Aren

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View of downtown Aren

Aren is a city on the northermost coast of Sayaffallah and also the home of the ballistic nuclear submarine program. The total population of Aren is 125,000.

History

Early years and founding

Aren started out as a small fishing village and gradually grew as the shipbuilding industry came to Aren in the late 1500s. During the Islamic invasion Aren joined several other towns in creating a common defence force to fight for the cities and to protect it from invasion. Incidentally the Islamic tribes never made it over the mountains to the south of the towns and thus these towns were never affected by the Islamic invasion.

Construction of naval base

The Sayaffallan Navy began construction on a major naval base project in 1892 and completed construction on the project by 1915 creating several shipbuilding industries within the base and also slips for both submarines and surface warships. The naval base in its original years survived as the headquarters of Northern Naval Command (NNC) and was the primary area of instruction for winter survival for naval personnel. As such it had a rotating population of 20,000 personnel never dropping below 11,000 personnel at any given time. The naval base was designed to provide projection capabilities into the northern hemisphere of the oceans and to allow for quick access by naval vessels into potential conflict areas.

Civilian shipyards

In 1930 to compete with demand by the naval base several industrialists constructed large scale civilian shipyards to accommodate an increase in military orders for vessels and to create ice-breaker class vessels for civilian cargo and passenger transit. The demand was enormous and the shipyards employed over 30,000 in its busiest years however in 1940 an economic slowdown forced the yards to be sold off and soon a shopping mall was built over much of the yard.

In 1962 the shipyards were reconverted to their original purpose and shipyards were opened back up and production began in the summer of 1964. These civilian shipyards to this day are a valuable source of employment for the people of Aren.

Environment of Aren

Climate

In spite of the extreme northern location, there is no permafrost, as the mean annual temperature is approximately 2 °C (36 °F), about the same as other places located at a latitude of 61° North. Monthly 24-hr averages range from −5 °C (23 °F) in January to 11 °C (52 °F) in July. Mean annual precipitation is 820 millimetres (32.3 in). The driest months are May, June, and July; with on average of 50 millimetres (2.0 in) of rainfall each month. The wettest period is October through December.[15]

Aren often experiences heavy snowfall in winter typically extending for several hours into the evenings and lasting for weeks on end during the major blizzards that come during the first few months of the year. Snowfall begins to end around mid-April however the cold lasts typically until late May.

Aren2.png

Geography

Aren exists on the extreme northernmost coast of Sayaffallah beyond the northernmost mountains. Large forests and extensive taiga are characteristics of the land in and around Aren specifically near to the shoreline. During the winter the small river flowing through Aren to the sea hardens into ice strong enough to support the weight of vehicles and during rush hour traffic many vehicles will drive on the river itself getting out of the river on access ramps located in intervals along the riverbanks. The terrain is generally flat although the farther one gets to the southernmost edges of the city some minor rolling hills can be found.

Marine wildlife

Aren is well known for the humpback whales that can be seen breaching just outside the harbor and sometimes within spitting distance of the shoreline itself. Beyond this there have been sightings of harbor seals and penguins during key months of reproduction and migration. Marine mammals are protected in Aren with penalties ranging from 5 years in prison for killing a humpback whale to over 600,000 in fines for harming a penguin.

Notable landmarks and sights

The Old City

The Old City section of Aren hidden behind high walls and gates which still close at the fall of dark each night.

The main attraction for many is the historic old city which dates back to the founding of the city as a fishing village. Each of the northernmost villages had a city center ringed by walls with either one or two ways in and out allowing the villagers to stay safe and secure from any enemies or raiders seeking plunder. These walls are still in excellent condition and the gates close each evening promptly at dusk making entry or exit impossible after night has fallen on the old city.

The old city of Aren is still inhabited by close to 2,000 residents and the town church is within the walled confines as well. The old city has many shops and bakeries that tourists can buy goods from during the hours that the old city is open to the public. After hours the old city reverts back to its heritage and a night watchman with a candle lit lantern patrols the streets of Aren making sure all are inside after the fall of night and on the walls to this day are watchmen who stand 2 hour posts in intervals monitoring the sea and today looking for vessels in distress.

Royal Winter Retreat

The Royal Winter Retreat which sits on the coastline to the northwest of Aren belongs to the Sayaffallan Royal Family and is used primarily during the week of Christmas or alternatively during the week of New Years or the Winter Solstice depending on the preference of the Sultan.

The Royal Winter Retreat is a simple home by the standards of palaces with only 20 bedrooms and 20 baths making this home relatively small and quiet for its regal occupants. However this was exactly the design of the estate making it a simple yet relaxing home that the royal family could retire to without much attention. The home was built in 1820 and was finished in 1844 and first used the winter of 1850 by the Sayaffallah Royal Family and formally named "Royal Winter Retreat" by the Sultan in 1850. The home is most known for its major focal point that being the library and the chapel both of which were custom designed to the exact specifications of the Sultan himself as a later addition in 1905.

The library has over 3.2 million books on a wide range of subjects ranging from fictional literature to the classics to physics and engineering to history and politics on a global scale. The library is built with 14 floors and extends downwards in a spiral fashion into the basement rather than elevating itself upwards as most palatial libraries are apt to do. And once on the 14th floor down it straightens out and extends underneath the palace with enormous domed roofs and beautiful frescoes designed and painstakingly installed by hand tiny square by square. But the one area that is a surprise for most is the Throne Library which is the Sultan's private study and in reality is a bedroom surrounded by books on all sides only accessible by a revolving bookcase.

The Throne Library showing the detail of the canopy over the bed and the hand painted fresco on the ceiling..

The revolving bookcase leads the user through a guard chamber and then a revolving painting leads the person into an enormous room with a large fireplace and a gold framed bed with the royal seal and canopy above it and nothing but row after row of books extending upwards in glorious fashion for several levels. This room is only open twice a year to the general public to see and typically is a major event for the public to go through the secret panels and emerge into the hidden bedroom of the Sultan. Incidentally the room is also connected via a staircase to the kitchen allowing the Sultan if he so desired to live out of this room with meals brought down to him as he studied the books and manuscripts contained within.

The chapel of the palace is a beautiful area with floor to ceiling glass window built on an island off the shore of the coastline connected by a short half a mile underground tunnel. This chapel is a private place for worship for the royal family and only open to the general public for tours once a year but open year round to government officials and employees at the Winter Retreat anytime of the year for services and general clerical matters involving the church running the chapel itself. The chapel was done in such a way as to accentuate the natural surroundings specifically the tall forests surrounding it and the ocean outside of the rocky outcropping along the islands coasts. Despite the chapel being accessible by tunnel the chapel is also accessible by boat and helicopter with transportation links established at the time of first construction of the facility. The chapel has seating for 25 people and features a small pipe organ which can be played upon reservation ahead of time by competent organists who will not misuse the organ during performance. The chapel is served by several clerics who live on the island year round and provide services of confession and relief for them during their stay.

During the times in which the Winter Retreat is not in use a school meets on the grounds utilizing much of the space for the holding of classes and for the accommodations of students. The school is a general public school for high performing students in the school system in Aren to allow them be surrounded by a more inspiring atmosphere that will encourage further excellence. This tradition has existed since 1890 and has proven its mettle since inception. Students once accepted are given education in the Winter Retreat, unless expelled, for the duration of their educational career at the Winter Retreat with their admission irrevocable for any reason besides expulsion because of severe behavioral problems. The school presently has a population of 30 and meets in several buildings throughout the estate. While classes are in session the school is off limits to the general public making tours only possible when school is out of session.

Economy

Shipbuilding and tourism are without a doubt one of the cornerstones that make up the local economy in Aren specifically during the warm summer months when most resorts find themselves booked to full occupancy and the stores begin running out of product because of the sheer amount of demand. However in 1996 large and extensive natural gas reserves were found during routine drilling off the coast of Aren. This discovery meant that the national gas industry exploded into use and companies began buying up land along the coast to use to tap into the natural gas seam.

Shipbuilding

Shipbuilding is a historical mainstay of Aren providing employment but also providing the bulk of the vessels in the northern fleet of the Sayaffallan Navy. Approximately 10 ships a year are built and deployed from this northernmost base and are sent into icebreaker patrols around the northern stretches of ocean. The shipbuilding yards are supplied by steel forges and refineries throughout the city of Aren which also provide employment to the citizens of the city. The shipbuilding yards are both military and private with an even keeled 50/50 mix of public private partnership largely extending from the civilian construction of ships during the 1940s and the later resurgence during the 1960s in Aren.

On the commercial side shipbuilding provides icebreaker class ships in the areas of cargo and passenger transit. Many luxury cruise lines have hired the commercial shipyards of Arena to build ships capable of withstanding the crushing pressure of ice and able to plow through densely packed ice fields to arrive at destinations with quicker time than their competition. Each year Aren sees an influx of employees as the shipyards grow in size and the scope of construction increases to meet the demand for vessels both military and private.

Tourism

Being a coastal town there is a strong tourist element primarily in the summer months when the weather is slightly warmer. Large tourist hotels and resort properties have sprung up along the coast of Aren extending almost to the security boundary of the Winter Retreat putting tourists close to royalty and also close to the water. Tourism also is focused on eco-tourism with several underwater hotels having been built as well as frequent adventure tours into the rivers and forests of the region during months that it is in season.

Natural gas

Economic growth has exploded recently as exploration has yielded significant reserves of liquefied natural gas leading to significant growth in both population and urban sprawl in the neighborhoods nearest to the fields. In 1977 the first natural gas fields were explored and discovered by private sector drilling and within four years drilling operations increased exponentially bringing in more investment and more urban growth specifically towards the eastern parts of the city limits nearest to the natural gas operations.

Today several refineries for natural gas exist and the city has established a natural gas pipeline from the furthest fields to the refineries themselves for processing of natural gas product. It is important to note that natural gas processing consists of separating all of the various hydrocarbons and fluids from the pure natural gas which comes directly from the fields east of Aren, to produce what is known as "pipeline quality" dry natural gas. Major transportation pipelines usually impose restrictions on the make-up of the natural gas that is allowed into the pipeline. That means that before the natural gas can be transported it must be purified. While the ethane, propane, butane, and pentane must be removed from natural gas, this does not mean that they are all "waste products".

In fact, associated hydrocarbons, known as "natural gas liquids" (NGLs) can be very valuable by-products of natural gas processing. NGLs include ethane, propane, butane, iso-butane, and natural gasoline. Specifically within Aren these NGLs are sold separately and have a variety of different uses; which range from enhancing oil recovery in oil wells in the southern portions of Sayaffallah and providing raw materials for oil refineries or petrochemical plants for sources of alternative energy production.

Military base

(To be added soon)