23rd July

Oman Renaissance Day: (Oman celebrates the coronation of their Sultan).

Humans moved from Africa to here and Arabia in the Pleistocene age, during an ice age when many huge plants and other species of human died out.

From 6th century BC to 7th century AD, Oman was ruled by Persian kings, until Islam arrived and Oman became ruled by an imam and got involved in all kinds of Islamic wars.

In 1497 Portugal owned a bit of it, and the Ottoman (Turkish) Navy took Oman’s port in its efforts to control the Persian Gulf.

From the 17th century Oman had its own empire along Africa, including Zanzibar where the Sultan made his palace because of the slave industry.

The Hajar Mountains split the country; the middle, Oman, was ruled by the imam; the coast and the capital, Muscat, was ruled by the sultan from 1920.

But of course they fought, over oil, naturally, and since the ’70s the sultan officially rules everything again.

The central desert of Oman is an important source of meteorites for science.

Make halwa; read 1001 Nights (Aladdin, Ali Baba, Sinbad the Sailor)

Egypt Revolution Day

Egypt is part of Africa, Europe and Asia, making it the world’s only Eurafrasian country. Apparently that’s a word.

It is made up of farmland along the Nile, and Sahara desert. Those are your options.

Around 8,000 B.C. the Sahara desert started to form and hunter-gatherer tribes were forced to settle along the Nile. By 6,000 B.C. the tribes had reached the Stone Age (British tribes got there about 3,000 years later). The first Egyptian hieroglyphics appeared in 3,200 B.C., on some pottery.

Egypt was unified into one kingdom under King Menes c.3150 B.C., and this ‘Old Kingdom’ began building pyramids in 2,700 B.C., including the famous Giza pyramids and Sphinx.

Ptolemy I, a Macedonian general under Alexander the Great (a Greek emperor), declared himself Pharoah of Egypt in 305 B.C. and Egypt became a centre of Greek trade. The Ptolemaic Kingdom lasted until Cleopatra, who commited suicide by allowing an asp (snake) to bite her after her lover Mark Antony also committed suicide in her arms because his army had been defeated by Octavian/Augustus (he changed his name).

Then Rome annexed Egypt. Christianity was brought by St Mark, and Egyptian Christianity is called the ‘Coptic Church’. Then the Persians invaded, then the Muslims conquered it (led by a disciple of Mohammed, born in Mecca city)

[to be continued…]

22nd July

1881 Margery Williams born, author of the Velveteen Rabbit

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1894 first ever motor race, between Paris and Rouen

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1951 Dezik and Tsygan are the first dogs in space

 

Ratcatcher’s Day (celebrating Pied Piper of Hamelin, after Robert Browning’s poem; Hamelin celebrates this on 26 June following Brothers Grimm version)

Revolution Day (Gambia)

Birthday of the Late King Sobhuza (Swaziland)

21st July

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1969 Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong walk on the moon

 

1970 Aswan Dam completed, allowing the Nile’s floods and droughts to be controlled and generating hydroelectricity

 

Belgian National Day: (independence from Netherlands and crowning of Leopold I).

Belgium is made up of Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia.

Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are also known as the Low Countries.

It was ruled by Franks, including the Merovingian kings and becoming part of the Carolingian Empire under Charlemagne/Charles the Great.

The Eighty Years’ War divided the area between Spain and Austria, and France fought them both until it managed to annex the Low Countries entirely. Later

Napoleon was defeated and it become the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. In 1830 Belgium revolted and gained independence with its own king, Leopold I.

In the First World War Germany invaded and west Belgium was the scene of most Western Front fighting. Germany invaded again in WWII.

Artists like Rubens and Magritte are very famous and Baroque was invented in Belgium.

Tintin is Belgian. The country is also famous for beer, chocolates, waffles and fries with mayonnaise.

Guam Liberation Day (from Japan 1944)

20th July

1969 Apollo 11 lands on the moon

1976 Viking I lands on Mars

Colombia Independence Day (from Spain)

At first Columbia was on the route from Mesoamerica and the Carribean to the Andes and Amazon for early humans about 18,000 years ago. The first farmers, the Muiscas around 1000 A.D., grew maize, potatoes, quinoa and cotton – none of which Europe had before we discovered the Americas. They traded gold, emeralds, blankets, ceramics, cocoa and salt with neighbouring countries.

Spanish explorers arrived in 1500, and called it the New Kingdom of Granada. A lot of Spanish explorers were looking for El Dorado, the Golden One, a Muisca chief who covered himself in gold as part of an initiation rite. The legend grew until it was about a whole city or empire made of gold.

This golden raft depicts the El Dorado ceremony.

In 1819 New Granada, led by Simon Bolivar, claimed independence from Spain, and renamed itself Colombia after Christopher Columbus (not a very independent name). Venezuela, Panama and Ecuador were part of Colombia then. Bolívar became its first president.

Venezuela and Ecuador separated from Colombia in 1830. Panama separated in 1903 so that American could build the Canal, for which America paid Colombia $25 million.

Colombia had a few civil wars which eventually were finished when their Conservative and Liberal parties agreed to just swap power every four years, but eventually guerrilla groups formed again. America supported the government in suppressing left-wing militants.

Colombia is part of the Ring of Fire, a part of the world shook by earthquakes and volcanoes, and is dominated by the Andes. Its flora and fauna are considered megadiverse, containing up to 20% of the world’s species.

Its national sport is tejo. It is famous for its emeralds, coffee and Shakira.

Dia del Amigo (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay)

19th July

1545 the Mary Rose sinks – if you’re near Portsmouth better go and visit!

1843 Brunel’s SS Great Britain launched – if you’re near Bristol better go and visit!

If not, looks like a day to make paper boats:

Degas born 1834

Nicaragua Liberation Day

Nicaragua was originally inhabited by Mesoamerican/Andean people. In 1502 Christopher Columbus discovered it and the first Spanish settlers arrived in 1524. The Spanish fought each other and the natives.

In 1821 Nicaragua became part of the First Mexican Empire; two years later that was overthrown and it became part of the United Provinces of Central America; then became independent in 1838.

Nicaragua was occupied by the US Marines in 1912-33 because it kept having civil wars. In 1927-79 Nicaragua was ruled by the Somoza family, a military hereditary dictatorship supported by the US.

In WWII Nicaragua joined our side; their efforts went basically as far as confiscating property from German-born citizens.

The Sandanistas took over in 1979 but America didn’t like them (they were a socialist party) and funded a rebel resistance movement who ran around torturing everyone and destroying all the schools and health centres the government was building. America’s support was later found to be illegal and they were ordered to repay Nicaragua for the damages.

 

18th July

Uruguay Constitution Day:

The Portuguese discovered Uruguay in 1512. Before then there were only the nomadic Charrua, who were driven there by the Guarani from the north about 4,000 years ago.

The Spanish arrived in 1516. The Charrua killed one of the Spanish explorers the year before, and their fierceness combined with the lack of treasure in Uruguay meant no one fancied settling there until 1603 when Spain introduced cattle.

Then the British, Spanish and Portuguese fought over it – Spain mostly won but in 1806-7 Britain did manage to seize the capital, Montevideo, as part of the Napoleonic Wars (that sounds like a tenuous excuse).

In 1811 José Gervasio Artigas revolted against the Spanish authorities and defeated them.

A new government was formed in Buenos Aires, and Artigas said every area should have its own political and economic autonomy, particularly east of the river Uruguay in the Banda Oriental.

The new government ignored him, so he broke with Buenos Aires and seized Montevideo. Artigas organised a Liga Federal of six states (four of which became part of Argentina).

In 1816 the Portuguese invaded from Brazil and took Montevideo the next year.

Brazil became independent in 1822, and three years later the Thirty-Three Orientals, a revolutionary group led by Juan Antonio Lavalleja, declared independence, fought for 500 days about it, and eventually Britain got involved and negotiated independence for them on 18 July 1830.

A year later, Bernabé Rivera, the nephew of the new president Fructuosa Rivera, invited the remaining Charrua people (remember them?) to meet him, then killed all the men and enslaved the women and children. Nice.

A couple more massacres later and there were only four Charruas left: they were taken to France to be shown off like a circus act, and they all died, including a baby that was born to them on the journey. There is a monument to them in Montevideo called Los Últimos Charrúas.

Then Uruguay became split between two political parties: the Blancos, who were conservative farmer types, and the Colorados, who were liberal business types.

Oribe.

In 1838 the Colorados led an army and overthrew the Blanco president, Manuel Oribe. He fled to Argentina, ruled by Manuel de Rosas.

Rosas.

So then Colorados leader Fructuosa Rivera declared war on Rosas (not sure I entirely understand why). The war lasted 13 years and is called the Guerra Grande, or Great War.

In 1843 Argentina started trying to take Montevideo in a siege that lasted 9 years and ended up involving Italian and French troops on Uruguay’s side.

In 1849 Britain and France negotiated in favour of Rosas.

Eventually Oribe was defeated when there was an uprising against Rosas by his own people and also Brazil got involved on the Colorados’ side.

In 1865, the emperor of Brazil, the Argentinian president and the Uruguay (Colorado) president formed a Triple Alliance and went to war on Paraguay. No reason given.The Paraguayans call this one the Guerra Grande because it devastated them.

Then followed the usual list of insurrections, military rule, coups, and some nice presidents; they jumped in at the end of WWII with the rest of the Americas; in the late 1950s there was an economic dip which led to everyone getting a bit violent, and by 1973 the country was under oppressive military rule for 12 years. In 1984 they went back to democracy.

Now Uruguay is top in Latin America for democracy, peace, lack of corruption, quality of living, and top in South America when it comes to press freedom, prosperity and security. It also supplies more troops to the UN than anyone else in the world. It has recently legalised cannabis, same-sex marriage and abortion, making it one of the most liberal nations in the world.

Activities: Play football, or make a sand sculpture:

 

Nelson Mandela Day
Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) campaigned against the apartheid in South Africa. In 1962 he was imprisoned for trying to overthrow the state and served 27 years. In 1994 he became South Africa’s first black President. He didn’t stand for a second term and instead set up the Nelson Mandela Foundation to combat poverty and HIV.