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    Bangladesh: Traditional houses. Go Now!

    This low-lying country has historic ties to India and Pakistan, but today maintains a wholly unique culture. Explore Bangladesh!

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    This archipelago nation is culturally diverse from big cities to isolated islands. Begin Your Journey!

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    Tucked away in this Middle Eastern country, the famed city of Petra (pictured) links the past to the present culture. Explore Jordan!

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CambodiaThe name Cambodia is the English version of the local name, Kampuchea. Kampuchea is derived from the Sanskrit word Kambuja or Kambujadesa. The Kambuja were a group of people in modern day Afghanistan that didn't follow the same customs the Indians followed. In this way, the Indians later gave the same name to the region of Southeast Asia, perhaps a term they used to reference any outsider or any people who didn't follow Indian social customs.



On a map, Cambodia appears to have very little water access, but the people's culture today and in the past is very much based on the water. This life on the water is based on the lakes and rivers, plus the rain forests and other heavy vegetation found throughout the country. Water is the center of life in Cambodia and the culture began near or on these many waterways as they provided transportation, food, and life for thousands of years.

Throughout history the people in the region of modern day Cambodia have been drawn to the rivers, particularly the Mekong River, or the lakes, most particularly Lake Tonle Sap, whose size dramatically changes with the seasons. In the past most people lived simple lives based on the land so rains and waterways were essential. Many people worked as farmers, while others made a living by fishing. No matter their occupation, the rains and waterways were needed for the lifestyle of the people and these waterways also connected the people, creating a culture thousands of years ago.

The jungles also altered life, however the jungles prevented movement due to their dense vegetation, instead of catering to movement. The swamps and jungles in the country maintained the historic culture and prevented many foreigners from entering the country in past centuries, although eventually foreign powers did make their way into the country.

Prior to significant foreign influence, some of the few outside contributions that were introduced to Cambodia have stuck for centuries. The greatest of these outside influences came via the waterways, with the Indians having the greatest impact in early history as they introduced Hinduism and later Buddhism, the latter of which is still the dominant religion in the country today. The introduction of Buddhism remains an important part of the culture and lifestyle in Cambodia today.

In about the 1100s or 1200s the Khmers, or ethnic Cambodian people, rose to power with the Khmer Empire, which built upon the earlier cultures, but also had many similarities, such as a reliance on the waterways and their Buddhist faith. This empire expanded its territory, but they also gained the money to spend on lasting monuments including arts and culture, with the most impressive and famous of these monuments being the city of Angkor and its crown jewel, Angkor Wat (or temple). Even today the people view Angkor Wat as the symbol of their culture and history.

Later, the Siamese took control of Angkor and much of the Khmer Empire, arguably influencing the culture in Cambodia, although no Cambodian will accept this argument (both Cambodia and Thailand view the city of Angkor as their own as both people ruled from the city).

As Cambodian power fell, the French swept in and took power in the 1800s. Although not happy with the alliance, the Cambodians accepted this rule in order to prevent war and over time adopted many French customs and foods as the French baguette is now seen everywhere.

In more recent history the Khmer people have become more and more confused regarding who they are and in what direction they should go. The Khmer Rouge of the 1970s killed much of the population and the people are now balancing between pride in being Khmer while trying to escape their past and redefining what it means to be Khmer, a movement shifting away from political parties and towards the culture and lifestyle of their past again defined by the landscape, foods, language, religion, architecture, and culture of the people.

The flag of Cambodia has the country's most famous landmark on it: Angkor Wat. The red and blue background colors are traditional colors of Cambodia.

Name: Kingdom of Cambodia
Independence: November 9, 1953
Capital: Phnom Penh
Currency: Riel
Population: 15,205,539 (2013 estimate)
Ethnicity: Khmer
Language: Khmer
Religion: Buddhism

Information for Cambodia was last updated: March, 2014 ● View our: Sources & Special Thanks