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Archive for the ‘World Edition’ Category

A Taste of Morocco: Recipe from CultureGrams

One of the best (and definitely the most delicious) ways to experience a new culture is by sampling the local cuisine! On a recent trip to Morocco, I seized every opportunity I had during my short stay to experience the many sights, smells, and flavors of Fez. My first stop was at a little restaurant where I was served a little bowl of spiced heaven, called harira. Many people have heard of Morocco’s famous chicken tagine and couscous but harira, a traditional Moroccan soup made from lamb, lentils, and chickpeas, is equally authentic and delectable.

With over 1,000 recipes from around the world, CultureGrams makes it possible for users to experience a new culture in their very own kitchens. Feeling adventurous as well as hungry? Try out this authentic Moroccan Harira recipe from CultureGrams and bon appétit! Or as they say in Morocco, Sahten! (صحتين), which literally means “two healths.”

Harira is the traditional meal eaten to break the fast during Ramadan; it usually is served with dates, figs, and special sweets called chabakiya. Photo by Jenni Boyle

 

Harira

Ingredients
Broth:
1 pound lamb, cut in small pieces
1 small onion, minced
1 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight (or from a can)
2 pounds canned crushed tomatoes
2 quarts water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
6 to 7 strands saffron (soaked in a few tablespoons of hot water)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon pepper
2/3 teaspoon ginger
1 cube bouillon (optional)
Salt

Other ingredients:
1/3 cup lentils
1/2 lemon
1/4 cup rice
1/4 cup broken up angel hair pasta
1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro
Salt
3 tablespoons flour
1 egg

Directions
1. Cook the lentils in salted water. When done, drain them and squeeze the lemon over them. Set aside.
2. Cook all of the broth ingredients in a soup pot over low heat for 50 to 60 minutes, or enough time to cook the meat and the chickpeas.
3. Add the rice, pasta, cilantro, and salt. Allow to simmer another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Mix the flour with a little water to form a paste and then add this to the soup a little bit at a time; stir constantly to avoid lumps.
5. Add the lentils and let cook for another 5 minutes. Harira should be creamy but not thick. If it is thick, add water and cook for a few more minutes; if it is too thin, thicken with more flour-and-water paste.
6. Some break an egg into the soup during the last 5 minutes of cooking and mix it well to keep it liquid.
7. Serve in bowls with lemon wedges on the side for those who want to add it to their soup.

Have you ever tried making a recipe from CultureGrams? Tweet us @CultureGrams and lets us know how it turned out.

Identifying Patterns: Why Do Some Flags Look Similar?

Flag map of the world

Flag map of the world [via Wikimedia Commons]

If you look at any image gallery of the flags of the world (such as the one provided by CultureGrams), you’ll notice that while there are a wide variety of colors and symbols on the flags, there are also some obvious similarities, especially among flags from the same region. These similarities in flag design often reflect a common cultural, political, or religious heritage among the countries with those flags.

Help Students Understand 6 Common Patterns and Themes in World Flags
Use the CultureGrams Flag Gallery to get students started exploring similarities among the flags of the world. Can your students spot any patterns or themes in world flags? What do they think the reasons are for those similarities? (Tip: If students need help understanding the meaning behind the colors and symbols of world flags, check out the helpful explanation on each CultureGrams World and Kids country landing page.)

While there are many patterns to be found in world flags, here’s a quick overview of six common themes:

  1. The Union Jack. The Union Jack is the name of the flag of the United Kingdom, and variations of the Union Jack appear on the flags of some countries and territories that were formerly (or are currently) associated with the United Kingdom. These include Australia, Fiji, Montserrat, New Zealand, Tuvalu, and Niue.
  2. A star and the color red. Many current communist countries include a star/s and the color red on their flags. The star/s typically represent ideas associated with communism or socialism, and the color red stands for revolution. Countries whose flags incorporate this symbolism include China, North Korea, and Vietnam.
  3. The star and crescent. The star and crescent became common during the Ottoman Empire and are now considered traditional symbols of Islam. Flags that use these symbols include those of Algeria, Azerbaijan, Comoros, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives (crescent only), Mauritania, Pakistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
  4. The Pan-Arab colors. The Pan-Arab colors are green, red, black, and white. These colors first came from the 1916 flag of the Arab Revolt. A subset of the Pan-Arab colors are the Arab Liberation colors (red, white, and black, with green less prominent), which came into use in the 1950s. Flags with Pan-Arab colors are those of Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, West Bank and Gaza, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Sudan.
  5. The Pan-African colors. There are two sets of Pan-African colors: (1) red, green, and gold, based on the Ethiopian flag, and (2) red, black, and green, based on the 1920 Pan-African flag. Countries may incorporate one or both sets of Pan-African colors into their flags. Not all countries that use the Pan-African colors in their flags are in Africa; some are countries elsewhere with strong African heritage. Flags with Pan-African colors include those of Ghana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Benin, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Togo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, and Guyana.
  6. The Pan-Slavic colors. The Pan-Slavic colors are red, white, and blue. The colors were decided on at the 1848 Prague Slavic Congress and were based on the colors of the Russian flag. Countries whose flags use the Pan-Slavic colors are Croatia, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

What themes and patterns did your students find in the flags? Did they notice the six mentioned above? Did they find others? Let us know on Twitter how your students did by tweeting us at @CultureGrams!

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Passover 2017: Chag Sameach!

Jews Celebrating Passover. Lubok, XIXth century (image 1850), via Wikimedia Commons.

Jewish communities around the world are currently observing Passover (Pesach, in Hebrew)–one of the most important events in the Jewish calendar. So wish your Jewish friends chag sameach (happy festival)! Passover is a week-long celebration that takes place each year in early Spring, this year taking place between April 10-18th. It commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from ancient Egypt and God’s sparing or “passing over” Jewish homes during the final plague in Egypt. According to the Biblical story, the Israelites had to leave Egypt in such a hurry that they didn’t have time to wait for their bread to rise, taking with them only unleavened bread. As a reminder of the Israelites’ exodus out of Egypt, Jews today refrain from eating anything containing leaven (chametz) during Passover, eating unleavened products such as matzah (a type of flatbread) instead. Jews also eat matzah with bitter herbs such as horseradish, in remembrance of the bitterness of slavery in Egypt. Learn about Passover traditions in the CultureGrams Israel report.

Test your knowledge of Judaism with this quiz

Virtual Sistine Chapel Tour

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Italy—in addition to the daily, ahem, twice-daily gelato runs—was actually not part of Italy at all. It was the sovereign state of Vatican City (or the Holy See). I have been interested in the world’s smallest independent nation since helping to create the World Edition CultureGrams report on it (we have a Kids report too!).

It did not disappoint. Located in the heart of bustling Rome, The Vatican feels like a different country once you’re inside its walls. It’s still very busy, of course, as one of the world’s top tourist destinations, but the presence of Swiss Guards (a small security force comprised of Catholic Swiss men), the magnitude of St. Peter’s Basilica, and the concentration of masterpieces in such a small area make the Vatican a truly unique place.

A Swiss Guard stands at his post. Photo by Aaron Thompson.

The culmination of any tourist’s visit to the Vatican is, of course, the Sistine Chapel. And though you’re allowed to take all the photos you want in the huge complex of museums you must (get to) pass through on the way to Michelangelo’s crowning work, once you enter the chapel you are greeted with several Italian guards booming out the words “No foto! No foto!”  I have to admit I didn’t fully comply with the rule, though no one yelled at me for looking down in a sea of people looking up.

The floor of the Sistine Chapel. Photo by Rachel Ligairi.

As cool as it was to see in person, you can actually get a much better view of it on an official virtual tour. In addition to being able to see the chapel completely empty (in person it’s shoulder-to-shoulder), you can zoom in on different pieces of the artwork or just contemplate it in silence, without anyone yelling at you.

And in case you thought I was kidding about the gelato . . .

Photo by Rachel Ligairi.

CultureGrams: International Women’s Day (March 8)

Women in Kenya (photo via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery)

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 (this Wednesday) around the world. Learn how it’s observed in various countries from CultureGrams:

  • Burkina Faso: On International Women’s Day, official celebrations are held in cities. Many Burkinabè, especially women, dress up in a fabric designed each year for the event. People also celebrate by going to bars to drink, eat, and dance.
  • Kyrgyzstan: On International Women’s Day, men give gifts to the women in their lives, including grandmothers, mothers, sisters, aunts, classmates, co-workers, and wives or girlfriends.
  • Mauritania: International Women’s Day is celebrated in each regional capital with a fair at which women’s cooperatives from the surrounding area display and sell their goods. A ceremony is held and includes speeches by government leaders. Many development organizations present awareness campaigns.
  • Ukraine: On International Women’s Day, everyone gets the day off work. Women receive flowers and gifts, as well as household help from their husbands. Special attention is paid to mothers, and girls are congratulated as future women.
  • Madagascar: International Women’s Day is celebrated across Madagascar, even in small villages. The day’s events typically include a gathering at the mayor’s office, where women’s groups perform traditional dances for the town’s officials in return for a small monetary gift. Women in the northeastern part of the island commonly wear matching blouses and lamba (long cotton wraps). They often make noise using whistles and condensed-milk cans fashioned into rattles.

Women in Voloina, Madagascar, celebrate International Women’s Day (photo via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery)

Learn more about holidays around the world from the Holidays section of World and Kids edition CultureGrams reports!

CultureGrams: New Interviews for Afghanistan and Comoros!

Blue Mosque – Shrine of Hazrat Ali, by Lukaszcom, via Wikimedia Commons

We’ve recently added interviews from two Afghan women to the Afghanistan country report. Hear first-hand what life is like in Afghanistan for Farah and Zohal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve also added interviews to the Comoros report! Take a look at them to get a feel for life in different areas in the Comoros Islands among different age groups and socioeconomic backgrounds.Fatima, female, age 29

Patrice, male, age 43

Nourou, female, age 9

 

CultureGrams Reviewers Needed!

A crowd of youngsters gather to watch a break-dance competition in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Salym Fayad.

If you’re familiar with CultureGrams, you know that one of the things that makes our product stand out is the “native perspective” of much of the information in our country, state, and province reports. CultureGrams goes beyond statistics to explore not only the history of a place, but also the culture and day-to-day lives of residents of that location, including topics like dating and marriage rituals, eating habits, life as a kid, and much more.

CultureGrams is able to capture this unique perspective because we work with native reviewers and other country experts to portray what life is really like for people living in the locations covered by our reports.

For instance, did you know that in Sierra Leone, a baby’s umbilical cord is placed under a new tree before it is planted? Or that in Kazakhstan, newlyweds visit local landmarks after the wedding ceremony? This is the type of unique information CultureGrams can provide its customers because of the perspectives native reviewers share with us.

Because we’re continually updating, reviewing, and expanding our country, state, and province reports, we’re always looking for reviewers to help us make sure the reports and other features (like photos and recipes) are up to date with the latest and most accurate information.

If you’re a native or country expert for any of the places below, and are interested helping us review our reports, please visit our website to learn more about the project and qualifications and fill out an application.

Countries

Armenia Ghana Mali Slovakia  West Bank and Gaza
Bangladesh Greece Mauritania Slovenia  Yemen
Belarus Haiti Mexico South Sudan  
Cape Verde Iran Moldova Sri Lanka  
Costa Rica Italy Mongolia Suriname  
Croatia Jamaica Norway  Togo  
Dominican Republic Kenya Pakistan  Tonga  
Ethiopia Madagascar Romania Tunisia  
 Fiji Malawi Serbia UAE  

 

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Alaska Kansas New Mexico Northwest Territories (Canadian territory)
Idaho Nebraska Oklahoma  
Minnesota Missouri South Dakota  

 

CultureGrams: Learn about St. Dévote’s Day, January 27

A religious parade passes through the Royal Palace Square in Monte Carlo during the annual celebration for Saint Dévote. Via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery.

CultureGrams is a great way to learn about holidays around the world. Each World and Kids edition report has a Holidays section that discusses the traditions and celebrations associated with a country’s most popular holidays. Not only can learning about a country’s holidays be fun, but it’s also an engaging way to learn about a country’s culture and gain insight into what is important to the people who celebrate the holidays.

Some holidays celebrated in other countries may sound familiar, but others may be new to you. For example, are you familiar with St. Dévote’s Day, celebrated in Monaco on 27 January? That’s this Friday! From the World Edition Monaco report Holidays section, we learn:

On 27 January, Monégasques honor St. Dévote, the patron saint of the principality. Dévote was persecuted and martyred for her faith in the fourth century. Her body was eventually buried in Monaco, and several miracles were associated with Dévote. Years later, a group of thieves tried to steal and sell Dévote’s bones, but Monégasque sailors retrieved the bones and set fire to the thieves’ boats. On this holiday, the prince or a member of the royal family sets fire to an old boat in the port to commemorate the rescue of the bones.

Not only can you read about St. Dévote’s Day on CultureGrams, but you can also find photos of the celebration in our Photo Gallery so you can see what the celebration is like:

On the Feast of Saint Dévote, relics are carried in a procession around Monaco. Via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery.

 

On the eve of the Feast of Saint Dévote, Monégasques prepare to burn a boat to commemorate the prevented theft of Dévote relics. Via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery.

Find more holidays celebrated around the world in CultureGrams World and Kids editions!

CultureGrams—Christmas Around the World

ColombiaChristmas

A Colombian nativity scene
Image credit: Salym Fayad

As Christmas approaches, people all over the world are preparing for the holiday in their unique ways. Read about some distinctive Christmas traditions from Europe, Africa, Oceania, and Latin America below and visit CultureGrams holiday sections to find out more!

Argentina: Extended families gather on Christmas Eve for dinner, music, and often dancing. Candy is served just before midnight, when the fireworks displays begin. Gifts from Papá Noel (Father Christmas) are opened on Christmas Eve, while all other gifts are exchanged on Christmas Day. The singing of traditional Christmas carols by family members features prominently in Christmas celebrations.

Mozambique: Christmas is celebrated only by Christians. Church meetings are held in the morning; the afternoon is spent with family. A special meal is served and usually includes meat, fish, fried potatoes, rice, and cake. People celebrate with music and dancing. Some families exchange presents, but this is not a major part of the holiday. Family Day falls on the same day as Christmas and is celebrated by all Mozambicans. Celebrations intertwine with Christmas celebrations; the main difference is that non-Christians do not attend church on this day.

ArmeniaBecause Armenia was the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as the official state religion, many Armenians celebrate Christmas (Surb Tsnund) with a special solemnity. Christians attend church and participate in the Divine Liturgy (a church service) conducted by the chief bishop of the Armenian Apostolic Church. On Christmas Eve, families bring lit candles from the church into their homes to purify the homes from the power of darkness. A typical Christmas dinner for families includes fish and rice, served with raisins, dried fruits, and Armenian red wine.

Colombia: The nine nights before Christmas are called la novena, when family and friends gather to take part in traditional Christmas prayers, sing carols, and eat customary Christmas snacks such as natilla (similar to flan) and buñuelos (fried dough balls). Each night the novena is celebrated in a different home, and these events often turn into parties that include drinking and dancing. On Christmas Eve, families eat a large dinner, pray around the pesebre, and sing Christmas carols. At midnight, they exchange presents.

Tonga: On Christmas Eve, Sunday-school children may perform the story of Jesus’s birth for their families and walk around the perimeter of their communities singing Christmas carols. Meanwhile, older Tongans visit family members. Afterward, children go home, where they may receive a gift from their parents—this might be an inexpensive toy or balloons and candy. No matter what day of the week it falls on, Christmas day is treated as a Sunday; people refrain from outdoor activities (other than cooking) and businesses close. On Christmas morning, most people attend a church service. This is followed by a gathering of extended family for a special lunch of yams and roasted pigs.

SwedenAn important part of many Swedes’ modern Christmas celebrations is a television program called Kalle Ankas Jul, which is broadcast on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Each year since 1959, much of the country has gathered to watch this compilation of clips from different cartoons, whose ratings outperform nearly all other television events throughout the year. Santa Claus is called Jultomte—the “Christmas gnome.” The name Jultomte once referred to a fabled gnome who watched over Swedish homes during the year. In the modern tradition, he brings gifts for the children to the door on Christmas Eve. After Jultomte delivers the gifts, the family dances around the tree and sings carols.

CultureGrams Extremes Tables

Can you list the ten largest countries in the world? What about the smallest? Can you name the ten most populous countries? The ten countries with the youngest or oldest populations? Do you know which countries have the most women in parliament or the fewest internet users? What countries have the largest number of airports or the smallest number of physicians per 10,000 people. For answers to these and many other questions, check out CultureGrams Extremes Data Tables. These fascinating tables list top and bottom ten countries in a variety of categories. Links to the tables can be found in the lower portion of the left navigation bar on our Graphs and Tables page.

Extremes Table via ProQuest CultureGrams

But these top ten and bottom ten tables aren’t included merely as a source of geographical  and cultural trivia. They can also foster discussion and critical thinking. Students might be asked to think about why particular countries are on a specific Extremes table and what those countries have in common. For example, what do countries with a low population density have in common? What factors might result in certain countries having high or low life expectancy?

Also, they could discuss the impact of a country being very high or low in a particular category. What impact does it have on a country if it has low public school enrollment or high life expectancy? What effect might an aging population have on a country? What about a very young population?

And another option might be to look at some of the tables and consider how certain data in the tables might be misinterpreted. If one looks at the countries with the highest public spending on education, does that mean that those populations are the best educated? Why or why not?

Although they make up only a small part of the CultureGrams database, the Extremes tables are a tool that will  yield valuable insights to those who are able to think critically about what is revealed in the numbers.

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