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huge cities around the world

Updated on June 19, 2012

Krung Thep has been the correct name for the capital of Thailand for more than 130 years, but foreigners persist in calling it Bangkok. The city has changed its name four times since its foundation in 1767. a few years after the destruction of the Thai kingdom's old capital, Ayutthaya. The first site was at Thonburi, just down the Menam river from Ayutthaya. But in 1782 King Rama I began building a new capital on the opposite bank at Bang- kok, then a small village.

In 1787, two years after completion, the city was named Rattanakosin. Finally, during the reign of Rama III. from 1824 to 1851, the name was altered to Krungthep Maha Nakorn, Amarn Rattanakosindra. Mahindrayudhya, Mahadilokpop Noparatana Rajdhani Mahasathan, Amorn Piman Avatarn Satit. Sakkatultiya Vishnukarn Prasit. Or Krung Thep for short.

The full name translates as: 'The City of Gods, the Great City, the Residence of the Emerald Buddha, the Impregnable City (of Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace which resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.'

Some of the most conservative Orthodox Jews living in the Mea Shearim (Hundred Gates) quarter of Jeru- salem do not recognise the state of Israel, because it is secular rather than religious. So they refuse to pay taxes or send their children to state schools, and the women refuse to do military service. Mea Shearim was founded in 1875 outside the Old City by Orthodox Jews from Eastern and Central Europe. It has a variety of synagogues, theological institutions, and religious schools. Strict rules govern modesty of dress, and only Yiddish is spoken. Hebrew, the language of prayer, is deemed too sacred for ordinary speech.

Jerusalem. not Mecca, was the place towards which the founder of Islam, Muhammad, and his followers first turned to pray. Muhammad revered the Old Testament and claimed to be the successor of Abra- ham and Moses, so it was natural for him to face the holy city of Jerusalem. But Jews formed an important group in Mecca, where Muhammad was born, and they refused to accept his claim that Abraham was a Muslim and that he (Muhammad) was the prophet foretold by Moses. Finally he broke with them and began to pray facing Mecca, believing-as do all Muslims-that the Kaaba, the city's sacred shrine, was built by Abraham.

A portrait of Russia's Tsar Fedor Ivanovich (1584-98), son of Ivan the Terrible, decorates the largest calibre cannon ever made. The 40 tonne gun stands in the Kremlin, the 28 hectare (69 acre) complex of palaces, cathedrals and churches which dominates Moscow. The cannon's bronze barrel is 3.18m (10ft 5in) long, with a bore of 920mm (36in). It has never been fired.

The Kremlin also houses the heaviest bell in the world-weighing 196 tonnes and standing 5.87m (l9ft 3in) high. It is known as the Tsar Kolokol and was cast in 1735, but cracked two years later in a fire. The bell remains on a platform at the foot of the 80m (263ft) tall bell tower for which it was originally intended. It has never been rung. The original Kremlin - the word means 'town fortress' - was built of wood early in the 10th century. Its walls were rebuilt in red brick during the 15th century and it has been altered, repaired and added to since then.

Four cities were bitter rivals for the honour of becoming Canada's capital: Quebec, Montreal, Kingston and Toronto. Each made clear that any three of them would stoutly oppose the choice of the fourth - so in 1858 Queen Victoria was asked to arbitrate. She compromised by choosing a fifth - Ottawa. Toronto was more than 100 years old: Quebec. Montreal and Kingston were founded in the 17th century. Ottawa, which was barely three decades old, had been a city for only four years.

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