- Language Tips
Die-hard doomsayers will be scurrying to the nearest shelter in fear of the Mayan prophecy of the world's end on Friday, but many other people around the world will ring in the date by partying as if there were no tomorrow.
One thing is certain: Dec 21, singled out by the Mayan "Long Count" calendar as the end of a 5,000-year era, has spelled big business worldwide, including off-the-shelf bunkers, "World's End" menus and trips to esoteric hot spots.
Across the Mayans' ancestral homeland, a vast swath of Central America, including parts of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, "The End of the World As We Know It" has been a shot in the arm for tourism.
Ancient Mayan sites will be buzzing with activity on Friday, hosting ritual re-enactments, conferences and sound-and-light shows - often against the backdrop of protests by indigenous groups who complain their culture is being hijacked.
But elsewhere around the globe, there will be no shortage of shelters or shrines to host the fearful - or simply curious - crowds through the night.
Apocalyptic-minded folk in Brazil can head to the village of Alto Paraiso, a place pulsating with "mystical energy", as local lore would have it, that has been readying for the end for years.
An anti-Armageddon ceremony will take place on the Island of the Sun, in the middle of Bolivia's Lake Titicaca, the highest in the world, where legend has it the founders of the Inca empire were born.
And illuminati in Serbia are predicting that the pyramid-shaped mountain of Rtanj will glow on Friday night.
The village of Sirince in western Turkey has also become an apocalyptic magnet, with all 400 hotels in the vicinity fully booked.
It is reputed to be doomsday-proof because the Virgin Mary is said to have risen to heaven from there.
Likewise, the picturesque southern Italian village of Cisternino has been singled out by an Indian guru as a safe bet come the end of the world.
'Party this world away'
Short of a sacred site to weather the doomsday storm, there is always the man-made option of a good old bunker.
For 30,000 rubles ($980) a head, the wealthiest Muscovites can check into a Stalin-era communications bunker 65 meters underground, which is offering 300 people a 24-hour experience called "A chance to survive".
Local television has put up tickets for the bunker in a prize draw, and will be broadcasting live from inside on the night.
And in the United States, the growing ranks of "preppers" - those who believe in planning for bad times, be it economic chaos or natural disasters - are more than ready for the end, if it comes, with food stockpiles and pre-fabricated underground bunkers, among other things.
In Asia, the end of times will be the best of times, featuring a techno soundtrack and fine dining.