Asia, Central Asia, Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan – The Madrassah with Lions

 

Detail from back of Uzbekistan 1997 200 som banknote
detail over the portal of the Sher-Dor Madrassah

The image of is the sun with a face rising over the back of a liger, a lion-tiger.  It is found in a mosaic on Sher-Dor Madrasah portal at Registan Square in Samarkand.  The mosaic is somewhat remarkable in the images of humans and animals are generally prohibited from Islamic art.

Sher-Dor Madrasah, translated, means Madrassah with Lions.

Registan Square is framed by three great Madrassahs of distinctive Islamic architecture, The Sher-Dor, featured on this banknote, the Ulugh Beg, the oldest of the three, and the Tilya Kori, the youngest of the three.

Three Madrassahs form Registan Square. The Sher Dor is on the right.
The Sher Dor Madrassah.
Uzbekistan 1997 banknote, back, 200 som.

The State Seal of Uzbekistan is featured on the front of the 200 som banknote.

The sun is rising over a valley.  Bolls of cotton on the left and sheaves of wheat on the right surround the legendary bird of happiness, spreading its wings.  The crescent moon with star are symbols of Muslim blessing.  The surrounding eight pointed star symbolizes unity.  Beneath the name Uzbekistan is on the tri-colored flag.

 

 

 

 

Uzbekistan 200 som banknote, front, 1997

 

Balkan Peninsula, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, South East Europe, Yugoslavia

Republika Srpska – The Fortress of Knin

The name Republica Srpska, was adopted August 12, 1992.  This event, together with all the political turmoil overtaking the former Yugoslav republic, led to war, which lasted until the Autumn of 1995.

1993 Banknote of Republic Of Serbia Krajina, front. The nomination, 10,000,000 dinaris is believed to be the largest prepared.

It is doubtful, but uncertain, that the banknote featured on this post, was ever formally issued.  The huge nomination is similar to that of Yugoslavian banknotes of the same decade, and indicates that the new Republic of Serbia shared in the same woes of hyperinflation.  The number, deset milliard signifies Ten Billion, deset meaning ten, and milliard meaning billion.

 

 

 

table of Yugoslav nations and their currencies from Wikipedia

The table to the right, illustrates the place of the short-lived Republic of Serbia during what came to be known as the Yugoslav Wars at the end of the 20th century.  These were considered the deadliest wars in Europe since WWII.

 

 

 

 

 

detail from back of 10,000,000,000 dinari banknote

The ancient fortress of Knin is featured on the reverse of this banknote.  It is the 2nd largest in all of Europe.

Construction on the stronghold began in the 9th century.  In the 11th century it served as the royal residence.

It consists of 5 interconnected towers and towns.  They are named the Donji Grad (Lower Town), Srednji Grad (Middle Town), Gornji Grad (Upper Town) or Kaštel Knin, Kaštel lab or Bandijera, and Južni Grad (South Town) or station Belveder. It is about 1500 feet above sea level and 300 feet above the town of Knin below.  It is 1500 feet long and about 330 feet wide with walls as high as 60 feet in several areas.

 

10,000,000,000 banknote from Republika Srpska Krijana, back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more stories from the Balkan Peninsula in this website, click here.

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Eastern Europe, Europe, Ukraine

Ukraine – Vladimir the Great, 10th Century

Vladimir Putin will never give up Ukraine, for, you see, among other reasons, his namesake is Ukrainian.

Below is the story of Vladimir the Great, followed by a brief history of the present.

Vladimir The Great
Yaroslav The Wise

Vladimir, afterwards known as “The Great”, and his son Yaroslav, afterwards known as “The Wise”, brought the kingdom of Kiev-Rus to its zenith in the 10th and 11th centuries.   The modern states, Ukraine, Russia and Belarus all draw upon them for their heritage.

 

Vladimir the Great

Historians consider the Kievan state to have been founded around 880. A hundred years later, Vladimir, upon the death of his father and a subsequent fratricidal war, fled the region, to his kinsmen in Norway. Returning in 978 with as many Norse soldiers as he could muster, he quickly captured Kiev, (present day capital of Ukraine), and expanded his dominion throughout the region. Within a few years, Vladimir consolidated the regions of eastern Europe from Kiev to the Baltic Sea, including present day Ukraine, Belarus, and a portion of Russia. During his reign and that of his son, Yaroslav, the kingdom known as Kiev-Rus reached its zenith.

A little later, Vladimir, having know great military success, and his dominion at peace around him, grew troubled in his thoughts and his mind pondered. Sensing the inferiority of his pagan shrines to the religions flourishing in the world, he sent emissaries to all parts to learn of the great religions that he may determine the best. Of Islam, upon learning that alcoholic drinks were forbidden said, “Drinking is the joy of all Rus. We cannot exist without that pleasure.” Upon questioning the ambassadors from the Jews, and learning of their loss of their home city Jerusalem, he concluded that they had been abandoned by God. His emmisaries visiter the Christian church of Germany and were unimpressed. But upon visiting the Byzantine church in Constantinople, and witnessing the majesty of their ceremonies during the festival, his emissaries reported back, “We know longer knew whether we were in Heaven or on Earth.”

His decision made, he was baptized, wed the daughter of royalty, returned to his land, destroyed the pagan landmarks, and commanded his people to follow Christian faith. Thus, was the Russian Orthodox Church born.

Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev

Yaroslav encountered family battles too following the death of his father in 1015, but by 1019, he had became the grand prince of Kiev, and by 1036 uncontested ruller of Kievan-Rus.  Culture expanded in his days.  He built Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev and Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novogrod.  He was a great patron of learning and books, also promulgated the first east Slavic law code, the Rus Justice, which was further advanced by his sons upon his death in 1054.

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In 2016, Vladimir Putin presented a statue honoring his namesake.  The statue was erected in Moscow where Putin declared him a “unifier and defender of Russian lands.”

As one contemporary has noted, “Russia without Ukraine is a country; Russia with Ukraine is an empire.”  Putin will never give up on Ukraine.

 

Portrait of Volodymyr the Great (c. 958 – 1015), the Grand Prince of Kyiv (Kiev), also known as Vladimir Sviatoslavich the Great, the Prince of Novgorod. Orthodox saints and acolyte during church ceremony. Tryzub, the national coat of arms of Ukraine. Stylised grivna from the times of Kievan Rus as registration device.
Diorama of Volodymyr’s Burg in Kyiv (Detynets; Citadel) with the Church of the Tithes or Church of the Dormition of the Virgin (built by the order of Volodymyr the Great) in the front. Artistic composition depicting a battle axe, a fullered arming sword, a cross, a flail and an eagle as elements of design from the times of Volodymyr the Great. Logo emblem of the National Bank of Ukraine.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Portrait of Yaroslav The Wise (c. 978 – 1054), the Grand Prince of Kyiv (Kiev), also known as Yaroslav I, Grand Prince of Kievan Rus’. Silver coin of Yaroslav Mudriy . Tryzub, the national coat of arms of Ukraine. Stylised grivna from the times of Kievan Rus as registration device.
Diorama of the original Holy Saint Sophia’s Cathedral (Sobor Svyatoi Sofii) in Kiev where Yaroslav the Wise was buried. Artistic composition depicting two different battle axes, a ceremonial bowl and the legal code of Kievan Rus’ “Pravda Rus’ka” as elements of design from the times of Yaroslav The Wise. Logo emblem of the National Bank of Ukraine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized, Yemen

Yemen – The Oldest Skyscraper City in the World

 

Buildings in Shibam, 50 rials, back, Yemen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Towering buildings, 500 years old, rise from the desert in this oldest example of vertical urban planning in the world.  Shibam lies deep in the desert of Yemen, and is famous for its mud brick high rise buildings, being frequently called the “Oldest Skyscraper City in the World.”

 

detail of Buildings in Shibam, 50 rials, back, Yemen. Some buildings are ten or eleven stories tall.

Bedouin nomads of old, traversed desert sands from oasis to oasis, carrying news and conducting trade.  The little settlement, Shibam, by the wadiis, was ripe for less than honorable Bedouin marauders.

The settlers did not wish to move, for this was home.  The life as nomads had lost its appeal.  Perhaps it was the 14th century when the idea was born; or perhaps it was the 15th or 16th century when the concept was planned; but we know by the 1600s great towers in the desert had begun to rise.

Using the materials at hand, driven by the necessity born of frequent attacks, and guided by some original ingenuity, they began to build.  Creating bricks, made from soil and hay and stone, baked in the desert sun, brick by brick they built they built their sturdy houses.

 

detail of Buildings in Shibam, 50 rials, back, Yemen. Some buildings are over 100 feet tall.

Story upon story they rose.  The bottom stories they made windowless and harbored their livestock and grain, safer from marauders than open corrals.  Five stories, six stories, seven stories they built with windowed living quarters above their live stock and provisions.   Eight stories, nine stories high, they built their towers providing shade from the desert sun on the narrow streets between them.  Ten stories and eleven stories tall, they built their towers, with bridges intersecting from one to another, providing easy escape when needed, and convenient corridors for socializing.

Shibam of Yemen is the earliest known example of vertical urban planning in the world.  A British explorer in the 1930s, happening upon Shibram, called it the “Manhattan of the Desert”.  The “Oldest Skyscraper City in the world”, it is frequently called today.

 

 

Sina’a, 100 rials banknote, back, Yemen

 

 

 

 

 

detail of buildings of Sina’a, 100 rials banknote, back, Yemen

 

 

Sana’a has been inhabited for more than two and a half centuries.  It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.

 

 

 

 

detail of buildings of Sina’a, 100 rials banknote, back, Yemen

The beauty of the city is enhanced by the high density of buildings constructed from rammed earth and the frequent burnt brick towers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fortress Qal’at, 5 rial banknote, back, Yemen

 

 

 

 

 

detail of Fortress Qal’at al Qahit, on hill in Ta’izz, 5 rial banknote, back, Yemen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bedouin nomads of old, traversed desert sands from oasis to oasis, carrying news and conducting trade.  The little settlement, Shibam, by the wadiis, was ripe for less than honorable Bedouin marauders.

The settlers did not wish to move, for this was home.  The life as nomads had lost its appeal.  Perhaps it was the 14th century when the idea was born; or perhaps it was the 15th or 16th century when the concept was planned; but we know by the 1600s great towers in the desert had begun to rise.  Using the materials at hand, driven by the necessity born of frequent attacks, and guided by some original ingenuity, they began to build.  Creating bricks, made from soil and hay and stone, baked in the desert sun, brick by brick they built they built their sturdy houses.  Story upon story they rose.  The bottom stories they made windowless and harbored their livestock and grain, safer from marauders than open corrals.  Five stories, six stories, seven stories they built with windowed living quarters above their live stock and provisions.   Eight stories, nine stories high, they built their towers providing shade from the desert sun on the narrow streets between them.  Ten stories and eleven stories tall, they built their towers, with bridges intersecting from one to another, providing easy escape when needed, and convenient corridors for socializing.

Shibam of Yemen is the earliest known example of vertical urban planning in the world.  A British explorer in the 1930s, happening upon Shibram, called it the “Manhattan of the Desert”.  The “Oldest Skyscraper City in the world”, it is frequently called today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized, Yemen

Yemen – The Great Dam of Ma’rib (10 rial banknote)

 

Yemen 10 rials banknote, back, featuring the great dam of Ma’rib

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Dam of Ma’rib was built almost three thousand years ago and is considered one of the great engineering projects of the ancient world.

Yemen 10 rials front (3)
The great Dam of Ma’rib. detail from back of 10 rial banknote. Yemen

The medieval Arab geographer Yāqūt al-Ḥamawī described the great dam of Ma’rib: “It is between three mountains, and the flood waters all flow to the one location, and because of that the water only discharges in one direction; and the ancients blocked that place with hard rocks and lead. The water from springs gathers there as well as floodwater, collecting behind the dam like a sea. Whenever they wanted to they could irrigate their crops from it, by just letting out however much water they needed from sluice gates; once they had used enough they would close the gates again as they pleased.” reference.

Ancient culvert and the Shaharah bridge. Detail from back of 100 rial banknote, Yemen

According to Arab tradition, the city Ma’rib was founded by Shem, son of Noah, a thousand years previous. With 1000 miles of coastline on the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, it flourished as a center of trade reaching from the Mediterranean to India. Agriculture flourished in large part due to its amazing irrigation systems consisting of water tunnels in mountains, and dams. Yemen’ spices, frankincense and myrrh, were traded throughout the world. Modern scholarship says the renowned Queen of Sheba came from the kingdom of Saba, centered around the oasis of Ma’rib.

 

 

Arabian Coffee berries on a branch, detail from back of 10 rial banknote, Yemen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yemen, 10 rial banknote, front. Qubbat Al-Bakiliyah Mosque (Al-Bakiriya, Al-Baqiliyah, al-Bakiriyya) in Sana’a.

 

 

Central America, Guatemala

Guatemala – The Glorious Quetzal bird

detail of quetzal bird in flight, Guatemala 0.50 quetzal banknote, front, 50 centavos, one half quetzal

His tail feathers may be 3 feet long, and colored blue green. His head is golden green with a rounded crest. His back is blue, tinged with gold.  His belly is crimson red. He is glorious in flight.

To the Mayans, he symbolized the movement of creation and the will of the Creator to come to earth. Kings and priests wore ceremonial garments decorated by their iridescent feathers. They saw the combination of the quetzal and the serpent in their god Qetzal Coatl, “the plumed serpent”, the Animator of all creation. He is glorious in flight.

 

Front, 50 centavos , one half quetzal, Guatemala
Tecun Uman, heroe national, detail from front of half quetzal banknote, Guatemala

Tecun Uman was the great leader of the Maya in the age of the Spanish conquest.

The Spanish cavalry charge shocked the Mayans who had never seen horses.  Tecun Uman, clothed in quetzal feathers and accompanied by his animal spirit guide, the quetzal bird, stood up to meet the horse mounted leader of the Spanish army, Alvarado, face to face.  Thinking the mounted man and horse were one single being, he attacked and slew the horse.  Turning round and seeing the still armed Alvarado dismounted, he realized his mistake, attacked again and died on Alvarado’s spear.  His quetzal spirit guide was so grieved, he landed on Tecun Uman’s fallen chest, his breast feathers mixing with the hero’s blood, and died.

Forever after, the quetzal’s breast was red and his song not heard.  And if a quetzal was ever placed in captivity, it died, making it a symbol of liberty.

one half quetzal bank note, back, Guatemala

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tikal Temple I, detail from back of one half quetzal banknote, Guatemala

Buried deep in the rainforest, these temple grounds appear to have escaped the notice of the Spanish conquistadors.

This fabulous pyramid standing as tall as a 10 story building was lost in the jungle until its rediscovery in the 19th century by Alfred P. Maudslay.

In his own words: I was naturally anxious and expectant on this my first visit to a Central American ruin, but it seemed as though my curiosity would be ill satisfied, for all I could see on arrival was what appeared to be three moss-grown stumps of dead trees covered over with a tangle of creepers and parasitic plants . . We soon pulled off the creepers, and . . . set to work to clear away the coating of moss. As the curious outlines of the carved ornament gathered shape it began to dawn upon me how much more important were these monuments, upon which I had stumbled almost by chance, than any account I had heard of them had led me to expect. This day’s work induced me to take a permanent interest in Central American Archaeology, and a journey which was undertaken merely to escape the rigours of an English winter has been followed by seven expeditions from England for the pur­pose of further exploration and archaeo­logical research.” 

For more stories from Central America on this website, click here.

creator god, Itzamna, detail from front of One-Half Quetzal banknote, Guatemala

 

Southern Africa, Zambia

Zambia – the Chain Breaking Man

Zambia, 50 kwacha, reverse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

detail from Zambia 50 kwacha banknote, reverse, “Chain Breaking Man”

 

 

Zanco Mpundu Mutembo was arrested and handcuffed with chains which he broke in the presence of 18 soldiers armed with guns.

Mr. Mutembo was ORDERED TO BREAK FREE FROM THE CHAINS OR BE INSTANTLY SHOT DEAD.

Shockingly, he broke the chains in full view of soldiers and photographers who took shots of what seem like magical power.

 

He dropped out of school after his father’s death and joined the political struggle led by Robert Makasa and Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe .

In 1957, having already made his impact in Northern Province, suffering imprisonment and beatings in the process, Mutembo, along with seven others were sent to Kenya where Dedan Kimathi was leading a rebellion against the colonial rulers. Their mission was to learn how to carry out their own rebellion back home.

Before Kaunda and others would speak, Mutembo would go on stage first to tell the crowds how bad the colonial government was hence the importance to fight for independence.

Early 1960s, Kaunda wrote a letter to the governor, Sir Arthur Benson, to protest against a clause in the constitution that gave Europeans an upper hand in the legislature. Mutembo took up the task to deliver the letter to Government House (now State House ).

On his way out, however, he was arrested and tortured. At about 15:00 hours that day, he was taken to Kaunda’s office in Chilenje where he was celebrated as a hero.

About 03:00 hours the following day, Mutembo was taken to Cairo Road where he climbed a tree with a megaphone to denounce the new constitution. At 06:00 hours, he started proclaiming his message, but was soon surrounded by police who threatened to shoot him if he did not get down. He was arrested.

Today, the tree still stands opposite the Main Post Office and later came to be known as “Zanco Tree “.

Mutembo appeared in court after having been involved in a political brawl in Matero . He had been badly beaten in the fight and lost two of his front teeth, a mark he still bears. When the judge asked him to demonstrate to the court how he had been beaten, the young freedom fighter walked across the courtroom from the witness box and, reaching where one of the prosecutors – a white man – was standing, and punched him in the face, giving him a bloody nose. His action was a blatant show of rebellion in the face of the colonial government. At the end of the trial, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison plus four lashes for punching the prosecutor. He was sent to Livingstone State Prison where he was held in chains.

At Force Headquarters, after being interviewed, he was taken to a room where 18 military officers stood with guns at ready. He was then handcuffed to a chain and ordered to break free or get shot. Shockingly, he pulled so hard and broke the chains in full view of soldiers and photographers who took photos of what seemed like magical power. It was from these photos that the Freedom Statue would be crafted by casting experts.

Mutembo was also given an official vehicle – a Land Rover station wagon – bearing the initials of his status “SNNRG” (symbol of the nation Northern Rhodesia Government) and a Union Jack.

A statue was made depicting the scenario when Mutembo broke the chains in 1963. On October 23, 1974, during the celebrations of the 10th Anniversary of Zambia’s independence, the Freedom Statue was unveiled and became a symbol of Zambia’s freedom from the British colonial regime, and has earned its place on some of the country’s most important articles, including its currency. The statue is a reminder of Zambia’s fight for freedom. It is displayed at the Government Complex along Independence Avenue in Lusaka.

For more stories from Southern Africa in this website, click here.