Brief overview of Nepal
Publish on 05/02/2020 by Valentin Girard
If Nepal is considered one of the poorest countries in the world today, it is for me and others an extremely rich country. If its wealth cannot be counted in dollars, and is expressed in incredible landscapes, nature, traditions, cultures, and smiles. Here is a short list of 12 more or less known things to know about Nepal, which open your eyes to many aspects of this country. You will feel Nepal at its best, you will understand its dark sides, you will understand its misery and its beauty, you will learn from its mistakes and its wisdom. Let’s go…
- Nepal is a country embedded in the Himalayan range, between India and Tibet. It is in its territory that 8 of the 10 highest peaks in the world are enthroned, including Sagarmatha, also known as Everest. This small country of 150,000 km² has 30 million inhabitants.
- It is the only country in the world to have a non-rectangular flag. Its shape in 2 superimposed triangles symbolizes the high altitudes of the Himalayan summits, but also the 2 dominant religions : Hinduism and Buddhism. The sun and moon shapes symbolize the family of kings and prime ministers.
- Nepal is known to Westerners for its high-altitude peaks. If Everest (8848 m) is the most famous, it also has many emblematic peaks, including : Lhotse (8516 m), Makalu (8 485 m), Cho Oyu (8 188 m), Manaslu (8 163 m), Annapurna 1 (8,091 m),… Nepal is the dream of many great mountaineers, but many leave their lives on the tracks of its mountains. For example, on Annapurna 1, the death rate is 32%, and 26% on K2.
- The typical dish of the country is Dal Bhat. It is rice and lentils in a sort of puree seasoned with the local spice par excellence : Masala. It is accompanied by a very spicy vegetable curry. After a good day in the mountains, there is nothing better to get you back on your feet. For around 5€, it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet. The Tibetan Mo : Mo, which is actually a type of stuffed dumpling, is also very common.
- There is an enormous diversity of living species in Nepal. Monkeys can be observed in the capital, as soon as you arrive, on the small slopes of Kathmandu. They are found in the wild in the Himalayan forests, alongside the yaks that carry business in the highland villages. If you go down south, to Chitwan, you can observe elephants, rhinos, and even tigers and panthers if you are lucky. During the monsoon (from early June to late September), insects and other leeches abound ! To combat them, there is only one solution: take a stick of salt with you when hiking. During my trip to Nepal, I met Hindu monks who were going to confine themselves in their monastery for 2 months during the monsoon, with the simple aim of not crushing all these insects that appear at the time of the rains … A great lesson of life in harmony with nature.
- Tourism is the business that sustains Nepal. It represents 42% of its GDP today. Since the 1980s, this country has seen more and more Western tourists come to discover it. These people come to discover the culture of Nepal, its landscapes, and the bravest embark on long treks, or even high mountain expeditions.
- 2 religions dominate in Nepal: Hinduism (81%) and Buddhism (9%). These 2 cultures leave incredible monuments on the Nepalese landscape. Temples, monasteries, stupas, lost cities, these monuments give Nepal a wise and mystical character. In addition to this, the capital is enlivened by many religious festivals and rituals throughout the year. Interesting facts to know: A stupa is a Buddhist architectural structure that represents the Buddha. The nose is shaped like the number 1 in Nepali, to symbolize the unity of living beings. The steps above his head represent the 12 steps to achieving nirvana (enlightenment). Siddhartha Gautama, also called the Buddha, is in fact the first man to have had the title of Buddha (“awakened”), given by his disciples. This man born in Lumbini would have according to the legend taught the 4 noble truths after his awakening:
-The first is that suffering is part of life
-The second is the recognition of the cause of this suffering.
-The third is the knowledge of the means to stop this suffering.
-And the last one is the practical path for them to stop.
- Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal. This city is a cradle of Buddhist and Hindu culture. It is to say the least very dynamic and exotic for Westerners who are not used to Asian countries, beware of scams! The smell of fuel oil mixed with incense bathes the city. But above all, it is like the whole of Nepal, populated by fabulous people, ready to do you any service, and smile from ear to ear for a simple conversation with them, a small gesture, an attention. To see absolutely in this city: the Stupa of Bodnath and that of Swayambunath, where monkeys will keep you company.
- Nepal was a monarchy, which remained closed to the world until 1951. After a Maoist-influenced civil war in 1996, the country remained a monarchy marred by a desire for change on the part of the Nepalese. It was since 2006, but formalized in 2008, that the monarchy was abolished and replaced by a federal democratic republic.
- In addition to suffering a lot of the consequences of climate change, Nepal is in a significant seismic zone. In 2015, a huge earthquake struck Nepal, and weakened its population more than ever. More than 8,900 dead, many temples and stupas destroyed, even within the capital, cultures destroyed: the human and economic toll was enormous. The Nepalese are just starting to recover from this disaster thanks to international aid, and an exemplary strength of will.
- Nepal is the third poorest country in Asia. The average salary is $ 730 per year per capita.
- Though the countries of the world want to help Nepal, globalization has also weakened it. Westerners have brought plastic packaging, but nothing is planned for waste treatment. This makes Nepal a polluted country, where people are not afraid to throw their trash in the streams. All of this waste ends up in open dumps, polluting soils and rivers. Heat engines have no filter and are unrestricted. This leaves the Kathmandu valley with a toxic, unbreathable air. IGE researchers have measured particle rates at an altitude of 4000m as high as those in Grenoble in summer.