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Patrons outside Cafe Johnny Canoe in Cable Beach


    Nassau and its sibling, Paradise Island,  are home to ancient forts, colonial architecture and handmade straw crafts which compliment and counterbalance the posh resort hotels, casinos, cabaret shows, and constant stream of cruise ships arriving at this a vibrant tourist destination. Nassau has come to dominate the island of New Providence the same way Honolulu dominates the island of Oahu. So much that people seldom refer to the name New Providence Island.

    More than 300 years old, Nassau hosts the centre of Bahamian government downtown among well preserved pastel colonial buildings in Parliament Square. Nassau also puts on an urban face with high caliber restaurants, nightlife, casinos and luxury import shops to match with pristine white-sand beaches and crystal clear waters. Nearly every major cruise line in the Atlantic has a port-of-call in Nassau so visitors can, among other things, enjoy the duty-free shopping for fine jewelry and in largest straw market in the Caribbean. Visitors are welcomed by Bahamian policemen pride themselves on their starched uniforms and big smiles. Ladies, before getting started in this playland, may want their hair braided at the portside.

    Should your calendar permit, experience Junkanoo cultural festival on Boxing Day (December 26) and New Year's Day.  Also home to an international banking center with a stable currency, American tourists enjoy the fact that the Bahamian dollar is equivalent in value to the US dollar and both are accepted interchangeably. Venture east and cross the bridge from the town of Nassau to "Paradise Island" with resorts, casinos and exciting nightlife on an island formerly called, "Hog Island."  For years the island stood undeveloped until hotels and casinos transformed it into one of the most celebrated resorts in the world in the 1950s. As you go east, past the bridge to Paradise Island, there are many fishing vessels for hire. If you are renting a condo, you may want to buy seafood fresh from the boat. The East End is also a delightful residential area, with colonial architecture and elegant homes with views of the sea.

    Just west of downtown you encounter Fort Charlotte on a bluff to your left. Built in 1788, it is complete with moat, open battlements and dungeons.  Cable Beach, with its luxury hotels, casinos and beachfront, got its name in 1907 from the laying of transatlantic telephone cables here, linking what the Bahamas to the rest of the world. Near the western tip of the island, resides Lyford Cay, an exclusive residential enclave.  Continuing onwards you circle around to the Southwest side of the island to Adelaide, a tiny village with narrow streets, was one of the first Black settlements established after the abolition of slavery. The area is a lovely, secluded spot for fishing and swimming. By now you will have noticed that most of the island's perimeter consists of fine white sand beaches. Looking inwards pine trees on rolling hills dominate the central Nassau.

    After golfing or tennis or swimming try the native cuisine of The Bahamas: conch fritters, grouper fingers, peas 'n' rice, boiled fish, johnnycake and guava duff. From casinos, to lunch and dinner cruises, to theatre performances, Nassau/Paradise Island offer fabulous and plentiful options for visitors.  The 275,000 people who live in The Bahamas are predominantly of West African descent. Their enslaved ancestors were brought to work the cotton plantations, until 1834, when Britain abolished slavery in all its territories. After abolition, the plantations were dissolved and both blacks and whites turned to sponging and fishing.  Some Bahamians even became explorers. As a result South Florida owes much of its pre-20th century development to Bahamian settlers.

    African rhythms, Bahamian Goombay, Caribbean Calypso, and English folk songs mix to form a unique musical collage. The fast-tempo "goom-bahhh" sound resonating from the drums can be traced back to slavery when it was first used for storytelling and dancing. The drum culture is most visible during Junkanoo, the national festival of The Bahamas. The origin of the word Junkanoo is obscure. Some say it comes from the French "L'inconnu", meaning the "unknown", in reference to the masks worn by the paraders. Others claim it is a dialectical adaptation for "John Canoe", the name of an African tribal chief who demanded the right to celebrate with his people even after being brought to the West Indies in slavery.

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