News

From drunken nights out with a llama to testicle-eating fishes, it’s a mixed bag of stories you’ve been sharing on social media in 2013.

Among the top twenty Independent articles you’ve been tweeting and posting on Facebook this year, there are serious reports, ferocious comment pieces, astounding research and a fair few articles that pay tribute to the adage ‘the truth is stranger than fiction.’

Pilgrims' progress

Channel 4 has gained rare access to the haj in Mecca. Bader Ben Hirsi is one of those filming the event

Obituary: Michel Pinseau

MICHEL PINSEAU graduated from the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts as an architect in 1956 and began to take part in the building frenzy that marked the beginning of the so-called "30 glorious years", the years of prosperity. In Paris there was an instant need for new offices and, in the Paris region, a great demand for housing.

The legend of the holy tomato

Look very closely at this tomato. Does it contain just seeds and flesh - or can you make out the word - the Arabic symbol for Allah? If so, you are just one of the witnesses to the miracle of Bradford.

Faith & Reason: Elvis, Dawkins, the Pope and the lesser of evils

Want to know the difference between religion and mere supersition? Then first consider the distinctions between atheism and science and decide which could best do business with organised crime

Fat chance of turning this tide of old cobblers

Could Lord Bragg not use a more sensitive phrase, like `a naturally heavy-boned lot of good'?

Faith & Reason: The veil which shrouds Mecca starts to lift

For centuries Islam's holiest city has refused access to all non- Muslims. But the appetites of a global media may cause profound change

Historical Notes: A proud people who built aqueducts by eye

BURSTING OUT of Anatolia in the 14th century, the Ottoman Turks conquered the whole Balkan peninsula, from the Adriatic to the Black Sea. By the time Mehmed the Conqueror took Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, most of Europe's Orthodox population was under Ottoman rule. In 1517 the empire swept up the heartlands of Islam - Syria, Arabia, and Egypt, along with the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina. In Europe, Belgrade held out until 1524, but it was captured by Suleiman the Magnificent, whose armies overran Hungary and laid siege to Vienna.

Travel: Passport - Paco Pena: `I have never found anywhere more beautiful than Rome ...'

I love London desperately. I have a home there (as well as one in my Spanish home-town of Cordoba), and it is where I began my solo effort in life. It is where I took my first steps abroad and it marked the beginning of my career as an international flamenco guitarist.

Travel: Saudi - Wine, women and song? No chance

Jeremy Atiyah, who has travelled widely in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, assesses the prospects for the first British package holiday- makers

The West is blind to its own hypocrisy: Faith & Reason

For Muslims the festival of Eid should be a joyous celebration at the end of a month of fasting. But this year it is wrapped in a cloth of suffering

Wednesday Book: Cursed with good fortune

SAUDI ARABIA: THE SHAPE

Obituary: Professor Syed Ali Ashraf

THE MUSLIMS most prominent in the British media are known because of the noise they make and the heat they generate. They fit into preconceived ideas of Muslim fanatics and extremists. It is natural therefore that Syed Ali Ashraf is virtually unknown in the media. This is a pity, as Ashraf was one of the half-dozen most important Muslim scholars of the last few decades.

An uneasy crown passes to prince

THE SULTAN of Brunei yesterday invested his eldest son as his successor in a glittering ceremony that was intended to underline the stability of the oil-rich but troubled monarchy.
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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all