culture is like no other. It has embraced a panorama
of native customs of the indigenous "Indian"
people who populated The Islands Of The Bahamas over
the eons. Then Bahamian culture suddenly underwent
an abrupt change beginning in 1648 when English Puritans
settled on the island of Eleuthera. It has further
evolved over the past four centuries, witnessing the
arrival of Bermudan slaves and free blacks, British
Loyalists (accompanied by slaves) fleeing America
after the War of Independence, freed Africans from
slave ships, Black Seminoles from Florida, people
from other Caribbean islands, as well as Chinese,
Syrian and Greek immigrants.
played a part in Bahamian history. In 1492, Christopher
Columbus made his first landfall in the New World
on the island of San Salvador in the eastern Bahamas.
After observing the shallow sea around the islands,
he said "baja mar" (low water or sea), and
effectively named the area The Bahamas, or The Islands
of the Shallow Sea.
people -- perhaps from Cuba -- lived in The Islands
Of The Bahamas as early as 300 to 400 AD. They were
later followed by Lucayan Indians. Neither group of
people left a written history, but what they did leave
-- drawings, pottery, tools and bones -- gives insight
into their daily lives. There were about 40,000 Lucayans
when Columbus arrived, but this population soon dwindled
to nothing after being enslaved.
1648, a group of dissident English Puritans (known
as the "Eleutheran Adventurers") arrived
here in their quest for religious freedom. Although
the adventurers gave the island its name, the island
didnt give much back.
was at its height from the late 1600s to the early
1700s. The Islands Of The Bahamas was a popular "stopping
off" point for many of the worlds most
brought prosperity to The Islands Of The Bahamas.
The influx of traders from the American Civil War
(1861-1865) and Prohibition (1918-1934) increased
the demand for food, lodging and other items.
virtually any type of international food can be found
in The Islands Of The Bahamas, it would be a mistake
to miss an opportunity to sample the local cuisine.
No matter where you are, you won't have any difficulty
finding plenty of restaurants serving Bahamian cuisine
and fresh local seafood at reasonable prices.
is the staple of the Bahamian diet. Conch (pronounced
"konk") is a large type of ocean mollusk
that has firm, white, peach-fringed meat. Fresh, uncooked
conch is delicious; the conch meat is scored with
a knife, and lime juice and spices are sprinkled over
the meat. It can also be deep-fried (called "cracked
conch"), steamed, added to soups, salads and
stews or made into conch chowder and conch fritters.
The Bahamian "rock lobster" is a spiny variety
without claws that is served broiled, minced or used
in salads. Other delicacies include boiled or baked
land crabs, which can be seen, before they are cooked,
running across the roads after dark.
fish also plays a major role in the cooking of The
Islands Of The Bahamas -- a popular brunch is boiled
fish served with grits, and when done right, is often
the most flavourful way to enjoy the taste of a fresh
catch. Stew fish, made with celery, onions, tomatoes
and various spices, is another local specialty. Many
dishes are accompanied by pigeon peas and rice (the
infamous peas 'n' rice served throughout the Caribbean),
with spices, tomatoes and onions.
To experience Bahamian culture and art, you should
make plans to attend Junkanoo.
The Bahamian festival of Junkanoo is an energetic,
colourful parade of brightly costumed people gyrating
and dancing to the rhythmic accompaniment of cowbells,
drums and whistles. The celebration occurs on December
26 and January 1 -- beginning in the early hours of
the morning (2:00 a.m.) and ending at dawn.
is reminiscent of New Orleans' Mardi Gras and Rio
de Janeiro's Carnival, but it is distinctly Bahamian
and exists nowhere else. Parade participants -- arranged
in groups of up to 1,000 -- are organised around a
particular theme. Their costumes, dance and music
reflect this theme. At the end of the Junkanoo procession,
judges award cash prizes. The three main categories
for the awards are: best music, best costume and best
overall group presentation.
most spectacular Junkanoo parade occurs in Nassau.
However, you can also experience it on Grand Bahama,
Eleuthera, Bimini and Abaco. It's held on Boxing Day
(December 26) and New Year's Day (January 1) from
2:00 a.m. until 8:00 a.m.