Macau's Top 10... Little-known facts

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1. The name Macau 
Macau’s name comes from the A-Ma Temple, which was built in 1448 – long before the city came into being – and was where Mazu, the goddess of seafarers and fishermen, was worshipped. It is said that when Portuguese sailors arrived at the coast near the temple in the 16th century and asked the name of the place, the natives replied ‘A-Ma-Gao’, meaning ‘Bay of A-Ma’. Macau’s name in Chinese, Aomen, literally means ‘inlet gate’.

2. The language
Patua, a creole language derived from Malay, Sinhalese, Cantonese and Portuguese, is the historical language spoken by the Macanese. The Cantonese influence came later, around the mid-19th century, and established the ‘modern’ version of the language, which gave the Macanese a strong sense of identity but was never officially recognised by the government or taught in schools – thus it gradually died out. As of the year 2007, only 50 people could speak the language.

3. Life expectancy
When it comes to enjoying a long life, Macau is the place to be. It officially has the second highest life expectancy in the world. The Macanese live an average of 84.46 years, second only to Monaco, which sports an 89.63-year life expectancy rate, according to the 2013 CIA World Factbook report. 

4. Densest population
Macau is officially the most densely populated region in the world. Averaging 20,497 people per square kilometre, the SAR packs its population in tighter than a tin of sardines. And that’s just at the blackjack table…

5. Portuguese tiles
Senado Square’s tiny black-and-white mosaic tiles were designed to mimic waves in the sea. And each one of these tiles was made entirely by hand. This style of tiling, known as Portuguese Pavements, was created by carving basalt and limestone into small rocks and placing them in a pattern, and is found in many former Portuguese colonies, including along Rio’s famous Copacabana Beach! 

6. Formerly an island
Pre-colonial records show Macau once totalled only 2.78sq km, making the rest of this 29.9sq km-sized peninsula reclaimed land or manmade landfill – that’s 170 percent of added land. The island was once connected to China by a sandbar, which gradually turned into a narrow isthmus. Land reclamation in the 17th century turned Macau into a peninsula and a gate was built to mark the separation boundary. 

7. Parish divides
Macau’s districts were originally parishes which were established during the Diocesian era under Portuguese rule. They later became the administrative regions of Macau – and each still carry the same name as they did as a parish. After the handover, the municipalities were dissolved but the Chinese government still recognises these regions symbolically. 

8. Cannons pointing in
At Mount Fortress, some of the cannons point towards the city (and, actually, a few bizarrely point at each other). But don’t be alarmed – this wasn’t the military keeping citizens in check. The cannons actually used to face the water but, due to land reclamation and building developments, the fort has gradually been distanced from the sea. There are also no weapons facing China to indicate a clear sign of friendship, showing the fort was built only for defence against sea attacks.

9. Rink hockey
Yes, you heard it correct – rink hockey, one of the most popular sports in Macau. In fact, the Macau National Rink Hockey team is the
best in Asia and ranked 20th in the world, holding nine Roller Hockey Asia Cup Titles. 

10.  Macanese currency
There has never been a single currency in use in Macau – not even now. Pataca banknotes were first issued in 1906 after currencies had included the Mexican silver dollar, British silver trade dollars and silver dollars from Canton – however these remained in use for a while as people were sceptical about the new paper bills. And it’s never really changed. Today, almost every shop in Macau accepts HK dollars – with many even preferring our currency over the MOP.

Ying Lo

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