Exploring the Valley of the Whales — Egypt’s Wadi El Hitan

We know as much as we do about our world and how it came to be because intrepid explorers and archaeologists take time to go looking for clues about where we came from and how our world once looked. Some of the findings are truly remarkable, as they give rise to historical data that would not seem possible given where we are at now. One of the most truly surprising finds is at Wadi El Hitan in Egypt, where the bones of whales have been discovered in what is now the middle of a vast desert about 150 km southwest of Cairo.Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley) (Egypt)While Wadi El Hitan, which translates to Valley of the Whales, was discovered back in the early 1900’s, it is only in recent years that the true archaeological work has truly begun. The original whale fossil skeletons were discovered back in 1902-03, and while the find was indeed an amazing one, the location and lack of accessibility of the region made it tough for people to get in and out to do more digging into what was obviously a very special place. That, though, would change in the years that followed.Wadi_Al_Hitan1It was in the 1980’s when interest in Wadi El Hitan began to hot fever pitch, mostly because the advent of off-road vehicles made it possible to get in and out of the sandy terrain that much easier. It was then that the true extend of the finds in the almost 50,000-acre region began to become clear. The people that did make it in and out were not always serious historians and archaeologists, with many simply being fossil collectors looking to grow their collection in an area that was simply not been given a great deal of protection.Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley) (Egypt)Things began to take a serious turn in 2005, though, as that was when Wadi El Hitan was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, meaning that the area was now protected for future serious research by trained professionals. What has been found in the years of exploration has helped us see just how much our world has changed over the centuries. The fossils found are from whales, but not the ones that we know today. The bones found are from archaeoceti, and extinct type of whale, which was a land animal that had very clearly defined limbs, which can be seen in the bones that are still being discovered to this day.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGiven that we are looking at a protected part of the world, not to mention one that is not easy to reach, there are not a lot of visitors to Wadi El Hitan. Those that do make it there, though, are kept on the periphery, and while there is a public area with some wonderful fossils on display, the tours are guided and confined to smaller areas. The Valley of the Whales is becoming popular in the world of eco-tourism, but if it’s a little too far for you to go, the good news is that there is plenty of information and photos available online of this amazing site.

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The beauty of Islamic Architecture: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

6887385701_2d45b51b77_bNo building captures the true essence of Islamic architecture like a mosque. There are many beautiful mosques in the world including The Great Mosque of Mecca, The Blue Mosque, Faisal Mosque, Imam Reza Shrine and many more…. one of these is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque located in Abu Dhabi. It is the largest and the most beautiful mosque in United Arab Emirates.27635789125_c851b6825d_bHistory: The construction on the mosque started in 1996 by the late and great president of UAE Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan. The mosque was completed in December 2007. It took about $545 Million to complete the construction. The materials were imported from different parts of the world: crystals, marble, stones, ceramics and all other materials were imported from more than 15 countries. Almost 3000 artisans from all over the world helped to shape one of the most beautiful mosques in the world.Water_mirror_and_columns_in_Sheikh_Zayed_MosqueFeatures Of The Mosque: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque holds a number of different records including the world’s largest carpet which was imported from Iran. The carpet is made from wool and was designed by a popular Iranian artist by the name of Ali Khaliqi. The carpet weights a total of 35. To enhance the beauty of the mosque seven chandeliers have also been imported from Germany. The mosque can accommodate around 41000 worshippers at a single time. You can spot the mosque from miles away due to its wonderfully constructed minarets. The mosque has a total of 4 minarets. Domes are a big part of Islamic architecture and Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has a total of 82 domes which is one of the many unique features of the mosque. There is also a special area in the mosque for female worshippers. It can hold up to 1500 female worshippers at any given time.Inner_court_yard_of_Shekh_Zayed_MosqueMillions of people visit the mosque every year including celebrities and royalty. It is necessary for everyone to wear modest clothes. Both men and women should never wear revealing clothes while visiting the mosque. You can also sign up for a free guided tour of the mosque. If you are visiting the mosque then you should definitely sign up for the guided tour. It will help you learn about the history and magnificence of the mosque. If you forgot to bring your modest clothes with you then don’t worry. You can get Abayas and robes from the mosque which you can return upon exiting the mosque. Other than modest dressing, you have to take off your show before entering this spectacular landmark.inside-the-abu-dhabi-mosque-united-arab-emirates-uaeSheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a jaw dropping site to visit. It is one of the most beautiful places in UAE. Like millions of other people, you can also visit the mosque free of cost. The mosque can entertain thousands of tourists at any given time however it starts to get crowded near important Islamic events like Eid and Ramadan.   Sheikh_Zayed_Grand_Mosque_Interior

Cui Jie and the Collision of Sound and Art

From a very early age, Cui Jie was obviously a very gifted artist, and she continues to develop her style now that she is in her mid-30’s. Jie was born in Shanghai, China and eventually ended up studying and honing her craft at the China Academy of Art in the Oil Painting Department. While she now lives in Beijing, China, she is not a total unknown to the Western world, with the Wall Street Journal going as far as to describe her as one of “China’s rising art stars.”guyv7Over the years, the style and subject matter of Jie’s work has changed a little, with her latest work perhaps being the most intriguing. She has spoken about synesthesia, which is essentially when people see a color when they hear a specific sound. She is looking at introducing that idea into her current way of working as opposed to going off on a totally different tangent to explore the connection between sound and visuals. tgbjkh6People unfamiliar with the work that Jie delivers may be interested to hear about how she comes up with her ideas. The art for which she is best known involves looking at sculptures and buildings within the parts of China where she has lived and worked, and then creating a painting of those structures, but from a very different viewpoint than what you would get from looking at them at street level. She often talks about the texture and surfaces of the structures and buildings in question, but rather than taking a hands-on approach, Jie will let the reflections off these surfaces, and the feelings and emotions they invoke, guide her once she decides to put paint to canvas. kbyu7The end result of this truly Modernist approach to art are pieces that are stunning to look at. With your first look, you can clearly see the sculptures and buildings as separate pieces, but the more you look, the more they seem to merge and become one and the same. There is a familiarity there, especially for those who have been to those cities and seen the subjects, yet you also feel as though you are viewing these pieces from an angle that you couldn’t get to in the real world. CaptureJIe is of the belief that architecture experiences the passing of time in much the same way as humans do, so she sees here take on the structures that she uses in her art as a way of re-shaping that history. It’s an incredibly exciting concept that very much shines through in every piece that she creates. Given her past, we can certainly expect her to start incorporating new styles and techniques in the future, which is a truly exciting thought for lovers of her art.    ygvy6