Exploring Countries: Cambodia

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Kamboçya

Translator: Hanne Türkmen

Have you heard of the Khmer Emperor before? Or the Kmer language? What comes to your mind when someone mentions the Angkor temple, one of Southeast Asia’s most known temples? The next stop of our Exploring Countries series is Cambodia.

1Geographic Location of Cambodia

source: flickr.com

Once known as the Khmer Emperor, now the Kingdom of Cambodia is bordered by Thailand on the northwest, Lao on the northeast, and Vietnam on the south. Cambodia has 181,035 km² of land.

2The Capital of Cambodia

Cambodia has 25 provinces and the country is governed by a unitary, parliamentary and constitutional monarchy. The capital is Phnom Penh. Some of the provinces are Banlung, Battmbang, Kampot, Koh Kong, Kompong Thom, Kratie, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. 

3 A Brief History of Cambodia

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We’ve come to the most dynamic part as we will be talking about the everchanging fate of the Cambodian lands in history.

Along with getting occupied several times, Cambodian lands have gone under different administrators in history. Assuming some prehistoric ruins, it is known that the country’s first settlements date back to 2000 BC. But what happened after them? First, Indians took dominance in that area, later the Cimmerians settle there. Vietnam occupied the country until Japan’s occupation replaced them in World War 2. Communist Red Khmers who are supported by the Chinese government, are the ones who has given the most harm to the lands. 

4The Population and Ethnical Structure of Cambodia

Cambodia ranks in 70th place with its 14.8 million population. 90% of the country is Cimmerians. The rest 10% consists of Vietnamese, Chinese, and Chams. 

5The Religious Structure of Cambodia

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More than 95% of the country believes in the official religion of Cambodia: Theravada Buddhism. There are 4392 temples belonging to this religion. The other 5% difference in their religions, as some are Muslims, some are Christians, and some are Atheists. 

6The History of the Muslims of Cambodia

 Most of the Muslims in Cambodia are Chams but there are Malaysian and other minority groups that are Muslims as well. The number of Muslims is assumed to be more than 500 thousand. According to the data from 2005, there are 407 Muslim villages. 

Since Chams became Muslims way back in the 11th and 12th centuries, there aren’t any specific data on how they chose Islam. But it is assumed that it was Arab, Persian, and Indian Muslim traders coming to the Champa region that made Islam spread around. Even after the occupation of Vietnam and the attacks of the Communism supporters, Muslims still had power over their region. A great portion of the Cambodian Muslims belongs to the Shafi’i school and a part to the Hanbeli. If you visit Cambodia one day, you might hear adhan sounds coming from small mosques when you are least expecting ☺. 

7The Economy of Cambodia

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The poverty in the country will immediately catch your attention the moment you land a foot on. The second thing that you will notice is that everything is ‘dollar-based’ in Cambodia. The main source of income in Cambodia is textile and tourism. One of the main causes of poverty is because there is a serious lack of education in the country. The lack of infrastructure, as well as economic and political instabilities, take a big part in decreasing the economy in Cambodia.

8Languages Spoken in Cambodia

The official language of Cambodia is Cimmerian. French is also quite prevalent. There are some schools and universities that have French as their education language. English has become more popular with tourist visits. You can see texts written in Cimmerian, English, and Chinese on the signboards in big cities. 

9Must-See Places in Cambodia

After seeing the untouched nature and the urbanity in the country, it is almost impossible not to fall in love with the historic buildings. Siem Reap and Angkor temples have enormously wide lands with a lake that makes the area look even wider. You can see praying monks in between the elaborately placed stones. The biggest lake in Asia, Tonle Sap, and the floating village on top of it will be an unforgettable memory for you. 

I still remember that blue, floating school and kids aged 3 to 5 playing in the yards of their floating houses. I’ve thought for a long time about how they are not scared of falling down. Another place I would definitely recommend is the pearl of Asia, Phnom Penh with bicycles and tuk-tuks everywhere on the streets. Don’t forget to visit the rice fields in the northwest! If you get there, you’ll see the old uncles and aunties taking care of the crop inside the long green plants and mud.

10Culture and Social Life in Cambodia

Cambodians are nice and friendly people. But these aren’t the only qualities to describe them. We can see that they are still loyal to their ancient beliefs. The vivid social life signs are flowers, colorful dresses, tuk-tuks, and even elephants. The locals expect the tourists to be respectful of their traditions and habits.

11Cambodian Cuisine

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The Cambodian cuisine might feel a bit unusual for most of us. You’ll understand what I’m saying when I tell you about the fried spiders on the track sides. Another common meal is a sweet and sour soup called SomlahMachouKhmae, it’s made of pineapple, tomatoes, fish, and Khemer noodles as well as K’Dam which simply is a prawn dish.

12Bonus Infos

  • The population of Cambodia is around 15 million.
  • The official language of the country is Chimmerian and it is the world’s biggest alphabet with 74 letters. 
  • Half of the country’s population is Cambodians that are under 20 years.
  • 9 out of 10 cars on the streets are Toyota.
  • Roasted tarantula is one of the most preferred bug dishes in the country.
  • Juices and cold drinks are served in plastic bags, rather than cups, to save money.
  •  Unfortunately, Cambodia comes first on Earth in terms of deforestation. Even though they have magnificent, really old trees in there.
  • There are no Mcdonald’s branches in Cambodia.
  • Locals don’t celebrate their birthdays. Most of the people who are over 30 don’t even know their birth dates.
  • Funerals cost much more than weddings. 

This article was originally written in Turkish. Click to read it! Ülkeleri Tanıyoruz: Kamboçya

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