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Ordubad: a Cradle of Religious Tolerance in the Caucasus

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Religious architecture in the region of Ordubad, Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan (Azerbaijan), has established new paradigms in the shaping of Azerbaijani Islamic culture, interfaith dialogue, and has reflected a deep sense of conviction within its citizens and a unique enrichment of religious tolerance, cultural dialogue, and multicultural coexistence.

The Region of Ordubad is the symbol of a religious harmony, unique architectural treasures that enshrine the superior values of the architecture school founded by Ajami Ibn Abubakr Nakhchivani, the city displays to the world a great sense of Azerbaijani patriotism and is home of many beautiful mosques that ought to be visited by religious scholars, international university researchers and be given a special international status by UNESCO; during the upcoming commemorations that will take place in Nakhchivan in 2018, as this region of Azerbaijan will become the World’s capital of Islamic Culture and Art. The Region of Ordubad is known for its famous apricots that were exported regularly to Moscow and other parts of the Soviet Union; however its religious treasures, mosques and archeological sites are not well known internationally, they must acquire a wider presence abroad. The city of Ordubad has distinguished itself for having seven principal avenues, on each one of these avenues it has: a mosque without a minaret; an underground fresh water creek; traditional, rare Caucasian homes equipped with a main entrance door that has two types of ancient knocking metal rings that produce two different types of sounds (one of them is used by men and the other used by women). Some of the most important mosques in Ordubad region are: Dilbar Mosque, Dirnis Mosque, Haji Huseyngulu Mosque.

In Ordubad City is located Dilbar Mosque, a historical and architectural monument that provide some unique features to foreign visitors and theologians. In Ordubad City there are a number of buildings that embody special values of Nakhchivan architectural school and Dilbar Mosque is one of them. The mosque is open to the public for religious ceremonies. The structure is right angled, has a square shape and equipped with columns.   Many of the mosque’s features are a representation of Nakhchivan’s school of architecture. Dilbar Mosque is an example of an architectural composition that intertwines style and structure that was typical in the 1700s. This Mosque is furnished with its altar, latticed windows; the entrance gate is on its main façade. The main entrance and its sides have incorporated big windows and sections that are latticed, with asymmetric installation of the head span and other marvelous features. This uniqueness shows that Dilbar Mosque embodies a perfect harmony with Ordubad’s architecture and urban – rural landscape.

According to the history of Ordubad, preserved by its residents, Dilbar Mosque was built to honor a woman named Dilbar and it has emerged as a center of Islamic faith established to honor the valuable role of women in the Muslim faith and its emblematic communities across the Caucasus region.

Another religious landmark is Dirnis Mosque, located on Mirza Street in Yukhari, Dirnis Village, and Region of Ordubad. It has a large size and the local people call it with the name ‘Boyuk Masjid’ meaning a large Mosque (Jame Mosque). Its main entrance is from the western side and for women is on the east side. Its ceiling stands on five poles on each side, totaling ten poles or columns. In front of the East – North wall there was built a balcony on the first floor to host women. The Mosque has: three big windows in the east wall, two windows on the western wall; and three windows on the southern wall. According to the inscription located at the head of one of the columns, written in black color, it is very clear that the Mosque was repaired in 1920-1921 and it was Architect Hasan from Ordubad who had repaired this cultural monument. Once again, this religious monument was renovated in 1999 at the expense of the local people and a balcony had been assembled in front of the entrance door on the west side, where a minaret was also erected. According to its architectural features, the Dirnis Mosque was first built and erected in the XVII Century.

In the village of Ganza, Region of Ordubad, stands tall the historic Haji Huseyngulu Mosque, located right at the center of the village. Its size is 23 meters by 14 meters, according to the local community, this Mosque was built by Haji Huseyngulu, an influential man who was active in promoting various shapes and construction styles from the Ajami Nakhchivani Architecture School. When Haji Huseyngulu passed away, he was buried in front of the southern wall of this gorgeous creamy white-brick mosque. At a later stage, the renovation team of this Mosque placed a head stone above the tomb of Haji Huseyngulu, the words of the late “Haji Huseyngulu of the XVI century,” are carved in Arabic language, on the head stone. This is considered to be one of the oldest mosques of Nakhchivan and throughout Azerbaijan, it is a unique religious monument, inside it has a big hall. According to the local builders, in the beginning of the XX Century there was built an additional hall that was joined with the hallway of males that is located in the western part of the old Mosque. The old part of the mosque and its main hall sits on three big columns and walls built of stones.   Its inner-columns and its sections between the columns and walls are connected through a span shape and its walls reach one meter of thickness. Five wall recesses have been placed inside of the mosque. A balcony is in front of the entrance; its façade consists of 12 spans. Near the mosque there is a guest house, when this object was restored there were written colorful religion words on its limed walls.

During its restoration project a wonderful minaret was added to this cultural monument on the South Western side of the structure. On the minaret is written an inscription that says: “this minaret of the mosque was built by Haji Israfil Sadigli in 2000; architects Karbalayi Sayid, Karbalayi Gurban.”

There are always held mourning events and religious ceremonies during the months of Muharram and Ramadan that take place in this Mosque; certainly during the commemoration events of Nakhchivan Region becoming the World’s Capital of Islamic Culture in 2018, there will be taking place memorable events in the Haji Huseyngulu Mosque.

The area on the southern side of the mosque at one time belonged to Haji Huseyngulu who donated this land to be the Mosque’s cemetery. Based on the grave inscriptions of this cemetery it is ascertained that Haji Huseyngulu lived during the XV century and this Mosque was built in that time.

The 2018 World celebrations of Islamic Culture in Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic are approaching; foreign visitors, tourists and scholars must visit the Region of Ordubad in order to appreciate a series of unique architectural features tailored by Ajami Nakhchivani that are melted together with: an ancient Islamic Culture, attractive religious tolerance practices, deeply rooted historical awareness within the context of Azerbaijani historiography.

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Cities

Sri Lanka: From My Eyes and Experiences

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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Midigama Beach, Sri Lanka. Photo by sasha set on Unsplash

Sri Lanka, an island country in south Asian, located to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal and to the southeast of the Arabian Sea, has been interestingly attracting Russian tourists over the two decades. The tourism industry, apart from tea exports, is very important as it brings revenue to the national budget. The economic changes seen as a huge opportunity for promoting tourism business in Russia.

As middle class Russians are travelling for their vacations in Asian countries, so also the business is all year round booming. The main reason for this scenario is the growth in incomes and the tendency in increase of vacationers during the past years. Simply, the overall economic changes in Russia positively affect the outbound travelling. According to my point of view, overall economic development in Russia will continue creating a lot of opportunities for expanding the tourism industry.

For the time of my stay here, Russian tourist traffic to Sri Lanka has increased more than 10 times. Exotic destinations are becoming more and more popular among Russians and Sri Lanka is one of the most attractive Asian countries. Of course, it seems that the global instability and financial crisis affected all economic spheres and, to some extent, tourism as well.

Despite this situation, people still make their choices more carefully and seriously, and give their preference to the countries they have never been before. Sri Lanka is a developing destination on the Russian travel market and I can say that there is a great future ahead.

Stability and strength are the best indicator at the present difficult times and this give us a power to express optimism about the future in Sri Lankan tourism sphere. The number of Russian tourists travelling to Sri Lanka is increasing year by year, and in leaps and bounds.  In 2017, the growth was about 10% in spite of the crisis.  Experts at the Russian Tourism Agency told me that the figure for first quarter of 2018, for instance, is not so impressive but attributed to the policy of Russian tour operators and air companies.

Personally, I have every reason to say that Sri Lanka is a small miracle. Nearly all Russians who have visited the island talked about the natural beauty of Sri Lanka. There are three main reasons that make the country a very popular destination among foreign and Russian vacationers.

First is that there is summer all year round. An average temperature is about 26-30 degrees Celcius (and there is no raining season) which attracts travellers the whole year round. In some seasons, rain might start suddenly in any part of the Island and stops short as well. You are able to see the climate changes from tropical on the coastline of the Indian Ocean until the temperate in highland of the island where some frost observed at night.

Second reason for its popularity is that Sri Lanka has splendid nature and rich cultural heritage. Travellers who enjoy a cognitive tourism are able to see historical heritage, museums, ancient cities, Buddhist temples and national dance show. Numerous national parks, mountain peaks, waterfalls, rain forests and jungles with an infinite number of animals and nature variety attract nature-lovers. For adventure tourism, Sri Lanka offers climbing to the mountains peaks, rafting, diving surfing and other kind of water sport.

Third reason of Sri Lanka’s attractiveness is the local hospitality and friendliness of Sri Lankan people. Sri Lankan hotels provide a well-known Asian service and comfortable accommodation. People smile right from the bottom of their hearts.

The government’s key policy on tourism promotion and strategies that have adopted to sell the country’s tourism destinations has pushed potential tourists to choose Sri Lanka. My interaction with Sri Lankan diaspora, the idea to set up a tourism department at the embassy began in 2008, and it was so because the diplomatic officials have seen a great opportunities in expanding tourism for Sri Lanka.

The Embassy of Sri Lanka in the Russian Federation takes an active part in promoting the country on the Russian travel market. Over the ten years, I have seen them participate in workshops for travel agents and talk about Sri Lanka to the managers of travel companies. The officials communicate with journalists with great pleasure and contribute to make for their farm trips around Sri Lanka as well.

The government officials organize and support direct flights to Sri Lanka. There are two direct flights organized by Aeroflot airlines from Moscow and airlines from St. Petersburg. In interview discussions with a few Sri Lanka officials, they told me that they have given all kinds of support for those flights and tried to minimize ticket’s rate by the reducing handling costs in Sri Lanka airport.

Sri Lanka regularly participates in Moscow International Travel and Tourism exhibitions in March and Leisure exhibitions in September. During these business events, officials arrange regular meetings with leadership of tour operators for discussing vital problems and help with solutions. The main objective is to support the integration of all members of the travel market.

Further, officials give assistance to Sri Lankan hotels in attracting Russian speaking staff and Russian translation of hotels information. Quite recently, I have noticed that audio guides issued in Russian language including virtual excursions to places of interest in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka tourism industry seeks investors worldwide to invest in the tourism industry. There are attractive schemes to facilitate investors for the tourism infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka. Interested Russian investors could invest in those projects. There is high perspectives about the economic sphere in cooperation with Russia. The most important is to have an agreement signed in the field of tourism between Russia and Sri Lanka.

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Adventurers and travelers: Add Western Australia’s Kimberley to your list

MD Staff

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Let your soul experience one of the most stunning and pristine places on earth, Western Australia’s Kimberley. Its coastline is so unspoiled, dinosaur footprints still smatter the rocks. Its oceans are so untouched, whales nurse their young in its warm waters. Its indigenous culture is so ancient, no other can match it. The Kimberley is more than a remarkable region in Western Australia; it’s one of the most fascinating and least explored places in the world. As world travelers seek unexplored destinations, The Kimberley has been added to their bucket list of dream vacations. This is a place that commands explorers to indulge in its many wonders.

A last true wilderness

Both magical and rugged, Western Australia’s Kimberley is one of the few last wilderness areas, like Alaska, Galapagos, Antarctica and the Amazon, where you feel the rawness of the earth and the wonder of nature with an ancient story. Immediately, there is a deep intangible presence in the Kimberley that is at once powerful yet calming. Night-blooming flowers from the giant Boab trees make the air fragrant while the night sky glitters with millions of stars.

The gateway to the Kimberley is the small pearling town of Broome, home to some of the largest and most prized pearls, where camel rides on Cable Beach is part of everyday life and where nine sets of dinosaur footprints cast as massive fossils. The influence of the pearling industry, with its melting pot of cultures and cuisines, has helped to create the distinctive character and charm of Broome, which offers select beach resorts, a unique calendar of events and exquisite dining options, including locally caught fresh seafood.

Modern means of exploration

The best way to experience the Kimberley is through expedition cruising. A unique collection of companies operate boats that take passengers to the region’s most pristine beaches and reefs, to towering waterfalls so close you can feel the fresh mist on your face, through ancient gorges, and to 350-million-year-old rock formations. Through expedition cruising, you will likely place your footstep where no one before you has ever been.

In this remote setting, visitors can encounter the true icons in Western Australia’s North West, including the natural phenomenon of the Horizontal Falls, the majestic 260-foot-tall King George Falls, and the Rowley Shoals featuring coral atolls home to 700 tropical fish species and considered among the best dive spots in the world, where not more than 500 people visit in a year.

Adventure need not be rugged

Just because you’re exploring one of the last untouched wildernesses on the planet doesn’t mean you can’t indulge.

Both adventurous and luxurious, Kimberley cruises bring the savvy traveler to places few humans have seen while offering them the comforts of a delicious meal showcasing local flavors (or your own catch of the day), soft beds, and services that connect travelers with the people and the land.

Every cruise is different. Many have on-board naturalists and experts that guide excursions and open the wonders of the region to curious passengers. Some high-end cruises have a helicopter to take you to the top of the cliffs and give you an unrivaled view of this unforgettable world.

Before heading to the Kimberley, explore Western Australia’s capital city Perth, home to many extraordinary experiences, including one of the world’s largest inner city parks, stunning metro beaches, a lively food and wine scene, marine encounters, and the State’s oldest wine region. Perth is the fastest-growing (and sunniest!) city in Australia.

To find the cruise that’s right for you, check out the Kimberley Expedition Cruise Guide, an invaluable resource that showcases a number of companies offering world-class excursions throughout this stunning region, or visit Down Under Answers, Qantas Vacations and Southern World.

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Top 5 reasons to visit El Salvador in 2018

MD Staff

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El Salvador, Central America’s smallest country, attracts a wide array of intrepid travelers who come to experience its vibrant culture and diverse outdoor activities. From its rich Maya history, to its volcanic beauty and generations-old artisan heritage, El Salvador provides plenty for travelers to explore.

El Salvador is incredibly easy to reach from the U.S. and offers everything from ecotourism to culinary adventures at a fraction of the price of more well-known Central American destinations. There are regular direct flights to El Salvador from major U.S. cities, including New York City, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, and there is no need to exchange money upon arrival, as the U.S. dollar is the national currency.

Here are five ways to make the most of a trip to El Salvador.

  1. Kick back at the beach

There is no shortage of world-class beaches in El Salvador, with warm Pacific waters lapping on nearly 200 miles of coastline. Surfers flock to La Libertad for its renowned waves and international competitions. Those interested in learning to surf can find lessons for as low as $10. Along black sand beaches, travelers will find amazing seafood to enjoy while taking in magnificent ocean views.

  1. Hike volcanoes and waterfalls

El Salvador is known as the “Land of Volcanoes” with 25 volcanoes visible to the naked eye. Many travelers combine a city tour of San Salvador with an easy volcano hike in El Boquerón National Park, just a short drive from the city. Local guides can navigate visitors up steeper volcanoes for half- and full-day trips. The country’s tallest volcano is Santa Ana Volcano in Cerro Verde National Park northwest of San Salvador where hikers will find moderate to difficult trails with a stunning turquoise crater lake at the top.

  1. Get caffeinated on a coffee tour

El Salvador’s high altitude and tropical climate create the ideal conditions for growing coffee beans, and the country is known as one of the world’s top regions for specialty coffee production. Chances are that you have enjoyed java that originated in the mountainous region of El Salvador. A tour of El Carmen Coffee Estate gives visitors a closer look at the coffee-making process and provides the chance to taste some of the best coffee on earth straight from the source.

  1. Get crafty with an artisanal immersion

Several of El Salvador’s small colonial towns are known for signature artisanal crafts that travelers can learn during their stay. Those that travel north from San Salvador to the quaint town of Suchitoto can make their way to the Arte Añil workshop and gallery to learn how to dye cloth with indigo as the Maya once did. Further north, the town of La Palma draws inspiration from the Maya to create the Arte Naíf drawing style. Visitors learn to paint with spontaneity without adhering to perfect proportions, creating bright and contrasting colored designs on locally harvested copinol seeds for a truly exotic souvenir.

  1. Dig into the past with an archaeological site visit

Known as the “Pompeii of the Americas,” the UNESCO World Heritage Site Joya de Ceren provides a fascinating look at an ancient farming community that was buried in ash from a nearby volcano. A visit to the site and the nearby pyramids at San Andrés educates travelers on the lives of Central America’s original inhabitants who lived there as many as 1,000 years before Europeans arrived.

With easy flight options, low prices for world-class experiences, and the ability to hike a volcano in the morning and surf in the afternoon, it’s not hard to see why El Salvador has become a hot destination for 2018.

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