Dubai has become pretty famous for its many attractions that consist of having built the largest of things. This beloved city attraction, though, is pretty unique. You see, it’s not just any old skyscraper.
No, The Dubai Frame is the biggest picture frame in the world! This highly Instagramable location holds a massive frame that towers over the city, with it being 492 feet tall. We’re sad to say, though, that there’s no picture in this huge frame.
You’ve Got Mail
While most people are used to having a specific address in their home countries, the residents of Dubai have a different system. Until a few years ago, Dubai had no standard postal system. Instead, they used old-school descriptions.
So, if you wanted to send a letter to a friend, you would need to actually fully describe how to reach their mailbox. Although the city does have postal codes now, it’s still a good idea to print out a detailed map of where you want to go so that people can help you find your way.
Happy New Year!
We all love traveling to vacation somewhere unique during the winter holidays. But, have you ever considered that Dubai might be the perfect destination for a New Year’s trip? Ideally, the end of the year is perfect weather-wise to visit the vibrant city.
But the true attraction in Dubai is the impressive fireworks display on New Year’s Eve. In fact, the display, which takes place around the famed Burj Khalifa, is among the largest fireworks shows in the world. Now, that’s a way to start the year bright!
The Cleanest Metro System
In most cities, while the metro or subway system is the quickest and easiest transportation method, it’s also kind of the grungiest. Dubai’s metro, however, is extremely clean, neat, and safe, thanks to a few rules.
Just keep in mind that if you decide to take a nap, eat, or drink, on the metro, you’re likely to be hit with a hefty fine. Of course, littering is completely out of the question. So, just wait until you’re off the metro to do any of these.
Like many countries in the area, Dubai had its weekends on Thursday and Friday in accordance with the religious beliefs of the residents. But, to try to accommodate the international market, they’ve decided to alter their days of rest.
Since the beginning of 2022, Dubai has had an extended weekend of two and a half days! Now, Thursday is a work day, and from Friday at 12 pm until Monday at 7:30 am, the people of Dubai get to relax and enjoy themselves.
Jockeying for Tech
While we might be used to horse racing, Dubai has its own version of the sport — with camels, of course! That’s pretty interesting on its own, but to make it even better, in Dubai (and several other Arab countries), it’s not humans jockeying the camels.
They actually use remote-controlled robots! These machines replaced the children, who were the only ones small enough to act as jockeys to these desert animals. This way, everyone can enjoy this beloved local sport knowing that no humans (or animals) are harmed in the process.
It’s been a centuries-long tradition between the nations of the world to fight over who holds the record of having built the tallest building. It’s no secret that Dubai’s impressive Burj Khalifa tower currently holds the title.
However, for some years, Saudi Arabia has attempted to build a project that would out-rank the 2,717 ft high building. So far, though, that project has been delayed. In the meantime, Dubai is working on the Dubai Creek Tower, which is due to be 4,265 ft high!
As of summer 2022, Dubai holds 339 world records! While some are very well known (like having the tallest building in the world), others are a bit more esoteric and unique. For example, did you know Dubai holds the record for the most diamonds on a perfume bottle?
The Dubai authorities are also proud to have the fastest police car in the world — a Bugatti Veyron, which can go from 0 to 60 mph in two and a half seconds! On the sweeter side, in 2014, Dubai unveiled the tallest chocolate sculpture, a mini Burj Khalifa (44 ft).
Past, Present, and Future
It seems that Dubai has spent the past few decades running as fast as it could toward the future — standing at the forefront of building lavish, impressive, and state-of-the-art superstructures. But, one part of the city has been saved from progress.
The Bastakia Quarter in the Bur Dubai district has been kept in its old condition. The Quarter, built in the 19th century by Persian merchants, has been preserved as a heritage site in this progressive city.
It’s Raining Men
This fact is especially interesting for those looking for a man — Dubai’s population is made up of 69% men and only 31% women. In fact, the ratio stands at seven men to three women.
However, keep in mind that many of those men are people who come from other countries to work in the great city. They do usually have families back in their home countries, though, so there aren’t as many eligible bachelors as some might hope.
It’s pretty clear that the people of Dubai pride themselves in being record-breakers. That also seems to apply to their craftspeople. The Dubai Gold and Jewelry Group unveiled another record-breaking artifact to celebrate the 20th year anniversary of the Dubai Shopping Festival in 2015.
The winner is a beautiful gold chain. The 22-carat gold chain took 45 days and about 100 craftsmen to create, and it is indeed the largest in the world. It’s 18,116 ft 9.14 in and weighs 529.109 pounds.
All You Can Eat
Most cosmopolitan cities pride themselves on not just having a diversity of people but also of cultures and, by extension, food. So, it’s no wonder that Dubai boasts a wide variety of foods from all over the world.
But it’s not just specialty cuisines that the city holds. Dubai also has a brunch of every popular food chain in the world. Craving McDonald’s, Starbucks, or Domino’s Pizza to enjoy in the desert heat? Dubai has got you covered!
Keeping it PG
While we might love taking lovey-dovey photos with our significant others while on vacation, you might want to rethink that behavior while you’re staying in Dubai. You see, public displays of affection are heavily frowned upon.
Holding your husband or wife’s hand is generally considered alright, although not totally accepted. But anything beyond that could land you in some pretty serious trouble. Just keep any kissing to when you’re in the privacy of your own home.
All That Glitters
This luxury hotel has become famous for several different reasons. Firstly, the Burj Al Arab is among the tallest hotels in the world at an impressive height of 648 ft. It also holds the impressive title of the world’s only seven-star hotel.
But, what makes the sail-inspired structure so iconic is its dazzling interior. The interior is gilded with a staggering 19,267 square feet of 24-carat gold. In case you’re wondering, getting a room there can cost up to $20,000 a night!
Viva Las Dubai
Thanks to the many movies set in Sin City (namely Ocean’s 11), everybody knows of the Bellagio’s dancing water show in front of the iconic hotel. But, it turns out that Las Vegas isn’t the only place with such an impressive water show.
In fact, the same designers that created that famous show were also hired to create the beautiful Dubai Fountain, which is the largest choreographed fountain system in the world. Now, that’s definitely worthy of an iconic movie scene!
Listening to some cool local music out on the street and feeling the urge to let loose with a cool little jig? Well, reign that urge right back in. While it might seem fun to dance out in public, in Dubai, you probably shouldn’t.
In fact, busting a move outside the privacy of your own home is considered highly offensive and is heavily frowned upon. So, just enjoy the music, and leave the fancy footwork for some other time.
The Palm Jumeirah
The Palm Jumeirah has become pretty famous around the world, mostly thanks to the impressive and esthetically pleasing images of the structure from a bird’s-eye view. In fact, that iconic view can apparently be seen from space!
The Palm Jumeirah is actually a part of the Palms Islands project of constructing man-made archipelagos in the Persian Gulf. Beyond having many hotels and resorts, the artificial islands actually also have private residences. Can you imagine living in such a unique location?
Of course, the official language in the area and the country is Arabic, so maybe brush up on at least a few basic phrases in the language before you travel there. Luckily for tourists, Dubai is now incredibly diverse, and most people know English.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to know how to say “hello” and “thank you” in Arabic. You can also use Hindi, Urdu, and Chinese since many businesspeople and immigrants in Dubai come from those areas of Asia.
Full Steam Ahead
Dubai is often called the Crane Capital due to, at one time, having employed 25% of the world’s cranes to build its many impressive buildings. So, it’s pretty hard to believe that in 1991, Dubai only had a single skyscraper.
As of 2022, Dubai had 28 buildings at least 984 feet or over, and 97 buildings at least 656 feet in height. In both these categories, Dubai, of course, has the most in the world. This makes Dubai the city with the tallest skyline in the world.
Obviously, Dubai stands in the middle of a pretty hot desert — with summers even reaching a high temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. So, it’s no wonder that water consumption in the UAE is the highest in the world.
Beyond parching the residents’ thirst, though, the city actually uses water to cool down buildings in an engineering marvel. The water is pumped from deep underground through a vertical cooling system all the way to the top floors of the many skyscrapers in the city.
A Desert Oasis
Just because they live in the desert doesn’t mean that the residents of Dubai aren’t lovers of lush greenery. In fact, one of Dubai’s most beautiful attractions is the world’s largest flower garden called The Miracle Garden of Dubai.
During its opening months in winter, this gorgeous location is covered in over 150 million flowers in full bloom. But, just having a giant flower field wasn’t enough. The devoted gardeners create majestic, floral structures and sculptures with these incredible plants.
Lions, Tigers, and Bears…
While most of us are used to seeing cats, dogs, pigeons, and the occasional rat in our city streets, Dubai, being a recently developed city, has some surprising wildlife that still considers the area their natural habitat.
Obviously, camels can be found all over the place. But did you know that wolves, Arabian oryxes, falcons, and even leopards consider Dubai their home and can be seen prowling through the streets?
While ATMs are nothing new around the world, the ones in Dubai don’t just hold cash. Ever wanted to feel like Scrooge McDuck and cuddle with a bar of gold? Thanks to this Dubai tech attraction, that dream can become a bit of a reality.
You see, Dubai holds some of the world’s only Gold ATMs, which do exactly what you would expect from the name — let you buy pure gold bars with a credit card. Keep in mind, though, that they only operate with the local currency, Durhams.
Walking on Sunshine
Having been built in the desert, Dubai sure seems like it sees a lot of sunshine. In fact, it only rains about an average of 25 days a year. However, due to its geographical location, even in summer, the city only has 12 hours of sun.
Luckily, with all its skyscrapers and attractions, Dubai glows even in the dark. So, the fun doesn’t stop even after the sun is gone, even in the colder months when there are only eight hours of daylight.
Right or Left?
Table etiquette is an important skill to learn. But, what’s considered polite in one country might be seen as extremely rude in another. So, for those who aren’t versed in Dubai’s table manners, here are two important rules of thumb:
First, always wash your hands before sitting to eat — hygiene is extremely important. Second, don’t use your left hand when eating. In many eastern countries, the left hand is used to clean one’s self in the commode. Therefore, when picking up glasses or food, use your right hand.
Shop ‘Til You Drop
We’ve established that Dubai likes going big – on everything! So, is it really any wonder that it goes supersized when it comes to shopping too? The Dubai Mall is over 12 million square feet, making it the largest shopping mall in the world.
Beyond the many luxury shops and restaurants in the mall, it also holds several massive attractions like the aquarium, an Olympic ice rink, a 22-screen movie theater, a real fossil of a Diplodocus dinosaur, and even a haunted house!
No More Tiger Kings
Thanks to the super-rich residents of Dubai who enjoyed posting their lavish lives on social media, Dubai used to be known as the ultimate place to have exotic pets like cheetahs, tigers, lions, and more.
This, however, finally changed in 2017 when the country banned the private ownership of such animals. You can still find these magnificent creatures in wildlife centers, zoos, and conservation parks. But in the homes of residents, cats, dogs, and parrots are a lot more likely to live as pets.
Dubai’s grandeur can be experienced from the moment you set foot in Dubai’s International Airport (DXB, for short). DXB Airport isn’t any old airport. Not only is it one of the largest airports in the world, but it’s also the busiest one, welcoming over 80 million visitors every year.
It’s also pretty fancy. Not only does it have its own five-star hotel, but there’s also a full mall (including an Apple store) and even an impressive zen garden, which includes a fish pond and a jungle gym for kids.
Swimming With the Fishes
As we’ve said, the Dubai Mall isn’t just a fun shopping experience. With the number of attractions on the premises, it would take days to see everything. A must-see is the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, which holds more than 33,000 aquatic animals.
It has the world’s largest collection of sand tiger sharks. Of course, it also holds several other records, like having the largest suspended aquarium with ten million liters of water and the largest acrylic pane in the world. Definitely worth a visit!
Your Weight in Gold
Healthy living is something we all strive toward. While many cities try to encourage their residents to have an active lifestyle by investing in sports parks or bicycle lanes, Dubai has gone the extra mile.
The rich city decided to encourage its citizens by paying them for every kilo lost (about 2.2 pounds). But the prize isn’t regular old money — for every kilo lost, the person who lost that weight received a gram of gold. That’s a heck of a motivator!
Fast & Furious Dreams
If there’s one thing that most people know about Dubai, thanks to several blockbuster hits in recent years, it’s that Dubai’s authorities have the coolest cars. Instead of driving old, beat-up cruisers, these law enforcers ride in style.
Whether they’re driving a Bugatti Veyron, a Ferrari FF, a Lamborghini Aventador, or another fancy car, the authorities are sure to reach any person in distress at top speeds and in the lap of luxury. They also take photos with tourists, so don’t miss out on that opportunity!
To Eat or Not to Eat
Due to its seaside location, Dubai’s cuisine relies heavily on fish, along with meat (lamb and mutton), rice, and, of course, dates, which have all been staples of the Middle Eastern kitchen for centuries.
What might be harder to find in the city is pork. This is because the country’s religion is Islam, which prohibits pork in any form. It actually used to be illegal to get pork in the city. However, due to so many foreign tourists, it’s allowed, though still difficult to find.
So Many Visitors
As cosmopolitan people will probably know, tourism is an extremely lucrative business, making it an important part of the economy of many countries. It’s why there’s such a bitter rivalry between different cities. They’re competing for which of them is going to be at the top of the list of most visited cities.
Though Bangkok leads the pack with over 22 million visitors, Dubai holds a top spot as the fourth most visited city with over 15 million visitors. Famed tourist destinations Paris and London are, of course, in second and third place.
Being the quickly progressing city that it is, Dubai has quite a few upcoming massive building projects in its future, like the planned world’s largest theme park. One of its coolest (pun intended) projects in the works is the Mall of the World.
The Mall of the World is planned to be basically its own covered city. The shopping district will be over four miles of shops, hotels, services, and housing that will all be covered from the city’s greatest problem — the heat. The whole place will be fully air-conditioned! Now, that’s cool!
Skiing in the Desert
We’ve gone on and on about how hot it is in the middle of this desert city. But what can you do if you want to chill in Dubai? You go skiing, of course! Wait, what? That’s right! The Mall of the Emirates holds one of the world’s biggest indoor skiing resorts.
Ski Dubai has a 278-foot-high indoor mountain, with its longest run being a quarter mile. It even has the world’s first indoor black diamond run. Most incredible — Ski Dubai has real penguins that get to go on walks and interact with the guests several times a day.
All Aboard the Fashion Express!
Dubai’s metro is at the heart of the city in more ways than one. Beyond just being an extremely fast, efficient, and comfortable transportation option, it’s also a cultural hub. Especially in 2013, when it became a moving runway.
The world’s longest driverless, fully automated metro network turned into the Fashion Express for a day in February 2013. Over 100 models, both professional and amateur, showed off the most luxurious high fashion brands to celebrate Dubai’s Shopping Festival.
Getting a Drink
If you’re used to having a nice, chilled adult beverage in the evening, you might be out of luck in Dubai. That’s because the only places allowed to serve a stiff drink are golf clubs, nightclubs, and hotel facilities, like their bars and restaurants.
But, instead of being bummed that you can’t enjoy that drink whenever and wherever you want, you can find solace in the strong local coffee or the unique tea that often has flavorful spices like cardamom, saffron, or mint added to it.
It’s a Small World
Dubai isn’t just about people appreciating the local culture. The people of Dubai love celebrating other cultures and countries from all over the world, and they do it in their Global Village. The Global Village is a yearly festival that takes place from October to April.
The festival grounds aim to celebrate 90 different cultures every year with food and shopping stalls, carnivals, concerts, and events. It even has a Ripley’s Believe it or Not area and dedicated selfie spots! It’s definitely a unique experience that’s worth a visit.
Dubai wasn’t always the lush, expansive, and luxurious city that it is today. While humans have lived in the area for thousands of years, the first modern town in the area was only established in the 18th century (around 200 years ago)!
The original settlement had less than 1,000 members and consisted mostly of fishermen and their families. It wasn’t until the United Arab Emirates was established in 1971 that the small town began to grow into the metropolis that we know today.
City and Country
There are actually two Dubais! The first is the Emirate Dubai which is part of the UAE. The second, of course, is the capital city (and only major city) of the Emirate. For the residents of Dubai, though, it’s no issue, since 90% of them live in the city.
The other 10% live in small villages around the Emirate. Over 85% of the population, though, are not actually UAE nationals. 85% of residents are expats and foreigners, with only a small amount of those being Westerners.
35+ Surprising Facts About Cambodia That We Never Knew
Deer That Bark
The forests of Cambodia are home to a unique species of deer that was only discovered in 1994. The Muntiacus vuquangensis is found in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. It had only been captured on film several times, until it was spotted in Cambodia.
The critically endangered animal, often called a ‘barking deer’ because of its unique call, was found in Cambodia’s Virachey National Park. The footage, taken in April of 2021, was the first photographic evidence of the deer living in Cambodia.
Cambodia’s Unique Flag
Cambodia’s flag is special for several reasons. It’s one of the few state flags to feature a building. The building seen on the Cambodian flag is of Angkor Wat, an ancient Khmer temple located in the city of Siem Reap.
The colors of the flag are also significant. It’s believed that the blue color of the flag represents the King of Cambodia, while the red represents the people. The flag was designed to perfectly reflect the modern state of Cambodia.
Beat the Traffic With a Boat
If you hate sitting in traffic, then you’re in luck — a large portion of the country uses inland waterways and rivers as transportation routes. Using narrow boats called sampans, Cambodians are able to move freely around the country’s more than 1,200 miles of inland waterways.
While road systems in the country play an important role in transportation, it’s still common to see entire “floating villages” on the banks of rivers. “Floating markets,” where you can buy your groceries from a boat, are also widely seen.
The Tomb Raider Effect
There are some films that have helped put destinations on the map. The 2001 film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider featured several scenes filmed in Cambodia. The choice to film in the Kingdom of Cambodia was significant because it was the first film to be shot in the country since 1964.
Moviegoers marveled at the country’s natural beauty and fascinating ancient ruins. It’s largely believed that Tomb Raider inspired countless tourists to do some of their own exploring in the Asian country.
One of the most amazing natural wonders in Cambodia is Tonle Sap, a large body of fresh water. This lake is the largest in Southeast Asia, and plays an important role in the economy and ecosystem of the country.
The lake is classified as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and is also home to the biggest colony of waterbirds in the region. The lake also serves as a giant fishery, supporting the large carp-breeding industry. Millions of Cambodians depend on the lake, as well as its rivers and estuaries, for their livelihood.
What’s in a Name?
Cambodia has undergone many name changes since its independence from France in 1953. Between 1953 to 1970, it was referred to as the Kingdom of Cambodia. For the next five years, it was called the Khmer Republic. Under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime (from 1975-1979), it was the Democratic Kampuchea.
From 1979 to 1989 the country was called the People’s Republic of Kampuchea. By 1989, the name had been changed to the State of Cambodia. Ultimately, in 1993, the country became The Kingdom of Cambodia — which it’s still currently referred to as.
Thousands of Temples
Tourists eager to see beautifully preserved temples are in luck when they visit Cambodia. The country is home to thousands of Buddhist and Hindu temples.
While the temple of Angkor Wat is the most visited, others like the Banteay Srei and the Preah Khan are just as stunning. These temples feature classic Khmer art, which depicts stories from Hindu and Buddhist mythology, all meticulously carved into stone.
Cambodia is home to one of the rarest members of the crocodile family, the Siamese crocodile. These crocs were once common across Southeast Asia, but were presumed to be extinct until eight hatchlings were spotted in Cambodia.
The Siamese crocodile is a freshwater medium-sized reptile, with adults growing up to seven feet. The reptiles, found in the Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary, have given conservationists hope that the species still exists and is breeding.
Angkor Night Market
While many tourists come to Cambodia to explore its ancient ruins, the country also boasts a modern shopping world that comes alive at night. The Angkor Night Market has hundreds of stalls selling a variety of merchandise.
The market also has lively bars and food stands. Like many night markets in Asia, the Angkor Night Market combines food with entertainment. The market is located in the Siem Reap province, in northwest Cambodia.
American tourists who forgot to hit the ATM before their trip to Cambodia need not worry — the country considers the U.S. dollar to be the unofficial main currency.
While the Cambodian riel is the country’s official currency, dollars are widely accepted and prices are frequently given in dollars and riels. Cambodia is also welcoming to other currencies, especially in border cities where the Thai baht and Vietnamese dong are also accepted.
They Don’t Celebrate Birthdays
Those wanting to celebrate their birthday might be surprised to know that the yearly celebrations aren’t really a thing in this Southeast Asian country. Many Cambodians, especially the older generations, don’t actually know the exact date of their birthday.
While the exact date may be unclear, many do know the season in which they were born. If you do get invited to a birthday, avoid using white gift wrap — Cambodians associate the color with mourning.
While Cambodian food utilizes typical Southeast Asian ingredients like fresh vegetables and rice, the country also offers some interesting food choices for more adventurous foodies.
It’s not uncommon to find a variety of insects like grasshoppers or silkworms on the menu. Those with arachnophobia may want to stay clear of a delicacy called “A-Ping,” which is actually deep-fried tarantula. Other regional delicacies include crocodiles, frogs, and snakes!
A Puppet Show to Remember
One of Cambodia’s most important cultural treasures is the art of shadow puppetry. This ancient art form was once almost lost forever during the Khmer Rouge regime in the mid-1970s, when it was banned. Today, this traditional form of entertainment has undergone a renaissance and surge in popularity.
Audiences can enjoy two genres of puppetry, Sbek Thom and Sbek Toch. Both forms feature intricately carved leather hide pieces to tell stories set to traditional Cambodian music. The process to create these hand-carved show props can take up to 20 days.
An Adventurous Way to Get Around
One of the most convenient ways to get around Cambodia is on a tuk-tuk. This small motorized vehicle was formerly known as a remorque, but most Cambodians today refer to it as a tuk-tuk.
Tuk-tuks are considered one of the most popular forms of transportation in Cambodia, and it’s estimated that there are more than 6,000 of them zipping around the capital city of Phnom Penh. There’s even an app where you can call for a tuk-tuk!
A Very Young Population
Cambodia’s demographics are unique in that the majority of the population is extremely young compared to other nations. It’s estimated that one-third of the population is under the age of 15.
The country is considered to have one of the youngest populations in Southeast Asia. Some experts believe that about 65% of the population is under the age of 30. Many leaders hope that this generation of young people will help the country continue to make progress as they enter the future.
Watch Your Hands!
When visiting Cambodia, it’s important to understand just how important body language cues are when communicating. Upon greeting one another, Cambodians will place their palms together in a praying position and bow slightly. This greeting is called a Som Pas.
Touching or patting a person’s head is considered an extreme insult due to the Buddhist belief that the head is the holiest and most sacred part of the body. Pointing with one finger is considered rude and many Cambodians will “point” towards an object using a pouting gesture.
Buddhism Is the Most Common Religion
The majority of Cambodians practice a form of Buddhism called Theravada Buddhism. While other religions do exist, Buddhism is Cambodia’s official religion. Buddhist monks are important members of Cambodian society, and Buddhist monasteries or temples are vital centers of life.
It’s not uncommon for Cambodians to offer their services to monasteries, and it’s believed that having a son become ordained as a monk can result in good ‘karma’ for the family. Buddhist shrines, no matter how small, are frequently found in and around most Cambodian homes.
A Zoo Made of Stone
Deep in the lush jungles of Phnom Kulen mountain is an area hiding a menagerie of animals carved out of stone. Known as Srah Damrei, or the “Elephant Pond,” the area had eluded archaeologists for decades.
These life-size statues made of sandstone are only accessible by foot, and are thought to have been built during the eighth or ninth centuries. The statues are only part of the large network of towers and temples that once formed the ancient capital city of Mahendraparvata.
A Surprisingly Young Constitution
It can be easy for many people to assume that the constitutions of most countries were written hundreds of years ago. Cambodia is unique in that its constitution is less than 30 years old.
Following several changes in government, and years of conflict, the county drafted its new constitution in 1993. This constitution resulted in universal suffrage to citizens over the age of 18, and made it possible for any citizen over the age of 25 to be able to hold public office.
No visit to Cambodia is complete without a trip to Angkor Wat. The huge Buddhist temple encompasses various structures including towers and a moat. Spanning close to 500 acres, it’s considered the largest religious structure in the world.
The name Angkor Wat is Khmer for “temple city,” and was once the capital of the ancient Khmer empire. While the structure was originally built to worship the Hindu god Vishnu, it became a Buddhist Wat — or temple — by the end of the 12th century. Today, the temple is seen as a symbol of Cambodia.
At the base of Cambodia’s Dâmrei Mountains in the southwest grows one of the most valuable spices in the world — the Kampot pepper. The pepper, named after the Kampot province, has taken the culinary world by storm after being endorsed by some of the most famous chefs.
Fans of the spice believe that the Kampot pepper has a unique aroma and taste. In 2016, the European Union approved the pepper’s protected geographical indication status, meaning that Kampot pepper can only be labeled such if grown in Kampot, Cambodia.
The Elusive Kouprey
Cambodia’s national mammal is a species of wild cattle called the Kouprey. The name Kouprey comes from the Khmer language, and means “Forest Ox.” The animal was chosen by Cambodia’s Prince Sihanouk to be the country’s national mammal in the 1960s.
Unfortunately, the Kouprey is now considered to be extinct, as the animal was last spotted in 1988. Despite the Kouprey’s conservation status, the animal remains an important symbol for the Cambodian people.
Just as hand gestures are important in Cambodian culture, so are facial expressions. In general, Cambodians avoid showing negative emotions like anger. They will often display a calm and cool disposition.
Cambodians will sometimes giggle or laugh as a way to diffuse tension, or as a reaction to feeling embarrassed. Smiling or laughing is not always related to the current scenario, and can occur in both positive and negative situations.
One of the most successful stories in conservation took place in Cambodia recently when an endangered turtle laid eggs for the first time in captivity. The Royal Turtle, also called the Southern River Terrapin, was once thought to be extinct in the kingdom.
Royal turtles are Cambodia’s national reptile, and they received their name because they were once considered a delicacy that was enjoyed by the royal family of Cambodia. Conservationists believed the unique reptiles were extinct in Cambodia until 2000.
Hungry Ghosts Festival
Paying respect to your elders is an important virtue in Cambodian culture, and celebrating Pchum Ben is the ultimate example. Known as “Ancestor’s Day” or “Hungry Ghosts Festival,” Pchum Ben is a Cambodian religious festival that takes place over 15 days.
On this day, Cambodians pay their respects to their ancestors. It’s believed that during this period, the spirits of deceased ancestors walk the Earth. Cambodians traditionally offer money or food such as rice-balls called ‘Bay Bens’ to monks as a way to erase past sins.
New Species Are Constantly Being Discovered
Due to decades of conflict, much of Cambodia’s landscape has remained largely unexplored. The dense rainforests of the country have remained untouched, and scientists have just only recently begun to understand how much biodiversity exists in these remote regions.
In 2010, a new species of lizard was discovered in the country’s Veun Sai-Siem Pang Conservation Area. Named the Lygosoma veunsaiensis, in honor of where it was found, the lizard is covered in iridescent rainbow-like skin. In the same conservation area, scientists also discovered a new type of gibbon ape and bat.
Cambodian New Year
Choul Chnam Thmey is a special time for the people of the kingdom. Cambodians celebrate their new year in mid-April, which marks the ending of the harvesting season and time before the rainy season.
The celebrations for this holiday take place over the course of three days. Cambodians typically visit shrines where they light candles, burn incense, and offer their thanks to the Buddha. Children also play traditional games, while their parents take part in charitable activities and visit temples in order to receive blessings from monks.
Amazing Wild Cats
Many people associate wild cats with the African savanna, but Cambodia is home to some of the most interesting members of the feline family. While Indochinese leopards and tigers once prowled the jungles of Cambodia’s Cardamom mountains, they are now believed to be extinct.
Today, the uniquely patterned clouded leopard is the largest known wild cat in the country. Other wild cats like the Asian golden cat, the jungle cat, the fishing cat, and the leopard cat have all been spotted in forests across the country.
One of the most unique ingredients in Cambodian cuisine is prahok, a paste made from salted and fermented fish. Prahok has a pungent smell, which has earned it the nickname, “Cambodian cheese.” While many westerners dislike the strong-smelling paste, prahok is found in almost every Cambodian kitchen.
The paste was developed centuries ago as a way to preserve fish before modern refrigeration. The paste is typically made from fermented freshwater fish, and provides an important form of protein in the traditional Cambodian diet.
Nagas in Cambodian Culture
Nagas are important mythological beings in Cambodian culture and mythology. The seven-headed deity is believed to have been the protector of the Buddha, and Cambodians believe that they’re the descendants of Nagas.
Nagas are traditionally featured with a human face and cobra-like hood. These human-serpent hybrids are seen on everything from the walls of temples to the Cambodian currency, the riel. Nagas are often used to symbolize the Khmer people, as they believe that they were “born from the Naga.”
Cambodia Makes Marine Conservation History
While most tourism to Cambodia revolves around the country’s fascinating archaeological treasures, the country also boasts pristine beaches and thriving marine life. In 2018, the kingdom established its first marine national park called the Koh Rong National Marine Park.
Located off the coast of Preah Sihanouk and Koh Rong, the park has made Cambodian conservation history. The waters of the national park are home to unique Cambodian marine life like dugongs or sea cows, sea turtles, and small Irrawaddy dolphins.
Landmine Sniffing Rats
One of Cambodia’s most popular expats happens to be a rat. Magawa, an African giant pouched rat, has made news for his ability to sniff out landmines. While he was born in Tanzania, Magawa moved to the Cambodian city of Siem Reap.
After decades of conflict, Cambodia’s landscape is still filled with many deadly landmines. In his five-year career, Magawa has successfully located over 71 landmines. Magawa’s abilities have inspired the Cambodian government to import an additional 20 rats.
The Forest Hiding Giant Amphibians
Cambodia’s dense rainforests are some of the least explored places in the world. In 2015, a legless amphibian was discovered in one of the kingdom’s forests. Initially thought to be a snake due to its long length, the animal is actually an amphibian.
The Ichthyophis cardamomensis was found deep in the forests of Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains, and is a new species previously unknown to scientists. Scientists believe that the discovery of this earthworm-like creature is only one of many unique species that have yet to be discovered in Cambodia’s remote forests.
With its warm climate, it’s no surprise that Cambodia produces large quantities of tropical fruit. One fruit, the Musa Aromatic or Chicken Egg Banana, was chosen to be a symbol of the country.
This small banana is a popular fruit in Cambodia, and is even featured in Khmer folktales. Bananas are a common food in the Cambodian diet, but the other parts of the fruit are also utilized. Banana leaves are commonly used to cook and wrap food, and even banana flowers are used in regional dishes.
Paradise for Lizards
The dense forests that cover Cambodia are a treasure trove of species waiting to be discovered. In May of 2021, Herpetologists discovered two new species of lizards in Cambodia’s Phnom Kulen National Park.
The agamid lizard was discovered at the same time as a new species of bent-toed gecko. This gecko was named Cyrtodactylus kulenensis, but is often referred to as the “Bent-toed Kulen mountain,” after the location of its discovery in the Kulen mountains.
An Ornate National Costume
The national garment of Cambodia is long rectangular cloth called a sampot. The cloth was historically made of the finest Cambodian silks, and often came in bright colors. Today, the sampot is worn by both men, and women, as a sarong that covers the lower half of the body.
Measuring up to six feet, this traditional garment is still worn today, especially in rural areas. One longer variation, the sampot chang kben, is worn by royalty and government officials. Sompot Hol are usually paired with an av pak, an embroidered blouse dress.
Enduring French Influence
For close to a century, Cambodia was under the control of France. In 1887, the kingdom became a part of French Indochina. In the early 1900s, French was commonly taught in classrooms across the country. Even after Cambodia gained independence in 1953, French remained a government language.
It was only until the early 1990s that the Khmer language became the sole language used in government and education. The influence that French colonization had on Cambodia can still be seen in the style of architecture of many buildings. Today, Cambodia is home to a growing number of French ex-pats, and French restaurants and cafés have surged in popularity.
The Cambodian Royal Family
The Cambodian monarchy has existed since 68 A.D., when Queen Soma became the country’s first monarch and female leader. The monarchy was briefly abolished between 1970 and 1993.
The Royal Council of the Throne, a committee of senior political and high-ranking religious figures, elects the monarch from a line of King Ang Duong’s male descendants. Cambodia’s current ruling king is Norodom Sihamoni. Because Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy, the King shares his power with an organized government.
With so many bodies of water in and around the country, fish makes up a significant part of the Cambodian diet. It’s estimated that fish accounts for more than 61% of the animal protein intake for most Cambodian households.
Fish is the second most commonly consumed food after rice. The average Cambodian consumes about 139 pounds of fish every year! Most of the fish consumed is freshwater fish, with most coming from the expansive Tonle Sap lake. Cambodia’s national dish, fish amok, is a coconut curry featuring fish steamed in banana leaves.
Angelina Jolie’s Special Connection to Cambodia
In 2000, actress Angelina Jolie visited Cambodia to film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Jolie was so moved by the country’s history and people that she returned in 2002 to adopt her son, Maddox. Jolie, who owns a home in Cambodia, has visited the country repeatedly over the past two decades.
In 2017, she made her debut as a film director with the Netflix film, First They Killed My Father. The Golden Globe-nominated film was an adaptation of a memoir that told the story of life under the brutal dictatorship of the Khmer Rouge.
Don’t “Monk”-ey Around
Cambodia is home to thousands of Buddhist temples and shrines, and close to 98% of the population practices Buddhism. Buddhist monks are valued members of Cambodian society, and their roles often extend past religion. That said, there are many rules that people should follow before interacting with a monk.
Traditional beliefs say that women, including even the monk’s mother, are not allowed to touch a monk. Monks should sit on platforms or raised seats, symbolizing their higher level of spirituality. For this reason, it’s also forbidden to speak standing up to a seated monk.
Be Careful Where You Step!
In Cambodian culture, there are strict rules involving feet. Traditionally, the head is considered the most spiritually elevated part of the body, while the feet are the lowest. It’s offensive to point the soles of your feet, especially towards an image of the Buddha.
It’s forbidden to enter a Wat with shoes, and even the King must remove his footwear before entering. Those sitting in a Wat should sit with their legs bent and feet tucked to the side. Stepping over someone, or over food, is also unacceptable in Cambodian culture.
Cambodia Doesn’t Have a McDonald’s
It may come as a shock to most Western tourists to learn that Cambodia does not have a McDonald’s restaurant. Experts believe that because the country’s typical diet is reliant on rice and seafood, there isn’t really a market for the hamburger chain.
While other American fast-food chains like KFC have opened, Cambodians still prefer fresh and home-cooked meals. In Cambodia, it seems that one is more likely to find golden statues of the Buddha than golden arches.
An Ancient Martial Art, Reborn
Pradel Serey, “free fighting” in Khmer, is an ancient form of martial art dating back to the 12th century. During ancient times, the sport was played until death. The rough contact sport is often believed to predate Thai boxing or Muay Thai.
The rules of Cambodian kickboxing are unique in that fighters are allowed to use their elbows and knees, and are allowed to hold while hitting their opponent. Today, it has become a national sport, with more than 100 kickboxing clubs springing up across the country.
Bon Om Touk
One of the most festive holidays for Cambodians is the Boat Racing Festival known as Bon Om Touk. This festival, which is held over the course of three days in late October or early November, celebrates the end of Cambodia’s rainy season.
The festival also marks a change in the flow of the Tonle Sap River, in which the water flows to the Mekong river. Typical celebrations include boat racing and the lighting of lanterns, which occurs on the second night in which the Moon is worshipped.
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