<![CDATA[rss-Travel]]> All Rights Reserved for The Cairo post <![CDATA[Travel]]>]]> 100 29 <![CDATA[Airbnb ends controversial payment system in France]]>
The move followed a meeting between the accommodation rental website's executives and government ministers, including French finance minister Bruno Le Maire, where the company agreed to "rule out any opportunity for open fraud" by using prepaid Payoneer cards.

"The company will waive all use of the prepaid card 'Payoneer' on the French market," said Emmanuel Marill, Airbnb's France director, in a statement released by the finance ministry.

"This responsible decision makes it possible to rule out any opportunity for open fraud by using this method of payment," said the statement.

Payoneer cards allow homeowners to receive payments for their rentals without money transiting through bank accounts.

The French government asked tax authorities to look into the system after it was revealed that Airbnb was allowing owners to use them.

Le Maire and budget minister Gerald Darmanin had reminded Airbnb bosses of "the legal obligations in terms of declaring income generated" in France, the statement said.

Airbnb said that fewer than one percent of hosts in France used the system but that it wanted to "respond to concerns linked to possible debit card abuse".

Several online retailers, including Amazon, accept Payoneer cards as a payment option.

Payoneer said Monday evening that it was "a regulated payment company, which operates in total conformity with the laws and regulations of the European Union," and that "the idea that Payoneer products would help avoid paying taxes or allow money laundering is categorically wrong".

"It is incumbent on Airbnb hosts in France to declare their income to the tax authorities, whether they are paid into a French bank account, via PayPal or via Payoneer," said the financial services company, which is based in New York and has a European subsidiary in Gibraltar.

Airbnb also came under pressure on Monday over the speed at which it removes rental adverts that do not include a number showing the property has been registered with local authorities.

Since December 1, anyone wishing to rent their Paris apartment on the site has had to request a registration number, which has to appear on Airbnb listings.

The Paris mayor's office warned Airbnb and other rental sites that they could face legal action if they do not "withdraw ads without a registration number".

Short-term rental homes are allowed to be rented for a maximum of 120 days per year if a primary residence, according to the rules.

Some locals, hoteliers and politicians claim the widespread use of Airbnb has aggravated a housing crisis in the French capital.]]>
12/12/2017 2:21:19 PM
<![CDATA[Snow grounds flights at Dutch airports]]>
The rare winter show may have delighted children, who once again set off in search of any slope on their sledges, but it proved a headache elsewhere as the National Weather Centre (KNMI) issued its highest code red warning.

Schiphol airport, just outside Amsterdam, was forced to cancel 430 flights already by early afternoon about a third of all of flights in or out of one of Europe's top five busiest air hubs, and many others faced long delays.

"We are de-icing the planes for their safety and we have snow crews out trying to keep the runways clear and remove the snow, but they can't keep up," Schiphol spokesman Paul Weber told AFP.

"People should keep in touch, look at the website, and find out how to reach us as the trains are having difficulty," he said, warning that even though most of the snow was supposed to melt by Tuesday there would likely still be flight delays.

Eindhoven airport, the country's second biggest, said just after midday on Twitter that "due to wintry weather conditions, the runway is currently closed."

It reopened about three hours later, but some flights were still being diverted or cancelled.

Passengers flying out of Rotterdam The Hague airport were also faced by late Monday with delays and cancellations.

The Dutch road safety association ANWB reported roads were clogged around 18:30 pm with 1,385 kilometres of traffic jams reported around the country due to the icy conditions.

The snow arrived in The Netherlands early Sunday, and by late Monday the weather centre had extended its code red warning across virtually the whole of the country, to include also the northern regions including Friesland and the city of Groningen.

It warned "of wide-spread icy conditions" while in the west the snowfall would be accompanied by "a powerful and strong northeast wind" which could cause snow drifts.

For those who struggled into work on Monday, the national railway NS had but one message. "Go home as early as possible to avoid travel problems."

"Travellers should take into account that there will be longer travel times," it warned on its website, adding it was running a reduced service.

Bus services in many cities including The Hague, Amsterdam and Utrecht were also halted by early evening, after many had trouble navigating the slippery roads.]]>
12/12/2017 2:17:57 PM
<![CDATA[Ski resort operator Compagnie des Alpes confident of stake sale]]>
“Our potential partners remain very interested and this reflects the quality and solidity of the company,” Chairman and CEO Dominique Marcel told Reuters, adding he was “confident” of making progress “in the coming months”.

Compagnie des Alpes (CDA) operates 11 ski resorts in France and 13 leisure parks in Europe, including Parc Asterix and the Grevin waxworks museum in Paris. It wants to expand abroad, notably in high-growth markets such as China, and has been looking for partners to help with this.

But talks that started nearly two years ago had been put on hold ahead of May’s presidential election in France and were further delayed by the search for a new boss at key shareholder state-owned bank Caisse des Depots, sources have told Reuters.

Fosun, which already controls French holiday group Club Med, told Reuters in July it was still interested in CDA, where it could take a holding of up to 10 percent.

However, French politicians and local officials in the French Alps voiced concerns last year about French regions losing control of ski resorts to foreign companies.

Caisse des Depots (CDC), which is CDA’s main shareholder of with a 39.5 percent stake, has said it would stay as the reference shareholder and keep the company anchored in France.

Eric Lombard was named last month as the new head of CDC by French President Emmanuel Macron.

CDA achieved sales of 762 million euros ($898 million) in the 2016-2017 financial year and employs close to 5,000 people. Ski resorts make up 56 percent of its global turnover.

It reported operating profit of 93.1 million euros for the year ended Sept. 30, a year-on-year rise of 27.4 percent.

CDA also said it had decided to sell or close its loss-making Seoul Grevin and Prague Grevin museums, taking a depreciation charge of 18.8 million euros.

Although its net profit fell 6.3 percent to 31.3 million euros, CDA proposed a dividend of 0.50 euros per share, a rise of 25 percent.

CDA shares have gained more than 51 percent so far this year, closing at 28.96 euros on Monday, underpinned by a recovery in French tourism and speculation about its ownership. ($1 = 0.8481 euros) (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; editing by Alexander Smith)]]>
12/12/2017 2:14:49 PM
<![CDATA[Saudi sovereign fund plans cinema venture with AMC Entertainment]]>
“In line with the fund’s mandate to help unlock promising new sectors within the kingdom, PIF and AMC Entertainment will explore theatrical exhibition and related investment and partnership opportunities in Saudi Arabia,” the Public Investment Fund said.

Neither of the partners gave details of the business ventures which might arise from their non-binding memorandum of understanding.

The Saudi government announced on Monday that the first theaters could start showing films as early as March, part of a liberalizing reform drive that has opened the door to concerts, comedy shows and women drivers in the past year.

AMC, which owns the Odeon brand, is one of the largest movie exhibition companies in the world with about 1,000 theaters and 11,000 screens across the globe.

Other cinema chains are also eyeing the Saudi market. Dubai-based mall operator Majid Al Futtaim, which owns VOX Cinemas, said it wanted to open the first movie theater there. The government said it expected to open over 300 cinemas with more than 2,000 screens by 2030.

With assets of over $220 billion, the PIF is being used by the government to spearhead its drive to diversify the Saudi economy beyond oil. The fund is getting into a wide range of industries from real estate development to technology investment, tourism and waste recycling.]]>
12/12/2017 2:11:12 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt welcomes Miss Russia Victoria Lopyreva]]>
Victoria Lopyreva visited the Giza Pyramids, where she captured many photos beside Khufu Pyramid, as she was surprised by the architectural wonder. She visited Khufu Boat Museum to learn more about the mysterious history of the pharaohs and ancient Egyptian civilization.

Miss Russia’s visit was well received, with many tourists taking selfies with her during her visit to the Giza Pyramids amid great security precautions.

Lopyreva arrived at Cairo International Airport on a flight from Istanbul for a short visit to promote tourism in Egypt.

Her beauty and formal role as Good Will Ambassador significantly helps the promotion of Egypt. The 34-year-old model will represent Russia at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

She won Miss Russia in 2003, which she considers to be a turning point in her life. Since then, she has worked as a TV presenter and actor.

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Miss Russia during plan landing in Egypt – Twitter Account.

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Miss Russia upon her arrival to Giza Pyramids- Twitter Account

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Victoria Loyperova is Miss Russia 2003 – Twitter Account

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Victoria Loyperova is the Ambassador of FIFA WC 2018- Twitter Account
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12/12/2017 2:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Malaysia Airlines’ Double 12 (12.12) Deals on offer ]]>
In a statement today, the national carrier said the four-day promotion is valid for travel from December 19, 2017 to Aug 31, 2018.

It said the promotion would be available via the Malaysia Airlines’ website www.malaysiaairlines.com, participating travel agents and on the MHmobile app.

“Fly directly with Malaysia Airlines from Kuala Lumpur to Guangzhou from as low as RM849, from RM899 to Chongqing, from RM919 to Shanghai, and from RM999 to Fuzhou.

“Customers can also choose from an array of destinations, including Beijing with fares from as low as RM1,029, Nanjing from RM1,069, Xiamen from RM1,149, and Haikou from RM1,169,” it added.

Malaysia Airlines will also be offering discounted fares for travels from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong from as low as RM569 and Taipei from RM839.

“The 12.12 Deals include departures from Kota Kinabalu with fares from as low as RM709 to Taipei and RM909 to Shanghai,” it said.

The airline said the economy class fares include 30 kg check-in baggage allowance, complimentary meals and in-flight entertainment. ]]>
12/11/2017 7:43:20 PM
<![CDATA[Brussels airport tells passengers to stay away after snow]]>
Fifty flights were cancelled and 90 delayed, Belga news agency quoted a spokesman for the Belgian capital’s airport as saying.

“Heavy snowfall: do not come to the airport until further notice,” the airport said on Twitter, adding that passengers should check the status of their flights.

The airport added in a statement that passengers should not come for the rest of today.

“Because of the adverse weather, numerous flights had to be cancelled,” it said.

Airport staff were trying to de-ice planes and clear snow from the runways, the airport said.

Heavy snow caused travel difficulties across Brussels with buses and cars skidding off roads and key road tunnels being shut.

A meeting between visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had to be called off because of the weather, officials said. ]]>
12/11/2017 7:41:16 PM
<![CDATA[Ancient Roman Pantheon to start charging entry fee in 2018]]>
Now a church, the vast cylindrical former temple whose undamaged exterior wall supports a 43.3 metre-high (142 ft) dome with a circular skylight at its summit, drew 7.4 million visitors last year.

The new 2 euros ($2.36) per person charge is part of a drive to squeeze more profit from Italy’s cultural assets, and the ministry said tourist visits would also be suspended during religious services.

Part of the ticket revenue will be spent on maintaining the site, where Roman statesman Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa commissioned a temple in honor of Emperor Augustus in around 27 B.C.

The Pantheon’s current form and six-metre thick walls date from the early part of the reign of Emperor Hadrian, who came to power in A.D. 117. The building survived the Barbarian attacks on Rome and was transformed into a Christian church in 609.

Among those buried in there are the Renaissance artist Raphael and two Italian kings.

Caring for art and architecture dating back thousands of years has long posed a challenge for a country that is responsible for more UNESCO world heritage sites than any other and has long-standing problems of bureaucracy and low public funding.]]>
12/11/2017 7:39:25 PM
<![CDATA[Heavy snow causes travel mayhem in northern Europe]]>
The heaviest snowfall in four years in Britain caused travel mayhem Sunday, while more than 300 flights were cancelled at Germany's busiest airport and a ferry ran aground in the French port of Calais.

Hundreds of air passengers were stranded in Frankfurt, Germany's financial capital, as well as Britain, and many took to Twitter to complain.

Some 330 flights were cancelled by 5:00 pm (1600 GMT) after heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures struck the region around Frankfurt, a spokesman for airport operator Fraport told AFP.

The airport – Germany's largest air hub and the home base for major carrier Lufthansa – had been scheduled to handle a total of 1,260 flights over the day.

Duesseldorf airport was also forced to close for four hours during the afternoon, news agency DPA reported.

Meanwhile, trains were delayed, redirected or cancelled across western North Rhine-Westphalia state.

In Britain, Birmingham airport, serving the country's second biggest city, suspended flights for all of Sunday morning, as staff worked to clear the runway in heavy snow.

The airport typically handles around 30,000 passengers and 200 flights a day in December. It diverted 11 flights elsewhere and expected to cancel more than that, a spokeswoman said.

London's Luton Airport closed its runway for two hours before reopening around 1130 GMT to departing aircraft, according to a spokesman.

It had opened to incoming flights by early afternoon.

Like a war zone

One frustrated traveller described the airport as "like a war zone".

Police forces in worst-hit Wales and central England urged motorists not to travel unless "absolutely necessary" as they dealt with surging calls.

A spokesman for the Highways England agency said there had been road incidents "all over the place".

The flurries continued to fall into the afternoon, threatening to block roads.

Swathes of Britain were hit by the snowfall, particularly in central and western regions, according to the official weather service.

Sennybridge, in Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales, topped the records with 30 centimetres (12 inches), while Coleshill, close to Birmingham, received 10 cm, it reported.

Meanwhile, light snow and sleet fell through the morning in London, leaving Northolt, on the outskirts of the capital, with a covering of 2 cm, the Met Office said.

"We've gone through the worst of it," said spokesman Oli Claydon in the early afternoon.

Most areas impacted would have a "bright, sunny start to Monday," he added.

Claydon said the last time Britain saw this much heavy snow nationwide was March 2013, and during the winter of 2010.

Ferry aground

In France, a ferry with more than 300 people on board ran aground in high winds in Calais, interrupting traffic in one of Europe's busiest passenger ports but causing no injuries.

Having been stranded for several hours, the P&O vessel was secured and passengers were finally able to disembark after they were given food and drinks.

The ferry, The Pride of Kent, ran aground around noon after it hit a gangway while making to leave for Dover in southeast England.

Five tug boats were used in the operation to free the vessel, as winds gusting at up to 110 kilometres (70 miles) per hour made the task difficult.

Elsewhere in France, 32 departments were placed on orange alert with winds of more than 100 kilometres forecast in some areas.

In the northern Pas-de-Calais and Nord regions, some 20,000 homes were without electricity due to gale-force winds, power provider Enedis said.

Heavy rain also led to the closure of two airports on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, including the one serving the capital Ajaccio.

Heavy winds lashed northern Portugal. A 45-year-old woman died when a tree landed on her car near the city of Porto, Luis Belo Costa from the national civil protection agency said.

The weather service forecast winds of up to 130 kilometres per hour in the area until Monday morning.]]>
12/11/2017 2:37:53 PM
<![CDATA[Guess what is behind the Giza Pyramids]]>
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Grassess fill Farouk's Lake in Giza – Hossam Abbas Photography official Facebook page on Nov. 26, 2017

The Black Pyramid, the Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid give this region great prosperity. They are three of the five remaining pyramids form the original eleven pyramids at Dahshur. The Black Pyramid was built by king Amenemhat III during the Middle Kingdom of Egypt, while the Red Pyramid is the largest of the three major pyramids in Dahshur and it gets its name from the red limestone used to build it; it is also considered to be Egypt’s first attempt to construct a true smooth sided pyramid. The third pyramid, the Bent pyramid, is the oldest of these three pyramids; it was built during the old kingdom of Senefru.

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Natural View of King farouk Fishing lake – Best places Egypt official facebook page

Not far from these pyramids is a magnificent fishing Lake with calm, balmy water and a great view of Dahshur’s Pyramids in the background.

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Snofru's Red Pyramid August 27, 2007 – Wikimedia.com / Sturm 58

Grassy land and fine weather surround the lake, making it a sought after place to the extent that it attracted Egyptian King Farouk as a relaxing spot while practicing his favorite hobby, fishing.

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Black Pyramid" of king Amenemhat II at Dahshur March 28, 2008- Wikimedia.com / Tekisch

The lake also attracts migrating birds that stop on their way from Europe and Mediterranean cities and nestle amongst the trees, which makes the spot all the more special. ]]>
12/11/2017 9:46:05 AM
<![CDATA[Trains cancelled, flights grounded after snow hits Britain]]>
Britain's Met Office said there was an "amber weather warning" particularly across central England and warned travellers that "road, rail and air travel delays are likely, as well as stranding of vehicles and public transport cancellations".

There was 28 centimetres of snow in Sennybridge, in Wales, and 12 centimetres in High Wycombe, just outside the capital London.

Flights were suspended in Birmingham in central England, while more than 10 train lines reported delays. A rugby match in London was postponed due to "adverse weather conditions surrounding the ground".
]]>
12/10/2017 3:17:28 PM
<![CDATA[Explore Al Kharga Oasis ]]>
Egypt’s Western Desert is a serene universe that holds more unknown places than other more popular ones, including Egypt’s largest oasis, Al Kharga.

Al Kharga Oasis is situated in the Libyan desert of Egypt in a depression about 160 kilometers long and 80 kilometers wide. It is the capital of New Valley governorate due to its location along the west of the Nile Valley. It is named after a major town located in the oasis.

The oasis is home to around 60,000 people, including 1,000 Nubians who moved there after the creation of Lake Nasser because of its modernized houses and modern facilities.

Al Kharga Oasis is surrounded by extensive thorn palms, buffalo thorns and jujube. There are a lot of wildlife species inhabiting the region, too.

There are many thermal springs carved inside Al Kharga Oasis, which are famous for water temperatures of up to 43°C and reputed to be suitable for the treatment of rheumatism and allergies.

The oasis unearths a lot of archeological sites, like Temple of Dush, which is dedicated to Isis and Serapis, and Temple of Hibis, which is located in Palm Grove. It is considered by many to be the oldest and best-preserved Christian cemetery in the ancient world.

Despite the far location, Al Kharga Oasis is easy to get to from outside Egypt. There are international flights directly to Cairo, from where the traveler can proceed overland by bus, car or a domestic flight.

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Bagwat is one of the oldest Christian cemeteries in the world, January 23, 2006 – Wikimedia.com/Iswanyu

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The temple of Hibis in Kharga Oasis, December 7, 2008 – Wikimedia.com/ASartan
]]>
12/10/2017 10:24:27 AM
<![CDATA[Indonesia’s Car Free Day]]>
The project started off as a governmental initiative to reduce nation-wide pollution, but it gradually became more popular over time, with a large number of citizens flocking to the streets to enjoy their day free from car noises and the frustrating bumper-to-bumper traffic.

In 2015, Indonesia’s traffic was the worst in the world, according to The Guardian. The government decided to tackle this issue and started to look for solid solutions and effective initiatives to address the problem. Indonesia now marks September 22 every year as the national “Car Free Day”.

Car Free Day could also be called “Worry Free Day” for parents, as children can walk down streets freely and enjoy the festive atmosphere.

Car Free Day was first introduced in the Netherlands and Belgium between 1957 and 1965, before East Germany followed suit in 1981, and Canada in 1992.

Additional Reporting by Hany Muhammed
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children sing on the street for money: Photo Courtesy: Hany Muhammed

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children sing on the street for money: Photo Courtesy: Hany Muhammed

الشرطة_تامن_اليوم_الخالى_من_السيارات_بجاكرتا
children sing on the street for money: Photo Courtesy: Hany Muhammed
]]>
12/10/2017 10:21:01 AM
<![CDATA[9th, last Boeing 737NG arrives in Egypt]]>
"The new B737 will make its first flight this week," EgyptAir Airlines Chairman and CEO Sherif Ezzat said, adding that the airliner will be deployed on international routes, especially Europe and the Gulf.

EgyptAir Holding Company Chairman Safwat Musallam said that Boeing and EgyptAir have cooperated for 50 years, since 1966, when a Boeing’s (B707-320C) airliner joined the holding company.

EgyptAir signed an agreement with Boeing in 2016 for the purchase of nine (B737-800) airliners at a cost of $864 million. The B737 is manufactured by Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA) in Renton, Washington with a capacity of maximum 210 passengers.]]>
12/10/2017 10:17:10 AM
<![CDATA[It only costs $2 to live like Bedouins at Wadi El Gemal National Park]]>
Wadi El Gemal is a coastal area along the Red Sea. It features several coral reefs and over 1,200 species of fish. It is also a home to many animals and desert plants alongside five islands, inspiring workers and government officials to exploit the natural wealth by imposing entrance fees.

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Wadi El-Gemal Protected National Park – Courtesy of Five Photos.com

The park will be one of the most important resources for national income as the Egyptian Ministry of Environment headed by Khaled Fahmy has imposed a $0.281 fee for Egyptians and a $2 fee for foreigners as entrance fees to Wadi El Gemal National Park. Meanwhile, the imposed money will be reused for the park’s development process.

“This decision comes as a part of many prior agreements with official authorities,” said Ahmed Ghalab, manager of the Red Sea natural park.

He added that Red Sea officials have waited many years for this decision to positively utilize this area in increasing Egypt’s national income and developing the park itself.

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Group of Dolphins underneath the sea at Wadi El-Gemal – Courtesy of Five Photos.com

Wadi El Gemal is south of Marsa Allam, with many diverse ecological habitats and a rich variety of animals, such as dorca gazelles, Nubian ibexes, wild donkeys, camels and gazelles.

It stretches over 500 square kilometers and acts as a channel to transfer water from mountains towards the coastline to support the area’s vibrant ecosystem.

Although the park is easily accessed by an entrance from the coastal road 45 kilometers south of Marsa Allam, it is recommended that individuals should not enter alone as it is easy to get lost.

Wadi El Gemal Natural Park has a sufficient historical background due to prehistoric rock art and Ptolemaic and Roman ruins situated on its site. It conjoins a lot of historical sites that date back to ancient Egypt, like the Roman settlement of Sakit – a temple dedicated to the god Isis.

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Coastal area of Wadi El-Gemal National Park – Courtesy of Five Photos.com ]]>
12/9/2017 5:34:40 PM
<![CDATA[Sea turtle saved by Egyptian diver]]>
Sea turtles often mistakenly eat plastic bags as they closely resemble them one of their favorite foods, jellyfish. Many people living around the Red Sea are making a concerted effort to reduce waste being dumped or blown into the sea as it damages the marine eco system and results in the death of animals like sea turtles.

Samir jumped in to find that the remnants of a plastic bag surrounded the turtle’s body and neck inhibiting it from swimming so he freed it while one of the tourists took photos. The turtle is a Pacific green sea turtle, belonging to the Cheloniidae family.

Occupancy rates have increased to 65 percent in the Red Sea Governorates' in Egypt as the winter season kicks off, announced Bashar Abou Taleb, head of the Tourist Guides in the Red Sea, on December 2.

The occupancy rate is expected to reach 90 percent during the New Year holidays, said Taleb. People from more than 35 different countries are expected to visit the country this season; most visitors are expected to be from Germany and the United Kingdom.

Taleb affirmed that the occupancy rates this winter season are expected to be better than previous years, noting that Marsa Alam beat Hurghada in the hotel occupancy rates this year for the first time in the history of the governorate.]]>
12/9/2017 2:36:37 PM
<![CDATA[IN PHOTOS: Egypt Air to receive 9th Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft]]>
Last year, Egypt obtained nine Boeings 737-800 NG’s as part of a $6 billion deal signed during the Dubai Air Show that organized the purchase of 45 brand new aircraft categories and manufacturers to modernize its existing private jet fleet.

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National carrier Egypt Air to receive the ninth Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft - photo courtesy: Mahmoud Abdel Ghany

The 737-800 is the best-selling version of the successful Next-Generation 737 family. Known for its advanced in-flight entertainment techniques, such as the AVOD (Audio Video on Demand) system, which enables the passenger to choose whatever and whenever they like to watch/listen on their seat screen.

Known for its reliability, fuel efficiency and economic performance, the 737-800 is selected by leading carriers throughout the world because it provides operators the flexibility to serve a wide range of markets.]]>
12/9/2017 12:01:34 PM
<![CDATA[Abu Dhabi to acquire Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi': Christie's]]>
The latest twist in a saga over the painting came after a report in the Wall Street Journal which said that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MbS, was identified as the buyer of the painting in U.S. intelligence reports, according to people with direct knowledge of the information.

A Saudi official denied MbS had purchased the artwork.

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“Christie’s can confirm that the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi is acquiring ‘Salvator Mundi’ by Leonardo da Vinci,” the auction house said in a statement.

“We are delighted to see that this remarkable painting will be available for public view at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.”

The painting, sold last month, become the most expensive painting ever sold. At the auction, the painting was purchased by an unidentified buyer bidding via telephone after a protracted contest of nearly 20 minutes at the auction house.


A document seen by Reuters showed that a Saudi prince was authorized to purchase the painting on behalf of the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism.

The document, dated Nov. 12, is addressed to Prince Badr bin Abdullah al Saud and thanks him for “agreeing to bid as undisclosed agent for and on behalf of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi for the artwork” at Christie’s auction on Nov. 15.

The letter authorizes the Prince to “bid up to a hammer price” of $500 million.

A UAE government official confirmed the painting belonged to the Abu Dhabi government and would be put on display at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

“We own it,” the official said.

In November, MbS ordered Saudi security forces to round up members of the political and business elite, including princes and tycoons, holding them in Riyadh’s opulent Ritz Carlton hotel in what was billed as a war on rampant corruption.

“Contrary to media reports, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman did not purchase this art piece,” a Saudi official told Reuters.

“But, yes, His Royal Highness and His Highness Prince Badr Al Saud are good friends,” the official said.

The official added that the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism had subsequently asked Prince Badr to act “as an intermediary purchaser”.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opened last month, said on its Twitter feed it was “looking forward to displaying the Salvator Mundi by Leonardo Da Vinci” and said the work was acquired by the Department of Culture and Tourism for the museum.

A spokeswoman for the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism confirmed the department had acquired the painting to be displayed at the Louvre, but declined to say whether it was bought by the Department.

The painting, only recently rediscovered, was the last da Vinci left in private hands and fetched more than four times Christie’s pre-sale estimate of about $100 million.]]>
12/8/2017 9:14:13 PM
<![CDATA[Macau's Galaxy Entertainment plans up to $500 million Philippine casino resort]]>
Galaxy and local partner Leisure and Resorts World Corp are seeking regulatory approval for the $300-$500 million casino project in the central Philippine island of Boracay, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) President Alfredo Lim told Reuters.

Boracay Island is the Philippines’ top tourist draw, famous for its powdery white sand beach and vibrant nightlife.

“It will further improve our tourism sector. The project is intended for foreigners, junket operators and high-rollers,” Lim said. The integrated casino could start operating three years after the plan’s approval, he said.

Officials of Galaxy and Leisure and Resorts World paid Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte a courtesy call on Wednesday to discuss the plan.

“As you know, China’s relationship with the Philippines has been improving. K Wah Group and Galaxy would like to play a role in the One Belt One Road initiative and we strongly believe the Philippines has great potential and offers attractive opportunities,” Francis Lui, deputy chairman of Galaxy, said in an e-mail.

Galaxy previously said it was exploring opportunities outside of Macau.

The Philippines’ gross gaming revenue from casinos and electronic gaming sites rose 12 percent to 88 billion pesos ($1.7 billion) in the first half versus a year ago, Pagcor data showed, driven by high-rollers from China and South Korea.

The Philippines, which has one of Asia’s most freewheeling gaming industries, targets gross gaming revenue of 155 billion pesos to 160 billion pesos this year.

The growth relies on warmer ties with China. Duterte last year set aside territorial hostility with China, pivoting away from traditional ally the United States.]]>
12/8/2017 1:10:22 PM
<![CDATA[Ash billows from Bali volcano in fresh volley of activity]]>
Ash spewed as high as 2.1 km (1.3 miles) above the crater during one emission at 7:59 a.m. (2359 GMT, Dec. 7), within a radius of about 5 km (3 miles) around the mountain, the Indonesian Disaster Mitigation Agency said.

“Sometimes it is hard for the lava and magma to come out, and when there is pressure, it will spew ash,” agency head Gede Suantika told Reuters.

Until the volcano started to enter the ash emission stage on Friday, its emissions since Nov. 25 had been mostly composed of steam, though there was some ash mixed in, he said.

The 3,000-metre (9,800-foot) Mount Agung volcano, which is capable of very violent eruptions, has shown a marked increase in activity in the last few weeks, stoking fears of a repeat of an eruption in 1963 that killed more than 1,000 people.

While hot magma has produced an eerie orange glow just above the crater, and thousands of villagers have fled homes on the mountain’s slopes, Agung’s ejections of material have been small this time.

Authorities raised the alert status to the maximum after it started erupting last month, causing travel chaos by closing the island’s airport for three days last week.

Operations were normal on Friday at the international airports in Bali and on nearby Lombok island.]]>
12/8/2017 1:08:55 PM
<![CDATA[Airbnb pushes back on Singapore's tough home rental rules]]>
The reaction by Airbnb to the latest regulatory hurdle came amid its efforts to work with authorities around the world keen to minimize its impact on private housing and the hotel industry.

While Singapore has been an early adopter of the sharing economy, it has strict rules regarding property rentals in the city-state and charged two men with unauthorized short-term letting of apartments earlier this week.

“The current framework is untenable and does not reflect how Singaporeans travel or use their home today,” Airbnb said on Friday in a statement addressing Singapore’s regulations.

“Nearly three years since the URA’s first public consultation, it’s disappointing that the discussion has not moved forward,” it said, referring to the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Private homes in Singapore are subject to a minimum stay of three consecutive months, under rules revised earlier this year, and cannot accommodate transient occupants.

While saying there was space for short-term accommodation in Singapore, the URA told Reuters the government will review and consider safeguards to ensure it does not negatively affect the “amenity” of residential estates.

It said it would soon start a public consultation on the matter. A previous consultation in 2015 did not reach a clear consensus on short-term rentals.

Airbnb may be conscious of the knock-on effect that Singapore’s tough stance may have on other cities in the region, said Brian King, associate dean of the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

“They may be feeling like they need to take a slightly more aggressive stance this time to avoid this leading to crackdowns elsewhere,” King said.

This week, Singapore charged two men with unauthorized short-term letting of four apartments in the first such prosecution. If found guilty, the two are liable to a fine of up to S$200,000 ($148,150) per offence.

The rentals were arranged through Airbnb, which was not referred to in court documents.

In a message seen by Reuters, Airbnb this week alerted hosts in Singapore to the court case and asked them to “share” their reason for hosting and why it is important the government pass laws that permit short-term home sharing.

Airbnb, which matches people wishing to rent out all or part of their homes to temporary guests, said it has 8,700 listings in the city-state. Singapore has high population density, and its limited land area means a majority of the 5.6 million people live in apartments.

HUNDREDS INVESTIGATED

The URA said part of the public consultation will involve working with key stakeholders such as representatives of home-sharing platforms, resident groups and other accommodation providers.

The planning agency said it investigated 985 cases of unauthorized short-term accommodation in private homes in 2015 and 2016, and about 750 cases in 2017’s first 11 months.

The firm, founded in 2008 in San Francisco, has clashed with hoteliers and authorities in cities including New York, Amsterdam, Berlin and Paris, which in some cases are limiting short-term rentals. Critics accuse Airbnb of exacerbating housing shortages and driving out lower-income residents.

One host in Singapore, who has listed on Airbnb for the past two years after failing to find a long-term tenant and uses the income to pay the mortgage, is considering pulling the apartment from Airbnb’s website due to the authority’s increased scrutiny.

“I am worried that I will have an empty apartment sitting there, that is not going to generate any income,” said the person, who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity. “Any income that I earn doesn’t justify this kind of risk.”]]>
12/8/2017 1:07:39 PM
<![CDATA[Exclusive: Uber's Chinese rival Didi Chuxing to enter Mexico next year]]>
Didi has spoken before of global ambitions, but has not formally announced where or when it would expand. The Chinese company is the second-most highly valued, venture-backed private firm in the world, after Uber Technologies Inc.

Didi has no cars outside China, meaning Mexico could be its first international operation.

Didi, whose brand is ubiquitous in China but little-known in the West, will launch a smartphone app in Mexico and recruit local drivers to the platform, according to the sources, who declined to be named.

It is unclear which cities Didi will target, although one of the sources said the company was aiming to launch in the first quarter of next year. The company has already begun trying to recruit corporate talent in the sector, the source added.

A spokesman for Didi declined to comment on Thursday.

About a month ago, Didi met with ProMexico, a government trade and investment body, to discuss opportunities in the country, according to a Mexican official, who declined to provide further details about the conversations.

The company has made no secret of its desire to expand beyond China, particularly in light of the growing number of Chinese customers who travel overseas. In April, Didi raised $5.5 billion from investors, in part to fund global expansion.

But until now, its plans have been limited to financial commitments to ride-hailing companies in other countries and a research lab in Silicon Valley that opened earlier this year.

Didi has invested in Uber rivals around the world, including U.S.-based Lyft, Brazil-based 99, India’s Ola, Singapore-headquartered Grab, Estonia’s Taxify and Careem in the Middle East.

The company acquired Uber’s China business last year after Uber lost roughly $2 billion trying to compete.

After ceding its China business, Uber doubled down on Latin America, where Didi is now encroaching. Uber has established a stronghold in Mexico, with seven million users across 45 cities. Mexico City is Uber’s third-biggest market in the world by rides, after the Brazilian cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Didi will also compete with Spanish ride-hailing company Cabify, which operates in seven Mexican cities.

Regulatory battles are looming. In the touristy state of Quintana Roo, for example, Uber has said the proposed regulation is so onerous that it would drive the company out of the market if passed in its current form. The regulation would ban cash fares, which Uber has said are critical for reaching riders without credit cards.

Mexican authorities fear that allowing ride-sharing apps to accept cash payments would put them in direct competition with traditional taxis, which are a political force in some cities.

Despite Uber’s presence in Mexico, competitors have room to grow, particularly if they can find a way to reach “unbanked” consumers while addressing regulators’ concerns about cash, said Enrique Garcia, a PhD student at Mexico’s CIDE university who has published research on Uber’s presence in the country.

“There is not a point of saturation,” Garcia said.]]>
12/8/2017 1:06:06 PM
<![CDATA[Pacific’s Palau forces tourists to sign eco-pledge]]>
Claimed to be a world first, the “Palau Pledge” is stamped onto visitors’ passports and must be signed upon arrival in the country, which lies in the western Pacific about halfway between Australia and Japan.

“I take this pledge as your guest, to protect and preserve your beautiful island home,” it reads in part.

“I vow to tread lightly, act kindly and explore mindfully.”

With crystal clear waters, pristine reefs and abundant sea life, Palau is regarded as one of the world’s best diving spots and was once a niche tourist destination.

But visitor numbers have exploded in recent years, particularly from China, straining both infrastructure and the environment.

The symbolic pledge was written with the help of Palau’s children and President Tommy Remengesau said it was about preserving the environment for future generations.

“Conservation is at the heart of our culture,” he said.

“We rely on our environment to survive and if our beautiful country is lost to environmental degradation, we will be the last generation to enjoy both its beauty and life-sustaining biodiversity.”

Palau welcomed almost 150,000 tourists last year, up 70 percent on 2010 figures and the nation of 20,000 has struggled to cope.

Some of the new arrivals have caused outrage among locals by capturing turtles so they can take selfies with them, walking on fragile coral and leaving trash on beaches.

“The Palau Pledge aims to encourage environmentally sound habits in visitors,” the government said in a statement.

“If action is not taken now, it will get to the point where it is too late to protect some of the most unique parts of the country.” ]]>
12/8/2017 1:04:18 PM
<![CDATA[Adrenalin Park: Sharm El-Sheikh’s hidden beach park]]>A 10-kilometer drive from Na’amba Bay Sharm el-Sheikh is Adrenalin Beach, situated inside Ras Gamila natural Park.

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Red Sea View from Adrenalin Beach Park– Official facebook page of Adrenalin Beach camp

According to the co-founder, it is the first adventure park in Egypt providing one the opportunity to experience all types of water sports, like kite surfing, snorkeling, windsurfing, kit boarding and Kayaking.

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Sports equipment at Adrenalin Beach Park – Official facebook page of Adrenalin Beach camp

“The Shore in Ras Gamila Natural Park is gradually inclined toward the red sea water which helps Adrenaline Beach to be worth displaying area for all water activities,” Co-Founder of Adrenaline Beach Park Mohamed Salama said to Egypt Today Magazine.
“The Underrated magnificent view of balmy red sea water hitting sandy beach in Ras Gamila protectorate is what inspiring me to build the Park there.”

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Wedding photo session at Adrenalin Beach Park – Official Facebook page of Adrenalin Beach camp

The park, which conjoins all these water sports and activities, is designed in a beach camp style, enabling one to refresh their minds and relax. To fuel up, the park offers a wide range of foods and beverages, excluding alcohols and highly buttered meals as they do not fit the sportive atmosphere there.

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Young people windsurfing at Adrenalin Beach Park – Official Facebook page of Adrenalin Beach camp

Its location inside Ras Gamila protectorate makes the beach an eco-friendly place, enough to filter your soul from any impurities.The park’s endless beauty has led some couples to choose it as their wedding photo session location; it has also been the venue for international competitions, most recently the International mermaid competition held on November 26, 2017.

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First Zip Line game in Sharm el-Sheikh – Official facebook page of Adrenalin Beach camp

Most visitors are Italians, British and Egyptians, some of which live in the exciting city of Sharm el-Sheikh, while others are tourists.This isolated virgin spot opens its doors for guests for just a $5 entrance fee, and they also offer many packages that range from $5 to $10, including snorkeling (equipment supplied), round at lagoon with scheme boat, kayaking, windsurfing, and other activities.For more information or reservation, check the official facebook page of Adrenalin Beach

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Cocktail served at Adrenalin Beach Park – Official facebook page of Adrenalin Beach camp ]]>
12/8/2017 12:00:00 PM
<![CDATA[Catalan impasse damaging tourism prospects for 2018]]>
Hotels expect they would have to reduce their staff by an average of 8.2 percent while car rental firms predict they would shrink their payrolls by about 5.0 percent, it added.

The tourism sector employs some 400,000 people in Catalonia, many of them on temporary contracts.

Hotel reservations in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia and one of Europe's most visited cities, for the Christmas and New Year's period are down by 15 percent compared to last year.

The tourism impact of the crisis sparked by Catalonia's banned independence referendum on October 1 which was marred by violence "was concentrated almost exclusively" in Barcelona, the site of massive street demonstrations, Exceltur said.

Just before the referendum several countries, including Germany, France and the United States, warned their citizens to be careful if they travelled to Catalonia and airlines allowed passengers on flights to Barcelona to change their tickets.

Protests have declined since Spain's central government on October 27 suspended Catalonia's regional government, dismissed its government and called regional elections for December 21 after the Catalan parliament declared independence.

Tourism activity in Barcelona fell by 9.0 percent in November, compared to 11 percent in October, as the return to calm eased visitor's fears, according to Exceltur.

The number of foreign visitors to Catalonia overall fell by 4.7 percent in October over the same time last year, figures released by the national statistics institute last week showed.

Catalonia is Spain's most visited region and tourism accounts for 12 percent of its economic output. ]]>
12/7/2017 10:09:43 PM
<![CDATA[Colossal distant black hole holds surprises about early universe]]>
Astronomers on Wednesday said the black hole, residing at the center of a highly luminous celestial object called a quasar, is located about 13.1 billion light years away from Earth. The quasar’s light detected by the researchers dates back to about 690 million years after the Big Bang that created the universe, when the cosmos was only 5 percent of its present age.

“So if the universe was a 50-year-old person, we’re seeing a picture of that person when he or she was 2-1/2 years old,” said astronomer Eduardo Bañados of the Carnegie Institution for Science, who led the research published in the journal Nature.

“When we’re looking at further distances, we’re also looking back in time” because of the time it takes for light to travel across the universe, Bañados added. That means this object dates back 13.1 billion years. By way of comparison, Earth is about 4.5 billion years old.

The newly detected quasar, designated as J1342+0928, existed during a fundamental shift in the nature of the early universe when it was moving from its “dark ages,” with no light emitted, into a time of luminosity, as gravity condensed matter into the very first stars.

“This object provides us with a measurement of the time at which the universe first became illuminated with starlight,” said another of the researchers, physics professor Robert Simcoe of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research.

Finding such a large black hole existing so early in the universe’s history surprised the researchers. Its very existence at that point in time challenges current notions about the formation and growth of such objects, they said.

“The universe is full of surprises,” Bañados said.

Quasars, energized by gases spiraling at high speeds into an enormous black hole, are known to inhabit the center of certain galaxies, sometimes outshining all the stars in those galaxies. In black holes, gravity has such a strong pull that not even light can escape. This black hole was seen devouring material at the center of a galaxy.

The object was studied using ground-based telescopes in Chile and Hawaii and NASA’s orbiting Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE).]]>
12/7/2017 10:05:54 PM
<![CDATA[U.S. warns citizens against travel to Honduras due to protests]]>
The travel alert, which the department said in a statement expires on Dec. 31, follows a dispute over the result of a Nov. 26 presidential election that has sparked deadly protests and a night-time curfew in the poor, violent Central American country.]]>
12/7/2017 10:02:44 PM
<![CDATA[China's Fosun International plans $500 million IPO of tourism business - IFR]]>
Fosun Tourism & Culture Group includes a Chinese joint venture with tour operator Thomas Cook Group and a luxury hotel in Hainan province as well as Club Med, according to IFR, a Thomson Reuters publication.

Shanghai-based Fosun is considering spinning off the unit as early as next year and is likely to pick Hong Kong as the listing venue, according to the people. Two sources said the deal would raise at least $500 million, according to IFR. Fosun declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

Fosun, co-founded by Chinese billionaire Guo Guangchang, was in the vanguard of China’s global dealmaking spree over the past few years, snapping up assets including a Portuguese insurer, and stakes in Greek jewellery retailer Folli Follie and Cirque du Soleil. It bought Club Med for $1 billion in 2015 after a protracted bid battle.

The float of Fosun’s tourism unit is one of several expected from China’s largest dealmakers as they rationalise portfolios and seek to boost their finances. Last week, fellow conglomerate HNA said it was considering listing Gategroup, the Swiss airline caterer, in Zurich next year and signalled it was looking at other asset sales.

Fosun itself announced plans last year to list Ironshore, its reinsurance unit, but was stalled by a U.S. review of its two-stage acquisition of the Bermuda-based group. It sold the company to U.S. insurer Liberty Mutual for $3 billion last December.

In September, it listed Israeli subsidiary Sisram Medical in Hong Kong through a HK$ 977 million (£93.5 million) IPO. Sisram is a producer of medical aesthetics devices.

Fosun divides its businesses into “Health”, or pharmaceutical and medical-related, “Wealth” for its financial operations, and “Happiness” for its tourism, leisure and consumer units. In the first half of this year, the Happiness unit reported profits of 516 million yuan (£58.3 million) from sales of 6.53 billion yuan.

Fosun shares were trading at HK$15.78 on Thursday afternoon, giving the company a market capitalisation of HK$135 billion.]]>
12/7/2017 9:59:55 PM
<![CDATA[Catalan impasse damaging tourism prospects for 2018]]>
If the trend continues "tourism company heads may have to start adjusting the number of their employees to adapt to lower levels of demand," Exceltur -- which groups Spain's major hotel chains and tour operators -- said in a statement.

Hotels expect they would have to reduce their staff by an average of 8.2 percent while car rental firms predict they would shrink their payrolls by about 5.0 percent, it added.

The tourism sector employs some 400,000 people in Catalonia, many of them on temporary contracts.

Hotel reservations in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia and one of Europe's most visited cities, for the Christmas and New Year's period are down by 15 percent compared to last year.

The tourism impact of the crisis sparked by Catalonia's banned independence referendum on October 1 which was marred by violence "was concentrated almost exclusively" in Barcelona, the site of massive street demonstrations, Exceltur said.

Just before the referendum several countries, including Germany, France and the United States, warned their citizens to be careful if they travelled to Catalonia and airlines allowed passengers on flights to Barcelona to change their tickets.

Protests have declined since Spain's central government on October 27 suspended Catalonia's regional government, dismissed its government and called regional elections for December 21 after the Catalan parliament declared independence.

Tourism activity in Barcelona fell by 9.0 percent in November, compared to 11 percent in October, as the return to calm eased visitor's fears, according to Exceltur.

The number of foreign visitors to Catalonia overall fell by 4.7 percent in October over the same time last year, figures released by the national statistics institute last week showed.

Catalonia is Spain's most visited region and tourism accounts for 12 percent of its economic output. ]]>
12/7/2017 3:24:40 PM
<![CDATA[Santa’s creepy chum gives Austrians a scary thrill]]>
His troupe is just one of an estimated 850, with 10,000 members around Austria marauding through towns and villages over the Christmas period in “Krampuslauf” parades.

“We are spreading the tradition of scaring away evil spirits,” Eigner told AFP as he donned his outfit before one such event in Schwadorf near Vienna.

“Just symbolically though of course,” he said, resplendent in his shaggy Roman centurion-cum-zombie costume, animal bones dangling here and there.

It starts off innocently, with Santa — or rather Saint Nicholas — giving out sweets. But fear is in the air because soon come his satanic sidekicks, dozens of them.

Wave after wave bound in, stomping around a roaring fire that sends sparks into the night sky, clanging cow bells attached to their backs and brandishing whips and blazing red flares.

With heavy metal blaring, the several hundred spectators in the market town watch behind safety barriers as the demonic creatures prowl around menacingly, leering at the public.

But apart from one tearful little girl, everyone has fun. The monsters high-five with kids as they slope off back to their lair — actually the local school — to get changed.

“We are trying to make it look brutal but our whips are only made of horse hair,” Eigner assures us. “People can hardly feel it if we hit them.”

A visitor takes a selfie with a man dressed as a devil during a Krampus show, the traditional parade where people in costumes and masks perform an old ritual to disperse the ghosts of winter, in Schladming, Austria, November 25, 2017. — Reuters pic
A visitor takes a selfie with a man dressed as a devil during a Krampus show, the traditional parade where people in costumes and masks perform an old ritual to disperse the ghosts of winter, in Schladming, Austria, November 25, 2017. — Reuters pic
Black angels and orcs

It’s a booming trend, with ever more groups springing up to satisfy a seemingly insatiable demand, and not just in Austria but in southern Germany and further afield too.

One of Austria’s biggest parades, in Schladming south of Salzburg, involves some 800 monsters and attracts 8,000 spectators paying €12-15 (RM57-72) per adult.

Yet, while it may be inspired by past customs, the phenomenon has moved and evolved far beyond its supposed origins in the remote valleys of the Alps.

Head-to-hoof in dark fur with horns, a tail and a lolling red tongue, from the 16th century Krampus traditionally appeared on December 5, the eve of Saint Nicholas Day.

“Children would be tested on religious knowledge by Saint Nicholas. He would reward them but couldn’t punish them. That was Krampus’s job,” ethnologist Helga Maria Wolf told AFP.

“Even into the 1960s, the pair would visit families on request,” she said.

“Perchten” meanwhile, figures of good and evil whose origins are possibly pagan, would emerge in early January or in the carnival season before Lent, the Christian period of fasting.

Traditional Perchten processions still exist, such as in Gastein in western Austria where 140 creatures from mythology and legend “drive out winter” every four years.

But in recent decades, Krampus and Perchten have merged into hybrids, incorporating other influences from horror movies to heavy metal music, and appearing from early November onwards.

In Schwadorf there was Death himself and an assortment of witches, monks, red-faced Satans, black angels and other beasts resembling Lord of the Rings orcs.

Confronting fears

Every Krampus season however, Austrian newspapers are full of stories about drunken young men dressed up as monsters causing injuries and mayhem.

In one such recent event in the town of Voelkermarkt, police were called after at least six people were injured, reportedly after two rival Krampus groups clashed.

One therapist near Salzburg, Andrea Hammerer, runs a yearly seminar helping people who are scared to go outdoors at this time of year.

“The sound of the bells goes right to the unconscious,” Hammerer told AFP. “We get people to confront their fears, we bring in people dressed up as Krampus.”

Krampus performers say spectators can be the problem, grabbing their horns and throwing beer to wind them up.

Some groups held a demo in Klagenfurt recently to protest against negative media coverage.

But a whiff of danger is perhaps also part of the fun.

“There’s a nice word for it — ‘angstlust’,” the pleasure of fear, Wolf said. “People love rollercoasters for example. There’s a kind of comforting frisson about it.”

“When I was little I was a tiny bit scared,” said Lukas, 13, getting ready in Schwadorf to appear in his Krampus disguise. “But then I became one.” ]]>
12/7/2017 3:23:27 PM
<![CDATA[Colossal distant black hole holds surprises about early universe]]>
Astronomers on Wednesday said the black hole, residing at the center of a highly luminous celestial object called a quasar, is located about 13.1 billion light years away from Earth. The quasar’s light detected by the researchers dates back to about 690 million years after the Big Bang that created the universe, when the cosmos was only 5 percent of its present age.

“So if the universe was a 50-year-old person, we’re seeing a picture of that person when he or she was 2-1/2 years old,” said astronomer Eduardo Bañados of the Carnegie Institution for Science, who led the research published in the journal Nature.

“When we’re looking at further distances, we’re also looking back in time” because of the time it takes for light to travel across the universe, Bañados added. That means this object dates back 13.1 billion years. By way of comparison, Earth is about 4.5 billion years old.

The newly detected quasar, designated as J1342+0928, existed during a fundamental shift in the nature of the early universe when it was moving from its “dark ages,” with no light emitted, into a time of luminosity, as gravity condensed matter into the very first stars.

“This object provides us with a measurement of the time at which the universe first became illuminated with starlight,” said another of the researchers, physics professor Robert Simcoe of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research.

Finding such a large black hole existing so early in the universe’s history surprised the researchers. Its very existence at that point in time challenges current notions about the formation and growth of such objects, they said.

“The universe is full of surprises,” Bañados said.

Quasars, energized by gases spiraling at high speeds into an enormous black hole, are known to inhabit the center of certain galaxies, sometimes outshining all the stars in those galaxies. In black holes, gravity has such a strong pull that not even light can escape. This black hole was seen devouring material at the center of a galaxy.

The object was studied using ground-based telescopes in Chile and Hawaii and NASA’s orbiting Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE).]]>
12/7/2017 3:19:41 PM
<![CDATA[China's Fosun International plans $500 million IPO of tourism business - IFR]]>
Fosun Tourism & Culture Group includes a Chinese joint venture with tour operator Thomas Cook Group and a luxury hotel in Hainan province as well as Club Med, according to IFR, a Thomson Reuters publication.

Shanghai-based Fosun is considering spinning off the unit as early as next year and is likely to pick Hong Kong as the listing venue, according to the people. Two sources said the deal would raise at least $500 million, according to IFR.

Fosun declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

Fosun, co-founded by Chinese billionaire Guo Guangchang, was in the vanguard of China’s global dealmaking spree over the past few years, snapping up assets including a Portuguese insurer, and stakes in Greek jewellery retailer Folli Follie and Cirque du Soleil. It bought Club Med for $1 billion in 2015 after a protracted bid battle.

The float of Fosun’s tourism unit is one of several expected from China’s largest dealmakers as they rationalise portfolios and seek to boost their finances. Last week, fellow conglomerate HNA said it was considering listing Gategroup, the Swiss airline caterer, in Zurich next year and signalled it was looking at other asset sales.

Fosun itself announced plans last year to list Ironshore, its reinsurance unit, but was stalled by a U.S. review of its two-stage acquisition of the Bermuda-based group. It sold the company to U.S. insurer Liberty Mutual for $3 billion last December.

In September, it listed Israeli subsidiary Sisram Medical in Hong Kong through a HK$ 977 million (£93.5 million) IPO. Sisram is a producer of medical aesthetics devices.

Fosun divides its businesses into “Health”, or pharmaceutical and medical-related, “Wealth” for its financial operations, and “Happiness” for its tourism, leisure and consumer units. In the first half of this year, the Happiness unit reported profits of 516 million yuan (£58.3 million) from sales of 6.53 billion yuan.

Fosun shares were trading at HK$15.78 on Thursday afternoon, giving the company a market capitalisation of HK$135 billion.]]>
12/7/2017 3:17:55 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt Online Visa is a great push for Tourism: Italian Newspaper ]]>
The Italian Magazine “Guida Viaggi” has positively reviewed this system; it will streamline the visa procedures for visitors from around 43 countries. This is intended to raise the number of tourists coming to Egypt.

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Entrance of Luxor Temple, Egypt, March 15, 2013 – Wikimedia.com/Ahmed Shawky

Egypt’s E-Visa is new electronic travel authorization system for citizens of eligible countries wishing to travel to Egypt for tourism. The system has been implemented by the Egyptian government and can be obtained through an online application without any need to visit the embassy.

The E-Visa application process is simple and can be done from home before their travel, provided that they meet the E-Visa requirements.

The E-Visa, which will be valid for a total 90 days from the date of issuance, will allow travelers to stay for 30 days from the date of entry.]]>
12/7/2017 4:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Exclusive picture from inside newly discovered tomb in Luxor]]>
The funerary statue in the picture is one of many ancient artifacts that thousands of visitors will be able to see for the first time starting Saturday.

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Skulls and a wooden sarcophagus at a newly uncovered ancient tomb for a goldsmith dedicated to the ancient Egyptian god Amun, in the Draa Abul Naga Necropolis on the west bank of Luxor, which boasts ancient Egyptian temples and burial grounds, September 9, 2017 – AFP

The tomb of Amenemhat, the goldsmith, dates back to the 18th dynasty; it includes a Middle Kingdom burial shaft for a woman and her two sons. The tomb is located in the Draa Abul Naga Necropolis on the west bank of Luxor.

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Small funerary statues carved in wood, clay and limestone recovered at the site of a newly uncovered ancient tomb for a goldsmith dedicated to the ancient Egyptian god Amun, in the Draa Abul Naga Necropolis on the west bank of Luxor, which boasts ancient Egyptian temples and burial grounds, September 9, 2017 – AFP

The discovery was announced by the Antiquities Ministry in September, in which it revealed the tomb is believed to lead to further successful excavations.

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An Egyptian archaeologist examines the contents of Amenemhat’s tomb, September 9, 2017 – Reuters

It is not yet confirmed whether the woman, believed by archaeologists to have died aged 50, and her two sons in their 20s and 30s, are related to Amenemhat. The tomb, however, holds a statue of him seated next to his wife.

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A carved depiction of Amenemhat and his wife with their son between them inside the tomb, September 9, 2017 – Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities ]]>
12/7/2017 12:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[20th session of council of Arab tourism ministers kicks off in Cairo]]>
A forum on improving services at Arab airports and tourist destinations will be held as part of the meetings. The ministers will also discuss cooperation with Latin American countries in the field of tourism.

The Council will also probe a proposal to activate "accessible tourism" in the Arab world, it also set to elect members of its executive office during this session. ]]>
12/6/2017 11:58:50 AM
<![CDATA[Confiscation crusaders try to save Philippine paradise]]>
Former para-military leader Efren "Tata" Balladares has been leading the other flip flop-wearing environmental crusaders up and down the steep mountains of Palawan island for the past 15 hours in the hunt for illegal loggers.

One of them is nursing a swollen left arm that was broken a few days earlier when he fell during a reconnaissance trip. He has yet to see a doctor and it is just wrapped in a bandage.

Having slept overnight for just 30 minutes on a forest track, they should be exhausted from the hike.

They could also be forgiven for being frozen with fear: team members have been murdered to stop their operations and others bear scars from the razored teeth of the chainsaws they seek to confiscate.

But with their targets so close, just a short sprint through ferns and other scrappy lowland rainforest foliage, the adrenaline of the hunt's imminent climax is surging through them.

The chainsaw starts up again after a few minutes, providing the necessary noise to silence their approach.

Tata whispers final instructions.

The seven para-enforcers descend like a pack of wolves on the two loggers, who are sawing into the cut-down trunk of an Apitong tree, a critically endangered hardwood that is a favourite among developers in the nearby tourism boom town of El Nido.

As the para-enforcers approach, Tata's voice roars for the first time all day: "Stop! Stop! Stop! Face down! Face down."

- Illegal logging -

The loggers, young men wearing ragged clothes similar to their new foes that indicate mirrored lives of poverty, are stunned and simply stand in bewilderment or fear.

The para-enforcers do not brandish any weapons themselves.

But within a few seconds Tata and his men disarm the loggers of their machetes, scan the site to ensure there are no hidden rifles or pistols, and seize the chainsaw.

Tata starts asking the loggers questions, using a commanding but non-threatening tone of a well-trained policeman or soldier.

"Do you have a permit for the lumber? Is the chainsaw registered?"

The loggers, squatting on the fallen tree trunk with the para-enforcers holding their shoulders, meekly respond in the negative.

"Ok, this is how it goes. We are the Palawan NGO Network, or PNNI," Tata says.

"We're here in the mountains because according to reports, illegal logging is rampant here."

The para-enforcers give the loggers a receipt documenting the confiscation of the chainsaw and scurry back into the forest, in the remote district of Mesecoy, after an encounter lasting just a few minutes.

Tata appears unflappable during the gruelling mission, showing no fear or hint of fatigue.

The 50-year-old has had a lifetime of conflict to steel him, having led a private militia for a corrupt general before flipping sides two decades ago.

But during a short meal break of rice and dried fish after the confiscation, the stump of a once-giant Apitong behind him, Tata breaks down as he despairs at the corruption that led him to become a civilian para-enforcer.

"This should be the work of the government but they are not doing their job. Who else is going to stop this if we're not here," he says.

- Losing the last frontier -

Palawan is often called the Philippines' last ecological frontier, as it is home to most of the nation's remaining forests and its waters are renowned as a global biological hotspot.

With its stunning limestone cliffs, lagoons with turquoise waters and long stretches of untouched beaches, top tourist magazines rate Palawan one of the world's most beautiful islands.

But it is also a magnet for corrupt businessmen, politicians and security forces seeking to plunder the island's natural wealth.

With weak or corrupt authorities often unwilling to take on the fight, the Palawan NGO Network Inc, or PNNI, seeks to fill the void.

The group has a strangely corporate name for an anti-establishment band of cash-strapped environmentalists who believe traditional campaigning to save the island's resources can do little to stop the onslaught of corruption.

Their answer is direct action.

They use a little-known citizen's arrest law, plus the support of local communities, to confiscate chainsaws, mining drills, cyanide fishing gear and any other equipment used to destroy Palawan's environment.

The para-enforcers have confiscated more than 700 chainsaws since PNNI was established nearly two decades ago, according to its founder and leader, environmental lawyer Bobby Chan.

In the small front yard of the group's headquarters in Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan, a Christmas tree made up of more than 100 chainsaws stands two storeys high.

The property's fences are made up of other chainsaws, and the back yard is scattered with more.

Also crammed in the front yard is a large boat that had been used to transport illegal logs to Malaysia, and two heavy drills the size of lounge room sofas that were confiscated for mining gold.

Home-made rifles and pistols seized from illegal loggers and fishermen hang on the walls inside the small, four-room headquarters.

Displaying the confiscated equipment in such an audacious manner sends a message to the powerful that the para-enforcers will not be intimidated, according to Chan.

"We want to dispel that idea that nothing can be done for big environmental crimes," Chan says.

- Shallow grave -

But they are willing to pay a price that most other environmental campaigners won't: their lives.

Chan recounts how he and his team found the body of para-enforcer Roger Majim buried in a shallow grave on a beach in 2004.

"The loggers put his flip flops on the mound where they buried him. When we unearthed him he had, I think, 16 stab wounds. His eyes were gouged out. His tongue was cut off. His testicles were cut off and placed in his mouth," Chan says.

"So it was a message that this is where we buried your man and that if you keep on doing this kind of work this is what?s going to happen to you."

Twelve PNNI para-enforcers have been murdered since 2001, most recently in September when 49-year-old Ruben Arzaga was shot in the head while approaching an illegal logging site.

Chan, who studied in Manila at the Philippines' most prestigious private college, says the deaths make him question whether he should continue the programme.

"Every time we lose someone we get weaker. We get more afraid and we lose some of the idealism that we initially had when we came together," he says about a week after Arzaga's death.

"I can't help but feel I am somehow responsible for pushing not just him, but the others who have died before him, into this."

A perennial lack of funds compounds the problem, with potential donors often deeming their actions too confrontational.

But Chan and his para-enforcers have always emerged from post-death depressions, while somehow finding a way to keep financing their operations.

On the way to Arzaga's funeral they stop in the forest near where he was murdered to try to confiscate another chainsaw.

They come across two sites where trees have been recently cut down.

It is raining heavily and the loggers have not returned to take away their new planks, so the para-enforcers walk out of the forest empty-handed.

But they have proved that, although weakened, they are not yet defeated.]]>
12/6/2017 11:15:22 AM
<![CDATA[N. Korea missile test raises flight safety concerns]]>
The North has conducted a flurry of missile tests this year in defiance of repeated international protests, including from aviation authorities.

Pyongyang fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last week, which reached an altitude of 4,475 kilometers (2,780 miles) before splashing into the sea 950 kilometers (590 miles) east of its launch site, North Korean state media said.

"A Korean Air jet flying to Incheon from San Francisco reported to Japanese controllers that its flight crew saw a flash from what was believed to be the North Korean missile," a Korean Air spokesman told AFP.

Four minutes later another Korean Air plane on a Los Angeles-Incheon flight also reported the same sighting to Japanese control, he said.

A South Korean transportation ministry official, who wanted to remain unnamed, said the flight paths of both Korean airlines were some 220 kilometers (140 miles) away from where the missile landed.

"In the clean dark sky, you can see flashes from a missile from that long distance," he told AFP.

- 'A bright flame falling down' -

Japan's transport ministry also said air controllers in the country received reports of four such sightings.

A Japan Airlines spokesman said the cockpit crew of one of its airliners, flying from Tokyo to London, "saw a bright flame falling down" over the sea of Japan.

The reports from South Korea and Japan come after Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific said Monday that the crew of its flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong saw "what is suspected to be the re-entry" of the North Korean missile.

Cathay said there was no current plan to change air routes, saying its plane was "far from the event location".

In a message shared with staff, Cathay general manager Mark Hoey said the crew had described seeing the missile "blow up and fall apart", the South China Morning Post reported.

David C. Wright, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote in a report Tuesday that the Cathay crew most likely had seen the missile's first stage burn out and fall back to earth.

"Ignition of the second stage rocket engine and separation of the first stage may have looked like an explosion that caused the missile to fall apart," he wrote.

Wright also said the "flash" seen by Korean pilots about an hour after the missile?s launch would be consistent with the warhead heating up during reentry, since the missile flew for 53 to 54 minutes.

North Korea stopped giving advance notice of its missile tests in 2014.

The UN's International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in October condemned the North's continued unannounced missile launches, urging it to comply with international aviation standards to prevent risks.

South Korean authorities said they warned airlines of a possible missile test a day before the launch based on intelligence reports, the transportation ministry official said.]]>
12/6/2017 10:00:14 AM
<![CDATA[Singapore charges two men for illegal Airbnb lets - media]]>
Court documents did not refer to Airbnb which declined to comment on the case. The company has said that over the past year the Airbnb community has hosted more than 330,000 travellers to Singapore.

“The current framework for home sharing in Singapore doesn’t reflect how Singaporeans travel or use their homes today,” the company said in a statement. “The current framework also stands in contrast with Singapore’s commitment to innovation.”

The men face four charges under the Planning Act for renting out four units in a condominium for less than six months without permission from Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority.

If found guilty, they are liable to a fine of up to S$200,000 ($149,000) per offence.

Singapore passed new rules this year, giving officials the right to force their way into homes to check whether residents were renting them out illegally.

Founded in 2008 in San Francisco, Airbnb matches people wishing to rent out all or part of their homes to temporary guests. It appeals to young, web-focused consumers looking for a cheaper price, but also for the experience of living like a local.]]>
12/5/2017 10:29:54 PM
<![CDATA[Catalan crisis weighs on 2018 Barcelona hotel bookings]]>
If the trend continues "tourism company heads may have to start adjusting the number of their employees to adapt to lower levels of demand," Exceltur -- which groups Spain's major hotel chains and tour operators -- said in a statement.

Hotels expect they would have to reduce their staff by an average of 8.2 percent while car rental firms predict they would shrink their payrolls by about 5.0 percent, it added.

The tourism sector employs some 400,000 people in Catalonia, many of them on temporary contracts.Hotel reservations in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia and one of Europe's most visited cities, for the Christmas and New Year's period are down by 15 percent compared to last year.

The tourism impact of the crisis sparked by Catalonia's banned independence referendum on October 1 which was marred by violence "was concentrated almost exclusively" in Barcelona, the site of massive street demonstrations, Exceltur said.

Just before the referendum several countries, including Germany, France and the United States, warned their citizens to be careful if they travelled to Catalonia and airlines allowed passengers on flights to Barcelona to change their tickets.

Protests have declined since Spain's central government on October 27 suspended Catalonia's regional government, dismissed its government and called regional elections for December 21 after the Catalan parliament declared independence.

Tourism activity in Barcelona fell by 9.0 percent in November, compared to 11 percent in October, as the return to calm eased visitor's fears, according to Exceltur.

The number of foreign visitors to Catalonia overall fell by 4.7 percent in October over the same time last year, figures released by the national statistics institute last week showed.

Catalonia is Spain's most visited region and tourism accounts for 12 percent of its economic output.]]>
12/5/2017 10:28:02 PM
<![CDATA[Airlines set for record profit in 2018, fare rise forecast]]>
Overall profits are expected to rise 11 percent to $38.4 billion in 2018, and the outlook is encouraging, IATA said on Tuesday as it raised its 2017 forecast to $34.5 billion, up from an earlier $31.4 billion estimate, but still lower than 2016.

Of the $38.4 billion, $27.9 billion will come from North American and European airlines.

“We are eight years into this air travel cycle, but we see no reason at present to expect that cyclical pattern to repeat itself,” IATA Chief Economist Brian Pearce said, with reference to a trend that would usually indicate a major downturn was due.

After declining for six years in a row, passenger yields, a measure of ticket pricing, are also expected to rise by 3 percent next year, after falling 1.5 percent in 2017.

But not all the forecasts are so positive, with passenger demand measured in revenue passenger kilometers set to rise by only 6 percent, slightly less than 2017’s 7.5 percent increase.


And cargo demand, also a bright spot in 2017 with demand up 9.3 percent after a tough few years, is expected to moderate to 4.5 percent in 2018.

IATA said the forecast increase in passenger fares was in line with expected inflation.

EUROPEAN UPGRADE

Rising ticket revenues have helped major European airlines report better than expected profits this year, and IATA said it was upgrading its net profit forecast for Europe to $9.8 billion this year, from a previous estimate of $8.6 billion, and profits should rise further to $11.5 billion next year.

While tough competition has seen the demise of some carriers, improving economies and robust demand rather than consolidation are key to rising profit in Europe, Pearce said.

In good news for airline investors, the industry’s return on capital is expected to exceed its cost of capital for a fourth year in a row next year.

With global profitability now on a more sustainable footing, IATA said airlines’ main focus was on keeping costs under control, with rising fuel prices and labor costs set to weigh.

IATA predicts unit costs will rise 4.3 percent in 2018, after 1.7 percent in 2017, and it predicts an average jet fuel price of $73.8 per barrel next year, up 12.5 percent.

“The industry is reacting to that cost pressure. We know from the announced schedules that we are likely to see some slowdown in the increases in capacity in 2018,” Pearce said.

However, IATA said it was not concerned there was a pilot shortage after high-profile cancellations at Ryanair (RYA.I) and American Airlines due to rostering issues and after some U.S. airlines awarded high pay increases to pilots this year.

Pearce said air travel demand had grown faster than expected, outpacing the supply of new pilots.

“We expect to see the training sector respond and produce more pilots over time,” he said.]]>
12/5/2017 10:24:47 PM
<![CDATA[Japan Airlines invests $10 million in supersonic jet company Boom]]>
Boom has 76 pre-orders for a 55-seat plane that it says will be able to slash the flight time from New York to London in just three hours and fifteen minutes.

The firm has said its jetliner, expected to enter service by the mid 2020s, will fly at speeds of Mach 2.2, 10 percent faster than the British-French joint-venture Concorde, which popularized supersonic jet travel in the 1970s.

Japan’s second largest airline has the option to purchase up to 20 Boom aircraft and will assist efforts to hone the aircraft’s design and passenger experience, the companies said on Tuesday.

It is the first commercial airline to back the venture with investment. Virgin Atlantic is among airlines to have placed pre-orders with Boom, 14 years after the final flight of the Concorde, to date the world’s fastest passenger airplane.

Industry figures are still debating whether regular supersonic flights, banned over the United States in 1973 by the Federal Aviation Administration, are feasible around modern cities due to the shock waves from the sonic booms the planes create.

Boom says its aircraft, priced at $200 million, will produce a sonic boom at least 30 times quieter than the Concorde, which was also dogged by high operating costs and fuel consumption and low capacity utilization.

Boom estimates that fares for its aircraft would be 75 percent lower than the Concorde and comparable to current business class tickets, due to better fuel efficiency.

General Electric Co (GE.N), Honeywell International Inc (HON.N) and Netherlands-based TenCate Advanced Composites are among suppliers for Boom’s supersonic jets.

It has raised $51 million in backing so far from venture capital firms 8VC, RRE, Lightbank, Y Combinator and Caffeinated Capital, as well as angel investors including Sam Altman, Paul Graham and Greg McAdoo.]]>
12/5/2017 10:23:08 PM
<![CDATA['Expats go home': Amsterdam's visitor boom angers locals]]>
Amsterdam’s residents and media, already sick of the numbers of tourists searching out stag-do strip joints on their streets, are increasingly vexed about another group of visitors - white-collar, expatriate workers.

“A Nice Brexit Trophy, But Can The City Handle It?” newspaper NRC Handelsblad said in a headline, referring to the decision to move the regulatory agency from London to Amsterdam after Britain leaves the EU.

The EMA will come with around 900 staff - a wonderful economic boost, according to supporters of the move. Detractors say it’s just another group of foreigners with big pay packets driving up rents and property prices.

“Home Buyers Will Pay The Price For Drugs Agency In Amsterdam,” said national broadcaster NOS.On social media, many also mourned the death of the city’s free-wheeling and edgy spirit, killed off, they said, by the likes of the EMA’s army of bureaucrats.

The sanitation of Amsterdam has been going on for more than a decade.Advertising campaigns have focused on the city’s canals, the Anne Frank House, the museums packed with Van Gogh and Rembrandt’s greatest works.Legislators have helped the re-branding by shuttering a third of the city’s brothels in 2008 and starting a program to close marijuana cafes near schools in 2011.

“AN OPEN CITY”

The number of overnight tourists nearly doubled from 2011 to 2016, according to Amsterdam Marketing. Amsterdam and its 850,000 residents now welcome more than 6 million foreign tourists a year.

That has all coincided with a surge in the number of well-heeled expatriates - numbers have also doubled to 77,000 in 2015 from 39,000 in 2009, according to the city’s statistics office.“Amsterdam has always been an open city,” said Reinier van Dantzig, leader of the largest faction in city parliament from the centrist D-66 party.

Immigrants were an integral part of the city’s 17th-Century golden age and were continuing to contribute to the current economic boom, he added.“That’s why I have such difficulty with people who say that people from outside who want to become Amsterdammers would be some kind of danger - I think they’re an addition.”

The city, he said, was building housing for 70,000 more people, with extra space allotted to apartments for low and medium-income families.Too little, too late for Danielle van Diemen, a 5th-generation Amsterdammer.“The city is being defined by a mix of Western foreigners who think that Amsterdam is edgy but that’s no longer true,” she said, pointing to a ban on squatting that went into effect in 2010.

The gap between wealthy expats who don’t speak Dutch and locals is all but unbridgeable, she added. “So: expats go home and leave the city to us.”“I am like a visitor in my own neighborhood,” said Bert Nap, who lives near the center. “We have lost all our bakers and other shops to tourism-orientated shops,” he added, echoing complaints across Europe’s holiday hotspots.

A survey by apartment-searching website Nestpick in April ranked Amsterdam #1 on its global list of best cities for millennials, citing its tolerance, night life and thriving startup scene.“These people have qualifications, they have skills, they are networked, and so the fact is that they compete for houses and jobs with people who don’t have those qualifications,” said Jan Rath, a sociology professor at the University of Amsterdam. “You could argue that what’s happening ... is actually a replacement of the population” he said.

HOUSING MARKET “BOILED DRY”

Real estate prices have soared, leading to a squeeze on unskilled workers, whether they are native Dutch or Turkish and Moroccan immigrants. According to Statistics Netherlands (CBS), 40 percent of young couples leave the city within four years of having their first child, driven out by the lack of affordable housing.Resentment also stems from a policy that allows skilled immigrants to receive 30 percent of their income tax-free.

On a salary of 100,000 euros that amounts to 15,000 euros in extra take-home pay for an expat over a Dutch person doing the same job.Property prices rose 13 percent in the third quarter of 2017 from the same period a year earlier, according to the CBS, above their 2008 highs. Listings have dried up. As one real estate agent put it, the market has “boiled dry”.

Michiel van Hemert, a kitchen assistant, said government priorities were wrong.“Imagine the ‘economic boom’ that would come from retraining 40 and 50-year-olds, which is clearly needed,” he said.He recommended more funding for educators, police, nurses and other public servants. “I speak for myself and two or three generations before me.”]]>
12/5/2017 3:10:54 PM
<![CDATA[EU set to approve easyJet purchase of parts of Air Berlin - sources]]>
EasyJet will take on some of Air Berlin’s operations at Tegel airport in the German capital for around 40 million euros ($47 million). It will also take on leases for up to 25 A320 aircraft, and about 1,000 of Air Berlin’s pilots and cabin crew.

The move will allow easyJet to further bolster its position in Berlin, pulling far ahead of Ireland’s Ryanair (RYA.I) and Lufthansa Group in the German capital.

The European Commission, which is scheduled to decide on the deal by Dec. 12, declined to comment.

Air Berlin was the largest carrier in Berlin before its insolvency, followed by the combined Lufthansa Group airlines, Ryanair and easyJet. German flag carrier Lufthansa has traditionally not focused on Berlin, instead doing most of its flying out of hubs in Frankfurt and Munich.

Lufthansa’s budget unit Eurowings plans to expand rapidly should Lufthansa’s plans to buy Air Berlin units Niki and LGW receive antitrust approval. It has offered concessions to allay concerns it could become too dominant on German and Austrian domestic routes and the Commission is currently seeking feedback from others on the proposed concessions.

Passenger numbers at Berlin’s Tegel and Schoenefeld airports rose by a combined 11.4 percent last year to almost 33 million thanks to booming tourism demand.

Should the deals be approved, easyJet will become the largest carrier in Berlin with 16 million seats, ahead of 10.7 million for the Lufthansa Group (including Eurowings, plus the LGW and Niki seats) and Ryanair on 5.9 million, according to presentation slides from easyJet last month.

But it is not yet clear how much Lufthansa and Eurowings will be able to expand in the capital and elsewhere. Lufthansa Chief Executive Carsten Spohr said on Monday the group was willing to take over Niki with virtually no slots if it meant getting EU approval for the deal.

EasyJet has previously said if it gets approval it expects to start operations from Tegel in January, at first leasing crewed planes while the Air Berlin crews and planes enter its fleet.

Ryanair is also keen to expand in Berlin though, having previously criticized Lufthansa’s purchase of Air Berlin assets as a “stitch-up”. On Friday it said it was also seeking slots in the capital in order to base nine new aircraft at Tegel in a challenge to both easyJet and Lufthansa.]]>
12/5/2017 3:06:47 PM
<![CDATA[London top European tourist spot despite terror attacks]]>
London saw a 24 per cent increase in bookings from Europe and retained its position as the top visitor destination for the second year running.

“The fall in the value of the pound since the Brexit referendum in 2016 appears to have been a key driver of growth, as visitors to the UK can now get more for their money,” the eDreams Odigo European Traveller Insights 2017 report said.]]>
12/5/2017 3:03:54 PM
<![CDATA[Pound's fall boosts London's appeal to tourists - study]]>
London saw a 24 percent increase in bookings from Europe and retained its position as the top visitor destination for the second year running.

“The fall in the value of the pound since the Brexit referendum in 2016 appears to have been a key driver of growth, as visitors to the UK can now get more for their money,” the eDreams ODIGEO “European Traveller Insights 2017 Report” said.

Sterling GBP=D4 is down around 10 percent since Britain voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, due to uncertainty over how the split from its biggest trading partner could affect growth prospects.

The fall in the value of the pound boosted the city’s appeal to British tourists too, with a rising appetite for staycations making it the number one destination for UK travellers. Last year, it ranked fourth among British tourists.

Militant attacks have targeted landmarks such as the parliament at Westminster this year, as well as revellers in the London Bridge area on a busy Saturday night. Tourists were caught up in both attacks, and the majority of the victims were foreign.

The data showed that other European cities which have been attacked by militants in recent years, such as Berlin and Paris, also saw bookings rise, by 10 percent and 4 percent respectively.

“This data suggests that traveller numbers have remained resilient, with no signs of a significant long-term impact to the numbers visiting these major European cities for 2017,” the authors of the report said.

The report is based on European bookings made on eDreams ODIGEO’s online platform between January and September 2017.]]>
12/5/2017 3:01:16 PM
<![CDATA[Scientists watch and wait as Bali's menacing volcano rumbles]]>
he 3,000 meter (9,800 ft) Agung - a so-called strato-volcano capable of very violent eruptions - has recorded a sharp rise in activity that has raised worries about a repeat of a 1963 eruption that killed more than 1,000 people.

“There’s no instrument in the world that can estimate precisely when there will be a major eruption,” said Syahbana, who runs an observatory monitoring the towering volcano, just outside a 10-km exclusion zone.

Sensors beeped and walkie-talkies crackled he spoke to Reuters at the monitoring station.

“People expect certainty but volcanology is a science of probability,” he said pointing to charts showing dramatic fluctuations in the seismic activity deep under Agung.

Authorities raised the alert status to the maximum after the volcano started erupting last month, spewing out ash over the holiday island and causing travel chaos by closing its airport for three days last week.

While hot magma has produced an eerie orange glow just above the crater, and thousands of villagers have fled from their homes on the mountain’s slopes, Agung has, this time, yet to explode violently.

Syahbana, who studied volcanology in Brussels and Paris, said his team’s main job was to “increase the preparedness of the communities here in the event of a major eruption”.

He said safety was his priority, never mind that raising the alert level has spooked residents and tourists alike.

Syahbana said he had not come under any pressure to lower the alert, though his team was “aware of the costs” for Indonesia’s main tourist destination famous for its beaches and temples.

‘NO RECORDS’

Indonesia has nearly 130 active volcanoes, more than any other country.

Syahbana has surveyed and installed instruments on many of the most active ones, including Mount Merapi on Java island, to the west of Bali, and on Mount Sinabung in the north of Sumatra island.

His team of 16 scientists takes six-hour shifts to monitor seismic stations on Agung that record tremors deep inside the mountain, GPS trackers that record changes in land features and CCTV cameras that provide 24-hour surveillance.

“The difference between other volcanoes and Mount Agung is that there are no scientific records about previous eruptions here, only people’s experiences,” Syahbana said.In 1963, pyroclastic flows of lava and rocks poured out of the volcano, killing more than 1,000 people and razing dozens of villages.

According to survivors, that eruption was preceded by earthquakes, volcanic mudflows, and ashfall – all signs that Mount Agung is showing again now, said Syahbana.

COMMUNITY OF EXPERTS

This time, with the internet and live feeds on social media, experts around the world are watching the smouldering Agung.

U.S.-based volcanologist Janine B. Krippner has been closely following since the alert status was first raised to the highest in September, and uses Twitter to share official information and bust myths and hoaxes circulating online. An eruption is “usually a good time for the volcanology community to pull together and share their knowledge”, she said.

”But I’ve never seen it happen on this scale before. It’s partly due to social media and partly because it’s a small and supportive community anyway,” Krippner, who has also remotely monitored eruptions in Iceland, Hawaii and Chile, said by telephone.

With every passing day, and no big eruption, a danger is that a false sense of security creeps in. Syahbana and other experts said everyone has to stay on alert.“We know this can be a very dangerous eruption,” Krippner said.“We shouldn’t be complacent.”]]>
12/5/2017 2:58:04 PM
<![CDATA[Uncovered secrets from El-Moez Street]]>
Walking along El-Moez Street, you will be fascinated by the historic atmosphere of the old cafés, souvenir shops, and food and sweets sold from kiosks and carts. You will also find Islamic art carved into the historic mosques and houses.

1-_El_Hakem_Mosque_(founded_1000_years_ago)
El Hakem Mosque - Best Places of Egypt Facebook page

The second largest mosque in Cairo, it was started by the Al Aziz Billah, son of the famous Khalifa Al Moez Lideen Allah Al Fatimy in 990 and was completed by El Hakem bi-Amr Allah.

It gives us a great example of a congregational mosque that was typical of early Islamic architecture. The mosque is constructed of brick with a stone facade and minarets. The building is an irregular rectangular plan with a central, open rectangular courtyard surrounded by arcades supported by compound piers, with a prayer hall that also has arcades supported by compound piers.

The_School_and_Mausoleum_of_Al_Nasir_Muhammad_ibn_Qalawun_(1298_AD)
The School and Mausoleum of Al Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun (1298 AD) – Best Places of Egypt Facebook page

Built in honor of Mamluk Sultan Al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun, its foundation's stones were laid in 1296 under the reign of Sultan Al-Adil Kitbugha.

The most remarkable aspect of the mausoleum is the unique aspect of the Madrassa of Al-Nasir Muhammad. Its gothic marble portal, acquired from a Christian church in the city of Acre after al-Ashraf Khalil's victory against the Crusades in 1291.

3-_AL_Ammar_mosquee_-_Best_Places_of_Egypt
Aqmar Mosque – Best Places of Egypt Facebook page

At the time it was built, its location was to the north of the Eastern Fatimid Palace, which is now extinct.

It is considered by many as the most beautiful Fatimid mosque and the oldest of the remaining examples of these small mosques in Egypt.

Its distinctive feature is the western façade, which was decorated in the rich, varied style typical of Islamic architecture in Egypt.

Bayt Al-Suhaymi (1648)

The house is in excellent condition due to restoration work in 1997 done by the Arab Fund for Economic Development as part of the Bayt Al-Suhaymi Area Documentation and Restoration.

The home has many mashrabeya windows, which can be seen from outside the house.

Once you enter the doorway, there are many small rooms with huge wooden doors. These used to be for servants. One of the rooms to the left side has a particularly fascinating mashrabeya screen with small windows in it to enable the people inside the room to view the street outside.]]>
12/5/2017 8:54:57 AM
<![CDATA[A sneak peak at South Sinai’s underrated canyons]]>
White Canyon
Located near St. Catherine, the White Canyon is soft and rocky, starting as a crack with a sudden deep drop between extremely narrow walls; it then opens up a bit before coming to a deep drop.

The canyon is easily accessible, with Dahab road and Nuweiba road on each side and Ein Khudara Oasis a short distance away.

Visitors are able to climb up and down the canyon using robe and ladder.

Closed Canyon
Carved between the Ein Kudara Oasis and Wadi Ghazala, it starts with a small crack in a sandstone range running between steep vertical walls.

The canyon’s name is inspired by its narrow path, making it difficult for people to walk through certain points on the path.

At the end of the enjoyable but narrow path, visitors come to an open area with huge walls where they can rest and enjoy the canyon.

Salama Canyon
It bears in resemblance to the colored canyon, starting as a crack in a rocky area of sandy Wadi Ghazal, but gets deeper a little further in.

The canyon, which is connected to Wadi Disco, home to a tiny Bedouin Settlement, provides a great escape with its carved walls for visitors to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Khraza Canyon
Situated in a high mountain near the town of St. Catherine, Khraza Canyon is compromised of a few interconnected waterpools in a beautiful granite canyon.

The canyon is connected to Wadi Umm Serdi and close to Wadi Mathar, at the base of the St. Catherine range, making it possible to visit all three must-see sites on the same day.

1-_Whiet_Canyon_on_St.Catherine_,_Dahab_,_Nuweiba_road_-_Wikimedia
White Canyon on the road connecting St. Catherine-Nuweiba and Dahab together, September 20, 2015 – Wikimedia/LaRoussa

3-_South_Sinai_Canyons_-_Pixabay
South Sinai Canyons, August 28, 2014 – Pixabay
]]>
12/4/2017 6:28:00 PM
<![CDATA[Assiut: Holy Family’s last stop on the way back to Palestine]]>
Herod, who was pursuing the family, had died. The page of that pursuit was turned, and Christ could finally return home. The family departed from Qusqam Mountain, where Muharraq Monastery is located, arriving at a nearby cavern, and continued until they reached Dronka Monastery, where we saw simple people praying for children and healing.

From Upper Egypt, they left to the North, blessing the Nile, which had kept their secret and the land that had protected them from their fears. On every stop in the journey, churches and monasteries were to be built, celebrations were to be held and prayers were to be written down. In this land, Christ treaded, and the Virgin wiped his tears. Thousands of stories would be told and millions of tales would be recited about this extraordinary family, which left behind a legacy of never-ending benevolence.

photo (1)
Egyptians on their way to Dronka Monastery in Assiut, Egypt, in September 2017 – Egypt Today/Hazem Abdel Samar

It took us only 15 minutes from the city to Western Assiut Mountain. We could see the mountain on the horizon, looking as if it were ready to tell the rest of the story. Above it, we could see cemeteries of Christian Copts who had passed away. They were lovers of the Virgin Mary, who wanted to be buried near the place where she had lived. We could see crosses carved on rocks, domes parallel to the top of the mountain and military checkpoints run by army officers experienced in guarding deserts.

We crossed the first gate, then parked on the left-hand side of the road and went up a paved road on foot. Going up the mountain resembled Muslims’ pilgrimage while climbing Arafat Mountain. It was a high mountain and a long distance taken on foot only for the love of the Lady of Light. We could hear the hymns glorifying Virgin Mary: “Hail to you, Mary, the ark of the covenant; hail to you, Mary, fruit of the sweetest scent.”

On the mountain, we met young people who came on a trip organized by a church in Assiut. They had gathered for a weekend spiritual journey. They spent their nights in those small rooms along the sides of Cave Mountain, praying and worshiping for days before the start of the new academic year.

The church bells rang, which announced mass at 7 am every day. The sound is preceded by the voices of monks reciting the Bible, filling the air with solemnity and awe. Students prepared to enter the church.

photo (2)
Blessing a baby with Holy Water at Dronka Monastery in Assiut, Egypt, in September 2017 – Egypt Today/Hazem Abdel Samar

On the way to Cave Church, there were small stores, named after the different names given to the Virgin, selling the monastery’s products. The store selling poultry is called “Al-Hamama Al-Hasnaa” (The Beautiful Dove), a name the Virgin was given in the Bible. An animal products store was called Umm Al-Nour (Mother of Light), and the supermarket was called “Al-Mumtale’a Ne’ma” (The Bountiful). The Virgin has 150 titles, and one would feel that all places, names and images are all about her, as if trying to be blessed by her.

We continued climbing the mountain. There were many churches, but we could see Cave Church, the place where the Virgin, her Child and Saint Joseph stayed.

Inside, there was a maquette of the Virgin, in her blue garments, as she lovingly opens her arms wide to her visitors. A lady let out a trill of joy and said, “Bless you, Mother of Light; bless you, Virgin Mary.” She took a long hand-made necklace of roses and jasmine flowers and put it on the Virgin. She promised her to make a necklace made of pounds next year. Her husband, speaking to the Virgin’s maquette, said, “I would make you a necklace of gold if I could, Virgin Mary.”

photo (5)
Egyptian Coptic Christians lighting candles before a Virgin Mary icon at Dronka Monastery in Assiut, Egypt, in September 2017 – Egypt Today/Hazem Abdel Samar

Icons of the Virgin and many martyred saints, who had given their lives to Christianity in its battles against idolatry, dangled from the ceiling. To the right, there were marble baptismal fonts; above them, a wooden cross. On each were small aluminum flasks full of holy chrism. In baptismal fonts, newborns are immersed in water three times, and their bodies are rubbed with chrism.

Unlike all churches, the sanctuary lies at its furthest point. It was surrounded with a wooden fence, and, around it, Christians gathered and prayed.

To the left of the sanctuary, there was a long queue of people waiting to enter a shrine closed with a metal gate. Church deacons were keeping the queue to the Virgin’s shrine, the cave where she hid, in order. Inside, there was an ancient representation of her, flowers, two pigeons kept in a cage and a wooden prayer box where lovers of the Virgin would place their prayers. Small scraps of paper were around the box, with the visitors’ secrets and prayers from the heart.

Egyptians asked the Virgin to answer their simple prayers, like prayers for grace, healing and love.

Illiterate, Umm Mina asked a girl to write a note on her behalf to the Virgin. She asked her to write: “I pray Mina loves his mother as Christ loved Mary.”

Michael wrote: “I pray that the problems between Mira and me are resolved and that we stay together, thanks to the blessings of the Mother of Light. Amen.” Clearly, he had problems with his fiancée and prayed the Virgin would help them stay together.

There was another cave to the left of this one, with the same contents as the other one. The only difference was the Virgin’s icon.

photo (4)
Copts looking for blessings where the Holy Family is believed to have stayed in Dronka Monastery in Assiut, Egypt, in September 2017 – Egypt Today/Hazem Abdel Samar

We met Reverend Luka al-Assiut, who had served as the Monastery Secretary for years. He told us the story of the Virgin’s cave, saying that it goes back to the time of the Pharaohs, who carved it to hide from the flood 4,500 years ago. When the Holy Family arrived, they lived in the cave. Back then Assiut, from which the Holy family took the boat to return to Palestine, was the capital of the governorate.

“The Holy Family’s time in Dronka was a time of extraordinary phenomena and miracles,” said Reverend Luka. He added, “When the Holy Family left, the first church was built here, that is the Cave Church in the 1st century AD. It was not a church like those of today, but one in the spiritual sense – that is, a place where prayers are held and supplications said.”

The Reverend told us that the monastery welcomes a million visitors annually during the Virgin’s Fast mid-August. Church deacons and volunteers organize the processes of visitors’ entry and exit, while the Ministry of Interior provides security services outside the monastery.

Telling us the history of the monastery, the Reverend said, “When monasticism emerged in the 4th century in Egypt, this place became a monastery. Many monasteries were built, but Dronka Monastery survived, unlike them. They were, however, chronicled in Coptic history.” He continued, “Dronka Monastery used to be called the ‘Monastery of Writing Monks,’” as monks in it were active in copying books.

Next to Cave Church lies Father Mikhail, the Archbishop of Assiut, who passed away three years ago. He used to be called “Father of Archbishops.” He was ordained as bishop in Assiut by Father Joseph II and was the oldest of the archbishops until his passing away. It is noteworthy how he refused to pray outside diocese, and would not even seek treatment outside of it until he passed away. He was buried next to the Virgin’s cave, as he had asked before his death.

The monastery has a mini-museum of his belongings beside his shrine. We saw his white cassock, which he wore to mass conducted in celebrations and feasts, and his black cassock (his clerical clothes). We also saw his mitre and a few other belongings of an ascetic man who only wanted to serve his people. His people were loyal to him and crowded in front of his shrine.

We saw a woman teaching her young child how to pray in front of him. We saw a man leaning on his grave and crying. We also saw another woman saying, “Be with us, Father Mikhail!” On his shrine, people left scraps of paper with their prayers, just as they did with the Virgin’s icon.

In Father Mikhail’s shrine, we met Reverend Royce, a 70-year-old who knows all the stories of the monastery by heart. He told us that during some restoration works led by Father Mikhail years ago, a giant caterpillar machine rolled over the mountain. Monks hurried to help the driver of the caterpillar, only to find him alive and well, thanks to Mary’s blessings, as he came to restore her monastery and her shrine.

As for the story told by all people of Assiut, it is the one of how Father Mikhail’s prayers rocked the mountain. Reverend Royce told us that there were some difficulties with restoration in this rugged mountain. Father Mikhail asked an engineering committee to remove a rock that made the restoration process difficult. The committee told him the rock cannot be removed without dynamite, which would endanger the Virgin’s ancient cave. Father Mikhail kept praying until the rock fell.

We left the Monastery, amazed at the incredible stories about the Virgin. In every shrine, there was a miracle. In every church, there was a story. We went back to Assiut and took a look at the river, which the Holy Family took to their journey back home.

Back then, the Holy Family traveled one last time from the river. The Virgin held young Christ’s hand, a toddler then able to walk and talk. Saint Joseph helped them to the boat, as well as Salome. From Assiut, they traveled north to Misr Al-Qadeema (Old Cairo). They were back again to Abu-Serga Church, and spent a few days in its cave.

They then crossed the borders of Egypt to Palestine, where Christ began a new phase in his call to Christianity. As an extraordinary child, he taught Jewish priests. In his youth, he saved a woman from being stoned to death. He left these immortal teachings, which changed humankind, just as his steps changed the history of our lands.


Translated by Heba Fadel

Ep. 14 - Holy Family’s longest stay in Egypt: Muharraq Monastery



Ep. 13: Holy Family rest in Minya’s ‘Mountain of Birds’



Ep. 12: Minya, Upper Egypt – Holy Family’s first stop after Cairo



Ep. 11: At Holy Family’s Maadi station to Upper Egypt



Ep. 10: Holy Family leaves behind Egypt’s most visited church



Ep. 9: holy family in Egypt - Islamic Cairo



Ep.8: Holy Family in Egypt – Virgin’s Mary Tree in Heliopolis



Ep. 8: Holy Family in Egypt – St. Macarius Monastery



EP. 6: holy family visits Wadi el-Naturn, founds monasticism



Ep. 5: Holy Family in Egypt - Christ leaves ‘footprint’ on Xois rock



Ep. 4: Holy Family embraced in Sebennytos, leaves kneading trough



EP. 3: Holy family in Egypt – Mary bathes Christ in Musturud



Ep. 2: Holy Family in Egypt’s ‘cat house’ met with grain of salt



Ep. 1: Holy Family in Egypt - Pelusium ruins reveal war-torn past

]]>
12/4/2017 4:13:45 PM
<![CDATA[China suspends flights from Bali to China due to volcanic ash]]>
Clouds of volcanic ash from Bali's erupting Mount Agung volcano disrupted flights to and from the island's airport last week, stranding many thousands of tourists.

Flights began resuming when the airport reopened on Wednesday, after the wind changed and blew the ash away from flight paths. Individual airlines make their own decisions on whether to operate.

Australia's Jetstar resumed flying tourists in to Bali on Monday, while Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd said it planned to do so on Tuesday.

Despite the resumption of some services, China's aviation authority was stopping any more flights after the return on Monday of the last charter flight, bringing to 15,237 the number of stranded Chinese tourists brought home, the People's Daily newspaper said on its Twitter page.

"China's aviation authority has suspended all flights from Bali to Chinese cities until volcanic ash threat clears," it said.

China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines, which stopped flying new tourists into Bali last week, told Reuters that any resumption of flights would depend on the situation.

They declined to comment on the reported directive from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

The CAAC did not respond to Reuters' request for comment.

China Southern, which flies to Bali from the cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou, said in an email that "due to volcanic activity in the area, the local airport and associated routes are not airworthy so flights on these two routes have been cancelled in the near term".

China has overtaken Australia this year as the biggest source of international visitors to Bali, representing about a quarter of the 4.9 million arrivals from January to September, according to industry statistics.

Airlines avoid flying through volcanic ash as it can damage aircraft engines, clogging fuel and cooling systems, hampering pilot visibility and even causing engine failure.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroh, a spokesman for Indonesia's disaster mitigation agency, said on Twitter that Mount Agung was no longer spewing ash but just white smoke that reached a height of 1,000 metres early on Monday.]]>
12/4/2017 3:30:37 PM
<![CDATA[Tourists roll up for Morocco's cannabis trail]]>
At a hotel bar in the northern region of Ketama, German tourist Beatrix made no attempt to hide the joint she was rolling.

The 57-year-old said she had fallen in love with the area for "the quality of its hashish and the friendliness of its residents".

Hassan, a 40-something sporting a conspicuous gold watch, said cannabis was "our main source of wealth".

"The climate here is very special. Nothing grows here except kif," he said, using a Moroccan name for the drug.

Northern Morocco is a key production center for hashish for export to Europe, but it has also seen traffic in the other direction -- an influx of European visitors heading to sample the local pleasures.

While Moroccan law bans the sale and consumption of the drug, that has not stopped farmers growing vast plantations of it, providing a living for some 90,000 households, according to official figures for 2013, the most recent available.

Smoking kif is seen as part of the local culture, and is largely tolerated by the authorities.

Beatrix was among the organizers of the mid-September "Bombola Ganja" festival, essentially an evening gathering of smokers at a hotel swimming pool.

Kifficulteur' tours

Cannabis leaves appeared prominently on the poster on Facebook for the event, alongside the names of trance DJs and a call for cannabis to be legalized for medicinal purposes.

Ketama hosts thousands of tourists a year, mostly from Europe but also from other parts of Morocco.

"People are attracted by the mountains, the hiking, the climate," hotel director Abdelhamid said.

But it has also been famed for its cannabis since the 1960s, when it became popular with hippies seeking the high life.

Later it gained a reputation for lawlessness, and by the late 1990s guidebooks were advising tourists to avoid the region entirely.

"Tourism saw a sharp decline," Mohamed Aabbout, a local activist, told AFP, adding that "the extension of kif culture to other cities in northern Morocco" was partly to blame.

Hashish has helped put the town of Chefchaouen, high in the hills 100 kilometers (60 miles) to the west and now buzzing with visitors, well and truly on the map.


"Twenty years ago, the tourists were mainly young Spaniards who came to smoke," one local tour operator said.

"Now, non-smokers also come for the blue of the city, highly appreciated by Chinese tourists."

Famed for its narrow alleys lined with striking blue houses, the town is also the main urban center of a region famed for its cannabis production.

Small-time dealers and unlicensed guides approach tourists to offer them hashish or a tour of nearby farms to meet the "kifficulteurs" -- local cannabis producers.

Field visit?

Chefchaouen guesthouses offer a similar service for around $18 (15 euros), although they are careful not to mention it in their brochures.

On the terrace of a strategically located cafe, dealer Mohamed approached potential buyers, showing them a large pellet of hash and offering a "field visit" to see how the cannabis is processed.

After gathering a group of tourists, he took them to a nearby village.

Standing in a field, with cannabis plantations covering the hillsides as far as the eye can see, he pointed out the varieties being cultivated.

"Here you have the Mexican plant, the Afghan and the beldia (Arabic for domestic)," he said.

Most farmers in the area import seeds in order to ensure a bigger harvest, he said.

Nearby, a group of young French tourists crossed the plantation with another guide.

The two groups met in front of a modest building where a farmer tapped a container full of cannabis clippings, collecting the finely powdered resin in a bucket below.

Dressed in a Paris Saint-Germain football jersey, one of them said he had just bought a batch of the drug worth $230.

Women from the village watched the scene with amusement as chickens pecked around the cottage.

The farmer took the bucket to his workshop and returned a few minutes later with the finished product -- a block of hashish.

"Here, you smoke where you want, except in front of the police station," Mohamed said.]]>
12/4/2017 2:12:35 PM
<![CDATA[Global air passenger traffic demand up 7.2 percent in October: IATA]]>
“As expected, the recent severe weather in the Americas region had only a temporary impact on the healthy travel demand we have seen this year,” IATA’s CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, said.

It said airline capacity rose 6.2 percent and load factor - a measure of how full planes are - increased by 0.8 percentage points to 80.8 percent.

IATA said it expected passenger traffic demand to continue its upwards trend in 2018. It will on Tuesday present its updated economic forecasts for the industry at a media event in Geneva.]]>
12/4/2017 2:03:16 PM
<![CDATA[Five things to know about Finland]]>
Here are five things to know about the nation on the Baltic Sea:

- Sauna ritual -

The sauna (which means "bath" in Finnish) is a ritual -- almost even a rite -- which Finland's 5.5 million inhabitants carry out at least once a week.

A sociable event that once lent a sense of community, saunas are now generally enjoyed privately or with friends: there are an estimated two to three million saunas in the country.

During the Cold War, Finnish president Urho Kekkonen negotiated with Soviet diplomats in the sauna of his residence in his birthday suit -- a sauna is enjoyed in the nude in Finland. In 2005, Russian President Vladimir Putin also dropped his towel when he sweated it out with the husband of his Finnish counterpart Tarja Halonen.

Finland even hosts a sauna world championship, an annual endurance test that occasionally, as in 2010, ends in death for competitors taking the heat in temperatures hitting 110 degrees Celsius (230 Fahrenheit).

To mark the centenary of its independence, Finland has launched "a touring sauna" that is currently criss-crossing the United States.

- Hobbyhorsing -

It's not expensive and it's good for your health: hobbyhorsing has become a social phenomenon in Finland, where some 10,000 girls practise the sport.

The idea? Straddle a wooden stick decorated with a pretend, but laboriously decorated, horse's head and off you go as if you were riding a real horse.

Hobbyhorsing has its own sporting federation (http://viuhku.net/sky/index.html) and jumping competitions, which are taken very seriously.

Finland is also home to a slew of other wacky competitions: the air guitar world championship gathers dozens of contenders each year who go on stage and energetically pretend to play a non-existing guitar. In addition there are the world championships of mobile phone throwing and rubber boot tossing, as well as the wife-carrying contest and the swamp soccer world competition.

- Racing Finns -

Finishing third in his first season driving for Mercedes in the Formula One World Championship this year, Valtteri Bottas is the latest in a prestigious line of Finnish drivers who have raced cars at the top level for half a century.

Learning the ropes on their country's frozen lakes and forest roads, Finns have claimed four Formula One world championships (Keke Rosberg in 1982, Mika Hakkinen in 1998 and 1999, and Kimi Raikkonen in 2007).

They've also won 14 world rally championships (WRC), their speciality. Markku Aleen, Ari Vatanen, Hannu Mikola, Timo Salonen, Juha Kankkunen, Tommi Makinen and Marcus Gronholm have all won the WRC championship.

- Tops in education -

Finland has since the early 2000s made a name for itself in the PISA studies that measure the education systems of OECD countries. Despite a slight decline in the 2015 study, the most recent one available, the country is still one of the top performers behind Singapore, Japan, Estonia and Taiwan.

It came just behind its neighbour Estonia -- whose language also belongs to the Fenno-Ugric family -- in sciences, but scored ahead in written comprehension.

The main key to its success? Reforms that allow independent management of schools, less theory and more practice, and widespread use of new technologies.

- Lenin museum -

Finland is the only country outside Russia to have a museum dedicated to the father of the Bolshevik revolution, Vladimir Lenin.

Housed since 1946 in the Workers House of Tampere, in southwestern Finland, the Lenin Museum has a library, archives and a collection of bronze busts and propaganda posters.

Three Soviet leaders visited the museum: Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Gorbachev.]]>
12/4/2017 1:52:44 PM
<![CDATA[Sea turtles' sad fate: from restaurant menus to plastic 'soup']]>
As its human handlers step aside, Kenzo struggles out of the harness, pushes hard with its flippers on the sand, and slides into small waves specked with bits of plastic trash.

With a final gulp of air, the hawksbill turtle executes a perfect butterfly stroke and disappears into deeper water -- a rare lucky escape for one of Kenya's sea turtles, increasingly under siege from humanity's plastic binge.

Dozens of the endangered creatures need rescuing every year around the coastal town of Watamu, where plastic litter accumulates in the Indian Ocean and the beach from as far afield as Indonesia, Madagascar and Yemen, according to the product labels.

Most common are bottle tops, but there are also cigarette lighters, toothbrushes, food containers, different lengths of string, drinks bottles and of course, the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag.

Turtles confuse these items, bobbing and fluttering about in the ocean currents, for jellyfish or other prey. To their peril.

"It causes a blockage... but they're still hungry so they keep eating and it compounds, compounds, compounds and they explode on the inside," said Casper van de Geer, manager of Local Ocean Conservation, which runs the Watamu turtle rescue.

"Or they are in such pain that they recognise that they have to stop eating and they basically starve," he told AFP at Watamu's Blue Lagoon as he repeatedly bent down to pick up one piece of beach litter after the other.

- 'Sometimes they can't' -

Many turtles are found floating, barely alive, having eaten so much plastic that they become buoyant and can no longer dive into the depths where they live and feed.

Once they reach this point, few can be saved.

At a turtle "clinic", van de Geer and his team tube-feed laxatives to the turtles in hopes that the intestinal plug can be loosened.

"It takes a while but eventually after a lot of pain, and I mean it's a reptile so it can't express pain like a mammal can in its face, but you can see that it's just closing its eyes and its all sort of tensed up and all of a sudden 'poof', it all comes out," he told AFP.

But "sometimes they can't. More (often) than not, the animal will... die."

Plastic ocean pollution is a key item on the menu for ministers from over 100 countries gathering in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi for a three-day UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) starting Monday.

The problem is a global one, affecting all the oceans and hundreds of animal and plant species.

According to environmental group WWF, 8.8 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean every year, the equivalent of a garbage truck dumping a full load every minute.

Plastic is cheap, versatile and nigh-indestructible. And by now it is pretty much everywhere.

A shopping bag is estimated to degrade over hundreds of years, and harder plastics could be around for millennia before they are broken down and absorbed in the environment.

- 'A very successful story' -

In July, US researchers said more than 9.1 billion tonnes of plastic had been produced to date, most of it dumped into landfills and the oceans.

Ahead of the UNEA meeting to tackle the scourge of pollution, UN Environment Programme head Erik Solheim urged action to stop the oceans becoming a "plastic soup".

On current trends, he warned, "by 2050 there will be more plastic in the seas than fish."

In Watamu, the locals do what they can.

Mohamed Iddi, a 42-year-old fisherman, proudly proclaims that he voluntarily collects two or three large garbage bags full of plastic along the Blue Lagoon beach every day.

"Some plastic is brought from the sea. Some others is from... when people they come for the enjoyment on the beach, for the barbecue, the picnic," he says, pointing to large piles of collected rubbish, divided into categories, with a special heap for shoe soles.

"Sometimes I find (plastic) in the stomachs" of the fish he catches. "Ropes, the small ones. Because when the fish goes to look for some prey... when it finds something like this... it will think maybe it is something to eat."

Elsewhere in town, a project called Regeneration Africa melts and treats the plastic gathered by volunteers such as Iddi, and moulds it into paving stones and other materials to sell for funds to continue the anti-plastic drive.

Fisherman-turned-environmentalist Kahindi Changawa, 40, looks with a smile over the tank for Kai, a green turtle which has been recovering from plastic ingestion at the Watamu rehabilitation centre for nearly a month.

Green turtles were once a delicacy in Kenya, but may no longer be eaten under laws to protect the endangered species from extinction.

Kai was brought in emaciated, and unable to stay underwater. On top of the laxative, it was given anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic medicines, and appetite-boosting multivitamins.

For six days now, no plastic has been spotted in the turtle's stool, Changawa says with tangible relief.

"It has fully recovered, when you take it out (of the recovery tank) it is flapping, it is fighting," he said.

"It's a very successful story, we are hoping to release it if not today, in the next two days or so."

Many others will not be so lucky.]]>
12/4/2017 12:49:37 PM
<![CDATA[ UN Deputy Secretary General tours Egypt’s historical sites ]]>
Upon her arrival at Cairo International Airport, she was received by Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister for African Affairs Mohamed Idrees and the UN Resident Coordinator to Egypt Richard Dictus.

1-_Amina_Mohamed_in_an_meeting_with_Egyptian_Officials
UN Deputy General Secretary with Egyptian officials during her Visit to Egypt – Courtesy of UN Office

The chairman of Egyptian Tourism Promotion Authority and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited Mohamed to attend the sound and light show at the Giza Pyramids which she enjoyed greatly and noted in the VIP Guest Book which the General Manager of Sound and Light invited her to sign.

Mohamed was appointed by UN General Secretary António Guterres as his deputy and assumed her duties on January 1, 2017.]]>
12/4/2017 1:00:00 AM
<![CDATA['This is Egypt' Campaign hits the records with Effie Award ]]>
The campaign won the Gold Effie Award in the Travel, Tourism and Transportation category and the Silver Effie Award in the Renaissance category for promoting tourism and helping the tourism sector’s growth while featuring Egyptian landmarks and tourist attractions with beautiful cinematography.

1-Blue_Lagoon,_Dahab,_Egypt
Blue Lagoon, Dahab, Egypt. April 23, 2013 – Wikimedia/Charlieb4u2

“This is Egypt” campaign was launched in October 2016 through a co-operation between Egyptian Tourism Authority and international advertising agency J. Walter Thompson (JWT) in an attempt to revive tourism in Egypt after the devastating effect of the 2011 revolution.





“We are thoroughly proud to be awarded internationally for promoting our country’s tourism and are hopeful that the tourism sector’s growth will continue to prosper,” said CEO of JWT Cairo, Hany Shoukry.

The Egyptian Tourism Authority and JWT received their awards at the MENA Effie Award ninth edition, held at the Armani Pavilion in Dubai. The Marketing Communications award is considered to be the most significant.

The Effie Award is not the first achievement for the “This Is Egypt” campaign; in September 2017 the video was awarded the Best Promotional Video in the Middle East by the World Tourism Organization at the 22nd assembly in China. ]]>
12/3/2017 2:40:05 PM
<![CDATA[Tourists roll up for Morocco's cannabis trail]]>
At a hotel bar in the northern region of Ketama, German tourist Beatrix made no attempt to hide the joint she was rolling.

The 57-year-old said she had fallen in love with the area for "the quality of its hashish and the friendliness of its residents".

Hassan, a 40-something sporting a conspicuous gold watch, said cannabis was "our main source of wealth".

"The climate here is very special. Nothing grows here except kif," he said, using a Moroccan name for the drug.

Northern Morocco is a key production centre for hashish for export to Europe, but it has also seen traffic in the other direction -- an influx of European visitors heading to sample the local pleasures.

While Moroccan law bans the sale and consumption of the drug, that has not stopped farmers growing vast plantations of it, providing a living for some 90,000 households, according to official figures for 2013, the most recent available.

Smoking kif is seen as part of the local culture, and is largely tolerated by the authorities.

Beatrix was among the organisers of the mid-September "Bombola Ganja" festival, essentially an evening gathering of smokers at a hotel swimming pool.

- 'Kifficulteur' tours -

Cannabis leaves appeared prominently on the poster on Facebook for the event, alongside the names of trance DJs and a call for cannabis to be legalised for medicinal purposes.

Ketama hosts thousands of tourists a year, mostly from Europe but also from other parts of Morocco.

"People are attracted by the mountains, the hiking, the climate," hotel director Abdelhamid said.

But it has also been famed for its cannabis since the 1960s, when it became popular with hippies seeking the high life.

Later it gained a reputation for lawlessness, and by the late 1990s guidebooks were advising tourists to avoid the region entirely.

"Tourism saw a sharp decline," Mohamed Aabbout, a local activist, told AFP, adding that "the extension of kif culture to other cities in northern Morocco" was partly to blame.

Hashish has helped put the town of Chefchaouen, high in the hills 100 kilometres (60 miles) to the west and now buzzing with visitors, well and truly on the map.

"Twenty years ago, the tourists were mainly young Spaniards who came to smoke," one local tour operator said.

"Now, non-smokers also come for the blue of the city, highly appreciated by Chinese tourists."

Famed for its narrow alleys lined with striking blue houses, the town is also the main urban centre of a region famed for its cannabis production.

Small-time dealers and unlicensed guides approach tourists to offer them hashish or a tour of nearby farms to meet the "kifficulteurs" -- local cannabis producers.

- Field visit? -

Chefchaouen guesthouses offer a similar service for around $18 (15 euros), although they are careful not to mention it in their brochures.

On the terrace of a strategically located cafe, dealer Mohamed approached potential buyers, showing them a large pellet of hash and offering a "field visit" to see how the cannabis is processed.

After gathering a group of tourists, he took them to a nearby village.

Standing in a field, with cannabis plantations covering the hillsides as far as the eye can see, he pointed out the varieties being cultivated.

"Here you have the Mexican plant, the Afghan and the beldia (Arabic for domestic)," he said.

Most farmers in the area import seeds in order to ensure a bigger harvest, he said.

Nearby, a group of young French tourists crossed the plantation with another guide.

The two groups met in front of a modest building where a farmer tapped a container full of cannabis clippings, collecting the finely powdered resin in a bucket below.

Dressed in a Paris Saint-Germain football jersey, one of them said he had just bought a batch of the drug worth $230 (200 euros).

Women from the village watched the scene with amusement as chickens pecked around the cottage.

The farmer took the bucket to his workshop and returned a few minutes later with the finished product -- a block of hashish.

"Here, you smoke where you want, except in front of the police station," Mohamed said.]]>
12/3/2017 11:31:08 AM
<![CDATA[Closer look at Cairo’s enchanted bridges]]>
If you feel bored while waiting for the cars all lined up on the top of the bridge to move or for the crowd to disappear on the footpath, we can tell you about four enchanted bridges in Cairo to comfort you during rush hour.

Every bridge in Cairo has a history, and each is integral to the city. So follow our list to see the bright side of your bridge.

Qasr El Nile Bridge:

Its structure dates back to 1931 when King Fuad laid its foundation stone to be inaugurated. At first it was named Khedive Ismail Bridge, but this name was changed after the Egyptian revolution of 1952 to become Qasr El Nile Bridge.

It links Tahrir Square in Downtown Cairo to the Cairo Opera House in Zamalek. It also offers a good view of the Nile and the landmarks scattered along its banks.

6th October Bridge:

It is ranked as one of the longest bridges in the world, as its length measures 20.5 kilometers (12.7 miles). It connects the Agouza district in the western part of the city to Gezira Island and on to the international airport in the eastern part of Cairo, crossing the Nile twice.

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6th_October_Bridge from a Building Near Ramses Station

Constructing this bridge took almost 30 years, as it was started in 1969 and put into operation in 1996. Since its opening, it has become one of the most important bridges in the capital, with around 500,000 people crossing it every day.

It takes its name from the important historical date of October 6, 1973, when Egypt defeated Israel in the 1973 October War.

Imbaba Bridge:

This bridge, built from 1913-1925, is a replacement for an older one that connected the city to the Giza train station by rail, where the railway then stretched over 935 kilometers to the Aswan High Dam.

However, the current version was designed by the Ministry of Transportation in 1980 to operate heavier carriages and increase traffic across the bridge.

The bridge includes two railway tracks, two passages for vehicles and two passages for pedestrians, and it is the major railway bridge across the Nile River.

Giza Railway Bridge:

Historically, it is the first railway bridge in Egypt, Africa and the Middle East. It was inaugurated in September 1856 to span from Giza to Cairo. It is 535 meters in length and 20 meters wide.

It was originally named after Khedive Abbas, but was changed to Giza Bridge after the Egyptian revolution of 1952, as happened with many other bridges.]]>
12/3/2017 10:09:32 AM
<![CDATA[Red Sea Governorate’s occupancy rates increase to 65%]]>
The occupancy rate is expected to reach 90 percent during the New Year holidays, said Abou Taleb, pointing out that there may be more than 35 nationalities flooding in; most visitors are expected to be from Germany and the United Kingdom.

Abou Taleb affirmed that the occupancy rates this winter season is better than previous years, noting that Marsa Alam beat Hurghada in the hotel occupancy rates this year for the first time in the history of the governorate.

On the other hand, Hurghada International Airport has received about 60 flights carrying around 10,000 tourists of different nationalities during the last 24 hours.

Compared to the same period last year, Reservations for Christmas holidays in the hotels of the Red Sea, Luxor and Aswan are very high, Magdi Nagib of the Chamber of Tourist Facilities said recently.

Tourism is one of Egypt’s main foreign currency earners, which has suffered several blows since the 25 January Revolution of 2011. Recently, tourism has been picking up, especially now that Egypt has become a cheaper destination for many tourists from the world due to local currency flotation.

Tourism revenues jumped 211.8 percent year-on-year to $5.3 billion in the first nine months of 2017, compared to $1.7 billion the year before.

The number of tourists who visited Egypt in that time jumped 55.3 per cent to 5.9 million, with European visitors reaching 3.2 million, an 85 per cent increase from the previous year. ]]>
12/2/2017 3:40:30 PM
<![CDATA[More Bali flights canceled on forecast of volcanic ash]]>
A Bali airport spokesman said the airport was still operating normally, but airlines such as Jetstar and Virgin Australia had opted to cancel some flights

“Bali flying conditions expected to be clear throughout the day, but forecast for tonight has deteriorated so several flights have been canceled,” Australian budget airline Jetstar said on its Twitter account.

The erupting volcano had closed the airport for much of this week, stranding thousands of visitors from Australia, China and other countries, before the winds changed and flights resumed

Twenty flights were canceled on Friday evening due to concerns over ash. Some airlines including Malaysia’s AirAsia Bhd have said they would only operate out of Bali during the day, as the ash could impair visibility at night and wind conditions in the area were unpredictable.

Airlines avoid flying through volcanic ash as it can damage aircraft engines, clogging fuel and cooling systems, hampering pilot visibility and even causing engine failure.

There are also concerns over changing weather conditions with a tropical cyclone south of Java island impacting weather and wind in the area, including for Bali, the Indonesian Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysics agency said

With some airlines continuing to fly normally on Saturday, there was frustration among passengers.

Australian couple Justine and Greg Hill were on holiday with their two teenage children and had been due to fly out today but their flight later this evening was canceled.

“It’s more an inconvenience than anything. Don’t understand why if other airlines are flying, some others aren‘t. Obviously there must be safety protocols but there’s no detailed explanation,” said Greg Hill, 46, who was waiting at the airport.

Several foreign consulates have set up booths in the international departures area to assist stranded passengers.

Subrata Sarkar, India’s vice consul in Bali, told Reuters at the airport’s international departure area that they had helped around 500 passengers so far this week.

”We have advised citizens the volcano may erupt. We never say ‘please don’t come’. But we have issued travel advisories. If it’s urgent business, then ok, but if it’s only tourism, then plans should be reconsidered,” said Sarkar.]]>
12/2/2017 12:05:19 PM
<![CDATA[In pictures: Mawlid al-Nabawi celebration with Jafari tariqa]]>The main activities were held Thursday night (marking the beginning of Friday in Islam) and Friday. One of the largest celebrations took place Thursday night at Salih al-Jafari Mosque in Cairo.

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Mosque of Sheikh Salih al-Jafari – photo courtesy of MazaratMisr.org

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Sheikh Mohamed Salih al-Jafari presiding over the Mawlid al-Nabawi celebration at Salih al-Jafari Mosque in Cairo – November 30, 2017 – photo courtesy of Abdul Latif Shamsudoha

The mosque’s namesake, Sheikh Salih al-Jafari, was a famous 20th century imam of al-Azhar known for his piety and extensive knowledge, as well as being a descendant of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Thursday’s celebration was presided over by his grandson and current head of the Jafari “tariqa” (Sufi order), Sheikh Mohamed Salih Abd al-Ghani Salih al-Jafari.

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Sheikh Mohamed Salih al-Jafari (R) talking with a Libyan scholar (L) during the Mawlid al-Nabawi celebration at Salih al-Jafari Mosque in Cairo – November 30, 2017 – photo courtesy of Abdul Latif Shamsudoha

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Sheikh Mohamed Salih al-Jafari (L) talking with a Libyan scholar (R) during the Mawlid al-Nabawi celebration at Salih al-Jafari Mosque in Cairo – November 30, 2017 – photo courtesy of Abdul Latif Shamsudoha

Hundreds of Muslims gathered at the mosque after the night prayers to celebrate the Mawlid, coming from Upper Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, the United States and elsewhere. Young and old, rich and poor, scholars and laymen all came together to express their love for God’s final messenger and remember his “seerah”, or biography.

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Hundreds of Muslims gather for the Mawlid al-Nabawi celebration at Salih al-Jafari Mosque in Cairo – November 30, 2017 – photo courtesy of Abdul Latif Shamsudoha

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Hundreds of Muslims gather for the Mawlid al-Nabawi celebration at Salih al-Jafari Mosque in Cairo – November 30, 2017 – photo courtesy of Abdul Latif Shamsudoha

Abdul Latif Shamsudoha, a 33-year-old visiting from London, has been celebrating the Mawlid since he was a child. He told us that the Mawlid “is a means of studying and revisiting the prophetic biography and bringing people together in love for Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).”

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Hundreds of Muslims gather for the Mawlid al-Nabawi celebration at Salih al-Jafari Mosque in Cairo – November 30, 2017 – photo courtesy of Abdul Latif Shamsudoha

But it is not just love for the Prophet that is shown, but love for each other as well. Saleh Hesham Mashaal, a 20-year-old Egyptian student from Helwan, said he celebrates the Mawlid “because we do not have someone more precious than our Prophet (peace be upon him),” before adding that “this celebration is unique, as you find all people love each other – a true love.”

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Incense spreading its fragrance during the Mawlid al-Nabawi celebration at Salih al-Jafari Mosque in Cairo – November 30, 2017 – photo courtesy of Abdul Latif Shamsudoha

The night began with the congregational night prayers. Afterwards, everyone sat down in lines facing the center of the mosque, where incense was lit, filling the air with its sweet fragrance. Quranic verses about the Prophet were recited, and shortly after, a poem written by Sheikh Salih al-Jafari describing the Prophet’s physical appearance was sung.



Following this poem, a high-ranking Muslim scholar from Libya gave a speech about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), explaining that the Mawlid is celebrated to praise the one whom God has praised and to seek a connection to the life of the Prophet.

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A high-ranking Muslim scholar from Libya gives a speech about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) during the Mawlid al-Nabawi celebration at Salih al-Jafari Mosque in Cairo – November 30, 2017 – photo courtesy of Abdul Latif Shamsudoha



More poems written by Sheikh Salih al-Jafari were then sung. The poems were filled with praise of the Prophet, as well as supplications to God to bless the Prophet and facilitate the following of his path for those gathered. A poetic seerah written by al-Jafari, titled “The Luminous Moons”, was also recited, “which details the Prophet’s noble description, lineage, qualities and character,” according to Shamsudoha.



The night continued in this fashion, with scholars speaking about the qualities and virtues of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), followed by poetry being sung by all. But the celebration would not be complete without food being shared.

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A Muslim scholar speaking about the qualities and virtues of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) during the Mawlid al-Nabawi celebration at Salih al-Jafari Mosque in Cairo – November 30, 2017 – photo courtesy of Abdul Latif Shamsudoha

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A Muslim scholar speaking about the qualities and virtues of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) during the Mawlid al-Nabawi celebration at Salih al-Jafari Mosque in Cairo – November 30, 2017 – photo courtesy of Abdul Latif Shamsudoha

About half-way through the night, groups of attendees descended to the cafeteria beneath the mosque, where “fettah” – an Egyptian dish consisting of pita bread, rice, broth, sauce and meat – was served. Eight people would sit together at one table, with a large of bowl of fettah placed in the middle, complete with a big piece of meat for each person. Everyone would take the meat in front of them, and then they all ate from the same bowl, with volunteers coming around to fill up the bowl with more if needed.

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Poetry being sung during the Mawlid al-Nabawi celebration at Salih al-Jafari Mosque in Cairo – November 30, 2017 – photo courtesy of Abdul Latif Shamsudoha

While each group took turns to go eat, the singing and speeches continued in the mosque above. As people returned from eating and sat down again, more volunteers began to serve tea and sweet biscuits.

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Poetry being sung during the Mawlid al-Nabawi celebration at Salih al-Jafari Mosque in Cairo – November 30, 2017 – photo courtesy of Abdul Latif Shamsudoha

After everyone was sitting in the mosque again, Sheikh Mohamed Salih al-Jafari called upon all to follow in the path of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He then announced that a new book by Magdy Ashour, advisor to Egypt’s Grand Mufti, would be distributed as a gift.

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Sheikh Mohamed Salih al-Jafari calls upon all to follow in the path of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) during the Mawlid al-Nabawi celebration at Salih al-Jafari Mosque in Cairo – November 30, 2017 – photo courtesy of Abdul Latif Shamsudoha

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A book by Magdy Ashour is distributed as a gift to the attendees during the Mawlid al-Nabawi celebration at Salih al-Jafari Mosque in Cairo – November 30, 2017 – photo courtesy of Abdul Latif Shamsudoha

Regarding the feeling of attending such a celebration, Saleh Hesham Mashaal told us, “Celebrating the Mawlid is a very spiritual and inspiring event. You keep on mentioning Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) all the time. Therefore, it is filled with blessings and welfare.”

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A Muslim man enjoying the Mawlid al-Nabawi celebration at Salih al-Jafari Mosque in Cairo – November 30, 2017 – photo courtesy of Abdul Latif Shamsudoha
]]>
12/1/2017 9:43:34 PM
<![CDATA[Lufthansa offers to sacrifice routes to save Air Berlin deal: source]]>
The German carrier will submit its proposed concessions to the European Commission before a midnight deadline, including giving up so-called ‘slots’ belonging to Air Berlin businesses Niki and LG Walter, the source said.

Lufthansa last month signed a 210 million euro ($249 million) deal to take over Niki and LG Walter, plus some short-haul planes, to cement its position in Germany and expand its Eurowings budget brand.

But the deal has drawn fire from competitors and consumer advocates who fear Lufthansa would dominate German domestic routes and Austria where Niki, founded by retired Formula 1 world champion Niki Lauda, is based.

Lufthansa already owns flag carrier Austrian Airlines.

The German government, which offered a bridging loan to keep Air Berlin flying until a deal could be done to sell its viable operations, held crisis talks with Lufthansa representatives on Thursday afternoon to discuss concessions to offer to Brussels.

A spokesman for the Economy Ministry declined to confirm or deny whether the meeting took place, as reported earlier by the Bild am Sonntag tabloid. Lufthansa and the European Commission declined to comment.

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr met EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager on Wednesday in Brussels, where sources said the Commission is leaning towards blocking Lufthansa’s takeover of Niki.

The Danish commissioner has gone on the record to express concern that Lufthansa’s market position would become dominant on some routes as a result of the deal.

GOVERNMENT ALARM

Bild am Sonntag, citing its own sources, said the German government was alarmed that the deal may be blocked and had urged Lufthansa to make further concessions.

The source, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, told Reuters the government might lose the 150 million euros it lent to Air Berlin because the bridging loan was secured against the proceeds of the proposed sale.

Air Berlin, which struggled to turn a profit over the last decade, filed for insolvency in August, leaving the future of thousands of workers in the balance.

Under EU rules, a decision should be made on whether to approve the deal on Dec. 7 although the Commission has the power to extend its review period by two weeks.

In complex cases, the Commission can take up to 90 working days to reach a decision. If such an extension is made, Lufthansa would likely halt its financial support to Niki, forcing it to cease operations, the source familiar with the company’s thinking said.

“Niki is on a knife-edge,” the person said.

It remained unclear whether the entire Air Berlin deal would collapse if Lufthansa does not win control of Niki - or whether the German airline would pull out and then seek separate EU approval just to buy LG Walter.

Scenting a fresh opportunity, earlier bidders for Niki have restated their interest - including British Airways which, according to Bild am Sonntag, has asked to see its accounts.

Air Berlin and British Airways parent IAG (ICAG.L) both declined to comment.

Niki Lauda said on Wednesday he would, together with travel company Thomas Cook (TCG.L), like to buy back the airline he founded. “My offer, together with Thomas Cook, still stands,” he told the Handelsblatt financial daily.]]>
12/1/2017 6:26:48 PM
<![CDATA[Charles Dickens museum captures Christmas spirit with new exhibition]]>
The book helped to shape the way Britons celebrate Christmas and carried a strong social message after a scathing report on child labour that had deeply shocked him, curators said.

The exhibition is housed in a Victorian building where Dickens and his family lived between 1837 and 1840 - and where he penned several classics including Oliver Twist. The museum holds more than 100,000 Dickens-related items, such as furniture, personal effects, paintings and letters.

Mr Frankie Kubicki, the exhibition's curator, said although Dickens did not "invent" how the British celebrate Christmas, he helped "crystallise" it.

"He hits the zeitgeist and the feeling within the 1830s and 40s of a nostalgia for Christmas, of this idea of wanting to celebrate it within a new urban context," he added.

The exhibition, which runs until Feb 25, also features costumes from the new film The Man Who Invented Christmas, which is showing here and stars Dan Stevens]]>
12/1/2017 6:20:55 PM
<![CDATA[Bali volcano burns wedding dreams, threatens economy and tourism]]>
The 24-year-old and her fiance Justin saw their plans go up in smoke when Mount Agung rumbled to life, spewing ash and fumes that forced hundreds of flights to and from the island to be cancelled.

"It's funny how a volcano can just turn our plans and our whole lives sort of upside down, just like that," said Thompson from her home near Brisbane.

The couple, who had planned to get hitched in the picturesque tropical paradise this week have hurriedly switched their nuptials to Thailand.

"It had the last 50 years to do its thing and it waits until our wedding day," she joked, referring to Agung's last major eruption in 1963, which killed about 1,600 people.

The volcano's rumblings in the past week have pounded Bali's lucrative tourism industry and its wider economy, squeezing everyone from wedding planners and dive shops to hotels and even some farmers duped into selling livestock at cut-rate prices.

Indonesia's tourism minister Arief Yahya warned this week that Bali could lose up to nine trillion rupiah ($665 million) in visitor-related revenue if Agung's activity doesn't die down before the end of the year.

Millions visit the Hindu-dominated tropical hotspot annually, with couples there to tie the knot at beach and cliffside retreats that offer sweeping views of the ocean.

Others want to get even closer to waters teeming with colourful fish and coral.

"There has definitely been a huge effect because of the volcano," said Ni Komang Astiti, who works at dive operator Dune Atlantis in the southeast of the island.

"We've had many cancelations because the guests can't fly to Bali."

- 'What should we do?' -
Bali's main international airport was shut for almost three days from Monday as towering columns of volcanic ash and smoke made flying dangerous, sparking travel chaos and leaving around 120,000 tourists stranded.

It re-opened late Wednesday, but mostly for tourists departing the island, not arriving.

"If we usually have 20 guests a day, this time around it's only two people," Astiti said.

"We're worried. If there are no guests, what should we do? We depend on the tourism industry."

Thompson's wedding planner Ni Made Rismawati said Agung has also taken a bite out of her business, with another couple also cancelling their wedding.

"I feel bad for the clients," Rismawati said.

"They have to cancel their wedding even though they have prepared everything."

Volcano experts warn that the mountain, which has had a series of mini eruptions, could still produce a major blast, even as much of the smoke and ash appeared to dissipate.

Another volcano, Mount Sinabung on Sumatra island, has been active and at the highest alert level since 2013.

There's nothing we can do -- we can only wait for the mountain to stop erupting," said I Ketut Ardana, the head of a Bali tourism association, who estimated that just three days of airport closures had cost the island some one trillion rupiah.

"It's a natural disaster so we can't ask it to stop."

But it's not just the tourism sector suffering.

Tens of thousands of Balinese villagers living in small communities that ring Agung have fled to evacuation centres.

Many complain about lost work and some are sneaking back into the danger zone to take care of precious livestock that, for many, are their only source of income.

Local media said some unscrupulous buyers have supplied mis-information about Agung's activity so unsuspecting farmers will sell off livestock at cut-rate prices.

Officials have been trying to convince villagers not to return to their homes, as they also push back foreign thrill-seekers keen for a close-up look at the volcano.

But Indonesia's disaster agency said desperate times are forcing a re-think, suggesting the possibility of turning Agung into a disaster tour venue.

It cited Iceland's Mount Eyjafjallajokull as an example, though it acknowledged there were pros and cons.

"Disaster tours need to be managed well," said agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

"Tourists would need to be fully informed before they arrive, and signs showing the danger zones would need to be properly in place."]]>
12/1/2017 6:10:13 PM
<![CDATA[Ras El Bar, all seasons-gem dazzles visitors' eyes ]]>
Yes there is more to that little island in Damietta. It can seem ordinary at the beginning, but it has so much to offer, with its guaranteed visual miracle with a perfect climate.

Ras El Bar translates to "head of land" in the Arabic language. Today's resort is located at the Mediterranean Sea, exactly at the mouth of Damietta River in northeast Egypt. The permanent residents' number amounts approximately to 25,000 permanent residents in the city. However, this number always witness an increase during the summer peak holiday season, that is from July to September, when the population literally expands to over 250,000.

Rocky_beach_at_Ras_El_Bar,_Damietta,_Egypt,_Courtsey_of_Osama_Al_Bakri,_undated_photo
Rocky beach at Ras El Bar, Damietta, Egypt, Courtsey of Osama Al Bakri, undated photo

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Fishing in Ras El Bar, Damietta, Egypt, Egypt Best Places Facebook Page, 27 November

Sunset_in_Ras_El_Bar,_Damietta,_Egypt,_Egypt_Best_Places_Facebook_Page,_27_November_2017
Sunset in Ras El Bar, Damietta, Egypt, Egypt Best Places Facebook Page, 27 November 2017

Other stories tell that Ras El Bar was named by some sailors who felt that this place stands as the shelter where they are secure from the sea’s dangers. So if "Ras" is the start and "El Bar" is the land so it is the start of land and the shelter of any sailor.

Speaking of the miraculous experience you will only find in Ras El Bar, get ready to dazzle you eyes with the scenic view of "Lessan" located in the extreme northern part of this peninsula, which literally means this no blending point where the Damietta Nile arm flows in the Mediterranean Sea. This place was mentioned in the Quran for three times only to stress out the mighty power of god that made both river and sea meet with a separator that can never be seen and stops them from blending.

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Ras El Bar streets,, Damietta, Egypt, Egypt Best Places Facebook Page, 27 November

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Houses viewing the sea in Ras El Bar, Damietta, Egypt, Egypt Best Places, 27 November 2017

For a moment tourists may think this resort as a natural reserve when they see a range of underwater creatures such as the friendly dolphins visiting Ras El Bar shores. The gorgeous isle beauty does not stop here; if you are much of a birder you can visit El Manzala Lake where you can spot many kinds of wild birds during summer season. Ras El Bar is also a transit point for many migrating birds during the fall season, especially the flocks that come from Europe in her journey to South Africa.

Ras El Bar is not only an ordinary resort, it is one of the historic spots that witnessed so much great battles, but it finally became a resort in the 19th century. The beautiful city's name has experienced a change several times with every historic era. Pharos called it the great green sea, then with the advent of the Romans the city was called "The Romans Sea" on 30 AD, and the spot where sea could meet a river was called (Be Tamosh) and it meant the meeting point between a sea and a river.

Ras El Bar is also reputable for its healing power, and seen as one of the healthiest resorts. According to Damietta governorate’s official website in 1883, the famed German physician Robert Koch was invited to Egypt by the Egyptian government to study the effects of cholera where he wrote in his report that Ras El Bar might become one of the most famous resorts in the world one day because of its dry climate and fresh clean air that has a high level of iodine and the lack of noise.

Now Ras El Bar is attracting more and more tourists every year because of the renovations and adjustments done by the government, which the breathtaking pictures reveal.


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The beach in Ras El Bar, Damietta, Egypt, Egypt Best Places Facebook Page, 27 November

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Streets in Ras El Bar, Damietta, Egypt, Egypt Best Places Facebook Page, 27 November
]]>
12/1/2017 10:42:23 AM
<![CDATA[Australia pitches for Prince Harry stag night, honeymoon]]>
he prince will marry Meghan Markle next May, and Steve Ciobo said Thursday he had written to Clarence House with a list of adrenaline-packed suggestions for a buck's party, as well as "slower, contemplative" honeymoon options.

"Australia can provide the perfect pre-wedding party and an amazing romantic honeymoon after the wedding," he said in a statement.

The minister said the prince and his friends could replace the traditional Aussie pub crawl with a helicopter crawl of Outback drinking venues, or go fishing for barramundi in the Northern Territory.

"We also have suggested they could come to the Gold Coast and go dune buggying," he told Channel Nine television.

"Then for the honeymoon something a little bit more slower and contemplative. They could visit some of the magnificent parts of Australia."

He suggested the Longitude 131 Lodge near giant red monolith Uluru -- also known as Ayers Rock -- where his brother Prince William and wife Kate previously stayed, or the Great Barrier Reef.

"I told Prince Harry Tourism Australia stands ready to work with him and Ms Markle to design an itinerary to their tastes," Ciobo said in the statement.

It is not known whether Markle has visited Australia, but Harry was in the country in June this year to promote the Invictus Games.

The next version of the event for injured and sick service personnel is in Sydney in 2018, with local reports saying it could be the newly married couple's first official overseas engagement.]]>
11/30/2017 1:55:10 PM
<![CDATA[Foreign visitors to US fall sharply from 2016]]>
And the number of business travelers fell by much more than the drop in tourists, according to the monthly report from the Commerce Departments National Travel and Tourism Office.

Total foreign visitors fell four percent compared to the first six months of last year, with travelers from Mexico down more than nine percent and from Britain down six percent, but visits from Canada up nearly five percent.

Excluding Canada and Mexico, overseas visitors fell nearly six percent, but business travel dropped nearly nine percent compared to a 5.6 percent decline in tourists.

President Donald Trump in his first year in office repeatedly promised to build a wall on the border with Mexico, and has ordered bans on visitors from several Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and Africa.

Visits from the Middle East plunged 30 percent in the first half of the year, and from Africa dropped 27 percent. There also were double-digit declines in visitors from South and Central America, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe.

Among the top 20 countries with the most visitors, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil and India saw travelers fall well over 10 percent.

In contrast, arrivals from South Korea jumped 18 percent, while Ireland saw a 4.7 percent increase, Italy was up 4.2 percent, Spain 3.5 percent and France 1.5 percent, according to the monthly data.]]>
11/30/2017 1:53:50 PM
<![CDATA[Tourists fly out of Bali at last as wind blows volcanic ash away]]>
But a plume of smoke and ash still rose above Mount Agung on Thursday and the volcano, whose crater glows red, continued to rumble.

Bali airport reopened on Wednesday after being closed on Monday.

“We are happy we can leave now,” American tourist David Strand said at the airport. “It’s been interesting to have the volcano active, but we certainly hope that it doesn’t cause any more damage to the people of Bali.”

The airport on neighbouring Lombok island was closed.

China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines sent planes to fetch more than 2,700 Chinese tourists from Bali, Xinhua news agency said.

Korean Air said it had sent a charter flight. Jetstar said it would fly 3,800 passengers on 10 scheduled flights and six relief flights back to Australia on Thursday. It also encouraged customers booked to fly to Bali up to Dec. 7 to look at alternative destinations.

From January to September, Bali received 4.5 million foreign tourists, nearly half of the 10.5 million arrivals in Indonesia.

Chinese have overtaken Australians to become the top visitors to Bali, representing around a quarter of arrivals on the island.

Losses in revenue could be more than $650 million since the volcano warning level was first raised in September, Indonesian Tourism Minister Arif Yahya estimated.

Agung looms over eastern Bali to a height of just over 3,000 meters (9,800 feet). Its last major eruption in 1963 killed more than 1,000 people and razed several villages.

Authorities are urging people living up to 10 km (6 miles) from the summit to move to emergency centres, but tens of thousands don’t want to leave their homes and livestock unattended.

The disaster mitigation agency said on Wednesday about 43,000 people had moved to shelters, but many were thought to be staying put as up to 100,000 people are estimated to live within the danger zone.

“We cannot predict whether it will be bigger than 1963, but ... according to our evaluation the potential for a full-scale eruption is still high,” Devy Kamil Syahbana, an official at Indonesia’s centre for volcanology and geological disaster mitigation centre, told Reuters.]]>
11/30/2017 1:52:48 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt: The land of mesmerizing lakes]]>
Qaroun Lake:
Just a short 80 kilometers from Cairo and only 20 kilometers from Fayoum, the lake’s history has dubbed it as the most important lake in Egypt; it is also known as Moeris Lake. The lake, which is believed to have been a lot bigger than it is today, was historically freshwater but persists today as a much smaller saltwater lake.

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View of Qauron Lake in Al Fayoum – Fayoum Government official website

Since 1989, the lake has been protected to preserve the area’s biological and archeological activities formed as a result of the rare fossils that the lake has. Still, the lake is open for doing many activities like water sports, bird-watching, and fishing; fishing season is between July and September.

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Sunset at Qaroun Lake – Fayoum Government website

The lake is 115 kilometers squared, with two depths: five meters in the Eastern side of the lake and 13 meters in the Western side of the lake.

Siwa’s Salt Lake:

Located at the foot of a mountain in Siwa called “Al-Tibtah”, the lake, which is extremely salty, provides relaxing, and medicinal uses for those wanting to get away from it all and those wanting to treat their skin, eyes, or sinusitis disease, respectively.

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Siwa Salty lake – Best Places Egypt official Facebook page

The lake is 4 meters in depth, and it is, apparently, impossible to drown because of the water’s heavy capacity; the salt increases the water’s capacity significantly.

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The lake’s view from the mountain – Best Places of Egypt official Facebook Page

Nasser lake:

This lake is one of the best fishing destinations worldwide. It is 550 kilometers in length and 180 meters in depth. It is considered by many to be the largest man-made lake in the world and it is the sixth-largest reservoir by nominal volume (132 kilometers squared).

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Nasser Lake in Aswan near to High Dam, April 15, 2010 – Wikimedia.com / Focusredsea

Lake Nasser was created as a byproduct of the construction of the High Dam in Aswan; it is named after the then-Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser Lake is considered to be an international rescue for dynastic era antiquities of the valley that would have been destroyed by today as a result of the recurring floods.

Holly lake:

Situated in Luxor near the Karnak Temple, the lake, which is private, is one of its kind, as it was historically used by priests for ritual washing and navigation. The lake is surrounded by storerooms and living quarters for the priests and also has an aviary for aquatic birds.

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The Holly Lake at the Temple of Karnak in Luxor, Egypt July 5, 2009– Wikimedia.com / Marc Ryckaert

The lake has a beautiful stone wall that leaves viewers spellbound. It also has a stairway that descends into water.]]>
11/30/2017 12:00:00 PM
<![CDATA[Visit Egypt’s first Christian monastery in Zaafarana]]>
The Hiking Club, which is an online group that aims to bring groups of people together to hike and travel, has organized a one-day visit to the Zaafarana mountains so people can explore the unknown gems of St. Paul's and St. Anthony's monasteries, which are the first monasteries in Christian history.

According to the Hiking Club event page, the journey will start at 7:55 a.m. at the Maadi Carrefour parking area to get picked up by coach. People will be dropped off at the same location at around 10 p.m. that evening.

1-_Monastery_of_St,Anthony_-_Wikipedia
Monastery of St. Anthony one Coptic Priests – Wikipedia
Once the bus arrives, all travelers will meet monks, climb to a hidden cave, listen to stories of miracles, and take a tour around the old and new buildings of the monasteries. They will also have a chance to buy some souvenirs from the monastery shops, such as books, honey and Christian relics. On the way back, the bus will stop at Port Sokhna for late lunch or early dinner.

St. Antony's Monastery (Deir Mar Antonios) and its neighbor, St. Paul's, are both Coptic Christian sites and are the oldest inhabited monasteries in Egypt. Both have exceptional frescos of holy knights in bright colors and of the hermit founders of the monastery in subdued colors. These frescos are widely known to monks and art historians.]]>
11/30/2017 2:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Manial Palace: Epitome of Ottoman dynasty ]]>
photo_of_the_golden_Hall,_Manial_Palace,_Cairo,_Egypt,_Egypt_Best_places,_undated_photo
photo of the golden Hall, Manial Palace, Cairo, Egypt, Egypt Best places - Facebook page
The main founder of the palace was Prince Mohamed Ali, son of Khedive Mohamed Tawfiq, who was born in 1875 and died in 1945. Ali drew all the architectural plans and decorations for the palace himself. The palace stands as a mere reflection for Ali’s love for Islamic art in all its shapes.

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Photo of the mosque, Manial Palace, Cairo, Egypt, Egypt best places - Facebook page
Standing as an epitome of the Ottoman dynasty, the palace entails five separate and distinctively styled buildings, surrounded by a Persian-styled garden within a larger extensive landscape garden, along a small branch of the Nile.

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Photo of Throne Room, Manial Palace, Cairo, Egypt, Egypt Best Places - Facebook page
Located on Manial Island in southern Cairo, the palace has been preserved by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities since 1955. Being a public art and history museum, the palace reflects the settings and lifestyle of the late 19th- and early 20th-century Egyptian royal prince and heir apparent.

photo_of_residence_room,_Manial_Palace,_Cairo,_Egypt,_Egypt_Best_Places_page,_undated_photo
Photo of residence room, Manial Palace, Cairo, Egypt, Egypt Best Places - Facebook page
The palace is built on 61,711 square meters, and the residence building on over 5,000 square meters. The unprecedented architectural masterpiece entails three throne rooms: the residence, the reception and the throne. This is in addition to the mosque, the private museum, the fishing museum, the clock tower and the golden hall.

Photo_of_Fishing_Mueseum,_Manial_Palace,_Cairo,_Egypt,_Egypt_Best_Place_facebook_page,_undated_photo
Photo of Fishing Museum, Manial Palace, Cairo, Egypt, Egypt Best Place - Facebook page ]]>
11/29/2017 12:00:00 PM
<![CDATA[Famed Libyan ruins rely on locals for support]]>
Guards are unpaid and most visitors are local, with only the occasional handful of foreigners, including one or two intrepid tourists, making it to the site.

On weekdays, it is almost deserted, with only the odd group of local teenagers dotted among the expansive ruins.

“There’s something that remains of the tourist police, but they can’t protect it,” says 60-year-old Ali Hrebish, one of several dozen volunteer guards who “for God and country” help watch over the site. “We live here, we protect it.”

In the car park small groups of men drink coffee and watch football on TV. Postcards and souvenirs gather dust in tourist shops that are either closed or deserted.

Foreign tourists came frequently before the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, locals say, but visits halted as the security situation declined rapidly in 2013-2014. Conflict left Libya with competing governments, hampering both national and international conservation efforts.

Leptis Magna, which UNESCO added along with four other Libyan sites to its “World Heritage in Danger” list last year, is mostly clean and appears well preserved, though in one part of the baths a section of flooring recently collapsed and graffiti has been scribbled on marble walling.

“We try to overcome the dichotomy between east and west (forces in Libya) and try to encourage the grass roots to protect the cultural heritage,” said Zaki Aslan, Arab states representative for ICCROM, an intergovernmental body for the conservation of cultural heritage that runs training programs for Libyans.

“They are trying their best but in a country where to some extent the rule of law is not in place, you have construction, encroachments to some of the sites. This vacuum has allowed some looting,” said Aslan.

On a recent Friday, dozens local daytripping families wandered in Leptis Magna. Two Westerners, one from New Zealand and the other from Austria, were also visiting as part of a trip organized by Soviet Tours, a Berlin-based firm.

Its Italian founder, Gianluca Pardelli, said about 60 non-Arab tourists had traveled to Libya last year, and his company had brought six people to the country since launching in May. UK-based Lupine travel, which offers “unique destinations at budget prices” including North Korea and Chernobyl, also sells trips to Libya.

Pardelli sees huge potential in Libya, including tourism for Italians whose families once settled in the former colony, but for security reasons does not offer trips to ruins at Sabratha in western Libya, Cyrene in the east or to the Sahara desert.

The only problems his clients have had is getting stuck at Tripoli airport, he said. Two travelers were recently questioned for hours, missing their flights.

“When they check passports sometimes we just breeze through the checks and in 30 minutes they are outside the airport, and sometimes it takes hours.”

In Iraq and Syria, two other destinations he offers, it is simpler because travelers only go to areas under government control, he said.]]>
11/29/2017 11:20:33 AM
<![CDATA[The cheek of it: US tourists held for baring bums at Thai temple]]>
The pair, Joseph and Travis Dasilva, both 38, uploaded pictures on November 24 of their bared backsides at Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn) to Instagram.

It was not immediatley clear if the men were related.

But their asinine antics could land them in more serious trouble after police sought to charge them under a draconian computer crime law -- an offence that can carry jail time.

The riverside temple, whose ancient 'prang' - tower - is the one of Bangkok's best known landmarks, features on the logo of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

The men were detained at a Bangkok airport late Tueday and fined $150 each.

"They were detained as they were about to leave Thailand," Colonel Cherngron Rimpadee, an Immigration Police spokesman said, adding they were on a 'watch list' after their social media posts caught authorities' attention.

Colonel Jarupat Thongkomol, from the police station near the temple which is managing the case, said the men now faced more serious charges.

"We are now seeking court approval to prosecute them on Computer Crime Act for uploading pornographic pictures," he said.

The act carries up to five years jail per charge and is routinely slapped on political dissidents or people deemed to have insulted Thailand's monarchy.

Junta-run Thailand takes a hardline on disrespectful gestures towards Buddhism, the dominant religion in Thailand.

Tourists are told not buy and sell Buddha sculptures or get sacred tattoos or of images of the Buddha for fashion purposes.

People visiting temples are also expected to dress modestly, covering their shoulders and legs -- with advice signs common at Bangkok's religious landmarks.

In 2015 neighbouring Malaysia deported four western tourists after charging them with obscenity for taking nude photos on a mountain on Borneo island.]]>
11/29/2017 10:08:43 AM
<![CDATA[ Indonesia re-opening Bali airport shut by volcanic ash]]>
The eagerly awaited decision opens up a window of hope for some of more than 120,000 tourists stranded after a spike in activity at Mount Agung grounded hundreds of flights since Monday.

But airport officials cautioned that the only direct international gateway to the tropical island could be shuttered again if winds change direction and towering columns of smoke and ash pose a risk to flights.

"The airspace will be re-opened" at 3:00 pm local time (0700 GMT), Bali Ngurah Rai airport spokesman Arie Ahsanurrohim told AFP.

But "we are going to constantly monitor the situation on the ground," he added.

Ash is dangerous for planes as it makes runways slippery and can be sucked into their engines.

Mount Agung could produce a major eruption at any moment, officials have warned.

Tens of thousands have already fled their homes around the volcano -- which last erupted in 1963, killing around 1,600 people -- but as many as 100,000 will likely be forced to leave, disaster agency officials have said.

Experts said Agung's recent activity matches the build-up to the earlier disaster, which ejected enough debris -- about a billion tonnes -- to lower global average temperatures by around 0.3 degrees Celsius for roughly a year.

"Small eruptions have been happening continuously but there's still the possibility of a bigger, explosive eruption," said I Gede Suantika, a senior volcanologist at Indonesia's volcanology agency.

"Activity remains high and we are still on the highest alert level."

Roadside signs that read "Volcanic danger zone. No entry!" underscored the potential risks of staying behind.

There is a 10 kilometre exclusion zone around Agung, which is 75 kilometres away from the beachside tourist hub of Kuta.

As of Wednesday around 440 flights had been cancelled since the start of the week.

The airport on nearby Lombok island -- also a popular tourist destination -- has opened and closed several times in the past few days. It is currently open.

- 'Ring of Fire' -

Some 100 buses are hauling visitors to several destinations including Indonesia's second-biggest city Surabaya -- 13 hours' drive and a ferry ride away -- and the capital Jakarta, the airport said, as torrential rain lashed the beach paradise.

The majority of Bali's tourists are Chinese, followed by Australians, Indians, British visitors and Japanese, according to the immigration office, which added that nearly 25,000 foreigners live on the small, Hindu-dominated island.

Foreigners whose visitor visas are expiring will be given a special permit to stay longer due to the eruption, the agency added.

Agung rumbled back to life in September, forcing the evacuation of 140,000 people living nearby. Its activity decreased in late October and many returned to their homes.

However, on Saturday the mountain sent smoke up into the air for the second time in a week in what volcanologists call a phreatic eruption -- caused by the heating and expansion of groundwater.

So-called cold lava flows have also appeared -- similar to mud flows and often a prelude to the blazing orange lava of popular imagination.

Indonesia, the world's most active volcanic region, lies on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent volcanic and seismic activities.

Last year, seven people were killed after Mt. Sinabung on the western island of Sumatra erupted. A 2014 eruption at Sinabung killed 16.]]>
11/29/2017 9:41:33 AM
<![CDATA[Islamic Art Museum]]>
After years of renovation and reorganization of the available collection, the museum opened its doors last August for the audience to be dazzled by its contents. Located in the heart of the Arab world, with a new display including approximately 1,700 objects, MIA is still one of the most important and largest collections on the subject in the world.

Relocated here in 1903 from its original home at the Fatimid Mosque of al-Hakim, this building is of tremendous importance, as it is the oldest building purposefully built to display Islamic art.

The collection was accumulated from various sources, including excavations, purchases, gifts and important Islamic monuments in Cairo. Consequently, the museum owns impressive ceramics, textiles, metalwork, carved wood and stone artifacts that illustrate the material culture of Egypt from the 7th-19th centuries, as well as the largest group of enameled and gilded Mamluk mosque lamps in the world.

Previously arranged by material, the new scenario takes a chronological approach, beginning with the Umayyad era, before continuing with the Abbasid/Tulunid, Fatimid, Ayyubid, Mamluk and Ottoman periods. The second half of the tour includes artifacts from Ottoman Turkey, Persia and Andalus (Muslim Spain), as well as thematic sections, such as funerary art, epigraphy, calligraphy, carpets and textiles, geometry, astronomy and medicine.

The museum is one large floor, yet has enough exhibits for at least two hours of interesting browsing. The museum's interior was designed to depend on the natural light, which makes it among the most comfortable museums in Egypt to visit.

The museum's tickets are fairly affordable. Foreigners are charged LE 50 ($2.77) per adult and LE 10 per student; Egyptians are charged LE 10 per adult and LE 5 per student. A photography ticket costs LE 50.

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a hall inside islamic art museum,Egypt Best Place facebook page, Cairo, Egypt, 21 November.jpg
]]>
11/29/2017 9:36:46 AM
<![CDATA[One day in Egypt's Ain Sokhna to refresh ]]>
Located 55 km south of Suez and 120 km east of Cairo, Ain Sokhna is a town in Suez governorate lying on the western shore of the Red Sea, and it is the closest resort town to Cairo.

The town is located near Ataqa Mountain — the Eastern Desert’s northernmost mountain — and its sulfur healing springs that flow from Ataqa is the reason the place got this name, which translates as “hot spring.”

Being a year-round sunshine destination with gentle waves of the Red Sea and its close proximity to Egypt’s capital city makes Ain Sokhna the ideal destination to have a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters are the main reasons Ain Sokhna is known as a center for deep-sea fishing, let alone the resort’s diving centers that rank among the world's premier diving locations and famous for its wind and kite surfing too.

Water sports aren’t the only attractions this resort town can offer, as Ain Sokhna is also a favorite for underwater photography, as well as an ideal site for camping. With a constant breeze, windsurfing is also popular. On land, desert safaris in the nearby oasis and canyons add to the list of attractions at Ain Sokhna. ]]>
11/29/2017 9:34:08 AM
<![CDATA[Seven hidden underwater gems in Egypt ]]>
There is a hidden gem beneath the surface of the Red Sea in Egypt, where millions of pristine coral reefs are situated and various sea creatures live, such as sharks, sea turtles and dolphins, making the bottom of the Red Sea a hidden world and the perfect diving spot.

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Photo1: White Tip reff shark in a cave at Marsa Alam, Red Sea, August, 27, 2011 – Wikimedia.com/ Dereck Keats.

Fortunately, Egypt hosts many impressive diving sites along the Red Sea’s shores – some of them are appealing to divers, while others aren’t accessible.
These diving sites are distributed throughout Egypt’s Red Sea cities.

In Marsa Allam City:
Although it is a small town on the western shore of the Red Sea, it is excellent for diving.
The diving season there is year–round, and in the late summer and early autumn the city enjoys the most wonderful warm temperatures.

Elphinstone Reef (Sha’ab Abu Hamra)

This site attracts divers seeking sharks such as the hammerhead shark and oceanic white-tip. It is famous for its strong, ever-changing currents, deep caves and coral plateaus. It lies in the open ocean, over seven miles (12 kilometers) from the Marsa Abu Dahab coastline. It is an enjoyable two-hour drive from Port Ghalib. Its diving depth ranges from 100 to 213 feet, which is sufficient for exploration. You can gaze over at the sarcophagus archway, but it is accessible only for technically trained divers.

Dolphin House (Sha’ab Samadai)

It is a familiar diving site, as it permits both trained and non-trained divers to go down and is accessible all year long. It is host approximately 60 spinner dolphins to swim and snorkel at a time. It has many immense stalagmites and fascinating coral formations.

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Photo 2: Reef teeming with variety of fish in Mrasa Alam Divingh site, February 17, 2014 – wikimedia.com/


In Hurghada:

As well as being one of the most visited resort towns in South Sinai, it is also known as one the best diving sites in the world.

Marsa Abu Galawa

It stretches for 14 kilometers around the North East of Hurghada between Biftun Island and Shaab Umm Qamar. It is full of moray eels and white-tip reef sharks. It is 200 meters long with reef top and has two pinnacles at 12 meters.


Fannadir

It is one of Hurghada’s largest coral reefs. It has been a protected marine area since 2006. Its dive depth ranges from 12 meters to 22 meters, making both shallow and deep dives possible.

Abu Hashish

It is also known as “Father of Grass” because the sea grass beds in the area. You can swim down the slope at the base to enjoy the view of coral reefs.


In Safaga:

Safaga is popular for its diving sites; diving is in fact the most famous activity and sport in the area.


Sandy Island
It is a sand bottom at a depth of 6-10 meters. The reef which extends northwards is 25 meters long. It has all kinds of hard corals; amongst the most beautiful are table corals, fire corals and brain corals. Pipe fishes, parrot fishes, doctor fishes, and sea turtles also call it home.

Ras Abu Soma Garden
It lies at the Northern end of Safaga Bay with a depth of 25 meters. The excellent visibility and nearby drop-off invites divers to spend unique moments there, where you can see old table corals, grey reef sharks, white-tip reef sharks, stingrays, hammerhead sharks, eagle rays, as well as many other big fish.]]>
11/29/2017 2:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. radio: Strong return of Egyptian tourism in 2017 after years of unrest]]>
BRI radio reported that the tourist industry is booming and visitors are returning to the bazaars in Khan al-Khalili, Luxor, and even to the Red Sea’s beaches.

Between January and September 2017, 5.9 million tourists visited Egypt, compared to 3.8 million during the same period in 2016, according to official figures.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (WTO) ranked Egypt as the second fastest growing tourism destination in 2017, saying that Egypt is expected to receive 8 million tourists by the end of the year. However, there are still fewer visitors in the country today than there was prior to the 2011 Revoution. At the time, Egypt received more than 14.7 million tourists in 2010 and the tourism sector accounted for 10 per cent of the workforce in the country.

The report noted that the Egyptian government is very disappointed with some countries countries, for example Britain. According to the report, the British Government is still worried about their citizen’s safety in Egypt, despite the tightening of airport security procedures with the assistance of the British Aviation Security Company.

The report also states that it is still too early to measure the impact caused by the recent terrorist attack on Al-Rawdah mosque in Arish, Northern Sinai. However, it is important to keep in mind that many European countries that are considered to be safe, such as France, Germany, and Britain, have also recently witnessed an increasing number of terrorist attacks.

Swedish tourist Emily Erickson, who visited Khan al-Khalili earlier this month, said that the terror attack will not change European perspective about the security situation in Egypt. “At least we know that attacks can take place anywhere,” Erickson said.

Moreover, Rajab al-Mutali, a tourist guide in Luxor, pointed out that an increasing number of tourists have been coming to Luxor since September. Reservations for Nile trips between Luxor and Aswan have increased by 50 per cent. “This is a great improvement in comparison to previous years,” he said.

The U.S. radio station also reported that the growing confidence in Egypt's tourism sector is also evident in the occupancy rates in the Hilton Hotels. Mohab Ghali, vice president of Hilton Worldwide in North Africa, told Reuters news agency that hotel occupancy rates in Egypt have risen this year by 20 and 25 per cent.]]>
11/28/2017 10:45:08 PM
<![CDATA[‘Trash islands’ off Central America indicate ocean pollution problem]]>
These “trash islands” have been captured in images by photographer Caroline Power, who lives on Honduran island of Roatan.

The problem shows that trash “continues to enter our oceans that leads to the formation of these trash patches,” she told AFP by email.Some of the detritus clumped together in the waves that she documented was being deposited on beaches around Omoa, a seaside town in northern Honduras.

It included hospital waste and plastic containers of all types.“It’s an environmental disaster,” Omoa’s deputy mayor, Leonardo Serrano, told AFP.

Serrano blamed the garbage on neighbouring Guatemala, claiming that communities dumped their refuse into a river and that it had gathered at sea to form floating islands.
Power, though, disputed that.

“We also do not know where the garbage comes from,” she said.“One of the main sources are rivers on the mainland of Honduras and Guatemala,” she said. “But the rest could come from anywhere. It could come on currents from anywhere in Central America or the Caribbean.

“Some of micro plastics have probably floating around for years.”During the May to December rainy season in Honduras, the floating garbage dumped on Omoa’s promontories and beaches damages the town’s appeal, said municipal tourism chief Amilcar Fajardo.

On a walk, he showed plastic bottles, medicine containers and empty insecticide cans with Guatemalan labels to prove his point.Marine biologist Nancy Calix said that much of the garbage sinks to the seabed, damaging underwater fauna.

“We have found fish, even turtles up to a metre wide, dead after ingesting these plastics,” she said.The plastics waste problem came to light three years ago but has been getting worse since, Calix said.

Omoa’s town hall pays for beach clean-ups, but the trash washes up faster than the pick-up crews can remove it.“On Friday, we filled 20 dump trucks of 13 cubic metres each, and it made almost no difference,” Omoa Mayor Ricardo Alvarado said.

“We are even finding bags holding blood” that came from Guatemalan hospitals, he said.Alvarado said that sometimes parts of beach are dug up and the garbage is buried. Mostly, however, the waste is taken to a municipal garbage dump at high cost to local taxpayers.

Guatemalan Environment Minister Sydney Samuels earlier this week promised to build a $1.6-million trash-handling plant on the Motagua River that runs along the Guatemalan side of the border to handle some of the trash.Earlier this month Guatemalan Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel met with Honduran officials to discuss the pollution problem.

According to the UN Environment Programme, 6.4 million tonnes of trash end up in the sea each year, with most of it – 70 per cent – falling into the depths. Some 15 per cent stays circulating on ocean currents, while the rest washes up on beaches.]]>
11/28/2017 4:44:04 PM
<![CDATA[Kenya president lifts travel restrictions, saying all Africans can get visa on arrival]]>
“If you wish and find a willing partner, you can marry and settle in Kenya,” he said during his inauguration address, saying the move was designed to cement African ties.

“This commitment we make again with no requirement for reciprocity.”]]>
11/28/2017 4:41:04 PM
<![CDATA[Balinese offer prayers as rumbling volcano threatens tourism lifeblood]]>
The relatively small island has an outsized importance for Indonesian tourism. In January-September, Bali received 4.5 million foreign tourist arrivals, nearly half of the 10.5 million arrivals in Indonesia.

Foreign tourist arrivals to the majority-Hindu island rose 26 percent in the nine-month period on an annual basis, though dropped on a monthly basis in September, when Indonesian authorities first raised the warning alert on Agung.

“Bali is about tourism, nothing else. If it (the eruption) is prolonged for around 1-3 months, it will impact our tourism significantly,” said I Ketut Ardana, chairman of the Association of the Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies (ASITA).

“We can feel a small impact now, the price of staple goods is increasing,” he said.

Indonesia closed Bali’s airport on Tuesday for a second day, stranding thousands of visitors due to the ash cloud. On Monday alone, it disrupted 445 flights that would have carried 59,000 passengers.

Chinese tourists have overtaken Australians to become the top visitors to Bali, representing around a quarter of arrivals in January-September. Australian and Japanese tourists are the second- and third-largest groups.

Foreign tourists spent about $1,100 on average during Indonesia holidays in 2016, according to tourism ministry data.

President Joko Widodo has been trying to promote creation of 10 “new Balis” in other parts of the scenic Indonesian archipelago. But for many so far, holidaying in Indonesia means going to Bali.ECONOMY STUCK IN SLOWER GEAR

As Agung spewed tall columns of ash, life continued largely as normal on Tuesday for villagers near the volcano who set up traditional markets and offered Hindu prayers.

Matthew Smyth from Ireland, a restaurant owner in Amed, around 15 km (9 miles) from the volcano, said many businesses using rented land would be threatened if the eruption dragged on.

“Half of the businesses here are built on credit... if the situation continues many people will lose their land,” said Smyth, who is also setting up a yoga retreat and freediving center.

The problems facing Bali tourism come as Indonesian policymakers have been trying to fire up an economy stuck at around 5 percent growth, held back by largely flat consumption.

Bali has been growing more quickly. The tourism sector was the biggest contributor to its 6.24 percent regional GDP growth last year.

But Agung has already put a dent in Bali’s growth this year.

“If it (the eruption) is prolonged to a month, especially in Bali, it could have an impact on tourism revenue. I think this is a short-term shock, but it needs to be watched,” said Myrdal Gunarto, an economist at Maybank Indonesia in Jakarta.

Wayan Wirjana, 31, the manager of a restaurant in Candi Dasa, a popular beach town in Bali, said he was only getting five visitors a day, down from 15-20 in the summer, and expects the usually busy Christmas and New Year period to be slow.

“If things continue in the long term, like through the Christmas period, we’ll have to lay off staff even if temporarily. We all have families so there is a very real impact on us,” he said. ]]>
11/28/2017 4:37:37 PM
<![CDATA[Tourists, authorities feel the heat as Bali volcano keeps airport closed]]>
A total of 443 flights, both domestic and international, were affected by the closure of the airport, about 60 km (37 miles) from Mount Agung which is spewing smoke and ash high into the sky.

“Aircraft flight channels are covered with volcanic ash,” the transport ministry said in a statement, citing aviation navigation authorities.

The airport - the second-biggest in Indonesia - will be closed at least until 7 a.m. on Wednesday (2300 GMT on Tuesday), the ministry said.

Frustration at the airport was starting to boil over, with an estimated 2,000 people attempting to get refunds and reschedule tickets.

“There are thousands of people stranded here at the airport,” said Nitin Sheth, a tourist from India. “They have to go to some other airport and they are trying to do that, but the government or authorities here are not helping.” Others were more relaxed.

“No, there’s not a lot of information ... very little. (But) it’s all right. We’re on holidays so it doesn’t matter. We don’t know what’s going to happen but we can get back to the bar and have another drink,” said Matthew Radix from Perth.

The airport operator said 201 international flights and 242 domestic ones had been hit. Ten alternative airports had been prepared for airlines to divert inbound flights, including in neighboring provinces, the operator said, adding it was helping people make alternative bookings and helping stranded travelers.

The airport on Lombok island, to the east of Bali, had reopened, authorities said, as wind blew ash westward, towards the southern coast of Java island.

PRAYERS

Agung towers over eastern Bali to a height of just over 3,000 meters (9,800 feet). Its last eruption in 1963 killed more than 1,000 people and razed several villages.On Tuesday, however, life went on largely as normal in surrounding villages, with residents offering prayers as the volcano sent huge billows of ash and smoke into the sky.

Some villagers who fled in September, when the alert was last raised to the highest level, have gone home despite government warnings.On Monday, authorities said 100,000 residents living near the volcano had been ordered to get out of an 8-10 km (5-6 mile) exclusion zone, warning a larger eruption was “imminent”.

While the population in the area has been estimated at anywhere between 63,000 and 140,000, just over 29,000 people were registered at emergency centers, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the Disaster Mitigation Agency.

“Not all people in the danger zone are prepared to take refuge,” he said.“There are still a lot of residents staying in their homes.”]]>
11/28/2017 3:10:01 PM
<![CDATA[Civil Aviation Minister heads for London to take part in conference]]>
The participants will discuss means of achieving preventive security and fighting terrorism in an effort to foil all criminal acts that would affect the movement of civil aviation.

The conference is also aimed at reviewing surveillance systems of civil aviation to guarantee a higher quality.

]]>
11/28/2017 2:26:30 PM
<![CDATA[Indian tourism in Egypt growing, expected to boom in 2018]]>
According to Central Agency for Public Mobilization and statistics, the number of Indian tourists visiting Egypt has increased to 66,000, while the same time last year saw only 7,650 tourists flying in.

To ensure that Indian tourists are aware of sights, monuments and activities available in Egypt, the government is working on a pre-decided three-point plan:

1- Starting a promotional Campaign in India:

1-Indian_Tourists_in_The_Sphinx_at_The_Giza_Pyramids_-_Reuters
Indian Tourists in the Sphinx at Giza Pyramids – Reuters

The Head of General Authority for Tourism Development organized meetings between the Egyptian delegation and Indian travel agencies between January 22 and January 25, 2018, to launch a promotional campaign, aiming to encourage Indian tourists to make Egypt their next getaway and their favorite destination. The campaign will showcase Egypt’s most wonderful places and will display many offers.

2- Participating in the OTM Fair:

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View of Taj Mahl in India April.23,2017- Pixabay.com

In coordination with the General Authority for Tourism Development, the Mumbai-based travel office will participate in India’s biggest travel fair, known as OTM, starting January 18, 2018.

OTM is one of India’s biggest tourist fairs, as it included around 1,154 participants from 60 Countries in 2016, including 12 Egyptian travel agencies.

3- Be a Part of SATTE Show:

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Apart of SATTE conference participants ,2016 – SATTE.com

The General Authority for Tourism Development intends to participate in India’s oldest travel fair (SATTE), set to be held in New Delhi, the capital of India, between January 31 and February 2, 2018.

It is expected that this year's SATTE will welcome around 900 participants from 50 countries celebrating the Silver Jubilee of this travel trade Show. ]]>
11/28/2017 12:00:00 PM
<![CDATA[Be brave and enter Gebel al-Mawta in Siwa]]>
Heading to the northern end of Siwa, a small hill from sandstone rock, peppered with hundreds of holes, will cause you to stop for hours. You will want to discover the inside and outside of the hill, both of which are magical. This hill is Gebel al-Mawta.

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Hundreds of holes pockmark Gebel al-Mawta in Siwa, May 11, 2011 – Flicker.com/ Heather Cowper
When you first enter the hill, which is considered by many to be a Pharaonic, Roman and Ptolemaic graveyard, and go down the first few steps, you are met with a honeycomb wall with paintings dating back to the 26th Ptolemaic dynasty and Roman times.

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West side of Gebel al-Mawta in Siwa, September 3, 2007- Wikimedia/ Roland Unger
There are four main tombs. First, Si-Amun has colored roofs of a dead man thought to be a Greek landowner or merchant praying for Egyptian gods. Second, the Mesu-Isis tomb is full of depictions of cobras in red and blue. Third, Niperbathot includes crude drawings in reddish ink, similar to that seen today on modern Siwan pottery.

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Entrance of a tomb inside Gebel al-Mawta in Siwa, February 13, 2001 – Wikimeda/ Roland Unger
Fourth, the Crocodile tomb represents yellow crocodiles of the god Sobek and has walls and ceilings painted in red, ochre and cobalt blue of the ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses.

From the top of Gebel al-Mawta, you can take a panorama view over the whole oasis.]]>
11/28/2017 9:24:09 AM
<![CDATA[Ep. 14 - Holy Family’s longest stay in Egypt: Muharraq Monastery]]>
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1: Edited map of the Holy Family’s route in Egypt – Egypt Tourism Authority

According to the Coptic tradition, a carpenter named Dianus hosted them in Philes. Dianus had a sick child who was healed by the blessed power of Jesus; besides, the presence of Jesus caused idols in the village to fall apart. The two incidents sent the powerful men of the village into rage, so they sent soldiers to capture the strangers.

News reached Dianus, he managed to secure them passage to escape in the early morning, shortly they arrived at Cusae, now known as el-Qusiya. When the people of Cusae hunted them down, the family fled to the nearby village of Meir. It was then when God made a revelation to Joseph telling him to ascend the western mountain, and they did. They were followed by two thieves, one of which felt pity for Mary who was sick and in pain at the time, so he returned what he had stolen from her, and the family spent the night in a deserted house on the mountain top.

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2: A woman and a child inside one of the Muharraq Monastery churches, Asyut Oct. 15, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

The morning sun had just shone upon the small Family when one of them saw a dry and deserted well. Fresh water flew back into the well when Jesus blessed it, making the place suitable for long-term living. No pursuits, thieves or idols collapsing here. Joseph the Carpenter decided to build a hut using palm fronds, which would later become a church, the first church in human history. As days go by, it would become a monastery, home to dozens of monks. Today, it is called Muharraq Monastery.

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3: The altar of the claimed first church in human history at Muharraq Monastery, Asyut Oct. 15, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

After traveling from one village to another, we arrived at a village named after the monastery. We saw its crosses high up on the horizon and a giant gate in the middle of an ancient wall that looks like old cities’ walls erected in the middle of farmlands. Later, we learned that the wall was built in the 4th century as a tribute to the walls of Jerusalem. According to the beliefs the church holds, Muharraq Monastery is the second Jerusalem, so it is natural for it to be surrounded by a wall that resemble Jerusalem’s.

Upon entering the monastery, we saw a big portrait of Reverend Sawiris, the abbot of the monastery who passed away months ago. The legacy he left behind was a rich monastic school.

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4: A woman at one of Muharraq Monastery churches, Asyut Oct. 15, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

In the monastery, we met Reverend Philoxenus al-Muharraqi, a middle-aged monk: tall, eloquent and neat-looking. As soon as we took a few steps in with him, we saw a magnificent palace that looked like a pashas’ palaces surrounded by old homesteads. It was called the Abbot’s Palace and was built in 1910 during Father Pachomius’ term. Father Pachomius was the first abbot.

Reverend Philoxenus stopped outside a small door adorned with stones, at which people took off their shoes. This was the ancient church, the first church in history, where Christ lived safely for six months and five days and where he finally slept in peace after a difficult journey. This is where his virgin mother could rest and close her eyes, maybe for the first time since she fled her home in fear, moved her baggage from village to city and from land to water. Only here could Joseph the Carpenter build a home for his small family. Only here was he finally relieved that he could protect them and that God’s promise was fulfilled. And here is where blessed Mary settled, too.

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5: Women and children at an icon of Mary and Jesus that reads “mother of God” in Arabic at Muharraq Monastery churches, Asyut Oct. 15, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

This is where the Holy Family could rest, but not for long because an angel came to Joseph to tell him that their difficult journey was over. In a blessed night, the angel came to Joseph in a dream with glad tidings, telling him to go back home.
Herod had died and his death announced the end of the evil persecution of Jesus’s followers and the madness of pursuing the Family. Jesus laid the grounds for his first church here and then began the easy journey back. No mountains or caves, nor difficult roads and no hiding.

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6: The door to the altar of the claimed first church in human history at Muharraq Monastery, Asyut, that exhibits Coptic and Arabic writing on Oct. 15, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

Reverend Philoxenus entered the church and showed us in. Before the church altar, which had a wooden curtain, he said, “this is the altar Prophet Isaiah prophesied 700 years before the birth of Christ when he said ‘In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the heart of Egypt and a monument to the LORD at its border.”

The Reverend interpreted these words saying that the monastery is in fact located in the middle of Egypt and Egypt itself is located in the middle of the world. Therefore, its blessings engulf the whole world.

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7: One of the buildings inside Muharraq Monastery, Asyut on Oct. 15, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

The reverend indicated that the house where the Holy Family lived was built with mud-bricks. It was first used as a church during the late 1st century A.D., when Christ came and built the altar with his apostles. Throughout the years, it was expanded and restored, until the last restoration in 2000.

On the wooden cover of the church sanctuary, we saw small carved white crosses, and above them, icons of Christ’s 12 apostles. Next to it, there was another sanctuary for Habesha monks who lived in the monastery for many decades and built a church above this one.

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8: A woman at an icon of Virgin Mary at Muharraq Monastery, Asyut on Oct. 15, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

Reverend Philoxenus said that Habesha monks wanted to live in Jerusalem, but could not travel there, so they lived in Asyut’s monastery alternatively.

There was a famous icon for the Virgin Mary called “The Virgin Queen” painted by Anastasias the Roman in the 19th century. He was a painter from Jerusalem who used his brushes and colors to create immortal art in most stops of the Holy Family’s long journey.

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9: A woman and children at the relics of saints at Muharraq Monastery, Asyut on Oct. 15, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

Reverend Philoxenus opened the sanctuary, moved the iconostasis to the side and stood exactly at the spot which the Holy Family blessed. As in other Coptic churches, the sanctuary was covered with a curtain and above it was an icon of the Virgin and her Christ Child. Next to it, there was a copper candlestick, with two candles lighting up Christ’s icon near the ceiling.

There was a unique icon of the Virgin, called “The Villager Virgin.” It depicted the Mother of Light wearing peasant clothes that resemble the garments women from the Egyptian countryside wear. Her skin color was darker and her eyes looked more Egyptian. Christ himself was shown wearing a jellabiya, a traditional Nile Valley garment and looked like a child in an Egyptian Delta village. Above them were three stars, Reverend Philoxenus told us they stand for virginity.

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10: A man at the relics of saints at Muharraq Monastery, Asyut on Oct. 15, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

He said the first star symbolizes that she was a virgin before getting pregnant with Christ. The second symbolizes that she was a virgin during her pregnancy. The third symbolizes that she stayed a virgin after his birth. Beneath her, there were depictions of Saint Mercurius the Martyr (Abu-Sefein), Saint George, Saint Antonius (the first monk), and Saint Paul the First Hermit. Reverend Philoxenus said that the depictions of the martyrs and saints beneath the Virgin’s icon demonstrate that she is their mother.

In the church, we saw a little girl, Flomina, in her white baptism gown. Her mother carried her away after being baptized; the mother took such a long journey in order to baptize her in the first church built by Christ.

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11: A man taking a selfie with a young girl in front of an icon inside at Muharraq Monastery, Asyut on Oct. 15, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

The sacrament of baptism is one of the Coptic Church’s seven sacraments and goes back to the time when Christ baptized a young man in the Jordan River. Priests immerse babies three times in water, after the mother recites a prayer called “The Woman’s Prayer.” The child is anointed with chrism before they are immersed in water.

We went back to the monastery’s humid cloister and entered the Church of Mar Girgis, the largest church in the Monastery. Reverend Philoxenus told us it dates to 1881 and was built over the ruins of another old church. What was especially striking about it was the marble iconostasis as well as the style of the icons themselves. They were painted in red and gold, above them a Bible verses carved in Arabic calligraphy.

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12: Father Philoxenus at relics of saints with Egypt Today contributor inside at Muharraq Monastery, Asyut on Oct. 15, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

The verses read, “To fear the Lord is fullness of wisdom” and “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” The Reverend clarified that the artistic style of this church is Byzantine, not Coptic like the rest. Two of the most famous painters and saints painted it, Georgie Demetri and Nikola Georgie and there are elements of Arabic calligraphy in the style as well.

We went back to the hallways of the monastery and Reverend Philoxenus took us to the ancient fortress: old bricks, tiny windows in the middle of the doors to watch out for raiders, crosses carved on walls and a passage that connects the entrance of the fortress to its end, surrounded with wood on both sides. We ducked and followed Reverend Philoxenus inside. He told us that the architectural style of the fortress does not resemble that of the church. The military style adopted by those monks who feared Berber raids goes back to the 7th century, and is similar to those built in Wadi El-Natrun. Many fortresses were built in different monasteries, but this one was never used for the protection of Muharraq Monastery.

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13: Father Philoxenus outside the fort of Muharraq Monastery, Asyut on Oct. 15, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

We followed Reverend Philoxenus through the fortress as if he was our guide into the desert. We continued walking till we saw the first monk to occupy this fortress. We saw a wooden maquette of a monk in his black monastic garments and he had a cross on his chest that seemed as if it were his beating heart.

In his hand, there was a piece of wood that he used to control the doors of the fortress downstairs and to close the passage as well. Behind him, there was an engraving of a pigeon, which symbolizes the Virgin. There were also palm fronds, which the people of Jerusalem waved for the victorious Christ as he returned on Palm Sunday.

On the left there was another door to the first room in the fortress where we saw other maquettes of other monks doing handiwork, like using fronds to make bags and tools. There was a second room with a small table and around it, maquettes of monks. Like all tables of ancient monasteries, monks leave their monastic cells which are carved into the rock and gather to eat together at the table once a week. In the fortress, there was also a small church named the Church of Saint Michael, the Archangel as the Bible calls him.

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14: Maquettes of monks at their dining table inside Muharraq Monastery, Asyut on Oct. 15, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

Churches in fortresses are usually called after him since he is the protector. In the church, there was an icon depicting him with his huge wings and sword, treading over the devil, which symbolized defeating evil. There were also upside-down pillars. Reverend Philoxenus told us that this is how pillars in churches usually look, symbolizes the fall of idolatry.

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15: Father Philoxenus at the top of Muharraq Monastery with Egypt Today contributor in Asyut Oct. 15, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

The sun went down and Reverend Philoxenus invited us to the monastery’s guesthouse. Dozens of visitors come here to eat food which has been blessed by Christ and his family’s presence here centuries ago. In the evening, monks light the whole monastery and leave for a short nap in their cells and at midnight, they wake up and light candles for their mid-night prayer again.

Translated by Heba Fadel

Ep. 13: Holy Family rest in Minya’s ‘Mountain of Birds’



Ep. 12: Minya, Upper Egypt – Holy Family’s first stop after Cairo



Ep. 11: At Holy Family’s Maadi station to Upper Egypt



Ep. 10: Holy Family leaves behind Egypt’s most visited church



Ep. 9: holy family in Egypt - Islamic Cairo



Ep.8: Holy Family in Egypt – Virgin’s Mary Tree in Heliopolis



Ep. 8: Holy Family in Egypt – St. Macarius Monastery



EP. 6: holy family visits Wadi el-Naturn, founds monasticism



Ep. 5: Holy Family in Egypt - Christ leaves ‘footprint’ on Xois rock



Ep. 4: Holy Family embraced in Sebennytos, leaves kneading trough



EP. 3: Holy family in Egypt – Mary bathes Christ in Musturud



Ep. 2: Holy Family in Egypt’s ‘cat house’ met with grain of salt



Ep. 1: Holy Family in Egypt - Pelusium ruins reveal war-torn past

]]>
11/28/2017 12:30:00 AM
<![CDATA[Indonesia orders immediate evacuation over Bali volcano]]>
The airport was closed for 24 hours from Monday morning, disrupting 445 flights and some 59,000 passengers, after Mount Agung, which killed hundreds of people in 1963, sent volcanic ash high into the sky, and officials said cancellations could be extended.

“Plumes of smoke are occasionally accompanied by explosive eruptions and the sound of weak blasts that can be heard up to 12 km (7 miles) from the peak,” the Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said in a statement after raising the alert from three to its highest level of four.

“The potential for a larger eruption is imminent,” it said, referring to a visible glow of magma at Mount Agung’s peak overnight, and warning residents to evacuate a danger zone at a radius of 8-10 km (5-6 miles).

Sutopo, a BNPB spokesman, said there had been no casualties so far and 40,000 people had left the area, but tens of thousands still needed to move.

Video footage shared by the agency showed volcanic mud flows (lahar) on the mountainside. Lahar carrying mud and large boulders can destroy houses, bridges and roads in its path.

Bali, famous for its surf, beaches and temples, attracted nearly 5 million visitors last year, and its airport serves as a transport hub for the chain of islands in Indonesia’s eastern archipelago.

But tourism has slumped in parts of Bali since September when Agung’s volcanic tremors began to increase and the alert level was raised to maximum before being lowered in October when seismic activity calmed.“I‘m really worried. Maybe I’ll go somewhere south that I think will be safe to avoid being trapped by the ashfall,” said Maria Becker, a German tourist staying in Amed, around 15 km (9 miles) from the volcano.

Agung rises majestically over eastern Bali to a height of just over 3,000 metres (9,800 feet). Northeastern Bali is relatively undeveloped compared to the more heavily populated southern tourist hub of Kuta-Seminyak-Nusa Dua.

Indonesia’s Vulcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Centre (PVMBG), which is using drones, satellite imagery and other equipment, said predictions were difficult in the absence of instrumental recordings from the last eruption 54 years ago.

In 1963, an eruption of Agung killed more than 1,000 people and razed several villages by hurling out pyroclastic material, hot ash, lava and lahar.

Recordings now show the northeast area of Agung’s peak has swollen in recent weeks “indicating there is fairly strong pressure toward the surface”, PVMBG said.

It warned that if a similar eruption occurred, it could send rocks bigger than fist-size up to 8 km (5 miles) from the summit and volcanic gas to a distance of 10 km (6 miles) within three minutes.

Some analysis, however, suggests the threat should not be as great this time because “energy at Mount Agung’s magma chamber is not as big” and the ash column only around a quarter as high so far as the 20 km (12 miles) reached in 1963, Sutopo said.

“CHECK-INS CLOSED”

Bali airport, about 60 km (37 miles) from the volcano, will be closed for 24 hours, its operator said.

Ten alternative airports have been prepared for airlines to divert inbound flights, including in neighboring provinces.

Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd said it was cancelling flights on Tuesday, while Jetstar was offering to exchange Bali bound tickets for other destinations.

Television footage showed hundreds of holidaymakers camped inside the airport terminal, some sleeping on their bags, others using mobile telephones.

“We have been here (in Bali) for three days we are about to leave today, but just found out our flights have been canceled. We have got no information because the gates, the check-ins, have been closed indefinitely,” said Carlo Oben from Los Angeles.

Cover-More, Australia’s biggest travel insurer, said on its website customers would only be covered if they had bought policies before the volcano alert was first issued on Sept. 18.

Indonesia’s hotel and restaurant association said stranded tourists at member hotels would get one night’s free stay.

The main airport on Lombok, next to Bali, was closed after being open for much of the day, a spokesman said.

Airlines avoid flying when volcanic ash is present because it can damage engines and can clog fuel and cooling systems and hamper visibility.]]>
11/27/2017 9:03:57 PM
<![CDATA[Bali airport may stay closed longer than 24 hours amid Agung eruption]]>
“We don’t know how long it will be closed for,” Pastika told reporters, referring to the Bali airport. “Sure, it’s been closed for 24 hours until tomorrow, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility the (closure) could be extended,” he said.

At least 5,000 foreign and 15,000-20,000 domestic tourists pass through the airport each day, according to Pastika.

Ngurah Rai is Bali’s main international gateway and a hub for tourists traveling to Indonesian islands further east.]]>
11/27/2017 2:33:05 PM
<![CDATA[Xi wants China to spruce up toilets to boost tourism, quality of life]]>
Xi launched the “toilet revolution” in 2015 as part of a drive to improve standards of domestic tourism in China, which he said suffers from deep-seated problems of a lack of civility.

“The toilet issue is no small thing, it’s an important aspect of building civilised cities and countryside,” Xi said, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

As an emerging industry, Chinese tourism needs an upgrade in both hardware and software to continue strong growth, Xinhua reported Xi as saying.

China’s National Tourism Administration recently announced plans to build and upgrade 64,000 toilets between 2018 and 2020.

But the toilet revolution is about more than just giving sightseers a better holiday experience; it is also about creating a more civilised society, Xinhua added.

Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has often visited homes in the countryside and makes checks to see if the locals use pit toilets, besides stressing that village modernisation requires sanitary toilets, Xinhua said.

In a course-setting speech to a meeting of the ruling Communist Party in October, Xi redefined the “principal contradiction” facing Chinese society for the first time since 1981, saying the current need was not just for more growth, but more equal growth to satisfy people’s desire for a “nice life”.

China’s tourism industry has upgraded 68,000 toilets over the last three years, completing about 19 per cent of the task, Xinhua said, in what it called “universally welcomed” renovations.]]>
11/27/2017 2:03:15 PM
<![CDATA[Thousands stranded as Bali volcano alert raised to highest level]]>
Bali’s airport was closed for 24 hours from Monday morning, disrupting 445 flights and some 59,000 passengers, due to the eruption and the presence of volcanic ash from Agung, but local officials said the closure could be extended.

Video footage shared by the disaster agency showed cold lava flows (lahar) at a number of locations on the mountainside. Lahar carrying mud and large boulders can destroy houses, bridges and roads in its path.

“Plumes of smoke are occasionally accompanied by explosive eruptions and the sound of weak blasts that can be heard up to 12 km (7 miles) from the peak,” the Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said in a statement after raising the alert level from three to four.

“The potential for a larger eruption is imminent,” it said, referring to the visible glow of magma at Agung’s peak overnight.

Residents were warned to “immediately evacuate” a danger zone that circles Agung in a radius of 8-10 km (5-6 miles).

Sutopo, a BNPB spokesman, said there had been no casualties so far and 40,000 people had left the area, but tens of thousands still needed to move and warned authorities would move them by force if necessary.

Agung rises majestically over eastern Bali to a height of just over 3,000 metres (9,800 feet). Eastern Bali is relatively undeveloped, with traditional rice paddies doting the landscape and the occasional budget resort, unlike the heavily populated southern tourist hub of Kuta-Seminyak-Nusa Dua.

Agung’s last eruption in 1963 left more than 1,000 people dead and razed several villages.

Analysis suggested the threat should not be as great this time because “energy at Mount Agung’s magma chamber is not as big” and with the ash column only around a quarter as high so far as the 20 km (12 miles) reached in 1963, said Sutopo.

“I‘m not worried (but) my friends in Russia are a little bit,” said a Russian tourist, who only wanted to be identified as Dmitry, at an observation post in Rendang in Bali’s east.

Bali, famous for its surf, beaches and temples, attracted nearly 5 million visitors last year, and its international airport serves as a transport hub for the chain of islands in Indonesia’s eastern archipelago.

Tourism business has slumped in Bali since September when Agung’s volcanic tremors began to increase.

TRAVELLERS STRANDED

According to the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in nearby Darwin, Australia, there is “ash confirmed on the ground at Denpasar Airport” as well as ash at FL300 (which refers to flight level at 30,000 feet) in the vicinity of the volcano.

Bali’s I Gusti Ngurah Rai airport, which is about 60 km (40 miles) from the volcano, will be closed for 24 hours, according to its operator. A total of 445 flights - 196 international and 249 domestic - and 59,000 passengers had been affected.

Ten alternative airports have been prepared for airlines to divert inbound flights, including in neighbouring provinces.

The airport operator said it was providing buses to take travellers to ferry ports for alternative travel arrangements.

Bali airport’s official website showed flights operated by Singapore Airlines, Sriwijaya, Garuda Indonesia, Malaysia Airlines and Jetstar had been cancelled.

Television footage showed hundreds of holidaymakers camped inside the airport terminal, some sleeping on their bags, others using mobile telephones.

“We have been here (in Bali) for three days we are about to leave today, but just found out our flights have been cancelled. We have got no information because the gates, the check-ins have been closed indefinitely,” said Carlo Oben from Los Angeles.

AIRLINE RISK FROM ASH

Cover-More, Australia’s biggest travel insurer, said on its website customers would only be covered if they had bought policies before the volcano alert was first issue on Sept. 18.

Indonesia’s hotel and restaurant association said stranded tourists at member hotels would get one night’s free stay.

A transport ministry spokesman said the main airport on the neighbouring island of Lombok had reopened after “no volcanic ash was detected”.

Airlines avoid flying when volcanic ash is present because it can cause significant damage to aircraft engines, leading to possible engine failure, and can clog fuel and cooling systems and hamper pilot visibility.

In June 1982, a British Airways 747 suffered severe damage and had all four engines flame out after encountering ash from Mount Galunggung in Indonesia. It descended to 12,000 feet before being able to restart some engines and make an emergency landing in Jakarta.

The alert level on Agung had been raised to the maximum in September, but was lowered in October when seismic activity calmed. However, volcanologists now say the volcano has entered a new phase with magma now visible at Agung’s peak, meaning a greater risk of a larger eruption.]]>
11/27/2017 1:21:47 PM
<![CDATA[Nuweiba’s hidden gem: Wadi al-Weshwashy ]]>
On your way to South Sinai, Wadi al-Weshwashy is situated near Ras Shitan Camp, just a short 15 kilometers away from Nuweiba. It is buried deep into the mountains of South Sinai, where the mountains contain granite.

Wadi al-Weshwashy has three water springs that formed after centuries of rain collecting in the folds of the mountains; the water springs nestled there are warm and clear due to the granite-formulated mountains.

Through a 90-minute hardcore hike up the mountain, which is 150 meters above water level, one has the opportunity to gaze and enjoy a three-part water spring, known as “Green Lake”. Day trippers hike to the first location while the two other areas are only accessible by swimming through the first.

Despite the magnificence and mystery of this place, it gains little attention from people and is mostly visited by Bedouins who have discovered and maintained this hidden beauty. Bedouins have also organized many trips to the valley; they take Nuweiba guests via jeep rides and offer them full-service till the day.

Being in this place simply fulfills your soul with the raw powers of nature, re-energizing you for the busy city life. The valley has no amenities; visitors often sit under palm trees and soak the view of natural water between mountains and enjoy the wind rushing by them.]]>
11/27/2017 12:30:27 PM
<![CDATA[Frescoes and friendship: Syrian refugee bridges divides in Milan]]>
Born 69 years ago in Homs, a city now devastated by the conflict in Syria, the bespectacled Muslim guide charms those in the Italian city by drawing on his memories of the religious tolerance taught in his youth.

Those dropping in to admire 16th-century frescoes at the San Maurizio church, dubbed "Milan's Sistine Chapel", may not be expecting their lessons on Renaissance art to be accompanied by moral musings.

Describing his education, Hamadi tells AFP: "The students were Muslims, Christians... we didn't pay any attention to all that.

"Once a week at school there was a lesson on Christian faith, and another on Muslim faith. The Muslim pupils went along to listen, and vice versa," he says.

"Diversity was a richness for the country," adds the guide, who has made his home in a continent where populism is on the rise and the far-right are making political gains following the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants.

Hamadi fled Syria in his twenties. A member of the Arab Socialist Party and opposed to the ruling powers at the time, he had already been imprisoned twice, and tortured.

He travelled first to Beirut, where he studied law, then on to Kuwait, Spain and finally Italy, working each time in the import-export business.

He married a Milanese woman and says he feels first and foremost "a citizen of the world".

After Hamadi's wife died and he retired, he dedicated his time to helping Syrian asylum-seekers fleeing the war back home, who would arrive exhausted and disorientated in Milan, hoping to travel on to Britain or Germany.

Two years ago, he joined the Touring Club of Italy, becoming one of around 2,000 volunteers -- including 800 alone in Milan -- who volunteer at sites such as museums and churches that would remain otherwise closed to the public.

At the San Maurizio, he tells visitors the history of the Benedictine Convent, and explains which religious scenes are depicted in the frescoes, from Noah's Ark to the Last Supper.

Visitors are sometimes surprised their guide is Muslim -- a reaction he counters with a quick word on religious history.

"The Koran, the Bible, the Torah... they are all linked," he says, recalling that key figures like Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses and Abraham feature in all three tomes, though the details may differ.

"Syria has been a land that has hosted many cultures, with occupations by the Phoenicians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Ottomans and even the French," he says.

Hamadi, who speaks four languages -- Arabic, English, French and Italian -- says he sees his chats with visitors as a way to "open people's minds".

The man who has worked as city councillor in the past has simple advice on tackling the thorny issue of "integration".

People should "live, talk, eat together, but that does not mean they should forget their roots", he says.]]>
11/27/2017 12:13:36 PM
<![CDATA[Nubia’s bittersweet memories behind High Dam ]]>
The High Dam was built under the name of Aswan Dam. It was mainly meant to generate power and regulate the seasonal flooding of the Nile. Being one of the former leader’s greatest achievements, for the Egyptians, especially the farmers, the dam was the dream that came true as they have suffered for years from the loss of their crops due to the seasonal unexpected floods.

Photo_of_Ramses_II_Temple,_Old_Nubia,_Aswan,_Egypt,_Hashim_Morsy_facebook_page,_24_November_2017
Photo of Ramses II Temple, Old Nubia, Aswan, Egypt, Hashim Morsy facebook page, 24 November 2017

The establishment of the Dam started with Aswan Dam/reservoir in 1902. The increasing rate of water flow behind the dam flooded 44 Nubian villages and displaced 18000 Nubian families in the aftermath. The area is known now as “old Nubia.”

Nostalgic were the Nubians who deserted their houses and saw them sink beneath the rising water, they had to migrate to Kom Ambo area known as “New Nubia.” The biggest migration took place when the construction of the High Dam occurred in 1963. Nubians witnessed a shift in the way of life around the Nile view to a new desert life in villages built for them in Kom Ambo.

photo_of_a_corridor_with_pharonic_inscriptions_in_Amada_Temple,_Old_Nubia,_Aswan,_Egypt,_Hashim_Morsy_facebook_page,_23_November_2017
photo of a corridor with pharonic inscriptions in Amada Temple, Old Nubia, Aswan, Egypt, Hashim Morsy facebook page, 23 November 2017

As sad as the story might sound, the full half of the cup is that the old Nubian Area is full of picturesque remains and main attractions made the place as a main destination for tourists worldwide.

Amada Temple, the oldest Egyptian temple in old Nubia built in the eighteenth century and located 180 KM behind High Dam. Though small and abandoned, Amada contains some important inscriptions. For instance, some inscriptions on one of the temple’s columns describes Amenhotep II leading an Egyptian military campaign into Asia, and bringing back the bodies of rebel chieftains to hang on the walls of Thebes. On another column a story describes his ship sailing through Nubia as a warning for his rivals.

Photo_of_Amada_Temple,_Old_Nubia_Aswan,_Egypt,Hashim_Morsy_facebook_page,_23_November_2017
Photo of Amada Temple, Old Nubia Aswan, Egypt,Hashim Morsy facebook page, 23 November 2017

Qasr Ibrim is an archeological site in old Nubia. It was originally a major city perched on a cliff above the Nile, but the flooding of Nasser's Lake after the construction of Aswan High Dam transformed it into an island and flooded its outskirts. Ibrim stands as the only major archaeological site in old Nubia to have survived the Nile floods.

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Photo of Nasser Lake behind the High Dam, Aswan, Egypt, Hashim Morsy facebook page, 23 November 2017

Ramses II Temple in Abu Simbel is one of Egypt’s most famous archeological sites and a top attraction for visitors despite its far distance from Cairo. The temple was designed in the 13th Century BC to strike awe into travelers, introducing them to the grandeur of Egyptian culture. The four largest statues in front are Ramses II, and the smaller ones next to them are fashioned to resemble his favorite wife, Nefertari and Prince Amonherkhepshef, his son. Egyptian engineers moved the temple block by block to save it from the rising waters of Nasser Lake in the late 1960. ]]>
11/27/2017 11:04:47 AM
<![CDATA[Australian media delegation wraps filming Aswan documentary ]]>
The film will be broadcasted on April 2018 in Australia and several European countries. It is expected that at least 3 million people will watch the documentary, according to Ahmed Ali Obeid, who is responsible for the press center of foreign correspondents in Aswan.

Obeid added that the delegation took pictures of various tourist sites in Aswan, including Philae Temple, Nubian villages, the Nile and its islands and the view of the sunrise and sunset from the King Farouk Hotel.

He pointed out that the film cast includes Australian director and producer Rochelle Martin, broadcaster Catriona Rowntree from the famous program “Getaway” on Channel Nine, the photographer Gilbert Farkas and sound engineer Gary Lacroix.]]>
11/26/2017 10:35:09 PM
<![CDATA[Over 66K Indian tourists visited Egypt in past 9 months: CAPMAS]]>
The statistics increased by 43 percent compared to last year, the number of tourists in September specifically reached 7,650, which represents an increase of 46.2 percent compared to the same month in 2016.

The Tourism Promotion Authority, headed by Hisham al-Demery, has started increasing their presence in the Indian market to promote tourism to Egypt.

They announced that they have organized a tourism convoy to visit the four Indian cities of Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata from January 22-25, 2018.

They will also participate in two exhibitions scheduled for January and February 2018, with the aim of attracting visitors during the Indian holiday season of April and May.

This comes after the success of the tourism expedition held last May, 10 Egyptian tourism companies visited four Indian cities: Mumbai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and New Delhi.

The Egyptian delegation met more than 450 tourist companies who operate in the Indian market, in order to increase tourism to Egypt.

Ismail Amer, head of the tourist office in Mumbai, stated that the tourism movement from the India to Egypt shows an increase of 34.2 percent in the first quarter of this year, revealing also that last March the percentage jumped to 54.6 percent. He expects Indian tourism to show a further increase during the coming period.

The two big Indian tourism exhibitions due to take place in January and February of next year are: OTM in Mumbai and SATTE in New Delhi.

Last year, OTM hosted 1154 exhibitors from 60 countries, including 12 Egyptian tourist companies.

SATTE hosted 750 exhibitors from 35 countries, 28 Indian states attended.
]]>
11/26/2017 10:26:04 PM
<![CDATA[Saint Catherine receives 1,295 tourists in a single day]]>
The Red Sea town is famous for its heritage sites including St. Catherine’s Monastery and Mount Sinai. Tourists can climb Mount Sinai overnight and enjoy spectacular views especially at sunrise, including rock formations and landscape.

Tourists from all over the world, including Russia, Germany, Ukraine, Italy and the United Kingdom, come to stay in camps, guesthouses and hotels in and around St. Catherine.

The city is an important destination for followers of the world's three major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as they value the region and its more than 200 religious sites.

St. Catherine is famous for its mountains with its high-altitude desert ecosystem providing a home for many endemic and rare species living in valleys, natural pools, springs, creeks and narrow canyons. Tourists can also visit uniquely beautiful Bedouin gardens in the valleys surrounding the mountains.

St. Catherine is a jewel, located between giant granite rocks of the South Sinai Peninsula at the edge of El-Tur Mountains and at the foot of Sinai's high mountain region. Mount Catherine is the highest mountain in Egypt, with breathtaking views across the mountains to the Red Sea. During the drive up to St. Catherine, one has the chance to witness magnificent mountain ranges changing colors and shape. The place is considered holy and contains rich historical and religious heritage. Known as Mount Horeb in the Old Testament, it is believed to be the place where Moses, after spending 40 days and 40 nights in the mountains, received the Ten Commandments from God. At the foot of the Mount Sinai sits the Monastery of Saint Catherine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Monastery has been well preserved since its establishment in the sixth century, making it one of the oldest monastic settlements in the world.

According to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), Egypt has received around 5.9 million tourists in the last nine months alone.]]>
11/26/2017 5:15:45 PM
<![CDATA[Tourism expected to increase in Minya]]>
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View of Gabal El-Tayr Monastery, Minya Oct.14,2017- Maher Iskandar

The archeological sites like Tell El-Amarna, Gabal El-Tuna, Bani Hassan, Mountain of Birds and the Monastery of the Virgin Mary are all notable outposts for tourists. Those sites, along with Minya’s great Nile view and vast green areas, give the city powerful tools to attract tourists.

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View of the farmland from Gabal El-Tayr Monastery Oct.14,2017 – Maher Iskandar

Mountain of Birds (Gabal El-Tayr)

It gets its name from the thousands of birds that gather on its top. It is situated on the west bank of the Nile, where an ancient church stands and where the holy family rested during their visit to Egypt. There are many guest houses in Gabal El-Tayr that are used by pilgrims during church celebrations.

It encompasses many ancient engravings for the holy family’s visit to Egypt and a rock that has the handprints of baby Jesus on it.

It is a flat land with a strip of palm trees next to the Nile valley, spanning over 120 kilometers from north to south.

It is also the site where many Pharaonic temple treasures, palaces and golden monumental pieces were uncovered. All those places mixed together make Minya Egypt’s most famous and important archeological site.

This location takes its name from a Bedouin tribe that lived there called Amarna.

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North Palace of Tell El-Amarna Sept.16,2006 – Wikimedia website/Einsamer Schütze

Bani Hassan

On the western bank of the Nile is the Bani Hassan site, the most famous site in the city. It holds around 39 rocky tombs, including the tombs of Amenemhet, Khnumhotep I and Khnumhotep II. It displays the real life and traditions of the Pharaonic Middle Kingdom.

Gabal El-Tuna

A temple-shaped tomb that takes its guests back to the age of Akhenaton; it belongs to the priest of Toth, the ancient Egyptian god of wisdom and knowledge.

It is expected that tourism in Minya will witness a turning point in the coming months. The General Authority for Tourism Development is working on renovations to put the city on the touristic map.


According to the tourism office manager in Minya governorate, Tharwat al-Azhary, a new road will be constructed to link Gabal El-Tuna, Bani Hassan and Tell El-Amarna together. Most of the development works will be carried out in Gabal El-Tayr, including the establishment and operation of a 'Taf Taf' buses' route to transport tourists from the Eastern Desert Road to the Monastery of the Virgin Mary. Also, close to the highest hill in the region, there will be a giant statue of Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus.

“We aim to raise the number of Catholic tourists up to 35 million during the Vatican’s visit to Egypt,” Azhary said to press. ]]>
11/26/2017 2:57:05 PM
<![CDATA[Bali's erupting volcano raises air travel warnings]]>
Ash covered roads, cars and buildings near the volcano in the northeast of the island, while overnight a red glow of what appeared to be magma could be seen in photographs by Antara, the state news agency.

“The activity of Mount Agung has entered the magmatic eruption phase, it is still spewing ash at the moment, but we need to monitor and be cautious over the possibility of a strong, explosive eruption,” said Gede Suantika, an official at the volcanology and geological disaster mitigation agency.

Bali, famous for its surf, beaches and temples, attracted nearly 5 million visitors last year, but business has slumped in areas around the volcano since September when Agung’s volcanic tremors began to increase.

Agung rises majestically over eastern Bali at a height of just over 3,000 meters. When it last erupted in 1963 it killed more than 1,000 people and razed several villages.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said in an advisory from it’s Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VACC) in Darwin that the eruption was “expected to be ongoing”.

Maps provided by VACC show an area of ash cloud heading southeast over the neighboring island of Lombok, away from Bali’s capital, Denpasar, where the main international airport is located.

Indonesia also upgraded its Volcano Observatory Notice for Aviation (VONA) to red, its highest warning, and said the ash-cloud top could reach 19,654 feet (6,142 meters) or higher.

However, officials said the airport would remain open for now as the ash could be avoided.

“The volcanic ash has only been detected in a certain area,” the airport and other officials said in a joint statement.

All domestic flights and the airport itself were operating as “normal” and tests for ash had been negative, it said.
Yunus Suprayogi, general manager of Bali airport operator Angkasa Pura I, said food and entertainment would be provided as well as extra bus services if conditions changed and passenger numbers increased.

The airport would also ”make it easier“ for passengers to seek refunds and make other arrangements, he said, while noting that airlines had their own rules.”

After resuming flights on Sunday morning, Virgin Australia again canceled flights on Sunday afternoon following a change in the aviation color code from orange to red.

“Due to the significant volcanic ash and current weather conditions, we have made the decision to cancel the rest of today’s flights to and from Bali as a precautionary measure,” Virgin said in a statement on its website.

AirAsia also canceled its remaining flights to Bali and Lombok.

Qantas and Jetstar flights were continuing as of Sunday afternoon but Jetstar warned on its website that flights could be subject to change at short notice for safety reasons.

Indonesia’s flag carrier Garuda said it was cancelling all flights to and from Lombok.

If ash tests came up positive, Lombok airport would be closed, airport officials said.

Indonesia’s disaster agency has said Bali is “still safe” for tourists except for a 7.5-kilometre (4.7-mile) zone around Mount Agung.

“Despite the string of eruptions, there has not been an increase in volcanic activity,” it said in a statement, noting that the emergency status for Agung remains at level 3, one below the highest.

An initial eruption on Tuesday prompted Singapore to update its travel advisory for the island, warning ash clouds could “severely disrupt air travel”.

China’s Consulate in Denpasar warned citizens on Sunday to “be prepared for the possibility of being stranded” in Bali.]]>
11/26/2017 2:30:32 PM
<![CDATA[Jonathan, St. Helena's ancient tortoise, awaits visitors]]>
Aged at least 185 -- though no one knows for certain -- Jonathan should prepare himself for an influx of visitors now that an airport has opened on the small island in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean.

The island's most famous resident, Jonathan slowly roams the lush gardens of the governor's house, eating carrots, lettuce, cucumber, apples and pears prepared in the governor's kitchen.

He appears on the island's five-pence coin, on immigration stamps, and in old black-and-white photographs alongside Boer War prisoners in the early 20th century.

"He is an institution, my V.I.P. -- Very Important Patient," said his vet Catherine Man, during her weekly check-up of Jonathan, who stretched out his long, wrinkled neck to eat some chopped carrot.

"He knows our voices and is very gentle, but it can be a bit dangerous for my fingers when I feed him.

"He has a very set routine, he goes to the same places in the paddock at the same time each day."

Jonathan originates from the Seychelles but the circumstances of his arrival on St. Helena remain a mystery and the exact year is much disputed.

Some unconfirmed reports suggest 1882 -- a few decades after Napoleon died in exile on the island on 1821.

- Younger days -

When younger and more agile, he was known for disrupting croquet matches on the governor's lawn, and for going under tables at tea parties and upsetting the china.

Man, the only vet among the island's 4,500 population, says he is now blind, has no sense of smell and is already far beyond his life expectancy of 150 years -- but otherwise he is in good health with good hearing.

"Reptiles have a slow metabolism, they breathe slowly, they eat slowly, and live a long time," she said.

"But perhaps his stress-free lifestyle here, and the clean air help explain his longevity."

St. Helena, located 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometres) from the African mainland, is one of the most remote places on Earth.

Until now, the island's only link to the outside world was by ship, but the new airport brings tourists on a weekly commercial flight from Johannesburg.

They will be able to visit Jonathan, viewing him and his three younger companions -- Emma, David, Frederica -- from a designated "corridor" to ensure the tortoises are left largely undisturbed.

Lisa Phillips, the governor of St. Helena, said that when she arrived to take up the post last year she went to meet Jonathan before she stepped inside the governor's house.

"He loves company," she said, even suggesting that venerable Jonathan is attracted to Emma, a mere youth at the age of 49.

"He still enjoys the ladies and I have heard him quite regularly in the paddock with Emma and he grunts," she said.

"I have to keep an eye on him when he is doing that -- it was not in the job description when I became governor."

Inevitably, there has to be a plan for when Jonathan finally dies.

His obituary has already been prepared and his shell will be preserved for posterity.]]>
11/26/2017 1:34:03 PM
<![CDATA[Facing hurdles, Russia gears up to host World Cup]]>
Organisers also face the tricky task of appeasing beleaguered fans and President Vladimir Putin, who helped wrest the June 14-July 15 tournament from England in a controversial FIFA vote in 2010 and then gave many of the 11 host cities their first post-Soviet facelift.

It is an $11.5-billion (9.6-billion-euro) gamble with the potential to backfire if it leaves behind "white elephant" stadiums and hotels that fall into disuse and fail to turn Russia into the tourism mecca it has always dreamed of being.

The logistical challenge of the 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) separating the western-most stadium in Kaliningrad near Poland and the most easterly one in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg -- the same distance as that between Paris and Moscow -- will also test fans' resolve.

And friction between Russia and the West over Syria and Ukraine make this year's addition of what is arguably the world's biggest sports event one of the most diplomatically-charged World Cups in decades.

The draw on Friday in the Kremlin will determine just how heated the group stage matches will be.

- Monkey chants, knife fights -

Russian football has long been plagued by hooliganism in which "ultras" pre-arrange fights featuring everything from knives to bats, while racism has become especially pronounced with the infusion of foreign players once the Iron Curtain fell.

Brazilian striker Hulk said he heard monkey chants at "almost every match" when he led Zenit Saint Petersburg to a title and two second-place finishes between 2012 and 2016.

Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure -- himself the subject of fan abuse when his club played at CSKA Moscow in a Champions League game in 2013 -- warned this month that "if racism situations happen in Russia, it is going to be a big mess". His nation, Ivory Coast, have not qualified.

Russia's football governing body has been trying to clean up its act and organisers say they recorded no racist episodes when they hosted the Confederations Cup -- the World Cup warmup -- this year.

But intertwined with that scourge is hooliganism -- a culture deeply rooted due to some clubs' affiliation with rival wings of the armed forces as well as the inherent ill will between Moscow and the largely neglected provinces.

Hooliganism experts say Russia's powerful FSB security service has cracked down hard on football gangs and blacklisted many of its leaders as the World Cup nears.

Russia is also using Fan ID cards requiring visitors and locals alike to undergo security checks before they can buy match or travel tickets.

Authorities will want to avoid the scenes in Marseille during Euro 2016 when Russian hooligans beat up England fans, leaving some in hospital.

- Jihadists and bombings -

The threat of terror is ever-present and potentially growing because of Russia's military support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

A Saint Petersburg metro bombing that killed 15 in April was just the latest of the numerous strikes to have hit much of Russia since the 1990s.

Yet the estimated 2,900 Russian jihadists who have fought alongside the Islamic State group and are now making their way back home are not the only danger.

Southern host city Volgograd fell victim to two suicide bombings and a bus blast perpetrated in November and December 2013 by North Caucasus Islamists that killed 39 people.

The entire city has since been on heightened alert.

Volgograd Mayor Andrei Kosolapov said canine units already check every bus and train carriage for potential explosives.

"Plus, we have installed and are continuing to install video camera where -- online -- we can monitor every single street," he told AFP.

- Playing under Putin's gaze -

Perhaps the biggest concern to Russians themselves is the fate of their team -- a squad that has so often underperformed despite having Europe's largest potential talent pool.

Singer Mikhail Boyarsky, a Soviet-era legend who is omnipresent on Russian TV and something of a self-appointed football expert, was blunt.

"I doubt we will get very far," he told the Sovetsky Sport paper. "There are no miracles in sport."

Something close to that happened at Euro 2008 when Russia stunned the Dutch and made the semi-finals.

Russia were then thrashed 3-0 by eventual champions Spain and have wallowed in misery ever since.

The current squad's problem is twofold: they have no stars and must perform under the stern gaze of a black-belt judo president who does not take losing lightly.

"Of course I hope our national team wins. I am really looking forward to that," then-prime minister Putin said after Russia was awarded the right to host The Beautiful Game.]]>
11/26/2017 10:30:11 AM
<![CDATA[Macedonia targets 'grandiose' neo-classical monuments]]>
The controversial revamp, dubbed Skopje 2014, includes a giant statue of Alexander the Great, bronze Macedonian heroes and lions, facades of ancient columns and even a triumphal arch resembling Paris's Arc de Triomphe.

In Skopje, it was either adored or blasted as "grandiose and outdated". Launched by former prime minister Nikola Gruevski, the project was initially planned to cost 80 million euros ($95 million) but local media has reported the price is now up to 560 million euros.

"Within the central government, a commission was formed to review" the project, said Social Democrat Petre Silegov, Skopje's new mayor. The commission will review how the project was implemented and look for possible irregularities, said the mayor, whose party defeated Gruevski's VMRO-DPMNE party at local elections last month.

The mayor said he had already ordered two replicas of pirate ships - which are also restaurants - to be taken down "for security reasons" on the Vardar river in the city's centre.Silegov added that he had already ordered the removal "for security reasons" of two boats-turned-restaurants, replicas of galleys and imitation pirate ships on the Vardar river in the city centre.

Former leader Gruevski said the new authorities "should know that once it is back to power, VMRO-DPMNE will redo everything they destroy, dislocate and rename"."This will only waste tax payers' money in order to gain short-term political points and will bring new conflicts and divisions," Gruevski said in a written statement received by AFP.

In June, after a long political crisis, the Social Democrats took power in snap election -- after spending 10 years in opposition. After a long political crisis in the country, Social Democrat Zoran Zaev became the country's prime minister after snap elections in spring.]]>
11/25/2017 5:39:33 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt Air takes Belgian journalists on a Tour to the south ]]>
According to an Egypt Air statement, once the delegation arrived at Cairo International Airport, staff from public relations and advertisement and media departments welcomed the guests and offered them souvenirs and brochures.

After their arrival in Cairo, they travelled to Luxor then to Aswan aboard Egypt Air. They flew to archeological sites and enjoyed the landscape view of the Egyptian south.

Brussels-based Egypt Air office organized the visit per an agreement between the national company and Egypt Tourism Authority. The statement added that Egypt Air launches four flights to Brussels every week on Boeing B737/800 airplanes.]]>
11/25/2017 4:31:30 PM
<![CDATA[From traffic jams to floods, can Indonesia's 'Big Durian' be fixed?]]>
Last month, the mother-of-two sprained both ankles falling down some stairs at home and was forced to take a taxi to work. Her total journey time rose to six hours. In the monsoon season, her commute time can easily double.

“It is very boring,” said Widyawati, who tries to catch up on sleep during her travels to work. “I just hope that the government will one day offer a better service.” Widyawati is one of more than 5 million people struggling to get to work each day in Southeast Asia’s largest city.

Known as the “Big Durian” after the stinky fruit popular in the region, Greater Jakarta is home to about 25 million people and faces numerous challenges due to rapid urbanization, climate change and the failure of infrastructure and public transport to keep pace with its expansion.

In addition to its infamous congestion - which is often cited by traffic studies as the worst in the world, and costs the city an estimated $3 billion per year - Jakarta also suffers from water scarcity, poor sanitation, regular flooding, air pollution and a lack of affordable housing.

Last year the mega-city joined 100 Resilient Cities, a network backed by The Rockefeller Foundation to help cities deal with 21st century pressures.

The Resilient Jakarta Secretariat, set up this September, has since brought together government officials, researchers, businesses and citizens’ groups to map the city and pinpoint issues that will be outlined in a first report due to be published in two weeks.

Oswar Mungkasa, Jakarta’s chief resilience officer, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation his city has at least three major problems: transportation, flooding and land subsidence.

STUCK IN A JAM

Vehicle emissions, made worse by Jakarta’s jams, account for 70 percent of air pollution in the city. Besides the economic costs and negative effects on quality of life, the pollution puts extra pressure on public health services. But in a city where pedestrians and motorcyclists often face off over the use of ramshackle pavements, some steps are being taken to help ease congestion.

Construction of the $3-billion Jakarta Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) railway began in 2013, and it is likely to be up and running by 2019, when a light rail transit is also due to open. “We are trying to solve the problem,” Mungkasa said. “In two or three years after the MRT (is built), the situation will be much, much better.”

Jakarta has also implemented an odd-even license plate policy for key roads to limit private car use in busy hours, while many residents have embraced motorcycle taxi apps in an effort to beat jams.

Critics note, however, that the MRT project will only connect South Jakarta to the city center, and will therefore not be a silver bullet to cure chronic traffic problems.There are also questions over whether the new train networks will be integrated with existing public transport, like the TransJakarta bus rapid transit system.

The city must develop a “push-pull strategy” to discourage private vehicles while incentivizing public transport use, said Shobhakar Dhakal, head of the energy, environment and climate change department at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT).

“But without giving proper options it doesn’t work,” he said, adding Jakarta should have built a metro train system two decades ago.

THAT SINKING FEELING

A coastal city built on a swampy plain, roughly 40 percent of Jakarta is below sea level. Making matters worse, most residents and businesses rely on wells that drain underground aquifers for their water supplies, resulting in the city sinking by 5-10 cm each year.

Rising sea levels and the inability of crumbling infrastructure to cope with excess water during heavy storms and the monsoon season result in regular flooding. Resilient Jakarta’s report will ask how health and wellbeing can be improved through better water and waste management.

The city is working hard to solve these problems, said Mungkasa, with improvements to water infrastructure, including the piped supply, and new waste water treatment facilities set to be built over the next 20 years.

Jakarta’s piped water network needs to be expanded to both poor and wealthy neighborhoods, said Marcus Lee, a senior urban economist at the World Bank in Jakarta. Because well water is free and often seen as cleaner, the government must also enforce piped water usage where accessible, he added.

The city’s slums - many located on land vulnerable to flooding - are another challenge, said Lee. New housing estates, often backed by government cash, tend to be built where land is cheaper, outside commercial areas.

“If you’re able to afford a house, chances are it’s going to be very far away in the suburbs,” said Lee. “That’s contributing to the urban sprawl and links back to the transportation problem.”]]>
11/24/2017 5:18:48 PM
<![CDATA[Thomas Cook bids for Monarch's London Gatwick runway slots]]>
Earlier this week the administrator won an appeal against a previous London High Court court ruling that Monarch had lost any rights over the potentially valuable slots since it was no longer capable of operating any flights.

The administrator now hopes to recover money for creditors by transferring rights to use the slots at London’s Gatwick and Luton airports.

“We’ve expressed an interest,” one source said, confirming that Thomas Cook had bid for slots at Gatwick but not at Luton. Thomas Cook Airlines declined to comment.

EasyJet, IAG, Wizz and Norwegian have already expressed their interest in acquiring the slots at the London airports. Monarch estimates its slots could be worth around 60 million pounds ($80 million), though that is disputed by airlines such as easyJet.

On Wednesday Thomas Cook reported that its profits were under pressure from intense competition as European tour operators and airlines chase the shift in demand for holidays from eastern to western Mediterranean destinations such as Spain.

However, profits rose at Thomas Cook Airlines, helped by a recovery in its German carrier, Condor. The collapse of Monarch, as well as the cancellation of hundreds of thousands of flights by Ryanair, has taken capacity out of the market, which easyJet on Tuesday said was helping to support a rise in air fares this winter.]]>
11/24/2017 5:03:08 PM
<![CDATA[Virtual reality boom brings giant robots, cyberpunk castles to China]]>
Welcome to China’s first virtual reality theme park, which aims to ride a boom in demand for virtual entertainment that is set to propel tenfold growth in the country’s virtual reality market, to hit almost $8.5 billion by 2020.

The 330-acre (134-hectare) park in southwestern Guizhou province promises 35 virtual reality attractions, from shoot-‘em-up games and virtual rollercoasters to tours with interstellar aliens of the region’s most scenic spots.

“After our attraction opens, it will change the entire tourism structure of Guizhou province as well as China’s southwest,” Chief Executive Chen Jianli told Reuters.

“This is an innovative attraction, because it’s just different,” he said in an interview at the park, part of which is scheduled to open next February.

The $1.5-billion Oriental Science Fiction Valley park, is part of China’s thrust to develop new drivers of growth centered on trends such as gaming, sports and cutting-edge technology, to cut reliance on traditional industries.

In the push to become a center of innovative tech, Guizhou is luring firms such as Apple Inc, which has sited its China data center there, while the world’s largest radio telescope is in nearby Pingtang county.

The park says it is the world’s first of its kind, although virtual reality-based attractions from the United States to Japan already draw interest from consumers and video gamers seeking a more immersive experience.

The Guiyang park will offer tourists bungee jumps from a huge Transformer-like robot, and a studio devoted to producing virtual reality movies. Most rides will use VR goggles and motion simulators to thrill users.

“You feel like you’re really there,” said Qu Zhongjie, the park’s manager of rides. “That’s our main feature.”

China’s virtual reality market is expected to grow tenfold to 55.6 billion yuan ($8.4 billion) by the end of the decade, state-backed think-tank CCID has said.

Farmers in the nearby village of Zhangtianshui said they were concerned about pollution from big developments, but looked forward to the economic benefits a new theme park would bring. Most were less sure about virtual battles or alien invasions, though.

“There are lots of good things that come out of these projects,” one farmer, Liu Guangjun, told Reuters. “As for the virtual reality, I don’t really understand it.”]]>
11/24/2017 4:48:10 PM
<![CDATA[Hong Kong lights up for Lumieres festival]]>
Local and international artists joined the extension of Lyon's Fete des Lumieres in a city well known for its ubiquitous neon signs, giant billboards, flashy skyscrapers and a nightly harbourfront light show.

The three-night show, which launched Thursday, saw light creations beamed onto some of Hong Kong's landmark heritage buildings, with other installations brightening shopping areas and parks.

Local artist Keith Lam said the festival went some way to addressing Hong Kong's lack of publicly accessible artworks.

"The streets and the public spaces in Hong Kong are so tight and dense and there are so many people, so it's a challenge to do public art," Lam told AFP.

Hong Kong currently lacks a world class art museum, and marquee exhibitions rarely make a stop in the southern Chinese city, where graffiti by high-profile artists is often removed and it can be difficult to secure permission for public shows.

Lam, a new media artist, displayed his "Heliocentric" installation which featured a three dimensional combination of rings laced with LED lights at the PMQ, a former police residence turned creative hub.

Passersby said the installations were a welcome relief in a busy city.

"I think it's great for the whole culture, and also for everyone who is getting off work and able to embrace so much art in front of them," said one visitor to the illuminated bamboo display in central Statue Square.

The Lyon festival, which started in the 19th century, will take place in early December, with light displays adorning the French city's streets, public squares and bridges.
]]>
11/24/2017 4:37:53 PM
<![CDATA[China gets first virtual reality theme park]]>
Welcome to China's first virtual reality theme park, which aims to ride a boom in demand for virtual entertainment that is set to propel tenfold growth in the country's virtual reality market, to hit almost $8,5-billion (R111-billion) by 2020.

The 330-acre (134-hectare) park in southwestern Guizhou province promises 35 virtual reality attractions, from shoot-'em-up games and virtual rollercoasters to tours with interstellar aliens of the region's most scenic spots.

"After our attraction opens, it will change the entire tourism structure of Guizhou province as well as China's southwest," Chief Executive Chen Jianli told Reuters.

"This is an innovative attraction, because it's just different," he said in an interview at the park, part of which is scheduled to open next February.

The $1,5-billion Oriental Science Fiction Valley park, is part of China's thrust to develop new drivers of growth centred on trends such as gaming, sports and cutting-edge technology, to cut reliance on traditional industries.

In the push to become a centre of innovative tech, Guizhou is luring firms such as Apple Inc, which has sited its China data centre there, while the world's largest radio telescope is in nearby Pingtang county.

The park says it is the world's first of its kind, although virtual reality-based attractions from the United States to Japan already draw interest from consumers and video gamers seeking a more immersive experience.

WATCH: Multi-talented robot entertains eNCA viewers

The Guiyang park will offer tourists bungee jumps from a huge Transformer-like robot, and a studio devoted to producing virtual reality movies. Most rides will use VR goggles and motion simulators to thrill users.

"You feel like you're really there," said Qu Zhongjie, the park's manager of rides. "That's our main feature."

China's virtual reality market is expected to grow tenfold to 55,6 billion yuan ($8,4-billion) by the end of the decade, state-backed think-tank CCID has said.

Farmers in the nearby village of Zhangtianshui said they were concerned about pollution from big developments, but looked forward to the economic benefits a new theme park would bring. Most were less sure about virtual battles or alien invasions, though.

"There are lots of good things that come out of these projects," one farmer, Liu Guangjun, told Reuters. "As for the virtual reality, I don't really understand it."]]>
11/24/2017 4:34:19 PM
<![CDATA[Saint Helena ready for tourism takeoff with new air link]]>
After years of procrastination, London gave the green light in 2011 for a full runway on the island. The ambition was to put it within six hours of mainland Africa instead of the five days needed to make the ocean voyage from Cape Town.British officials hoped that 30,000 tourists a year would visit the island, which is home to just 4,500 residents - known as "Saints".

But do not expect white sandy beaches and palm trees. Rather, the island is known as a paradise for hikers and divers, with dramatic scenery and its volcanic origins and boasting history as rich as its flora and fauna.

After an 18-month delay, the first commercial flight finally touched down on Oct 14.
Euphoria swept through the cabin as champagne was served and the island came into view. On the ground, islanders celebrated the arrival."It was a big relief when the airport finally opened. It has not been easy," said Mr Craig Yon, a manager of a hotel that opened in 2012.

But the island may never experience a tourism boom on the scale promised. For safety reasons, the passenger capacity of the aircraft serving the island is far smaller than planned.And the weekly flight from Johannesburg will serve the island at a cost of £800 (S$1,430) return.

PREFER

np_20171124_helena24-t86_1666850
(Above) Capital Jamestown of Saint Helena, which lies in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean -
"South Africans prefer to go for three weeks in Thailand than go to Saint Helena," said a South African travel agent who organises trips to the island.For this Christmas, Ms Hazel Wilmot, a hotelier in the capital Jamestown, has just five bookings so far.

Saint Helena tourism chief Helena Bennett now thinks the goal of 30,000 visitors is "unrealistic" - indeed, the small plane can bring fewer than 4,000 people, including residents, to the island each year.

Even today, the island has just 121 guest beds, including a new hotel funded by the local government. None of the properties have a website, while roads are so narrow that often only one car can pass.

But with the air link, the flow of tourists will at least be more constant."During the two-week period when the Royal Mail Ship is away, the island is dead," said Ms Bennett, referring to the passenger and cargo vessel that calls at the island.]]>
11/24/2017 4:23:04 PM
<![CDATA[Air New Zealand, Swiss travel platform Winding Tree in blockchain tie-up]]>
Blockchain, a digital ledger of transactions that has underpinned the virtual currency bitcoin, has permeated every aspect of the business and financial landscape. Almost all global corporations in the world has some sort of blockchain initiative.

The New Zealand airline also said it is investing in Winding Tree’s token sale slated for January next year. Air New Zealand did not disclose how much it intends to invest.

Token sales or initial coin offerings have become a way for start-ups in the blockchain space around the world to raise funds quickly and without regulatory oversight.

Air New Zealand chief digital officer Avi Golan said in a statement the airline is looking at a number of potential blockchain uses such as cargo and baggage tracking, retail, distribution, and loyalty program opportunities.

“While we are still exploring its benefits, blockchain may offer a streamlined way to retail airfares and ancillary products alongside our current channels,” said Golan.

In making the sales process less complex, Air New Zealand customers can benefit from reduced transactional costs, while the airline can take advantage of the swift and secure sharing of information, he added.

Winding Tree is a decentralized marketplace built on the ethereum blockchain. It aims to develop what it believes to be the first travel marketplace to connect suppliers such as airlines and hotels directly to sellers, allowing companies to bypass third-party vendors.

Air New Zealand said it has worked with a range of technology partners to introduce innovations in the company. These include artificial intelligence-backed chatbot Oscar, which helps customers with queries online and through the Air New Zealand’s mobile app.

The airline has also experimented with the social robot Chip, which assisted customers with check-ins at the Sydney Airport earlier this year.

German national carrier Lufthansa has also recently announced partnerships with Winding Tree. Lufthansa was interested in exploring use cases that would put booking, rebooking, and traveler itinerary information on the blockchain.]]>
11/23/2017 4:03:42 PM
<![CDATA[Paris scraps Big Wheel attraction]]>
Run by “fairground king” Marcel Campion who has also seen his Christmas market on the Champs-Elysees scrapped because authorities deemed it too tacky, the attraction will be closed from July 2018.

City councillors voted almost unanimously against granting him a fresh licence for the “Grande Roue”, which has sat intermittently on the Place de la Concorde near the Louvre museum since 1993.

Councillors said getting rid of the wheel would help protect the area’s “historic visual appearance”.

They indicated that they were not against a Ferris wheel being erected somewhere else, said deputy mayor Bruno Julliard.

It could potentially be set up in time for next year’s Christmas holidays, he said, adding: “Anyone could apply to run it, even Marcel Campion.”

The decision comes as a further blow to Campion ― who has been embroiled in various legal troubles in recent years ― after the council voted in July to get rid of the Christmas market he has run since 2008.

Some local lawmakers complained that the quality of the wares on sale was not in keeping with an avenue that hosts luxury labels such as Louis Vuitton as well as high street chains like H&M.

They want it replaced with a more upmarket site selling products made in Paris.

Angry funfair operators and market stall holders blocked major roads around the capital earlier this month over that decision in the latest of several protests, saying their livelihood was under threat.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said this week that Campion had been told “we cannot suffer the permanent threat of having the capital blockaded”. ]]>
11/23/2017 4:01:03 PM
<![CDATA[Serene Dahab receives 6.2K tourists in a single week]]>
The Red Sea town is famous for its moderate climate and its relaxed atmosphere with its friendly and hospitable people. Tourists from Russia, Germany, Ukraine, Italy and the United Kingdom are offered a wide range of water sports, such as snorkeling, scuba and free diving, wind and kite-surfing.

The most famous diving spot in Dahab is the Blue Hole, and it is well known amongst the international diving community. The lighthouse, an area where most of the restaurants and hotels are located, offers an easy accessible and beautiful reef for diving and snorkeling fans alike. Additionally, the town provides comfortable and clean accommodations which are even more affordable than in other diving destinations in Egypt, such as Sharm El-Sheikh.

Formerly a small fishing village on the southeast coast of the Sinai Peninsula, Dahab attracts many artists who are seeking inspiration for their creativity. The town hosts a large number of Egyptians and foreigners who have permanently relocated to this peaceful place.

Tourists also visit surrounding landmarks such as Nuweiba or Ras Abu Galoum. It is the perfect environment to practice yoga or meditation and recover from the hectic city life.

Egypt accommodated around 5.9 million tourists in the last nine months alone, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).]]>
11/23/2017 12:00:00 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt is perfect transit for migrating birds ]]>
The main aspects behind the migration of birds’ flocks remain an enigma that ornithologists try to understand. They suggest that birds migrate to better enhance their survival. An aspect can be is that they may be looking to find the best resources for successful breeding, different food sources, or moving to more suitable homelands at different times of the year.

How well-adapted birds are to these journeys? Some birds can stay aloft for many hours in one long migration flight, while others take shorter journeys and refuel along the way.

Why do birds choose Egypt in winter and spring seasons? Birds are very picky for their habitats along migration journeys. Egypt’s moderate climate in winter season and location of the Red Sea, which secure abundant volumes of food, stand as main attractions for these migrating flocks, let alone it stands on the way of the targeted destination.

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File - Photo of flocks of birds migrating to the Red Sea Island, Red Sea Governorate, Egypt
Another reason why Egypt is extremely important for these migratory birds because it is a transit point between different continents and habitats, connecting Africa and Eurasia, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean; deserts and wetlands, mountains and seas. Millions of birds pass through Egypt seeking food, shelter, and rest, as many human civilizations have done throughout the years.

According to a survey conducted by Egyptian birders for flocks of birds migrating from Europe to Africa, statistics spotted that Seagull flocks, amongst other species, migrating to Egypt to dwell the Red Sea islands outnumbered about 6,500 birds. These flocks mainly feed on the small fishes floating near to the sea surface. Location and climate of these unmanned islands’ served to make Seagull flocks find the perfect transit to refuel.

“The Red Sea area is characterized by many different environments, including the marine and coastal environment and the mountain environment, suitable for many different species of migrating birds, whether migrating or resident to complete the nesting process,” stated Egyptian director of the Egyptian Red Sea Reserves; Dr. Ahmed Ghallab. He explained that birds immigration act as one of the best factors of biological diversity and an effective way to protect the balance of environments. ]]>
11/23/2017 2:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Civil aviation authority head flies to Germany for Euromed celebration]]>
In statements to MENA ahead of flying to Germany, Eldawy said the celebration is to be attended by officials from all States that benefit from the European Union’s grants or technical assistance.

He added that the celebration will witness a review of the EASA protocol that grants Egypt’s ECAA the Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft (SAFA) accreditation, which enables the civil aviation authority to monitor foreign aircraft inside the country.

Meanwhile, Adawy said the ECAA will add new destinations in Africa for Egyptian planes upon directives from the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

EgyptAir operates flights to 17 destinations in Africa, he said, noting that Egypt’s flag carrier is probing to increase its flights and add new destinations in Africa, especially after it signed deals to purchase 45 new airplanes.]]>
11/22/2017 4:03:13 PM
<![CDATA[St. Helena tourism cleared for takeoff as airport opens]]>
The aviation breakthrough promises to lift the British-run territory from obscurity and bring it within reach of international tourists.

The arrival of the first commercial flight was also a relief for islanders frustrated by a delay to the opening because of high winds.

After years of procrastination, London gave the green light in 2011 a full runway on the island.

The ambition was to bring it within six hours of mainland Africa instead of the five days previously needed to make the ocean voyage from Cape Town.

British officials hoped that 30,000 tourists a year would visit the island, which is home to just 4,500 residents – known as "Saints".

Just don't expect white sandy beaches and palm trees.

Rather, the island is known as a paradise for hikers and divers with dramatic scenery and its volcanic origins, and boasts history as rich as its flora and fauna.

The British have detained various opposition forces on the island over the centuries, including the defeated Napoleon after the Battle of Waterloo who died in exile on St. Helena in 1821.

It was also temporarily home to 25,000 former slaves after they were released in the 19th century on the island, which lay on the slave-trading route from Africa to America and the Caribbean.

We had already invested

Encouraged by London's upbeat estimates, islanders began investing in tourism, sensing an opportunity in an economy where the average annual salary is just £7,280 (RM39, 576).

Local businessman Johnny Herne runs a pleasure boat that he imported from Scotland 8,000 km away on which guests can spot humpback whales and dolphins along the craggy coastline.

He has so far invested £182,000 in his business but now is drowning in debt as a result of the airport delay, which he says contributed to his divorce.

"It ruined my life," he said.

Entrepreneur Paul Hickling produces a cactus liqueur and a local coffee and has invested more than £100,000.

"The government said: 'Invest because the airport is coming ... all these people are going to come'," he said.

"Unfortunately the airport got delayed – but we had already invested the money."

In April 2016, just three weeks before the £285-million airport's grand opening, disaster struck.

Unforeseen winds meant that takeoffs and landings were ruled too dangerous, leaving islanders dismayed.

Big relief

Hazel Wilmot, a hotelier in the capital Jamestown, had had large quantities of food and drink shipped to St. Helena and her property was fully booked.

But with the delay, tourists cancelled their trips.

"I had four containers at sea full of food, full of booze that I could not use," she said. In 2016 she says she lost at least £200,000.

Local officials set up a scheme to help businesses affected by the delay – but no one has yet claimed, according to the island's trade board.

But overly strict criteria and a complex claiming process have deterred claimants, locals say.

After the 18-month delay, the first commercial flight finally touched down on Oct 14 this year.

A sense of euphoria swept through the cabin as champagne was served and the island edged into view. On the ground, islanders celebrated the long-awaited arrival.

"It was a big relief when the airport finally opened. It has not been easy," said Craig Yon, a manager of a hotel that opened in 2012.

Not going to stop

But the island may never experience a tourism boom on the scale that was promised.

For safety reasons, the passenger capacity of the aircraft serving the island is far smaller than planned.

And the single weekly flight from Johannesburg will serve the island at a cost of about £800 return.

"South Africans would prefer to go for three weeks in Thailand than to go to St. Helena," said one South African travel agent, who organises trips to the island.

For this Christmas, Wilmot has just five bookings so far.

"Where are all these tourists we were told were going to swamp the island?" she said.

Tourism chief Helena Bennett now thinks the goal of 30,000 visitors was "unrealistic" – indeed the small plane can bring less than 4,000 people, including residents, to the island each year.

Even today, the island has just 121 guest beds including a new hotel funded by the local government.

None of the properties have a website, while roads are so small that often only one car can pass.

But with the air link, the flow of tourists will at least be more constant.

"During the two-week period when the Royal Mail Ship is away, the island is dead," said Bennett, referring to the passenger and cargo vessel that calls at the island.

"With the plane, we are going to have visitors every week. The island is not going to stop anymore." ]]>
11/22/2017 2:40:46 PM
<![CDATA[Are driverless, electric cars the future?]]>
As more and more countries announce a phasing-out of pure petrol and diesel cars, early versions of tomorrow's models are already on the streets: hybrid cars, fully electric motors and vehicles that can partially drive themselves.

Attitudes to vehicle ownership in cities are changing as smartphone apps make a ride available in minutes.

'Driving everywhere by themselves'

Driverless technology also looks set to revolutionise urban road travel, according to industry figures.

Graeme Smith, chief executive of Oxbotica, a British company developing autonomous vehicle software, said new cities being planned in China envision all vehicles being electric, autonomous and publicly-owned. "In those cities, your life would be fundamentally different," he told AFP.

"50 years into the future, maybe these things will be driving everywhere by themselves – but there's a progression to go through."

Driverless technology faces the challenge, over time, of bringing down the cost of sensors while improving their performance – and there is currently no standard operating methodology.

Some cars with levels two and three autonomy are already on the roads.

Britain's Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said he expected the first level four self-driving cars to reach the UK market by 2021, bringing the world closer to level five, or total autonomy.

Fully driverless cars could help ease gridlock by driving closer together in convoy and avoid traffic by exchanging real-time information.

'The final destination'

The switch to electric vehicles (EVs), meanwhile, is already well under way.

Volvo will no longer sell solely diesel or petrol cars from 2019, while Volkswagen's Audi brand is gearing up to offer an electric version of every one of its models.

"We think it is really the final destination for the auto industry," said Eric Feunteun, Renault's electric vehicle programme director, told journalists in Utrecht in the Netherlands earlier this month at an event where the French car maker unveiled partnerships with renewable energy companies.

Britain and France intend to ban the sale of fully petrol or diesel cars from 2040, while smog-plagued India wants to sell only electric cars by 2030.]]>
11/22/2017 2:29:10 PM
<![CDATA[Crowded Spanish holiday market takes toll on Thomas Cook]]>
Tour operators and airlines have expanded capacity in Spain and other western Mediterranean destinations in response to security concerns in markets such as Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey.

That has prompted a price war among tour operators serving Spain, while allowing hotels to increase prices that Thomas Cook must pay, squeezing margins from both sides. A weaker pound has made the situation more difficult.

The company said that while bookings for next summer were at an early stage, better demand for trips to Egypt and Turkey in 2018 should help alleviate some of the margin pressure.

“My experience tells me that (the Spanish market) is balancing out,” Chief Executive Peter Fankhauser told reporters on Wednesday.

“As soon as Turkey, Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean destinations (have) increased demand, the Spanish hoteliers will see that they will have to adapt their prices to level it out.”

Fankhauser said that 42 percent of holidays in summer 2017 were to Spain, but that should go down, with some capacity redirected into Egypt.

The stock was down 10.9 percent at 0950 GMT, hitting its lowest level since July, after Thomas Cook said that margins in Britain were lower after four consecutive years of profit growth.

Larger rival Tui (TUIT.L) was down 2 percent, the top FTSE 100 faller.

STRONG START

Underlying earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) were 330 million pounds in 2016-17, Thomas Cook said, a little ahead of an analyst consensus of 327 million pounds.

The group said it was “well positioned” to achieve current market expectations for 2018, given strong early bookings for next summer.

One positive element was the performance of the group’s airline business, which improved profits by 24 million pounds in the year, helped by a recovery for German carrier Condor.

Fankhauser said that the performance was especially encouraging in a year when Air Berlin, Monarch and Alitalia have all gone into administration, partly as a result of the intense competition in the industry.

Analysts at Panmure Gordon said the UK business would be the focus for investors and detracted from the bright spots in its airline business and Europe.

“Momentum in Condor and Continental Europe is encouraging, but UK profits and margins are down and commentary is more cautious than we would like to see given the challenging macro backdrop,” analysts at Panmure Gordon said in a note.]]>
11/22/2017 2:26:14 PM
<![CDATA[Air China indefinitely suspends flights between Beijing and Pyongyang]]>
An official in the company’s Beijing-based press office, who only gave his surname as Ding, told Reuters on Wednesday that flights were suspended because “business was not good”. He declined to comment on when flights might resume.

Air China announces increase in flights for Pakistan
The suspension by China’s national flag carrier comes shortly after a visit by a senior Chinese envoy to the city and also coincides with a US decision to put North Korea back on a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Air China flights to Pyongyang, which have traditionally operated on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, began in 2008, but have frequently been canceled because of unspecified problems, state media has said.

Last year, Air China halted flights seasonally for winter but resumed them in March. So far it is not selling tickets for any 2018 flights, according to Routes Online.

One staff member in the company’s Pyongyang office who declined to give his name told Reuters that Air China can resume the flights whenever there is enough demand and the office will operate normally even while there are no scheduled flights between Beijing and Pyongyang.

Air China’s Beijing-based press office declined to provide further comment.

The company canceled some flights in April but later said that it would increase their number in May.

China’s first electric plane completes its maiden flight
The United States has urged China to do more to press North Korea to stop what the United States sees as belligerent defiance of UN resolutions.

China’s foreign ministry on Tuesday said that it hoped all parties could contribute to resolving the issue on the Korean peninsula peacefully. It also said that it was not aware of the Air China situation, adding that airlines made their decisions based on market needs.]]>
11/22/2017 2:07:19 PM
<![CDATA[Small eruption at Bali volcano triggers Singapore travel advisory]]>
Authorities have not changed the alert status on Agung, which remains at one level below the highest and there have been no reports of flight cancellations.

“Singaporeans should defer non-essential travel to the affected areas of the island at this juncture,” Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a travel notice on Wednesday.

“You should also be ready to evacuate at short notice.”

Eruptions could result in ash clouds that could “severely disrupt air travel”, it said.

Agung looms menacingly over eastern Bali at a height of just over 3,000 meters (9,842 feet). It last erupted in 1963, killing more than 1,000 people and razing several villages.

Indonesia has nearly 130 volcanoes, more than any other country. Many of them show high levels of activity but it can be months before an eruption.

A spokesman for Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation agency, said via a text message that there had been a “phreatic eruption” late on Tuesday with black smoke reaching 700 meters (2,300 ft), followed by falling ash, gravel and sand.

“These types of eruptions — called phreatic — are the product of rock that already exists being shattered violently when water heated by the rising magma under Agung quickly turns to steam,” according to a blog post on the Discovermagazine.com website.

The disaster agency recommended against any activity within 6-7.5 km (3.7-4.6 miles) of the crater. It said that 29,245 people were staying in 278 evacuation camps.

At one stage, after authorities put Agung’s alert status at the highest level of four in September, more than 130,000 people left their homes. The alert level was lowered to three on Oct. 29.

Australia left its travel advice unchanged and told citizens to “monitor local media reports, follow the instructions of local authorities, and stay outside the existing exclusion zone”.

Bali, famous for its surf, beaches and temples, attracted nearly 5 million visitors last year, but business has slumped in areas around the volcano since September when Agung’s volcanic tremors began to increase.

Tourism, a cornerstone of Bali’s economy, is Indonesia’s fourth-biggest earner of foreign currency after natural resources like coal and palm oil.]]>
11/22/2017 1:57:10 PM
<![CDATA[Have the honeymoon of a lifetime in Egypt]]>
After months of wedding preparations, couples usually spare every effort and penny they have, yet they aspire for their lifetime trip to be as exotic and long as they have ever dreamed. No worries, your first trip together will be exciting and cheap. Just move the needle to Egypt and enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Luxor:

If you plan for a honeymoon this winter, your ideal destination should be Luxor and Aswan. Nile cruises are the best trip between Luxor and Aswan, and they usually take 4-7 days. When you arrive to Luxor, be sure not to miss the view of paradise on earth from a hot air balloon. We advise you to take a deep breath before you come on board, as the view of Luxor is breathtakingly beautiful from an airship. Your trip will start at 5 a.m., and if you are lucky enough, you will enjoy the scenic sunrise. Then you take a look at the Nile view flowing between the modern city and the west bank necropolis, backed by the temples of Karnak to the east and the spectacular view of tombs on the west bank, which will captivate your mind and heart.

If you are a first-time flyer, be sure to wear heavy clothes, as you will fly 2,000 ft above Luxor for nearly 45-60 minutes with 10-12 persons. Once you are on board, the balloon slowly floats up, and the higher it gets, the more you can see, while also watching other airships take off. There is nothing in the world that compares to the view and grandeur of the Egyptian monuments from an airship.

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A hot air balloon flies over Luxor temples, Luxor, Egypt, undated photo, Egypt Best Places Facebook page

Try to plan a visit for the temple of Abu Simbel on Fridays and Saturdays to be able to attend a "Sound and Light" show, or the biggest historic show that will take you through the Egyptian civilization and stick to your memory longer than ever. Place the Island of Banana on your list and take as many photos as you can in this lovely picturesque spot.

Aswan:

Are you ready to experience the significance of the southern hospitality in person? If you are bored of the lovely temples and the grandeur of the long-lasting civilization and aspire for some time to watch the Nile view, take a felucca and target the Nubian Village. You will be surprised by the generous treatment you will receive. Just mention that you are newly married and you will be the VIPs.

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Nile view, Aswan City, Egypt, Best Places in Egypt Facebook page, November 17, 2017

At the guest houses of the Nubian Village, beware not to let the yummy food and the captivating Nile view distract you. Visit Egypt’s High Dam, the Nubian Museum, the Temple of Edfu, the Roman-styled flood-surviving Temple of Philae, and the Island of Plants.

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Nile cruise in a Felucca, Aswan City, Egypt, Best Places in Egypt Facebook Page, Undated photo

Tunis Village in Fayoum:

Are you craving for a much more adventurous honeymoon? Pick Tunis Village in Fayoum governorate. At this spot, a countless number of activities are ahead of you. Climbing the mountains could be a good adventurous beginning. Then you can take a break and watch the waterfalls of Wadi El Rayan. Later, take a round in the desert and practice sand boarding. If there is still time, you may consider a safari in Whales Valley, where you can clearly see the spectacular sight thousands of stars in the sky. Do not forget to also spend some time parasailing.

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Guest houses in the Nubian Village (inside outlook), Aswan, Egypt, Egypt Best Places Facebook Page, November 17, 2017

Siwa Oasis:

Located southwest of the Mediterranean town of Marsa Matrouh and below sea level, Siwa Oasis is full of stunning natural landscapes that are not to be missed. There is something about Siwa that casts a spell on visitors, making them come back.

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Siwa Oasis, Egypt, Best Places in Egypt Facebook page, November 17, 2017

Just do not forget to pack your swimming suit with you. Yes, that is right! It is a desert safari and you will need a swimming suit, although it will not be any ordinary swimming. You will swim in natural springs known for their healing power. Trust our choice; the trip will be different as promised.

There are 226 fresh springs in the oasis, though not all are active and accessible. The springs vary in size and qualities. Some are cold-water springs and others are hot springs. Many hotels in Siwa have fresh water pools built into the architecture of their premises. Since Siwa is the land of sun, you will enjoy getting into the water. As the oasis is filled with highly oxygenated air, you can expect the experience of fresh water to be accentuated. Whether at the hotel or out in a desert, swimming in Siwa is an unforgettable experience, as the pools are set in unique locations. You will feel as though you jumped inside the land of dreams.]]>
11/22/2017 11:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt is only option for Mawlid al-Nabawi]]>
In Egypt, you don’t need to follow the calendar to know when the Mawlid al-Nabawi will be. A week before the celebration, pastry shops display the traditional sweets known as “Halawat al-Mawlid”, with queues of Egyptian families buying boxes of the sweets and shops decorated with the Mawlid doll and accessories.

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Mawlid Al Nabawi sweets and dolls in Egypt streets.20 November 2017 – Five photos .com

On Rabi’ al-Awwal 12 – the third month in the Islamic lunar calendar, corresponding this year to Friday, December 1 – Egypt’s streets, especially the local ones like Bein El-Harat Street in Ramsis Square, are full of small, blue silk-clothed tents lit by neon lamps. Many Sufi Muslims gather in the tents to chant and sing Prophet Muhammad’s life story. The streets are also crowded with an influx of traders selling Mawlid sweets. The sweets are so tasty and flavored with sugary, sweetened hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, sesame and peanuts.

A mysterious spirit fills the air, with Sufis and sheikhs dressed in colorful clothing and energetically parading through the streets performing “dhikr” (remembrance of God) while swaying back and forth to the rhythmic beating of a drum.

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Egyptians Celebrate the birth of prophet-Five Photos .com

To celebrate the Prophet’s birthday, many Egyptian Muslims gather in mosques to recite the Qur’an and listen to stories and poetry praising Prophet Muhammad and his values, accomplishments and teachings. Meanwhile, others are spread throughout the streets to distribute food to the poor, following the example of the Prophet.

Many families commemorate the event by sitting at home together, sharing a meal and eating Mawlid sweets for desert while watching religious movies and programs on TV.

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Three types of Mawlid Al Nabawi sweets – Five Photos.com

The Mawlid al-Nabawi is currently an official holiday in almost 50 Muslim countries, especially those with large Sufi populations, as they are the biggest devotees of this day.

Sunni Muslims observe this day on Rabi’ al–Awwal 12, while Shiites celebrate it on the 17th of the same month.

6-trio_dancers_during_tannora_show_on_the_occasion_of_Mawlid_Al_Nabawy_-
Three dancers from Tanora show on the occasion of Al Mawlid Al Nabawi. 19 November 2016- Mark Fischer / Flicker

The birthday of the Prophet is celebrated across the world. In some Muslim countries, including Egypt, it is a public holiday. In more conservative countries like Saudi Arabia, the celebration is forbidden.

For the Mawlid al-Nabawi, the festivities last from dawn to sunset, welcoming colorful lights and the joyful atmosphere set by the religious, spiritual mood.]]>
11/22/2017 10:35:36 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt’s magical islands]]>
Egypt has at least 14 islands amid its cities, spanning from the south to the north. Each has its own location, beauty, shape and style, having the power to compete with worldwide ranked islands.

Follow our article to get lost inside the most adorable islands in Egypt:

1 - Giftun Island:

1-_Giftfun_Island_-_Wikimedia_website
Beach of Giftun Island in Hurghada – Wikimedia website

It is a protected area of the Red Sea with warm lagoons, pristine beaches and coral reefs. It is located 45 minutes by boat from Hurghada.

It is one of the world’s most popular snorkeling and diving sites, where you can observe the fish, coral reefs and plants.

2 - Abu Monkar:

2-_Abo_Monkar_island_via_Best_Places_of_egypt_Face_Book_Page
Crystal–clear water of Abo Monkar Island – Best Places of Egypt Facebook page

It inspires your soul with the natural beauty of mangrove trees housing sea birds, sea snails and a lake with transparent water.

Located 45 minutes away by boat from Hurghada, it is considered by many to be an extension of Giftun Island. Either way, Abu Monkar is an easily accessible piece of heaven.

3- Hamata Island:

3-_Group_of_fish_swimming_in_Hamata_island_-_Abu_Dahab_website
Group of fish swimming in Hamata Island – Wikimedia website

Heading to the north, Hamata Island is found in Marsa Alam, ranging from 3-7 km from the main land.

Sandy beaches, fossil reefs and carbonate rocks are the most major features. It is also surrounded by shallow water and well-developed fringing coral reefs.

4- Al Nabtat Island in Aswan:

Geographically, this island is one of the two major islands on the Nile in the vicinity of Aswan, but it is hidden, as it is located behind Elephantine Island.

It is a small oval-shaped island situated in the Nile of Aswan, less than one kilometer long and less than a half kilometer wide, and it has a botanical garden.]]>
11/22/2017 9:56:38 AM
<![CDATA[Experience flying with Aerodium Egypt]]>
Aerodium has been operating in more than 30 countries all over the world and is now bringing this unique flying experience to Cairo Festival City Mall located in the 5th Settlement, New Cairo. It is the first wind tunnel experience in Africa and the Middle East. If you’ve always wanted to fly without having to get on an airplane, then this is definitely for you. Be sure to grab your adrenaline junkie friends for a fun-packed evening like no other. Let them know that Aerodium, the world’s biggest wind tunnel flight company, has finally come to Cairo.

Photo_of_wind_tunnel_flying_tools_at_Aerodium_Egypt,Cairo_festival_City_Mall,_Cairo,_Egypt,_November_09_2017
Photo of wind tunnel flying tools at Aerodium Egypt,Cairo festival City Mall, Cairo, Egypt, November 09 2017

"Aerodium was launched on September 1, 2017 as Egypt's first-ever wind tunnel flying experience. And we are now open in Cairo Festival City Mall. We love Egypt and are so enthusiastic about what we do," Sherif Emad, owner and executive manager of Aerodium Egypt, told Egypt Today.

Emad added that Aerodium Egypt is part of the International Aerodium Corporation, the biggest simulator for free jumping or skydiving, with 35 branches around the world.

Photo_of_2_persons_flying_over_a_wind_tunnel,_Aerodium_Egypt,_Cairo_Festival_City,_Mall,_Egypt,_November_9,_2017
Photo of 2 persons flying over a wind tunnel, Aerodium Egypt, Cairo Festival City, Mall, Egypt, November 9, 2017

It is good to keep enthusiastic about the new adventure, and you can rest assured that it is safe enough. Emad wanted to convey a promising message to the visitors of Aerodium Egypt, saying, "Feel safe to try the experience and bring your friends along. Be sure we stick to the same rules of safety followed in the skydiving sport, and up to date we have zero accident rates. The only restrictions for the unique experience are the pregnant and those who have had recent back operations."

Now is the time to try the unprecedented wind tunnel experience and make your friends and kids fly like superheroes. First you will be trained for 20 minutes on how to fly, and then you will pick your suit, helmet, eyeglasses and ear plugs. All these tools are because you will be exposed to air speeds reaching 223 km/h.

Price_list_at_Aerodium_Egypt,_Cairo_Festival_City_Mall,_Cairo,_Egypt,_November_9,_2017
Price list at Aerodium Egypt, Cairo Festival City Mall, Cairo, Egypt, November 9, 2017

You can fly with Aerodium Egypt at Cairo Festival City Mall on weekdays (Sunday till Wednesday) from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and catch up with a Black Friday discount amounting to 10% off your flight. The age limit starts from four years old, and the maximum weight is 135 kg. Prices start from LE 330 ($19).

You can call +201281327573 or +201281327371 to book your flight, or visit

www.aerodiumegypt.com

for more details. ]]>
11/22/2017 9:47:07 AM
<![CDATA[PM discusses ways of boosting tourism with investors]]>
This came within the government's keenness to communicate with investors in the tourism sector and to listen to their suggestions, ideas and visions about boosting the sector.

During the meeting, a number of issues related to investment in tourism were discussed, as the antiquities minister submitted several ideas and suggestions related to achieving the full benefit of the tourist attractions through developing them by establishing tourism and culturally diversified projects.

The minister also called for the examination of ways in which investors could play a role in the development plan.

The meeting also shed light on coordination with the tourism ministry to promote Sharm El Sheikh and a number of tourist attractions, as well as examining the suggestions to establish tourism activities and events in the coming period. ]]>
11/21/2017 3:33:25 PM
<![CDATA[Hawas meets with US tourism delegation, explains Khufu gap]]>
Hawass met with the American delegation to explain the newly-discovered gap in Khufu Pyramid, the largest of the Giza Pyramids which contains a hollow space of at least 100 feet, the first such discovery in the structure since the 19th century.

He also asserted that the political leadership in Egypt was really interested in developing the archaeological places.

Hawass also denied claims of the presence of an antique city under Sphinx.

He said the new discovery comes out of the ScanPyramids project, an international mission under the authority of Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities.

The way the grand pyramid was built makes it full of void spaces, he told the American delegation.

More than 50 foreign missions that conducted studies and explorations at the Pyramids have confirmed the existence of these gaps, according to Hawass.

Hawass excluded that these holes may have rooms built inside.]]>
11/21/2017 1:13:45 PM
<![CDATA[EasyJet annual profit drops 30% as competition bites]]>
Profit after tax slumped 30 percent to £305 million ($404 million, 344 million euros) in the 12 months to September 30 compared with a year earlier, EasyJet said in an earnings statement.

Heavy falls in the value of the pound made dollar-priced jet fuel more expensive. At the same time however, a relatively low oil-price environment resulted in airlines cutting ticket prices, ramping up competition across the industry.

EasyJet pointed to "an aggressive pricing environment which saw (its) net ticket revenue per seat fall by 7.8 percent at constant currency".

EasyJet added that total revenue grew eight percent to £5.05 billion in its financial year, while pre-tax profit was down 17 percent.

"EasyJet delivered a robust performance during a difficult year for the aviation industry, flying a record 80 million passengers," said the carrier's outgoing chief executive Carolyn McCall, who announced her departure in July.

After seven years at the helm, McCall is to become chief executive of British television channel ITV.

Johan Lundgren, the former deputy of TUI travel group, will from December replace McCall, who has overseen a trebling of EasyJet's share price while heading the company.

One of her final tasks has been the part-purchase of bankrupt carrier Air Berlin's operations for 40 million euros ($47 million).

Back in July meanwhile, EasyJet applied for a new air operator's certificate in Austria to continue flying across Europe regardless of the final Brexit deal between Brussels and London.

Britain's airline industry has soared over the last two decades under the Single European Sky system, which lifted trade restrictions on EU airlines.

Unless British negotiators manage to secure preferential conditions, British airlines could lose this status once the country leaves the European Union in 2019.]]>
11/21/2017 1:10:12 PM
<![CDATA[Got a spare $71m? How about a single Hong Kong apartment?]]>
A well-heeled buyer snapped up two adjacent mountain-top pads -- each more than 4,000 square feet (370 square metres) -- for an eye-watering combined price of US$149.1 million.

The smaller of the two properties closed at $71.7 million, making it Asia's most expensive apartment by area, at a whopping $17,000 per square foot, according to Bloomberg News.

The price smashed the previous record paid for a place to sleep in Hong Kong's red-hot property market, when a duplex unit on the island topped out at $13,439 per square foot in September.

A month later an office building in downtown Hong Kong sold for a record $5 billion.
In June a single parking space changed hands for $664,200, part of a boom in commercial and residential property prices fuelled by an influx of money from wealthy mainland Chinese investors and developers.

The surging property market has become a political issue as costs in one of the world's most expensive cities continue to soar, forcing some small businesses to close due to sky-high rents while many residents cannot afford to buy or rent decent homes.

An official study last week showed nearly 20 percent of the city's 7.35 million people live below the poverty line.]]>
11/21/2017 12:53:13 PM
<![CDATA[Spanish hotels company Barcelo offers to take over NH Hotels]]>
Family-owned Barcelo has proposed taking a 60 percent stake in a combined company and a majority of its board seats in a non-binding offer that values NH at 2.48 billion euros ($3 billion), NH said in a statement on Monday.

According to a letter sent to NH and published by the Madrid stock exchange, Barcelo has proposed a reverse takeover by NH, with Barcelo suggesting that NH pay for Barcelo with an issue of new shares at a value of 7.08 euros each, a 27 percent premium to NH’s average share price over the last three months.

NH Hotels’ future has been uncertain since representatives of its biggest shareholder, heavily indebted Chinese airline to property conglomerate HNA Group [HNAIRC.UL], were ejected from its board last year over accusations of a conflict of interest due to HNA’s takeover of a rival hotel group Carlston-Rezidor.

A combined NH-Barcelo company would have over 600 hotels and sales of around 3.5 billion euros, although Barcelo said its expression of interest was at this stage, “very preliminary”.

NH’s share price was up 11.4 percent at 5.57 euros at 1556 GMT.

Tourism accounts directly for around 11 percent of Spain’s economic output with the number of visitors to Spain having grown to a record high as sun-seekers shy away from the Middle East and North Africa due to concerns for their safety.

No one at HNA, which owns 29.5 percent of NH and 26 percent of bigger U.S. hotels company Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. (HLT.N), was immediately available for comment.

HNA is now facing close scrutiny in China over $50 billion worth of acquisitions made over the past two years resulting in an increase in its debt and struck a deal earlier this month to sell and repurchase some NH shares to raise cash for internal financing.

Meanwhile NH said on Monday it had recently approved a three-year strategic business plan and this was still in place, focused on boosting its exposure to higher-spending customers and expanding abroad while reducing debt.

Analysts said NH could prove a good complementary fit for Barcelo as the latter, which has over 230 hotels, has a stronger presence in the Caribbean, while NH with over 380 hotels, has leading positions in European cities.]]>
11/20/2017 10:27:29 PM
<![CDATA[EgyptAir participates in Philoxenia exhibition in Greece]]>
The event is considered the biggest and most important annual exhibition concerned with tourism and traveling.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Chairman of EgyptAir Holding Company Safwat Musallam said that the firm's participation in the international events is considered an important matter as it allows exchanging expertise in the field of tourism.

It also gives the company the opportunity to offer its unique services to a greater sector of clients, he noted.

The national carrier's participation in the exhibition this year came in cooperation with Egypt's Tourism Promotion Authority via a unique pavilion characterized with the pharaonic style, the statement read.

EgyptAir is considered the oldest airlines company in the Middle East and Africa with an 85-year experience in the field of tourism and travel, Musallam reiterated.

The representatives of the national carrier held bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the exhibition with leading Greek tourism company to promote tourism in Egypt in the first place, the statement said. ]]>
11/20/2017 3:12:54 PM
<![CDATA[Thailand's Oct tourist arrivals surge 20.92 pct y/y - ministry]]>
The number of foreign arrivals stood at 2.72 million in October, Pongpanu Svetarundra, permanent-secretary of the tourism and sports ministry, said in a statement.

For the January-October period, tourist arrivals were 28.8 million, up 6.69 percent from the year-ago period.

The ministry said last month that it expected 33 million-34 million foreign tourists this year, compared with an earlier forecast of 35 million.

In 2016, there were a record 32.6 million visitors.

Tourism accounts for 12 percent of Thailand’s economy, and has been a bright spot for Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, whose growth still lags regional peers.]]>
11/20/2017 2:12:42 PM
<![CDATA[Marsa Alam hosts Polish Chamber of Tourism ]]>
1-Marsa_Alam_Beach_-_Pixabay_website_-
Marsa Alam Beach – Wikimedia website – Undated


2-_Boardwalk_in_the_Middle_of_Marsa_Alam_sea_-
Borad walker the Middle of Marsa Alam – Wikimedia website – Undated


The event will gather representatives from 170 participating travel agencies, a number of Polish parliamentarians, and representatives from the Ministry of Tourism, according to Berlin-based tourist consultant and Polish tourism market supervisor Mohamed Abd el-Gabar.

Abd el-Gabar stated to the press that he will organize a meeting in Poland between Pawel Niewiadomski, the head of PIT, and the General Authority of Tourism Development as part of the Travel and Tour World Fair running from November 22 to 25, 2017.

It is expected that this formal visit from PIT will serve to improve the positive sentiment and potentially heighten tourist inflows to Marsa Alam. Polish tourism in Egypt has already increased this year by 100% y-t-d, meaning 145,000 tourists ]visited between January and October 2017. ]]>
11/20/2017 2:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Step inside Egypt’s strangest caves ]]>
Egypt shelters a lot of marvelous caves dating back more than 7,000 years and distributed throughout Egypt’s deserts and archeological sites. There are examples of rocky formations and prehistoric cave paintings. These sites are the following:

1- Djara Cave:

1-_Foggni_Cave_-_Wikimedia_website
View to the Foggeni Cave hill, Western Desert – Wikimedia Website – 11 March 2011

This rocky cave situated in the Western Desert in Egypt is 30 meters wide, 8 meters high. It was rediscovered twice, initially by German explorer Gerhard Rohlfs, and then rediscovered in 1989 by Dr. Carlo Bergmann, who explored the area by camel.

It is highlighted by the presence of the pure water and animal engravings from the Neolithic period, which classifies the cave to be the second most important stone-age settlement in the Western Desert.


Djara cave 3

2- Sannur Cave:

2-_Hand_Printings_on_the_wall_of_Foggeni_Cave_-_Credited_to_Wiki_media_website_undated_photo
Hand printing on the wall of Foggni Cave - Wikimedia Website – Undated

It is located 10 km from the city of Beni Suef, which is a 2-hour drive from Cairo.

It was created by percolation of groundwater through the Eocene Lime stone of the Galala Plateau.

Inside the cave there are several shallow holes, but above the ground there are deposits of red soil, unlike the floor, which has excess calcium carbonate as a result of water percolation.


Sannur Cave - Underground Wonderland

3- Foggeni Cave:

3-painting_of_Headless_Beasts_in_Foggeni_cave_-_Wikimedia_website
Paintings of Headless Beasts in Foggeni Cave – Wikimedia Website – Undated

This cave is considered by archeologists to be one of the most important rock art sites in the whole deserted area. It takes its name from Italian explorer Jaccop Foggeni, who discovered the cave in 2002. It is located in the Western Desert next to Wadi Sora shelter.

The cave is about 20 meters high with a single panel in it 10 meters high. It has various kinds of paintings: prehistoric graffiti, paintings of “headless beasts”, and thousands of small hand prints. It is also known as the Cave of Beasts. ]]>
11/20/2017 1:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt shares in India’s biggest travel trade expos ]]>CAIRO - 20October 2017: Out of seeking a strong presence in the Indian market and to promote tourism, the Egyptian Tourism Authority (ETA) is arranging four touristic delegations to head to Indian cities to share in two tourism expos to kick off in January 2018.

Being the land of hypnotizing cultures and scenic landscapes of all shapes and types, with the Himalayas to the north and the seas to the south, India has always been a dream destination for tourists across the world. On the other hand, India ranks as one of the biggest outbound travel markets, as it is the world’s second most populated country, with millions of tourists from India visiting different places in the world.

In this context, the ETA will share in two tourism fairs: the Outbound Travel Market (OTM) and the South Asia Travel and Tourism Exchange (SATTE).

Deemed as one of India’s most leading travel shows with a clear focus on outbound travel, OTM is scheduled to be held January 18-20, 2018 at Bombay Exhibition Center in Mumbai. OTM is designed to cover big travel markets in one go, just before the peak outbound season.

According to last year’s ratings, up to 1,154 exhibitors from 60 countries participated. ETA’s pavilion extended over 110 cubic meters during the last round, in addition to 12 other participating Egyptian travel companies.

Ranking as the most prestigious travel and tourism exhibition, SATTE is a three-day event to be held from January 31 to February 2, 2018 at the Pragati Maidan in New Delhi, India. Over twenty years, SATTE grew the launch touristic platform for many countries and tourism products, working closely with the Indian Ministry of Tourism, and is privileged with much acclaim in international circles to do business with and in India.

The SATTE International Tourism Fair is one of the oldest and largest tourist exhibitions in India. With a total of about 750,000 exhibitors from 35 countries and 28 Indian states. This year, 900 exhibitors from more than 50 countries will be attending the event.]]>
11/20/2017 12:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Selling death’: Australia cemeteries get new lease of life]]>
The full-bodied oil from Adelaide city’s West Terrace Cemetery is the latest effort by Australian authorities to attract not just the dead — but also the living — to the historic sites.

By reinventing cemeteries as unexplored, lush, green spaces in the heart of crowded cities, they hope to challenge the taboos surrounding death while breathing new life into the usually sombre grounds.

“Trying to sell death is very hard, no-one wants to buy it,” Adelaide Cemeteries Authority chief executive Robert Pitt told AFP as olive trees rustled in the background above ageing headstones.

“However, if we’re selling olive oil or selling an experience... (it’s) where the real value of coming to a cemetery is. And there’s definitely a sense of place here. There’s a sense of reverence and a sense of history.”

This year’s limited-edition bottles of olive oil, released to mark the cemetery’s 180th anniversary, sold out in a flash despite their unusual source.

It shows that cemeteries are moving beyond their main role as sites “for the disposal of the dead”, said historian Cathy Dunn.

Older cemeteries such as West Terrace and Sydney’s Rookwood — the largest in the southern hemisphere — are also becoming tourist hotspots, she added.

Rookwood, a so-called “necropolis” that is the final resting place for more than one million people, has drawn crowds by hosting open days, annual sculpture walks and even bike races.

Its recent open day to commemorate 150 years featured live jazz music, grave-digging demonstrations and face-painting for children.

Rookwood chief executive George Simpson told AFP the industry was tapping into online genealogy to connect with as many people as possible.

In Adelaide, Pitt is considering offering augmented reality at cemeteries to bring grave sites to life with messages from the deceased.

Facing mortality

There’s another pressing need for cemeteries to play a bigger part in people’s lives — death rates in Australia are set to more than double over the next few decades as the population ages.

“More and more people are going to be confronted by their own mortality, if not those of relatives and friends,” said Pitt.

His cemeteries authority has organised “Death Over Dinner” events — where guests share a meal and ask expert speakers about the end of life — to normalise discussions around dying.

“Our experience as cemetery operators and funeral coordinators is very much around that people who pre-plan... and think about their end of life before the time comes have a better outcome for the people left behind,” he added.

Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of cemeteries hosting entertainment. Media reports earlier this year highlighted the complaints of a Melbourne family upset after their grandmother’s funeral was delayed as it clashed with a historic food tour.

But Maree Edwards, who has witnessed the evolution of Rookwood since burying her father there four decades ago, is convinced the spruced-up grounds and changing attitudes towards death will open up the hidden world to more people.

“Twenty years ago, there was only a little, tiny tin-shed flower seller here at the entrance. But now, there’s coffee shops,” she said, adding that she hopes her daughter will one day join her for a weekend sojourn at Rookwood.

“You’ve got to come with a different mentality here and think, ‘Wow, this isn’t like a creepy, dead man’s land. It’s nice, it’s a cheery place,’.

“And it’s just a joy to be here, bizarre as it seems.”]]>
11/19/2017 9:32:25 PM
<![CDATA[Xinhua: Hainan Airlines to launch new Sydney route]]>
The airline will fly an Airbus A330 on the new route twice a week, Xinhua said, adding the service was designed to meet increasing demand from tourists and business people.

It will be the first international route operated by Hainan Airlines from its home on the southern island province and the company’s seventh direct route to Australia, according to Xinhua.

Hainan Airlines already flies to Sydney from the cities of Xian and Changsha, and to other Australian destinations, including Cairns and Melbourne, from other Chinese cities]]>
11/19/2017 5:42:15 PM
<![CDATA[Swimming with dolphins in virtual reality to aid disabled]]>
But a Dutch non-profit believes it has found a way to bring people, especially the disabled, closer to such a joyful experience through the technological, immersive advances offered by virtual reality (VR).

The Dolphin Swim Club is the realisation of a more than two-decade journey by artist Marijke Sjollema, who had her first chance encounter with a dolphin in 1993 while snorkeling off the coast of Mexico.

"I saw this grey shadow under the water and my first thought was this is the end. I thought it was a shark," she told AFP.

She tried to stay calm "but this shadow was following me. And then there was this split second that I realised that it wasn't a shark. It was a dolphin.

"I didn't know anything about dolphins, but I instinctively knew, 'Oh a dolphin, I'm fine. This is a good thing'."

From that moment on, Sjollema's love of dolphins and all cetaceans was born.
"We know that there is something magical about dolphins. We think of joy, and playfulness and happiness and innocence when we meet dolphins. And this is even a healing quality," she told AFP.

She and her business consultant husband, Benno Brada, have devoted their spare time, energy and personal resources to their mission of enabling people to discover their own encounter with dolphins.

HEALING QUALITIES

Their first project using normal VR headsets playing a film of the dolphins launched in late 2015.

But last month they went a step further, unveiling waterproof VR glasses, which allow people to drift around a pool watching bottlenose and spinner dolphins playing around them in virtual reality.


This VR dolphin therapy in a pool, still at the trial stage, is thought to be a world first.
"The dream was to find an alternative to dolphin-assisted therapies using dolphins in captivity," Brada told therapists at a residential community for disabled people run by the 's Heeren Loo organisation who were testing out the waterproof goggles in the pool.
The centre has been using the land version of the VR glasses since 2016, and has seen noticeable benefits.

"Some 82 per cent of our clients feel actually relaxed by seeing the films," said the organisation's policy advisor Johan Elbers.

"It takes them away from the world they are in, they enter a new world in another mindset, think differently, feel differently, see differently, and relax completely."

He recalled how one young woman, who had long had trouble sleeping, now watches a VR film of the dolphins swimming at night, and falls quietly asleep.

Another man is able to completely forget an agonising pain in his arm.
Dion, a 21-year-old resident of the community, said watching the film made him feel "peaceful."

"The dolphin noises and the water calms me down, that calms me from all the noises that there are, then you're zen," he said.

SHARKS NEXT?

The pool-safe VR goggles, developed thanks to 50,000 euros (US$59,000) grant from the Dutch government, consist of a waterproof Samsung smartphone in a waterproof backing mounted on a special 3D-printed rig made of recycled plastics.
]]>
11/19/2017 5:38:33 PM
<![CDATA[China pledges another three years of ‘toilet revolution’ to boost tourism]]>
China has been keen to develop and expand services industries to move away from debt-fuelled and investment-driven growth, while offseting the impact of persistently weak global demand for its exports.

Particularly, it has been looking at the emerging tourism industry, pledging late last year 2 trillion yuan (RM1.2 trillion) in investment which it hopes will help lift the sector’s contribution to annual economic growth.

While three years of “toilet revolution” have led to “significant achievements”, according to the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), the booming industry’s prospects are clouded by wide-spread complaints about toilet hygiene levels at China’s tourist sites.

Since 2015, China has poured 1.04 billion yuan into building and renovating 68,000 toilets, far exceeding its three-year goal of 57,000, state news agency Xinhua said.

“The toilet revolution ... is an urgent and necessary measure to transform and upgrade our tourism industry,” CNTA director Li Jinzao was quoted by Xinhua as saying.


Under the new initiative, China will have 47,000 toilets built and 17,000 existing ones refurbished in the next three years, Xinhua said.]]>
11/19/2017 5:26:43 PM
<![CDATA[Alexandria: top religious tourism destination]]>
Alexandria houses many Coptic and Islamic tourist destinations. Here are a few of the city’s top destinations:

1 – Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi Mosque:

1-_Morsi_abu_Al_abbas_mosque_-_wiki_media
Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi Mosque in Alexandria – Wikimedia website – undated

One of the oldest mosques in Alexandria. It is popular for its unique domes and Islamic architecture, attracting tourists from all over the world.

This mosque was the center of many religious events, like the mawlid (birth celebration) of Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi, during which guests, especially Sufi Muslims, came to participate in “Dhikr” (remembrance) circles. Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi Mosque, the center of formal religious events, is under the purview of the Ministry of Religious Endowments and operates under the presence of government officials.

2- Citadel of Qaitbay in Alexandria

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Citadel of Qaitbay – Wikimedia website – undated

Built in western Alexandria during the 14th century to defend the city from the advancing Ottoman Empire, the largest stone of the citadel forms the doorway of its entrance and is decorated with red granite.

Over time, the Citadel of Qaitbay served many military functions. Today, it houses a naval museum that makes the citadel worth visiting.

The citadel is surrounded by a peninsula that is always crowded with locals and tourists enjoying the sea view, restaurants and shops on the pier.

3- Monastery of Saint Mina

Sain_Mina_Monastery_in_Alexandria_-official;_website
Monastery of Saint Mina – Monastery of Saint Mina official website – undated

Monastery of Saint Mina, a Coptic orthodox church in Alexandria, is dedicated to Saint Minas – a young Egyptian man from a large family who left the army to live in the desert and fulfill the Lord’s blessings. After a turbulent life, Saint Minas died a martyr in the same location where the monastery stands today – situated in the Western Desert near Alexandria.

The monastery offers food – a plate of beans – to everyone that visits. The monastery also has a gift shop that offers you the chance to take a souvenir home as a remembrance of this sacred place where people have come to pray for over 1,000 years.]]>
11/19/2017 4:38:48 PM
<![CDATA[Love without limits: Binational marriage on the US-Mexico border]]>
The US Border Patrol opened the gate at Playas de Tijuana, known as the Door of Hope, for one hour on Saturday, allowing quick meetings for friends and relatives from both sides.

In the crowd on the Mexican side was Evelia Reyes, who arrived wearing a white wedding dress, a long flowing train and a white veil.

She was accompanied by three children from her previous marriage, including a young daughter also dressed in white.

"For a relationship this wall does not exist, for love there are no borders," Reyes gushed.

At the gate a Mexican judge promptly married her to her groom, Brian Houston, who approached from the US side dressed in a smart grey suit.

The wife of the mayor of Tijuana and the local Mexican Human Rights commissioner served as witnesses.

Reyes, a native of the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, said she met Houston in Tijuana three years ago.

Lacking immigration documents she could not travel to the United States — a problem likely to be solved with the marriage.

The San Diego Tribune newspaper said that Houston, a US resident, could not visit Tijuana for reasons he would not elaborate.

The crowd gathered at the gate under the watchful eye of US Border Patrol agents.

The Door of Hope event was organized by the Border Angels, a immigrant rights advocacy group.

Its director Enrique Morones said there was just enough time at the event for 12 families to reunite.

"These families can be together only for five minutes, it's the saddest thing to see," he said.

Most of the 3,200km US-Mexico border has some type of barrier.

But President Donald Trump has promised to build a wall along the entire frontier, straining relations between the United States and Mexico.]]>
11/19/2017 12:58:51 PM
<![CDATA[Danish Prince Henrik visits Sharm el-Sheikh 3rd time in 2017]]>
This is Prince Henrik’s third visit to Egypt this year. He has almost annually gone on vacation over the last decade to Egypt. The visit showed the beauty of the Egyptian resorts and attested that Egypt enjoys safety and security, he stated.

During his residence in Sharm el-Sheikh, Prince Henrik praised Egyptians’ hospitality, considering the country as a popular destination for ordinary Danes. He added that the reason why he is so fond of Egypt is that the nation has friendly people. “I love Egypt; the Egyptians are a very warm and welcoming people,” he explained.

An increasing number of celebrities have been visiting different tourist sites in Egypt recently.
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]]>
11/19/2017 10:21:28 AM
<![CDATA[Pharaos Rally Festival from Fayoum to Giza ]]>
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Hawara Pyramid in Fayoum – Wikimedia website

The General Authority for Tourism Development organized the festival, with cooperation from travel agencies, in hopes of developing tourism in Egypt, especially from Fayoum to Giza. The competitors ran for 100km, starting from Hawara Pyramid in Fayoum along the Agricultural Road. They then pass through Saqqara sluiceway until they reach the finish at Saqqara Pyramid, Giza.

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Saqqara Pyramid – Wikimedia website

The festival started with 35 sprinters. There were 170 competitors from all over the world – three from the USA, 14 from England, nine from France, and seven from Egypt. There was also one participant from each of the following countries: China, Japan, Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand and Austria.

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Foreign competitor is ready for the festival – Five Photos Website – 17 November 2017

All these countries participated in the festival and also worked indirectly with the Egyptian authorities to activate the tourism sector.

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One of the players takes a photo in front of the festival banner – Five Photos website – 17 November 2017

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Banner of International Pharaoh Festival – Five Photos Website – 17 November 2017 ]]>
11/18/2017 7:29:21 PM
<![CDATA[Alpine visitors should know the signs of acute mountain sickness]]>
Acute mountain sickness affects more than one in four people who travel above 3,500 meters, or 11,600 feet, and more than half of those who travel above 6,000 meters, or 20,000 feet.

Many popular ski resorts in the Rocky Mountains and the Alps, for example, are well above those elevations.

“With winter and the holiday season approaching, it’s time for travelers to be careful as they visit high altitudes,” said Dr. Jill Jin of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, who wrote the one-page primer online November 14 in JAMA.

“It’s important to talk about the signs, symptoms and treatment,” she told Reuters Health by phone.

Headache, fatigue, poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, light-headedness and sleep disturbances that develop six to 12 hours after ascent all can be symptoms of acute mountain sickness, the article warns. The problems usually improve in one or two days if the traveler doesn’t go higher. In fewer than 1% of cases, symptoms can grow worse and turn into high-altitude cerebral edema.

“Everyone is susceptible, even if you’re young,” Jin said. “Everyone can experience it, regardless of gender and age.”

Acute mountain sickness is easy to diagnose in healthy adults but can be harder to spot in children and those with health problems.

Treatment usually includes rest, hydration and pain medicine for headaches. Some patients need supplemental oxygen. Some prescription medicines, such as acetazolamide and dexamethasone, can help. People with persistent severe symptoms should go back down to a lower altitude.

“This is a public health problem in places such as Colorado. Millions of people visit the mountains every year, and it affects how people enjoy their trip,” said Dr. Chris Davis of the University of Colorado at Denver, Anschutz Medical Campus, who researches high altitude sickness, frostbite and avalanche injury patterns.

“This is high season for Colorado mountain resorts when people plan their Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and other holiday travel here,” he told Reuters Health by phone. “An ounce of prevention pays off in the long term.”

“There’s a myth that fitness drives your risk,” Davis said. “It’s based on genetics, so even if you’re fit, you may experience it.”

The JAMA paper says a gradual ascent of 400 meters, or 1,333 feet per day - especially for sleeping at night - can help prevent acute mountain sickness. Travelers can also try pre-acclimatization, or regular exposure to altitude, as well as hydrating with water and avoiding alcohol.

Those who have experienced high altitude sickness before should be especially careful, Jin advises. Patients with heart disease, lung disease, anemia and obstructive sleep apnea should talk to their doctors before traveling to high altitudes.

Davis pointed out that while the paper mentions high-altitude cerebral edema, it doesn’t discuss lung edema, which, while rare, is more common and also carries the risk of severe symptoms and death.

“Mountaineers know the tips and tricks of gradual ascent up high altitudes, but some tourists fly from sea level to a city and then immediately drive to the mountains,” he said. “Instead, spend the night in Denver, for example, and split up the trip to lower your risk.”

An accompanying article in JAMA reviews the existing research on instruments to use for diagnosing acute mountain sickness. The “clinical functional score” is highlighted as the simplest of the available instruments.]]>
11/18/2017 4:36:33 PM
<![CDATA[World Cup organizers dismiss fear of possible Moscow hotel shortage]]>
But another problem for the June 14-July 15 event emerged with news that plane ticket prices to some cities staging games had shot up by 40 percent this week.

The vast country -- on tense terms with the West over the Ukraine crisis -- is keen to put its best foot forward when it welcomes fans from across the world to watch what is arguably sport's most beloved event.

The 11 host cities stretching from Kaliningrad near the European Union to Yekaterinburg in the Urals have undergone wholesale renovations aimed at burnishing Russia's image as a welcoming country with a friendly face.

Everything was going according to plan until Moscow's sports and tourism official responsible for arranging hotel space said all rooms in the capital might be booked for the World Cup by the end of the year.

Moscow will host both the opening match and the final at its 81,000-seat Luzhniki Stadium.

"We are worried that the number of rooms available may already be exhausted by the end of December," Alexei Tikhonov told Russia's RIA Novosti state news agency on Wednesday.

Russian 2018 World Cup organising committee confirmed that 60 percent of the rooms available in Moscow had already been reserved by fans.

But it called Tikhonov's fears unfounded because "the number of Moscow hotel rooms completely corresponds with the standards established by FIFA".

The world football governing body said on Friday it had already sold almost 160,000 match tickets -- 49 percent of them to foreign fans.

Organisers said Moscow had space for 177,000 people after building 42 additional hotels in 2011-16.

"There is no reason to believe that Moscow will encounter a shortage of hotel rooms for the 2018 World Cup," the Russian committee said in a statement released to AFP.

- Take a train -

Event organisers also brushed off news that ticket prices for flights from Moscow to Saint Petersburg for the semi-final match had soared by 41 percent.

Organisers said demand was likely to level off once it becomes clear where each national squad plays when the official draw is held in Moscow on December 1.

"And instead of flying, fans can always take one of our free trains," the Russian committee's transportation department spokesman Ivan Tito told AFP.

Russia will run more than 500 trains between host cities free of charge for fans who have match tickets and a special ID card showing they had passed a security check.]]>
11/18/2017 12:40:45 PM
<![CDATA[Canada highway throws lifeline to Arctic hamlet]]>
But things are looking up thanks to a new highway linking the tiny community to the rest of the country and bringing with it the promise of tourism and jobs.

Long hoped for but widely seen as a far-fetched idea, the highway was feted this week at a ribbon-cutting ceremony where fireworks lit up the faces of locals and dignitaries - tightly wrapped in hats and scarves to brave the extreme sub-freezing temperatures.

"It's really overwhelming today. We're happy and people are excited," said Tuktoyaktuk resident Ella Jean Nogasak, her red anorak visible from afar against the snow.

The 72-year-old has waited a long, long time for year-round road access to her community, which lies well north of the Arctic Circle.

After years of procrastination, Canada's former Conservative government in 2014 finally gave a green light for what was dubbed a "road of resources," intended as a conduit for firms wanting to tap oil and gas riches believed to be hidden beneath the Beaufort Sea.

That prospect dimmed a year ago when, with construction already underway, the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau imposed a five-year moratorium on drilling in the Arctic.

But residents of the isolated hamlet still welcome the 138-km gravel road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk, which they hope will end their winter reliance on costly air transport for food, supplies, equipment and travel.

It is also expected to bring tourists to the far north.

In Tuktoyaktuk, the unemployment rate is more than 30 percent, and living conditions for the 930 inhabitants are difficult.

"You see, we don't have a hotel, we have limited stores, and limited opportunities within the community," said Tianna Gordon-Ruben, who hopes the road will bring down food prices and help create jobs in the community.

'Our doors are open'.

About 10 m wide, the continent's northernmost route consists in some places of a four-meter high embankment atop the permafrost - a thick subsurface layer of soil that remains frozen throughout the year.

Project manager Dean Ahmet describes building the C$300 million (US$235 million) road through a region pocked by lakes and rivers as no less than a feat of engineering.

The permafrost was too soft in summer to support heavy construction equipment, so most of the construction - involving just over 600 workers - had to be done during the seven or eight winter months.

"It was a challenge because we were working in very extreme temperatures ranging from -15 to -57 deg C, 24 hours a day," he told AFP.

At the opening ceremony, Bob McLeod, premier of the Northwest Territories, paid tribute to the crews who worked day and night to complete the project.

In the frozen tundra, a speed limit of 70 km per hour has been set to keep drivers from slipping into a snowy ditch.

Darrel Nasogaluak, the mayor of Tuktoyaktuk, touted this new lifeline to the south with speeches, handshakes, a few words for everyone, hoping it will lead to a better quality of life for northern residents.

To celebrate, there was a community feast consisting of traditional Inuit game and seafood including caribou and muktuk (beluga whale skin and blubber).

"You know, we're going to have better access to health care, better access to healthier (and) fresher foods," Nasogaluak told shoppers at the only grocery store in Tuktoyaktuk, where a liter of milk costs almost twice as much as in Vancouver, 3,800 km to the south.

With a bright sun forecast in a few months, will the tourists flock to Tuktoyaktuk? Nasogaluak hopes so.

"I'd just like to invite everybody in Canada, southern Canada and all over the world to come share our rich culture and incredible scenery.]]>
11/18/2017 12:07:03 PM
<![CDATA[10 instructions to follow to ensure Red Sea dolphins remain undisturbed]]>
The instructions are:

1- Sea launches with valid naval licenses sail in the coral reefs areas named el-Arq and el-Fanous from 9 am to 2 pm.

2- All boats should be anchored in specified places according to signs.

3- No launches or zodiacs to be in places for dolphin rest. These places are labeled by white signs.

4- Launches and zodiacs are banned from getting close or following dolphins.

5- Launches or zodiacs with divers are allowed to enter dolphins rest places only to get down divers then back to specified places for anchoring.

6- Zodiac entering these places laden with visitors should be at least four meters with a motor of 25 horsepower.

7- Boats should move very carefully in coral reefs areas, el-Arq and el-Fanouse, and boats should not follow dolphins but to be in parallel with them with 50 meters distance.

8- One guide should be available for every eight visitors during their trip to the coral reefs areas.

9- Life Jackets should be on board;one for each visitor from the beginning of the voyage.

10- In case of violations of these instructions, the owner and the captain of the launch will be seen as responsible, and the boat will be banned from entering the coral reef areas again.
]]>
11/18/2017 10:51:21 AM
<![CDATA[Moon Valley in Siwa Oasis ]]>
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A room inside Moon Valley (undated photo) – Moon Valley Siwa Oasis official Facebook Page

In Moon Valley, which is about 6 kilometers away from Siwa’s Oasis, you are able to live unique moments and experience primitive life, as the rooms of the valley are made from rocks and materials from the surrounding environment, which absorb the sun’s heat during the day only to reemit it back at night. Even the lightening system uses zero electricity due to the many openings in the domes above the village that transmit sunlight midday, while candles are enough to light the village at night.

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The terrace of Moon Valley (undated photo) – Moon Valley Siwa Oasis official Facebook Page

In the heart of the valley, you can taste the real meaning of nature, where impressive mountains, golden sands and water springs meet each other under the stars and moonlight. The valley was built at the foot of Izbat Mountain and is framed by desert plants.

The furniture is made of wood, and each guest room has a beautiful mountain view that makes you sleep safely in the heart of the desert. The village offers barbecue facilities and easy access to a children’s playground.
The village serves a buffet breakfast each morning at the property and also organizes many concerts for some of the most acclaimed bands and DJs that definitely bring the city to life at night.

Take the step and don’t hesitate to spend one night there. ]]>
11/17/2017 9:19:49 PM
<![CDATA[EgyptAir, LOT sign codeshare agreement]]>
The agreement, which comes into effect as of today, will enable customers of the two airlines to travel to Cairo and Warsaw via Budapest and Milan.

EgyptAir Chairman Safwat Musallam said the deal is meant to provide high-level services for customers, praising strong relations between the two companies.

LOT President Rafal Milczarski, meanwhile, expressed his company's desire to boost cooperation with EgyptAir in the coming period.

LOT is keen on improving services provided for customers and increasing the number of its flights to secure more profits, Milczarski said.]]>
11/17/2017 5:02:13 PM
<![CDATA[Cyprus smashes record for tourist arrivals in 2017 ]]>
The eastern Mediterranean island has benefited from its reputation as a regional safe haven as unrest has hit the tourism sectors of its traditional competitors Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey.

Arrivals in the first 10 months already comfortably exceeded the record 3.18 million registered in the whole of 2016.

Cyprus has benefited from a boom in visitors from its largest market, Britain ― up nearly eight per cent for January-October ― along with a revival in those coming from Germany (up 60 per cent), second largest market Russia (up 5.2 per cent) and Israel (up 80.8 per cent).

The surge has helped Cyprus return to growth following a €10-billion (RM49 billion) bailout to rescue its crumbling economy and insolvent banks in March 2013.

Income from tourism accounts for about 12 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product and is credited with underpinning a quick recovery. ]]>
11/17/2017 5:01:54 PM
<![CDATA[Critics hit US over elephant trophy imports]]>
The move reverses a prohibition imposed under Barack Obama and is the latest rollback of Obama-era controls on a number of fronts.

It also came on the same day that the US State Department presented to Congress its first annual report on wildlife trafficking which, it said, "remains a serious transnational crime."

The US Fish & Wildlife Service said it "will begin issuing permits to allow the import of sport-hunted trophies from elephants hunted in Zimbabwe" between January 21, 2016 and December 31, 2018.

The statement on the service's website Thursday confirmed an announcement made this week at a South African pro-hunting forum.

Zambia will also be covered under the revised rule, which had been sought by the Safari Club International Foundation, based in Arizona, and the National Rifle Association.

An environmentalist group, the Center for Biological Diversity, said the new ruling will allow importation of the animals' heads, feet and tails, "legalizing the killing of endangered elephants."

According to the Great Elephant Census project, African savannah elephant populations fell by 30 percent between 2007 and 2014, while Zimbabwe saw a drop of six percent.

Despite an overall fall in poaching, Africa's elephant population has declined in part because of continued illegal killing, said a report this year by CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

African ivory, in particular, is highly sought in China where it is a status symbol.

"Reprehensible behavior by the Trump Admin. 100 elephants a day are already killed. This will lead to more poaching," The Elephant Project, a group based in Florida that aims to protect the animals, said on Twitter.

The US decision takes advantage of a provision in the Endangered Species Act, which says the import of such trophies can be legal if accompanied by proof that the hunting benefits broader conservation of the species.

- Tumult in Zimbabwe -

"Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities" to conserve, and by putting revenue back into conservation, the Fish & Wildlife Service said.

"Hunters should choose to hunt only in countries that have strong governance, sound management practices, and healthy wildlife populations."

Updated information from Zimbabwe led US officials to find "that African elephant trophy hunting in Zimbabwe will enhance the survival of the species in the wild."

It cited data showing the country has more than 80,000 elephants.

But the US-based animal rights group PETA on Thursday denounced the administration's reasoning.

"Selling a threatened animal's life to raise money for 'conservation' is like selling a child on the black market to raise money to fight child molestation," it said.

Presenting its wildlife trafficking report to Congress, the State Department said Trump has called for "a comprehensive and decisive approach" to organized crime groups involved in the trade.

"The US government is combating this illegal trade at home and abroad," the department said in a statement.

It identified several countries which are either a "focus" of trafficking or a more serious country of concern, but Zimbabwe and Zambia were not among them.

Trump's sons are known to have a passion for hunting.

A photo widely shared on the internet shows Donald Trump Jr posing with a knife in one hand and an elephant tail in the other, the animal's corpse beside him.

The US decision follows tumultuous days in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe refuses to resign after the military seized control of the country.]]>
11/17/2017 4:58:14 PM
<![CDATA[Flat tire? China bike sharing boom shows signs of strain]]>
The country has seen a wave of iconic, brightly colored shared bicycles hits its city streets over the last year, helping revolutionize urban travel, but also drawing some public ire over mountains of bike clogging up sidewalks.

The chief executive of Bluegogo said in a public letter posted online he had “made mistakes” and the firm was winding up. He apologized to investors, partners and 20 million registered users of the company’s 600,000 bikes.

“We fought until the very last and I believe we can all leave with pride and our heads held high,” Li Gang wrote, adding he had endured months of sleepless nights.

He said financing in the market had become a “bubble”.

China’s bike sharing craze has been driven by huge investments, especially into the two market leaders Mobike and Ofo, which have raised billions of dollars from tech giants like Tencent Holdings (0700.HK) and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N).

The two brands - often seen as China’s “Uber for bikes” - have deployed millions of bicycles around the country, and pushed overseas into markets in the United States and Europe.

The trend hasn’t been without its opponents. Regulators have tightened rules around shared bikes and raised concerns too many bikes were hitting the streets. Some cities have put bans on shared bikes, citing safety concerns.]]>
11/17/2017 4:55:11 PM
<![CDATA[Japan railway ‘deeply sorry’ after train leaves 20 seconds early]]>
The Tsukuba Express train linking Tokyo and the capital’s northern suburbs pulled out of Minami Nagareyama Station at 9:44:20 instead of 9:44:40.

“We deeply apologise for causing tremendous nuisance to customers,” said the Tsukuba Express company.

“There was no complaint from customers over this incident,” said the firm, which added that no one missed the train due to the early departure.

Japanese railway services, including shinkansen bullet trains, are famous for their world-beating punctuality.

Even the slightest delay prompts an effusive apology from the train guard, which often lasts longer than the hold-up itself.

With trains running the same route every few minutes to cope with huge numbers of passengers, even brief delays can back up the whole network causing overcrowding.

The apology had several social media users scratching their heads.

“A weird country in which a 20-second difference prompts a sincere apology while faking quality data on aluminium and steel products or misconduct on car check-ups are done just like that,” read one tweet.

This was a reference to a recent string of corporate scandals that has floored the reputation of Japan Inc.

Car giants Nissan and Subaru have admitted that uncertified staff had inspected vehicles while Kobe Steel has been embroiled in a quality data-faking scandal.]]>
11/17/2017 1:28:35 PM
<![CDATA[Art project lights up iconic 85-year-old Dutch dyke]]>
As daylight faded, the art project to celebrate the Afsluitdijk — a bridge which runs 32km across a gulf in the northern Netherlands — was lit up by the lights of passing cars driving across the famous divide.

The Icoon Afsluitdijk project is designed to shine at night “to enhance and safeguard” the dyke’s “rich heritage and anchor its position in the world as a Dutch water engineering and design icon,” its creators said.

Commissioned by the Dutch government, the project consists of a number of art installations, of which the last, called Gates of Light, was unveiled yesterday.

Artist Daan Roosegaarde and his team applied a reflective layer to the Afsluitdijk’s 60 imposing floodgates, which allows the concrete gates to brightly light up at night in the retro style of the 1930s, when the dyke was first built by hand.

There are also a number of temporary installations including one called Windvogel (Wind Bird) in which huge kites generate enough electricity to light up their specially designed anchor lights with luminous colours.

Roosegaarde said the structure, which was completed on May 28, 1932, “needed a renovation”.

“We restored the historical floodgates, renovated them, removed the rotten concrete and added a layer of reflective material,” he told AFP.

Referring to the importance of dykes, which help keep out the water in a country where 26 per cent of the land is below sea level, Roosegaarde said: “Dykes in The Netherlands are as holy as cows in India.”

The Afsluitdijk (literally, “cut-off dyke”) was built to keep out the North Sea and create an inland lake and polders, or land reclaimed from the sea.

It secures hundreds of square kilometres of inland coastline inside its boundaries, creating the vast but shallow IJsselmeer, which quickly turned into a freshwater reservoir.

Across the dyke stretches a multi-lane highway providing a shortcut between North Holland and Friesland, letting travellers shave almost 300 kilometres from their journey.

Even after 85 years it is still considered one of the world’s civil engineering wonders.]]>
11/17/2017 1:23:37 PM
<![CDATA[Turquoise waterfalls dry up after Mexico quakes]]>
But after a powerful earthquake hit the country, they dried up — and the area’s once-booming tourist economy along with them.

The state of Chiapas, where the falls trickle near the ancient Mayan ruins of Palenque, was the epicentre of the 8.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Mexico on September 7, killing 96 people.

Besides flattening houses and buildings across a broad swathe of southern Mexico, the quake, along with thousands of aftershocks, also altered the bed of the Agua Azul river.

The tremors — together with the normal erosion of the limestone whose minerals give the water its bright colour — collapsed a portion of the river’s left bank, said Mexico’s National Water Commission.

That shifted the flow of water to another branch of the river and caused the water level to drop by nearly a metre, leaving the falls completely dry in many places.Locals watched in alarm this month as the water dried up from one day to the next, making them fear for the future of a tourist attraction that draws thousands of visitors a day from around the world.

“If there are no tourists, there are no jobs,” local businessman Juan Manuel Hernandez told AFP.

The government vowed to study the problem and seek a solution.

But not content to sit back and wait, locals have taken matters into their own hands.

Using shovels and pickaxes, they partially restored the riverbed to its original course, bringing back a trickle of the famously bright blue water.

After moving as much stone and sediment as they could by hand, they have asked the authorities for heavy machinery they hope will help them bring the falls back to their full flow.

Mexicans have a tradition of springing into action after earthquakes, stepping up when overwhelmed authorities don’t.

After the September 7 quake and another on September 19 that levelled dozens of buildings in Mexico City, killing 369 people, volunteers flooded the streets to pull survivors from the rubble, bring emergency supplies and even provide free legal services and psychological counselling.]]>
11/17/2017 1:21:19 PM
<![CDATA[Visitors to UK hits August record after Brexit fall in pound]]>
The number of overseas residents coming to the country in August rose by an annual 5 percent to 3.9 million, the highest number for any August and the second highest for any month.

By contrast, the number of British residents going abroad during the month - normally the busiest of the year for holiday travel - fell by 3 percent to 8.9 million, official data showed.

The pound fell sharply after the referendum decision to leave the European Union in June 2016, pushing up inflation for British households - and making holidays abroad more expensive too - but leading to lower prices for foreign tourists.

The combination of more foreign visitors to Britain and more Britons spending the summer at home was a factor behind a pick-up in the country’s economic growth in the third quarter, Howard Archer, an economist with EY Item Club, a forecasting body.

“It is notable that there were reports that UK retail sales were boosted in August by more people taking holidays at home as well as spending by tourists,” Archer said.

In the first eight months of the year, the number of overseas visitors to Britain rose by 8 percent while Britons travelling abroad rose too, up by 3 percent, the ONS said, based on preliminary data.

Foreign visitors to Britain spent 2.8 billion pounds in the country in August, a record for any month and an increase of 3 percent from the same month last year. Spending by Britons abroad rose by 1 percent during the month to 6.2 billion pounds.]]>
11/17/2017 1:19:26 PM
<![CDATA[AirAsia testing personalised baggage pricing, eyes more add-on revenues]]>
The Malaysia-based carrier reported 49 ringgit ($11.73) of revenue per passenger beyond the ticket price in the quarter ended June, but hopes to raise that to 60 ringgit with the help of a $100 million investment in digital initiatives that also include a new duty-free website and reusable baggage tags.

AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes told reporters the revenue target was a “tough ask at the moment” but the airline “had a shot” of making it. He was discussing the carrier’s digital investment plans at a briefing in Singapore.

Research firm Crucial Perspective last month said the 60 ringgit target was “overambitious”. AirAsia’s June-quarter number was up from 47 ringgit a year earlier.

AirAsia receives around 18.7 percent of its revenue from sources other than ticket prices, ranking 13th among world airlines according to the latest annual report on ancillary revenue by U.S. consultants IdeaWorksCompany.

Ireland’s Ryanair Holdings PLC, which ranks fifth at 26.8 percent, changes the fee for checked baggage depending on the flight’s demand and proximity to its departure date.

Fernandes said AirAsia was looking to tailor pricing to individuals and was using data and machine-learning to better understand what passengers were prepared to pay. The airline earns 49 percent of its add-on revenue from baggage fees.

“We begin to know what your tolerance level is for a certain ticket to a certain destination,” he said. “We will charge you differently for baggage. We are testing it.”

He said he did not believe passengers would stop logging in with their AirAsia loyalty programme account before buying a ticket even if they realised they were being charged for baggage based on their travel profile.

“They don’t do it for airline tickets - why should they do it for bags?” Fernandes said.

AirAsia is launching a prepaid travel money card, which can be loaded with 10 different currencies, for Southeast Asian travellers, he said. Other airlines, like Qantas Airways , have already successfully rolled out similar cards.

Duty free, including the launch of a website offering home delivery and if possible airport collection, with personalised deals is another good opportunity to raise revenue, he added.]]>
11/16/2017 7:18:23 PM
<![CDATA[Record number of Americans forecast to travel over Thanksgiving]]>
Roughly 50.9 million Americans will journey 50 miles (80 km) or more away from home Nov. 22-26, a 3.3 percent increase over last year and the most since 2005, Heathrow, Florida-based AAA said in a report released on Thursday.

“A strong economy and labor market are generating rising incomes and higher consumer confidence, fueling a strong year for the travel industry, which will continue into the holiday season,” Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president, said.

The largest share of travel, roughly 89 percent, will be on U.S. roads.

U.S. motorists will take 45.5 million trips this holiday, a 1.5 percent increase over last year and also the most since 2005, even though gas prices are at their highest since 2014, AAA said.

Air travel is expected to grow by 5 percent to 3.95 million trips, buoyed by the cheapest tickets since 2013, AAA said.

It is the sixth consecutive year air travel has grown during the holiday, and now accounts now for 7.8 percent of all travel, its highest share since 2010, AAA said.

U.S. motor travel accounts for 10 percent of global demand, and is closely watched by global oil traders.

Overall, motorists are on pace this year to break the record for most vehicle miles driven on U.S. roads, helping spur potential record demand for gasoline.

U.S. gasoline demand and vehicle miles traveled both set records in 2016.

Gas prices jumped more than 10 percent after hurricanes Harvey and Irma, peaking on Sept. 8 at an average of $2.67 a gallon. Prices were at $2.56 a gallon on Wednesday, about 10 percent above last year, AAA said.]]>
11/16/2017 7:14:27 PM
<![CDATA[Azerbaijan flights to Sharm El Sheikh to be resumed in March 2018]]>
This came following the meeting that was attended by Suzanne Jamil, Egyptian ambassador to Azerbaijan, and a number of civil aviation officials in Azerbaijan.

During the meeting, they discussed the necessity of intensifying promotional publicity for Egypt in the Azerbaijani market, which is considered one of the most promising tourist markets.

It was agreed that Azerbaijan Air Lines would put promotional advertisements for Sharm El-Sheikh flights on the company's website to attract the largest segment of Azerbaijani citizens.

Tourists will be granted incentives to encourage them to come to Sharm el-Sheikh from Azerbaijan, such as free nights in a number of hotels.

Culture and Tourism Minister Abulfas Garayev received a delegation led by Fouda, who is on a visit to Baku.
The direct flights between Egypt and Azerbaijan will be important not only for tourism, but also for expansion of political and economic relations, Fouda said.

Fouda guaranteeing the security of tourists visiting the South Sinai Province stating that there is stability in the region and no danger to the lives of tourists exists. ]]>
11/16/2017 6:20:26 PM
<![CDATA[‘Hurghadians’ can’t help but return to their second home ]]>
Michel Van Haarlem, a member of the “Hurghadians” Facebook page, is a Dutch citizen with an Egyptian heart. His story with Egypt began 14 years ago when he visited Safaga for the first time.

Michel_Van_Haarlem,_a_Dutch_tourist_practices_diving_in_El_Gouna,_Hughada_City,_facebook_homepage_travelouge,_October_27,_2015
Photo of Michel Van Haarlem, a Dutch tourist practices diving in El Gouna, Hughada - Facebook homepage travelogue

“From the first trip, I fell in love with Egypt and its people, and I felt that this is my second home. I can still feel the same excitement every time I book a ticket to Egypt, even though I have now visited this beautiful country many times over the past years,” Van Haarlem told Egypt Today enthusiastically.

Van Haarlem spent all his holidays moving between Egyptian cities, such as Luxor, Sakkara, Cairo, Qena, Aswan, Esna, Edfu, El Gouna and the apple of his eye – Hurghada.

Michel_Van_Haarlem_flies_in_an_air_hot_Balloon,_Hurghada,_Egypt,_Facebook_homepage_travelouge_October_27,_2015
Photo of Michel Van Haarlem on board of an air hot balloon, Hurghada, Egypt - Facebook homepage travelogue

As a Hurghadian, Van Haarlem told Egypt Today Magazine, “El Gouna is also one of my favorite places. I go there mainly for diving. I am now in Holland, but I was in Egypt three weeks ago for a Nile cruise, which is really amazing, and I have a lot of nice memories. It was an amazing experience and we are contemplating to do it next year.”

Speaking of the Egyptians’ warm reception, Van Haarlem said, “When my friends ask me what is so special about Egypt, the answer is easy: the friendly people who always wear a smile on their faces; their generous reception, even though they don’t have much as we have in Europe; let alone the amazing diving sites, the ravishing nature, and the monuments and archaeological sites.”

Van Haarlem concluded by saying, “I will always support Egypt till the last day of my life. Because ‘Ana behabik ya Masr’ (I love you Egypt).”

Michel_Van_Haarlem,_a_Dutch_tourist_visits_Luxor,_Egypt,_Hurghadians_facebook_page,_undated_photo
Photo of Michel Van Haarlem, a Dutch tourist visits Luxor, Egypt - Hurghadians Facebook page

Another example of a tourist deeply attached to Hurghada is Alice Matthiesen, also a member of the Hurghadians Facebook page. She is a German athlete and sports model.

“This country gives me so much great moments and feelings. We as Hurghadians want to show the beautiful sides of this country. Thanks to Egypt, Hurghada and the people who give me an unforgettable holiday,” said Matthiesen on the Hurghadians Facebook page.

Hurghada is one of Egypt's leading holiday resorts, popular with visitors from around the world. It is the perfect getaway for those seeking total relaxation with fantastic weather and warm sea temperatures throughout the year. The city is fast growing into a major holiday resort, packed full of attractions, and it has a growing reputation as an international destination for visitors from all corners of the globe.

Michel_Van_Haarlem,_flies_in_an_airship,_Hurghada,Egypt,_facebook_homepage_travelouge,___October_27,_2015
Photo of Michel Van Haarlem, flying in an airship, Hurghada, Egypt - Facebook homepage travelogue

Hurghada became an international center for aquatic sports. This is the perfect place to practice your favorite sea sport, whether windsurfing, sailing, deep-sea fishing, swimming, or above all, snorkeling and diving.

The unique underwater gardens offshore are some of the finest in the world, justifiably famous amongst divers. The warm waters here are ideal for many varieties of rare types of fish and coral reefs, which may also be observed through glass bottom boats.]]>
11/16/2017 9:43:33 AM
<![CDATA[Campaign to renovate Hassan Fathy Village in Luxor ]]>
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Road in Hassan Fathy Village – Five Photos Website

The three authorities have launched this initiative to rescue the village and make it suitable for human life. This comes as a part of greater development project to rebuild and renovate underrated historical places in Egypt.

“All buildings surrounding this village will be decorated in the village’s style to be more attractive and comfortable,” Luxor’s governor said to the press.

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Mosque in Hassan Fathy Village - Five Photos Website

The village will be constructed through three phases. The first phase includes renovation of the Al-Khan building and the mosque, the second is to develop the Hassan Fathy home and theater, and the last phase encompasses rebuilding all homes situated in the village, according to the governor’s statement.

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Renovation work of Hassan Fathy Village – Five Photos Website

Hassan Fathy village is located on the Nile’s west bank in Luxor. It dates back to engineer Hassan Fathy, who was born on March 23, 1900. He was the first Egyptian member to serve on the teaching staff of the Faculty of Fine Arts, and he also worked as an engineering expert at the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA). His influence in engineering and architecture stretches all over the world, as he constructed many buildings in Athens, Greece.]]>
11/16/2017 9:37:26 AM
<![CDATA[The first Zorbing Park in the Middle East opens in Cairo]]>
Zorbing ball is a sport that puts in motion three in one activities: swimming, rolling down hills and playing bouncy ball.

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Two zorbing balls in Verticality Zorbing Park (undated photo) – photo courtesy of Verticality Zorbing Park official Facebook Page

This giant inflatable ball is double sectioned, with one ball inside another with a layer of air between them and dumping pumps. It is also lightweight and made of flexible plastic to roll you down smoothly.

Gamers rated it 4.8 out of 5 stars with positive comments, such as Mohamed Nabil, who wrote “lots of joy for kids and adults, we did enjoy the day."

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Double sectioned Zorbing ball (undated photo) – photo courtesy of Verticality Zorbing Park official Facebook Page

The park holds many crazy games other than zorbing ball. There is a Dragon Island Amusement Park that includes a quick line to a large trampoline, eight other games, a kids area, soccer, and baseball fields.



Zorbing ball culture originated in New Zealand, but now the ball is manufactured in EU and ISO certified in Amusement ride safety according to European standard. ]]>
11/16/2017 12:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[French envoy calls on his country's nationals to visit Sharm El Sheikh]]>
Addressing a session of the Egyptian-European Business Council on Wednesday, he said despite the decline in the number of French tourists who visited Egypt in 2011, this year witnessed a 15 percent increase compared to the past year.]]>
11/15/2017 5:38:52 PM
<![CDATA[Budget airline backer Franke spends a bundle on jets]]>
Passengers may grumble about paying extra for baggage, seats and meals, but the 80-year-old industry veteran - the co-founder and managing partner of Phoenix-based private equity firm Indigo Partners LLC - offers no apologies.

“The consumer is essentially like your teenager: a spoiled brat,” Franke said after agreeing the giant Airbus (AIR.PA) deal - worth up to $50 billion at list prices - at the Dubai Airshow on Wednesday.

He said passengers had become used to flying premium carriers with lots of amenities, but they were not willing to pay a higher price for them. “So if you want the lowest possible fares, you have to have some trade-offs,” he said.

Franke is betting the aviation industry is evolving toward the European model where bare-bones carriers like Hungary’s Wizz Air (WIZZ.L) and Ireland’s Ryanair (RYA.I) have made greater inroads in taking market share from legacy airlines on short flights than in the United States.

Franke said the idea was to make air travel affordable enough so that it could attract people who wanted to avoid a longer journey on a bus or train. “The reason they don’t or haven’t been able to (fly) is because of the high cost of the airfare,” he said. “So if we are able to produce a model that has low fares, we have had great success in attracting customers.”

PORTFOLIO OF AIRLINES

Indigo, founded in 2003, controls Denver-based budget carrier Frontier Airlines as well as new Chilean airline JetSmart and part of Mexico’s Volaris. The private equity firm sold an 18.7 percent stake in Wizz Air in June and once held stakes in Singapore’s Tiger Airways and U.S.-based Spirit Airlines.
The huge Airbus order includes A320neos and A321neos for Wizz Air, Frontier, Volaris and JetSmart.

Franke said it underscored his optimism about their growth potential. He began his airline career at then-bankrupt America West Airlines, which later acquired U.S. Airways and was then bought out by American Airlines (AAL.O).

At America West, he took lessons from low-cost carriers Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) and Ryanair about flying aircraft as many hours of the day as possible and charging extra fees, he said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times last month.

“Not staying disciplined about the business model and allowing other costs to leak in is the ‘path to hell’,” Franke said on Wednesday. Budget airlines partly save money by buying large numbers of jets at low prices when manufacturers are eager to fill up their order books, and then generally sticking with one type.

Industry sources say Indigo Partners takes a fee on aircraft allocated to airlines, making it effectively four deals in one. But finance sources said the cost to Airbus in last-minute concessions to bring lengthy and secret talks to a head in time to promote the order at the air show may have been significant.

“We are not going to discuss the pricing of the aircraft but as they say in the West, where I am from, we didn’t just arrive in town on the watermelon truck,” Franke said. “We know how to buy airplanes and we are pretty good at it.”]]>
11/15/2017 5:26:04 PM
<![CDATA[Hilton Worldwide plans Egypt expansion, sees pick-up in tourism]]>
The U.S. company, which runs thousands of hotels around the world and manages 17 hotels in Egypt, aims to add 2,500 rooms and take on seven more projects in the North African country by 2022, Hilton’s Mohab Ghali said.

Egypt’s tourism industry, one of the country’s main sources of foreign currency and employer of millions of Egyptians, has suffered since a 2011 uprising but has picked up in recent months amid government efforts to restore stability and revive the industry.

“The average occupancy rate at hotels in Egypt has increased by 20-25 percent this year,” Ghali said on the sidelines of an event to promote investment in Port Said.

Ghali added that the number of visitors to the North African country is expected to continue to climb next year.

A government official said last month that Egypt’s tourism revenue had jumped by more than 210 percent year on year to $5.3 billion in the first nine months of 2017.

A flotation of the country’s currency last year, which cut the Egyptian pound’s value by half, has helped to lift the tourism market after political turmoil and two plane crashes left its resorts nearly empty.

“As long as there is economic and political stability, you’ll see the numbers of tourists improving,” Ghali said, adding that 40 percent of hotel reservations are currently made by local visitors.

“Why would we sign new contracts and expand here if we weren’t optimistic about Egypt?”]]>
11/15/2017 5:19:37 PM
<![CDATA[Alaska Airlines discontinues Los Angeles-Havana daily flight]]>
The U.S. government made it tougher last week for Americans to visit Cuba and do business in the country, making good on a pledge by President Donald Trump to roll back his Democratic predecessor’s move toward warmer ties with Havana.

The regulations include a ban on Americans doing business with some 180 Cuban government entities, holding companies, and tourism companies.

The airline which started the Los Angeles-Havana flight in January this year, said it will redeploy the aircraft to other markets with stronger demand.

Passengers who have tickets booked to Havana after January 22 will be rebooked on another airline at no additional cost or a full refund, the company said.]]>
11/15/2017 2:26:04 PM
<![CDATA[Scored by history, overhauled Algiers mosque to reopen]]>
Now the ornate towers and arches are set for a new chapter as the majestic place of worship gets ready to open its doors for the first time in nearly a decade following a lengthy renovation.

Once a symbol of Ottoman influence, it was known for more than a century as the Roman Catholic Saint Philippe Cathedral after France’s conquest of Algeria, only to revert to a mosque when the country claimed independence in 1962 following a bloody struggle.

In 2008, it was shut down as the ravages of time — and a powerful earthquake — took their toll.

But much to the delight of local residents it will soon be up and running again after more than three years of restoration work, funded by the Turkish government.

“I can’t wait to return there to pray,” said Salim, a trader working nearby, who declined to give his second name.

My father brought me here to pray for the first time in 1978 when I was just nine years old.”

A worker walks in the Ketchaoua mosque in the famed Unesco-listed Casbah district of Algiers as they complete the final stages of its renovation on October 15, 2017. — AFP pic
A worker walks in the Ketchaoua mosque in the famed Unesco-listed Casbah district of Algiers as they complete the final stages of its renovation on October 15, 2017. — AFP pic
Bloody assault

The date of the first mosque built on the site remains under debate but the earliest references to it can be found in 1612.

In the late 18th century, the Ottoman ruler of the region Hassan Pasha completely transformed the location and turned it into one of the grandest mosques in the city.

That lasted only for around 40 years until the French seized Algeria and requisitioned the building by force.

“Its conversion into a church in 1832 took place after an assault by the colonial army” that claimed the lives of some of “the several hundred faithful who had dug in to oppose the takeover,” said Aicha Hanafi, professor of archaeology at the University of Algiers.

“That same year, on December 24, they celebrated the first Christmas Mass,” she said.

The Christian capture of the mosque brought both a physical and spiritual change to the building.

Its first women

After returning to its original function following independence some 55 years ago, the mosque underwent cosmetic changes to make it conform to the demands of the Muslim faith.

Now the latest renovations have seen a greater overhaul, restoring more original features and making space for some 1,200 faithful, including, for the first time, women.

“We did all that we could to maintain the historical monument,” said Abdelouahab Zekkagh, director of the national agency that oversees the use of historical buildings.

He said that the minarets were taken apart stone by stone and those blocks that were too badly worn were swapped for new ones bought in from the west of the country.

The original minbar (pulpit) built by the Ottomans in 1794 has been restored and the niche indicating the direction of prayer has been repainted in gold leaf by a Turkish craftsman.

Architect Akli Amrouche is slightly disappointed that the new verses of the Koran inscribed on the walls do not match the originals.

But, overall, after the long road that the mosque has travelled he is happy with the facelift.

“It is an excellent job, the minarets have been saved and the prayer room renovated,” he said. — AFP]]>
11/15/2017 2:22:11 PM
<![CDATA[Travel through time in Luxor airship ]]>
Luxor is famed as one of Egypt's biggest attractions worldwide. The equivalent in Arabic is the “City of Temples”, describing the monuments that have survived from ancient Thebes, built by the ancient pharaohs more than 7,000 years ago. There are many more beauties hidden in the City of Temples that you need to know before you travel to Luxor.

Airships have become one of the best rides for travelers, but only few know about it. When some are intimidated to try them, others deem them as worth trying. Here we will take you on a tour on board an airship, and you can be assured that you will crave flying in one soon.

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An airship flies over the green fields, Luxor, Egypt, undated photo, Egypt Best Places Facebook Page.jpg

Take a deep breath before you come on board, as the view of Luxor is breathtakingly beautiful from an airship. Your trip will start at 5 a.m., and if you are lucky enough, you will enjoy the scenic sunrise. The Nile view flowing between the modern city and the west bank necropolis, backed by the temples of Karnak to the east and the spectacular view of tombs on the west bank, will captivate your mind and heart.

If you are a first time flyer, be sure to wear heavy clothes, as you will fly 2,000 ft above Luxor for nearly 45-60 minutes with 10-12 persons. Once you are on board, the balloon slowly floats up, and the higher it gets, the more you can see, while also watching other time machines take off. There is nothing in the world that compares to the view and grandeur of the Egyptian monuments from an airship.

Airships, or hot air balloons, are known for mainly depending on the expected weather conditions and wind directions during flight. These conditions are only available in certain seasons and in a few countries around the world, such as England, Spain, Turkey, Kenya and Egypt.

Luxor gained international fame by being the only place that is able to fly hot air balloons throughout the year’s seasons, due to the nature of the atmosphere and moderate weather on one hand, and the beautiful historical views of the city on the other. ]]>
11/15/2017 9:32:45 AM
<![CDATA['Egypt Selfie' campaign to see Egypt from tourists’ eyes ]]>
1- A foreign couple shared a video of them walking along one of the touristic places in Egypt and acting in Pharaonic positions. The video had more than a million views once it was uploaded on This is Wonderful Egypt Facebook page.

2- Kazakhstanian women named Kamila supported the campaign with photos of her wearing pharaonic outfits at several historical places, like the Giza Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum.

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kazakhstanian women in Egypt with Pharaonic outfit -
This is Wonderful Egypt Facebook Page


3- An Iraqi family participated in the campaign with their photos after visiting about 10 touristic sites.

4- A traveling girl named Jordan Taylor provided the campaign with her selfies at the Giza Pyramids, Mohamed Ali Mosque in Cairo, Luxor and Aswan to deispel all allegations that Egypt is an unsafe country for women.

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Photo 3 Tourists taking selfies in Giza Pyramids - This is Wonderful Egypt Facebook Page

5- An American tourist has uploaded his tour at the Roman Pavilion of the Egyptian Museum with a caption stating that the knowledge he acquired in Egypt is equal to all he had learned from school since 1978.

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Traveller Jordan Taylor in Egypt official Facebook page

It seems that tourists are playing an active role in these campaigns not only by visiting our country, but also by promoting tourism in Egypt and encouraging others all over the world to visit every inch of the country.

The Egypt Selfie campaign is a friendly attempt to create a more valuable and attractive story about Egypt. The site was launched by Ahmed Salama. He launched it on social media, sponsored by his Facebook page This is Wonderful Egypt.

At first, Ahmed started with himself . He shared a lot of selfies on the campaign group and encouraged other Egyptians to attract Arabs and foreigners. ]]>
11/15/2017 4:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Ep. 13: Holy Family rest in Minya’s ‘Mountain of Birds’]]>
Map
Edited map of the Holy Family’s route in Egypt – Egypt Tourism Authority

Most residents work in quarries which surround the village from all directions. They are tough workmen who retrieve marble and white granite from the mountains, while few of them work as peasants. All residents are Christians, since the last three Muslim families left the village to another Muslim-majority village. When they decided to leave, Reverend Bafnotious asked them, “Why did you decide to leave? Did anyone bother you?” Malak, a resident of the village told us this story on the ferryboat. He said that the Muslims just wanted to join their in-laws in a nearby village, so they sold their land and left. Nobody bothered them; we have all been neighbors for many years.

1
A view of Gabal et-Tayr Monastery, Minya Oct. 14, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

Many people got into the ferry. Some of them were going to the quarries, while others were transferring vegetables, fruits and goods. We could see the crosses of Gabal et-Tayr Monastery in the distance, like plants sprouting in the wilderness.
As the ferry got closer, we saw the small stairs of the monastery carved into the mountain.

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The cave in which Virgin Mary and Child Christ stayed at Gabal et-Tayr Monastery, Minya Oct. 14, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

On our way to the Southern bank of the Nile, we pondered the story of the Holy Child who was sailing down the same river more than two thousand years ago when someone screamed as he saw a rock falling down the mountain towards him, but baby Jesus could stop the rock from falling, carving his tiny hand on it. The mountain was thus called Gabal al-Kaff (Mountain of the Palm), before it was changed to Gabal et-Tayr (Mountain of Birds). The name refers to all those strange birds that migrate annually to the mountain and do not leave it until they die.

3
One of the entrances to Gabal et-Tayr Monastery, Minya Oct. 14, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

When we got off the ferryboat, we saw the road to the village with a lot of stacked white sand. It seemed like it was in the process of being paved. The car took us through the streets of the village; then through a one-kilometer road to the monastery’s main gate where we entered the world of the Holy Family once more.

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Part of the natural landscape at Gabal et-Tayr Monastery, Minya Oct. 14, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

The gate of the monastery led to a sandy courtyard. To the right, there was a booth selling Christian souvenirs and books; it was run by a nun who went about her daily work while reciting Christian hymns. We could also see policemen securing the monastery and carrying out their national duty; one of them was performing Al-Asr prayer, an afternoon prayer for Muslims, when we got there. And several antiquities inspectors were sitting near the ancient church’s gate.

5
Ancient engravings at Gabal et-Tayr Monastery, Minya Oct. 14, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

“Our church is special because it is the only church built inside the mountain. It used to be one rock and now it is four rocky walls; in the cloister, there used to be 10 rocky pillars. In 1938, the church was restored and the second and third floors were built,” said Reverend Sawfilos. He also indicated that the rock where Christ’s palm was imprinted used to be in the monastery, but then during the British occupation, it was stolen and never returned. However, it is preserved in a U.K. museum.


6
An icon at Gabal et-Tayr Monastery, Minya Oct. 14, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

"In 328 A.D., Empress Helena, mother of King Constantine I, came to the mountain. When people told her that the Holy Family passed by this area and hid in the cave, she ordered that the rock around the cave is sculpted into the architectural style of Orthodox churches. She called it the Virgin Mary Church," continued Reverend Sawfilos. He indicated that the monastery consists of five churches; they are the Virgin Mary Church (the ancient church), the Holy Family Church, Saint Joseph Church, Saint Salome Church, and finally, Al-Hurub Church (the flight), which reminds Egyptians of the difficult journey taken by Christ in their country.

7
The ancient columns of Gabal et-Tayr Monastery, Minya Oct. 14, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

As we went into the church, we were fascinated by the icons on the walls. Some icons were ancient, and others were brought in by Christians seeking to be blessed. On each icon, you could see the name of the person who presented it to the church, written in a small font. In a small corner of the church, you could see the Virgin’s shrine in the heart of the mountain, where lovers of the Virgin left their prayers, hoping she will deliver them to the Heavens. You could also see a box for donations; the Virgin loves those who give. The money goes to the poor of course.

8
A man going down one of the staircases of Gabal et-Tayr Monastery, Minya Oct. 14, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

There was a recent icon of the Virgin with stars surrounding her as she is the "Second Heaven" in the Bible. She had a wreath on her head because she is a queen, and around her, there were pigeons, because pigeons symbolize her. Therefore, this icon shows many names given to Mary in the Bible. They are more than 100 names, and the most important ones are, “the highly favored,” and “the pigeon,” as simple people love to use these names.

9
9: One of the staircases of Gabal et-Tayr Monastery, Minya Oct. 14, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

On the wall, there was an icon of the Holy Martyrs of Bethlehem. The Reverend told us that they were the children killed by King Herod and his soldiers as they were looking for Baby Jesus among the newborns. In the middle of the church, there was a rocky pillar, with a baptismal font sculpted into it. The Reverend said the font is not used today for fear of it collapsing.

10
A view of farmland from the top of Gabal et-Tayr Monastery, Minya Oct. 14, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

We left the rocky church and went to Al-Hurub Church, recently built on the mountain, featuring a huge dome. Next to it, there was another cave leading to the stairs we saw outside of the monastery, called the "Virgin’s stairs." The attendant told us that these stairs used to be the only way one could get into the church in the past. As for this mysterious cave, the attendant told us that it blesses women who are having difficulty getting pregnant; women enter the cave from the right side and leave from the left side more than once while calling on the Virgin.

11
Gabal et-Tayr Monastery from a ferry in Minya Oct. 14, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

Above the cave, there was what the Reverend called al-bakara, which is an old piece of machinery used to lift groundwater at mountain to the top, but the water dried up after the practice stopped.

We took a few flights of stairs to the modern buildings in the monastery; then we found ourselves on top of the mountain, and we could see the many agricultural fields surrounding us. We also saw the palm trees growing in the middle of the rocks with remarkable resilience to survive.

We left the monastery and crossed to the West Bank, following the steps of the Holy Family again. They did not stay in the villages of Assiut for long, but they got to the spot where Deir al-Muharraq, the first church in history, was built.

Translated by Heba Fadel

Ep. 12: Minya, Upper Egypt – Holy Family’s first stop after Cairo



Ep. 11: At Holy Family’s Maadi station to Upper Egypt



Ep. 10: Holy Family leaves behind Egypt’s most visited church



Ep. 9: holy family in Egypt - Islamic Cairo



Ep.8: Holy Family in Egypt – Virgin’s Mary Tree in Heliopolis



Ep. 8: Holy Family in Egypt – St. Macarius Monastery



EP. 6: holy family visits Wadi el-Naturn, founds monasticism



Ep. 5: Holy Family in Egypt - Christ leaves ‘footprint’ on Xois rock



Ep. 4: Holy Family embraced in Sebennytos, leaves kneading trough



EP. 3: Holy family in Egypt – Mary bathes Christ in Musturud



Ep. 2: Holy Family in Egypt’s ‘cat house’ met with grain of salt



Ep. 1: Holy Family in Egypt - Pelusium ruins reveal war-torn past

]]>
11/15/2017 12:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Sisi emphasizes tourist potentials in western Egypt]]>
The president’s remarks were made during his meeting with Prime Minister Sherif Ismail and Matrouh Governor Alaa Abu Zeid, during which he also urged establishing integrated entities including the necessary facilities and services in a way that contributes to improving people’s living conditions.

Sisi also underscored the importance of finalizing the relevant projects as soon as possible, at the lowest cost and in accordance with the highest quality standards, presidential spokesman Bassam Rady said in a statement.

The meeting comes within the framework of following up the government’s plan to develop western Egypt, which aims to set up a foreign investment-attracting zone and transfer the area into a tourist destination throughout the year.

The plan will in turn help boost the national economy and provide job opportunities via establishing a number of projects in Marsa Matrouh governorate, the spokesman added.]]>
11/14/2017 6:56:15 PM
<![CDATA[Tourism in Egypt started to recover, says official]]>
In statements to MENA correspondent here on the sidelines of his participation in the first regional conference on tourism in the Middle East and North Africa, Demeiry noted that despite the current absence of the British and Russian tourists, there are several other markets coming to Egypt.

There is an increase in the number of tourists coming from traditional markets, such as Germany and Italy, or the new ones, like Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Poland, India and China, he said.

The two-day conference was inaugurated on Tuesday in Amman under the theme “Competitiveness for Sustainable Growth.]]>
11/14/2017 3:56:37 PM
<![CDATA[Make this street your next destination]]>
1-Long_Passage_of_Al-Alfy_Street
long Passage of Al-Alfy Street – Credit to Ahmed Hussein – Egypt Today Photographer

Al-Alfy Street is the largest passage in downtown Cairo. It is 135 meters long and 22 meters wide, linking Orabi Square and Emad El-Din Street. The street is divided into two parts; Zakria Ahmed main street divides Al-Alfy street into two parts; a walkway with many restaurants on either side.

This street is considered by many who visit downtown Cairo as a stop or meeting point. It has numerous vintage restaurants and modern cafes on both sides, like Umm Kalthoum Café, Elfalero Sweets, and Al-Alfy Bek Restaurant.


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Al-Alfy Bek Restaurant on the right side of Al-Alfy Street – Credit to Ahmed Hussein – Egypt Today Photographer

In 2014, Al-Alfy Street had the worst reviews since many street vendors were clogging the street’s multiple intersections.


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El Falero sweets at Al-Alfy Street – Credit to Ahmed Hussein – Egypt Today Photographer

However, between 2015 and 2017, the street was entirely renovated and redrawn. All street vendors were removed, trees were planted, a new lighting system put in place, and all the former wooden seats were replaced with a novel granite sidewalk. These steps came under a project by Cairo governor.

This old street and renewed passage dates back to the Mamluk Prince Mohamed Bek Al-Alfy, who fought against the French invasion of Egypt. ]]>
11/14/2017 1:09:34 PM
<![CDATA[Egyptian-Jordanian ties in tourism sector 'excellent': Jordan]]>
In statements to MENA on Tuesday on the sidelines of the first regional conference on "Tourism in the Middle East and North Africa: Competitiveness for Sustainable Growth", the minister said that Egypt and Jordan are working together to promote tourism in Europe and other world countries.

Annab added that she held contacts with Egyptian Tourism Minister Yehia Rashid to boost cooperation in the tourism field, including religious, non-religious and adventure tourism, in the two countries.

The conference, which kicked off on Monday under the patronage of Jordanian Prime Minister Hani Mulki, is part of the activities of the 2017 International Year of Sustainable Tourism to reflect the Global Sustainable Development Goals 2030.

The two-day conference includes the signing of the "Private Sector Commitment to the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism — within the framework of the corporate social responsibility" agreement, between the World Tourism Organization (WTO) and seven global companies, in addition to Jordanian national tourism associations.]]>
11/14/2017 12:55:07 PM
<![CDATA[In Morocco, a blue tourist town is turning green]]>
Chefchaouen - known locally as Chaouen - wants to become a model for sustainable development at a time when the northwest African kingdom has shone a spotlight onto its commitment to the environment and a greener future.

Take Aziz, a local council employee in his forties. He whizzes silently around town on an electric bicycle doing his job as an inspector of building sites."It's a practical and eco-friendly way of getting around!" he says.

"It respects the environment and allows us to get around easily without using polluting modes of transport," Aziz says, wearing a fluorescent safety vest and with a helmet firmly on his head.

Mohamed Sefiani, mayor of the town of some 45,000 residents where visitors come to admire hundreds of hues of blue, says Chefchaouen began to go green more than seven years ago.

"In April 2010, the municipal council took a unanimous decision aimed at transforming Chaouen into an ecologically sustainable town," he says. Local political commitment to the project is strong, the mayor says, but much still needs to be done.

"Chefchaouen isn't an ecological town yet, but it certainly has the will to become one," says a smiling Sefiani."We are in a transition phase. At a Moroccan and African level, we're among the most advanced towns in this respect."

Raising awareness

A newly inaugurated municipal swimming pool equipped with solar energy is near an "ecology centre" built from recycled containers where the town's green projects, funded mainly by the European Union and backed by several NGOs, are highlighted.

France's GERES - Group for the Environment, Renewable Energy and Solidarity - was asked to help transform Chefchaouen."It was at the town's request that we came here to support its energy and climatic transition," says the NGO's Virginie Guy, who is coordinating the project.

Among the initiatives is an "info-energy" centre to raise awareness about energy savings, photovoltaic panels at several sites, such as the municipal library, that contribute to electricity production, and an environmentally oriented museum is also nearly complete.

The info-energy centre's Houda Hadji explains the basics of eco-construction, energy efficiency and the benefits of energy-saving lightbulbs, among other green topics. "There's very strong interest" from visitors to the centre, says the young guide, her hair concealed under an elegant veil.

"This is the first initiative in Morocco working on energy upgrading in buildings, and providing information about savings, targeting both businesses and individuals," she adds.

Chefchaouen is one of 12 southern Mediterranean locations to benefit from a European programme that has granted it around 10 million dirhams ($1 million, 900,000 euros) and declared the town "a model and initiator of change in sustainable energy management".

But not everything is green yet in the little blue town."The public dump is not yet up to standard," Mayor Sefiani concedes."We're working on a landfill and recovery centre, and I think that by 2021, we will have ironed out all the problems."

Renewable energy

With "green" mosques, solar and wind farms, electric buses and a ban on plastic bags, Morocco has been forging ahead with environment-friendly policies over the past few years.It regularly trumpets its proactive strategy in terms of green energy, instigated by King Mohammed VI.

Late last year, in the southern city of Marrakesh, the country hosted the COP22 international climate conference and has begun an ambitious plan to develop renewable energy.

In a country devoid of hydrocarbon resources, the aim is to increase the share of renewable energies nationally to 52 percent by 2030 (20 percent solar, 20 percent wind, 12 percent hydro).

A massive flagship project was inaugurated by the king in February last year. The Noor solar power plant is on the edge of the Sahara desert, some 20 kilometres outside Ouarzazate.

Spread over an area equivalent to more than 600 football pitches, the plant's half a million metal mirrors follow the sun as it moves across the sky and stores the energy collected from its rays.

Despite pushing its green credentials, Morocco still has many environmental hurdles to clear on its way to cleaner horizons.

A recent World Bank report covered by Moroccan media spoke of "alarming" peaks of atmospheric pollution in the country's major cities.

And a number of eco projects announced to great fanfare during the 2016 COP22 conference remain just that -- announcements.]]>
11/14/2017 9:14:02 AM
<![CDATA[TV host Ellen reposts video of Egypt’s Red Sea]]>With nearly 50 million followers on her Instagram account, DeGeneres’ video got more than five million views in just two days.



Many initiatives are underway to revive tourism in Egypt as many renowned Hollywood stars have visited Egypt in the recent period.

Since the drawback that hit the tourism industry following the revolution and, in particular, the crackdown of Russian plane over South Sinai in 2015, tourism revenues have gone down by over 70 percent.

Hollywood star Forest Whitaker visited Egypt in October to attend the El Gouna Film Festival, where he visited the Egyptian museum and shared photos as he marveled at the iconic pyramids, to document such an “inspiring moment,” as he tweeted.

In February, Argentinean football legend Lionel Messi arrived in Egypt as part of Egypt’s "Tour 'n' Cure" campaign to combat Hepatitis C.

Messi’s visit to Egypt was met with great fanfare. During his first day, he explored the Great Pyramids of Giza and met a number of Egyptian children. He also attended a gala at the Mena House Hotel in the presence of several ministers.

In addition, Hollywood star Will Smith arrived for a visit with his family and shared his now famous selfies admiring the “beauty” and “magnificence” of Egyptian monuments.
Early in April, Manchester United football legend Ryan Giggs visited Egypt as part of a UEFA tour, promising to return for a longer trip.

Shortly after, Egypt’s Tourism Development Authority announced a remarkable hike in tourism rates, crediting its promotional campaigns in Europe.
]]>
11/13/2017 5:42:52 PM
<![CDATA[United resumes Newark-Delhi flights after halt due to poor air quality]]>
UA Flight 82 had been canceled on Friday and Saturday, data from flight tracking website FlightRadar24 showed, while the airline’s website said it had waiver policies in place for passengers traveling to, from or through Delhi until Monday.

UA Flight 82 has resumed operations, but “we will continue to monitor conditions over the next few days”, a spokesman said.

The third-largest U.S carrier is monitoring advisories as the New Delhi region remains under a public health emergency, and is coordinating with respective government agencies, the United Airlines spokesman had earlier told Reuters.

Last week, New Delhi declared a pollution emergency as toxic smog hung over the city for days, with tourism operators reporting cancellation of bookings for the Christmas holidays.

U.S. rivals Delta Air Lines Inc and American Airlines Group Inc said they do not operate flights to New Delhi, while several Asian airlines contacted by Reuters said they had not canceled flights.

Verisk Maplecroft, a risk consultancy, says India has the worst air quality out of a list of 198 countries it measures, and that New Delhi ranks among the world’s top 10 most polluted cities with many urban areas around the capital also among those with the worst air quality.

“At the national level, India tops the index rankings (i.e. the country with the worst air quality), followed by Bangladesh and Thailand,” said Richard Hewston, Verisk Maplecroft’s global head of environment and climate change.

The company’s Air Quality Index assesses the atmospheric concentrations of fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers, known as PM 2.5.

A U.S. embassy measure of PM 2.5 showed a reading of 481 in New Delhi on Monday morning, local time. The outer limit of “good” air is 50.]]>
11/13/2017 4:40:25 PM
<![CDATA[Despacito’ model Zulyeka Rivera spotted in Egypt]]>
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Zulyeka in Bedouin outfit in Giza Pyramids - Twitter Official Account

It seems, however, that this effectiveness stretched over Egypt to kick off the tourism activation program, especially after the model of “Despacito” had visited touristic spots in Egypt on Friday.

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Zulyeka Rivera riding balloon in Luxor – Twitter Official Account

Zulyeka Rivera is promoting tourism to Egypt on her own way as she made a simple tour around the most popular touristic sites and historical places with a professional photo-shoot in the country’s attractions, including Giza Pyramids and Sphinx, Luxor and Aswan, Mohamed Ali Mosque and Khan el-Khalili Street.

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ZulyeKa enjoying Nile view from Aswan – Twitter Official Account

Rivera is also Miss Universe 2006 and a Puerto Rican actress who participated in the movie “Runner Runner,” which was published in 2013. She is also the TV host at one of the top shows at Univision: “Despierta America.” Zulyeka was born on October 3, 1987, and at the age of 14, she began her modeling career, which she was highly passionate about, and her face helped her more as she graced many magazine covers.

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Zulyeka take a photo infront of Sphinx – Twitter official Account

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ZulyeKa Rivera at one of Luxor temple – Twitter Official Account

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Zulyeka in Mohamed Ali mosque – Twitter Official Account
]]>
11/13/2017 3:29:18 PM
<![CDATA[Climate change imperils one in four natural heritage sites: report]]>
The number of sites at risk has grown to 62 from 35 in 2014, when one in seven were listed, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which released the report at UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany.

Among the ecosystems most threatened by global warming are coral reefs which bleach as oceans heat up, and glaciers which melt.

"Climate change acts fast and is not sparing the finest treasures of our planet," said IUCN director general Inger Andersen.

The report found that 29 percent of World Heritage sites faced "significant" climate change threats, and seven percent -- including the Everglades National Park in the United States and Lake Turkana in Kenya -- had a "critical" outlook.

"The scale and pace at which it (climate change) is damaging our natural heritage underline the need for urgent and ambitious national commitments and actions to implement the Paris Agreement," said Andersen.

Negotiators are gathered in Bonn to work out a nuts-and-bolts rulebook for executing the planet-rescue pact adopted by nearly 200 countries in the French capital in 2015.

The agreement seeks to limit average global warming caused by greenhouse gases from fossil-fuel burning to under two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels, and to 1.5 C if possible.

The 1 C mark has already been passed, and scientists say that on current country pledges to cut emissions, the world is headed for a 3 C future.

- 'Devastating' -

The IUCN monitors more than 200 natural Heritage Sites listed by the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Three World Heritage-listed coral reefs -- the Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean, the Belize Barrier Reef in the Atlantic, and Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the biggest on Earth -- have been affected by "devastating" bleaching events over the last three years, said the IUCN report.

Corals "bleach" when they are stressed by environmental changes -- due to ocean warming or pollution.

The corals expel the colourful algae that live in them, and turn bone white.

"Retreating glaciers, also resulting from rising temperatures, threaten sites such as Kilimanjaro National Park, which boasts Africa's highest peak, and the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch, home to the largest Alpine glacier," said the union.

Wetlands, low-lying deltas, permafrost and fire-sensitive ecosystems are also affected by changes to Earth's climate, it added.

Harm to these natural sites endangers local economies and livelihoods, the IUCN report said.

"In Peru's Huascaran National Park, for example, melting glaciers affect water supplies and contaminate water and soil due to the release of heavy metals previously trapped under ice.

"This adds to the urgency of our challenge to protect these places."

Only invasive plant and animal species surpassed climate change as a risk to natural heritage sites, said the union. And climate change boosts their spread.

Tourism was the third-biggest threat, followed by infrastructure expansion, mining, and oil and gas exploitation.

Sites on the World Heritage list are earmarked for protection for future generations.

Countries assume responsibility under the World Heritage Convention to protect listed sites within their borders.

The report said the management of heritage sites has declined since 2014, "notably due to insufficient funding."

The Bonn meeting is the first of UN climate envoys since US President Donald Trump said he would pull America out of the hard-fought Paris Agreement, a move many fear will make the 2 C goal that much harder to reach.]]>
11/13/2017 3:05:49 PM
<![CDATA[Burullus City glows with Graffiti ]]>
Graffiti tells the story of the walls speaking for themselves and enliven the city with scenes of fish, blossoming roses and singing birds.

Painted_by_Aly_Said
Painted by Aly Said

Ordinary viewers and professional artists share the opinion that looking at a work of art up close and personal is essential to appreciating its total effect. The visual experience can never be attained through looking at a laptop screen or printing process; both rather add a barrier to art and distort the aesthetic significance.

The experience brings the memory of Sistine Chapel ceiling, when it was restored by Leonardo Da Vinci and turned into a masterpiece and a world attraction. Similarly, this graffiti has added to Burullus city a much spirit-uplifting experience, transforming the simple city into a work of art.

Painted_Assem_Abdel_Fatah
Painted Assem Abdel Fatah

Egyptians became more familiar with Graffiti as a real form of art after the January 25 Revolution. Egyptian street artists documented the events of the revolution and turned this art from simple negative vandalism to a much more redefined form of art that radiates love and peace. Young graffiti artists have altered several of the street's murals, especially the ones on the walls of the former AUC building, to suit the current political situation in the country.

Painted_by_Nader_Neseem
Painted by Nader Neseem

Burullus city was lucky enough to witness this combination of street artists of different nationalities every year. The residents prepare for this event even before the artists themselves and coordinators of the event. People’s eyes and faces show how excited they are for the shift in the city outlook. It is surprising enough for them to see painters’ brushes and fingers turning the city walls into lively masterpieces and throbbing works of art that speak love and peace.

painted_by_Manal_Moubarak
Painted by Manal Moubarak

“It was a fantastic experience for me because it was the first time for me in Egypt. I have seen so many good things in Cairo and Burullus. The kids and the happy people, it was all amazing,” an Italian artist said in the forum.

Painted_by_Noha_Deyab
Painted by Noha Deyab

“The residents were so happy with this unique experience that brought a colorful life to their houses. They are accustomed with the drawing and painting atmosphere, and some of them even wait for this event to take place every year. They cordially interact with the painters, prepare in advance and ask artists to draw them their favorite drawings,” said an Egyptian artist participating in this event.

Painted_by_Mohamed_Abu_El_Wafa
Painted by Mohamed Abu El Wafa

Although many consider the spray-painted pieces a nuisance, graffiti has been gaining recognition from the art world lately as a legitimate form of art.]]>
11/13/2017 9:58:30 AM
<![CDATA[Ep. 12: Minya, Upper Egypt – Holy Family’s first stop after Cairo]]>
The Holy Family spent five days on its journey down the Nile, blessing the cities of Upper Egypt. Child Christ caused water to spring from an empty well. With his small palm, he stopped a rock from falling on the passengers, and the mountain is thus named Gabal al-Kaff (Mountain of the Palm). A village is also called Deir Abi Esus, meaning the House of Jesus. Centuries later, Arabs altered the name to Deir al-Garnous.

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Deir el-Garnous church – V Egypt Tours

From Maghagha, a town in Minya, the car took us to Deir al-Garnous village. Locals installed speed bumps themselves in front of their houses. The lanes were too narrow that they would not accommodate two vehicles at the same time. We found the village with a lot of difficulty. When we got there, we noticed that the metal doors of people’s houses were adorned with crosses, as if people wanted to assert the Christian identity of their village. For many years, Muslims have not resided in this village, and the people do not welcome strangers among them.

The people of Deir al-Garnous work in agriculture, trade and transportation of goods. Toward the middle of the village, we could see the beacon of the Virgin Mary Church. There were huge domes and a long beacon towering above the surrounding houses built by peasants and merchants who could build their houses using red bricks after many encroachments on farmland.

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Deir el-Garnous church – V Egypt Tours

The gates of the Church opened, leading to a spacious courtyard. We could see both the ancient buildings and others that Reverend Aghathon, current Bishop of Maghagha, commissioned building in order to accommodate the largest number of worshippers possible. If you took two steps back, you could notice the contiguous domes. There were twelve of them, representing Christ’s 12 apostles. On top of each, there was a cross which is lit at night. The church goes back to the 10th century A.D.

Reverend Bernaba is the Representative of Maghagha Archbishopric and other priests call him the “historian of Deir al-Garnous.” Writing about this church was part of his graduation project from the Clerical College, a hub of clerical education in the Coptic Church. He told us that the Holy Family crossed this village on their journey, that it was called Abi Esus, and it was changed to Deir Besus in the 12th century A.D. Years ago, it became known as Deir al-Garnous, which is the official name today.

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Deir el-Garnous church – V Egypt Tours

Reverend Bernaba tells us that the Holy Family spent three days in this place before they left to Gabal at-Tayr. Christ made a well emerge here when he felt thirsty. Saint Joseph hit the ground with his stick, making water spring from it.

Reverend Shenouda Girgis, long-serving priest at the Virgin Mary Church in Deir al-Garnous told us that the church is called Deir al-Garnous because monks used to live there during the 7th century. Monks later left the area. A church was later built and took the name of deir (monastery). Ancient pillars, a baptismal font and an ancient mill which monks used to grind grains for bread still survive in the church to this day.

A group of peasants gathered around the well, praying for blessings. They filled water bottles from it and said they would water their fields with it, and prayed for the blessings of Jesus and his virgin mother. Reverend Shenouda said that the well is a source of blessings to the village. Even Muslims in nearby villages come to it and pray for the miracle of being cured from disease, he said.

From Deir al-Garnous, the Holy Family crossed to the other bank of the river and we do not know exactly what happened there. We took the train to Samallout and when we got there, we took the Agricultural Road to Bani Khaled ferryboat, which connects both banks of the Nile.

Translated by Heba Fadel

Ep. 11: At Holy Family’s Maadi station to Upper Egypt



Ep. 10: Holy Family leaves behind Egypt’s most visited church



Ep. 9: holy family in Egypt - Islamic Cairo



Ep.8: Holy Family in Egypt – Virgin’s Mary Tree in Heliopolis



Ep. 8: Holy Family in Egypt – St. Macarius Monastery



EP. 6: holy family visits Wadi el-Naturn, founds monasticism



Ep. 5: Holy Family in Egypt - Christ leaves ‘footprint’ on Xois rock



Ep. 4: Holy Family embraced in Sebennytos, leaves kneading trough



EP. 3: Holy family in Egypt – Mary bathes Christ in Musturud



Ep. 2: Holy Family in Egypt’s ‘cat house’ met with grain of salt



Ep. 1: Holy Family in Egypt - Pelusium ruins reveal war-torn past



]]>
11/13/2017 12:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[How the Great Pyramid proves once again it's a world wonder]]>
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Technologies used in Void Discovery – Reuters

Archeologists and scholars spend years searching for and studying the secret of the pyramids’ internal structure and the mystery of its architecture. The team discovered the structure’s most recent secret; experts from ScanPyramids describe the void as being the size of an airbus with 200 passengers on board.

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Scan Pyramids Projects Team – Guardian

“It is a very big void space above the Grand Galley, roughly 30 meters long,” ScanPyramids deputy coordinator Yasser Al-Shayeb told the Egyptian press; adding that the team could not know if the void was horizontal or inclined or made by one structure or several successive ones.

The discovered void cannot be a chamber as it is a long passage, four meters wide and 30 meters long, but the chamber should be of a rectangular and square shape. It is also observed through three different moun-detection technologies, installing emulsion films in the queen chamber in the pyramid and three independent analysis that came up with the giant void inside, according to the team coordinator.

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Japanese Detector at Great Pyramids – BBC

The ScanPyramids team that made the discovery comprise Egyptian, French, Japanese and Canadian scientists who teamed up two years ago in a bid to solve mysteries and understand the inner architecture of the pyramids with the use of modern technologies and infrared scanning under the supervision of a scientific committee assigned by the Minister of Antiquities.

Four similar weight-reliving voids were found on the top of the king chamber to distribute the weight of the pyramids down, giving a scene of the rule upon which Pharaohs built the pyramids.
]]>
11/12/2017 7:54:07 PM
<![CDATA[Bots battle for the ball, and the globe, in Robot Olympiad ]]>
But the same may not be true for workers, especially those in menial or transport activities where robots are steadily taking over. Think factory assemblers and sorters, or even self-driving cars.

Some of the technology behind the robot revolution could be seen in the Olympiad, which gathered more than 2,500 people from more than 60 countries in a vast hall on the outskirts of Costa Rica's capital San Jose — the first time the event, now in its 14th year, has been held in the Americas.

Pint-sized robots packed with sensors and rolling on plastic wheels showed their football skills by battling rivals on miniature football fields.

Others rolled across tables seeking out blocks of certain colors and sizes to grab and place within demarcated zones.

It was all more than child's play for the contestants representing their countries, aged from six to adult.

“It’s so difficult,” said Hassan Abdelrahem Alqadi, 17, from the United Arab Emirates.

“We have to do it in the system and make the robot take the color and go to the pieces that we want. So it’s very difficult,” he said.

The teen, who hopes to be a mechanical engineer in the oil industry, admitted he had picked up tips from watching other competitors' practice sessions. He and other tech-savvy youngsters crowded around dozens of tables — computers or robots in their hands — to observe.

Environmental theme

At one table, a group of Australian teens fine-tuned their contraptions trying to win possession of a palm-sized transparent "soccer" ball containing a sensor. The robots were able to detect the ball, grab it while fending off rivals, and protect the goal area.

Being at the Olympiad, surrounded by equally bright peers from around the world, was eye-opening for the teens.

“We’ve never been to an international competition before, so it’s a new experience. I can really only compare it to the competitions we’ve had in Australia — in Australia we've done pretty well,” said Tiernan Martin, 13.

The competition over the weekend was being judged in several age categories, as well as in the football, university and open tournaments.

This year, the environment was the overriding theme — an area in which Costa Rica is at the forefront.

Thus, robots had to show their usefulness in sustainable tourism (identifying protected areas), carbon neutrality (planting trees), and clean energy (seeking out the best places to set up wind turbines).

Robots 'help humanity'

Costa Rica's science and technology minister, Carolina Vasquez Soto, told AFP her country won the right to host the Olympiad — hitherto held mostly in Asia — “for the participation we've had in sustainability, because we are contributing to that with more and bigger resources.”

On the larger question of what robots, and the associated field of artificial intelligence, now represent for human workers, the national organiser for the World Robotics Olympiad, Alejandra Sanchez, was upbeat.

While some see robots as a threat to jobs, she said she saw them as an opportunity.

“I think it's really good. It's good they replace human beings in some tasks. But we are not being discarded — we're changing the functions for human beings,” she said.

“Before, a human being was the one painting cars, for example. Now we have a robot painting vehicles and a human being controlling the robot.... So, it's a personal opinion, but I believe robots are here to stay, and here to help humanity.]]>
11/12/2017 6:51:03 PM
<![CDATA[Real Madrid star visits Egypt to participate in Tour n' Cure]]>
Salgado visited Egypt to promote treatment for Hepatitis C, as part of Prime Pharma’s “Tour n’ Cure” campaign to support tourism treatment in Egypt.

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Salgado visited Egypt to promote treatment for Hepatitis C - File Photo

After launching an aggressive campaign to fight the debilitating hepatitis C virus domestically, Egypt launched a program to help the estimated 71 million people afflicted with the disease worldwide.

In May 2016, the country launched the Tour n’ Cure program, which has been promoted by football celebrities Lionel Messi and Dani Alves. For €5,900 ($8,000), European patients can spend a week in Egypt and tour the country at the same time they receive treatment for the virus.

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Salgado visited Egypt to promote treatment for Hepatitis C - File Photo

Tour n’ Cure, Egypt’s latest initiative in medical tourism, offers the opportunity to treat Hepatitis C patients from all over the world, through an effective and advanced complete treatment program with no waiting time and at a fraction of the cost.

It also offers to enjoy the beauty of Egypt and visit historic landmarks during the days of the treatment, while enjoying a relaxing stay at a 5-star hotel.]]>
11/11/2017 11:22:21 PM
<![CDATA[Underrated city should be on tourist map ]]>
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Nile Cornich in Minya – Best Places of Egypt - FaceBook Page

Minya City is one of the underrated cities in Egypt, but it has a great location at the halfway point between Cairo and Luxor, roughly at the border between Upper and Lower Egypt. Named the “Bride of Upper Egypt”, the archeological sites it encompasses and its agricultural and industrial importance put the city on the top of tourist lists and government maps.

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Green areas of Minya City – Best Places of Egypt - FaceBook Page

“Tell el-Amarna” is one of the most famous places in Minya. It is a flat piece of land next to the Nile Valley, with only a stripe of palm trees separating it from the Nile River. It stretches over 120 kilometers from north to south. The sand there is a mixture of ruins from temples and palaces that archeologists are still discovering. El-Amarna is named after a Bedouin tribe called Amarna, who lived in a valley there named “El-Tell”.

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Nile view from Minya City – Best Places of Egypt - FaceBook Page

Bani Hassan is the second most famous site in the city and includes a lot of tombs. Those tombs tell us the real life and traditions of the middle kingdom. Bani Hassan lies on the eastern bank of the Nile and conjoins around 39 rocky tombs, like the tombs of Amenemhet, Khnumhotep and Khnumhotep I.

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Ruins of Palace at Tell el-Amarna – Memphis Tours Website

Tuna El-Gabal is a temple-shaped tomb belonging to the priest of Toth, the god of wisdom and knowledge, dating back to the age of Akhenaton.

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Minya City – Wiki Pedia

The Monastery of the Virgin Mary, located on top of a rocky hill, is called Gabal El Teir. El Teir is located about 25 km northeast from the capital of Minya. It was constructed by Empress Helena in the fourth century.

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Monastery of Virgin Mary – Watni Website

The archeological site is rich enough to attract thousands of tourists, there are many rural homes owned by Upper Egyptian residents. Residential homes are opened to tourists, whereby they can taste the traditional food in the city, like eggs and black honey.

Minya is worth visiting and valuable enough to attract tourism to Egypt and change the negative perceptions about Upper Egypt. ]]>
11/11/2017 7:16:39 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt, Greece talk stimulating tourism movement]]>
This came during Qabil's visit to Greece, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Trade on Saturday.

The meeting took up the importance of reaching a MoU on bolstering tourism cooperation between the two countries as well as activating the trilateral deal between Egypt, Greece and Cyprus.

Coordination is underway between officials of both countries to foster tourism movement, minister Kountoura said, adding that the trilateral agreement will be signed to facilitate cruise trips between Egypt, Greece and Cyprus.]]>
11/11/2017 2:04:29 PM
<![CDATA[Italy's Ostia, Mafia-by-the-sea where silence is safe]]>
"If you don't see anything, hear anything or say anything, then you can live to be 100 here," a sexagenarian resident of Ostia, near Rome, told AFP, declining to give his name.

"But if you want to change things, then you are going to have some major problems ahead," he added.

"That should have happened a lot earlier. These problems are enrooted and now it's no good lopping off a branch because another will grow and the tree will be just the same."

Ostia, a town with a population of 85,000, where many live on impoverished estates, has been in the media spotlight since Tuesday when the brother of a mafia boss violently assaulted a journalist.

Roberto Spada was filmed headbutting TV reporter Daniele Piervincenzi, before attacking him with a baton.

Piervincenzi had been investigating Spada's alleged links to the far-right CasaPound movement and his nose was fractured in the attack.

In Ostia on Friday dozens of Italian journalists protested in defence of freedom of speech after the attack on their colleague.

Piervincenzi was questioning Spada for a report for national broadcaster Rai about municipal elections, two years after the local council was dissolved due to mafia infiltration.

CasaPound, suspected of links to organised crime in the area, won eight percent of the first round votes.

Italian police arrested Spada on Thursday for assault, with prosecutors saying his behaviour was typical of methods used by organised crime groups to control territory.

While no one in the town openly talks about the mafia, its influence is all pervasive.

"Look at that beach. Not long ago the beach huts, towels, life guards were all abusively managed by the clan," one resident said.

"But since last summer, nothing. The municipality decided to seek tenders for the management, but no one has bid," he added, smiling knowingly.

- 'Digging a bit too deep' -

The attack on Piervincenzi didn't just upset fellow journalists. Ostia residents also turned out to defend freedom of expression.

"Let's just say that the presence of the press has forced law enforcement to lift the lid on the issue," Silvia Frau, a resident, told AFP.

"I hope they stay once the media rush is over," she added.

However another local passing by said that the reporter "was looking for it and he got it".

"He should have known when to stop. He was too insistent, he wanted to dig a little too deep".

Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi, of the populist Five Star Movement, was one of the first politicians to react to the attack, calling the violence unacceptable and pledging a crackdown on crime.

"Spada's arrest is proof that there are no lawless areas in Italy," the interior ministry said in a statement.

CasaPound came fourth in Sunday's first round voting in the municipal elections and is hoping to do better in the second round on November 19.

It is calling on voters to kick out Raggi who it claims "hasn't even managed to move an abandoned mattress in 18 months".

The Spada clan is notoriously violent. Seven members of the family were sentenced to a combined 56 years in jail in October, and Roberto's brother Carmine was ordered to serve 10 years last year for extortion and mafia association.

CasaPound insists that is all part of a campaign to discredit the movement.

"What CasaPound has done on the ground is anti-mafia work, anti-organised crime," the group's vice president Simone Di Stefano said Thursday.]]>
11/11/2017 1:47:38 PM
<![CDATA[3,460 tourists arrive in Safaga on one ship ]]>CAIRO – 11 November 2017: The cruise ship Mein Schiff 5, carrying 3,460 tourists from different nationalities, arrived in Safaga, a Red Sea town, on Friday to lie at anchor for two days before it sails to other international ports. The ship’s first stop in Egypt was the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.

The capacity of Mein Schiff 5, built in 2016, is 3,975 passengers and 1,030 crew members. Its height and width are 310 meters and 39 meters, respectively, consisting of 18 floors.

The ship is owned by TUI Group, which is a multinational travel and tourism company headquartered in Hanover, Germany. It is the largest leisure, travel and tourism company in the world and owns travel agencies, hotels, airlines, cruise ships and retail stores.
]]>
11/11/2017 1:45:35 PM
<![CDATA[Ep. 11: At Holy Family’s Maadi station to Upper Egypt]]>
We stopped in front of the church, and we told an inquiring policeman that we had an appointment at the church. We went through the metal detector and security guards verified our identities and allowed us in. Edward Wadie, a church deacon, led our tour in the big, historical church.

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The floating Bible reportedly found on the surface of the Nile – Egypt Today

When he met us, he had just removed his gold-embroidered dalmatic that he wears at the morning mass as he always does on Fridays and Sundays. The church used to be called the al-Adaweya Virgin Mary Monastery, but then became a church when Maadi developed, which made a monastic life of solitude difficult.

“The Holy Family stayed at our church for three to four days on their way to Upper Egypt,” Wadie said.

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The stairs the Holy Family used to take a Nile boat – Egypt Today

The church’s ancient sanctuary was a wooden structure adorned with crosses, but with also tiny windows on it. Wadie explained that monks in the past monitored the area outside through those tiny windows to spot any imminent Berber, in which case they would escape with the Blessed Sacrament (Christ’s body) and his blood (the wine). Berber attacks on monasteries occurred in the fifth and sixth centuries and monasteries were plundered of food, crops and other possessions.

Next to the church’s sanctuary, there was an icon of the Virgin Mary, where golden earrings, a golden necklace and a cross dangled from her image. The base of the icon was filled with gold, too. Wadie said lovers of Virgin Mary gave away this gold when she answered their prayers. He said there is always more gold coming in, as the Virgin Mary “never turns down someone’s prayers.”

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Inside Maadi church – Memphis tours

There are many amazing stories about that church, but Wadie told us probably the best one. He said a floating Bible was found in the river next to the church on March 12, 1976. Samaan, a worker in the church, found it, so he called Reverend Bishara Ibrahim, the church’s priest who was conducting mass.

The reverend and deacons found the Bible amid the waves of the Nile, but it stayed open, displaying the verse, “Blessed be Egypt my people,” though the Law of Buoyancy says paper would sink and not float. The church has been preserving this Bible in a transparent glass box to this today.

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The Nile from a tiny window in Maadi church – Memphis tours

There is another sanctuary located in the nave of the church, with a dome hoisted on wooden pillars. In front of it, there are the church’s wooden benches and beneath it there is a metal door which connects you to the stairs that the Holy Family used to reach the Nile and take a boat to Upper Egypt. The church’s priests pray in this sacred area constantly.

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Inside Maadi church – Memphis tours
To our right, there was an entire family who came to be blessed by the holy shrine. The family members started to reach the Virgin’s shrine and once they got there, they immediately started to pray. The bodies of saints in their metal tubes surrounded the whole shrine, and in the middle of it, you could see the Virgin’s icon, lit by candles.

The mother whispered something to the Virgin’s icon, as if she was telling her a secret. Next to her, the father was lighting a candle for the Virgin, while their son was calling on them to glorify the Virgin. They all stood solemnly, and others joined them and started to chant, “Bless you Mary, a flower in the garden. Bless you Mary, bride of the holy Light.” Then, they chanted a Coptic prayer and left the shrine to continue praying in the church.

Before we left the church, we saw a small sailboat sailed by a lady and her young son. She was not going to Upper Egypt like the Virgin, but came from the other bank to earn a living near the luxurious Maadi corniche. We were then getting ready to continue our journey southwards to El-Minya, but we did not consider sailing down the Nile, at the time filled with crocodiles, as the Holy Family did.

Translated by Heba Fadel

Ep. 10: Holy Family leaves behind Egypt’s most visited church



Ep. 9: holy family in Egypt - Islamic Cairo



Ep.8: Holy Family in Egypt – Virgin’s Mary Tree in Heliopolis



Ep. 8: Holy Family in Egypt – St. Macarius Monastery



EP. 6: holy family visits Wadi el-Naturn, founds monasticism



Ep. 5: Holy Family in Egypt - Christ leaves ‘footprint’ on Xois rock



Ep. 4: Holy Family embraced in Sebennytos, leaves kneading trough



EP. 3: Holy family in Egypt – Mary bathes Christ in Musturud



Ep. 2: Holy Family in Egypt’s ‘cat house’ met with grain of salt



Ep. 1: Holy Family in Egypt - Pelusium ruins reveal war-torn past

]]>
11/10/2017 8:23:12 PM
<![CDATA[What impact did WYF have on Sharm el-Sheikh?]]>
During an interview with TV channel ON Live, Hesham Ali said attributed the rise to the World Youth Forum held November 5-9, adding that workers of the tourism sector are provided with high-level training to advance the industry.

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Soho Square, Sharm al-Sheikh - official Facebook Page

Sharm al-Sheikh resort hosted the five-day World Youth Forum (WYT) that brought together about 3,000 young people from more than 60 countries in an effort to explore key issues facing young people and determine their role in implementing global development goals and combating terrorism.

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Sharm el Sheikh, King of Bahrain Street

Store and bazaar owners in the world-famous Red Sea resort also reported major commercial activities in the town on the sidelines of the WYF.

Hamada, a shop owner in Sharm el-Sheikh, expressed his happiness at the outcome of the WYF on the tourism level, saying “we have weather and attractions that do not exist anywhere else in the world…we are the safest country in the world at this time.”

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the Old Market by a Sharm al-Sheikh beach - Sharm al-sheikh in English Facebook page
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11/10/2017 4:56:46 PM
<![CDATA[WYF crowns Sisi's efforts to promote Sharm as key tourist destination]]>
The event has drawn a galaxy of Egyptian and foreign senior officials who took part in dialogues and sessions meant to foster understanding between generations.

The participation of youths worldwide in the WYF is of special importance.

Youths taking part in the gathering were given the chance to freely express their views in various issues before President Sisi.

Concluding the five-day forum, president Sisi announced on Thursday the recommendations of the international event that came to a successful end.

The recommendations include assigning the organizing committee of the WYF to take measures to turn the forum into an international center concerned with Arab-African-international dialogue among world youths.

It also includes tasking the Foreign Ministry to coordinate with state bodies concerned and international agencies, topped by the UN General Assembly, to adopt decisions issued by a simulation of the UN Security Council that was carried out by youths from Egypt and the world during the forum.

Assigning the organizing committee to hold the forum annually in November in Sharm el Sheikh is also among the recommendations.

The forum, which was opened last Sunday, brought together 3,200 young people from 110 states under the slogan of "We Need to Talk."

Some 70 official delegations, including leaders and senior officials, attended the world forum, the first of its kind to be held in Egypt.

Envoys from the United Nations and the African Union were also present at this unique gathering.

The forum sought to boost dialogue between youths and decision makers as well as provides a platform for youths from different parts of the world to interact, share thoughts, and exchange cultures and experiences as future world pioneers.

The event included 46 sessions and workshops in which 222 speakers representing 64 countries spoke.

The sessions tackled various key issues including, the employment of youth and fighting terrorism, extremism and illegal immigration.

On the sidelines of the event, President Sisi took part in an international marathon.]]>
11/10/2017 1:01:12 PM
<![CDATA[How ruthless French robbers have ruined 'romantic' Paris for the Chinese]]>
As a guide, he knows all too well that cash-flush visitors lugging bags of valuables are easy prey for muggers and pickpockets."It's happened many times. The last two groups I had were robbed in this store," he said, recounting how unseen predators made off with bags momentarily left on the floor by their owners.

"I tell them Paris is dangerous and to hide their money inside their clothes. I try to be more careful everywhere. What more can I do?" he asked.

While all tourists are potential prey for thieves, the big-spending Chinese, who have a reputation for carrying wads of cash with them, have emerged as a prime target.
Last week, a group of

around 40 Chinese tourists were gassed and robbed outside their hotel near the capital's Orly Airport

-- the latest in a series of attacks that have dented France's image among Asian travellers.

In a statement on Saturday the Chinese embassy in France noted "several large-scale violent robberies" involving Chinese tourists recently in the country and urged them to exercise caution. Jean-Francois Zhou, head of the Paris-based Ansel travel agency, said France used to be associated with "the good life and gallantry".

"That image has been tarnished. Everyone now is aware of the security risks," he added. "The Chinese feel really abandoned in France," he said.

Robbers posing as cops

The most recent robbery, in the low-income suburb of Fresnes, fits a pattern of attacks at cheaper hotels in outlying neighbourhoods where some tour operators put up less affluent visitors.In August 2016, a group of assailants also used teargas to hold up a group of tourists outside their hotel in a gritty neighbourhood near Charles de Gaulle airport to the north of the city.

A receptionist at a three-star hotel in the high-rise northeastern suburb of Le Blanc-Mesnil told AFP that her place of work -- which also regularly receives Chinese groups -- had been targeted repeatedly."They used to come in groups of five or six, on scooters, and rob handbags and cash from tourists in the parking lot," she said, asking to remain anonymous because she was not allowed to speak to the media.

The hotel responded by closing off an entrance close to the road that served as a quick getaway route and instructing staff to call for a police car to be present each time a Chinese group arrives.

"But it's still happening today," the receptionist said, adding that the hotel had been targeted twice in the past six months by robbers posing as police officers. The hotel's management did not respond to a request for comment.

Still 'romantic'

China was the world's biggest outbound tourism market in 2016 in spending terms, ahead of the United States.Paris is the favourite European destination of the Chinese but France lost some of its lustre in 2015 and 2016, with three large-scale terror attacks dealing a severe blow to its carefree image.

Chinese arrivals fell 23 percent in 2016 to 1.8 million, but tour operators and department stores said that by the summer of 2017 they were back in force, encouraged by the marked decline of bloodshed in the past year.Jenny, a Chinese saleswoman at Galeries Lafayette, which this year opened a store dedicated to Chinese shoppers, told AFP demand for 2,000 euro ($2,300) Italian handbags was brisk.

"Paris is... very romantic!" a young woman in Chen's tour group said in halting English. But while tourists may have begun taking the continuing terror threat in their stride, crime could yet stymie France's ambition to attract five million Asian tourists annually by 2020.

The police have tightened security around tour groups and deployed mobile vans to help visitors report thefts in a host of languages, including Chinese.And to encourage visitors to carry less cash, some department stores have begun installing terminals from Alipay and WeChat Pay, two of China's most popular mobile payment platforms. But for Zhou, "given the scale of the phenomenon, these measures are not enough".]]>
11/9/2017 11:03:02 PM
<![CDATA[AccorHotels drops booking service for independent hoteliers]]>
The decision is a setback for Chief Executive Sebastien Bazin, who launched the initiative in 2015 to fight online travel agents such as Expedia and Booking.com that have been accused of hitting the margins of traditional hoteliers.

“The group has decided to stop marketing independent hotels on its website by end-2017 as the results were mixed,” a spokeswoman for AccorHotels said, confirming a report from L‘Echo Touristique magazine.

The service had aimed to triple to 10,000 the number of hotels offered on AccorHotels online by 2018. But only 2,000 independent hoteliers signed up.

One hurdle was that clients using the website were more likely to book one of the group’s well-known brands such a Pullman, Mercure, Ibis or Raffles than an unknown hotelier.

Giving small independent hoteliers greater visibility would have required stepping up marketing investments.

AccorHotels, which runs more than 4,000 hotels worldwide and has been expanding through acquisitions in the luxury end of the market and with new concierge services, now wants to focus on integrating and developing its large brand portfolio.

The cost of launching the online marketplace project was estimated at 22 million euros ($25.59 million), on top of the 225 million euros AccorHotels said it would spend to beef up its digital business between 2014 and 2018.]]>
11/9/2017 10:57:02 PM
<![CDATA[Tourism min. underlines Egypt-UK deep-rooted relations]]>
In an interview with The Independent on Thursday on the sidelines of the World Travel Market (WTM) currently being held in London, the minister said it is the right time has come to restore British tourism to Sharm el Sheikh city.

The recent positive tourism indicators in Egypt would be crowned by regaining usual inflow rates soon, the minister said.

Meanwhile, the minister noted that Vatican Pope Francis had recently blessed the Holy Family journey in Egypt as an official Christian pilgrimage. ]]>
11/9/2017 10:32:14 PM
<![CDATA[Have a Look at upcoming projects in Luxor ]]>
Luxor government worked on reconstructing main routes, streets, developing hotels, and transportation centers. Luxor is one of most visited and important cities in Egypt that supposedly includes a third of the world monuments. It is known as the largest open-air museum in the world and conjoins many upcoming projects to be more attractive to the tourists all over the world.

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Karnak Temple, Luxor in March 2012 – Marc Ryckaert via Wikimedia Commons

Luxor governor Mohamed Badr has stated that they are working on making all services better and renovating temples and statues in Luxor. They are working to make the tourism incentive program more suitable. These types of programs are meant to generate more revenues to the country.

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Luxor Temple in September 2012 - Jorge Láscar via Flickr


Here are the leading projects in Luxor:

1- An open-top bus to take tourists in a cheerful tour along the Nile Corniche and between all monumental sites in Luxor. It will be designed according to international style to facilitate many visits in the city.

2- The government intends to renew the marina of Luxor’s east and west bank and provide it with international shops, restaurants and cafes.

3- For the first time in Luxor, there will be an international conference hall to host international meetings, formal deals and presidential conferences in the center of the city.

4-An opera to revive the artistic side in Luxor as it will open the door for famous artists, singers and musicians to visit the city.

5- Cable Car, which will be a great opportunity for tourists to have an overview of Luxor. This project is proposed and is in need of investors.

6- Malls and an international stadium that change Luxor into an integrated city.
The governor said that all these proposed projects come as a result of many international companies. There are around 140 businessmen joining in Luxor, organizing a formal work-based meeting. These meetings are ought to change tourism in Luxor.
]]>
11/9/2017 4:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Ep. 10: Holy Family leaves behind Egypt’s most visited church]]>
Safely hidden from the eyes of King Herod’s soldiers, the family lived in a cave in Old Cairo for three months before they were forced to change their plans and leave the cave to Maadi.

Our taxi stopped at a metal gate near the ancient Religion Complex area. We left our bags at the security screening device and walked amid many ancient churches and monasteries while the sound of the Adhan (the Muslim call for prayer) started out from the nearby Mosque of Amr ibn al-As. Visitors went in and out from all directions; European, Indian and Asian tourists in addition to street vendors and teachers taking their students on a trip to the site.

We asked about the Church of Abu Serga, and a policeman directed us to stone stairs which opened to a narrow tunnel that took us to a small alleyway where street vendors displayed their postcards and souvenirs. On the right was the church from which the smell of incense emanated and filled the passages leading to the church with beautiful scents. Originally called The Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus, the church later became known as the Church of Abu Serga after the Arab conquest of Egypt because of the influence of the nicknames Arabs used.
We stepped into the world of Abu Serga. Later on, we would take our shoes off when we approached the spot that was forever blessed after Christ stepped on it. On the right as we stepped in we saw the Life and Passion of the Christ nativity icon which dates back to the 18th century, according to the account of Nancy, an archaeologist who serves the church.

The icon shows in detail Mary giving birth to her fatherless child in a manger. The gifts of the Magi surrounding her, and an angel above her announcing the birth of the King of Kings. We left the icon and walked deeper inside the church. On the floor there was a glass panel that showed a baptism tub beneath which was used by Copts during the reign of Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah. During his reign Copts were denied the commemoration of the baptism of Jesus in the Nile. They had to dig a tub and fill it with water and bath in it to escape his wrath and at the same time keep the ritual.

On the left of the entrance was a stone baptismal font which was found buried between layers of stone, yet restorative efforts could bring it back to life. A baptism font is a stone sink from which Copts give the secret of baptism to their children and they become servants of Jesus Christ.

In front of a monumental pillar there were relics of saints. Copts keep the remains of the martyrs of faith, and there in the Church of Abu Serga lay the remains of Saint Bashnouna, one of the monks of the Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great. He died in the 12th century and was placed next to the remains of saints Sergius and Bacchus after whom the church was named.

In the center of the church there was a stone pillar about which Nancy provided an interesting account. She said that in 1967, a few weeks before Egypt’s defeat in the war with Israel, the pillar bled, and was then prayed at by Pope Cyril VI who said that the country’s pain is the Church’s pain, and that the pillar bled just like the soldiers on the front.

We walked deeper into the church and came to a narrow passage which took us to stairs. We went down a few steps and found ourselves inside the church’s cave, the sacred spot which was blessed by Jesus Christ and was inhabited by the Holy Family for months. Inside the cave we saw the rock which is said to have been stepped on, and thus blessed, by Jesus. The cave was dimly lit, and taking photos or using the camera flash was prohibited.
Visitors from India were seeking the blessings of Jesus, and different names of Mary were heard in different languages. One visitor called her “Mother of Light,” another said “Virgin Mary,” and a third called her by the name “Madonna;” so many names for the one Mary who is a destination many in the East and West travel to.

The church was packed with old icons, most of which date back to the 18th century. Jesus’ apostles appear in all the pictures preaching his message east and west. From the inner face of the dome above, Jesus appeared before his followers in a painting drawn on deer hide, which dates back to the 18th century, according to Nancy.

The well from which the Holy Family drank is well kept by the church. The well’s water had become stagnant and was, thus, covered by green algae, but the priests had to leave it untouched because the water lifting machines which are used for the renewal of wells could have endangered the ancient architectural structure of the church. Nevertheless, the well endured as a witness to the historical journey even if people no longer drink from its water.

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Inside Abu Serga church – Sara Allam

In his office which is annexed to the church, Archpriest Angelos Girgis receives visitors and archeologists. In fact, he also wrote a book about the history of the church in which he has been serving for years. He told us that the place where his church is located is the only place the Holy Family came across twice, that is, on their flight in and out of Egypt. It became a church in the Apostolic Age, as Saint Mark the Evangelist and Saint Peter blessed it with their visits.

Empress Helena then decided to build a church above the church of the cave. Archpriest Angelos emphasized that the church and the Ministry of Antiquities are working hard to chronicle the path of the Holy Family, which the Vatican has recently approved. He indicated that he is in touch with different stakeholders, most importantly, the Ministry of Tourism and that different stakeholders are coordinating together to demonstrate the historical significance of this church.

Translated by Heba Fadel

Ep. 9: holy family in Egypt - Islamic Cairo



Ep.8: Holy Family in Egypt – Virgin’s Mary Tree in Heliopolis



Ep. 8: Holy Family in Egypt – St. Macarius Monastery



EP. 6: holy family visits Wadi el-Naturn, founds monasticism



Ep. 5: Holy Family in Egypt - Christ leaves ‘footprint’ on Xois rock



Ep. 4: Holy Family embraced in Sebennytos, leaves kneading trough



EP. 3: Holy family in Egypt – Mary bathes Christ in Musturud



Ep. 2: Holy Family in Egypt’s ‘cat house’ met with grain of salt



Ep. 1: Holy Family in Egypt - Pelusium ruins reveal war-torn past

]]>
11/9/2017 2:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Visit the Pyramids, and now the nearby tombs of their builders]]>
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A view of the Tomb - Ministry of Antiquities

The tombs are of immense importance because they, among other evidence, prove that the mysterious structures were built by Egyptian farmers, rather than slaves.

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A view of the Tomb - Ministry of Antiquities

The tombs, which promise "curses" upon those who open them, reveal secrets about the workers.

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A view of the Tomb - Ministry of Antiquities

One of the tombs contains remains of Nefer Theth, a workers' and royal palace supervisor. Curses are inscribed inside his tomb to protect his mummy and belongings from thieves. The second one was home to Egyptian Prince Khufu and his wife Meritites I. All the tombs date back to the Fourth Dynasty (2694-2513 B.C.).

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A view of the Tomb - Ministry of Antiquities

Sine their discovery 27 years ago, experts have been restoring the site as a part of a plan to open more archaeological sites to the public.

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A view of the Tomb - Ministry of Antiquities

“O all people who enter this tomb who will make evil against this tomb and destroy it; may the crocodile be against them on water, and snakes be against them on land; may the hippopotamus be against them on on water, then scorpion against then on land,” reads a warning inside one of the tombs, according to archaeologist Zahi Hawass interpretation in his book Valley of the Golden Mummies.

]]>
11/9/2017 12:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Good news for Alexandria tourists ]]>
To re-engineer the public transportation in the larger size cities, SWVL will start their bus transportation network to enable their riders to track their ride and book their seat through an online application. They will provide high-quality vehicles to arrive at the exact time shown in the application.

“We are proud to announce the launch of our services in Alexandria,” co-founder of SWVL Mostafa Kandil told press. He added that their mission is to offer an affordable, reliable and convenient means of transportation, not only to natives in Alexandria, but also to its thousands of seasonal visitors.

With simple steps, you can take a reliable tour around Alexandria with its eight main routes. First, choose your pick up by searching the address and save your favourite to use later. Second, chose your destination or your most convenient route, and the app will match the user to the most convenient route according to nearest time and walking distance to the pick-up station. Third, track your bus and navigate your way to the station. Finally, see your route in details and pay in one click.

SWVL gives visitors the opportunity to implement their tourist program and visit the Bibliotheca, one of the best places in the country to learn about the history and culture of Egypt. Then they will take you to El-Montazah Palace. There you will overlook the Mediterranean Sea and see the beautiful architectural design with gardens that make it a perfect place in the city to visit and relax. Another place to visit is Pompey’s Pillar, the Roman column that is the largest in all of Egypt and was erected to honor and show gratitude to the Roman emperor.

SWVL expands to achieve the vision of providing countries with well organized transportation systems in all cities and markets. It has been available in Cairo since March 2017.
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Photo 1 SWVL app– official Website

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Photo 2 SWVL service – official website

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3- Montazah Palace – Wiki Media

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4- Bibliotheca - Wiki Media

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5- Pompey’s Pillar – Wiki Media
]]>
11/8/2017 4:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[Andalusian Garden changes meaning of green areas ]]>
The garden is divided into two parts: the north Arabian part, which is the Andalusian part, and the south Pharaonic part.

In the center of the Andalusian part, there is a large wonderful fountain decorated with Turkish and Italian marble, a statue of renowned Egyptian poet Ahmed Shawky is positioned against this fountain. The Pharaonic part includes a lot of Ancient Egyptian replicas that are placed between vast gardens.

Directly behind the statues, and facing the fountain, there is a wonderful open stadium where many concerts of popular Egyptian singers, like Abd Al Haleem Hafez, were held.

The garden was founded in the Zamalek district of Cairo in 1935 by Zulfugar Pasha as a present to his wife. It covers 8,400 square meters.

Don’t hesitate to experience a new meaning of green areas.

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Riverside view – Best Places of Egypt Facebook page

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Walkway inside the garden – Best Places of Egypt Facebook page

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Pharaonic replica – Best Places of Egypt Facebook page
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11/8/2017 2:20:00 AM
<![CDATA[Red Sea gov. to support accessible tourism in 2018 economic conference]]>
Accessible tourism is the ongoing endeavor to ensure tourist destinations, products and services are accessible to all people, regardless of their physical limitations, disabilities or age. It encompasses publicly and privately owned tourist locations.

In a statement, the governorate said the complex will include a hotel, a hospital, a sports and health center, sports halls, a chain of restaurants and shops, nightclubs, multi-playgrounds, swimming pools and an educational cultural center to convey the experiences of older persons in all fields.

The statement added Red Sea's getting share of accessible tourism would contribute to increasing tourism inflow, pointing to the increase in the number of persons with disabilities in the world, and in their demand for travel and tourism.

The profit, which will be made from this kind of tourism, will be great, as it is supposed to motivate the investors in the tourism sector to draw their attention towards attracting this class of people.
]]>
11/8/2017 2:00:00 AM
<![CDATA[U.S. Embassy congratulates Egypt on Watfa discovery]]>
1._U.S._Embassy_to_Cairo_congratulations_Egypt_on_the_exciting_discovery_of_an_ancient_gymnasium
U.S. Embassy to Cairo congratulations Egypt on the exciting discovery of an ancient gymnasium

Egypt's antiquities ministry says archaeologists have discovered remnants of an ancient gymnasium dating back about 2,300 years from the Hellenistic period.

The discovery was made by a German-Egyptian mission at the site of Watfa in Fayoum governorate, about 50 miles southwest of the capital.

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Discovery of an ancient gymnasium in Watfa

Watfa is one of the old villages that was established by Ptolemies and featured 1,200 inhabitants, one third of which were Greek-speaking residents.

Ayman Ashmawi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector, says the gymnasium consists of a large meeting hall once adorned with statues, a dining hall, a courtyard and a nearly 200-meter-long racetrack.

Cornelia Roemer, head of the mission, says the discovery clearly shows the impact of Greek life in Egypt, not only in Alexandria, but also in the countryside.

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Discovery of an ancient gymnasium in Watfa

Cornelia Römer led the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) on the mission. She explained in a released statement from the Ministry of Antiquities that the gymnasium was a private place established by rich people who wanted their villages to feature Greek architecture.

She added that the upper class of that community at the time who spoke Greek were trained in sports and engaged in philosophical discussions in the gymnasium. These gymnasiums were also found throughout the entire Hellenistic world, such as Athens in Greece, Pergamon and Miletus in Asia Minor, and Pompeii in Italy.

According to Römer, Alexander the Great made Egypt part of the Hellenistic world.
The area of Watfa has been witnessing excavations and surveys conducted by the German Archaeological Institute since 2010.]]>
11/7/2017 10:24:24 PM
<![CDATA[Uber bullish on Africa despite opposition from local taxi firms]]>
Uber’s service has triggered protests by rivals from London to New Delhi as it up-ends traditional business models that require professional drivers to pay steep licensing fees to do business.

“We are bullish on Africa. The growth here is still substantial and we think that given the right regulatory environment, the growth could be even better,” Justin Spratt, head of business development for the sub-Saharan region, told Reuters.

“Africa’s growth thus far has been faster than America and a large part of that is because there is such deficiency in public transport ... that talks to the latent need, the pent-up demand for citizens to travel more within cities,” he added.

Spratt said Uber was talking to governments, regulatory authorities and metered taxi associations across the continent to address grievances that have seen some of its contract drivers attacked from Kenya to South Africa.

“We realize that we need to work with cities and the regulatory framework to help build out ride-sharing regulation,” he said on the sidelines of an African telecommunications conference.

Uber, which operates in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa, has around 15 million drivers globally and is struggling to meet demand in Africa for drivers to become contractors, Spratt said.

The service, which launched in sub-Saharan Africa in 2013, is looking to new markets in Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mauritius and the wider southern African region, but has not yet taken a decision on where it will go next, he said.]]>
11/7/2017 5:45:36 PM
<![CDATA[East meets West as Louvre Abu Dhabi opens in the Gulf]]>
Surrounded by water from three sides, the museum houses 600 artworks it has acquired, alongside 300 works on loan from 13 leading French institutions, in its 23 permanent galleries. The artists range from Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh to Pablo Picasso and Cy Twombly.

French President Emmanuel Macron will be the guest of honor at the opening, along with other heads of state.

“It is a lot more than just a museum. It is a center of peace, acceptance, tolerance and education,” Mohamed al-Mubarak, chairman of the department of culture and tourism in Abu Dhabi, told Reuters.

Permanent installations include a sculpture by Auguste Rodin, an enormous bronze tree with mirrored branches called “leaves of light” by Italian artist Giuseppe Penone and three engravings on stone walls bearing historic texts from the region by Jenny Holzer, an American neo-conceptual artist.

And there are priceless pieces. They include a statue of the Sphinx dating back to the 6th century B.C., 13 fragments of a frieze that reveals Surah al Hashr from the Holy Quran and a marble bust of Alexander the Great.

Among the paintings is one by Leonardo DaVinci, done between 1495 and 1499 and called La Belle Ferronniere, or Portrait of an Unknown Woman, which was recently restored and is on loan from the original Musee du Louvre in Paris.

The Abu Dhabi museum was set up under a 2007 inter-governmental agreement between Paris and Abu Dhabi. Originally slated to open in 2012, it was delayed by the global financial crisis and then by low oil prices, which led the United Arab Emirates to rein in spending.

Louvre Abu Dhabi has partnered with museums and cultural institutions in the Arab world, who will lend 28 significant works. Among them are an 8,000-year-old, two-headed figure called the Ain Ghazal statue from Jordan, some 400 silver dirham coins from Oman and a pre-historic stone tool from Saudi Arabia.

Having invested over $1 billion in the museum, Abu Dhabi is hoping culture will attract tourists. Two more museums, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and Zayed National Museum, are planned around the Louvre Abu Dhabi in the Saadiyat Cultural District that already hosts art fairs, exhibitions and performances.

“Culture is the element that will distinguish us from others,” said Saif Saeed Ghobash, director-general of the emirate’s Department of Culture & Tourism. “We will attract a different kind of traveler.”

The entrance ticket to the museum is 60 dirhams ($16.30) with all 5,000 tickets sold out for the opening day.]]>
11/7/2017 5:43:31 PM