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World's Most Obscure Flags Explained (PHOTOS)

Posted: 08/14/2012 7:00 am

The Olympics are one of the few times you get to admire some of the lesser-known flags of the world: the bold colors of South Africa, the intricate detail of Belize, the soothing simplicity of Ukraine. Let me take you on a guided tour of the eight weirdest national flags to be found around the world...

This article originally appeared on Condé Nast Traveler: Jeopardy Champ Ken Jennings Explains 10 Obscure World Flags

-- Ken Jennings, Condé Nast Traveler

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    Some world nations celebrate peace with an olive-branch design on their flags; others boast of bravery in war by showing swords or spears. But only Mozambique really pushes the envelope by including an AK-47 assault rifle, complete with bayonet, in its national emblem. A national contest was held in 2005 to design a replacement flag without the Kalashnikov, but so far the machine gun remains. <em>Photo: Courtesy iStock Photo</em>


    In Kyrgyz legend, the national hero, Manas the Noble, unified the land’s 40 tribes by waving a blood-red flag. Today’s red flag still has 40 rays on its sun design, symbolizing the different tribes, but the curved lines on the sun are something else: That’s supposed to be a bird’s-eye view of a yurt, the traditional tent in which Kyrgyzstan’s nomadic peoples make their homes. <em>Photo: Courtesy iStock Photo</em>


    The circles and stars and triangles aren’t too unusual, but wait—what’s that yellow-and-red flame-shaped thing at left? That’s a clove of nutmeg, an important export of Grenada, once called the “Spice Island.” If you remember, raise of glass of eggnog next Christmas to the flag of Grenada. <em>Photo: Courtesy iStock Photo</em>

  • IRAN

    The flag of Iran looks like your traditional tricolor—until you check out the stripes a little more closely. What appears to be a nice design-y border between each stripe is actually stylized calligraphy reading Allahu Akbar (“God is Great”) 22 times, in two rows of 11. The numerology symbolizes 11/22, the Persian-calendar equivalent of February 11, the date of the 1979 Islamic revolution against the Shah. <em>Photo: Courtesy iStock Photo</em>


    The world’s oldest state flag is also, if you believe the legend, the only one with a design drawn up personally by God. At the 1219 Battle of Lyndanisse, a Danish priest supposedly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by praying for a miracle, after which this flag fell from the heavens and inspired the Danes to drive back their enemy Estonians. Today, all the Nordic flags have designs based on the Dannebrog of Denmark. <em>Photo: Courtesy iStock Photo</em>


    The flags of Cyprus and Kosovo both display outline maps of the borders, but only the tiny Pacific island of Nauru shows visitors how to find their country from space. The blue field is the Pacific Ocean, the gold stripe is the equator, and Nauru sits where the twelve-pointed star is: in the west of the ocean, just one degree below the Equator. <em>Photo: Courtesy iStock Photo</em>


    The mountainous land of Nepal boasts the world’s only nonrectangular flag, which has its origins in two separate triangular flags—one displaying the sun and the other the moon—that it once flew one atop the other. The bright crimson background is meant to capture the petals on a red rhododendron, Nepal’s national flower. <em>Photo: Courtesy iStock Photo</em>


    Do you like Middle Eastern carpets? Sure! We all do. Turkmenistan is world-famous for the craftsmanship of its beautiful carpets, so the stripe at left on its flag is an intricate stack of five traditional medallions used in local carpet design. It’s the world’s only flag that wears a rug. <em>Photo: Courtesy iStock Photo</em>

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