Introduction

Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles situated in the Caribbean Sea, about 90 miles south of Cuba, and 120 miles west of Haiti. With some of the most beautiful natural scenery anywhere in the islands, and one of the largest natural harbors in the world, Jamaica is one of the most frequented tourist attractions in the Caribbean.

Formerly a Spanish held possession known as Santiago, the island later became a possession of the British Crown and was renamed Jamaica. It remains a British Commonwealth, with Queen Elizabeth as the head of state, and Kingston the capitol.

With the beautiful Dunn's River Falls and the Blue Mountain Range, the island is a haven for naturalists from all over the world. All of the major cities are located along the coast, sp you are always near some of the best and safest beaches in the world.

People

Home to 2.8 million people, Jamaica is the third most populous English speaking country in North America, following the United States and Canada. The population consists mainly of people of African descent, (89.2%), since it was a major stop for the processing of slaves that later taken to such ports as New Orleans.

With a steady rise of immigration from such places as America, China, and Latin America, Jamaica has steadily grown in both culture and diversity over the past 100 years. British immigration has also begun to boost the Jamaican population.

Geography

As the third largest island and the fourth largest country in the Carribean, Jamaica is mostly a tropical forest with lush palm trees dominating the landscapes and covering rolling hillsides. A distinct feature of the island is the Blue Mountain Range, surrounded by a narrow coastal plain, providing some of the best views of the island.

The climate is completely tropical with hot and humid days, although further inland the temperature tends to be slightly more temperate. The Liguanea Plain and the Pedro Plains, lying toward the south coast of the island, tend to be relatively dry rain-shadow areas.

History

The indigenous people, originating from South America from the Arawak and Taino cultures, are thought to have settled on the island between 4000 and 1000 BC. When Christopher Columbus claimed Jamaica for Spain after landing there in 1494 there were over 200 villages.

The English forcibly evicted the Spanish around 1534, however, it was not until1655 that the English took over the last Spanish fort in Jamaica. During the first 200 years of British rule, Jamaica's chief export was sugar, producing more than 77,000 tons of sugar annually.

By the beginning of the 19th century, Jamaica's heavy reliance on the slave trade resulted in Africans outnumbering whites by 20 to 1. Although England had outlawed the importation of slaves, there was an underground market that continued to smuggle slaves onto the island.

Jamaica experienced a strong economic growth during the 1960's, due in part to heavy investments in bauxite/alumna, tourism, and manufacturing. By the end of the 1970's, a slowdown in the global economy, coupled with the close of the aluminum factories, left Jamaica with tourism as the main foundation of the economy.

Famous Attractions

Dunn's River Falls:

Climbing Dunn's River Falls is a must-do event. Tumbling down a series of stair-like rock projections, cascading 600 feet to the sea, the waterfall has provides the most photographed scenic spot on the island. Whether you opt to climb or simply swim in the pools at the base, the falls provide one of the best of island experiences.

Dolphin Cove:

Swimming with the dolphins at Dolphin Cove is a unique experience, with several options sure to fit almost any taste. From the fin pull, where the gentile mammals pull you along, to the push, where you simply float and allow the animals to gently nudge you along, this experience provides an unforgettable feeling of being one with nature.

Reggae Explosion, Island Village:

This is an interactive museum where you can explore the roots of this uniquely Jamaican sound, from its beginnings in ska and mento, all the way up to the international sensation that we know today.

Nightlife

Nightlife in Jamaica consists of a diverse and entertaining mix, from the on-property shows at the all-inclusive resorts, to nightclubs that range from indoor clubs to beach bashes, each complete with musical stylings from reggae to the traditional sound of steel drums and Harry Bellefonte.

In Negril, you may want to make the journey to Rick's about an hour before sunset. Rick's has become most popular location on the island to view the legendary sunset, where, if you are lucky, you can witness the phenomenon of the green flash that occurs only when the sun sets on a cloudless night.

Culture

Although the official language of Jamaica is English, the majority of Jamaicans speak an English-African Creole known as Jamaican Patois. Not to be confused with the better-known Rastafarian use of English, Jamaican Patois contains many words borrowed from Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, Arawak, and African languages, making it a unique language itself.

Christianity makes up the major religion of the population, approximately 66%,and the five largest denominations are The Church of God, Seventh-day Adventist, Baptist, Pentecostal, and Anglican. Other popular religions include a growing Islamic movement, and the Baha'i Faith.

The Rastafarian movement was founded in Jamaica, and is still most associated with the island. Perhaps the most famous Rastafarian was Bob Marley, who popularized reggae internationally.

Cuisine

Jamaican cuisine is known for its spicy and flavorful dishes, including escoveitched fish, ackee, and saltfish, staples of the island, but these are certainly not the only favorites. Brown Stew Fish, a stew made with such ingredients as limejuice, scallions, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and hot pepper, is also very popular; as is Callaloo Stuffed Baked Fish, fish stuffed mainly with the leafy vegetable known as callaloo, carrots, onions, pepper, and garlic.

Jamaican dishes are often made with ingredients that are not common outside the Caribbean. Scotch bonnet peppers and ackees are prime examples. Ackee fruits consist of three black seeds surrounded by yellow flesh and a skin that turns red when the fruit matures. These are the national fruit of Jamaica, and are featured in many classical Jamaican dishes. Ackee is not indigenous to Jamaica but was brought from West Africa during the 18th century slave trade.