Think of Fiji and chances are first thoughts lead to the seductive, white sand beaches, turquoise waters, luxury resorts and quaint straw covered bures. While these images certainly reflect Fiji and it's beauty, it's only part of the picture. The cultural characteristics of Fiji, while often overlooked by tourists, are equally captivating and exotic.

Fiji has a long and rich history, one influenced by its Polynesian background. Long held traditions have been passed down through generations; traditions that are today reflected in the Fijian people's food, music and art.

Venture out, away from the giant resorts and five star hotels and Fiji consists of quaint villages where the customs and friendly nature of the people are on display. The Fijian people enjoy nothing more than sharing their culture with visitors and they eagerly embrace any opportunity to share their traditions with visiting guests.

We've all heard the expression 'the quickest way to a person's heart is through the stomach,' meaning of course, good food can win over the affections of anyone. That is certainly no different in Fiji where lavish seafood platters, succulent fruits and vegetables and delicate coconut, banana and mango desserts are enough to tempt even the most persnickety of foodies.

Music and dance come together in the Meke, a traditional Fiji performance mixed with dancers in traditional garb, and an orchestra, or Vakatara, with singers. The arts are another way Fijians exhibit their culture and heritage, mostly through basket and mat weaving, pottery, wood carvings and masi, a bark cloth used as a canvas for decorative wall hangings, placemats and even ceremonial dress.

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