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There’s no place like home, in Google Earth

August 16th, 2017

When you opened Google Earth for the very first time, where did you go? For most people there's a common destination: Home. The definition of "home" changes by country, culture and climate. So as part of the relaunch of Google Earth back in April, we introduced This is Home, an interactive tour to five traditional homes around the world. You could step inside the colorful home of Kancha Sherpa in Nepal, or head to the desert and learn how an extended drought changed the lives of the Bedouin people.

Since then, we’ve traveled to dozens more homes across six continents and today we’re bringing 22 new homes and cultures to explore in Google Earth.

Kenya

This is Ngaramat Loongito, Kenya, home to a Maasai community. Photo courtesy of Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust

Start with a Torajan home, built to withstand Indonesia’s wet season. Then head to Fujian Province, China, to peek inside the immense walls the Hakka people built to keep away bandits, beasts and warlords. See the shape-shifting yurt homes Mongolian country-dwellers use to move where their herds roam. Visit a village on Madagascar’s southwest coast where the Vezo people live off the third largest coral reef system in the world. Finally, see how a Paiwan shaman has integrated her spirituality into the walls of her home in Taiwan.

Splash

To tell these stories, we worked with partners and communities to digitally preserve homes of different cultures in Street View. Many of these homes belong to indigenous people, such as The Garasia people of India, the Chatino people of Mexico, the Torajan people of Indonesia, and the Māori people of New Zealand. Their homes represent their unique cultural identity and ways of relating to the environment.

Mongolia

This is Emchiin Uveljee, Mongolia. Family member Buyansanaa stands amidst a sea of livestock outside their yurt home, built to fit with their nomadic lifestyle.

Canada

This is Sanikiluaq, Canada. Inuit educator, Lisi Kavik, stands outside the community’s learning igloo, where she shares stories and traditions from her ancestors. When built correctly, an igloo can support the weight of a person standing on the roof.

Taiwan

This is Tjuvecekadan, Taiwan: Tjuku, the community’s shaman, stands outside her home made from the local slate stones.

Fujan

This is Chengqilou, Fujian Province, China: Jiang Youyu is one of a dwindling number of people to live inside the immense, circular walls the Hakka people built to keep bandits, beasts and warlords out of their homes.

Greenland

This is Igaliku, Greenland, home to Malene Egede and her trusty farm helper, Qooqa.

New Zeland

This is Manutuke, New Zealand. Ngati Maru member Albert Stewart stands outside the marae that represents this Māori subtribe’s communal meeting place. Here, the Ngati Maru can meet, eat & sleep while celebrating Māori culture and ceremonies such as tribal meetings, family reunions and Kapa haka (Māori performing arts).

Nepal

This is Namche Bazaar, Nepal. Kancha Sherpa and his wife, the late Tashi Tshering Sherpa, sit in their “khangpa ma” or main room where the family eats, entertains and sleeps.

Madagascar

This is Lamboara, Madagascar. Madame Kokoly lives in a Vezo community, where they depend on sea for their survival. Photo courtesy of Blue Ventures.

Indonesia

This is North Toraja Regency, South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Marla's family has lived in a traditional tongkonan home known for their soaring rooflines for five generations.

Some of the images and stories provide a snapshot in time of cultures, who face economic, environmental and population pressures. For example, the Inuit people of Sanikiluaq have been building igloos for schoolchildren to learn in for decades, but in recent winters, conditions haven’t been cold enough to create the right type of snow. It’s important to document these lifestyles now, because some may be disappearing.

Thank you to the families who shared their homes, their customs and their culture with the world!