An Island country situated in the Caribbean Sea is also known as the 'Land of Wood and Water’.
Jamaica is an incredible island, punching well above its weight on the world stage which is particularly astounding when you consider its relatively small size. Not surprisingly, Jamaica produces the most music per capita in the world, is home to the fastest man and fastest woman on the planet and is a cultural superpower. In its mere 11,000 sq km of terrain you will find incredible diversity and stunning beauty, the most delectable food, exquisite coffee and one of the oldest and finest rums.
Let’s know more about this beautiful country in a rendezvous with H.E. Mr. Jason Hall, High Commissioner of Jamaica to India.
Jamaica is the ‘Land of Wood and Water’. Share your views on this?
The Taino, the original inhabitants of Jamaica, discovered Columbus when he was lost on our shores, thinking he had found India in 1494. The name Jamaica is derived from their language and means, land of wood and water. According to Columbus he had never seen a more beautiful island with such crystalline water and rich forests. Today visitors can attest to this; our pristine beaches, cool refreshing rivers and breathtaking waterfalls set in enchantingly rich and verdant forests, all reinforce that it is truly a land of wood and water. But it is our people that really put Jamaica on the map, ranging from our artists, such as Bob Marley, Koffee and Sean Paul, to our athletes, such as Chris Gayle, Shelly Anne Fraser Pryce, Elaine Thompson-Herrah, Alia Atkinson and Usain Bolt, to the women, men or children you meet along the way. There is just something magical and alluring about our spirit that is reflected in everything we do.
What are the three must-do things in Jamaica for the first-time traveller?
With so much diversity it is difficult to single out just three things to do, especially when Jamaica appeals to all the senses and has something to offer every type of traveller from thrill seekers, to romantics, to golfers and sport enthusiasts, epicures, nature lovers, families or people just looking to relax and feel alright. Here are my three to start you off, but know that that these are by no means exhaustive and you will have to come back for more; 1. Visit Kingston the heartbeat of the Caribbean and UNESCO creative city of music; where you can experience our musical heritage first hand doing the Marley trifecta (Bob Marley Museum, Tuff Gong & Trenchtown Culture Yard); elevate up into Blue Mountains world heritage site of spectacular flora and fauna and home to the best coffee in the world; or travel back in time in Port Royal, the former commercial centre of the Western Hemisphere where swashbuckling buccaneers once roamed. 2. Immerse yourself in Jamaican water, whether at a beach such as Dr’s Cave Beach, Frenchman’s Cove or Negril 7 mile; or in Dunn’s River Falls, the only waterfall that you can actually climb up; or soaking in the world’s most radioactive spa in Bath, Milk River. 3. Explore Jamaica through the palate, experiencing a vibrant cuisine like no other from Jerk chicken and pork, to Escovitch fish and bammy, to Rastafarian Ital fare (a vegan delight that captures their pure holistic way of life).
‘Reggae’ is one of the most popular music genres in Jamaica. Share your views on this.
Reggae is one of multiple musical forms originating in Jamaica which include Mento, Ska, Rocksteady, Nyabinghi, One Drop, Calypso, Soca, Dub, Drum & Base, Lover’s Rock, Dub Poetry, Gospel and Dancehall. It is actually more than a genre; it is a social movement giving voice and hope to the oppressed and marginalized, lifting spirits, raising consciousness and inspiring minds, not to mention moving the body. Because of its tremendous impact, Reggae is recognized by UNESCO as being an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. From Belafonte to Bob and beyond, Reggae has been rocking the planet for decades, contributing to TIME Magazine’s Album of the Century and BBC’s Song of the Millennium in the process. If there were a soundtrack to life on earth it would definitely have a Reggae song or two in it.
Jamaica makes the best rum in the world’. What makes it so special?
Our sugar cane is grown in a uniquely fertile terrain with limestone filtered rainwater, a combination which imparts a special rich quality that can be found in all Jamaican produce. Our rum is deeply rooted in Jamaican tradition and the fiercely passionate indomitable spirit of our people. It also helps that we have been perfecting the process for almost three centuries. Rums of note include; Appleton, Worthy Park, Moneymusk, Blackwell, Myers which are all dark rums of exquisite character. Then you have the white rums, the real strong stuff, such as Wray & Nephew Overproof, Rum Bar Rum, Rum Fire and Kingston 62. Interestingly, Jamaica has the highest number of churches per square mile and in between every two churches are at least two rum bars.
Do we have any similarities between India and Jamaica?
Jamaica shares an inextricable genetic link with India due to Indian immigration to the island over 176 years ago, so there are obvious similarities. But we also share love for spicy food, for music and dance, and for sport, especially cricket, and are in our own respects, superlative on the world stage in many fields. We are both immensely creative, artistic people and share the view that the world is indeed one family. Interestingly, Jamaica is the third most likely to win the Miss World Title after India and Venezuela, the reigning Miss World, Toni-Ann Singh is a Jamaican of Indian origin and is the only Miss World to have a two-year reign. When Jamaica and India collaborate, great things happens just look at Kamala Harris, the first female Vice President of the USA
Jamaica is famous for fastest runners. Tell us about the country’s Olympic contribution.
Jamaica has been on the podium in every single Olympic Games of the modern era, winning over onethird of the total medals won in the sprinting events (100m, 200m, 400m, 100mH, 110mH, 4 x100m and 4 x 400m). Jamaica also holds the Olympic record in both the men’s and women’s 100m, the men’s 200m and the men’s 4 x 100m. Jamaica’s Usain Bolt is the only athlete in history to have completed the triple treble (golds in 3 consecutive Olympics in 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m), while Elaine Thompson-Herrah is the only female athlete to have completed the double double (gold in consecutive Olympic 100m and 200m), and Jamaica has staged a clean sweep of the medals (gold, silver, bronze) in the 100m and 200m events three times. We have also won medals in long jump, triple jump, discus, shot put and at the Paralympics. At various stages, Jamaica has consecutively held the world title in the 100m for Men, Women, and Boys U18 & U20. This tremendous legacy of excellence in sport goes well beyond track and field with world honours earned in football, cricket, swimming, rugby, gymnastics, diving, and boxing. We were also the first and only tropical country to compete in the Winter Olympics in Bobsled.
When is the best time to visit Jamaica? Which is the best mode to travel internally in the country.
Jamaica is blessed with amazing weather all year round with the peak tourist season from December to March. There are always exciting events taking place on the island; Music festivals such as Reggae Sumfest (June), Rebel Salute (January), Reggae Month (February), Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival (February) as well as the Calabash Literary Festival (even years in April), or culinary events such as Portland Jerk Festival (August), Jamaica Food & Drink Festival (October), or straight out party events Dream Weekend (August), Carnival (April), Grand Gala (August), and countless other sporting events such as Reggae Marathon (December), CPL T20, as well as Athletics, Rally Car Racing, Polo, Golf, Tennis, Squash, Horse Racing, Football, Martial Arts, you name it. Jamaica is accessible by over 400 direct international flights a week from Canada, USA, UK, Panama, Germany and several other European gateways. Once on island, the best way to get around is by car or bike. But you can also off road bike, sail, surf, paraglide, kite board, ride or swim on horseback or simply stroll through the countryside.
Which is your favourite travel destination in the world except for Jamaica?
I live by the philosophy that : “No one thing is one thing only” so it is impossible to single out a favourite. Each destination has taught me something new and unique, and each holds a special place in my heart. To single out any one place would be at the expense of another. What I can say is that I thoroughly enjoy going to new places and right now I am having an amazing time getting to know this impressive and incredible country of India.
Tell us a little more about the gastronomy of country. Do we also get Indian food.
Given our Indian heritage we do have curry, a must-try is our curried goat and curried chicken with roti both with a uniquely Jamaica twist. There is also Jerk cuisine which is a form of barbeque that is spicy and delectable. Jamaica also originated the Rastafarian faith which is based on the oldest form of Christianity. It is a way of life and has its own cuisine known as Ital food which is vegan with no salt or additives and extremely healthy and uplifting. Other must-try dishes include Oxtail, Ackee & Saltfish (the national dish), Rice & peas, Mackerel Rundown (stewed fish in coconut milk), Roast Yam (the healthiest carb), Roast Breadfruit, Festival (a fried bread), Escovitch Fish & Bammy (gluten-free cassava bread), Stew Peas (don’t plan any activities after), Fricasee Chicken, Stew Pork, Jamaican Chinese food, Calaloo, Manish Water (soup), Steam fish & okra, and a whole host of desserts, such as Devon House ice cream, Blue draws, bread pudding, potato pudding, gizzada, plantain tart, and rum cake… all to be washed down with Sorrell (drink from hibiscus flower high in antioxidants), ginger beer (non-alcoholic), a wide array of fresh fruit juices, Rum Punch, or a good old Red Stripe beer.
For any traveller shopping plays a vital role. What does Jamaica offer for shopping?
Jamaica has a very large duty-free shopping sector with shops selling any premium luxury lifestyle item that you desire, from jewellery to high-end clothing and accessories. There is also excellent art and craft from skilled artisans in woodwork, weaving and artwork. But what people appreciate most about Jamaica are the immaterial things that you take away; true joy and happiness, a lifetime of friendships, a full heart and One Love.
Travel to you is…. (one word)
Travel is LEARNING. Learning new things, new people and learning about yourself. Learning is Life