192-PART GUIDE TO THE WORLD: PART 5 ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA

OFFICIAL NAME

Antigua and Barbuda

POPULATION

About 66,000.

SIZE

Even combined, the three islands, including Redonda (Antigua's second dependency, a rocky volcanic islet set 35 miles to the south west), would fit 70 times into Belgium. Antigua, with about 108 square miles, is the largest of the eastern Caribbean's Leeward Islands.

ENVIRONMENT

Antigua is low-lying and composed of volcanic rock, coral and limestone, with unspectacular but pretty rolling hills and flowering trees. As a result of colonial deforestation, most of Antigua's vegetation has been reduced to dry scrub. Neighbouring Barbuda is a flat coral island. Both islands are fringed by glorious white sand beaches.

BEST MONUMENT

The ruins of Shirley Heights are a candidate. This is the 18th-century naval base used by (among others) Horatio Nelson. Today the ruins stand on a particularly picturesque spot, where steel bands and reggae bands play at weekends.

MOST FAMOUS CITIZEN

For most people in Britain, it is the former captain of the West Indies cricket team, Viv Richards. Nineteenth-century novelist Matthew Phipps Shiell is perhaps another strong contender. Formerly King Felipe of Redonda, Phipps Shiell emigrated to the UK where he wrote his novel, The Purple Cloud. This was later made into a film called The World, The Flesh and The Devil, staring Harry Belafonte.

NATIONAL DISH

Pepperpot, a stew of vegetables and a range of (optional) salted meats.

BEST MOMENT IN HISTORY

1 November 1981, the date of independence from Britain.

WORST MOMENT IN HISTORY

The 18th century was a grim time for these islands, with most of the population enslaved on sugar plantations by the very few. Even after the emancipation of the slaves in 1834 conditions scarcely improved for farm labourers.

ESSENTIAL ACCESSORY

Sunblock, fishing rod, snorkel. Plus insect repellent to ward off noseeums, tiny sandflies that give nasty stings.

HOW NOT TO BEHAVE

Do not expect to spend nights under canvas as camping is illegal.

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