Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Why the Syrian quagmire threatens Turkey

Why the Syrian quagmire threatens Turkey

A shop owner stands in his damaged shop on Monday, May 13, at the site of a deadly twin bomb blast in the town of Reyhanli in Hatay province, near the Turkish-Syrian border. <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/13/world/meast/turkey-syria-violence/index.html'>Turkey has blamed Marxists with Syrian connections</a> for the May 11 attacks. 
Editor's note: Fadi Hakura is the associate fellow and manager of the Turkey Project at the London-based think-tank Chatham House. He has written and lectured extensively on Turkey's political, economic and foreign policy and the relationship between the European Union and Turkey.
(CNN) -- Turkey's tragic loss of at least 47 people in the car bombings in the border town of Reyhanli illustrates vividly that Turkey is not immune to the raging violence next door.
Turkey has suffered similar, though far less deadly events in the past year, including Syria downing a Turkish jet, the killing of five Turks in cross-border artillery fire and a car bomb blast at a Turkey-Syria border crossing in February killing more than a dozen people.
It is also hosting more than 400,000 largely Sunni Syrian refugees at a cost of $ 1.5 billion and counting. The United Nations estimates that number of refugees will triple by the end of this year. Moreover, it is a critical staging post and a logistical lifeline for opposition fighters against the leadership of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.
Fadi Hakura
Fadi Hakura
Unsurprisingly, the Turkish government quickly claimed that al-Assad instigated a left-wing Marxist revolutionary group in Turkey to carry out the spectacular attacks. Syria vehemently rejected the charge.

Yet, so far, the U.S. and its European allies have publicly avoided implicating al-Assad in the attacks. U.S. reticence towards military involvement in Syria in the wake of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the fears of extremist groups dominating the Syrian insurgency is causing enormous consternation in Ankara.
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will attempt to persuade U.S. President Barack Obama at their meeting on Thursday to impose a no-fly zone in Syria and to provide "lethal" assistance to Syrian opposition fighters. Obama will be sympathetic but unlikely to be immediately forthcoming.
 
Syria-Turkey border tensions flare
 
Babacan: Syrian regime will fall
 
Grand mufti: Close Syrian borders
 
Possible solutions to Syria war


Erdogan seemed to imply that Ankara's response will be limited. He insisted that Turkey will maintain its "extreme cool-headedness in the face of efforts and provocations to drag" his country into the Syrian civil war.
This is in stark contrast to Israeli robust airstrikes against what is understood to be military supplies via Syria to the pro-Iran Lebanese Hezbollah group. Obama has, noticeably and repeatedly, supported the right of Israel to "guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry."


Consequently, the Reyhanli incident will probably not be a game-changing development. Rather it may intensify four visible trends of the conflict in Syria.
Firstly, the Turkey-Syria 910km porous frontier is increasingly becoming a volatile and chaotic region beyond the full control of Ankara. It no longer affords protection against the instability ripping Syria apart and could in the future be a destabilizing influence to the immediate neighborhood, including Europe. Ankara lacked the intelligence capabilities to track the movement of the two bomb-laden vehicles near this frontier.
Secondly, the domestic unpopularity of the Turkish government's stance on Syria may deepen even further. According to a recent poll by U.S.-based Pew Research, merely one-quarter of Turkish respondents favour either Turkey or Arab countries "sending arms to anti-government groups in Syria." This partially explains why Turkey is refraining from direct retaliatory measures against al-Assad.

Thirdly, Washington's leadership is indispensable to bringing order and coherence to the anti-Assad front. Neither Turkey nor its Arab partners are able or willing to act decisively without the U.S. leading from the front. By comparison the pro-Assad alliance of Russia, Iran, Iraq and Hezbollah act in unison to stymie the downfall of al-Assad.
Fourth, the bloodshed could feed the perceptions of an escalating sectarian fault line along the Turkish-Syrian border. Reyhanli is located in the Turkish province of Hatay sharing the sectarian and ethnic diversity of Syria itself. There are concerns that the exacerbating tensions in Syria might undermine the delicate sectarian balance in southern Turkey.

Why the Syrian quagmire threatens Turkey

By Fadi Hakura, Special to CNN
May 14, 2013 -- Updated 1027 GMT (1827 HKT)
A shop owner stands in his damaged shop on Monday, May 13, at the site of a deadly twin bomb blast in the town of Reyhanli in Hatay province, near the Turkish-Syrian border. <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/13/world/meast/turkey-syria-violence/index.html'>Turkey has blamed Marxists with Syrian connections</a> for the May 11 attacks. A shop owner stands in his damaged shop on Monday, May 13, at the site of a deadly twin bomb blast in the town of Reyhanli in Hatay province, near the Turkish-Syrian border. Turkey has blamed Marxists with Syrian connections for the May 11 attacks.
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Car bombs devastate Turkish town
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hakura says blasts in Reyhanli illustrate that Turkey is not immune to violence next door
  • Turkey is hosting more than 400,000 largely Sunni Syrian refugees at a cost of $ 1.5 billion
  • The Reyhanli incident will probably not be a game-changing development, Hakura writes
Editor's note: Fadi Hakura is the associate fellow and manager of the Turkey Project at the London-based think-tank Chatham House. He has written and lectured extensively on Turkey's political, economic and foreign policy and the relationship between the European Union and Turkey.
(CNN) -- Turkey's tragic loss of at least 47 people in the car bombings in the border town of Reyhanli illustrates vividly that Turkey is not immune to the raging violence next door.
Turkey has suffered similar, though far less deadly events in the past year, including Syria downing a Turkish jet, the killing of five Turks in cross-border artillery fire and a car bomb blast at a Turkey-Syria border crossing in February killing more than a dozen people.
It is also hosting more than 400,000 largely Sunni Syrian refugees at a cost of $ 1.5 billion and counting. The United Nations estimates that number of refugees will triple by the end of this year. Moreover, it is a critical staging post and a logistical lifeline for opposition fighters against the leadership of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.
Fadi Hakura
Fadi Hakura
Unsurprisingly, the Turkish government quickly claimed that al-Assad instigated a left-wing Marxist revolutionary group in Turkey to carry out the spectacular attacks. Syria vehemently rejected the charge.
Yet, so far, the U.S. and its European allies have publicly avoided implicating al-Assad in the attacks. U.S. reticence towards military involvement in Syria in the wake of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the fears of extremist groups dominating the Syrian insurgency is causing enormous consternation in Ankara.
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will attempt to persuade U.S. President Barack Obama at their meeting on Thursday to impose a no-fly zone in Syria and to provide "lethal" assistance to Syrian opposition fighters. Obama will be sympathetic but unlikely to be immediately forthcoming.
Syria-Turkey border tensions flare
Babacan: Syrian regime will fall
Grand mufti: Close Syrian borders
Possible solutions to Syria war
Erdogan seemed to imply that Ankara's response will be limited. He insisted that Turkey will maintain its "extreme cool-headedness in the face of efforts and provocations to drag" his country into the Syrian civil war.
This is in stark contrast to Israeli robust airstrikes against what is understood to be military supplies via Syria to the pro-Iran Lebanese Hezbollah group. Obama has, noticeably and repeatedly, supported the right of Israel to "guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry."
Consequently, the Reyhanli incident will probably not be a game-changing development. Rather it may intensify four visible trends of the conflict in Syria.
Firstly, the Turkey-Syria 910km porous frontier is increasingly becoming a volatile and chaotic region beyond the full control of Ankara. It no longer affords protection against the instability ripping Syria apart and could in the future be a destabilizing influence to the immediate neighborhood, including Europe. Ankara lacked the intelligence capabilities to track the movement of the two bomb-laden vehicles near this frontier.
Secondly, the domestic unpopularity of the Turkish government's stance on Syria may deepen even further. According to a recent poll by U.S.-based Pew Research, merely one-quarter of Turkish respondents favour either Turkey or Arab countries "sending arms to anti-government groups in Syria." This partially explains why Turkey is refraining from direct retaliatory measures against al-Assad.
Thirdly, Washington's leadership is indispensable to bringing order and coherence to the anti-Assad front. Neither Turkey nor its Arab partners are able or willing to act decisively without the U.S. leading from the front. By comparison the pro-Assad alliance of Russia, Iran, Iraq and Hezbollah act in unison to stymie the downfall of al-Assad.
Fourth, the bloodshed could feed the perceptions of an escalating sectarian fault line along the Turkish-Syrian border. Reyhanli is located in the Turkish province of Hatay sharing the sectarian and ethnic diversity of Syria itself. There are concerns that the exacerbating tensions in Syria might undermine the delicate sectarian balance in southern Turkey.

Angelina Jolie undergoes double mastectomy

Angelina Jolie undergoes double mastectomy

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Angelina Jolie has double mastectomy

(CNN) -- Actress Angelina Jolie announced in a New York Times op-ed article on Tuesday that she underwent a preventive double mastectomy after learning she carries a mutation of the BRCA1 gene, which sharply increases her risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
"My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman," Jolie wrote. "Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy."
 
Jolie: 'I've decided to be proactive'
 
Mammograms save lives
Photos: Life of Angelina Jolie Photos: Life of Angelina Jolie
Jolie visits Syrian refugees Jolie visits Syrian refugees
A mastectomy is an operation that removes all or part of the breast.
"I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made," Jolie wrote. "My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent."
BRCA stands for breast cancer susceptibility genes -- a class of genes known as tumor suppressors, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Mutation of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes has been linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. A blood test can determine if a woman is "highly susceptible" to the cancers.
Fellow actress Christina Applegate had a similar procedure in 2008. She also had a mutation of the BRCA1 gene.
Oscar-winning film star
Jolie may be best known for title role in the "Laura Croft" series of films, but also won an Academy Award as best supporting actress in "Girl, Interrupted." She also received a Golden Globe Award and SAG Award for the same role.
Jolie serves as a special envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and has visited refugee camps around the world.
The actress has been in a relationship with actor Brad Pitt since the mid-2000s, and they are engaged. The couple has three biological and three adopted children.
In telling her story, Jolie acknowledged that surgery might not be the right choice for every woman.
"For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options," Jolie wrote. "I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices."
But for Jolie, the decision ultimately came down to her kids.
"I can tell my children that they don't need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer," she said.
It's a pain Jolie knows all too well from losing her mother to the disease.

African roots of the human family tree

African roots of the human family tree

Professor Ron Clarke and his team at Wits University, South Africa, excavated "Little Foot" -- an "australopithecus" or kind of an ape-man that changed our understanding of pre-human evolution. Professor Ron Clarke and his team at Wits University, South Africa, excavated "Little Foot" -- an "australopithecus" or kind of an ape-man that changed our understanding of pre-human evolution.
Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) -- How would you feel knowing you are related to your boss, your neighbor, or better yet your partner? Don't worry, you may have to go back 1,000, 20,000 or maybe even 100,000 years to find a common ancestor, but generally speaking it is true.
Advanced DNA testing combined with recently unearthed discoveries are bolstering the belief that if you look back far enough, all living human beings are the descendents of a small, innovative and ambitious set of people on the African continent.
With the mapping of the human genome in 2003, combined with thousands of people around the world submitting their DNA for testing, there's now mounting physical proof we all started in Africa before migrating around the world.
Geneticists are able to identify certain genetic sequences or "markers" in each of us and cross-reference it with a number of ever-growing international databases. Where there's a match, there's likely a common ancestor and genetically speaking, all markers point to Africa.
 
Tracing human origins
 
African beads rewrite the human story?
 
Reading your ancestry like a novel


People take comfort in having their DNA tested, says Dr. Himla Soodyall. "It gives them some sense of grounding, some homing and some essence of understanding who they are," she says. Soodyall is the founder and director of the Human Genetics laboratory in South Africa's National Health Laboratory Services. She says she dedicated her life to this field of study because it reveals a much more fascinating story than most people realize.
I recently sat down with Soodyall to have my own DNA tested and its accuracy was astounding.
She explained all of us carry our mother's DNA signature within our mitochondria, so it houses "markers" only from our mother's lineage. My maternal marker turned out to be "H" which can be traced to a woman living in the Dordogne region of France 20,000 years ago.
But this isn't reserved for my British mother and me -- 47% of all Europeans are descendants from this haplogroup, which itself is an offshoot of humans who migrated out of Africa and into Europe.
Similarly, on my Jamaican father's side I expected an African connection due to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, in which the Caribbean was involved. Soodyall isolated DNA housed in my Y-chromosome, which only males carry. It revealed an "E3a" genetic marker common in 96% of people from Central West Africa.
What's more amazing was the discovery that certain sequences of my DNA matched up perfectly with a man from Zanzibar, Tanzania, and another from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who also had their DNA tested recently.
My family got a real kick out of hearing specifics related to our ancestry, but for me personally it underscored the reality that we really are one large, diverse and often dysfunctional human family. Ironically, what connects us all is the fact we really do want to understand more about our heritage; the only difference is how much people -- of any color -- are willing to admit their African roots.
What makes us human is that we analyze our surroundings. We want to know how things work.
Professor Ron Clarke, Wits University, South Africa
Down along the scenic coastline of South Africa, Professor Christopher Henshilwood is digging up the anthropological proof of our human African origins. In the Blombos Cave, over the years he and his team have painstakingly unearthed beads likely used by humans on necklaces 75,000 years ago, bone tools dating back 80,000 years and the world's earliest known painting kit.
Because these findings are the oldest of their kind, it suggests our modern human behavior began in Africa and has been developing ever since. For example, the ancient "painting kit" contained red ochre and was likely used as body paint, just as the Himba people of Namibia use it today. Henshilwood says this symbolic behavior is what set humans apart. "It's the makeup people wear today ... the shoes we wear, the language we speak," he explains. "These are all sending out messages to the people around us about who I am, and where I come from."
For the past century in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, ancient fossils dating back millions of years continue to emerge suggesting a common ancestor for humans. "Lucy", "The Black Skull," "Twiggy" and "The Taung Child" respectively prove there were walking beings similar to humans in Africa before us Homo sapiens emerged.
Professor Ron Clarke of Wits University in South Africa recently took CNN deep inside the Sterkfontein Cave at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site to expose one more example.
It was here he and his team unearthed the most complete skeleton of Australopithecus ever found. In very non-scientific terms, it can be described as a type of ape-man with anatomical similarities to the modern ape and the modern human. It is at least 3 million years old and Clarke, who has yet to publish some of his findings, says he was shocked when he realized what it was.
Whether people believe humans evolved from another species or that we all migrated out of Africa or not, one aspect of our human condition is undeniable, says Clarke. In a sentiment echoed by Soodyall and Hesnshilwood, Clarke says: "What makes us human is that we analyze our surroundings. We want to know how things work. When, why, where? And so one of the big questions is how did we become human?"

Witness: 'Everybody was lying' after Michael Jackson died

Witness: 'Everybody was lying' after Michael Jackson died

The death in 2009 of superstar Michael Jackson, who died of cardiac arrest at the age of 50, sent shockwaves around the world.  

Los Angeles (CNN) -- The portrait of Michael Jackson in the last week of his life, painted by people close to him, is a disturbing picture of an emaciated man, unable to sleep or eat, and unlikely to be ready for his comeback concerts just days away.
"Oh, my God, Turkle, I can see Michael's heart beat through the skin in his chest," stylist Michael Bush said after a costume fitting six days before his death on June 19, 2009.
Turkle is the nickname of makeup artist Karen Faye, who testified Thursday and Friday in Jackson's wrongful death trial. Her testimony has been the most dramatic so far.
Proceedings continue Monday with choreographer Stacy Walker on the witness stand.
Who\'s who in Jackson trial 
"Get him a bucket of chicken," manager Frank DiLeo said in reply to concerns about Jackson's weight loss, Faye testified.
"It was such a cold response, it broke my heart," Faye said through tears.
Michael Jackson's mother and three children contend concert promoter AEG Live is liable in Jackson's death because its executives ignored his health problem and pressured him to prepare for his "This Is It" shows set to debut in London in July 2009.
AEG Live negligently hired, retained and supervised Dr. Conrad Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the pop icon's death, according to the Jackson's lawsuit.
The coroner blamed Jackson's June 25, 2009 death on an overdose of propofol, combined with sedatives, given to him by Dr. Murray as a treatment for insomnia.
AEG lawyers contend that it was Jackson, and not AEG, who hired and supervised Dr. Murray, and that he was responsible for his own decisions. They said these were influenced by a drug addiction its executives did not and could not be expected to know about.
Witness: "Everybody was lying after he died"
The Michael Jackson the public saw in the documentary "This Is It" -- produced months after his death with 80 hours of video shot during his last rehearsals -- is not reality, Faye said.
She was asked to help retouch the video to make Jackson look healthier on the big screen, she testified. But she refused.
"It was a lie. I didn't want to lie," Faye said. "Everybody was lying after he died, saying that Michael was well, and everybody knew he wasn't. I felt that retouching Michael was just a part of that lie."
Before Faye testified, jurors heard a similarly disturbing description of Jackson in his final days from "This Is It" associate producer Alif Sankey.
Jackson "was not speaking normally" at the June 19 costume fitting, Sankey said. She and producer Kenny Ortega cried after he left because of his appearance and what he said.
"God keeps talking to me," Jackson told Ortega, Sankey testified.
Faye said Jackson seemed "frightened," and he was talking to himself, repeating "the same thing over and over again."
"He kept repeating, 'Why can't I choose?'" she said.
Jackson was shivering from chills, and it was "like I was touching ice" when she put on his makeup, Faye testified.
Faye said she raised her concerns with AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips. He told her, "Yeah, this is bad. It's not so good. I had to scrape Michael off the floor in London ... because he was so drunk," she said.
The Jackson family's legal representation contends Phillips should have gotten Jackson medical care from someone other than Murray.
Sankey, who knew Jackson since she first danced with him in 1987, said she screamed at Ortega in a phone call after the June 19 rehearsal, begging that he get help for Jackson.
"I kept saying that 'Michael is dying, he's dying, he's leaving us, he needs to be put in a hospital,'" Sankey said. "'Please do something. Please, please.' I kept saying that. I asked him why no one had seen what I had seen. He said he didn't know."
Debbie Rowe was "in love with Michael"
The trial, which enters its third week Monday, could offer more previously unpublicized insights into Jackson's life and death.
Along with his oldest children Prince and Paris Jackson, his ex-wife and their mother, Debbie Rowe, is scheduled to testify.
Faye's testimony on Friday offered a glimpse at Jackson's relationship with Rowe, suggesting there was romance involved, or at least jealously.
Faye said that after she was fired from her job during Jackson's "History" tour in 1997, she learned it was because Rowe felt threatened by her relationship with Jackson.
"She was obviously in love with Michael," Faye said. "She had told me for many years that it was her desire to be with him."
Rowe later apologized to her for asking Jackson's manager to let her go, she testified.
"She told me she was jealous of me," Faye said. "She thought that Michael liked me better."

BEAUTIFUL PLACES TO BE

It’s difficult to narrow down the most beautiful places of the world, isn’t it? After all, we’re all at least a little bit biased towards the places where we live and the experience of what we’ve seen. It’s unlikely that any two people would choose exactly the same places as the most beautiful places in the world that surrounds them. But the world is filled with so many beautiful places, and there’s room for all of them.
In this post we examine just a small selection of some of the world’s most beautiful places. We hope to give you a broader perspective on what beauty is to different people in different parts of the world. And we hope to perhaps inspire you to explore more of the world that surrounds you. That’s one of the perks of living in such a connected world these days. We’re able to see and experience new things, even from home. Hopefully you’ll find something here that you like.
Before we get to our five new additions to our list of the most beautiful places in the world, here’s a  small taste of what you’ll find in our original list (which you can find toward the end of this article).
Shangrila Resort, Pakistan
Shangrila Resort, Pakistan — Credit: norbakshi world (via Flickr)
And now, here are five new additions to our list of some of the world’s most beautiful places, all suggested by our readers in the comments.

Mt. Everest, Bordering Tibet and Nepal

Mount Everest is the world’s highest mountain, with a peak that reaches more than 8800 meters above sea level. It is a part of the Himalayas, and is located on the border between Nepal and Tibet. More than 3000 people have climbed to the summit of Mt.Everest, and over 200 people are known to have died on the mountain.
Mt. Everest
Credit: Joe Hastings (via Flickr)
Mt. Everest
Credit: Gunther Hagleitner (via Flickr)
Mt. Everest
Credit: watchsmart (via Flickr)

Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

Lake Louise is a Canadian lake in the province of Alberta. It was formed by a glacier and is known for its blue-green color that results from mineral deposits that enter the lake from melting glaciers above.
Lake Louise
Credit: Samantha Marx (via Flickr)
Lake Louise
Credit: Marilyn Peddle (via Flickr)
Lake Louise
Credit: Harvey Barrison (via Flickr)

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska, United States

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a protected area in the state of Alaska in the United States. It includes the bay itself as well as mountains and glaciers surrounding the bay. According to Wikipedia, it is “the largest protected water area park in the world.” Glacier Bay is a popular cruise ship destination for the area.
Glacier Bay
Credit: Kimberly Vardeman (via Flickr)
Glacier Bay
Credit: Kimberly Vardeman (via Flickr)
Glacier Bay
Credit: Glenn (via Flickr)

Sentani Lake, Indonesia

Sentani Lake is another beautiful location suggested by our readers. Lake Sentani is located near Jayapura, which is the capital of the Papua Province in Indonesia. The volcanic lake is surrounded by beautiful and lush greenery and contains several small islands.
Lake Sentani
Credit: Kiko Turteliny (via Flickr)

Lake Sentani
Credit: Edwin Yepese (via Flickr)
Lake Sentani
Credit: Edwin Yepese (via Flickr)

Killarney, Ireland

Killarney is a beautiful town in County Kerry, Ireland. In addition to the lovely historic buildings in town, you’ll find amazing natural views in the Killarney National Park. From the historic churches and castles to Killarney Lake and the rolling green hills Ireland is famous for, you’re bound to find something here that strikes your fancy.
Killarney, Ireland
Credit: mozzercork (via Flickr)
Killarney, Ireland
Credit: Meg Lessard (via Flickr)
Killarney, Ireland
Credit: Jack Newton (via Flickr)
Update: Please check part 2 of the The Most Beautiful Places of the World series to see even more amazing and beautiful places. And don’t forget to share your ideas for the most beautiful places in the world with us in our comments. But for now, let’s get back to our original article with our original top ten picks for some of the most beautiful places in the world.
We live in a world blessed with sights that are beautiful beyond words. Every human being probably dreams of visiting at least one of those places in their lifetime. Living in modern cities with high-rise buildings, we tend to miss out on what Mother Nature has to offer as well as some of the most incredible man-made structures built throughout the course of history.
Look at the places below, and you will see beauty that fills the eye and warms the heart. It wouldn’t be appropriate or humanly possible to just pick a few places from the huge collection of amazing sights around the world and call them the “best.”
They say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and there are perhaps other places that have touched your heart. For this reason, we do not claim the places included in our list are the best, but rather among the vast collection of the most beautiful places of the world.
Skardu Valley – Pakistan
skardu1
skardu2
Skardu Valley is part of the Baltistan. Baltistan is spread over an area of 26,000 square kilometres – just right below the jagged and glaciated ramparts of the Karakoram. Once part of Laddakh, it was known as Tibet-i-Khurd – Little Tibet. Archaeological exploration has proven that it was encompassed by the Silk Trade Route.
Shangrila – Pakistan
shangrila
Shangrila Resort Skardu, also known as “Heaven on Earth”, is nestled amongst some of the world’s highest peaks. It encircles the heart shaped “Kachura Lake” and is surrounded by fruit laden orchards and flower filled gardens.
Lake Saiful Muluk – Pakistan
Photo by Fahd Murtaza
saiful
Lake Saiful Muluk is a lake located at the northern end of the Kaghan Valley near Naran. A fairy tale called Saiful Muluk, written by the famous sufi poet Mian Muhammad Bakhsh, is associated with the lake. It is the story of prince of Persia who fell in love with a fairy princess at the lake. The impact of the lake beauty is of such extent that people believe that fairies come down to lake in full moon.
The Grand Canyon, United States
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A steep gorge by the Colorado River, Arizona in the United States, the Grand Canyon has some truly enjoyable scenery. It is 277 miles in length, 4 to 18 miles in width, and about a mile deep. Scientists believe that the canyon was created by the Colorado River over a six million year period.
grand_canyon_overlook
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Native Americans built settlements in the caves within the canyon before the emigration of Europeans. It was also considered to be a site of pilgrimage by the Pueblo people. The first recorded visit to the Grand Canyon by the Europeans was in 1869. Although it is not the deepest canyon in the world, it is known for its extremely large size and beautifully intricate landscape. The Grand Canyon National Park is said to be one of the first national parks in the United States and it attracts more than five million visitors a year. Weather conditions in the Grand Canyon vary greatly between seasons as well as varying at different elevations. While winter snow is experienced by the higher forested rims, the inner gorge has a desert temperature because of the low elevation.

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
One of the natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef off the east coast of Australia is the world’s largest coral reef. It has the distinction of being placed in the World Heritage as well as the National Heritage lists.
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With more than 600 islands and coral cays, the reef covers more than 300,000 sq. km. Corals make up the reefs and cays and are responsible for a huge variety of sea life in the reef — green turtles, several varieties of whales and dolphins, the dugong, about 4000 types of mollusks, 1500 different species of fish, as well as beautifully colored bird life encompassing at least 200 species. The Great Reef Marine Park is a huge tourist attraction with millions of tourists visiting the area each year. Sporting activities include reef sailing, scuba diving, and snorkeling, amongst others.
Cape Town, South Africa
Aptly called “Heaven on earth,” this beautiful town at the tip of the African continent, with small roads surrounded by huge mountains, makes a person feel small; showing how marvelous and dominating nature can actually be.
cape_town
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cape_town_night
The Cape Dutch style buildings depict the architectural heritage of the place. Beauty abounds in the black clouds that seem to pay homage to Table Mountain at all times. Cape Point, Signal Hill, Chapman’s Peak Drive, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Robben Island, Rhodes Memorial, and the beaches are some of the famous tourist attractions. Located on the shore of Table Bay, Cape Town is famous for its natural floral kingdom as well as its harbor. This town is one of the most popular tourist attractions of South Africa with its wine tasting day trips, whale watching, and dolphin watching.
Taj Mahal, India
The Taj Mahal in India is one of the wonders of the world and is one of the most beautiful mausoleums constructed by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, in memory of his favorite queen, Mumtaz Mahal. Located in Agra, white marble was used in the construction of this symbol of love, and the Taj Mahal is considered to be the pinnacle of Mughal architecture.
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As the story goes, the emperor was grief-stricken when he lost his beloved third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It took thousands of craftsmen and artisans, and about twenty years to construct it. The masons, stone cutters, carvers, inlayers, calligraphers, painters, and others were brought from throughout the entire empire as well as from Iran and Central Asia. Semi-precious stones were used for inlay ornamentation. It later became the mausoleum of Shah Jahan too. This is a huge tourist attraction with one to two million tourists visiting it every year.
Canadian Rockies, Canada
The majestic Canadian Rockies are the Canadian segment of the North American Rocky Mountains. They are a visitor’s wonderland and the playground for western Canada. They are older than the American Rockies and are formed from over thrusting.
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The Canadian Rockies house five national parks, and four of those national parks (along with other provincial parks) combine to form a single UNESCO World Heritage Site that consists of beautiful mountain landscapes, lakes, canyons, waterfalls, glaciers, peaks, limestone caves, and fossils. Mount Robson is the highest peak of the Canadian Rockies and climbing it is considered a challenge. These beautiful mountains are a haven for hikers and walkers alike.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu in Peru, which means ‘Old Peak,” is one of the most enigmatic ancient sites in the world. According to legend, Machu Picchu was long ago considered to be a sacred place. The credit for the creation of the extraordinary city goes to the Inca people who have erected many stone structures and turned the place into a work of art.
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Two thousand feet above the Urubamba river, these ruins consist of baths, temples, palaces, and about 150 houses, all very well preserved. These gray granite structures, some of which weigh more than 50 tons, are so perfectly sculpted that they are nothing less than works of architectural genius. They were rediscovered by a Yale archaeologist in 1911. The ethereal beauty, workmanship, and history of the place attracts millions of tourists each year.
The Pyramids, Egypt
The Egyptian pyramids are massive monuments with a square base and four triangular sides rising up to a point. There is still a lot of curiosity (and many theories) as to how the pyramids were actually constructed.
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It is generally believed that the Egyptians began constructing them after 2700 B.C. and that they were built as tombs for the pharaohs. The most well-known (and the largest) pyramids of Egypt are the Pyramids at Giza which are said to be the largest ever built. It’s said that the Great Pyramid at Giza took 23 years to complete, using a work force of around 30,000 people. About 118 pyramids have been identified, and they are popular and intriguing to tourists and home researchers alike.
Petra, Jordan
Described by the UNESCO as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage”, Petra is an archeological site on the slope of Mount Hor. It is one of the new wonders of the world and is famous for its rock-cut architecture.
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This site was kept hidden until 1812 when it was discovered by a Swiss explorer. It was said to have been prepared by God for the Jewish people. Petra once flourished under the Roman empire but a rapid decline began with the Arabian trade being taken elsewhere. Then an earthquake caused a great deal of destruction. Tourists frequent the place to get a glimpse of the ruins of this beautiful city.
Great Wall of China, China
One of the seven wonders of the world, the Great Wall of China is a man-made structure that was constructed over two thousand years ago and took about 100 years to complete. The vastness of this project brings to light the immense capabilities of man.
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The constructions started in the 5th Century B.C. It is actually not a single wall, but rather many walls put together, and it stretches over 4,000 miles. It was constructed to protect the Chinese Empire from the Xiongnu people in the north. The wall was initially built of stone, grass, earth, and wood, but bricks were used once the production started. It is believed that about 2-3 million Chinese died during the construction project.
The Iguazu Waterfalls, Argentina-Brazil Border

Heralded as the most beautiful waterfalls in the world, the Iguazu Waterfalls are a true wonder of nature. They are located at the border of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. While the Argentinean side allows visitors to walk right around the water or explore the National Park, the Brazilian side is known for its panoramic views and splendor.
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First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is believed to have exclaimed upon seeing these falls, “poor Niagara.” The area surrounding the falls provides ample opportunities for rock climbing as well as water sports. Iguazu has the distinction of having a greater annual flow than any other waterfall in the world.
With all of these, and many more beautiful places that exist in our world, we surrounded by choices. The only way to decide on the places to visit is to follow your heart. While some may love the tranquility of water, others may bury themselves deep in architectural miracles, ancient sites, or the serenity of a small town.
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