Fields of spiky Aloe vera in Hato, Aruba. Photo by Jimmyvillalta/iStock.com

Aloe vera: the thorny balm

The spiky Aloe vera plant is a favourite of Caribbean gardens, its bitter gel used as a moisturiser, stomach remedy, and ingredient in healthy tonics. You might imagine you could build a whole industry around this handy plant — and Aruba has done just that. Shelly-Ann Inniss visits the island’s biggest aloe farm, and learns how this wonder of the kitchen and medicine cabinet is an economic wonder, too.

Photo by ABDESIGN/iStock.com

Born blue: Suriname’s blue poison dart frog

Suriname’s blue poison dart frog is a living treasure of the rainforest.

Photo by Digbydachshund/iStock.com

On a clear day in St Kitts . . .

Three islands in one amazing view.

It may look like the heart of the Amazon rainforest, but this stretch of wilderness is on the outskirts of Suriname’s capital, Paramaribo. Photo by Ariadne Van Zandbergen

Suriname: one country, four continents

Imagine a country with a palm-fringed Atlantic coast and an interior of Amazon rainforest, where the cultures of West Africa, India, Java, and Europe meet and mingle, where it seems you can experience four continents in as many days. Come to Suriname and see the whole world.

Photo by Claude Huot/Shutterstock.com

Isle of thorns

On arid Aruba, hardy cacti are traditionally used to make living fences.

Pieces from the latest LOD by Elodie Auvray’s Summer 2015 collection, Zion. Jewellery by Rachel Rieke of Wild Mint Jewellery. Photography by Tiffany Marie Buckley

Elodie Auvray: the art of style

Sint Maarten designer Elodie Lauvray has a love for colour and pattern — and it shows in her creations.

Photograph courtesy Aruba Reusable Bag

The garbage problem: the Caribbean tackles recycling

Disposing of garbage is a growing concern for small islands with limited space for landfills. Aruba is tackling it head-on with an ambitious recycling programme, Nazma Muller explains — are other Caribbean countries following suit?.

Photograph by Ertugrul Kilic/DEMOTIX

Paramaribo, Suriname. 20th September 2009 -- Javanese Muslims at the end of Ramadan pray during Eid ul-Fitr at Onafhankelijksplein (Independence Square) in Paramaribo,  Suriname / South America. 

Approximately 15% of the population of Suriname are Muslim Javanese.  The Javanese Muslims from Indonesia began arriving in Suriname in the 1890s. The Suriname-Javanese community is kejawen, following the syncretic practices and beliefs of Java. In this community the keblat (qibla) expresses a unique diasporic experience and identity. From the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) villagers were recruited from Java as contract workers for the plantations in another Dutch colonial land, Suriname. Most of them were kejawen Muslims. Kejawen Islam, which was dominant in Javanese villages, is a syncretic Islam which incorporated old Javanese beliefs, including Hindu-Buddhist elements.

The Javanese arrived in Suriname without persons learned in religion. It was not until the beginning of the 1930s that partly through contacts with Hindustani Muslims some realized that the Kaaba was not located in the West, but to the northeast of Suriname. Subsequently, a number of Javanese Muslims started praying in that direction. This small group, led by Pak Samsi, encouraged people to change the direction of prayer from west to east. Since then, this small group has been called wong madhep ngetan (East-Keblat people). Later some became very critical of what was seen as the superstition and religious innovation (bidah) among the Javanese Muslims. The moderates do not openly criticize the practice of praying to the west as most of the Javanese Muslims continued to do; hence they are called wong madhep ngulon (West-Keblat people).

Javanese Muslims and Hindustani Muslims are celebrates and prays differently due to fundamental conflicts for commenting their religion of Islam. The Muslim population of Suriname is predominantly made up of Hindustani

Eid-ul-Fitr: the end of the fast

At the end of the month of Ramadan, Muslims in Suriname celebrate the joyful festival of Eid-ul-Fitr, like their fellows in Guyana and Trinidad.

Illustration by Wendy Nanan

Cricket 101: What on earth are they talking about?

Can you tell a fine leg from a silly mid-off? Maybe BC Pires can help. Or maybe not.

Jazz time on Pigeon Island, St Lucia. Photograph by Chris Huxley

Island Beat (May/June 2001)

Coming events around the islands.