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From the first flag-like objects waved by armies in ancient Egypt, flags have held a vital importance to the societies they represent. Today, many countries even have laws against the desecration of national flags. These banners of sovereignty offer nations an opportunity to represent themselves in a clear, visual way — and some of them are particularly creative in design. Do you have a favorite national flag? Here are eight of the most unique national flags you'll see around the world.
The flag of Mozambique features a star, a book, a hoe, and an AK-47. It's one of the only national flags in the world to feature a firearm and the only national flag to feature a modern assault rifle. An early version of this unique flag was adopted in 1962 by the Mozambique Liberation Front, which is also known as FRELIMO. The country began flying the current version of the flag in 1983, which was eight years after Mozambique gained independence.
This flag also makes heavy use of symbolism. The open book represents the importance of education, while the hoe represents the country's farmers and agricultural industry. Meanwhile, the rifle with an attached bayonet represents vigilance and national defense. The colors red and yellow come from FRELIMO's own flag. In addition, green, black, and yellow are derived from the flag of the African National Congress in South Africa.
Nepal's national flag dates back centuries and has one particularly striking feature. It's the only national flag in the world that doesn't have a rectangular shape. Instead, it consists of two pennant shapes joined together. The dominant colors on the Nepalese flag are crimson and blue — shades that are frequently found in the country's popular art. The red color also represents Nepal's national flower — the gorgeous rhododendron.
The top segment of the flag features a stylized moon, while the bottom half features a white sun. This celestial imagery has dual meanings. It denotes two separate Nepalese dynasties and represents the nation's desire to exist for as long as the sun and moon are in the sky. Interestingly, the sun and moon on the flag had human faces prior to 1962.
Dominica got its coat of arms in 1961, when it was still a British colony. An adapted version of this coat of arms can be found on Dominica's current national flag, which it adopted after gaining independence in 1978. The green flag features tricolored stripes of yellow, black, and white. Black represents the fertile soil, white represents pure water, while yellow represents natives of Dominica. However, you'll find something truly unusual at the center of the flag — a purple parrot with green wings.
This bird, known as a Sisserou parrot, is native to Dominica, but it's the parrot's colors that make this flag so unique. Dominica is one of just two national flags to contain the color purple (the other being Nicaragua). For centuries, purple dye was a luxury reserved for royalty and wealthy elites. The dye was so expensive that it was thought to be pricier than gold. As such, most countries refrained from using purple on their national flags.
The flag of Belize is the only national flag to feature human beings. The only other flags to do so are two British territories: Montserrat and the British Virgin Islands. The two men on Belize's national flag are part of the country's coat of arms, which it obtained in 1819.
In addition to the male figures in the center, the coat of arms depicts a mahogany tree representing the abundant woodland resources in Belize. Meanwhile, a wreath featuring 50 leaves lines the borders of the white circle on the flag. The number of leaves is a nod to the year 1950, when Belize first began formal protests against British rule.
Although each nation's flag is unique, all have one thing in common. The colors red, blue, or white can be found on all of them. All of them — that is — except the Jamaican national flag. Featuring green, yellow, and black, this is the only national flag in the world that doesn't contain at least one of the most common flag colors.
Jamaica first adopted this flag in 1962, when it gained independence from the United Kingdom. Rather than allowing government officials to determine how the flag should look, Jamaica chose to hold a nationwide flag design competition. The result is a unique flag that utterly represents the spirit of the country. The green, black, and yellow on the flag represent the island's flora, the resilience of the people, and the country's riches, respectively.
Denmark's flag might look simple, but there's more to it than meets the eye. This impressive flag is actually a Guinness World Record holder since it's the oldest continuously used national flag in the world. It was first adopted in 1625, which makes it nearly 400 years old. Still, some version of this flag was in use as long ago as the 1370s. The red and white flag can be spotted in a watercolor from 1585 and was flown during Denmark's naval battles against Sweden in the 1560s. As with other Nordic flags, the cross on the flag is a symbol of Christianity. Interestingly, the white-on-red design was used by the kings of Denmark as far back as the 14th century.
The national flag of the Philippines features a blue stripe on top and a red stripe on the bottom — or at least, that's the way it's flown during times of peace. This national flag is unique in that it's reversible. During times of war, the flag of the Philippines is flown upside down with the red stripe on top — a distinction that sets it apart from most other countries.
This flag was first flown in 1898 and was flipped upside down a year later due to the Philippine-American War. In addition to its distinctive stripes, the flag features a sun and three stars — representing the island groups of Mindanao, Visayas, and Luzon.
This striking flag features a yellow and orange background with a distinctive white dragon at its center. Orange represents the Drukpa monasteries, yellow represents the king's supremacy, and white represents virtue and fidelity. Bhutan is one of just three countries with a dragon on its flag; the other two are Wales and Malta. While the dragon on Malta's flag is less conspicuous, there's no missing the mythical creature on Bhutan's flag.
The dragon is particularly important in Bhutan's culture. In fact, in the native language of Dzongkha or Bhutanese, the country is known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon. This name comes from the legendary belief that the thunder echoing off Bhutan's mountains during a storm is actually the sound of a dragon roaring.