History and Geography
Comprising an area of 181,035 square kilometres, the Kingdom of Cambodia was part of the ancient kingdom of Funan. Today it comprises four cities (the capital, Phnom Penh, plus Pailin, Sihanoukville and Kep) and 20 provinces.
The Mekong river, which flows through the country, and the Tonle Sap (Great Lake) are the lifeline of the people who live along the waterways. The Tonle Sap is one of the richest sources of freshwater fish in the world.
There are three main mountain ranges, namely the Cardamom mountains in the southwest, the Dangkrek mountains in the north and the Annamite mountains in the north-east.
Population and People
Of the 15.2 million people (est 2014), about 90 percent are ethnic Khmers. There are several minorities such as the Chams (Khmer Islam), Vietnamese and Chinese. Hill-tribes such as the Pnong, Tampoun, Jarai and Kreung dominate the country’s mountainous regions.
Cambodia’s tropical climate is affected by the monsoons. The cool, dry north-east monsoon, which brings little rain, lasts from November to March. April and May are the hottest months with generally clear skies and temperatures reaching upwards of 38◦C during the day. From late May to early October, the south-west monsoon brings rains and high humidity. The average annual daytime temperature is 32◦C, and around 24◦C at night.
The official religion is Theravada Buddhism and almost 90 percent population are of this faith. The rest of the population is made up primarily of Muslims and Christians.
The official language is Khmer while the second language (spoken by the educated older Cambodians) has traditionally been French. However, in recent years, English has gained popularity and is widely spoken.
Cambodians are usually casual in their dressing except when they are attending formal events or business meetings, in which formal wear is required. It’s not unusual to see both men and women wearing a karma, a long, narrow, checked cotton cloth round their neck or on their head. In the provinces, traditional sarongs are also worn frequently.
When visiting temples, wats and pagodas shoulders should be covered and pants or shorts length should be below the knees.
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