Theme Week Saudi Arabia

April 24th, 2017 | Destination: | General, Theme Weeks | No Comments »

Medina - Al-Masjid al-Nabawi - The Mosque of the Prophet © flickr.com - Omar Chatriwala/cc-by-2.0

Medina – Al-Masjid al-Nabawi – The Mosque of the Prophet © flickr.com – Omar Chatriwala/cc-by-2.0

Saudi Arabia, officially known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), is an Arab sovereign state in Western Asia constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula. With a land area of approximately 2,150,000 km2 (830,000 sq mi), Saudi Arabia is geographically the fifth-largest state in Asia and second-largest state in the Arab world after Algeria. Saudi Arabia is bordered by Jordan and Iraq to the north, Kuwait to the northeast, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates to the east, Oman to the southeast, and Yemen to the south. It is separated from Israel and Egypt by the Gulf of Aqaba. It is the only nation with both a Red Sea coast and a Persian Gulf coast, and most of its terrain consists of arid desert or barren landforms. The state has a total population of 28.7 million, of which 20 million are Saudi nationals and 8 million are foreigners. The state’s official language is Arabic. English is however widely used, even on street signs. The area of modern-day Saudi Arabia formerly consisted of four distinct regions: Hejaz, Najd, and parts of Eastern Arabia (Al-Ahsa) and Southern Arabia (‘Asir). The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 by Ibn Saud. He united the four regions into a single state through a series of conquests beginning in 1902 with the capture of Riyadh, the ancestral home of his family, the House of Saud. Saudi Arabia has since been an absolute monarchy, effectively a hereditary dictatorship governed along Islamic lines. The ultraconservative Wahhabi religious movement within Sunni Islam has been called “the predominant feature of Saudi culture”, with its global spread largely financed by the oil and gas trade. Saudi Arabia is sometimes called “the Land of the Two Holy Mosques” in reference to Al-Masjid al-Haram (in Mecca), and Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (in Medina), the two holiest places in Islam. Mecca and Medina are however completely blocked for non-Muslims. A violation of this rule will lead to penalties and deportation. more…

Biscayne National Park in Florida

April 24th, 2017 | Destination: | General, Palaces, Castles, Manors, Parks | No Comments »

© National Park Service Digital Image Archives

© National Park Service Digital Image Archives

Biscayne National Park is a U.S. National Park located in southern Florida, south of Miami. The park preserves Biscayne Bay and its offshore barrier reefs. Ninety-five percent of the park is water, and the shore of the bay is the location of an extensive mangrove forest. The park covers 172,971 acres (69,999 ha) and includes Elliott Key, the park’s largest island and first of the true Florida Keys, formed from fossilized coral reef. The islands farther north in the park are transitional islands of coral and sand. The offshore portion of the park includes the northernmost region of the Florida Reef, one of the largest coral reefs in the world. Biscayne National Park protects four distinct ecosystems: the shoreline mangrove swamp, the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay, the coral limestone keys and the offshore Florida Reef. The shoreline swamps of the mainland and island margins provide a nursery for larval and juvenile fish, molluscs and crustaceans. The bay waters harbor immature and adult fish, seagrass beds, sponges, soft corals, and manatees. The keys are covered with tropical vegetation including endangered cacti and palms, and their beaches provide nesting grounds for endangered sea turtles. Offshore reefs and waters harbor more than 200 species of fish, pelagic birds, whales and hard corals. Sixteen endangered species including Schaus’ swallowtail butterflies, smalltooth sawfish, manatees, and green and hawksbill sea turtles may be observed in the park. Biscayne also has a small population of threatened American crocodiles and a few American alligators. more…

Madison in Wisconsin

April 21st, 2017 | Destination: | General | No Comments »

Wisconsin State Capitol Building during Tulip Festival © Vijay Kumar Koulampet/cc-by-sa-3.0

Wisconsin State Capitol Building during Tulip Festival © Vijay Kumar Koulampet/cc-by-sa-3.0

Madison is the capital of the U.S. state of Wisconsin and the county seat of Dane County. As of July 1, 2015, Madison’s estimated population of 249,000 made it the second largest city in Wisconsin, after Milwaukee, and the 84th largest in the United States. The city forms the core of the Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Dane County and neighboring Iowa, Green, and Columbia counties. Madison’s origins begin in 1829, when former federal judge James Duane Doty purchased over a thousand acres (4 km²) of swamp and forest land on the isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona, with the intention of building a city in the Four Lakes region. When the Wisconsin Territory was created in 1836 the territorial legislature convened in Belmont, Wisconsin. One of the legislature’s tasks was to select a permanent location for the territory’s capital. Doty lobbied aggressively for Madison as the new capital, offering buffalo robes to the freezing legislators and promising choice Madison lots at discount prices to undecided voters. Doty named the city Madison for James Madison, the fourth President of the U.S. who had died on June 28, 1836 and he named the streets for the other 39 signers of the U.S. Constitution. Although the city existed only on paper, the territorial legislature voted on November 28 in favor of Madison as its capital, largely because of its location halfway between the new and growing cities around Milwaukee in the east and the long established strategic post of Prairie du Chien in the west, and between the highly populated lead mining regions in the southwest and Wisconsin’s oldest city, Green Bay in the northeast. Being named for the much-admired founding father James Madison, who had just died, and having streets named for each of the 39 signers of the Constitution, may have also helped attract votes. more…

Port Melbourne

April 19th, 2017 | Destination: | General | No Comments »

Bay Street © Bmorey/cc-by-3.0

Bay Street © Bmorey/cc-by-3.0

Port Melbourne is a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, 5 km south-west from Melbourne’s Central Business District. It is split between the local government areas of Melbourne and Port Phillip. The area to the north of the West Gate Freeway is in the City of Melbourne. The area to the south is in the City of Port Phillip. The suburb is bordered by the shores of Hobsons Bay and the lower reaches of the Yarra River. Port Melbourne covers a large area, which includes the distinct localities of Fishermans Bend, Garden City and Beacon Cove. Historically it was known as Sandridge and developed as the City’s second port, linked to the nearby Melbourne CBD. The formerly industrial Port Melbourne has been subject to intense urban renewal over the past decade. As a result, Port Melbourne is a diverse and historic area, featuring industrial and port areas along the Yarra, to open parklands, bayside beaches, exclusive apartments and Bay Street’s restaurants and cafes. The suburb also forms a major transport link from east to west, home to one end of the West Gate Bridge. more…

Anaheim in Orange County

April 17th, 2017 | Destination: | General | No Comments »

Sleeping Beauty Castle © Cd637/cc-by-sa-3.0

Sleeping Beauty Castle © Cd637/cc-by-sa-3.0

Anaheim is a city in Orange County in California, part of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The city has a population of 350,000, making it the most populous city in Orange County and the 10th most populous city in California. Anaheim is the second largest city in Orange County in terms of land area (after Irvine) and is known for its theme parks, sports teams, and convention center. Anaheim was founded by fifty German families in 1857 and incorporated as the second city in Los Angeles County on March 18, 1876. The city developed into an industrial center, producing electronics, aircraft parts and canned fruit. It is the site of the Disneyland Resort, a world-famous grouping of theme parks and hotels which opened in 1955, Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Honda Center and the Anaheim Convention Center. more…

Marina Towers in Beirut

April 14th, 2017 | Destination: | General | No Comments »

Marina Tower and the Four Season Hotels and Resorts Tower © A.K.Khalifeh/cc-by-sa-3.0

Marina Tower and the Four Season Hotels and Resorts Tower © A.K.Khalifeh/cc-by-sa-3.0

Marina Towers project is a residential complex in Beirut Central District, Lebanon. It is located near the Beirut Marina and consists of a high-rise apartment building, Marina Tower, and two mid-rise apartment buildings, Marina Court and Marina Garden. Designed by the renowned firm of architects Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, the Marina Towers project is built on over 7,000 square metres of land with the main tower reaching a height of 150 metres, making it the second tallest building in Lebanon. The Marina Towers project is the biggest and most prestigious residential project on the Mediterranean sea and one that is a natural part of Beirut itself, boasting ultra luxurious simplex, duplex apartments and a penthouse with a private pool. more…

Island of Gozo in Malta

April 12th, 2017 | Destination: | General | No Comments »

© ZiYouXunLu/cc-by-sa-4.0

© ZiYouXunLu/cc-by-sa-4.0

Gozo is an island of the Maltese archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. The island is part of Malta. After the island of Malta itself, it is the second-largest island in the archipelago. The island capital is Victoria with a population of 7,000. Compared to its southeastern neighbour, Gozo is more rural and known for its scenic hills, which are featured on its coat of arms. The island of Gozo has long been associated with Ogygia, the island home of the nymph Calypso in Homer‘s Odyssey. In that story, Calypso, possessed of great supernatural powers, and in love with Odysseus, holds him captive for a number of years, until finally releasing him to continue his journey home. more…

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