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The Middle East: 10 facty things

Published April 24th, 2013

Our cheeky friends at Geckos have let us in on some more amazing facty things this week. This time its all about the Middle East.  As experts of the region their tour guides know all the best haunts and have some hilarious tales to tell along the way. If you’re tempted to get the most out of a holiday in the Middle East, you should check out the incredible tours they have on offer and take note of the following fun facts about the region as well.

 

The Middle East is no stranger to weird. Morocco has goats in trees. Egypt has an intense fascination with cats and triangles. Men in the street may offer to trade a camel for your girlfriend (funnily enough, they rarely ask to trade anything for the men). And Turkey has massive penis-shaped rocks. We love it over there. From the ancient tombs to the bizarre bazaars and all the smiles, pushy salesmen, delicious food and incredible scenery in-between – The Middle East is anything but middle of the road. You can use the following points to pretend you know your Middle East trivia next time you’re at a party, just make sure it’s in context. Otherwise people will think you’re weird. Be cool.
  • Ancient Egypt has been dubbed ‘The Father of Time’ for its role in creating the modern calendar. The minutes, hours, days, months and years we all know and love wouldn’t be as they are without those smart ol’ Egyptian folk. The 365 day calendar dates back as far as around 2900 BC and it was used as a tool to predict the annual flooding of the Nile, which greatly affected their agriculture.  It was also the Egyptians who first divided the day and night in 24 temporal hours. We know – Egyptians were the realest.
  • In an effort to stop flies from getting all up in his face, Egypt’s Pharaoh Pepi II kept a handful of naked slaves nearby whose bodies were smeared with honey. Obviously, the flies zoned in on the sweet nectar and left ol’ mate Pepi II in peace to eat his grapes. Or whatever it is he did. In other news, one of Pepi II’s wives was his cousin and half-sister (yes, you read correctly), whilst another was his niece. We bet he was a really nice bloke to hang out with.
  • Here’s a fact about camels: they do not store water in their humps. They store reservoirs of fatty tissue in there. Sure, it sounds a little gross, but concentrating fat in their humps minimizes the insulating effect fat would have if it was all over their body, which helps camels survive in hot climates. Basically, it keeps them cooler. There are a hell of a lot of other interesting things about camels but these are all tales for another time. Just know that camels are cooler than you thought they were.
  • Israel has more museums per capita than any other country in the world. This means that whenever you get bored of the religious stuff (which you shouldn’t, because it’s righteous), you can go and do the museum stuff. There are museums about archaeology, Italian Jewish art, Israel’s defense forces, railways, Japanese art, sports and, of course, religion. The point is there are plenty of museums here to keep you occupied. If not, just find a bar and stop whining and start wining.
  • Israel also has the highest ratio of university degrees per capita in the world, which we reckon has something to do with their abundance of museums. When we were at uni, there were only two museums. One was an actual museum and the other was a bar called ‘The Museum’. We probably spent too much time in the wrong museum, but we still managed to observe many different forms of natural life. Most of it was drunk.
  • As mentioned above,Turkey has a valley of penis-shaped rocks called Love Valley. Legend has it that when Father Nature - Mother Nature’s ex-husband - left her for a younger mistress, Mother Nature exacted revenge by replicating his out-of-shape junk and decorating the Turkish landscape with it. Father Nature was so embarrassed that he left town (the earth) for good. And now nobody talks about him because it makes Mother Nature angry and creates a really awkward vibe.  None of that is true (apart from the penis-shaped rocks and the fact that it’s called Love Valley), but it doesn't sound all that far-fetched, does it?
  • In Jordan it’s widely believed that excessive praise of children brings bad luck. So if you’re ever over there and you see a kid do something amazing (like a back-flip), but no one bats an eyelid, let it go. We tried Googling this to find out more about it but we couldn’t find a thing. It’s un-Googlable. For that reason alone, this fact has to end here.
  • At 6,650 km, The Nile is the longest river in the world. To travel the length of it would be the equivalent of driving from Melbourne to Sydney (or Sydney to Melbourne) seven and a half times (around 67 and a half hours of driving), which would suck. Floating down the Nile on an old felucca, however, would not suck.  As long as you took enough food, water, sunscreen and light entertainment.
  • The Black Sea is creepy. Well, it’s beautiful, but it gets creepy once you take a peek under the surface. Basically, because it has zero oxygen on its lower layers, decomposition takes a very, very long time. Immaculately preserved shipwrecks and their crew, some of which date back to the 6th century, have been found in the dark depths of the Black Sea. Mind blowing. And creepy.

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