WHAT'S ON WORLDWIDE

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The Independent Travel
Thailand

13 April, Songkran Festival - Nationwide Thai New Years celebrations. During this peak hot weather season Thai people find their New Year's customs refreshing: it is tradition to splash water everywhere and on everyone for good luck. In addition to these aquatic festivities there are also more solemn rituals of religious prayers and processions.

ISLAMIC WORLD

18 April, Eid al Ad'Ha, Muslim Day of Sacrifice. This is the holiest day on the Islamic calender, commemorating Abraham's sacrifice of a ram (as told in the Old Testament). The entire day is spent praying in mosques. Sheep and goats are slaughtered, their meat is given to the poor and needy. This sacred day of sharing and repentance is celebrated throughout the Muslim world.

ROME

21 April, Il Natale di Roma. The Romans celebrate the "birth" of their splendid city, believed to be dated 753 BC., with parades, fireworks and other festivities. One of the world's biggest "birthday parties", it is dedicated to celebrating the foundation, by Romulus and Remus, of the city Romans like to call the "centre of the civilised world."

ISRAEL AND WORLD-WIDE

21-27 April, Passover. The Jewish festival of Pesach commemorates the Exodus of Jews from Egypt and the miracles that accompanied it. Observers are forbidden certain foods, such as rice, bread and pasta, in observation of their ancestors' flight from Egypt with bread that had not had time to rise (therefore nothing with yeast is eaten). The holiday lasts for seven days and opens and closes with special meals and ceremonies.

JAPAN

15 April, Fire Walking Ritual Festival, Miyajima, Hiroshima. The sacred island of Miyajima is one of a handful of places where the ancient tradition of walking over smouldering embers is still exhibited. Performed only by monks and devout believers in front of some of Japan's oldest Buddhist temples visitors are encouraged to watch but not to participate. In addition to the fire-walking, there are also dramatic and religious performances conducted at nearby shrines.

FINLAND

17- 20 April, April Jazz Espo. Finland's long summer jazz season kicks off with this weekend of musical delights. Though smaller compared to other jazz fests later on in the summer, there is a varied collection of jazz to tantalise music lovers.

SINGAPORE

24- 29 April, Tresors 1997, Suntee City. This is Asia's premiere fine art and antiques fair with displays, sales and auctions. Works include precious pieces from the West and the Orient, some of which date back over thousands of years, and the whole collection of artefacts is one of the world's most diverse. Bring a heavy purse and a sharp eye.

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