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Dear Old Nakhchivan

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Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan’s westernmost province, welcomes everyone – including a novelist with no guidebook; it is heralded as a museum without walls. This region of Azerbaijan stretches on over 5,500 square kilometers and borders Armenia, Iran and Turkey.

Despite of the economic blockade imposed by Armenia government against Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan (for over two decades), the birthplace of Architect Ajami ibn Abubakr Nakhchivani – and home of Prophet Noah – has dedicated most of its territory solely to illuminating research into: ancient civilizations, global archeology, human history, Azerbaijani historiography and sociology and is testimony of ancient life and inventions that have enabled men to live in harmony with nature. Some of these culturally peculiar monuments are: Alibay Kehriz, Alinja Mint, Arafsa site and its Sacred Place.

Strolling in the Tabriz Street of Ordubad City, tourists will be fascinated by the historical monument of Alibay Kehriz (a kehriz constructed by Alibay):   it was built in the floating deposits of Ordubad river and is a simple shape kehriz monument that continues to preserve its characteristic nature up to this day. The stairs of this monument proceed down perpendicularly to the kehriz stream. The base, bottom half of kehriz has been enlarged in size, overtime: its length is 1.8 meters, it has a width of 1.5 meters and a height of 2.3 meters. The walls of Alibay Kehriz have been carved neatly, however at the top section there is a big rock piece that has remained untouched. Based on the early plans and its current structure: the length of the monument is 4.93 meters; its width is 1.5 meters; and has a depth from the ground surface of up to 4.56 meters. The height of the entrance from the ground surface is 1.9 meters. The fresh water resources of Alibay Kehriz is used by locals for daily consumption.

In the East of Khanagah, Julfa Region is located Alinja Mint: it was built as a vault where precious items and monetary currency would safely be deposited.

In war times, the Alinja fortress garnered a reputation for its defense walls and for safeguarding the state treasures and members of the families of Azerbaijani feudal rulers; it served as the headquarters of minting currency during different periods.

In early XIV century, Alinja Mint was the center of silver coins, the minting of these items was done under the orders of Elkhanilar and Teymurilar; many coin samples were found in the area; indeed, Jalairi Sultans had established a well – organized process of coin minting.

The late Bronze and the early Iron ages are represented in Julfa region with Arafsa Cultural monument, located on the right banks of Alinjachay (branch of Araz river) in Alinjachay Village.

This territory is 5 acres of archeological treasures where monochrome painted clay tableware samples belong to II millennium BC. In 1974, Professor V. Aliyev and other International Scholars encountered obsidian fragments and other traces of a civilization that had been living in Arafsa since the II millennium BC. Pieces of black clay tableware of monochrome paint and polished stone labor tools (grain stones, graters, mortar and pestle) were discovered in this attractive archeological site that has recently emerged as an important destination to French tourists.

Based on the international archival documents, Arafsag settlement had taken this name in 1590, it reflects the heritage and the name etymology of Sak Turks; a local ethnic group that lived in Nakhchivan, since the II millennium BC. According to the archeological discoveries conducted by Prof. I. V. Fedorov in 1895; the local tribes have migrated from Nakhchivan to the north and subsequently spread over the Middle and Central Asia, in Altay and on large swaths of the Siberian territory.

It must be emphasized that based on meticulous investigations conducted by L. N. Gumiliyev, I. M. Dyakanov, E. E. Kuzmina, it is scientifically certain that the background of Sak tribes derives from the Turk-Azerbaijani tribes.   The component of Arafsa consists of ‘Ar – ev – sak’ meaning “the place (land) of Sak, courageous people.” Per historical sources and based on research conducted by Prof. Rzayev F.; the territory of Nakhchivan has 23 habitable settlements that are archeologically related, scientifically proved, to be connected with the Sak Tribe (Sakazur, Sigat, Sakli, Kansak, etc.)

The Sanctuary of Arafsa Sacred Place was established in the middle ages in the village of Arafsa, Julfa Region, is located on top of a hill, to the left of Alinjachay. This ancient place, consists of two big rooms, with balconies to the south and the north. The main pilgrimage attraction is the grave in the central room, found to be somewhat large in its size. The name of this sacred place has been taken from the name of the village, a rural site that once was a metropolis and an ancient bastion of the Sak Turkish tribes; many years ago, this site has served as a center of religious dervishes.

The City of Ordubad, Arazin Necropolis, Alinja Mint and the Sanctuary of Arafsa Sacred Place are unique archeological sites where tourists are infinitely connected to their passion.

Source: Rzayev F.; “The traces of Kas and Sak Turks in Nakhchivan: the problems of Azerbaijan onomastics.” B., 2003 Nr. 11.

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Mind-Blowing Facts About the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

MD Staff

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photo: Rockefeller Center

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree acts each holiday season as a luminous magnet for camera-toting visitors. It towers above the ice-skating rink, with the golden statue Prometheus near its apron, carrying on a custom as old as Rockefeller Center itself—starting back in the early 1930s when the Midtown complex was still under construction.

The folks at Rock Center accept submissions each year. What do they look for in a specimen? A nicely shaped Norway spruce, typically at least 75 feet tall and dense enough that you “shouldn’t be able to see the sky through it,” according to head gardener Erik Pauze. Being from the tristate area generally helps—long distance is a consideration, but it’s not a deal breaker (1998’s tree was flown in from Ohio, and there was one from Canada way back when). The selection process takes a while, during which time the winner generally makes itself known. As Pauze says, “Sometimes I visit a tree several times over the year, [to] watch it grow or fill out. But when I see the perfect one, I just know it.”

Swarovski-crystal star. Photo: Adam Kuban

Come late November, Today show personalities Hoda Kotb, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker and Craig Melvin will join a host of performers (Pentatonix and John Legend included) for the opening ceremonies, and the tree stays lit—and available for public viewing, selfies and Instagram posts—until early January. This year, a ceremony for hoisting the new Daniel Libeskind–designed Swarovski star atop the tree will precede the lighting by a couple of weeks.

Pining for more info? We’ll go out on a limb and guess you are. Here’s some tree trivia to keep you waxing botanic through the holiday season.

This year’s model

Height: 72 feet
Weight: 24,000 pounds (estimated)
Species: Norway spruce
Hometown: Wallkill, New York
Age: Roughly 75 years
Date felled: November 8, 2018
Date put in place: November 10, 2018
Date of star raising: November 14, 2018
Date of tree lighting: November 28, 2018
Up until: January 7, 2019
Number of lights: 50,000+
Average number of expected daily viewers during holiday season: 750,000

Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, 1931. Courtesy, Tishman Speyer

Through the years

1931 First Christmas tree on the grounds, put up by construction workers
1933 First official year of Rockefeller Center Christmas tree
1941 Four reindeer, in pens, flank the tree; later, they move to the Bronx Zoo
1942–44 Tree goes unlit due to World War II
1949 The tree is painted silver, ostensibly to make it look more wintry
1966 A white spruce hailing from Canada becomes the first tree from outside the US
1981 Last time a species other than a Norway spruce (in this case, another white spruce) is chosen
1997 Tree from Stony Point, NY, is transported by barge down the Hudson River
1999 Tallest tree ever, at 100 feet
2016 Tony Bennett, at the age of 90, performs at the ceremony for the fourth time in seven years

Fast facts

* Why a Norway spruce? Our research indicates that its characteristics of a straight trunk and the ability to resist wind make it a sturdy choice; and its size, on average between 80 and 100 feet at full maturity, matches Rockefeller Center’s height requirements.
* For the most part, the same LED lights, which were first introduced in 2007, are used each year (though their total number has grown from around 30,000 to around 50,000).
* The Swarovski-crystal star that tops the tree first appeared in 2004—and has been reimagined by architect Daniel Libeskind for 2018. The new version has 3 million crystals, 70 glass spikes and, with a brightness of 106,000 lumens, may be powerful enough to turn night into day.
* Those in charge maintain the tree with regular watering—as it’s outside, it retains its freshness better than it would in a house or apartment.
* The inaugural tree lighting was broadcast on radio in 1933; 18 years later it made its televised debut on the Kate Smith Evening Hour.
* After the tree is done spreading holiday cheer, it’s sent on its merry way to be used as lumber for Habitat for Humanity.

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The Best Ways to Spend the Festive Holidays in Beirut

MD Staff

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The holiday season is one of the most exciting times to visit Beirut. The city streets are decked out in shimmering lights, dazzling displays of ornaments and that incomparable festive buzz.

There’s plenty to experience in Beirut during the holidays and Four Seasons Hotel Beirut is your ideal home away from home, perfectly located to take in the sights, sounds and excitement of the festivities, which are just a stroll away. To ensure you make the most of your trip and don’t miss out on the best activities of the season, our concierge team is happy to share a helpful insider’s guide to celebrate the holidays in the city.

Partake in Festive Culinary Delights

Celebrate the holidays at Four Seasons Hotel Beirut with an exquisite array of innovative offerings and culinary delights. From a holiday-themed afternoon tea to delightful delicatessen evenings, and even a pop-up caviar and oysters bar, revel in a host of magical moments, all backed by legendary Four Seasons service.

Admire the Beautiful Christmas Trees

Downtown Beirut is the place to be if you want to see the most popular Christmas lighting events in the city, as the famous Martyr Square welcomes Christmas with VIP appearances, music and a countdown to the Christmas tree illumination. Other celebrations include the Beirut Souks Christmas Tree Lighting event and our very own Four Seasons Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony.

Holiday Ice Skating

One of the best ways to get in the Christmas spirit and have some winter fun in Beirut is by wrapping up warm for an ice skating session at Beirut Ice Skating, just a few steps from the Hotel.

Visit Byblos Christmas Village

Without a doubt, Lebanon’s most comprehensive Christmas attraction is the Byblos Christmas Village. An hour drive from Beirut, enter a world of Christmas bliss with stunning lights, decorations and other festive attractions. Admire the sky-high Christmas tree that has been featured in The Guardian and Wall Street Journal. Numerous food stalls and a traditional Christmas market add to the merry atmosphere.

Shop for Gifts

Shopping in Beirut at Christmas is a sightseeing opportunity in itself, as ABC, Beirut Souks, Aishti Seaside and Le Mall all boast dazzling Christmas displays and impressive seasonal decor both inside and out. From department stores to high-end boutiques, shopping for your Christmas gifts in the city definitely won’t disappoint.

Check Out the Christmas Street Food Market

A popular annual event Souk El Akel, Christmas market edition is a food celebration showcasing Lebanon’s vibrant culinary world of foods including Lebanese, Middle Eastern and international bites, and can be found at various locations throughout the city. Entertainment, parades, kids area, food court, and much more await.

Attend a Christmas Concert

One of the season’s most anticipated highlights, Beirut Chants Festival welcomes during December performers from all over the world, both established and emerging, to share heart-warming performances in the many beautiful and historic churches of Beirut.

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Beyond the Liberty Bell: Exploring Western Philly

MD Staff

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A visit to Philadelphia is sure to be steeped in American history and culture. It doesn’t get more American than the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. And it doesn’t get more authentically Philly than cheesesteaks at competing Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King Of Steaks, and the oldest farmers market in the country, Reading Terminal Market. But, when you’ve been there, done that, what else can you explore?

Philadelphia neighborhoods beckon the savvy traveler who can, by slowing down, get a glimpse of what it’s like to live here, to exhale and experience the heart and soul of a great American city. One neighborhood that’s not on the radar of many travelers, but should be, is West Philadelphia, or West Philly as it is commonly known, with University City as its bustling heartbeat. Aptly named — the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University are located here — the area buzzes with youthful exuberance. The diverse, worldwide student population brings the magic of different languages, dialects and customs to the area.

Strolling along the bustling sidewalks, visitors will find a foodie’s dream with a vibrant street-food scene, high-end, locally owned restaurants and everything in between. Historic sites and museums are everywhere, with some pop culture icons as well, and the parks add a touch of green to the cobblestone and brick.

Here are some gems of West Philly not to be missed:

* The Penn Museum will take you back to ancient times in faraway places and other lands. You’ll find jewelry from Ethiopia, Mayan sculptures, an Egyptian tomb, the Granite Sphinx of Ramses and new Middle East galleries. After you’ve seen the amazing American History of Philadelphia, the Penn Museum gives you the world.

* World Cafe Live is a multi-level venue devoted to music and good food. Take a seat upstairs at the chic Upstairs Live Cafe, where you can get late-night food and drinks along with an eclectic array of live music (they don’t call it World Cafe Live for nothing!). Downstairs Live is a larger concert venue, hosting nationally known artists. It’s also the home of WXPN radio, which broadcasts a show of the same name.

* The Study at University City is a local gem for guests who believe the right hotel can enhance and elevate an already wonderful trip into the stratosphere. This is not a cookie-cutter chain, but a boutique that features local artwork in an onsite gallery; hand-blown glass light fixtures (locally made); display cases with artifacts of the city’s past; and its lobby, dubbed the Living Room, a vibrant and dynamic core of the hotel, a gathering place for guests to feel at home.

* Schuylkill River Trail meanders along some 30 miles of the Schuylkill river, and is a favorite of bicyclists, walkers, runners and families. Enjoy the green space along the riverfront, or use it as your way to and from the Philadelphia Museum of Art and other area attractions. If you really want to get your exercise and American history on, you can pick up the trail in West Philly and take it all the way to Valley Forge National Historical Park.

* The multitude of cuisines in the West Philly neighborhood is reflective of the diversity of the student population. A true foodie destination that’s a bit off the beaten path, you’ll find African, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Indian spots with daring fusions of flavors; upscale, chef-driven restaurants; and down-home Philly goodness. Highly recommended from the city’s foodie community: Marigold Kitchen (its gin-marinated venison gets rave reviews), Aksum, which blends Mediterranean and North African cuisine; and Dock Street Brewing (Philly’s first microbrewery) for all-American bar food, burgers and of course, beer.

For other insider tips on exploring West Philly, contact the knowledgeable staff at The Study at University City. They’ll make sure you get the most out of your visit to the neighborhood.

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