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PART OF ONURA FOREST GIVES WAY

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Onura forest covering tens of hectares is the last rainforest in Alesa community. It is host to rare animal and plant species including the alligator that has been traditionally protected by Onura deity.

By Emmanuel Obe

Violation of the forest began in the early 1970’s when the northern fringe of it was cleared to give way for the East-West Road. The dualization of the road that dissected it to the nearby petroleum Refinery complex gave further impetus to its invasion. Mechanic workshops, and a shantytown began to develop around it.

Part of the Refinery Junction that dissects the forest

A major bank took a plunge and cut out a sizable area to locate its branch just by the junction. Last year, a major eatery and a petrol filling station opened shop opposite the bank and took off a large area of the forest. The entire Eastern flank of the forest has been lost to land speculators and developers.

Sometime in 1985, a local avatar caused a stir when with two nails and a hammer he climbed to the top of one of the tallest trees in the forest. To signpost his feat, he carved out a place at the top of the tree and inserted a piece of mirror. A day later, elders of the community ordered the felling of the tree fearing that the man might have placed some mystic object on the tree that could be ominous.

In time past, the forest provided the community with different species of freshwater fish, fresh palm wine from its rich reservoir of raffia palms and water for domestic use. The wetland within the forest soaks storm water from the community and keeps the community well drained.

Every June, a special festival of the Onura deity is celebrated by the locals. It is attended by priests of other deities in neighbouring communities. The festival comes before the beginning of the harvest season.

An attempt was made by Rivers State Government to declare the forest a protected zone about 20 years ago. The effort was resisted by the custodians of the Onura deity and it was stalled.

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A WHOLE TOWN UNDER ONE ROOF

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A whole town under one roof!The town of Whittier, Alaska, is known for having nearly the entire population living in a single apartment building.

The building is called Begich Towers, a 14-story apartment complex that houses about 90% of the town’s residents (total: 272). This has earned Whittier the nickname of a “town under one roof”.

The building, originally constructed as an army barracks, now serves as a cozy condominium featuring a post office, general store, police station, laundromat, health clinic, mayor’s office, and a heated indoor pool.

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Whittier, Alaska is accessible only by air or through a single-lane tunnel that stretches over two miles through neighboring Maynard Mountain. The town’s weather conditions can be harsh during winter, making the Begich Towers a convenient and practical living solution for the residents, under one roof.

In addition to the Begich Towers, there is a second condo building in the town where the remaining residents also live under one roof. The town’s school and gym are located in a separate structure but are connected to the Begich Towers by a tunnel, allowing for easy access during the winter months. Isn’t it amazing, that in this town everyone lives under one roof.

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AMADIYA THE TOWN THAT NEVER EXPANDS NOR SHRINKS

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The mountain table-top town of Amadiya

Iraq is beautiful and Amadiya the town that never expands or shrinks, is a shining example of its beauty. And you know what? Amadiya is a town that never expands or shrinks.

You can travel through roads that take you past immense and immaculate mountain ranges without an army patrol in sight. And also – it’s very friendly and safe.

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Where is Amadiya?

Amadiya is in Iraqi Kurdistan. Iraqi Kurdistan is a region of northern Iraq, close to the Turkish border. You can enter the Kurdistan region from Turkey and Iran and also by flying into Erbil or Sulimaniyeh airports. The town is also sometimes spelt Amadiye, Amedi and Amadiyeh. The nearest other town is Sulav, a small mountain village. Google Maps will kind of give you an inkling.

Approach view to the town

So, it is a Kurdish and Assyrian mountain village in northern Iraq – Kurdistan region. It sits proudly on a mountaintop and dates back to the year 3000 BC. It sits an astonishingly close to 10 miles from the Turkish border. The village has been rumoured to have been part of the Persian Empire and was a semi-autonomous region for a period lasting from 1376 to 1843.

Buildings perched by the cliff edge of the mountain table-top town. This peculiar city boundary makes expansion impossible

These days Amadiya is governed by the Kurdish government but ultimately controlled by Iraq, from the capital city of Baghdad. Christians and Muslims live in harmony inside this marvellous lofty village. The current population of Amadiya is rumoured to be around 4,000.

Getting to Amadiya

I’ll not lie to you – backpacking in Iraq is not the easiest thing you’ll ever do if you are used to booking things online. You can’t just go on the internet and book an online train ticket direct to Amadiya! Buses are infrequent, hard to spot and few and far between. Therefore getting to this mountain village leaves you with three main options:

One of the Taxis that commute to Amadiya

1. Know someone local to take you (a great option to have). 2. Hitch-hike (safer than you’d think). 3. Taxi (ouch – but you’ll probably have to!).

However, hitchhiking is not always safe. Bear that in mind somehow. So, on getting to Amadiya, get a taxi. You should ideally base in the town of Dohuk.

Dohuk to Amadiya by Shared Taxi

This is actually very easy. In Dohuk, head to a street called Cinema Street, on the other side of the road, if you look down you will see a car park with buses and taxis. This is the “Garaj” as they call it. From this “Garaj” in Dohuk you can get a shared taxi all the way to Amadiya.

Taxis will leave when they are full and make sure you have some Iraqi Dinars to pay. If you are rich and really cannot wait, you can pay more and just take the taxi with the driver as the only other person inside.

A typical Garaj from where taxis are boarded to the town

Driving from Dohuk to Amadiya

The drive from Dohuk to Amadiya is sensational. Iraq’s mountains are beautiful. You will be on a very smooth road through the valleys. Views are beautiful out on either side, showing the mountains and the villages.

One of the approach roads

The journey from Dohuk to Amadiya takes around one and a half hours depending on traffic. It’s not all twists and turns and it’s probably about 70 kilometres of road. Road signs state 60 km between Dohuk and Sulav, while the Lonely Planet offers 65 km. Another local map says 90 km…it’s hard to know!

Your taxi should drop you off nicely in downtown Amadiya – it’s not a big place so you won’t be lost.

Downtown Amadiya

Downtown Amadiya

In the grand scheme of things, Amadiya is a fairly average town. It has all the usual amenities – a shop – a police station – a youth club – a sports shop – restaurants and a main street. However, it’s on top of a mountain and that is why it’s magical!

There are also a few statues and a large Kurdistan flag flying from a roundabout in the village centre. Wandering around at your leisure is a good idea to get a feel for the village.

Amedi Mosque and Minaret

Approach to the mosque with the minaret visible

The central focus of the actual town is of course the Mosque/Masjid. As tourists sometimes flock here, there is a sign written in English inside the Mosque. The Amedi Mosque is hard to miss due to its towering Minaret – the highest point in the village.

The Minaret at the Mosque in Amadiya – towers over the town.

If you do become unsure, just ask locals for “Masjid” and they’ll know you mean Mosque. The Mosque is mostly green in colour. You can walk inside the Mosque grounds with no problem. If you want to enter the actual Mosque – wear a hajib for females and no shorts/skirts etc. Plus shoes must be taken off.

Bahdinan Gate/The Eastern Gate

This is the real reason why you’re here. The Bahdinan Gate is the only significant reminder of the ancient fortress city which once existed here. Modern housing blocks have taken over and the old walls have crumbled.

The ancient Bahdinan Gate

Head on your way down the streets of Amadiya until you find the Bahdinan Gate. It’s on the Sulav side of the town towards Dohuk, but it’s a good idea to carry a photo of the Gate (the Kurdistan tourist map has one, as did the Lonely Planet copy we had with us). This will make it easier to find the beloved Amadiya, the town that never expands or shrinks.

Most locals will stop and help you with no problem. A lot of them will also be happy and shocked to see foreigners in their town.

Once you get to the Gate, it’s basically a pathway down to an arch, you head in through the arch for excellent views and you’ll be on the path around the walls of what was once a fortress.

All in all, the ancient mountaintop village of Amadiya will always be a really cool day out. And because of its perch on a mountaintop, Amadiya is indeed the town that never expands or shrinks.

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SCIENTISTS DISCOVER CONTINENT MISSING FOR 375 YEARS

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Geoscientists discovered a continent that had been hiding in plain sight for almost 375 years.

Historically, there’s been speculation about whether a continent known as Zealandia or Te Riu-a-Māui in the Māori language exists.

According to TN News, Zealandia is 1.89 million square miles in size. It was part of a supercontinent called Gondwana, which included most of Western Antarctica and Eastern Australia, over 500 million years ago.

It was first said to be first discovered in 1642 by Dutch businessman and sailor Abel Tasman, who was desperate to uncover the “Great Southern Continent”.

Despite failing to find the new land, he met the local Māori, who were initially displeased by his arrival. However, they went on to provide valuable information about the surrounding land, including the existence of a large landmass to the east.

It wasn’t until 2017 that geologists discovered the continent had been hiding in plain sight all along. Thereafter it became easy to see how true it was to hold that scientists discovered a continent missing for 375 Years

Scientists agreed on the existence of Zealandia, which started to “pull away” from Gondwana for reasons scientists are still trying to understand.

Most of the newfound continent is underwater and has been used as an example by geologists at the Zealand Crown Research Institute GNS Science on how something “very obvious” can take a while to uncover.

“[It’s] a process which we don’t completely understand yet, Zealandia started to be pulled away,” Tulloch explained.

His colleague Nick Mortimer, who led the study, joked that it was “kind of cool” before explaining: “If you think about it, every continent on the planet has different countries on it, [but] there are only three territories on Zealandia.”

The world is full of puzzling phenomena that scientists discover. They raise the endless curiousity of those interested in following these striking events of nature about a world we dwell in but is yet to fully know and understand.

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