Splendour by the spans


The grand stone `bridges’ of the Arches National Park, Utah, are awe-inspiring.

Symbol of Utah: Delicate Arch. Photo: K.V. Krishnan
I WAS truly in a land of contradictions.

Around me jutted eerie expanses of reddish rock on one side but pockets of lush greenery on the other. There were glittering pools of water yet dry arroyos amidst grasslands splayed with the choicest wildflowers as far as my eye could see. Ahead of me were stone statuettes sculpted by Nature’s untiring craftsmen. There were fins and arches, buttes and canyons amidst the glorious background of the La Sal Mountains.

High above me loomed a long ribbon of stone bridging the yawn of massive rock walls on either side. I stood drowned in an otherworldly silence broken only by the squawk of a careless raven or the crackle of a shy kangaroo rat.

The biggest of them all
I felt like a speck under the span of the Landscape Arch — tucked away in the rugged terrain of the Arches National Park in southwestern United States. Spanning 306 endless feet, Landscape Arch loomed as the second or probably the longest natural arch in the world. Two years ago, I had hiked the 14 miles to the Kolob Arch at nearby Zion National Park which boasted the longest natural arch — but rangers say the Landscape Arch is probably longer based on an esoteric equation including the inside and outside spans with average thickness taken into consideration.

“Any natural arch needs to exceed a span of three feet or more,” ranger Clark studiously explained to me later by the visitor center. “In Arches National Park, we have close to 2,000 discovered arches, with many tucked away within those impregnable rocky crevices.”

These natural arches were in fact evolving sculptures being chiselled away continuously. From what I gathered, arches — like all beings — really lived and died over time.

To me, 300 million years was indeed inconceivable eternity. In that era, constantly receding oceans in the Colorado Plateau had created a massive salt basin. Over the last 100 million years, silt, combined with the mysterious movements of the earth, had created an interesting sculpting platform of rock over salt. Nature’s sculptors, wind and ice, had relentlessly chiselled away at this unending sandstone canvas. Underlying salt moved under the weight of the heavier rock, creating stony domes that were sculpted into what were called “fins”. “Fins” over time became arches, and the arches over time would crumble into the dust as if they never were.

It was early morning that I had survived the three-hour airplane ride to Salt Lake City, the capital of Utah. Four hours of driving and 240 miles later, I walked around the small town of Moab, five miles south of Arches National Park. The Park yawns with its 76,000 acres teeming with arches of all shapes, forms and sizes. Of those 2,000 arches that the ranger had mentioned, 20 or so could be seen from viewpoints along the 20-mile paved road often combined with short hikes.

In this Park, arches go by several interesting sobriquets. Past what is known as the “Courthouse” is a road that winds towards the Windows. These are aptly termed the North and South Windows, for, the two arches span along the same rocky face from where the rocky desert scenery unwinds itself for miles. Nearby loom the twin spans of the Double Arch — two massive stone bridges emanate from one base, splaying forth in two directions, kissing the rocks farther away.

Majestic sight

That evening I had arduously trekked a mile and a half towards the most photographed symbol of Utah — probably the most popular arch in this park. For, Delicate Arch is majesty in itself. Unlike most of the other arches, it loomed lonely upon a tall ridge, facing the quiet beauty of the La Sal.

Later that evening, I walked into a “Gem and Fossil” shop in the quiet bustle of the Moab neighbourhood. In carefully marked display cases were an unimaginable array of agates and amethysts, Mosasaurus teeth and Allosaurus claws. In another corner was encased a bucketful of snail and trilobite fossils — creatures that had lost the battle with Time and Nature’s army of wind, seas, ice and snow.

In this godless terrain, arches have been born and have crumbled over the march of Time. With each dying arch its legend was lost forever — but there was always a secret span taking shape somewhere, keeping that circle of life in eternal motion…

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Today, “London” usually refers to the London region of England, which is coterminous with Greater London. At the heart of the conurbation is the small, ancient City of London which was historically the entirety of the city. Londoners generally refer to the City of London simply as “the City” or the “Square Mile”. London’s metropolitan area grew considerably during the Victorian era and again during the Interwar period with expansion halted in the 1940s by World War II and Green Belt legislation and has been largely static since.

The extent of the London postal district, Metropolitan Police District, local government area, London transport area, urban sprawl, coverage of the London telephone area code and metropolitan area have rarely been coterminous and are not currently. The area delimited by the orbital M25 motorway is sometimes used to define the “London area” and the Greater London boundary has been aligned to it in places. London is split for some purposes into Inner London and Outer London.

The co-ordinates of the centre of London (traditionally considered to be the original Charing Cross, near the junction of Trafalgar Square and Whitehall) are approximately 51°30′29″N, 00°07′29″W. The Romans may have marked the centre of Londinium with the London Stone in the City.

The entire London urban area may be classed as a “city” using a geographical definition, but politically it is not so. Officially, London is a region containing two smaller cities within its built-up area: the City of London and the City of Westminster (see City status in the UK).

Unlike most capital cities, London’s status as the capital of the UK has never been granted or confirmed officially — by statute or in written form. Its position as the capital has formed through constitutional convention, making its position as de facto capital a part of the UK’s unwritten constitution.

Geography and climate
Main articles: Geography of London and Climate of London

The River Thames, London’s primary geographical feature.Greater London covers an area of 609 square miles (1,579 km²). Its primary geographical feature is the Thames, a navigable river which crosses the city from the southwest to the east. The Thames Valley is a floodplain surrounded by gently rolling hills such as Parliament Hill and Primrose Hill. These hills presented no significant obstacle to the growth of London from its origins as a port on the north side of the river, and therefore London is roughly circular.

The Thames was once a much broader, shallower river with extensive marshlands. It has been extensively embanked, and many of its London tributaries now flow underground. The Thames is a tidal river, and London is vulnerable to flooding.[3] The threat has increased over time due to a slow but continuous rise in high water level by the slow ’tilting’ of Britain (up in the north and down in the south) caused by post-glacial rebound. The Thames Barrier was constructed across the Thames at Woolwich in the 1970s to deal with this threat, but a more substantial barrier further downstream may be necessary in the near future.

London has a temperate climate with regular but generally light precipitation throughout the year. The warmest month is July, with an average temperature range at Greenwich of 13.6 °C-22.8 °C (56.5–73.0 °F). The coolest month is January, averaging 2.4 °C-7.9 °C (35.6–46.2 °F). Average annual precipitation is 583.6 mm(22.98 inches), with February on average the driest month.[4] Snow is uncommon, particularly because heat from the urban area can make London 5 °C hotter than the surroundings.

See also: Inner London and Outer London
Main articles: Central London, City of London, West End, East London, East End, Docklands, West London, North London, South London

A view of Paternoster Square from the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.London’s vast urban area is often divided into a large set of districts (e.g. Bloomsbury, Mayfair, Whitechapel, among dozens of others). These are for the most part informal designations which have become commonplace through tradition, with no official boundaries. One area of London which does have a strict definition is the City of London (usually just called The City), the principal financial district of the UK. The City has its own governance and boundaries, giving it a distinctive status as a “city within a city”. London’s other financial hub is the Docklands area in the east of the city, dominated by the Canary Wharf complex, whilst many other businesses locate in the City of Westminster which is the home of the UK’s national government.

The West End (actually in Central London, in the City of Westminster) is London’s main entertainment and shopping district, with locations such as Oxford Street, Leicester Square, Covent Garden and Piccadilly Circus acting as tourist magnets. The West London area, further out from the centre, is now known for fashionable and expensive residential areas such as Notting Hill, Kensington and Chelsea — where properties sell on average for over £800,000.[5]

Meanwhile, the eastern side of London contains the East End — the area closest to the original Port of London, known for its high immigrant population, as well as for being one of the poorest areas in London. The surrounding East London area, of which the East End is seen to form a part, saw much of London’s early industrial development, and is currently part of the Thames Gateway regeneration that includes the 2012 Olympics. North London and South London are informal divisions of the capital made by the River Thames, although they can define varying areas.

Built environment
See also: Architecture in London and List of tallest structures in London
The density of London varies across the city, with high employment density in the city centre, high residential densities in inner London and lower densities in the suburbs. In the dense areas, most of this density is achieved with medium-rise buildings; high-rise buildings are not the norm, even in employment centres, and thus skyscrapers such as the City’s “Gherkin” and Tower 42 and Canary Wharf’s 50-story One Canada Square generally stand out in the skyline.

However, developments of tall buildings are encouraged in the London Plan, which will lead to the erection of many new skyscrapers over the next few years as London goes through a high-rise boom, particularly in the two financial centres, the City of London and Canary Wharf. The the 72-storey, 310m “Shard London Bridge” by London Bridge station, the 288m Bishopsgate Tower and around 30 other skyscrapers over 150m are either proposed or approved and could transform the city’s skyline.

The buildings of London are a collection of different styles accumulated mostly over the time since the Great Fire in 1666. Although the City is characterised by 18th and 19th century architecture, there are a number of examples of more modern construction, such as the Lloyd’s building. London’s focal point is the mid-19th century Trafalgar Square, marked with Nelson’s Column and the site of major demonstrations and street events in the capital.

Parks and gardens
Main articles: Parks and open spaces in London and Royal Parks of London
London has a number of open spaces scattered throughout the city. The largest of these in the central area are the Royal Parks of Hyde Park and its neighbour Kensington Gardens at the western edge of central London, and Regent’s Park on the northern edge. More central are the smaller Royal Parks of Green Park and St. James’s Park. Hyde Park in particular is popular for sports and sometimes hosts open-air concerts. A number of large parks outside the city centre are also notable, including the remaining Royal Parks of Greenwich Park to the south east, and Bushy Park and Richmond Park to the south west. Some more informal, semi-natural open spaces also exist, including the 791-acre Hampstead Heath of north London.

Main article: History of London
Early London
Although there is some evidence of scattered pre-Roman settlement in the area, the first major settlement was founded by the Romans in AD 43, following the Roman invasion of Britain. This settlement was called Londinium, commonly believed to be the origin of the present-day name, although a Celtic origin is also possible.

Aethelred the Unready, whose army pulled down London BridgeThe first London lasted for just seventeen years. Around AD 61, the Iceni tribe of Celts led by Queen Boudica stormed London, burning it to the ground. The next, heavily-planned incarnation of the city prospered and superseded Colchester as the capital of the Roman province of Britannia in AD 100. However, by the 3rd century AD, the city started a slow decline due to trouble in the Roman Empire, and by the 5th century AD, it was abandoned.

By 600 AD, the Anglo-Saxons had created a new settlement (Lundenwic) about 1km upstream from the old Roman city, around what is now Covent Garden. There was probably a harbour at the mouth of the River Fleet for fishing and trading, and this trading grew until disaster struck in 851 AD, when the new city’s ramshackle defences were overcome by a massive Viking raid and it was razed to the ground. A Viking occupation twenty years later was short-lived, and Alfred the Great, the new King of England, established peace and moved the settlement within the defensive walls of the old Roman city (then called Lundenburgh). The original city became Ealdwīc (“old city”), a name surviving to the present day as Aldwych.

Subsequently, under the control of various English kings, London once again prospered as an international trading centre and political arena. However, Viking raids began again in the late 10th century, and reached a head in 1013 when they besieged the city under Danish King Canute and forced English King Aethelred the Unready to flee. In a retaliatory attack, Aethelred’s army achieved victory by pulling down London Bridge with the Danish garrison on top, and English control was re-established.

Canute took control of the English throne in 1017, controlling the city and country until 1042, when his death resulted in a reversion to Anglo-Saxon control under his pious step-son Edward the Confessor, who re-founded Westminster Abbey and the adjacent Palace of Westminster. By this time, London had become the largest and most prosperous city in England, although the official seat of government was still at Winchester.

Norman and medieval London

The Tower of London, built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century.Following a victory at the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror, the then Duke of Normandy, was crowned King of England in the newly-finished Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066. William granted the citizens of London special privileges, whilst building a castle in the southeast corner of the city to keep them under control. This castle was expanded by later kings and is now known as the Tower of London, serving first as a royal residence and later as a prison.

In 1097, William II began the building of Westminster Hall, close by the abbey of the same name. The hall proved the basis of a new Palace of Westminster, the prime royal residence throughout the Middle Ages. Westminster became the seat of the royal court and government (persisting until the present day), whilst its distinct neighbour, the City of London, was a centre of trade and commerce and flourished under its own unique administration, the Corporation of London. Eventually, the adjacent cities grew together and formed the basis of modern central London, superseding Winchester as capital of England in the 12th century.

After the successful defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, political stability in England allowed London to grow further. In 1603, James I came to the thrones of both England and Scotland, essentially uniting the two countries. His enactment of harsh anti-Catholic laws made him unpopular, and an assassination attempt was made on 5 November 1605 — the famous Gunpowder Plot.

Plague caused extensive problems for London in the early 17th century, culminating in the Great Plague in 1665-1666. This was the last major outbreak in Europe, possibly thanks to the disaster that immediately followed in 1666. A fire (the Great Fire of London) broke out in the original City and quickly swept through London’s wooden buildings, destroying large swathes of the city (and killing off much of the disease-carrying rat population). Rebuilding took over ten years.

Rise of modern London

A London street hit during the Blitz of World War IILondon’s growth accelerated in the 18th century, and was the world’s largest city from about 1831 to 1925. This growth was aided from 1836 by London’s first railways which put small countryside towns within easy reach of the city. The rail network expanded very rapidly, and caused these places to grow whilst London itself expanded into surrounding fields, merging with neighbouring settlements such as Kensington. Rising traffic congestion on city centre roads led to the creation of the world’s first metro system — the London Underground — in 1863, driving yet further expansion and urbanisation.

London’s local government system struggled to cope with the rapid growth, especially in providing the city with adequate infrastructure. Between 1855 and 1889, the Metropolitan Board of Works oversaw infrastructure expansion. It was then replaced by the County of London, overseen by the London County Council, London’s first elected city-wide administration.

The Blitz and other bombing by the German Luftwaffe during World War II killed over 30,000 Londoners and flattened large tracts of housing and other buildings across London. The rebuilding during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s was characterised by a wide range of architectural styles and has resulted in a lack of architectural unity that has become part of London’s character. In the same period, extensive immigration, primarily from the Commonwealth, changed the demographic mix of the city. In 1965 London’s political boundaries were expanded to take into account the growth of the urban area outside the County of London’s borders. The expanded region was called Greater London and was administered by the Greater London Council.

An economic revival from the 1980s onwards re-established London’s position as an eminent trading centre. However, as the seat of government and the most important city in the UK, it has been subjected to bouts of terrorism. IRA bombers sought to pressure the government into negotiations over Northern Ireland, frequently disrupting city activities with bomb threats — some of which were carried out — until their 1997 ceasefire. More recently, a series of coordinated bomb attacks were carried out by Islamic extremist suicide bombers on the public transport network — just 24 hours after London was awarded the 2012 Summer Olympics.

See also: Category:London Government

City Hall at night, headquarters of the Greater London Authority.
Political parties controlling the London borough councils as of 2006.The administration of London takes place in two tiers — a city-wide, strategic tier and a local tier. City-wide administration is coordinated by the Greater London Authority (GLA), whilst local administration is carried out by 33 smaller districts.

The GLA is responsible for strategic planning, policing, the fire service and transport. It consists of two elected parts — the Mayor of London, who has executive powers, and the London Assembly, who scrutinise the Mayor’s decisions and can accept or reject his budget proposals each year. The GLA is a recent organisation, having been set up in 2000 to replace the similar Greater London Council (GLC) which was abolished in 1986.

The current Mayor of London is Ken Livingstone, who is in his second term of office. He was elected in 2000 as an independent candidate and again in 2004 as a Labour candidate. Ken Livingstone was also the leader of the GLC when it was abolished.

The 33 local administrations are the 32 London boroughs and the City of London. They are responsible for local services not overseen by the GLA (except for health, which is nationally-controlled and administered in London by five Strategic Health Authorities[6]). The boroughs are controlled by resident-elected local councils, whilst the City is run by the historic Corporation of London, which is elected by both residents and businesses. The City has its own police force distinct from the GLA-controlled Metropolitan Police (or “Met”).

At a national level, London is represented in Parliament by 74 MPs who correspond to local parliamentary constituencies (for a list of London constituencies, see List of Parliamentary constituencies in Greater London). London is the centre of national government, which is located around the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. Many government offices are located close to Parliament, particularly along Whitehall and including the Prime Minister’s famous residence on Downing Street.

London has “sister city” agreements with the following cities:[7]

New York City since 2001
Berlin (since 2000)
Beijing (since 2006)[7]
Tokyo (since 2006)[8]
Further information: Economy of the United Kingdom, Media in London and Tourism in London

Bishopsgate, in the City of London.London is Europe’s largest city economy. The city itself generated £181 billion in 2004 which was 19% of the UK’s GDP,[9] whilst the entire London metropolitan area generated approximately £280 billion — 30% of UK GDP — in 1999.[10] Londoners have the highest average income in Great Britain – an average of £38,586 per household[11].

London’s biggest industry is finance, and its financial exports make it a large contributor to the UK’s balance of payments.[12] The City is the largest financial centre in London, home to banks, brokers, insurers and legal and accounting firms. A second, smaller financial district is developing at Canary Wharf to the east which includes the global headquarters of HSBC, Reuters, Barclays and the largest law firm in the world, Clifford Chance. London handled 31% of global currency transactions in 2005 — an average daily turnover of US$753 billion — with more US dollars traded in London than New York, and more Euros traded there than every other city in Europe combined.[13] [14]

London is host to many company headquarters. More than half of the UK’s top 100 listed companies (the FTSE 100) and over 100 of Europe’s 500 largest companies are headquartered in central London, and over 70% of the FTSE 100 are located within London’s metropolitan area.

Along with professional services, media companies are concentrated in London (see Media in London) and the media distribution industry is London’s second most competitive sector.[15] The BBC is a key employer, and other broadcasters also have headquarters around the city. Many national newspapers are edited in London, having traditionally been associated with Fleet Street in the City, but they are now primarily based around Canary Wharf. Soho is the centre of London’s post-production industry.

Tourism is one of London’s largest industries and employed the equivalent of 350,000 full-time workers in London in 2003,[16] whilst annual expenditure by tourists is around £15bn.[17] London is a popular destination for tourists, attracting 27m overnight-stay visitors every year.[18]

From once being the largest port in the world, the Port of London is now only the third-largest in the United Kingdom, handling 50 million tonnes of cargo each year.[19] Most of this actually passes through Tilbury, outside the boundary of Greater London.

Main articles: Demographics of London and Religion in London

Hindu temple at Neasden, the largest temple of Hinduism outside India.With increasing industrialisation, London’s population grew rapidly throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, and was the most populated city in the world during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Some 7,420,600 people were estimated to live in London as of 2004 at an overall density of 4,697 people per square kilometre.

It has historically been known as one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world, and this continues in the modern day, with more than 300 languages spoken and 50 non-indigenous communities with a population of more than 10,000 living in London.[20] In the 2001 census, it was shown that 40% of London’s population classified themselves as non-British, with 37% classified as non-white.[21]

In terms of religion, London is historically dominated by Christianity, and consequently has a large number of churches, particularly in the City. The famous St Paul’s Cathedral in the City and Southwark Cathedral south of the river are Anglican administrative centres, whilst important national and royal ceremonies are shared between St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey. The Abbey is not to be confused with nearby Westminster Cathedral, a relatively recent edifice which is the largest Roman Catholic cathedral in England and Wales.

Despite this dominance, London is also home to sizeable Muslim, Hindu and Jewish communities. Many Muslims live in Tower Hamlets and Newham; the most important Muslim edifice is London Central Mosque on the edge of Regent’s Park. London’s large Hindu community is found in the north-western boroughs of Harrow and Brent, the latter of which contains Europe’s largest Hindu temple, Neasden Temple.[22] The majority of British Jews live in London, with significant Jewish communities in Stamford Hill and Golders Green in North London.[23]

Main article: Transport in London

Paddington Station, one of London’s major railway terminals.Transport is one of the four areas of policy administered by the Mayor of London, but the mayor’s financial control is limited. The public transport network, administered by Transport for London (TfL), is one of the most extensive in the world, but faces congestion and reliability issues, which a large investment programme is attempting to address, including £7 billion (€10 billion) of improvements planned for the Olympics.

The centrepiece of the public transport network is the London Underground, the oldest metro system in the world, upon which nearly 1 billion journeys are made each year.[24] The Underground serves the central area and most suburbs to the north of the Thames, whilst those to the south are served by an extensive suburban rail network. Commuter and intercity railways generally do not cross the city, instead running into fourteen terminal stations scattered around its historic centre. The London bus network caters for most local journeys and carries even more passengers than the Underground.

Although the vast majority of journeys involving central London are made by public transport, travel in outer London is car-dominated. An inner ring road (the North and South Circular) and an orbital motorway (the M25) are intersected by a number of busy radial routes — but very few motorways penetrate inner London. In 2003, the congestion charge was introduced to reduce traffic in the city centre. With a few exceptions, motorists are required to pay £8 per day to drive within a defined zone encompassing much of central London.

London is an international transport hub, with five sizeable airports and a cross-channel rail service. Heathrow is the busiest airport in the world for international traffic; such traffic is also handled at Gatwick, whilst Stansted and Luton cater mostly for low-cost short-haul flights. London City, the smallest and most central airport, is focused on business travellers.[25] Eurostar trains link London Waterloo station with Lille and Paris in France, and Brussels in Belgium.

Main article: Education in London

The Royal School of Mines entrance at Imperial College London, part of the University of LondonLondon has the largest student population of any British city (about 378,000).[26] It is home to a diverse range of universities, colleges and schools, and is a centre of research and development. Most primary and secondary schools in London follow the same system as the rest of England.

With 125,000 students, the University of London is the largest contact teaching university in the United Kingdom and in Europe.[27] It comprises 20 colleges as well as several smaller institutes, each with a high degree of autonomy. Constituent colleges have their own admissions procedures, and are effectively universities in their own right, although all degrees are awarded by the University of London rather than the individual colleges. Its constituents include multi-disciplinary colleges such as UCL, King’s and Queen Mary and more specialised institutions such as Imperial, the LSE, the SOAS, the Royal Academy of Music and the Institute of Education.

London’s other universities, such as UEL, the University of Westminster and London South Bank University, are not part of the University of London. Some were polytechnics until these were granted university status in 1992, and others which were founded much earlier.

London is home to a number of important museums and other institutions which are major tourist attractions as well as playing a research role. The Natural History Museum, Science Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum (dealing with fashion and design) are clustered in South Kensington’s “museum quarter”, whilst the British Museum houses historic artefacts from around the world. The British Library at St Pancras is the UK’s national library, housing 150 million items.[28] The city also houses extensive art collections, primarily in the National Gallery, Tate Britain and Tate Modern.

Society and culture
Main Article: Culture of London

Leisure and entertainment

Bond Street, one of Mayfair’s main shopping streets.Within the City of Westminster, the entertainment district of the West End has its focus around Leicester Square, where London film premieres are held, and Piccadilly Circus, with its giant electronic advertisements. London’s theatre district is here, as are many cinemas, bars, clubs and restaurants, including the city’s Chinatown district, whilst just to the east is Covent Garden, an area housing speciality shops and London’s “Avenue of Stars” which honours achievers in the entertainment industry.

London’s busiest shopping area is Oxford Street, a mainstream shopping street nearly 2km long. The adjoining Bond Street in Mayfair is a more upmarket location along with the Knightsbridge area – home to the Harrods department store – to the southwest. London has a number of markets, including Camden Market for fashions, Portobello Road for antiques and Borough Market for foods.

London offers a huge variety of cuisines as a result of its ethnically diverse population. Well-known gastronomic centres include the Bangladeshi restaurants of Brick Lane and the Chinese food of Chinatown. Soho offers a variety of relatively cheap international restaurants, whilst more upmarket restaurants are scattered around central London, with concentrations in Mayfair. Across the city, areas home to particular ethnic groups are often recognisable by restaurants, food shops and market stalls offering their local fare, and even the large supermarkets stock such items in areas with sizeable ethnic groups.

The Caribbean-descended community in Notting Hill in West London organises the colourful Notting Hill Carnival, Europe’s biggest street carnival, every summer. The beginning of the year is celebrated with the relatively new New Year’s Day Parade, whilst traditional parades include November’s Lord Mayor’s Show, an centuries-old event celebrating the annual appointment of a new Lord Mayor of the City of London with a procession along the streets of the City, and June’s Trooping the Colour, a very formal military pageant to celebrate the (official) Queen’s Birthday.

Literature and film

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), whose works formed a pervasive image of Victorian LondonLondon has been the setting for many works of literature. Two writers closely associated with the city are the diarist Samuel Pepys, famous among other things for his eyewitness account of the Great Fire, and Charles Dickens, whose representation of a foggy, snowy, grimy London of street sweepers and pickpockets is a major influence on people’s vision of early Victorian London. James Boswell’s biographical Life of Johnson mostly takes place in London, and is the source of Johnson’s famous aphorism: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” The earlier (1722) A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe is a fictionalisation of the events of the 1665 Great Plague. Later important depictions of London from the 19th and early 20th centuries are the afore-mentioned Dickens novels, and Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous Sherlock Holmes stories. The 1933 novel Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell describes life in poverty in both cities. A modern writer pervasively influenced by the city is Peter Ackroyd, in works such as London: The Biography, The Lambs of London and Hawksmoor.

London has a thriving film industry, one of the largest in the English speaking world. The Central School of Speech and Drama, whose past students include several famous alumni Judi Dench and Laurence Olivier, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (educators of Jim Broadbent and Donald Sutherland amongst others) and the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (past students including Joan Collins and Roger Moore).

Main article: Sport in London

No. 1 Court at the All England Club in WimbledonLondon has hosted the Summer Olympics twice, in 1908 and 1948. In July 2005 London was chosen to host the Games in 2012, which will make it the first city in the world to host the Summer Olympics three times.[29] London was also the host of the British Empire Games in 1934.

London’s most popular sport (for both participants and spectators) is football.[30] Six FA Premier League teams are from London — Arsenal, Charlton Athletic, Chelsea, Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United. London also has three rugby union teams in the Guinness Premiership (London Irish, Saracens and Wasps), although all now play outside Greater London, as well as a rugby league Super League club in Harlequins.

Wembley Stadium (which is currently being rebuilt) has traditionally been the home of the English national football team, and serves as the venue for the FA Cup final as well as rugby league’s Challenge Cup final. Twickenham Stadium in west London is the national rugby union stadium.

Cricket in London centres on its two Test cricket grounds at Lord’s (home of Middlesex CC) in St John’s Wood, and The Oval (home of Surrey CC) in Kennington.

One of London’s most well-known annual sports competitions is the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, held at the All England Club in the south-western suburb of Wimbledon. Other key events are the annual mass-participation London Marathon which sees some 35,000 runners attempt a 42-km course around the city, and the Oxford vs. Cambridge Boat Race.
Courtesy: wikipedia

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Israel Dead Sea


Introduction :

The Negev region covers about half of the land of Israel. It is inhabited by only eight percent of the population, living mainly in the northern part, supported by an agricultural and industrial economy. The Negev region southern area is a parched out zone characterized by low sandstone hills and plains, abounding with canyons, often produce flash floods. Southward, the region gives way to an area of bare fisted peaks, craters and rock-strewn plateaus, where the climate is drier and the mountains are higher.

The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth, at about 1,300 feet (400 m.) below sea level. The area richness with potash, magnesium and bromine made it the perfect location for visitors seeking for a relaxing and nutritious vacation.

Dead Sea Tourism Guide – The water of the Dead Sea contains 21 minerals including magnesium, calcium, bromime and potassium. 12 of these are found in no other sea or ocean and some are recognized for imparting a relaxed feeling, nourishing the skin, activating the circulatory system and for easing rheumatic discomfort and metabolic disorders. As an example, the Dead Sea contains 10 times more salts and minerals than the Mediterranean Sea. The high salt and mineral concentration enables everyone to float in its waters but doesn’t allow the proliferation of fish and other marine life.

Ein Gedi – Nature Reserve – Two streams flow in the reserve. There are footpaths for hikers and wild animals roam the reserve. The waters running through the reserve together with the desert climate have created a large volume of tropical plants and a home for wildlife.

Masada – Masada is the most visited of all archeaological sites in Israel and one of the most popular climbs. It can be reached from two directions today, either from the Dead Sea in the east, via the original and steep “snake path” or from the west on a path built from the old Roman ramp, offerin g an easier climb or a cable car to ease the ascent . Facing east towards the Dead Sea:

Ben Gurion’s Desert Home – The Hut was the home of Paula and David Ben-Gurion from 1953, when they joined the kibbutz as members. After Ben Gurion died, it was decided that the hut would be preserved as a museum and memorial site, demonstrating Ben Gurion’s heritage with regard to settling the desert.

Shivta National Park – Travelers heading to Eilat or Mitzpeh Ramon and using the western border route may take the opportunity of visiting Shivta and observing the three restored Byzantine churches and some of the achievements of these ancient cultures.

Scrolls from the Dead Sea – In 1947, young Bedouin shepherds, searching for a stray goat in the Judean Desert, entered a long-untouched cave and found jars filled with ancient scrolls. That initial discovery by the Bedouins yielded seven scrolls and began a search that lasted nearly a decade and eventually produced thousands of scroll fragments from eleven caves. During those same years, archaeologists searching for a habitation close to the caves that might help identify the people who deposited the scrolls, excavated the Qumran ruin – a complex of structures located on a barren terrace between the cliffs where the caves are found and the Dead Sea.


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Crowne Plaza Hotel Dead Sea Ein Gedi Resort Hotel Dead Sea
Gardens Hotel and Spa Dead Sea Golden Tulip Hotel Dead Sea
Hod Hamidbar Resort and Spa Hotel Dead Sea Le meridien Spa Hotel Dead Sea
Lot Spa Hotel Dead Sea Magic Nirvana Hotel Dead Sea – All Inclusive Resort
Novotel Thalassa Hotel Dead Sea Sheraton Moriah Hotel Dead Sea

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In 1947, following increasing levels of violence together with unsuccessful efforts to reconcile the Jewish and Arab populations, the British government decided to withdraw from the Palestine Mandate. The UN General Assembly approved the 1947 UN Partition Plan dividing the territory into two states, with the Jewish area consisting of roughly 55% of the land, and the Arab area roughly 45%. Jerusalem was planned to be an international region administered by the UN to avoid conflict over its status.

Immediately following the adoption of the Partition Plan by the UN General Assembly on November 29, 1947, David Ben-Gurion tentatively accepted the partition, while the Arab League rejected it. Scattered attacks on civilians of both sides soon turned into widespread fighting between Arabs and Jews, this civil war being the first “phase” of the 1948 War of Independence.

The State of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948, one day before the expiry of the Palestine Mandate.

Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations on May 11, 1949.

War of Independence and migration
Main article: 1948 Arab-Israeli War
See also: Jewish refugees, Palestinian refugee, Palestinian exodus, and Arab-Israeli conflict
Following the State of Israel’s establishment, the armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq joined the fighting and began the second phase of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. From the north, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, were all but stopped relatively close to the borders. Jordanian forces, invading from the east, captured East Jerusalem and laid siege on the city’s west. However, forces of the Haganah successfully stopped most invading forces, and Irgun forces halted Egyptian encroachment from the south. At the beginning of June, the UN declared a one-month cease fire during which the Israel Defense Forces were officially formed. After numerous months of war, a cease fire was declared in 1949 and temporary borders, known as the Green Line, were instituted. Israel had gained an additional 26% of the Mandate territory west of the Jordan River. Jordan, for its part, held the large mountainous areas of Judea and Samaria, which became known as the West Bank. Egypt took control of a small strip of land along the coast, which became known as the Gaza Strip.

During and after the war, then Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion set about establishing order by dismantling the Palmach and underground organizations like the Irgun and Lehi. Those two groups were classified as terror organizations after the murder of Folke Bernadotte, a Swedish diplomat.

Large numbers of the Arab population fled the newly-created Jewish State during the Palestinian exodus (it is also referred to as the Nakba (Arabic: النكبة), meaning “disaster” or “cataclysm”). Many historians suggest that the Palestinians fled due to orders from Arab generals. Many Palestinians left under the belief that the Arab armies would prevail and they would return.[8] Moreover, Israel offered many of the Palestinians an opportunity to live and take citizenship in Israel, but many refused.[citation needed]

(Estimates of the final refugee count range from 600,000 to 900,000 with the official United Nations count at 711,000.[9]) The continuing conflict between Israel and the Arab world resulted in a lasting displacement that persists to this day.

Immigration of Holocaust survivors and Jewish refugees from Arab lands doubled Israel’s population within a year of independence. Over the following years approximately 850,000 Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews fled or were expelled from surrounding Arab countries and Iran. Of these, about 600,000 settled in Israel; the remainder went to Europe and the Americas. See: Jewish exodus from Arab lands

1950s and 1960s
Between 1954 and 1955, under Moshe Sharett as prime minister, the Lavon Affair, a failed attempt to bomb targets in Egypt, caused political disgrace in Israel. Compounding this, in 1956, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, much to the chagrin of the United Kingdom and France. Following this and a series of Fedayeen attacks, Israel created a secret military alliance with those two European powers and declared war on Egypt. After the Suez Crisis, the three collaborators faced international condemnation, and Israel was forced to withdraw its forces from the Sinai Peninsula.

In 1955, Ben-Gurion once again became prime minister and served as such until his final resignation in 1963. After Ben-Gurion’s resignation, Levi Eshkol was appointed to the post.

In 1961, the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, who had been largely responsible for the Final Solution, the planned extermination of the Jews of Europe, was captured in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and brought to trial in Israel. Eichmann became the only person ever sentenced to death by the Israeli courts.

On the political field, tensions once again arose between Israel and her neighbors in May 1967. Syria, Jordan, and Egypt had been hinting at war, and Egypt expelled UN Peacekeeping Forces from the Gaza Strip. When Egypt closed the strategic Straits of Tiran to Israeli vessels, Israel deemed it a casus belli for pre-emptively attacking Egypt on June 5. After the ensuing Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors, the Jewish State emerged triumphant. Israel had defeated the armies of three large Arab states and decimated their air forces. Territorially, Israel conquered the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula, and Golan Heights. The Green Line of 1949 became the administrative boundary between Israel and her Occupied Territories, also called Disputed Territories. However, Israel has spread its administrative domain to East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The Sinai was later returned to Egypt following the signing of a peace treaty.

In 1967 Israeli aircraft attacked the USS Liberty, killing 34 American servicemen. American and Israeli investigations into the incident concluded that the attack was a tragic accident involving confusion over the identity of the Liberty.

In 1969 Golda Meir, Israel’s first and to date only female prime minister was elected.

See also: Positions on Jerusalem, Jerusalem Law, Golan Heights, and Israeli-occupied territories

Between 1968 and 1972, a period known as the War of Attrition, numerous scuffles erupted along the border between Israel and Syria and Egypt. Furthermore, in the early-1970s, palestinian groups embarked on an unprecedented wave of attacks against Israel and Jewish targets in other countries. The climax of this wave occurred at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, when, in the Munich massacre, Palestinian terrorists held hostage and killed members of the Israeli delegation. Israel responded with Operation Wrath of God, in which agents of Mossad assassinated most of those who were involved in the massacre.

Finally, on October 6, 1973, on the Jewish fast day of Yom Kippur, the Egyptian and Syrian armies launched a surprise attack against Israel. However, despite early successes against an unprepared Israeli army, Egypt and Syria failed to accomplish their goal of regaining the territories lost in 1967. Yet after the war, a number of years of relative calm ensued, which fostered the environment in which Israel and Egypt could make peace.

In 1974, Yitzhak Rabin, with Meir’s resignation, became Israel’s fifth prime minister. Then, in the 1977 Knesset elections, the Ma’arach, the ruling party since 1948, created a storm by leaving the government. The new Likud party, led by Menachem Begin, became the new ruling party.

Then, in November of that year, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, making a historic visit to the Jewish State, spoke before the Knesset — the first recognition of Israel by its Arab neighbors. Following the visit, the two nations conducted negotiations which led to the signing of the Camp David Accords. In March 1979, Begin and Sadat signed the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty in Washington, DC. As laid out in the treaty, Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula and evacuated the settlements established there during the 1970s. It was also agreed to lend autonomy to Palestinians across the Green Line.

See also: War of Attrition, Munich Massacre, Yom Kippur War, Anwar Sadat, and Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty

On July 7, 1981, the Israeli Air Force bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osiraq in an attempt to foil Iraqi efforts at producing an atomic bomb.

In 1982, Israel launched an attack against Lebanon, which had been embroiled in the Lebanese Civil War since 1975. The official reason for the attack was to defend Israel’s northernmost settlements from terrorist attacks, which had been occurring frequently. However, after establishing a forty-kilometer barrier zone, the IDF continued northward and even captured the capital, Beirut. Israeli forces expelled Palestinian Liberation Organization forces from the country, forcing the organization to relocate to Tunis. Unable to deal with the stress of the ongoing war, Prime Minister Begin resigned from his post in 1983 and was replaced by Yitzhak Shamir. Though Israel withdrew from most of Lebanon in 1986, a buffer zone was maintained until May 2000 when Israel unilaterally withdrew from Lebanon.

The rest of the 1980s were spent constantly shifting from the right, led by Yitzhak Shamir, to the left under Shimon Peres. Peres, for example, was prime minister from 1984, but handed the position over to Shamir in 1986. The First Intifadah then broke out in 1987 and was accompanied by waves of violence in the Occupied Territories. Following the outbreak, Shamir once again was elected prime minister, in 1988.

See also: 1982 Lebanon War, Lebanese Civil War, and PLO

During the Gulf War, Israel was hit by a number of Iraqi missiles, which killed two Israeli citizens, even though Israel was not a member of the coalition and was not involved in the fighting.

The early 1990s were marked by the beginning of a massive immigration of Soviet Jews, who, according to the Law of Return, were entitled to become Israeli citizens upon arrival. About 380,000 arrived in 1990-91 alone. Although initially favouring the right, the new immigrants became the target of an aggressive election campaign by Labor, which blamed their employment and housing problems on the ruling Likud. As a result, in the 1992 elections the immigrants voted en masse for Labor, letting the left achieve a 61-59 majority in the 1992 Knesset elections.

Following the elections, Yitzhak Rabin became prime minister, forming a left-wing government coalition. During the election campaign his Labor party promised Israelis a significant improvement in personal security and achievement of a comprehensive peace with the Arabs “within six to nine months” after the elections. By the end of 1993 the government abandoned the framework of Madrid and signed the Oslo Accords with the PLO. In 1994, Jordan became the second of Israel’s neighbours to make peace with it.

The initial wide public support for the Oslo Accords began to wane as Israel was struck by an unprecedented wave of attacks supported by the militant Hamas group, which opposed the accords. Public support slipped even further. On November 4, 1995, a Jewish nationalist militant named Yigal Amir assassinated Rabin.

Public dismay with the assassination created a backlash against Oslo opponents and significantly boosted the chances of Shimon Peres, Rabin’s successor and Oslo architect, to win the upcoming 1996 elections. However, a new wave of suicide bombings combined with Arafat’s statements extolling the Muslim nationalist militant Yahya Ayyash, made the public mood swing once again and in May 1996 Peres narrowly lost to his challenger from Likud, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Although seen as a hard-liner opposing the Oslo Accords, Netanyahu withdrew from Hebron and signed the Wye River Memorandum giving wider control to the Palestinian National Authority. During Netanyahu’s tenure, Israel experienced a lull in attacks against Israel’s civilian population by Palestinian groups, but his government fell in 1999. Labor’s Ehud Barak beat Netanyahu by a wide margin in the 1999 elections and succeeded him as prime minister.

This section documents a current event.
Information may change rapidly as the event progresses.

Barak initiated a unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. This process was intended to frustrate Hezbollah attacks on Israel by forcing them to cross Israel’s border. The Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and Yassir Arafat once again conducted negotiations with President Clinton at the July 2000 Camp David summit. However, the talks failed. Barak offered to form a Palestinian State initially on 73% of the West Bank and 100% of the Gaza Strip. In ten to 25 years the West Bank area would expand to 90% (94% excluding greater Jerusalem). [3] [4]

After the collapse of the talks, Palestinian officials began a second uprising, known as the Al-Aqsa Intifadah, just after the leader of the opposition Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The failure of the talks and the outbreak of a new war caused many Israelis on both the right and the left to turn away from Barak, and also discredited the peace movement.

Ariel Sharon became the new prime minister in March 2001 and consequently was re-elected, along with his Likud party in the Knesset elections of 2003. Sharon initiated a plan to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip. This disengagement was executed between August and September 2005.

Israel also is building a West Bank Barrier to defend the country from attacks by Palestinian armed groups. The barrier, which is planned to measure 681 kilometers, meanders past the Green Line and effectively annexes 9.5% of the West Bank.[10] The barrier has been met with some criticism from the international community and numerous protest demonstrations by the Israeli left.

After Ariel Sharon suffered a severe hemorrhagic stroke, the powers of the office were passed to Ehud Olmert, who was designated the “Acting” Prime Minister. On April 14, 2006, Olmert was elected Prime Minister after his party, Kadima, Hebrew for “forward,” won the most seats in the 2006 legislative elections.

On June 28, 2006, after Hamas militias crossed the border from the Gaza Strip and captured an Israeli soldier while also killing two soldiers, Israel began Operation Summer Rains which consisted of heavy bombardment of Hamas targets as well as bridges, roads, and the only power station in Gaza. Israel also has deployed troops into the territory. Israel’s critics have accused it of disproportionate use of force and collective punishment of innocent civilians and not giving diplomacy a chance. Israel argues that they have no other option to get their soldier back and put an end to the rocket attacks into Israel.

On July 12, 2006, Hezbollah militants captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others, sparking the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. According to Israel, the UN, EU, G8 and the USA, the soldiers were captured in the Israeli town of Zar’it, and several prominent news agencies have characterized the Hezbollah action as “cross-border”. However, Lebanese police sources claimed shortly afterwards that the soldiers had been attacked and captured during an Israeli raid into south Lebanon. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared the kidnappings an “act of war” and warned of a “heavy price” to be paid by Lebanon.[11]. As a result, Israel has exercised a strong retaliatory front including strikes on Lebanese bridges, power plants, roads, and army bases. Hundreds of Lebanese civilians, including women and children, aid workers, and international observers have died as a result of heavy Israeli shellings and air strikes in the south of the country; over 800,000 people have been displaced from their homes [12] [13] [14]. A much smaller number of Israeli civilians also have been killed as a result of Hezbollah rocket attacks on northern Israel, with many tens of thousands forced to hide in fall-out shelters. United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said that Israel has a right to defend itself, but he condemned the excessive use of force.[15]. Both Hamas and Hezbollah have stated that they only will release the soldiers in a prisoner exchange with Israel; however, Israel has said that they will not engage in any prisoner exchanges, and only will end the conflicts if they agree to suspend all rocket attacks into Israel and unconditionally release the soldiers. Read more

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