Far from home, I find myself clinging dearly to traditions, especially on special occasions like Eid. Over the years, I’ve found myself in strange lands during Eid, from global cities to obscure towns, and in every instance I’ve tried to celebrate the occasion, in whatever small way I could.
Rio – the concrete jungle that sprung up amidst mountainous rainforests, is fondly referred to as Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvellous City). Standing atop one of the many mountains scattered around the city, it is apparent why. The views proffered were some of the most breathtaking. In my last article for the Rio series, I highlight some of the city’s most unique and unforgettable views.
Rio is a city of varying extremes, encapsulated in wild rainforests and beaches, a metropolis of skyscrapers and shantytowns; a cosmopolitan city, steeped in history – something I’d come to realise after a month in this beguiling city.
I explore its many aspects through a series of articles on the city. This is the second of three.
Rio is unlike any city I’d been in before: not just geographically, where the urban sprawl gives way to fine, sandy beaches and rainforest covered hills with sheer drops down to stunning lagoons, but also culturally as it exudes a vibrant yet laid-back vibe.
A nervous mum dispels the myths about travelling with a small child in the remote mountain kingdom of Bhutan.
Ciudad del Este, Paraguay’s second largest city, is famous. But perhaps not for the more conventional reasons. Set on the tri-border with Brazil’s Foz do Iguaçu and Argentina’s Puerto Iguazú, the city isn’t quite on the tourist trail like its neighbours. Instead, it seems to have gained notoriety as one of the region’s busiest hotbeds for counterfeit goods. With rumours that the city had harboured the likes of Osama bin Laden, it has long held the imagination of screenwriters, featuring on popular crime shows like NCIS and Miami Vice. For our family of three, however, the lure lay in the prospect of experiencing a new culture within close proximity to our base in Foz do Iguaçu—a 15-minute bus ride to the border.
The Urban Study Group in Dhaka are on
a crusade to save the beautiful heritage buildings of Puran Dhaka. I meet with the founder, Taimur Islam, to learn more about the cause.
I found myself, seemingly all alone, staring up at the ancient and mystical Moai. I had met an Englishwoman the day before, a sculptor, who insisted she could “feel the magic” when facing the Moai. As I stood in front of a 30 foot statue, I felt an inscrutable power. Perhaps it was incredulity I felt, stood where I was with the waves crashing in the distance, but it was mystical. The feeling was palpable.
Nothing had prepared me for the sheer scale of the falls themselves. I heard it before I could see it. The roar was deafening. As I stood on the edge of the Devil’s Throat, the tallest cataract, I faced a veritable wall of water, cascading down in twisted, frothy jets. It seemed otherworldly, larger than life. I had never seen anything quite like it. The throngs of jostling tourists melted away as I stood, drenched and utterly spellbound, staring into the cloudy abyss.
Despite the late hour and the shuttered shopfronts, the square was alive and pumping. Diners mulled over their meals while children raced around an elaborate fountain, turning a deaf ear to their parents as they ran through the frigid spray. Couples sat entwined under trees as more gregarious groups of friends spread out over park benches. All conversations were centred around the communal mate, as friends shared their gourd around, topping up from steaming thermoses of hot water. We followed the thumping beats of live music to find a group of octogenarians, their faces sallow under the street lamps, but expressions vivid, demurely doing the tango. It was tango danced like I’d never seen before. Groups of onlookers cheered and some even joined in. And in that instant, I was utterly captivated.