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Destination Virginia

Claude Moore Colonial Farm Steps Back in Time

November 28th 2013

Small Farm

On the outskirts of Washington, there's a place where it seems time has stopped.  Claude Moore Colonial Farm is a U.S. national park in McLean, Virginia, which recreates and reenacts life on a tenant farm around the year 1771.  The vast majority of Virginians at that time were tenant farmers, who grew tobacco to pay their rent and buy food. 

When you visit the Claude Moore Colonial Farm, you step back almost two and a half centuries, to a time when this part of America was under British Rule.

Life was governed by the rhythms of agriculture. People worked from dusk to dawn - and in the colony of Virginia, spent much of their time growing tobacco. The U.S. Park Service created the farm just before the 1976 U.S. Bicentennial celebration.  But facilities manager Jon David Engle says it’s now privately operated - unlike any other national park in the country. Read more ..


The Friendly Skys on Edge

Deadly Russian Plane Crash Shines Spotlight On Regional Carriers

November 18th 2013

USAir ditch in Hudson

As Tatarstan residents mourn the 50 victims of a plane crash in the republic's capital, Kazan, the disaster has cast a harsh spotlight on the safety of Russian regional carriers.

The Boeing 737 operated by Tatarstan Airlines crashed on November 17 while trying to land in Kazan, killing everyone on board.

Investigators say the plane, which was flying from Moscow, slammed into the ground while making a second attempt at landing before bursting into flames. They are looking into pilot error and technical problems, including equipment failure.

Among the mourners laying flowers at the airport on November 18, many had angry words for Tatarstan Airlines and Russian aviation authorities. One mourner, named Dmitry, called the tragedy "unimaginable -- it's awful, just awful." Read more ..


Destination Galilee

Celebrating The Olive In The Galilee

November 5th 2013

Olives

Artisinal olive oil. It has an attractive ring, but think what “artisinal” means. You associate it with ancient traditions that living people continue to maintain – with the material products of those traditions.

But when you pick up a bottle of olive oil, you’re probably thinking of salad, not imagining the physical labor involved in making it. I learned about Israel’s olive crops and the mix of ancient and modern methods of producing olive oil, on a tour of the Galilee olive festival this week. Laurie Balbo reported on the olive tree’s historical origins in this fascinating post.

Every October and November, the the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee,  the Galilee Development Authority and the Olive Council sponsor the Olive Branch Festival celebrating the olive harvest. Enjoying the cool fall weather, visitors tour villages throughout the Galilee, the Golan and the valleys where olives and their oil are a culture unto themselves. In the north of the country, it’s an opportunity to meet Druze villagers whose livelihood depends largely on olive oil production. We’ve reported on our Druze culinary experience in this post. And if you like olive oil, you can take advantage of the chance to buy it fresh – almost right off the tree. Read more ..


Destination Istanbul

Bosporus Tunnel Opens Linking Europe, Asia

October 30th 2013

Istanbul's main square

For the first time, Turkey has connected its European and Asian sides with a railway tunnel. The Marmaray tunnel, which runs underneath the Bosphorus Strait, will link the Asian and European shores of Istanbul. Concerns and criticism, however, surround what is being described as one of the country's greatest-ever engineering projects.

Tuesday’s opening ceremony for the Marmaray railway tunnel drew thousands. Addressing the crowds, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan invoked the country’s historical past.

It was the dream of Sultan Abdulmescid [the Ottoman sultan from 1839 to 1861] to build this tunnel, he said. "Today we have fulfilled this dream. We have many historical projects to finish for Turkey and Istanbul. This is in the service of the people," said Erdogan. Read more ..


Destination Virginia

Virginia’s Colorful Autumn Foliage Dazzles Tourists

October 26th 2013

Autumn leaves forest

Each autumn, a wooded stretch of highway high in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia attracts crowds of tourists who come to admire the colorful fall foliage on the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.

This couple from Maryland is enjoying the array of colors from one of the nearly 75 overlooks on Skyline Drive.  The view reminds Sandra Andrade of a palette of watercolors.

“Different colored trees, it’s just like everyone is having a party. So colorful!," said Andrade. Apart from passing cars, Bob Bryant enjoys the serenity.

“What you see and what you hear, which a lot of it is nothing, which is just a wonderful thing to hear when you live in the city," said Bryant. Park ranger Sally Hurlbert says visitors come from all over the United States and around the world.

“They’re from China, from India, they’re from all over. South Africa. I’ve had people from the Ivory Coast,"  said Hurlbert. Mihuie Lee is from South Korea. “Here is very calm and very beautiful," said Lee. Read more ..


Destination Tiberias

12 Cool Things to do in Tiberias for FREE

October 25th 2013

Caribe Crucero

Flowing with natural hot springs, brimming with Christian and Jewish holy sites and hugging the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Tiberias is a top tourist stopover for visitors to Israel. The city boasts many historical and religious sites as well as water recreation options.

But required tourist hotspots usually translate to opening one’s wallet at every other turn. ISRAEL21c presents 12 things to do in Tiberias without spending an agora.

1. Old Tiberias Walking Tour
On Tuesdays, a local tour guide takes tourists through the archaeological park (next to Sheraton Moriah and Golden Tulip hotels) and then to the promenade, past the Turkish citadel, to the famous Etz Hachaim synagogue of Rabbi Haim Abulafia, and the Scottish Compound (see below). On Fridays, he leads a free tour of the city’s historical sites. Every Sunday, Monday and Thursday, a walking group leaves from the Tiberias Tourist Information Center (04-672-5666), and the Tiberias Hotel Association (04-672-4549) offers free Saturday morning walking tours revealing the history behind the walled Ottoman city to today’s contemporary hotel industry. Book in advance and reconfirm. Read more ..


Destination Russia

Christian Audio Programs To Play On Russian Trains

October 4th 2013

russian bullet train

Passengers on Russian trains will soon be treated to special audio programs designed to broaden their knowledge of history, philosophy, and religion – more specifically, Russian Orthodoxy.

Under the initiative, headed by a senior figure at the Moscow Patriarchate, a compilation of programs previously hosted by Radio Rossii journalist Lyudmila Borzyak will become available on more than 200 long-distance trains in the coming months.

Topics will include stories from the lives of famous Russian saints, including Princess Olga and Prince Vladimir; the early days of Christianity in Russia; and the formation of the Russian state.

Travelers will also have a chance to learn more about classical philosophers such as Thales of Miletus and Pliny the Younger, and about the history of different inventions. "We believe this project will help foster a higher level of culture and instruction in society," said Yelena Miroshnikova, a spokeswoman for the state-owned Russian Railways. "It also aims to encourage personal values such as respect for our country's historical past, kindness, and spiritual growth." Read more ..


Destination Negev Desert

Winemakers Revive Ancient Negev Wine Route

October 1st 2013

Israeli Wines

Nine wineries make modern use of the ancient Nabatean grape-growing terraces in Israel’s Negev Desert, a perfect climate for the craft.

Hannah and Eyal Izrael founded Carmey Avdat, one of nine Israeli vineyards established along the path of the old wine and spice routes in the Negev Desert highlands. These farms have brought back to life ancient grape-growing terraces from a forgotten civilization.

“During our travels through the Negev, we came upon a hidden riverbed with remains of an ancient farm and vineyard. We instantly fell in love with the place and decided that we would establish our farm at the site, which had been a vineyard during the Nabatean period more than 2,000 years ago. We established the Carmey Avdat Farm there in 1998,” recounts Eyal Izrael. Read more ..


The Edge of Climate Change

Surge in Tourism Impacts Glaciers in Northern Indian State

September 28th 2013

Melting Glaciers

Environmentalists say retreating glaciers and melting snows on high Himalayan peaks could impact millions of people in the Indian subcontinent who rely on rivers fed by the massive ice sheets on the mountains. A surge in tourism is impacting the mountains in India’s northern Himachal Pradesh state.  

Tucked in the high Himalayas, the picturesque hill town of Manali in the Kullu Valley thrives on the tourists who come to escape the scorching heat of the Indian plains.

D.S. Aditya, Manager of Sterling Resorts in Manali said a snow-covered pass that lies 50 kilometers up a snaking mountain road is a huge draw.   “Wherever you go there is one destination which is famous. If you visited in Manali, Rohtang is main attraction," Aditya said. "Because of the snow.” Read more ..


Destination Cairo

Cairo’s Garbage Workers Built Seven Extraordinary Cave Churches

September 19th 2013

Cave Church Cairo

We already have great respect for the Zabbaleen in Garbage City, the minority Coptic Christians who make a living sorting through Cairo’s trash, and then we saw these extraordinary Cave Churches over on Amusing Planet.

Historically marginalized and evicted from Giza in 1970, a community of Coptic Christians took up residence at the foot of the Mokattam hills in south east Cairo.

Burned by their previous experience, the religious group hesitated to build permanent churches in their settlement, which is now lined with mountains of trash, until 1976, when a fire broke out in Manshiyat Nasir.

The first 1,000 square foot cave church was carved at the foot of Mokattam mountain. The largest in the Middle East – the Monastery of St. Simon the Tame, a Coptic Christian saint – has an ampitheater that boasts a seating capacity of 20,000 devotees. Read more ..


Destination India

Optimism Abounds in Beautiful Kashmir - the 'Switzerland' of India

September 14th 2013

Click to select Image

Many Kashmiris can remember when calm returned to the Himalayan region following nearly two decades of insurgent violence. Militant attacks dropped after India and Pakistan signed a 2003 cease-fire deal, transforming Indian-controlled Kashmir’s economy.

Gulzar Beigh stopped working as a laborer and instead rented a boat, or “shikara,” to ferry a new surge of visitors to the valley. He made an average of $250 a month last year. “Tourism really improved here in the last eight years. The number of tourists increased,” Beigh said as he paddled his shikara across Dal Lake. “My friends and neighbors are all involved in the industry, some sell jewelry, some sell shawls.” Read more ..


Destination Philadelphia

Diversity Keeps Fans Returning to Philadelphia Folk Festivals

September 10th 2013

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

When The Stray Birds kicked off their first song at the 52nd annual Philadelphia Folk Festival in mid-August, they were unknown to many of those sitting in the sun at the Old Poole Farm in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania.  But by the time the group finished their last performance at the festival, the young, bluegrass-picking, classically-trained trio from Lancaster, Pennsylvania had a long line of fans waiting to buy CDs and get them signed.

That’s what’s so special about a festival like this one near Philadelphia: you come in to see headliners such as The Mavericks, or the legendary Todd Rundgren and leave loving The Stray Birds.

The very first Philadelphia Folk Festival was held in 1962 and is now the oldest continuously operating folk festival in the United States. Put on then, as it is now, by the Philadelphia Folk Song Society and a staff of 30 volunteers, the first event ran two days with a lineup that included Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, The Greenbrier Boys and Pete Seeger. Today, more than 2,000 volunteers are needed to make sure the four-day festival runs smoothly. Read more ..


Travel Safe

Passengers 'Experiencing a Different TSA' at the Airport

September 3rd 2013

airport crowd

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) chief John Pistole said on Monday that the agency was working to change its perception among airline passengers.

Since its inception, critics have frequently lambasted the TSA with accusations ranging from security theater to invasion of airline passengers' privacy.

But Pistole said in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday that the agency's switch to "risk-based" procedures were helping to change its perception among frequent fliers.

“We have undertaken some fairly significant changes both in policy and in procedures, so more and more people are experiencing a different TSA at the airport,” Pistole told the paper. In particular, Pistole touted the TSA's "Pre-Check" known behavior program, which allows passengers to volunteer information to the agency in exchange for the possibility of receiving expedited screening. Read more ..


The Edge of Nature

Feather Forensics Prevent Aviation Accidents

August 31st 2013

Seagull

Minutes after U.S. Airways flight 1549 took off from New York’s La Guardia Airport in 2009, pilot Chesley Sullenberger radioed the control tower:  "This is cactus 15-49, hit birds, lost thrust in both engines returning back towards La Guardia.”

Sullenberger had few options and made an emergency landing in the Hudson River. The passengers and crew were evacuated safely. The plane had hit a flock of Canada geese.

“The Canada goose is a beautiful bird. I love birds, but there is a place for birds and there’s a place not for birds and you do not want birds around the airfield, especially large-bodied birds,” said Carla Dove, director of the Bird Identification Lab at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington.

It was Dove who identified the birds that brought down Flight 1549.  As director of the Bird Identification Lab, she manages a reference collection of 620,000 bird specimens housed in floor to ceiling cabinets on the sixth floor of the museum. “[The collection] is about 150 years old," Dove said. "We probably have about 85 percent of the diversity of birds of the world represented here. So there are 10,000 species. We have about 8,500 in our collection.” Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

European Hi-Speed Rail Targetted by al-Qaeda

August 20th 2013

Italian Hi-Speed Rail

Al Qaeda has been plotting attacks on high-speed rail networks in Europe, according to a German media report. The information reportedly came from the US National Security Agency (NSA) listening in on top operatives. A report by the German daily newspaper Bild on Monday said that al Qaeda leaders have been plotting attacks on high-speed rail networks across Europe. The group was possibly targeting trains and tunnels or planning to sabotage railway tracks themselves and the electric cabling serving them.

The terrorist attacks were reported to have been a "central topic" of a conference call intercepted by the NSA, involving high-ranking al Qaeda operatives.

Read more ..

Destination Pennsylvania

Competition Pushes the Limits of Longwood Gardens Organ

August 18th 2013

Longwood Organ

A century ago, American industrialist and philanthropist Pierre du Pont put his fortune to work planting an elaborate garden in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Not only were there landscaped grounds and large fountains, du Pont built over one-and-a-half hectares of grand, glass-enclosed greenhouses, or conservatories. Oh yes, and a massive organ with more than 10,000 pipes.

A greenhouse might seem an odd place to put a grand pipe organ. But the conservatories at Longwood Gardens are no ordinary greenhouses. Paul Redman, Director of Longwood Gardens, explains what du Pont had in mind when he had the organ built.

“His palace, that he created, was our palace of flowers and the conservatories," he said. "And that was really where he entertained his family members and friends. And so why not have a ballroom, where he could have very large dinner parties for his friends and family? And why not have an organ as well?” Read more ..


Travel Safe

Planning for a Safe Trip

August 15th 2013

airplanes shadows

In light of the current U.S. State Department global travel warning, it seems an opportune time for a discussion on how to prepare to travel safely. Perhaps the most important key to remaining out of harm's way while traveling or working abroad is to know and understand -- in advance -- some of the idiosyncrasies of each country's bureaucracy and the security risks that have been identified for your destination. This knowledge and guidance will then allow you to decide whether to even travel to a particular destination. If you do decide to travel, it will help you plan and implement proper precautions for the environment you will be visiting. Fortunately, finding safety and security information for your destination country is easier than ever in the Internet age. Read more ..


Destination New York State

FDR and the Hudson River Valley

August 14th 2013

FDR

The twelve years of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency are arguably the most significant years of modern times. They include the Great Depression, World War II and the Holocaust and they laid the foundation for virtually every important development since then from atomic energy to the internet. To gain an understanding of that period, you can do no better than to visit the beautiful Hudson River Valley community of Hyde Park, N.Y. site of the Roosevelt Presidential Library, Museum and residence. 

Located some 2 hours from New York City, Hyde Park was home not only to the Roosevelt family but also to the Vanderbilts and other moguls of the Gilded Age. Many of their mansions and estates have been meticulously preserved and are open to visitors. Hyde Park is also the home of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), a former seminary now the foremost culinary academy in the United States. Its exquisite Bocuse Restaurant is open to the public and is renowned for exceptional French cuisine at bargain prices.

For us, however, the principal attraction is the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, together with “Springwood” the Roosevelt family residence.  The museum which was originally opened in 1941 was reopened on June 30, 2013 after an extensive $30 million renovation and overhaul. It is laid out in such a way that you can literally walk through the various periods of FDR’s presidency beginning with America in the midst of the Great Depression. Among the highlights which caught our attention was a photograph of people lining up at the entrance of the Bank of the United States with a large sign reading “Bank Closed” in Yiddish. A few feet further on is a replica of a 1935 kitchen, complete with groceries of the period on its shelves. There you can sit at the kitchen table and listen to several of FDR’s famous Fireside Chats on a vintage radio. Read more ..


Destination Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi Five-Star Leisure at Saadiyat Island Puts Ecology First

July 28th 2013

Caribe Crucero

A five star hotel will offer chefs, tennis and golf pros, hairdressers and masseuses, but the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi just upped the ante by adding a marine biologist to its permanent staff. The resort’s resident marine expert will be organizing workshops and eco-excursions to educate and entertain guests, but her primary mandate is to ensure that the hotel adheres to strict environmental standards laid down by the emirate.

Located on the natural island of Saadiyat, Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas sits adjacent to Saadiyat Beach, a nine kilometre stretch of environmentally-protected white sand beach on the edge of the turquoise Arabian Sea. The area is home to an abundance of wildlife including hawksbill turtles and bottlenose dolphins (like the ones found in an Egyptian private pool).

Marine biologist Arabella Willing joined the team from a sister hotel in the Maldives. Previously, she was a volunteer teacher on a remote island in the very north of the country, educating some of the most isolated communities about sustainability, marine life and the effects of coral bleaching. Read more ..


Air Wars

NYC’s De Blasio Threatens to Pull JFK Airport Slot From Saudi Arabian Airlines for Blocking Israelis

July 16th 2013

Saudi Airlines

Saudi Arabian Airlines discriminates against Israeli nationals attempting to fly the airline out of New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, the city’s Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said Monday, citing a probe his office conducted of the airline. At a July 15 press conference in Times Square, De Blasio said that he sent a letter today urging Khalid Abdullah Almolhem, Director General of Saudi Arabian Airlines, to change the policy or else face consequences.

“Saudi Arabian Airlines uses U.S. airports and yet bans Israeli citizens from being able to fly on their airline,” he said. If the airline does not change their policy, “we will act to make sure they’re excluded from United States airports, starting with JFK,” De Blasio said. In addition to JFK, Saudi Airlines also flies out of Washington D.C.’s Dulles International Airport.

The issue was originally brought to the attention of De Blasio’s office by passengers who attempted to fly the airline, but were rebuffed. An investigation into the matter by his office confirmed the airline’s prejudice. Attempts to book tickets by a staffer in his office posing as an Israeli national both through the airline’s website and over the phone proved the complaints were founded on truth. Read more ..


The Ancient Edge

Inscription from Time of King David Found Near Temple Mount

July 14th 2013

Jar fragment King David Jerusalem

Working near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar has unearthed the earliest alphabetical written text ever uncovered in the city.

The inscription is engraved on a large pithos, a neckless ceramic jar found with six others at the Ophel excavation site. According to Dr. Mazar, the inscription, in the Canaanite language, is the only one of its kind discovered in Jerusalem and an important addition to the city's history.

Dated to the tenth century BCE, the artifact predates by two hundred and fifty years the earliest known Hebrew inscription from Jerusalem, which is from the period of King Hezekiah at the end of the eighth century BCE. A third-generation archaeologist working at the Hebrew University's Institute of Archaeology, Dr. Mazar directs archaeological excavations on the summit of the City of David and at the southern wall of the Temple Mount. Read more ..


Destination Australia

Australia Eyes More Chinese Tourism

July 13th 2013

Kings-Canyon

Australia is hoping to double the number of Chinese visitors to the country by 2020.  This week a delegation from Tourism Australia, a state-run agency, has been meeting Chinese investors, airline executives and government officials.  

More tourists visit Australia from China than from any other country apart from New Zealand.

Chinese travelers spent $102 billion worldwide last year, according to the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization, and Australia is keen to cash in on a booming industry.

Andrew McEvoy, the managing director of Tourism Australia, says more needs to be done to boost the numbers of Chinese visitors. “Look, China is our fastest growing market. It's already our highest value market - almost 700,000 Chinese visitors spending in excess of AUD$ 4.5 billion [USD  $4.1 billion].  I think we're still a long way from being completely China ready but there are a lot of steps being taken and I would argue that the tourism industry is better geared than most industries to welcome Chinese engagement," said McEvoy. Read more ..


Islam's War Against Christianity

Bedouin Arabs Run Torture Camps in Sinai

July 11th 2013

Camel-safari-sinai

An absolutely horrific story out of the Sinai peninsula: Bedouin Arabs are kidnapping Christians from Africa and then ransoming them for exorbitant sums. When destitute families cannot pay the ransoms, the victims are tortured to death.

The Christian Broadcasting Network reports many of these Christians flee their African homeland seeking a better life in Israel. They are abducted from refugee camps by Bedouins and then smuggled to Sinai. It is there that the torture begins.

CBN reports:
"Sinai was always a place for human smuggling, but since around two years ago -- even a bit more -- it started also to be a place of human torture," Shahar Shoham, director of Physicians for Human Rights, said. Shoham has documented more than 1,300 cases of torture in the Sinai. Those survivors ... made it to Israel. But most of the cases of torture are not documented. Read more ..


Destination Dubai

Dubai Summer Holiday – Do’s and Don’ts for Foreign Travelers

July 10th 2013

Dubai aerial shot

Planning on a trip to Dubai before intense summer heat hits? Brush up on behavioral norms to avoid holiday disasters far worse than sunburn and frizzy hair. Among the seven member states of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai – if it was a Disney dwarf – could be called “Tolerant”.  That’s modern Middle East tolerant, a term that benefits from a bit of clarity.

Here are some tips to help navigate Dubai-acceptable conventions:
Outrageous Dubai: where you can illegally scale soaring skyscrapers, and hit a Guinness Record holder every time you spit (but don’t – it’s not allowed!) – but where you’d best save antics like those pictured above for another trip to Hawaii or San Tropez.

Unmarried visitors in particular should get wise to acceptable rules of behavior. Public displays of affection (including kissing and holding hands) and all forms of nudity are verboten.  And all those single ladies (and men) – keep your music volume on low. Read more ..


Destination DC

Smithsonian Folklife Festival Showcases Vanishing Languages

July 5th 2013

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The U.S. Smithsonian Institution reports that more than 2,500 world languages will disappear by the end of this century. That is why the world’s largest museum and research complex dedicated part of its annual folklife festival to shine a light on these languages.

As soon as she heard the music, festival goer Patricia Joseph knew she had to dance. "I always felt like dancing when I heard this kind of music, and I always felt restrained. But this was so liberating. This is such an unusual venue that we’re going to spend most of the day here,” said Joseph.

The song is unusual, too, It’s sung in a language that is slowly disappearing. It's all part of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, an annual celebration of world cultures on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

One focus this year is on some of languages from around the globe that are expected to vanish. The different language representatives used a variety of art forms to express their native tongues. This includes the fast-paced music of the Quechua language from South America, the throat singing of the Tuvan language in Siberia, and the iconic dancing of the Hawaiian language. Read more ..


Destination Byblos

Byblos, the best Arab Tourist City in Lebanon

June 28th 2013

Byblos

Byblos, the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city in Lebanon has been named the Arab world’s best tourist city by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, and it offers a host of lessons in greening too. Called Jbeil or Byblos, this World Heritage site 37km north of Beirut has evolved from a 6th century BC fishing village into a thriving tourist destination that looks nothing at all like its concrete brother, Beirut.

Mayor Ziad al-Hawwat has received great accolades for making Jbeil a pleasure for both local and foreigners to visit. Whereas Beirut’s citizens are constantly fighting for every inch of green space as parking garages and shopping malls and other concrete monstrosities overwhelm the place, al-Hawwat has added an 18,000 square meter public park, planted trees and flowers, and even created a car-free zone from noon to midnight during the height of the tourist season. Read more ..


Destination Jordan

Sustainable Tourism and Keep Hotels Afloat at the Dead Sea in Jordan

June 19th 2013

Dead Sea Resort

At one of the most famous natural spas in the world, the shores of the Dead Sea, Veronica begins her much-anticipated skin care treatment.The 34-year-old Italian tourist rubs the famous black mud on her pale white skin and waits under the hot sun for nature to do its work.

“Despite the constant itching on my skin, I already feel the benefit of the mud on my skin,” Veronica, a lawyer from Florence told The Media Line as she slathered on more mud. “I am privileged to be among those who can say they swam in the Dead Sea.”

Jordanian tourism officials see the goopy stuff and other Dead Sea projected spa hotel offerings as just the right prescription to cure the ailing tourism industry, which contributes 15 percent of Jordan’s Gross Domestic Product, according to Finance Ministry figures. Read more ..


Destination Israel

Israel Flies Blue Flag Proudly at Nine Beaches

June 11th 2013

Sironit Beach

The international symbol of the Blue Flag, earned by upholding environmental and accessibility standards, has come to Israel.

Israel has joined an international flag program that recognizes public beaches for safety and accessibility. Tourists from abroad are already looking for the big Blue Flag when they are booking beach holidays, and now they can count on nine Israeli beaches to comply with the international standards developed by the 30-year-old Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). Founded in France, FEE certifies nearly 4,000 beaches around the world as good enough to carry the prestigious Blue Flag label.

The program only started a few months ago in Israel, but stakeholders are excited about having Blue Flags at their beaches and ports, says coordinator Orly Babitsky, who works through the Israeli marine education organization EcoOcean to develop and award Blue Flags in Israel. It’s a big plug for tourism, Babitsky states. Read more ..


Destination Mars

Mars One Gets 80,000 Willing for One-way Mission to Mars

May 28th 2013

Mars Rover

When the call went out Mars One might have expected a few dozen people would be willing to accept a suicide mission to a dead planet. Instead, they were overwhelmed with more than 80,000 applicants including at least a dozen from the Middle East. From this region three are from Israel, six from Turkey, one from Egypt, five from Iran, two from Iraq and one each from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Who’s wanted? Adventurous pioneers. Must be willing to share a cramped living space for many months. At least 40 million miles of travel required. Reward is a chance to be among the first to colonize a vast new land.

“With a Mars-load of experience,” writes Omri, an artist from Israel on his application. You can filter through all of them by country. Candidates should understand that the prob probability of success is less than 50 percent, where success means a spending the remainder of their lives on a frigid and desolate Martian desert. Read more ..


Broken Banking

British Virgin Islands Well-Known for Sunny Beaches – and Strict Secrecy

May 26th 2013

British-Virgin-Islands

Caribbean island chain is a favorite haven for attention-shy company owners. The British Virgin Islands are a micro-state whose national anthem is “God Save the Queen.” The islands consist of little more than a few stretches of tropical beach, with a population about the same size as that of the London suburban town of Windsor. 

British lawyers first realized during the 1980s Thatcher era that they could legally make money by selling financial secrecy there. Mrs. Thatcher’s abolition of exchange controls allowed British capital to move around freely. A few years later, when nearby Panama, the traditional location for obscure offshore entities, was disrupted by the 1990 U.S. invasion, worldwide demand for the corporate anonymity on offer from the BVI took off like a rocket. Read more ..


Destination Dubai

Futuristic Dubailand Theme Park City Growing Ahead With $55 Billion

May 24th 2013

Dubailand

It’s a fact that Disneyland fits inside Disney World’s parking lot.  Now double up Disney World and you almost match the planned footprint of Dubaiworld. That’s unimaginable, and sure to haunt my dreams.

The largest collection of theme parks in the world is growing in Dubai, an enormous development of “pleasure zones” with no completion date in sight. They’re not short on money (having raised $55 billion in private investment for the first phase alone); the open end date is largely attributed to the park’s relentless ambitions to expand and develop.

It’s going to be a new city in the desert, a metropolis of actual and virtual fun-tastic amusements where you can live and work and play (and undergo surgery and food shop and be arrested). The project was unveiled in 2003, with initial plans to spread six distinct “worlds” over 100 square miles. There is Attractions and Experience World, Sports and Outdoor World, and Eco-Tourism World, followed by Themed Leisure and Vacation World, Retail and Entertainment World, and Downtown World.  In total, the complex promised 45 “mega-parks” and hundreds of lesser attractions. Then, like Sleeping Beauty, it fell asleep. Read more ..


Destination South Korea

S. Korea's Newest Trains Take Tracks Less Traveled

May 13th 2013

New-Train S. Korea

South Korea's national railroad operator has initiated two new lines. They are intended to give passengers a chance to re-explore a scenic rural region whose glory faded amid the decline of the timber and coal industries.

If you are in a hurry, do not take South Korea's newest trains. The electric four-coach O-Train, running four times daily, circles a five-hour 257-kilometer course with stops at 13 stations. The three-coach V-Train operates three times daily on a 70-minute shuttle between two rural stations 28 kilometers apart. 

On the O-Train, KORAIL attendant Baeck Da-eun explains that those accustomed to high-speed rail travel will experience a significant change of pace and style during a ride on what is known as the spine of the Korean peninsula, until now mostly accessible only by unpaved winding roads. “When passengers board for the first time, at first they are awed by the trains' exterior design and the internal décor. But what they seem to like most is the ability to take in such beautiful scenery,” Da-eun said. Read more ..


Destination South Africa

Chinese Tourism Booming in South Africa

May 11th 2013

Ocean

The number of tourists visiting South Africa grew by about 10 percent last year. One nation helping that number grow is China.

At the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, last week, dozens of Chinese tourists stood taking in the view, grabbing photos, and conversing in Mandarin.

Among them, was 19-year-old Jason Zhu. He is a Chinese student going to school in Cape Town and was showing the sights to friends visiting from China.

"Cape Town very popular to come here to travel. Here, the place is very beautiful," he said. As Chinese investment has grown in South Africa, so has Chinese tourism. China ranks fourth among countries sending tourists to South Africa, surpassing visitors from France. Overall, tourism to South Africa grew by 10.2 percent from 2011 to 2012. While Europeans remain the biggest tourism group, the percentage of Chinese tourists grew by 56 percent from 2011 to 2012. Read more ..


Destination Fort Lauderdale

A Welcoming Fort Lauderdale Hotel Where Service is a Florida Renaissance

May 6th 2013

Renaissance Fort Lauderdale-Plantation Hotel

Renaissance Fort Lauderdale-Plantation Hotel, 1230 S Pine Island Rd, Plantation, FL 33324 (954) 472-2252.
 
Staying at or near Ft Lauderdale's beachfront has its attractions. You are in the middle of the hubbub--and close to the beach.
 
But it can also mean a pain getting anywhere in the city or elsewhere in South Florida if you are in the city on business. Moreover, not infrequently the guest at these glitzy hotels is confronted by an attitude problem, such as that endured at the Riverside Hotel.
 
I have found Renaissance Fort Lauderdale-Plantation Hotel to be my destination address while in Ft. Lauderdale, especially when visiting something other than the breachfront or the central business area--or using Ft. Lauderdale as a hub to access Palm Beach or Miami.
 
Service is unfalteringly supreme as every staffer goes out of their way to provide special service and a friendly style. Special traveler needs are ordinarily and quickly satisfied, whether it is handling packages, getting a hand preparing an envelop, making reservations, or finding a restaurant in the city. If you are hotel bound, the property boasts a firsts-class restaurant called Bin 595, which is consistently perfect for the businessperson who wants to entertain, meet or just fall in for an excellent meal while schedule-squeezed. Some 250 well-appointed guestrooms and several executive suites provide spacious style and comfort.
Read more ..

Destination Mumbai

India's Tourism Industry Thrives on Largest Slum

April 27th 2013

India Street Scene

One of the world's largest slums is also a center of industrial production. A tour company is highlighting life in Dharavi, a mini-city within India's financial hub, Mumbai. With a million people crammed into less than three square kilometers - Dharavi is one of the world’s most densely populated slums.

Life-long resident Niyamath Khan, 70, recalled the transformation of what was once a small fishing village. “Fifty years ago, this was an open space - now there are so many people here," Khan remarked.

One organization gives outsiders a glimpse of life inside this bustling Mumbai neighborhood, through walking tours aimed at dispelling negative stereotypes of slum life. Reality Tours and Travel CEO Stephanie Hays said visitors are surprised at what they see.

“That’s what people don’t understand, that there are hospitals, there are schools, and there are businesses. There is industry, there is everything in here, and I think people are shocked by that," she said. "They are shocked by major streets running through. I think for me, the industry is what sets Dharavi apart.” Read more ..


Destination Coney Island

Scary Rides, Spooky House Return to NY's Coney Island

April 26th 2013

Ferris Wheel

Last October, when Hurricane Sandy slammed the east coast of the United States with powerful winds, sea surges and flooding, it threatened the lives and livelihoods of thousands who live and work in coastal areas like Coney Island in Brooklyn.

Through the winter, members of the Vourderis family cleaned up, reimagined and rebuilt their iconic Coney Island attractions for opening day in 2013. For over a century, Coney Island has been known for fun, relaxation and seaside thrills.

But that dreamland turned into a nightmare for the Vourderis family on October 29, when a massive sea surge flooded their rides and games. Their century-old Wonder Wheel and Spook House, from 1955, were nearly destroyed. “When we got here and saw the devastation, it was like a death, figuratively like a death," said Deno Vourderis, a third generation worker in his family-owned business. "I mean figuratively like a death because a lot of the stuff has history." Read more ..


Destination Burma

Tourism, Development Threaten Burmese Lake

April 23rd 2013

Tonie Sap Lake

As Asia’s newest tourist hotspot, Burma is experiencing a surge in foreigners eager to visit places that were closed-off for decades. But the spike in tourists and growth of new industries are taking an environmental toll. Rapid development is straining an already damaged ecosystem in Burma’s scenic Inle Lake.

Inle Lake is considered a jewel of Burma, where migrating birds, rare animal species and a handful of Burmese tribes share space around the 110 square kilometer freshwater reservoir.

Now, a steady stream of foreign tourists is arriving. And, although that means big business for some, many locals say they are losing out.

Floating tomato gardens are the primary cash crop in this area, comprising more than 60 percent of the local agriculture. Farmer Mee Intara says he welcomes foreign visitors, but not the increased traffic. “The constant waves from the increase in motorboats are destroying my crops on the lake," said Intara. Read more ..


Destination Israel

Israel's Top 10 Boutique Vineyards

April 22nd 2013

Israeli Wines

In the last 18 years the number of boutique wineries in Israel has leapt exponentially from seven to nearly 300. The quality of these new wines is attracting connoisseurs worldwide.

Israel’s boutique winery sector is growing exponentially. Israel’s wine industry has become a favorite topic of conversation among the world’s top connoisseurs. A country with scarce farm land, Israel nonetheless continues to produce top-quality merlots and sauvignons.

“Wine has been made in the Holy Land for millennia, but Israel’s wineries have come into the modern age since the 1980s, when producers began borrowing vinification techniques from France and the US. The region’s wines are getting better all the time, and some are superb,” writes leading US wine critic Robert Parker. Similarly, in his 2012 Pocket Wine Book, British wine expert Hugh Johnson highlighted 32 Israeli wineries. Read more ..


Destination Haifa

Haifa - Israel's Seaside 'Capital of the North'

April 18th 2013

Dan Carmel Haifa

As a perk for tourists who book three nights at a hotel in Israel’s picturesque port city and unofficial “capital of the north,” the Haifa Tourist Board provides a free sightseeing bus and guide. Thousands of passengers arriving in town on cruise ships may board a complementary shuttle bus to see the sights.

And there are plenty to see. The most visited tourist attraction in Haifa is the terraced Bahá’í Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage site that covers the north slope of Mount Carmel. There are museums and beaches, historical and religious sites and some of the best shopping in Israel.

Guests pour into town all year long for events as diverse as the Haifa International Film Festival, spring flower fair, International Flute Festival and Competition, Dutch Cultural Days, Austrian Cultural Day, and European bowling championships. In 2011, Wikimedia aficionados from 52 countries gathered in Haifa for Wikimania, and in 2010, 320 sailors from six continents came to Haifa’s Hashaket (The Quiet) Beach for the 420 World Championships in sailing. Read more ..


Destination Berlin

Exhibit at Berlin Jewish Museum Stokes Debate

April 17th 2013

Holocaust cattle cars

An exhibit at Berlin's Jewish Museum aims to educate museum-goers about Jews in Germany today. Nearly 180,000 German Jews were killed in the Holocaust, almost the entire community in Germany in the lead up to World War II.  Today, the number of Jews in Germany has grown but the percentage of Germany's total population is still miniscule.

One display in the show has a Jew sitting in a plexiglass box answering questions about Jews from visitors to the museum. Some critics say the show is degrading, and headline writers have dubbed the exhibit "Jew in a Box." But, the show seems less controversial to those visiting the museum. The exhibit at Berlin’s Jewish museum seeks to answer frequently asked questions about Jews. Are all Jews religious?  What makes food Kosher? What do Jews wear on their heads and why? And who can become a Jew? Read more ..



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