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Last updated : Nov 2009
Colombo Culture Guide
Colombo Culture Guide -
Colombo is frenetic, noisy and just a little crazy. Gratefully, the breakdowns, traffic jams and power cuts are received with a smile and a shrug. "No problem" can be the national motto; it is undoubtedly the one phrase everyone knows and uses. While the capital holds less distinct interest than many other parts of the island, it is still a colourful place that is ideal to visit and see what makes Sri Lanka tick.

Colombo is an easy city to travel around. To the north is the Fort district, the Sri Lanka's business and commercial quarter. Fort has shopping centres, bookshops and airline offices, and is also the important location of the Central Bank, which the Tamil Tigers blew up in January 1996. Travellers can also find a good selection of interesting places which include the clock tower, a former lighthouse, the president's residence (known by traditionalists as Queen's House), and colonial buildings, which lend the district an air of the bygone Empire.

Sinhalese dancing is similar to Indian dance but relies mostly on acrobatics, nimbleness and symbolism to unfold its stories. Colombo is the place to watch the ritualistic exorcism of 'devil dancing'. Folk theatre combines masked drama, dance, drumming and exorcism rituals to vividly recreate Sri Lankan folklore. Woodcarving, pottery, weaving and metalwork are all highly developed crafts. Sri Lanka is especially famous for its gems.

Rice and curry - usually fiery hot - dominate meal times and include small side dishes of vegetables, meat and fish. Indian curries such as vegetarian thali, mildly flavoured biriyani, and a boiled, fried and dried-in-the-sun vegetable combo, are also available. Hoppers are a unique Sri Lankan snack, like a pancake, served with egg or honey and yoghurt. There are plenty of tropical fruits to enjoy, the tea is terrific and the beer is good.

The city's manufacturing industries are profit from the processing of raw materials exported through the port. General engineering industries are connected with public utilities and with the service, sale, repair, and assembly of motor vehicles and other machinery. Light manufacturing industries process food, drinks, and tobacco. Numerous factories are located on the city's outskirts.

Colombo is the commercial centre of the island with the head offices of local and foreign banks, the Insurance Corporation (which has a monopoly of insurance), brokerage houses, and government corporations all located in the city.