Taj Mahal, Wild Thing Snow Monsters, Singapore Street Food & More: Endnotes 05 February

Taj Mahal, Wild Thing Snow Monsters, Singapore Street Food & More: Endnotes 05 February

Friday, 5 February, 2021

Every Friday, we celebrate the weekend — and all the reading and relaxing and daydreaming time ahead — with Melissa's favorite book- and travel-related links of the week. Why work when you can read fun stuff?!

This post is part of our Endnotes series.


The Taj Mahal lands at #6 on the list of top 20 tourist destinations in the world. Its name literally means ‘crown of the palace,’ and it was commissioned by Mughal Emporer Shah Jahan in 1631 to honor his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. (She had died that year while giving birth to their 14th child.) Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, the Taj Mahal is a confection constructed in ivory marble. It’s decorated with calligraphy, bas relief flowers, and polished, inlaid stones of yellow marble, jasper, and jade. The complex includes a mosque, guest house, and formal gardens, as well as the tombs of the dearly departed Shah and Mumtaz. The inspirational influence of the Taj Mahal continues on: A new Microsoft office in Noida, India, is modeled on the famous landmark. {more}

  • This is a sharp and personal essay from Geraldine DeRuiter, a.k.a., the Everywhereist about what we owe each other and why travel should continue to be on hold for a while. ‘Travel is not a singular, solitary action. It is not something that exists in a vacuum. We interact with our environments, with the community and cultures that we find ourselves in. If we travel during a pandemic, we aren’t simply assuming risk for ourselves. We’re endangering everyone around us. We could spread a disease to fellow passengers, to airline and airport and hospitality employees. We could eventually be hospitalized in healthcare system that is unprepared for an influx of travelers, diverting resources from locals.’

  • Our household may or may not be plowing through the reality show Below Deck. It’s shocking how often napkin folding comes up in the quasi-plot of the show! Perhaps the universe was sending us a message when this incredible treatise on napkin folding from 1629 came across the transom. This paragraph is a work of art made of words: ‘The first treatise on napkin folding, Giegher’s Trattato is an important example of the wider tradition of trionfi da tavola (triumphs of the table), arcane creatures and architectural abstractions crafted out of napkins, glass, wood, wax, and tragacanth. Published as an oblong quarto, a format usually reserved for musical scores and sewing patterns, his Trattato reflects the influence of tailoring and anticipates the later art of Troublewit, paper animated by accordion folds, as well as ornamental orange peeling.’

  • Look at this Sendak-inspired snow magic! (May these snow sculptures inspire you to re-read Where the Wild Things Are and simmer a pot of this carrot soup).

  • A piece of good news from the otherwise terrible 2020: Singapore street food is now on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. National Geographic has gorgeous photos and a fascinating story about the markets.

  • Summer Brennan is an award-winning investigative journalist and author; she’s been living in Paris while writing her upcoming book The Parisian Sphinx, and she’s gotten up to a very cool project there. ‘In the archives of the Paris police, there is a book. It is large and heavy, with a worn leather binding, brass hardware, and a broken lock. It contains the criminal files of a group of women called Les Insoumis (the Undominated)… This secret ledger, known as The Book of the Courtesans or by its code name BB1, survived a siege, a revolution, the 1871 burning of the archives, and two world wars.’ Read her first installment about The Book of the Courtesans.

  • Merriam-Webster Quiz: Name That Thing: Toys and Games Edition (I got 2980/4900… too bad it’s not dollars!)

  • Translators Aloud is an organization that brings ‘literary translators out of the shadows and into the limelight where they belong.’ You can watch videos of readings from translators on their YouTube channel — and buy super-cute merch to support their fundraising effort.

black sweatshirt and white mug

snow-covered wooden cabin in poland

  • Bookish podcast of the week: The podcast All About Agatha is devoted to smart discussions about all things Agatha Christie. In this episode, the hosts get real about They Came to Baghdad with excellent scene-setting in Baghdad and Basrah.

  • Travel podcast of the week: Time to Eat the Dogs is a podcast about science, history, and exploration. In this episode, the host Michael Robinson interviews Eric Zuelow, author of A History of Modern Tourism, about the early days of tourism from the old-time European Grand Tour through the twenty-first century.


Our challenge to you: Do something silly this weekend.

Top image courtesy of Sylwia Bartyzel/Unsplash.

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Every Friday, we share our favorite book- and travel-related links. This week, we've got national costumes, sea shanty mania, 10 Jane Austen facts, the mysteries of Socotra Island, cafés around the world, and more.
Every Friday, we share our favorite book- and travel-related links. This week, we've got a tough travel quiz, chilly winter thrillers, a guide to Persepolis, a Frankenstein book club, Vietnamese cuisine, and more.
Every Friday, we share our favorite book- and travel-related links. This week, we've got a movie locations quiz, books about books, Turkish women in Berlin, the history of the passport, British folklore, and more.

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