Kathmandu - General Info
Kathmandu sits at the heart of the Kathmandu Valley, listed since 1979 as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The entire city is an open-air museum, with hundreds of medieval temples, palaces, shrines and statues dotted around the narrow streets. Kathmandu has been a beacon for travellers ever since Nepal first opened its borders to foreigners in the 1950s. The first visitors were geographers and mountaineers, who came here to survey and climb the highest mountains on earth, but they were soon joined by hippies in search of the ultimate Shangri-la at the end of the overland trail. Travellers still come to Kathmandu in search of enlightenment, but these days, the hippies are joined by legions of trekkers, clad in the latest Gore-Tex gear, and well-heeled tour groups, marveling at the medieval temples and palaces of old Kathmandu. In Kathmandu, internet cafes and swish shops and restaurants stand side by side with centuries-old temples and statue-filled courtyards, particularly in the old town, which stretches from Durbar Square to Thamel, the main hang-out for trekkers and backpackers. Many of Kathmandu's stunning temples and palaces were built during the Malla dynasty from the 13th to 18th centuries, when Kathmandu competed with the rival city-states of Patan and Bhaktapur to build more and more lavish civic monuments. The three kingdoms were finally united under the Shah dynasty in 1768. In response to widespread corruption, the Maoist wing of the Communist Party of Nepal declared a people's war against the government and monarchy in 1996. Following the murder of King Birendra and nine other members of the Royal Family by Crown Prince Dipendra in 2001, the new king, Gyanendra, assumed direct control, leading to massive civil unrest. Democracy was restored in 2006 and the Maoists declared a unilateral ceasefire, joining the mainstream political process. Maoist parties gained a massive majority in the 2008 elections, leading to the formal abolition of the monarchy on 29 May 2008. Kathmandu now looks forward to a new future as the capital of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.