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M.Yehya El Sawaf


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Welcome to Montréal,

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City View
Montreal is Canada's second-largest city, a bilingual community built on an island, and one of North America's most cosmopolitan cities. Founded in 1642 by French settlers, Montreal quickly became the central hub of the Canadian colony. The central city is located at the junction of the St. Lawrence and Outaoais Rivers, at the foot of Mont Royal, which gave the city its name. Geographically as close to Europe as to the city of Vancouver on Canada's western boundary, Montreal retains a European flavor.

Historically, Montreal has been Canada's financial center and its largest industrial city, with a current population of 1.7 million on the island, and 3.3 million in the metropolitan area. Tension between the majority French-speaking populace and the English-dominated government led to the "Front de Liberation du Quebec" in Montreal in the 1960s and calls for separation from the rest of Canada. So many English speakers left the city that the economic center of Canada shifted to Toronto.  The Part’ Quebecois has ruled since 1976, and both English and French are official languages, but English use in schools and government is restricted by law. As such, one will find that English serves more as a second language, with significant signs of difficulty in the spoken word. English remains the language of choice for business. Montreal is the largest French-speaking metropolis outside of France, but the city's recent growth is in large part due to immigration, and the community is increasingly diverse, with new residents from Eastern Europe, China, Italy, Greece, South America, and the West Indies. Tension over the language issue fluctuates but has been relatively quiet in the last few years.

Famous sights in Montreal include the Basilique de Notre Dame, the Musee des Beaux Arts, the McCord Museum of Canadian History, and the Jardin Botanique, second only to London's Kew Gardens in stature. The nearby countryside offers a variety of forests, mountains and rivers, plus the Mauricie Valley National Park. Montreal is muggy in the summer and infamous for its five-month-long winter, with high amounts of snowfall and sub-zero conditions. Montreal's winds pack an icy punch. The city's solution is a complex network of pedestrian shops and walkways underground, the largest such network in the world.

Montreal suffered in the 1970s from a tendency by industry and banking to move west; but it is still a major player in the Canadian economy as well as an important shipping and industrial center. Major industries include oil refining, manufacturing, leather fabrication, and brewing and distilling. The downtown area is vibrant and clean, crime is low, and the underground metro system is excellent and inexpensive. Only 37 miles (60km.) from the United States border, Montreal provides the closest thing to a European feel in a North American city.

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