Did you know…

Assassin is a Persian word?

Dear Reader,
could you believe that so many words came from old Persian language?

This time I will enlighten you about the word Assassin.
Commonly mistaken as an Arabic word, Assassin as we know it comes from old Persian hashashin (حشاشین), originated in the Alamut region of Iran. It has nothing to do with modern ‘hashish’.
The Assassins were a much-feared fighting group in the late 11th century. But what was their origin? And what did their name mean?

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An assassin was a ‘person who was energised to kill’ on the account of the king.

When a king or high hierarchy old man wished to kill someone, he would enlist a young man and promise him a return to Paradise if he entered his service and followed his instructions or even died in his service. The first man to ever do so was Hassan-i Sabbah, founder of Alamut. He trained men to become highly deathly weapons to use against his enemies. Some modern Muslims believed he would drug these young men in order to subject them, but let’s see what happened…

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If you read Hassan-i’s accounts and the many tales of Marco Polo, you can easily understand that Hashash was not a substance used to drug people. Here is why:

The word hashashin was phonetically very close to the Muslim hash-ishiyun, which means “hashish-smokers”; some scholars thought that this was the origin of the word “assassin”, which later became a terrifying word in most European languages…

However, dear Reader, the truth is quite another. According to texts that have come down to us from Alamut, Hassan-i Sabbah liked to call his disciples Asasiyun, which in Persian means ‘people who are faithful to the Asās’, meaning “foundation” of the faith.

This is the word that so often is misunderstood by many foreign travellers as its sound is so similar to “hashish”, the substance that many people enjoy consuming.

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Stanito and the Guineafowl Puffer fish

Dear Reader,

There are experiences in life which are just wonderful and unique and expressing them with words is not enough 🙂

It all happened on a weekend…

We went diving in a secret location. We were told that the conditions were not ideal, meaning visibility was poor, but that we could still enjoy appreciate the smaller creatures of the oceans. It is true that when visibility is great you tend to focus on big creatures like manta rays, sharks, whales, and what not.

This time, however, surprises came in small size.

No sharks, no nothing big, but this guy was worth the entire experience.

Meet the friendliest guineafowl puffer fish

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Our dive buddy found him, he was slim, once in his hands he puffed up immediately

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Gilles grabs him first before passing him onto me

And then he laid in my hands

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First time I hold one in my hands. He felt soft, slimy, spongy, until I let him go

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Puffy fish swims away

No need for sharks or big buddies. This puffy little guy was worth the trip.

 

Did you know…

… Paradise is a Persian word?

Dear Reader,
Paradise is Persian. An old Persian word that comes from an Old Iranian *pardis- “walled enclosure”.
By around the sixth century though, Persians started to associate the idea of Paradise with cooling and refreshing gardens due to the obvious high summer temperatures, so Paradise quickly found a beautiful graphic association.

And truly, Persian gardens are something unique. These are mostly royal parks where rulers (mostly kings and shahs) spent their time escaping hot summer (and Paradise could not be more appropriate due to the intense Iranian summers), entertaining foreign guests or simply spending family time away from political duties.

One of these gardens is the Dolat Abad Garden, located in the city of Yazd.

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In Dolat Abad Garden you can chill out on the grass to enjoy the sun, the breeze, or the ice-cold dry weather of winter, you can sip an Iranian black tea at the local cafe.

Because of the desert predominance in the country, it was vital to find a way to preserve water and create oasis of fresh air. In fact, dear Reader, Iranians (or Persians) are famous for pioneering a number of engineering projects in the world and one of these is precisely the invention of ventilation towers, else known as wind catchers.

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The invention proved to be highly efficient in terms of sustainability and economic costs, so it comes to no surprise that the method was soon adopted and implemented in many other countries in the Middle-East.

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This is the wind tower at Dolat Abad, in Persian is called بادگیر‎‎ bâdgir (bâd “wind” and gir means”catcher”)

Wind towers or wind catchers are traditional Iranian architectural invention built to provide natural ventilation for buildings that are located in dry arid regions. The structure normally looks like the picture above, where the structure conducts the outside air into the building to provide cooling. Wind or no wind, the airflow is generated with the temperature difference between outside and inside the building

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The interior of the pavilion is superb, with intricate latticework and exquisite stained-glass windows.

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This is the tallest badgir of the Dolat Abad garden

 

 

Persian Peacock Domes

Dear Reader,

This picture portrays what I found to be the most beautiful mosque dome I have ever seen: the peacock dome of the Masjed-e Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, in Esfahan, Iran.

 

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So beautiful and wonderfully coloured, I think is one of the domes I spent more time staring at… Notice the peacock-themed patterns in blue and yellow motifs?

In the millennial Persian culture, symbols have endured and carried on their legacy in present times even when Persia underwent major and different political and religious regimes. Throughout history, the ancient Persian symbols have always been magnificent, mystic and ever present.  The fact that these symbols are used all over the country signifies the importance of these over time…

The peacockpeacock is one of the most culturally significant birds in Iranian culture; it appears in art and poetry from the Medieval period onwards with great regularity.

Most literature regards the blue peacock being of Indian origins, others link it to the Greeks, however, in Persepolis I also found that blue peacock images might have been originated in the area in Achaemenid time.
Either way, for all them the blue peacock was a symbol of immortality because the ancients believed that the peacock had flesh that did not decay after death.
Since the bird changes and replaces its feathers every year, it also came to be a symbol of renewal and resurrection. For the Imams, this was meant to represent the ever presence of their prophet Alí. And finally, with the Qajar era, the peacock also symbolised royalty and power.

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Photo of the Day: Balloons

Dear Reader,

In 1842, Don Benito Leon Acosta and Rubí de Celis, born in Guanajuato, managed to take off in a hot air balloon made by him. It was the first time an aircraft ever flew over Mexico. Balloons have ever since become a colourful and picturesque attractions in the state of Guanajuato.

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The Day of the Dead in Mexican Style

Dear Reader,

Have you met Catrina? no?!
This is her:

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Ladies and gentlemen, this is Catrina.

Catrina is a tall, elegantly attired female skeleton sporting an extravagantly plumed hat. She is the creation of print maker José Guadalupe Posada, dated back in 1910, a time where calaveras (Spanish for ‘skulls’) images were wielded as political and social satire, poking fun at human folly. La Catrina has everything to do with the Mexican Revolution elements and she is also the main character of the curious Day of the Dead Mexican festivity.

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Unlike in many other countries, Mexico has a different view of the Dead. Even though this holiday coincides with the Catholic holiday called All Soul’s & All Saint’s Day, the indigenous people over here have combined the traditional Catholic ritual with their own ancient beliefs of honouring their deceased loved ones and celebrating their return among the living. That’s right, dear Reader, they believe that the gates of heaven opened at midnight on October 31 and the spirits of all deceased children (angelitos) are allowed to reunite with their families for 24 hours. On November 1 and 2, the spirits of the adults come down to enjoy the festivities that are prepared for them. This is what gives this holiday a very curious and yet unique touch.

It is a festive, joyous time of celebration in Mexico. The Day of the Dead is probably one of Mexico’s most important holidays, and this means that people invest a lot of time and money into celebrating it, more so than any other holiday.

Ok, so Travel Buddy and I went to the core heart of traditional Jalisco state, a little town called Tlaquepaque because we literally wanted to immerse ourselves in the Day of the Dead festivity.

The entire town looked glorious and colourful

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When you walk along the streets you notice many little altars which honour parted loved ones. Some of them will even have some of the things they loved, such as their favourite drinks, objects, dishes.

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Sometimes the dead person is a child, or many in fact. One specific altar, dedicated to the fire which killed 38 of children in Sonora in 2009, was filled with toys and pictures of the children.

Catrina is without a doubt the representative of this holiday. So much in fact, that everyone wants to look like her!

Children

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Adults

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And even waiters in a restaurant will join the spooky folklore

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Stanito and Travel Buddy could not be exception to this rule

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Here I am sitting between a lady skeleton and her male companion

While Travel Buddy took it even further when he sat down and played cards with another skeleton gentleman

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In the end, why should the remembrance of our beloved dead ones be a sad event?

Unknown Mexico: Muyil

Dear Reader,

Exploring Mexico, and more precisely Yucatán and Quintana Roo, normally means beating  a very crowded path filled with utterly touristic places and therefore hordes of tourists. And this goes for archeological sites as as well beaches.

So, dear Reader, if you do come to Mexico looking for Mayan ruins I hope you unveil some of the hidden gems that still keep a secretive identity: Muyil.

It is not down on any map, best places never are.

I have no clue who authored it but it’s brilliant and surprisingly accurate 🙂

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In the Sian Ka’an biosphere, which is Mayan for “Door to the Sky”, there is a vast jungle of about 265 hectares. Probably one of the neatest and most notable among the pre-Hispanic ruins sites.

Muyil was a densely populated settlement during the pre-Hispanic era and its buildings were mainly for a civic-religious and residential purpose. Settled around 300 B.C., centuries before Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Tulum, it remained as a settlement up until the time of the Spanish invasion in the 16th Century where people either fled from the Spanish out of fear or were killed from diseases spread by the Spanish.

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What I Loved About Muyil Ruins

The site is very small, you can circle it in less than 1 hour. Not many buildings are on sight but those that are there are simply stunning. Muyil needs to be experienced, not read about, to truly appreciate this site.

Fast Facts About Muyil Ruins

  • Muyil was one of the earliest settlements on the Caribbean Coast.
  • Only some of buildings have been excavated and much still remains covered.
  • The Castillo (pyramid) is 57 feet high, the highest pyramid on the Riviera Maya Coast.
  • Ceiba trees are located throughout the site. Alux (Mayan for “spirits”) are thought to watch the trails, protecting those in the area. Known as the “tree of life,” Ceiba trees were believed to be the connection to the underworld for the Maya.

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