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One of the sights of India is the tomb of the emperor Shah Jehan and his favourite queen. The tomb is the Taj Mahal. Its name means "gem of buildings".

The Taj Mahal is in Agra, India. It was built between three and four centuries ago.

A legend tells that the queen, who was called Mumtaz-i-Mahal, first saw this building in a dream. She saw it so clearly that she remembered it after she wakened. She told the emperor about it, and he set to work at once to have it built. No one knows whether the story of the dream is true. We do know that an army of workmen spent 22 years in building the Taj Mahal.

The tomb is tall. The tip of the dome reaches as high as an 18-storeyed building. The whole building is of white marble. In places the marble has been -carved so that it looks like lace. Inside there is much carving. There is more of the marble lace. In addition, parts of the Koran, the sacred book of the Moslems, have been carved on the walls. In other places the walls are covered with flower designs. Coloured stones such as jasper1 and cornelian2 are set in the white stone.

The building would not be so beautiful if it were not in such a beautiful setting. Much of the ground around is paved with red sandstone. There are pools of quiet water that reflect the dome and the slender towers. Round about there is a beautiful garden.

Many people think that the Taj Mahal is the most beautiful building in the whole world.


1) Where and when was the Taj Mahal built?

2) What does a legend tell?

3) How many years did an army of workmen spend in building the Taj Mahal?

4) What does the building of the Taj Mahal look like?

5) What can you say about a setting of the Taj Mahal?


1. jasper - яшма

2. cornelian - сердолик


Many animals can swim without being taught how. People are not so fortunate. They have to learn to swim. But it is very much worthwhile to learn to swim for three reasons: swimming is fun. It is good exercise for building strong bodies. And being able to swim takes away most of the danger from boating, water skiing, and other water sports. There are four styles of sports swimming: freestyle (crawl), backstroke1, breaststroke2 and butterfly.

Swimming is so popular that many public swimming pools have been built. Many public beaches have been set up.

Swimming is one of the sports that make up the Olympic games. Swimmers from all over the world compete in these games.

It may seem strange that swimming was not included in ancient Olympic games, though people had known it long ago. Both in ancient Greece and Rome swimming was as important as reading. Soldiers often sailed to other lands and fought on seas too. They were taught swimming for life-saving.

As a sport swimming was practised in Japan. There swimming contests were held before the new era. Since the 17th century it has been taught in schools. But the Japanese did not let foreigners into their country. That is why it were Europeans who developed swimming and made it a sport.

One of the earliest swimming competitions in Europe was held in 1515 in Venice. In 1538, the first swimming handbook was published. First swimming schools began to appear in the end of the 18th century. Swimmers trained and contested mostly in rivers, ponds and lakes, which was only possible in summer. In the 19th century covered pools appeared and swimming became very popular.

Many countries organized national swimming championships, and the first European championship was held in 1890. Six years later, swimming became the Olympic sport and in 1908 the International Swimming Federation was formed. Oddly enough, the first world championship was only held in 1973, or 65 years later!

Swimming as a sport was not popular in Russia. Training and competitions were only possible in summer and sportsmen could not achieve good results. The first swimming competitions in Russia were held in 1913 in Kiev.

Things changed after the Revolution. Swimming schools opened in Moscow in the 20s. And in the 30s first covered pools were built. Soviet swimmers could train all the year round and they did well.

Regular swimming championships of the Soviet Union have been held since 1928. And since 1947 our swimmers have been taking part in international competitions. Many of them have achieved good results and set new records. Among them are G. Prozumenshchikova (Stepanova), S. Babanina, V. Bure, V. Salnikov and others.


1) Why is it worthwhile to learn to swim?

2) How many styles are there in swimming?

3) Where was swimming practised as a sport?

4) When did swimming become very popular?

5) Was swimming as a sport popular in Russia?

6) What famous Soviet swimmers do you know?


1. backstroke - плавание на спине

2. breaststroke - брасс, плавание брассом

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