discovered a ball of black diorite a type of rock and a bronze implement of unknown purpose. Both objects are currently in the British Museum.

The shafts in the Queen's Chamber were explored in 1993 by the German engineer Rudolf Gantenbrink using a crawler robot he designed, Upuaut 2.

After a climb of 65 m or 213 ft, he discovered that one of the shafts was blocked by limestone doors with two eroded copper handles.

Some years later the National Geographic Society created a similar robot which, in September 2002, drilled a small hole in the southern door, only to find another door behind it.

The northern passage, which was difficult to navigate because of twists and turns, was also found to be blocked by a door.

Research continued in 2011 with the Djedi Project. Realizing the problem was that the National Geographic Society's camera was only able to see straight ahead of it, they instead used a fiber-optic micro snake camera that could see around corners.

With this they were able to penetrate the first door of the southern shaft through the hole drilled in 2002, and view all the sides of the small chamber behind it. They discovered hieroglyphs written in red paint.

They were also able to scrutinize the inside of the two copper handles embedded in the door, and they now believe them to be for decorative purposes.

They also found the reverse side of the door to be finished and polished, which suggests that it was not put there just to block the shaft from debris, but rather for a more specific reason.

The Grand Gallery continues the slope of the Ascending Passage, but is 8.6 metres or 28 ft high and 46.68 metres or 153.1 ft long.

At the base it is 2.06 metres or 6.8 ft wide, but after 2.29 metres or 7.5 ft the blocks of stone in the walls are corbelled inwards by 7.6 centimetres or 3.0 in on each side.

There are seven of these steps, so, at the top, the Grand Gallery is only 1.04 metres or 3.4 ft wide. It is roofed by slabs of stone laid at a slightly steeper angle than the floor of the gallery, so that each stone fits into a slot cut in the top of the gallery like the teeth of a ratchet.

The purpose was to have each block supported by the wall of the Gallery, rather than resting on the block beneath it, in order to prevent cumulative pressure.

At the upper end of the Gallery on the right-hand side there is a hole near the roof that opens into a short tunnel by which access can be gained to the lowest of the Relieving Chambers.

The other Relieving Chambers were discovered in 1837–1838 by Colonel Howard Vyse and J. S. Perring, who dug tunnels upwards using blasting powder.

The floor of the Grand Gallery consists of a shelf or step on either side, 51 centimetres or 20 in wide, leaving a lower ramp 1.04 metres or 3.4 ft wide between them.

In the shelves there are 54 slots, 27 on each side matched by vertical and horizontal slots in the walls of the Gallery. These form a cross shape that rises out of the slot in the shelf.

The purpose of these slots is not known, but the central gutter in the floor of the Gallery, which is the same width as the Ascending Passage, has led to speculation that the blocking stones were stored in the Grand Gallery.

And the slots held wooden beams to restrain them from sliding down the passage.

This, in turn, has led to the proposal that originally many more than 3 blocking stones were intended, to completely fill the Ascending Passage.

At the top of the Grand Gallery, there is a step giving onto a horizontal passage some metres long and approximately 1.02 metres or 3.3 ft in height and width, in which can be detected four slots, three of which were probably intended to hold granite portcullises.

Fragments of granite found by Petrie in the Descending Passage may have come from these now-vanished doors.

In 2017, scientists from the Scan Pyramids Project discovered a large cavity above the Grand Gallery, using muon radiography that can detect cosmic rays.

Its length is at least 30 metres or 98 ft and its cross-section is similar to that of the Grand Gallery. It was detected using three different technologies, nuclear emulsion films, scintillator hodoscopes, and gas detectors.

The purpose of the cavity is not known and it is not accessible but according to Zahi Hawass it may have been a gap used in the construction of the Grand Gallery.

The Japanese research team disputes this, however, saying that the huge void is completely different from the construction spaces previously identified.

The King's Chamber is 20 cubits or 10.47 metres or 34.4 ft from east to west and 10 cubits or 5.234 metres or 17.17 ft north to south.

It has a flat roof 11 cubits and 5 digits or 5.852 metres or 19 feet 2 inch above the floor. 0.91 m or 3.0 ft above the floor there are two narrow shafts in the north and south walls,one is now filled by an extractor fan in an attempt to circulate air inside the pyramid.

The purpose of these shafts is not clear, they appear to be aligned towards stars or areas of the northern and southern skies, yet one of them follows a dog-leg course through the masonry, indicating no intention to directly sight stars through them.

They were long believed by Egyptologists to be air shafts for ventilation, but this idea has now been widely abandoned in favour of the shafts serving a ritualistic purpose associated with the ascension of the king’s spirit to the heavens.

The King's Chamber is entirely faced with granite. Above the roof, which is formed of nine slabs of stone weighing in total about 400 tons, are five compartments known as Relieving Chambers.

The first four, like the King's Chamber, have flat roofs formed by the floor of the chamber above, but the final chamber has a pointed roof.

Vyse suspected the presence of upper chambers when he found that he could push a long reed through a crack in the ceiling of the first chamber.

From lower to upper, the chambers are known as Davison's Chamber, Wellington's Chamber, Nelson's Chamber, Lady Arbuthnot's Chamber, and Campbell's Chamber.

It is believed that the compartments were intended to safeguard the King's Chamber from the possibility of a roof collapsing under the weight of stone above the Chamber.

As the chambers were not intended to be seen, they were not finished in any way and a few of the stones still retain masons' marks painted on them.

One of the stones in Campbell's Chamber bears a mark, apparently the name of a work gang.

The only object in the King's Chamber is a rectangular granite sarcophagus, one corner of which is broken. The sarcophagus is slightly larger than the Ascending Passage, which indicates that it must have been placed in the Chamber before the roof was put in place.

Unlike the fine masonry of the walls of the Chamber, the sarcophagus is roughly finished, with saw marks visible in several places. This is in contrast with the finely finished and decorated sarcophagi found in other pyramids of the same period.

Petrie suggested that such a sarcophagus was intended but was lost in the river on the way north from Aswan and a hurriedly made replacement was used instead.

Today tourists enter the Great Pyramid via the Robbers' Tunnel, a tunnel purportedly created around AD 820 by Caliph al-Ma'mun's workmen using a battering ram.

The tunnel is cut straight through the masonry of the pyramid for approximately 27 metres or 89 ft, then turns sharply left to encounter the blocking stones in the Ascending Passage.

It is believed that their efforts dislodged the stone fitted in the ceiling of the Descending Passage to hide the entrance to the Ascending Passage and it was the noise of that stone falling and then sliding down the Descending Passage, which alerted them to the need to turn left.

Unable to remove these stones, however, the workmen tunnelled up beside them through the softer limestone of the Pyramid until they reached the Ascending Passage. It is possible to enter the Descending Passage from this point, but access is usually forbidden.

The Great Pyramid is surrounded by a complex of several buildings including small pyramids.

The Pyramid Temple, which stood on the east side of the pyramid and measured 52.2 metres or 171 ft north to south and 40 metres or 130 ft east to west, has almost entirely disappeared apart from the black basalt paving.

There are only a few remnants of the causeway which linked the pyramid with the valley and the Valley Temple. The Valley Temple is buried beneath the village of Nazlet el-Samman; basalt paving and limestone walls have been found but the site has not been excavated.

The basalt blocks show clear evidence of having been cut with some kind of saw with an estimated cutting blade of 15 feet or 4.6 m in length, capable of cutting at a rate of 1.5 inches or 38 mm per minute.

John Romer suggests that this super saw may have had copper teeth and weighed up to 300 pounds or 140 kg.

He theorizes that such a saw could have been attached to a wooden trestle and possibly used in conjunction with vegetable oil, cutting sand, emery or pounded quartz to cut the blocks, which would have required the labour of at least a dozen men to operate it.

On the south side are the subsidiary pyramids, popularly known as Queens' Pyramids. Three remain standing to nearly full height but the fourth was so ruined that its existence was not suspected until the recent discovery of the first course of stones and the remains of the capstone.

Hidden beneath the paving around the pyramid was the tomb of Queen Hetepheres I, sister-wife of Sneferu and mother of Khufu. Discovered by accident by the Reisner expedition, the burial was intact, though the carefully sealed coffin proved to be empty.

The Giza pyramid complex, which includes among other structures the pyramids of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure, is surrounded by a cyclopean stone wall, the Wall of the Crow.

Mark Lehner has discovered a worker's town outside of the wall, otherwise known as The Lost City, dated by pottery styles, seal impressions, and stratigraphy to have been constructed and occupied sometime during the reigns of Khafre (2520–2494 BC) and Menkaure (2490–2472 BC).

Recent discoveries by Mark Lehner and his team at the town and nearby, including what appears to have been a thriving port, suggest the town and associated living quarters consisting of barracks called galleries may not have been for the pyramid workers after all, but rather for the soldiers and sailors who utilized the port.

In light of this new discovery, as to where then the pyramid workers may have lived Lehner now suggests the alternative possibility they may have camped on the ramps he believes were used to construct the pyramids or possibly at nearby quarries.

In the early 1970s, the Australian archaeologist Karl Kromer excavated a mound in the South Field of the plateau. This mound contained artefacts including mudbrick seals of Khufu, which he identified with an artisans' settlement.

Mudbrick buildings just south of Khufu's Valley Temple contained mud sealings of Khufu and have been suggested to be a settlement serving the cult of Khufu after his death.

A worker's cemetery used at least between Khufu's reign and the end of the Fifth Dynasty was discovered south of the Wall of the Crow by Zahi Hawass in 1990.

There are three boat-shaped pits around the pyramid, of a size and shape to have held complete boats, though so shallow that any superstructure, if there ever was one, must have been removed or disassembled.

In May 1954, the Egyptian archaeologist Kamal el-Mallakh discovered a fourth pit, a long, narrow rectangle, still covered with slabs of stone weighing up to 15 tons.

Inside were 1,224 pieces of wood, the longest 23 metres or 75 ft long, the shortest 10 centimetres or 0.33 ft. These were entrusted to a boat builder, Haj Ahmed Yusuf, who worked out how the pieces fit together.

The entire process, including conservation and straightening of the warped wood, took fourteen years.

The result is a cedar-wood boat 43.6 metres or 143 ft long, its timbers held together by ropes, which is currently housed in a special boat-shaped, air-conditioned museum beside the pyramid.

During construction of this museum, which stands above the boat pit, a second sealed boat pit was discovered. It was deliberately left unopened until 2011 when excavation began on the boat.

Although succeeding pyramids were smaller, pyramid building continued until the end of the Middle Kingdom.

However, as authors Briar and Hobbs claim, all the pyramids were robbed by the New Kingdom, when the construction of royal tombs in a desert valley, now known as the Valley of the Kings, began.

Joyce Tyldesley states that the Great Pyramid itself is known to have been opened and emptied by the Middle Kingdom, before the Arab caliph Abdullah al-Mamun entered the pyramid around AD 820.

I. E. S. Edwards discusses Strabo's mention that the pyramid a little way up one side has a stone that may be taken out, which being raised up there is a sloping passage to the foundations.

Edwards suggested that the pyramid was entered by robbers after the end of the Old Kingdom and sealed and then reopened more than once until Strabo's door was added.

He said if this highly speculative surmise be correct, it is also necessary to assume either that the existence of the door was forgotten or that the entrance was again blocked with facing stones, in order to explain why al-Ma'mun could not find the entrance.

He also discusses a story told by Herodotus. Herodotus visited Egypt in the 5th century BC and recounts a story that he was told concerning vaults under the pyramid built on an island where the body of Cheops lies.

Edwards notes that the pyramid had almost certainly been opened and its contents plundered long before the time of Herodotus and that it might have been closed again during the Twenty-sixth Dynasty of Egypt when other monuments were restored.

He suggests that the story told to Herodotus could have been the result of almost two centuries of telling and retelling by Pyramid guides.

Tourism Observer