As the internet was a bit spotty while in Kathmandu, Katey will be sharing her blog posts about Nepal and her time in Kathmandu over the next couple of days. To start, here is some general information about Nepal itself.
Nepal is a completely landlocked country which sits between India and China. It is home to about 31.5 million people (estimates as of July 2015) with an average age of 23 years. While Nepali and English are widely spoken, especially in Kathmandu, there are more than 120 reported languages spoken in a country that is about the size of Arkansas. There are also approximately 125 caste/ethnic groups within this predominately Hindu nation.
Nepal is still a young country. While people have lived in the area now called Nepal for centuries, the foundations for a cohesive nation were formed in the 18th century when the Gurkha conquered Kathmandu, and the current borders were only established in the early 19th century through skirmishes with the British. Those borders were then closed to the outside world until the 1950’s. In the ‘50’s, the monarchy established a parliamentary system which was then dismantled in the ‘60’s. Democratic elections were finally held in the early ‘90’s, only to be disrupted by a decade of revolts by Maoist rebels. The monarchy was dismantled in 2008 in favor of a republic. As the newly formed government worked to establish itself in the midst of internal conflict, a devastating earthquake struck in April 2015 which killed more than 8,000 people, damaged fragile infrastructure, and levelled heritage sites which had stood for up to 1,000 years. In the aftermath of the quake, and in the focus of the international media, the government held elections and pushed through a new constitution which had been in contention for 7 years.
So, now that you’ve stayed with through this amazingly brief introduction to Nepal, what does it mean? First, Nepal is home to an incredibly diverse group of people who have carved out a livelihood in a relatively small space. Their culture has also managed to thrive and to develop fairly independently from Western influence until the more modern era. Unfortunately, due to their isolation and lack of most natural resources, Nepal is dependent on its neighbors, India and China, for most of their supplies while equally dependent on tourism for a majority of their income. As a visitor, the people very welcoming, the sites are awe-inspiring (both the natural and the cultural), and the handicrafts are worth the visit alone!
(Information and statistics sourced from the BBC, the CIA Factbook, and Katey’s travel experience).