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Loose Yourself in Bermuda

Loose Yourself in Bermuda

Issue 7 Sept / Oct 2004

Tidy pastel cottages, pink sand beaches, businessmen in Bermuda shorts, cricket matches and afternoon tea - Bermuda's stereotypes of typical British life are its reality as well.  

 

Tidy pastel cottages, pink sand beaches, businessmen in Bermuda shorts, cricket matches and afternoon tea - Bermuda's stereotypes of typical British life are its reality as well. With just over 60,000 inhabitants and 21 sq miles of land, tiny Bermuda is one of the more isolated island groups on Earth. Far from urban pollution, Bermuda is not a tropical island but a subtropical one. A tiny citadel of beauty, alone in the vast Atlantic.

There are seven chief islands and about 131 smaller ones large enough to have been named. The group is attenuated, it arcs into a fishhook and bridges link the seven principal islands. The chain of islands is 21 miles long and one and a half miles wide at its greatest width. Visitors can enjoy a high degree of privacy on its secluded coves and beaches which offer the opportunity to bask in the sun out of the view of others.

One of the fascinating aspects of Bermuda is that it is unique in appearance, flavour and geography. Palm trees flourish in the frost-free air, blue skies prevail with scattered, feathery clouds floating along resulting in the most beautiful sunsets. The seascapes give the country its strength. All that marvellous blue Atlantic, unbroken all the way to the Canary Islands, comes surging in against the reefs and boulders that guard the pink-sand beaches. The sea may be as blue in some other favoured spots, but nowhere is it more beautiful than in Bermuda. Another fascinating feature of these islands is that, though each one is small, they give the effect of diversity. They have individual personalities. They can be explored with never failing delight at the curving hills, the looping, intertwining shoreline and the caves.

Among the dramatic big caves that are open to the public are the Crystal Caves. The stalactites drip from the roof in the Crystal Lake, a clear pool of salt water that rises and falls with the tide. A pontoon bridge allows the explorer to enjoy the whole stone forest of stalactites and stalagmites.

The reefs and patches of coral near the coasts are another source of wonderment and pleasure, especially for snorkeller and scuba divers. The coral canyons are home to a multitude of fi sh, giant turtles and other sea creatures. To float above the canyons on the surface of the water and watch this world through a dive mask is to know relaxation. To dive is to explore a beauty the land cannot offer and for those who do not want to get wet, there is the option of glass bottomed boats!

At every turn and at every sound, from that of the crickets in mornings and the giant toads in the evening, the visitor cannot help but wonder at the beauty and peace around them. In a place such as this, Allah’s creation can only be marvelled at and one cannot help but think that this is what the world must have looked like before man introduced industry and pollution. 

 

Bermuda takes its name from the Spanish sea captain Juan de Bermudez, who sighted the uninhabited islands at the beginning of the 16th Century. The Spanish did not take much interest in them and it was not until 1609 that Admiral Sir George Somers was shipwrecked on the islands while on his way to colonise America. Aware of the gloomy Spanish accounts, the English crew expected the worst but instead found Bermuda to be surprisingly agreeable.

 

With a British colonial history that dates back nearly four centuries, Bermuda offers numerous historic attractions. The coast is rimmed with old forts and the historic town of St. George, Bermuda’s original 17th century capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site exudes period charm. Visitors can even see the old wooden stocks used for punishing criminals and slaves who did not carry out their duties to the standard expected of them!

 The majority of Bermudians are of African descent, who can trace their ancestry to slaves brought to the island in the 17th and 18th centuries. Islam is well regarded due this history as many, many slaves were Muslims. Now however, Christianity is the predominant faith and Bermuda can boast one of the largest ratios of churches per square mile in the whole world. There are about 300 Muslims living on the islands with an established mosque and community centre in the capital city of Hamilton. There are two other smaller mosques established in different parts of the islands. These have been converted from homes belonging to members of the Muslim community. They have beautifully decorated interiors and ensure that islanders do not have to travel far to pray together.

 The emphasis on faith is reflected in the culture of the local population. For visitors, neatness in dress and politeness in attitude go a long way. In fact it is recommended that when you stop someone in the street to ask for directions you should greet them first. A simple "excuse me…" would be considered abrupt and rude. In the same way, dress is relatively formal, with bathing suits considered inappropriate in any place aside from swimming pools and secluded beaches. It is an offence for men to be seen in public without a shirt.

 Naturally, being an island, fish plays a hefty role in the Bermudian diet. Codfish cakes became a staple long ago as did fish sandwiches made of fresh filet fried in a crisp batter which are as popular here as hamburgers elsewhere in the world. The most traditional meal is Sunday breakfast, a huge affair to linger over, which consists of codfish, eggs, boiled potatoes, bananas and avocado, with a sauce of onions and tomatoes. Food, like everything else in Bermuda, tends to be expensive though the strength of the pound against the weak dollar works greatly in favour of UK visitors. On the plus side though, there is a good variety of dining options from side-street delis in the capital to superb fine-dining seaside restaurants.

 Peace and tranquillity with breaks for sailing, sightseeing cruises, hiking trails, world class golf courses, deep-sea fishing, tennis and horseback riding add up to the perfect combination for that getaway holiday. What more could a person ask for? One could almost say that Bermuda is holiday perfection but for

the myth surrounding its one blemish - the Bermuda Triangle. Few terms conjure up images of the paranormal the way that this does.

 The name is given to a triangular section of the Atlantic Ocean that is bound by Bermuda to the north, Florida to the west and Puerto Rico to the south. It is thought that as many as 100 ships and planes have vanished in the triangle – bad news for them but great news for divers as Bermuda offers the greatest number of divable wrecks mile for mile in the western hemisphere. The mysterious disappearances in this zone, which is also known as the Devil’s Triangle, date back to the 19th century. What makes the triangle unusual is that many of the vessels are said to have gone down without even emitting a distress signal.

In other cases, ships have reappeared intact months after disappearing, but with no trace of the crew ever found.

 Various theories have been advanced to explain the disappearances, ranging from atmospheric disturbances and erratic magnetic forces to time warps and extra-terrestrial kidnappings. Others just write most of it off as coincidence and the usual combination of mechanical failure, bad weather and human error. However you look at it, the Bermuda Triangle just like the islands that make up Bermuda, gives those with a rich imagination plenty to work with.

 

There are about 300 Muslims living on the islands with an established mosque and community centre in the capital city of Hamilton. There are two other smaller mosques which have beautifully decorated interiors and ensure that islanders do not have to travel far to pray together.

 

 

 




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