TRAVEL: 192-PART GUIDE TO THE WORLD - PART 18: BELIZE

OFFICIAL NAME

Belize. Derived from the ancient Mayan word belix meaning "muddy water".

POPULATION

200,000

SIZE

About 8,866 square miles. Slightly smaller than Belgium.

BEST MONUMENT

Difficult as Belize contains many incredible Mayan ruins within its jungles, all of which bear testimony to the great civilisation which dominated the area from around 2,000BC until the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century.

MOST FAMOUS CITIZEN

The Hon George Price, leader of the Peoples' United Party, led the way in the Belizean fight for independence in 1954, being voted in during the country's first elections. More recently, Michael Ashcroft, a naturalised Belizean, received press attention for being a major contributor to the Tory party.

NATIONAL DISH

Rice and beans are the base of every meal, served with meat, from chicken to chinchilla and armadillo. There is only one beer in the country, but plenty of cashew-nut and berry wine and the area's ubiquitous rum.

BEST MOMENT IN HISTORY Independence in 1981.

WORST MOMENT IN HISTORY

The 1931 and 1961 hurricanes destroyed Belize City, killing over 1,000 people.

ESSENTIAL ACCESSORIES

Diving gear: Belize has the longest barrier reef in the Western hemisphere and is considered to be one of the seven underwater wonders of the world.

HOW NOT TO BEHAVE

Just don't touch the coral.

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