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History, Culture, Traditions and the Arts

How to Prepare for the 2018 World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan

The village of Kyzyl-Oi is calm, its dirt roads still warm from the day’s heat. Evening brings with it delightful freshness, which the powerful Kökömeren River amplifies. At the end of the main street sits a large expanse, a pitch, where the village’s inhabitants are beginning to gather. Men on horseback huddle in deep discussion, their horses…

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The Unusual and Not-So-Secret Brotherhoods of France

She wears a leprechaun green hat, her velvet cape wrapped around her body in the cold. Around her neck hangs an olive green ribbon, holding up a bronze medallion. The operative word is olive. Meet Madame Laget, one of the few women in the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Olive Tree, a not-so-secret organization…

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What the Heck is a European Capital of Culture?

And what does that have to do with a bunch of cows migrating across downtown Marseille? Plenty. Because the transhumance  – the migration of herds between pastures – was staged during Marseille’s tenure as European Capital of Culture for 2013. Yes, culture, one of those terms so broad it could strangle you. It can mean the arts… painting, theater, dance, poetry,…

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My Accidental Dinner Date with Royalty

I didn’t know what to do with my hands. I thrust one out to shake his, but that didn’t feel quite right. I hung my arms by my side and that felt worse. Finally I compromised. I clasped my hands together in front of me, waiting for a sign from each of the white-clad Arabs…

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How We Celebrate Bastille Day in France

Bastille Day is July 14 – but you’ll find the French celebrating several days beforehand. Like this. The Fête Nationale, as it’s called here, or le 14 juillet, is the perfect excuse for a long weekend, often combined with the summer holidays. The weekend before it is usually labelled ‘black’, a dangerous driving day during which everyone…

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The Countless Legends of Girona

Once upon a time, in the days of the Egyptian god Osiris, there lived somewhere to the south a giant monster with three heads, called Gerió. Seeking to enlarge his empire he headed north where he built a castle and founded a city that would one day bear his name: Geriona, today’s Girona. Or not. Perhaps Girona…

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Catalonia’s Castellers: A Peek Behind the Scenes

Imagine an agile six-year-old clambering up the face of a five-story building, waving from the top, then slithering back down. Leaves your throat dry, doesn’t it? Yet several times a week, that’s exactly what happens when the Castellers de la Vila de Gràcia rehearse their castells, or human towers. “It’s not as dangerous as it looks,” said Helena…

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A Cut Above: The Ongoing Tradition of FGM

It is a sunny day, hot even in December as Christmas nears in a rural village in Kenya, up somewhere near the borders of Uganda and what is now South Sudan. There is a festive spirit and the young girls are gathered and song and dance reverberate across the hills of West Pokot, bracing for…

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