Dead Sea

The Dead Sea may not be deadly, but it is pretty dead.

  • The Dead Sea is a large lake containing a very high salt concentration, more than 30%; and it sits adjacent to Jordan, Israel and Palestine of the Middle East.
  • The ‘Dead Sea’ is also known as the ‘Death Sea’ and the ‘Salt Sea’, and its names are somewhat literal translations of the Arabic and Hebrew names given to the lake.
  • The Dead Sea is absent of life aside from select species of bacteria and algae due to the lethally high salt concentration, which is roughly ten times the ocean’s salinity.
  • At its longest point, the Dead Sea spans 50 kilometres (31 miles), however it is only 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) at its widest point.
  • The Dead Sea covers a surface area of roughly 600 square kilometres (231 square miles), however it is shrinking rapidly due to evaporation and a reduced quantity of inflowing water, with the depth dropping by around 1 metre (3 feet) annually.
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The Dead Sea
Image courtesy of Michael Tyler/Flickr
  • The saltiness of the Dead Sea is primarily due to the lack of outgoing rivers or streams, which means that salt from the incoming Jordan River and other sources, is trapped within the lake and builds up.
  • The Dead Sea has an increased density, due to the high salt content, that allows humans to easily float; however contrary to popular belief, the water can be highly dangerous if a person flips face-down, as the high buoyancy renders it difficult to return upright.
  • Minerals are abundant in the Dead Sea, and these have been harvested even since ancient times for health and cosmetic purposes, and the asphalt discharged by the lake has been used by the Ancient Egyptians to coat mummies.
  • The Dead Sea is commonly considered the lowest point on Earth, being approximately 429 metres (1407 feet) below sea level.
  • The Dead Sea is a popular tourist attraction and a site of many resorts, with the first dating back to the days of King Herod; however the retreating waters have caused numerous sinkholes to form nearby.
Bibliography:
Connolly K, Dead Sea Drying: A New Low-Point for Earth, 2016, BBC News, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-36477284
Dead Sea, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Sea
Inglis-Arkell E, Why So Many People Drown in the Dead Sea, 2011, Gizmodo, http://io9.gizmodo.com/5798844/why-so-many-people-drown-in-the-dead-sea
Lowest Elevation: Dead Sea, 2015, Extreme Science, http://www.extremescience.com/dead-sea.htm
Why is the Dead Sea called the Dead Sea?, 2016, Dead Sea, http://www.deadsea.com/why-dead-sea/

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Cucumber Tree

Don’t bother searching for any traditional cucumbers on a cucumber tree.

  • Cucumber trees are a species of tree native exclusively to Yemen’s Socotra, an island off the coast of the Middle East.
  • The scientific name of the cucumber tree is Dendrosicyos socotronus, although it also known as Dendrosicyos socotrana, and it is from the family Cucurbitaceae, the family of gourds and curcurbits.
  • Isaac Bayley Balfour, a Scottish botanist, was the first to scientifically classify the cucumber tree, doing so in 1882.
  • Cucumber trees bloom small tubular flowers that are approximately 3 centimetres (1.2 inches) in diameter, and are a yellow to orange colour.
  • The small green leaves of a cucumber tree are edged with spines that reduce in sharpness as they age and the leaves usually reach a diameter of 4 to 8 centimetres (1.6 to 3.1 inches); while the trunk is a mostly white to light grey colour and can reach 1 metre (3.3 feet) or more in diameter.
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A Cucumber Tree
Image courtesy of Stefan Geens/Flickr
  • Cucumber trees grow to be 3 to 6 metres (10 to 20 feet) in height and have a large trunk compared to the small canopy.
  • The cucumber tree is the only species in the Cucurbitaceae family that is a tree, as most others are vines; and the plant can only be propagated by seed.
  • Cucumber trees have fleshy fruit that are somewhat ovoid with pointy ends; and they are an orange-red colour, with similar coloured flesh, when ripe.
  • The trunk of a cucumber tree stores water, rendering it a relatively drought resistant plant; and the plant has been used as a traditional medicine by native locals, to treat a variety of illnesses.
  • Cucumber trees are considered a vulnerable species, threatened primarily for their overuse in supplying feed for livestock during periods of drought.
Bibliography:
Dendrosicyos, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dendrosicyos
Dendrosicyos socotranus, n.d, Bihrmann, http://www.bihrmann.com/caudiciforms/subs/den-soc-sub.asp
 Dendrosicyos socotrana, n.d, California State University, Fullerton, http://biology.fullerton.edu/facilities/greenhouse/Stories_out_of_School/dendrosicyos.html
 Dendrosicyos socotrana, n.d, Succulent Gardening, http://www.succulents.us/dendrosicyossoc.html
Miller A, Dendrosicyos socotrana, 2004, The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/33691/0
Socotra Cucumber Tree (Dendrosicyos socotrana): Isolated Isle’s Weird Fantastic Vulnerable Tree, 2014, Wizzley, https://wizzley.com/socotra-cucumber-tree-dendrosicyos-socotrana/

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Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System

The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System is something you would consider ahead of its time.

  • The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System is an elaborate system for transporting water throughout the ancient island city of Shushtar, found in Iran, in the Middle East.
  • The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System features a number of canals, water mills, tunnels, dams, bridges, waterfalls and more.
  • The UNESCO World Heritage Convention designated the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System a World Heritage Site in 2009.
  • The water of the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System was primarily supplied by two canals, flowing from the River Karun.
  • A combination of influences contributed to the architecture of the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, including people from the ancient civilisations of Elam and Mesopotamia, as well as from the Nabataean kingdom and ancient Rome.
Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, Trivia, Ten Random Facts, Place, Water, Iran, Middle East, Ancient
Part of the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System
Image courtesy of Adam Jones/Flickr
  • The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System is thought to have been built and completed in the 200s AD, mostly by Roman prisoners of war.
  • Historical sources suggest that the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System was completed within an impressive three to seven years, however it is believed to have been constructed upon, or added to an already existing structure that was built 700 to 800 years earlier.
  • The strategic placement of the canals, bridges and gateways of the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System meant that the city could effectively defend against or overcome threats, as well as use the water for irrigation purposes, and as the city’s main water supply.
  • The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System has only been abandoned quite recently, as the system was showing signs of significant deterioration from thousands of years use, though some parts are still used.
  • A tower exists as part of the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, that enables the depth of the water to be calculated.
Bibliography:
Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, 2016, Amusing Planet, http://www.amusingplanet.com/2016/02/shushtar-historical-hydraulic-system.html
Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, 2016, UNESCO World Heritage Convention, http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1315
Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, 2015, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shushtar_Historical_Hydraulic_System

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Caper

Feeling lively? Try a caper!

  • A caper is a small, edible bud of the flower that grows on the bush of the same name, native to the Mediterranean area and some parts of Asia.
  • The scientific name of the caper bearing plant is Capparis spinosa and it is from the family Capparaceae, the family of capers, which is considered to be closely related to the mustard family of Brassicaceae.
  • Capers are roughly oval in shape and are an olive-green colour, and the leaves and berries of the plant are also edible.
  • Capers are sold commercially and are generally categorised in sizes from 7 to 14 millimeters (0.28 to 0.55 of an inch), with different names for each size – the smallest being ‘nonpareil’ and the largest being ‘grusa’, though the smaller ones are more sought after.
  • Capers are commonly dried and salted, and often pickled in vinegar or brine, to enhance the flavour before consuming as is, or lightly cooked.

Capers, Vegetable, Trivia, Ten Random Facts, Vegetation, Green, Food, Culinary

  • Foods that may include capers as an ingredient include tartare sauce and other condiments, salads, pasta dishes, and meat dishes including fish.
  • The flavour of capers tends to be a blend of vinegar or other pickling solution if any, salt, and a flowery mustard or peppery taste.
  • Due to their fragile nature, capers are unable to be collected using machinery and thus must be picked by hand.
  • The cultivation of caper buds as food originates as early as 2000 BC, and their use has become more widespread throughout the centuries.
  • Capers are extremely high in sodium and a good source of vitamin K and copper, and they have many other vitamins and minerals.
Bibliography:
Caper, 2015, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caper
Fillippone P, What Are Capers?, 2015, About Food, http://homecooking.about.com/od/cookingfaqs/f/faqcapers.htm
So What The Hell Are Capers Anyway?, 2014, The Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2014/05/30/what-are-capers_n_1276491.html?ir=Australia

Baatara Gorge Waterfall

Baatara Gorge Waterfall is a wonder of erosion.

  • Baatara Gorge Waterfall is a waterfall that drops through a sinkhole, and is located in Lebanon’s Tannourine, in the Middle East.
  • ‘Baatara Gorge Waterfall’ is also known as ‘Balaa Gorge Waterfall’ and ‘Baatara Pothole Waterfall’.
  • The Wadi Baatara stream is the water supply of the Baatara Gorge Waterfall, that originates mostly from the two springs Ain Arin and Ain Daaouq.
  • Baatara Gorge Waterfall plummets vertically down a chasm, or pothole, made of limestone, named the ‘Baatara Pothole’, ‘Baatara Sinkhole’, ‘Three Bridges Chasm’ or ‘Cave of Three Bridges’.
  • The water of the Baatara Gorge Waterfall drops a distance of approximately 100 metres (328 feet) while the chasm it falls into is around 255 metres (837 feet) deep.

Baatara Gorge Waterfall, Trivia, Ten Random Facts, Water, Lush, Amazing, Landscape, Lebanon, Middle East

Baatara Gorge Waterfall
Image courtesy of Bo Stern/Flickr
  • Henri Coiffait, a speleologist from France, was the first westerner to discover the existence of Baatara Gorge Waterfall, doing so in 1952.
  • Three naturally formed rock bridges partially obscure the view of Baatara Gorge Waterfall and they can also be utilised as vantage points.
  • Once at the bottom of the chasm, the water from the Baatara Gorge Waterfall travels underground in streams which feed into an underground lake.
  • Baatara Gorge Waterfall is most active during snow melts, which takes place from March to April, and the falls can cease running during other parts of the year.
  • Baatara Gorge Waterfall’s water eventually flows into the Nabaa Dalli spring, and this was first discovered in the 1980s after dye tests were undertaken.
Bibliography:
Baatara Gorge, n.d, eGuide Travel, http://www.eguidetravel.com/activities/baatara-gorge/
Baatara Gorge Waterfall, 2015, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baatara_gorge_waterfall
Baatara Gorge Waterfall – Top Waterfalls in the World, 2015, World Top Top, http://www.worldtoptop.com/baatara-gorge-waterfall/
Baatara Pothole Sign Photograph, n.d,  Tourism Lebanon, http://www.tourism-lebanon.com/PhotoGallery/BaataraPothole/BaataraInfo.JPG
Breathtaking Baatara Gorge Waterfall & Cave of the Three Bridges [31 PICS], 2012, Love These Pics, http://www.lovethesepics.com/2012/08/breathtaking-baatara-gorge-waterfall-cave-of-the-three-bridges-31-pics/

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Flaxseed

Flaxseeds are nutrition bombs.

  • Flaxseeds are the seeds from the flax plant that has the scientific name Linum usitatissimum, which is from the family Linaceae, a family of flowering plants.
  • Flaxseeds can be eaten cooked, raw or ground, and are often used to flavour dishes and baked goods as well as breakfast cereals, and oil can also be extracted from them.
  • Flaxseeds are typically brown, red brown, yellow, tan or gold in colour, and white, black or green seeds can be obtained, however they are either immature, or over mature, and it is best to avoid them.
  • ‘Flaxseeds’ are also known as ‘flax seeds’ and ‘linseeds’, and are best ground and consumed with water to make them more digestible.
  • Flaxseeds have been used medicinally, primarily in Austrian folk medicine, for infections, colds, fever and problems with eyes and respiratory areas, among others.

Flaxseed, Red, Seed, Grain, Ten Random Facts, Linseed, Culinary, Flavour, Red

  • Ground flaxseeds require refrigeration unless consumed quickly, as they can go rancid in short periods of time – as quickly as seven days, if left at room temperature, although raw unground seeds have a much longer storage life.
  • Flaxseeds and their oil can cause an allergic reaction in some people, and symptoms include itchy skin and nausea.
  • In 2011, Canada was the leading producer of flaxseeds, with 368,300 tonnes (406,000 tons) of the world production of 1,602,000 tonnes (1,765,900 tons), and China ranked a close second.
  • Flaxseeds have been used as a food for thousands of years, particularly in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries.
  • Flaxseed nutrition varies slightly depending on their colour, however, they are very high in fibre, magnesium, manganese, thiamin, and notably, omega-3, as well as being high in copper and phosphorus, and they also contain many other vitamins and minerals.
Bibliography:
Flax, 2014, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flax
Flaxseeds, 2014, The World’s Healthiest Foods, http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=81

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