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How Mexico Found its Identity Through Art

The Mexican nation has a vibrant and rich culture influenced by the many civilizations which merged into modern Mexico; from the Aztecs and Mayans to the French and Spanish. Their history is very long and fascinating it actually took me three weeks of research to settle on an angle for this article, and no I didn’t land on just one.

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6 of the World’s Most Unique Looking Churches

Church of the Transfiguration (Kizhi Island, Russia)

While this Church does not have the typical look and feel of a Russian
Eastern Orthodox Church, its unique wooden structure and many roofs and bulbs give it an attractive look that makes it an exceptional building. Constructed in the 18th Century, it is one of three UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the Kizhi Island.

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Saudade: The Love That Remains



COMMUNITY NAP

When it comes to the word Saudade, there are plenty of things that come in mind. The 1974’s Moacir Santos album, the 2011’s Japanese movie, the 1994’s song by Chris Rea, or the 2014’s Thievery Corporation album and many more. But what about this word or expression that led these artists, musicians, and director to make so many projects named after it?

Being nostalgic for a time that you didn’t experience can be defined by cascading reminiscence bump, a phenomena when people not only resonate to the events from their own youth but the events from their grandparents and parents youth as well but as a form of musical memory. But Saudade is somewhat quite opposite of cascading reminiscence bump or reminiscence bump in general. It is the longing for a time that someone once experienced and loved fondly but know that they might never experience it again. It’s…

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Come take a Walk with Me – Torath Festival in Zamalek

Saturday morning. 9 O’clock.

The 6th of October bridge was almost deserted, which was perfect. I was on my way to Zamalek, to attend the 3rd Edition of Torath – Youm Fi Masr Festival in the Fish Garden – or El Gablaya for short. This neighborhood always has a positive impact on my spirits, as I found myself completely uplifted by the neighborhood’s iconic greenery, beautiful historic buildings, and the chill winter air. 

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Come take a Walk with Me – Souq El Fustat

If you take a walk with me, we will go to Old Cairo today. Driving through the ancient roads, we would pass Amr Ibn El Ass Mosque, and find ourselves standing next to the Hanging Church and the Coptic Museum. Those iconic sites are not our stop for the day. Today, we will be visiting Souq El Fustat, an Arts and Crafts Center with 35 permanent galleries and many booth stalls set-up for the day. Today is the date of the Festival For Arts & Crafts which is why we are here today.

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Tai Chi – A Coping Mechanism for Illness

The Chinese are famous for various forms of holistic health practices, such as acupuncture, massage, and herbalism, all of which are used widely throughout the world as an alternative means of improving quality of life and alleviating sickness. My personal experience with Chinese therapy came in the form of practicing Tai Chi, or Tai Chi Chuan or Quan  (太极拳); a meditative sport based on martial arts techniques that were developed in China in the 16th Century A.D.

The name Tai Chi in its self is self-explanatory. Tai Chi (太极) means balance, and Quan (拳) meaning fist denotes martial arts discipline or style. Qi or Chi means the life energy that runs through all living things, and it is believed in Chinese medicine that the imbalance in Qi force is what brings about illness and disease. Tai Chi has been reported to have numerous benefits such as improved muscular strength, flexibility, fitness, enhance immunity, relieve pain and improve quality of life through reduced stress and anxiety.

Yin and yang symbol for balance and the opposite forces of masculine/feminine energies. Traditional Chinese Medicine preaches that good health is achieved by maintaining a balance between yin and yang.

Before starting my journey with Tai Chi, I read a lot about it online, and I found that indeed it has many documented health benefits published in well – respected scientific journals. An article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine conducted a study which analyzed the results of 33 experiments involving 1584 participants. The most important findings of this article were that Tai Chi showed favorable effects on walking, knee extension strength and quality of life in most or all of the four chronic conditions under study, which were cancer, osteoarthritis, heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Another article published in JAMA Internal Medicine demonstrated the effectiveness of Tai Chi on health outcomes in older patients with chronic conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory issues. The article reported that Tai Chi had a positive impact on patients who had undergone coronary artery bypass surgery as well as in patients with heart failure, hypertension, acute myocardial infarction, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.

For me personally, Tai Chi helped me immensely in overcoming a severe condition of vertigo (dizziness), that had left me on bed rest for almost three months. At the beginning of my illness, when I was still undiagnosed and so was not on any proper medication, the sport offered a gentle form of movement that did not overly tax my sensitive system.

Tai Chi allowed me to gradually regain my sense of balance, at a time when even yoga was too much for me (since yoga involved a lot of bending, which is impossible with severe vertigo). Moreover, Tai Chi kept me at a constant state of calmness and relaxation, which was a much-needed relief for someone who suffers from Meniere’s Disease. As someone who also finds it extremely difficult to actually sit still and meditate, Tai Chi was a perfect alternative, as it involved a balanced combination of movement and stillness that effectively calms nerves and quietens the senses.

 “The philosophy of Tai Chi is that, if one uses hardness to resist violent force, then both sides are certainly to be injured. Students are taught not to directly fight an incoming force, but to meet it in softness while remaining in physical contact until the incoming force of attack exhausts itself or can be safely redirected, meeting yang with yin.Lao Tzŭ provided the archetype for this in the Tao Te Ching when he wrote, “The soft and the pliable will defeat the hard and strong.”

Wikipedia.com

Zhang Sanfeng

The story of Tai Chi started with a Taoist philosopher named Zhang Sanfeng while mediating in the mountains on the philosophy behind yin and yang. Zhang Sanfeng was inspired by a fight between a snake and a bird to create one of the earliest forms of defensive martial arts. However, it was not until the 16th Century that Tai Chi began taking its modern outlook. Tai Chi’s earliest form is known as the Chen tradition (陳氏). This form is credited to a mixture between Chen Boxing, which was characterized by intense bursts of movements, and the additions which Chen Wangting brought to the discipline, introducing elements of yin/yang theory of movement and chi philosophy. 

Sanfeng was inspired by a fight between a snake and a bird to create one of the earliest forms of defensive martial arts. However, it was not until the 16th Century that Tai Chi began taking its modern outlook. Tai Chi’s earliest form is known as the Chen tradition (陳氏). This form is credited to a mixture between Chen Boxing, which was characterized by intense bursts of movements, and the additions which Chen Wangting brought to the discipline, introducing elements of yin/yang theory of movement and chi philosophy.


At that time, knowledge of Tai Chi was limited to members of the Chen family, until the 19th Century when an outsider named Yang Luchan was allowed to learn Tai Chi. He later on devised his own form of the sport called Yang Style, which is characterized by slower, and more rounded looking movement. The Yang style is what eventually took off in the whole world, and that is the style most commonly practiced today.

Tai Chi 24 movement short form

The Yang style (楊氏) fundamentally changed Tai Chi into a meditative sport that is no longer a hard-core martial art. As it exists today, Tai Chi has become a gentle practice that everyone can pursue regardless of their physical attributes. The most commonly practiced form is the 24 movement routine, dubbed as the “short form.” The “long form” consists of 48 movements, which build upon the short form. There are three other significant forms in Tai Chi, the Wu Hao style (武氏), the Wu style (吳氏), and the Sun style (孫氏).

Traditional weapons used in some forms of Tai Chi

Tai Chi has made a significant and fundamental effect in my health, as it helped me to gradually “reteach” my self how to walk, after months of violent vertigo episodes that had previously left me completely motionless. I hope for everyone out there who suffers from any rare or chronic disease to give alternative medicine a chance. Who knows, maybe it will surprise you!

P.S. Resources for learners: YouTube has a ton of free video’s for anyone curious about Tai Chi, but my personal favorite training guide was this paid course.

About

Culturistic celebrates diversity by highlighting the beauty of national cultures and the small, forgotten initiatives aiding local communities. We are a group of people who find immense joy in listening to an African song, watching a Latin American movie, or learning about an Asian NGO aiding small villages.

Culturistic was born out of our passion for telling the human stories behind economic and sustainable development. It is our aim to shed light on the extraordinary places, peoples, and programs our magical world has to offer.   

If you are a traveler or an exchange student who wants to explore the unique culture of the country you are visiting, or you are humanitarian who wants to stay informed of the latest initiatives in a given country, then you are in luck, because we bring it all to you in one place.

The Moroccan Kasbah du Toubkal & the Imazighen Who Live There

When I hear the name Morocco, what immediately jumps in my mind are the colorful mosaic art, amazing architecture and the exotic smells of Ginger, Turmeric and Paprika spices you find walking down the streets of its lovely capital. But there is much more to Morocco than what meets the eye. Morocco actually has extremely diverse touristic attractions of hidden gems scattered across the country.

Set in the small village of Imlil in the Atlas Mountains range in Morocco, Kasbah du Toubkal is a beautiful Eco-lodge that was restored in 1995 by British traveler Mike McHugo. The lodge has a long history, where it was initially the home of a former caïd (a local baron) in 1937. Since electricity did not reach Imlil till 197, the lodge was rebuilt using traditional tools and equipment, with mules carrying the needed construction material up the mountains.

What’s even more interesting for me is how Kasbah du Toubkal is operated in partnership with the local Berber community, where 5% of revenues are funneled back to the villagers.  To support local development efforts, an umbrella organization called “The Association of the Valleys of Imlil” was created in 1999 with representatives from all the villages in the Imlil valley, giving the region more credibility in implementing local projects and receiving much-needed funds from the domestic and international donation. 

Imazighen Woman

The Association’s first project attempted to resolve the transportation difficulty facing residents of the valley by starting an ambulance and driver service. Activities undertaken by the Association over the years included building a community bath (hammam), support of modern apprenticeships and craft training at the Imlil School, and reinforcement to the flood protection in the village, among others.

Imazighen Flag

The Berber community (or the Imazighen as they prefer being called, meaning free people), are considered the indigenous people of North Africa, who represent numerous heterogeneous ethnic groups sharing similar cultural, political and economic practices. And no, they are not nomadic people. Imazighen are actually village dwellers who survive on agriculture, herding, and trade. The Berber language, Tamazight includes more than thirty distinct languages and hundreds of different dialects.

When I first heard Tamazight music, I was entirely captivated by the moving, romantic sounding language of this culture. One of my favorites is this song by a band called Oudaden founded in 1978 in the Sous region of Morocco. Imazighen languages and culture were banned by the Moroccan government for an extended period. Thankfully this ban was lifted in 2003 when King Mohammed VI started integrating the language in the school system, in an attempt to combine the local community in modern day Morocco.

Morocco alone is home to numerous Imazighen tribes such as the Dades in the North East of the country, and the Mesgita, who live along the rivers in the North West. Shilha – the Arabic word for all Berber languages – includes three distinct groups of Shilha Berbers, the Northern (Rif) Berbers, the Southern (Sousi) Berbers, and the Central (Berber) Berbers.

The term Kabyle originally meant “the tribes,” referring to all groups of Berbers. Nowadays the term refers to two distinct groups, the those living in Al-Quabail Mountains, and the Sousi Berbers native to the beautiful village of Imlil, (with the fantastic lodge mentioned above) located in the Marrakesh Safi province – one of 12 regions in Morocco.

The Sousi or southern Shelha inhabit the high Western Atlas and Anti-Atlas mountains. They mainly work in herding and agriculture, planting only two crops a year as a result of the harsh winter climate. Many members of the tribes migrated to cities – such as Casablanca and Tangiers – where they established monopolies in the grocery business. The Soussi are argued to have strong political influence since their support for the independence from French.