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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


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


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


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.

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 ..

Destination Jerusalem

Jerusalem of Green

April 12th 2013

King David Hotel

First International Jerusalem Symposium for Green and Accessible Pilgrimage will help religious travelers put a green foot forward. The Garden Tomb is a peaceful, clean and environmentally sound Christian tourism site.

Walk down any cobblestoned street in the Old City of Jerusalem and you walk on the history of the world’s three major religions. Jerusalem is a second-to-none attraction for people of faith. And now the Holy City is blazing a new trail as the world’s first city to market pilgrimage sites as sustainable and accessible to the disabled and the elderly.

Next month, the city will host the First International Jerusalem Symposium for Green and Accessible Pilgrimage. The idea came from the initiative of Jerusalem’s “green” custodian, Deputy Mayor Naomi Tsur, formerly of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

Summoned to a 2009 meeting at Windsor Castle by the United Nations to see how faith can help solve the climate change issue before the RIO+ event in Copenhagen that year, Tsur came up with a relatively straightforward solution that resonated with other faith leaders around the world. Read more ..

Destination Austin

In Austin, Film Offers Global Perspective

April 2nd 2013

Scene from Chaplin

International films often challenge American viewers to look at life from different perspectives. That was obvious at the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Conference and Festival in Austin, Texas, where many films from other countries were being featured. Movies such as the Turkish film "Zayiat," or Casualties, is the story of a son searching for his father.

Staying with relatives in Istanbul and using friends as actors, New York-based director Deniz Tortum made what he calls a no-budget film. “The budget of the film was two thousand dollars, so it was pretty much no budget," he says, explaining that he shot in neighborhoods where people live and work, not near Istanbul's tourist sites.

“I just wanted to shoot in the places where I actually lived and spent most of my time in Istanbul," he says. "I have lots and lots of memories in those places.” For Andrea Thiele, a German filmmaker who lives in the United States, the act of driving a car represented a unique lens through which to view cross-cultural dynamics in a globalized world. Read more ..

Destination Kenya

Ali Barbour Cave Restaurant in Kenya Offers Flintstone Fine Dining

March 31st 2013

El Castillo cave art Spain

Eating at unique restaurants around the world is just one of the perks of a traveler’s life, but these experiences are always more fun when shared with our readers – especially when it involves subterranean spaces, that brought to mind these 700 year old cave homes in Iran.

Thought to be up to 180,000 years old, Ali Barbour Cave Restaurant is a multi-chamber coral cave in Kenya’s Diani Beach. Converted upon the property owner’s surprise discovery three decades ago, the fine dining establishment is now world renowned not only for its remarkable ambience, but for dishing up some of the best food we have eaten in the country to date.

Owned by a family that emigrated here from the UK in the mid 1950s, the Ali Barbour Cave Restaurant is located just a few hundred meters from the Indian Ocean and beautiful white sandy beaches. There tourists, Italian expatriates, “beach boys” and even a man who walks around with three camels while away the hours soaking up the sun. Read more ..

Travel Safe

How Air Travelers Can Minimize Reactions to Peanut/Tree Nut Allergies

March 26th 2013

airplanes shadows

Few situations can provoke more anxiety for people with peanut or tree-nut allergies than having an allergic reaction while flying on an airplane and being unable to get help.

But in a new study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology-In Practice, researchers found passengers who engaged in eight mitigating factors were less likely to report an allergic reaction.

This is the first study to show that in-flight peanut and tree nut allergy is an international problem, says lead author and pediatrician Matthew Greenhawt, M.D., M.B.A., M.Sc., of the University of Michigan’s Food Allergy Center and C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Past research has focused on the U.S. and only on those who had reactions, instead of including those who did not. Read more ..

Travel Safe

TSA Facing Sharp Pressure to Prohibit Knives on Planes

March 23rd 2013

tsa security

The knives are out in Congress for the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) decision to allow small blades on airplanes. From the moment the TSA announced its decision to allow knives with blades shorter than 2.36 inches, lawmakers, unions and airlines themselves have been up in arms. The decision means that knives will be allowed onto airplanes for the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when terrorists used box cutters to hijack four U.S. jetliners.

The pressure on TSA to backtrack on the knife decision mounted this week when 133 House members signed a letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole, asking him to reconsider removing the items from the agency’s prohibited list. Additionally, a pair of senators said on Friday that they were planning to introduce legislation to force the agency’s hand. TSA stated on Friday that it was planning to implement the change on April 25, despite the mounting political pressure. Read more ..

Destination Detroit

Le Chef Bistro offers Great Lebanese to Round Out Detroit's Arab Fare

March 19th 2013

Le Chef Bistro Farmington Hill

Detroit is famous for Arabic restaurants but one can't really appreciate them unless you understand the different ethnic groups that make up the Arab and Mideastern peoples and their distinctive cuisines. Whereas in most cities an Arab or Mediterranean restaurant might well be a mishmash of various group traditions, in Detroit you find very different Arabic restaurants, each with a different national tradition. Among these are the Chaldeans, Kurds, Palestinians, and in the case of Northern Lebanese, Le Chef Bistro,

True, Le Chef has some of the familiar mideast dishes such as Falafel and Baba Ganouj. But this eatery stand aparts for its special preparations which are inherently Lebanese. Start with fattoush, the famous Lebanese salad highlighted by pita chips and sumac dressing, served in an abundant, bulging portion. Then try kibbe labnieyeh, coated baked ground beef and nuts cooked in a yogurt and garlic sauce. The lasting flavor will stay with you long after you leave the restaurant.

Lamb shank bamia is essentially an okra stew smothering atop a tender lamb shank--and, once again, the Lebanese spices together with the sweet acidity of the tomato sauce will stay with you long after you pay the bill. Another house specialty is Moghrabia couscous, that is, savory semalina balls simmered in chicken broth amid bits of tender chicken, onions and chick peas. Read more ..

Destination Israel

Jerusalem Hotels Buzzing With Obama Preparations

March 18th 2013

King David Hotel

While Jerusalem has been visually primed for US President Barack Obama’s visit – over 1,000 American and Israeli flags dot major roads and streets along with signs and banners that read ‘Unbreakable Alliance’ – Jerusalem hotels have also been gearing up for their guests.

Along with Obama, the fifth American president to visit Israel, approximately 500 foreign journalists are visiting Jerusalem to cover the presidential trip. The White House press corps, which includes CNN, Fox News, NBC and many other news correspondents, will be staying at Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel, while the President and his entourage will be housed nearby in the prestigious King David Hotel. Tazpit News Agency interviewed the management of both the Inbal and King David hotels where managers expressed the excitement and adrenaline inspired by the presidential visit.


Destination Austin

International Performers Flock to Texas Music Festival

March 17th 2013


The annual South by Southwest Festival wrapped up in Austin, Texas, today. Its music portion has become a showcase for musicians from all over the United States and the world.

Playing on Austin's club-lined Sixth Street, the British folk group Skinny Lister charms the crowd. It cost them a lot of money to come here two years in a row but group guitarist Daniel says it is worth it. “Last year we came and we managed to pick up our American record label from a guy who saw us in a pub we played in just down on Sixth Street here.”

During South by Southwest you can hear American music as well as music from Europe, Africa and Asia. Nearly half of the 800 bands playing here night and day during the festival are from other countries. One of the biggest draws this year was the K-Pop show, where fans lined up to hear 11 Korean groups perform, among them a hard rock group called Galaxy Express. Read more ..

Destination Houston

Hats Rule at Rodeo Time in Houston

March 12th 2013


In spite of the old image of long, tall Texans in 10-gallon hats, most people in the Lone Star State do not wear cowboy hats very often. When it's rodeo time in Houston, though, the hats are everywhere.

There's a saying here in Texas about someone being "all hat and no cattle." At the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, plenty of people have both hats and cattle. But more than 80 percent of Texans now live in urban areas. The rodeo gives them a chance to get into the cowboy spirit.

Women especially seem to enjoy it. "I love western wear, and I love the rodeo, and I normally come 10, 12 times," said one woman at the event. "I'm just dressed up for the rodeo," said another woman. "I wanted to come to the concert, and I wanted to dress like this," said a young girl who was there. Read more ..

Road Food

Virginia Firm Puts Mobile Restaurants on Wheels

March 5th 2013

food truck interior

In recent years food trucks have proliferated in big U.S. cities. As the popularity of the mobile kitchen continues to grow, a small business in the Washington D.C. suburbs is also profiting. East Coast Custom Coaches is a builder of food trucks.

“You’ve got to come in, go around in this truck, and back out that window in three to four minutes, period,” says Lee Campbell, owner of East Coast Coaches who believes that is how long it should take for a chef to prepare food for customers.

“That is how we design our trucks to the chef. They are made for the chef," Campbell said. "Are you right-handed or left-handed, are you real tall ...” East Coast Custom Coaches is based in Manassas, Virginia, outside Washington. Over the past several years, his team of 15 employees has built about 200 food trucks. Read more ..

Destination Jerusalem

Israeli Breakfast, All Day Long

March 1st 2013


In Israel, breakfast is a smorgasbord of food featuring dishes from all over the world, and who says it’s just for the morning? Shakshouka, an Israeli breakfast staple, actually is a relatively new item on the menu.

The bountiful buffets that have made “Israeli breakfast” famous among tourists usually include shakshouka, a spicy North African concoction of eggs poached in a tomato-pepper-onion sauce. So it was no surprise that Lonely Planet included the shakshouka at Jerusalem’s Tmol Shilshom café on its recent Top 10 list of the world’s best breakfasts.

But Jewish food writer and historian Gil Marks says that this signature dish is actually a latecomer to the already laden Israeli breakfast table. The classic must-haves, he says, are scrambled or hardboiled eggs, a variety of chopped vegetable salads, semolina porridge, cheeses, fresh breads, plain and flavored yogurts, fruit and granola, washed down with fresh juice and/or coffee or tea. Read more ..

Destination Galilee

Green Galilee Getaway

February 25th 2013


Amirim is a vegetarian holiday village with great views, easy access to holy sites, and a gastronomic reputation that makes salad stylish. Amirim means “summits” in Hebrew.

Long before eco-tourism and healthy living came into fashion, a small village in the Upper Galilee region of Israel followed these principles because that’s how the families there saw fit. Today, Moshav Amirim – a vegetarian cooperative community – is considered one of the country’s best holiday getaways. The craziness of everyday life is quickly forgotten upon driving into this comfy community of bed-and-breakfasts, galleries and spas. Set in a forested area with gorgeous views of the countryside, Amirim – which means “summits” in Hebrew — is known for its relaxed ambience, nature trails and delectable vegetarian cuisine. Read more ..

Destination: The Aegean Coast

Life Returns To Gulf Once Used As A Sewer On Turkey’s Aegean Coast

February 23rd 2013

Gulf of Izmir

The gulf was used as an open sewer system from the 1960s until 2000, when the city of Izmir initiated the Big Gulf Project to clean it up. Those efforts are paying off, according to observations collected by the Marine Sciences and Technology Institute of Turkey’s Dokuz Eylül University (DEU) in a newly released report.

Underwater photos from five different locations around the gulf provide the most visually striking evidence that life is returning to the area. Various species of seahorses, starfish, shrimps, anemones, fish, algae, and plant life are bringing color back to the gulf as levels of dissolved oxygen rise in the water.

“We have been monitoring the biological situation of the İzmir Gulf since 1996. We take samples in all four seasons. We also measure the heavy metal rate in the sea once a year,” DEU Marine Sciences and Technology Institute project coordinator Professor Filiz Küçüksezgin said. Read more ..

Travel Industry News

Kenya's Tourism Association Hosts Gubernatorial Debate

February 20th 2013

Kenya Strollers

The Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers hosted a gubernatorial forum in Mombasa on Wednesday, to allow its members to ask questions of the candidates running for office. Because tourism is the coast’s major industry, political candidates want to talk to its management, investors, and workers.

Kenya is abuzz with pre-election activity, now less than two weeks away from the March 4 polling date. And at the Kenyan Coast, where tourism thrives, its stakeholders want to hear how Mombasa county gubernatorial candidates will support their businesses and organizations.

As the executive director for the coast of the Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers, Sam Ikwaye said that the high value of coastal tourism ensures that politicians pay attention. “Tourism is the cash crop: it is the biggest industry at the coast today, with a very big multiplier effect," he said. "We estimate that one employee is supporting at least a household of ten. So you’re looking at a wife and two or three children, and a landlord, and a taxi driver, and everybody. Read more ..

Destination Israel

Touring Israel with Paintbrush in Hand

February 14th 2013

Judaen Desert

Experiencing the land through art ‘offers a whole other level of conversation about the social, religious and artistic aspects of Israel.’ Everybody takes pictures when they travel to a new place. But that’s not the same as experiencing a locale through photography, painting or dance.

Several new initiatives in Israel allow you to do just that, even if you’re not artistic by nature. “Our theory is that when groups go anywhere it’s all about their personal experience with the place,” says sculptress and art educator Hannah Rendell, who hosted 1,000 tourists in Beersheva last summer through her new Beer Sheva Art Experience.

“I think when you interact with a place you feel like you’ve participated. And art lends itself to that.” Croatia-born and Canada-raised painter Igor Mojzes moved to Tel Aviv last August and founded Paint Israel Art School, which will be offering an eight-day painting tour of Israel in cooperation with Gordon Tours. Read more ..

Destination Sinai

Bedouin Bus is a Friendly Way to Travel Sinai

February 13th 2013


If you’ve traveled throughout the Sinai Peninsula, you will understand how wonderful it is to have a service like Bedouin Bus. A non profit public transportation service founded and sponsored by community members to ensure that travelers have affordable and stress-free access to the more remote parts of this magical part of Egypt, the bus fills in the missing links between Dahab, Nuweiba and St. Catherine. And it is ridiculously cheap. Despite what you might have heard, the Bedouin Bus runs whether there is one passenger or ten, though it runs on very specific dates and times. Read more ..

Destination India

Tourists Help Conservation Effort at Indian Tiger Reserves

February 10th 2013

Indian Tiger

After a temporary ban on tourism in India’s tiger reserves was lifted last October, tens of thousands of visitors are flocking to catch a glimpse of the big cat in the country’s sprawling wildlife sanctuaries. In north India,  tourism is helping to conserve the endangered species.

The 63-rooms at Riverview Retreat, a resort at Corbett National Park, are all booked, and jeeps regularly line up in the drive to take visitors for safaris to spot the tiger. The park is India’s oldest wildlife reserve.  It is located in the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand state.

In recent weeks, Pan Singh Bisht, the manager at Riverview Retreat, has been working late in the evening to take care of the large number of visitors. He says business suffered for 84 days, when the supreme court banned tiger tourism last July. But now the season is in full swing. The ban came in response to a petition which said visitors were damaging efforts to conserve the tiger, whose numbers have dwindled to about 1,700, at last count. Read more ..

Aviation Edge

Norwegian Airline Resorts to Leases instead of Boeing Dreamliner

February 8th 2013

Boeing 787

Boeing's woes are getting no solace as its stock price continues to slide. According to a release from Norwegian, an Oslo-based air carrier, Boeing has given notice of a possible delay in the delivery of the Scandinavian carrier’s first 787 Dreamliner, which was scheduled to be delivered in late April. The June delivery may also be affected. In the event that the 787 is not operational in time for Norwegian’s services to New York and Bangkok replacement long-haul aircraft will be leased to ensure that flights are operated as planned.

The 787 is currently grounded worldwide due to a problem with lithium batteries that caused a fire on a plane still on the tarmac at Boston's Logan airport. The 50 Dreamliners in service were grounded on January 16 following a series of battery incidents. One of the incidents involved a plane in the air in Japan. The groundings have cost Boeing tens of millions of dollars, with no end in sight. Read more ..

Mexico on Edge

Acapulco Resort Marred by Rape of Six Female Tourists

February 6th 2013

Mexican soldiers at the beach

Six Spanish women were raped overnight on February 4 by a gang of armed men at a beach near Acapulco, one of Mexico’s resort cities. The victims were bound and tied by their own bikinis. The rapists were wearing hoods and could not be further identified. Seven Spanish men and an accompanying Mexican woman were also on the scene but did not suffer any sexual violence. However, they were beaten and then bound and gagged with telephone cables, according to a local police spokesman. After the attack, the rape victims were accompanied by local tourism officials to a police station by 7 am, five hours after the tourists’ ordeal began. All of the victims are reportedly under 30 years of age.

The Spanish ministry of foreign affairs has not released the names of the victims in the attack. Read more ..

Seismic Edge

South Pacific Tsunami Scare

February 6th 2013

solomon islands canoe

A powerful earthquake shook islands in the South Pacific on February 6, triggering a regional tsunami that destroyed several homes and killed at least four people. The magnitude-8 quake hit a sparsely populated region near the Solomon Islands. A 1-meter tsunami later washed ashore on the island chain. A region-wide tsunami alert was lifted a short time later.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says four people are reported dead and two are missing in the Santa Cruz Islands of the Solomons, near the epicenter of the quake. It says "many traditional houses" were flattened when the tsunami traveled 500 meters inland.

Seismologist Dale Grant with the U.S. Geological Survey says the initial quake was followed by at least 14 aftershocks of magnitude-5 or bigger. "You can say that these are major quakes in very remote areas. So we're fortunate that there are no great population centers in the nearby area," he said. Read more ..

Destination Jerusalem

Old Jerusalem Station to be Turned into Top Culture Spot

February 5th 2013

Old Jerusalem Station

In the late 1800s, the introduction of the Jaffa-to-Jerusalem rail line revolutionized travel in the Holy Land. And from 1892 to 1998, the solid stone Ottoman structure at the junction of Jerusalem’s German Colony, Baka and Abu Tor neighborhoods served as its eastern station house.

But when the trains stopped running to downtown Jerusalem, the building fell into disrepair and the rail yard behind it was left to the weeds. Several ideas for repurposing this prime location were floated over the years, and finally the venerable venue will be getting a new life this spring. Renamed The First Station, the 130-year-old Israel Railways property is to be a new culture and culinary hub in the capital city. Read more ..

Destination Mexico

Ever Resilient Puerto Vallarta Comes Back from the Brink

February 2nd 2013

Puerto Vallarta sand sculpture

Clemente Perez remembered with fondness a pivotal moment in the development of modern Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. Perez said that as a younger man he helped ferry by canoe the cast and crew of the 1964 John Huston classic “The Night of the Iguana” to the film shoot in nearby Mismaloya. “Very beautiful, precious eyes,” is how the 71-year-old boat ticket seller recalled actress Ava Gardner.

In his long life on tropical Banderas Bay, Perez has watched a small fishing village transform into a booming tourist resort and then a city of more than 255,000 people struggling to maintain its economic status amid the gales of crisis. Seated on Los Muertos Beach, Perez told how three separate piers have stood on the spot to send tourists into the waters of Mexico’s expansive bay. Inaugurated early last month, the new pier boasts a giant sail form that rises into the sky and lights up in purple as the night falls.

For Perez, the conclusion of the project couldn’t have come sooner. Kicked off more than two years ago, the construction dragged on far longer than originally promised and dissuaded many tourists, who were already plummeting in numbers for other reasons, from dipping into the surf in order to board the small craft that criss-cross the bay, the longtime Puerto Vallarta resident bemoaned. Read more ..

Destination Israel

The Temple Mount: A Sight to Behold for those who Care to Look

January 31st 2013

The Dome of the Rock from Atop
Photo: Courtesy of Juda Engelmayer

The very first time I traveled to Israel, everything I did was brand new and exciting. Since then, it’s been exciting, but very few surprises would appear. The City of David was something I could add to my list of fascinating experiences more recently.

What I had this past visit were some encounters I could not imagine seeing, experiencing, and, in fact, in one case, maybe never seeing again. The first was when I took my son, nieces and nephews to Holon to “see” the so-called blind museum, better known as Dialogue in the Dark. It is a museum that is set up as a city street, a food market, a cafeteria, a boat and a home, but is completely dark. It is so dark that prior to the tour the tour guide requires that your cameras, phones, watches that may glow in the dark, all be left in a locker. You walk though these spaces experiencing life as if you are blind.

Our tour guide herself is blind, and she was the only one who was not anxious, and she did not fall. The rest of us were cast into a world of blackness to experience what it is like to live as a blind person and learn some of the ways that Israel has made it such that life for people who are vision impaired can function as well as anyone. Read more ..

Inside the Middle East

Egypt is Close to Bridging the Distance to Saudi

January 25th 2013

Ocean scene

The Egyptian government announced earlier this week that a plan to bridge the distance between Egypt and Saudi Arabia across the Gulf of Aqaba is going to become reality in the very near future. A longstanding proposal previously rejected by former President Hosni Mubarak, a bridge linking the Sinai Peninsula and Saudi Arabia is expected to cement ties between those two countries while alienating just about everyone else. And don’t even get us started on the environmental damage that will be caused. This news comes despite the work of Egyptian activists who have been trying to convince the government that the $3 billion bridge slated to cross Ras Mohamed National Park, which currently protects coral reefs, dive sites and a slew of endangered species, would cause irreparable environmental damage. Read more ..

Destination London

Husband/Wife Team Brings Sunny Mideast Cuisine to London

January 24th 2013

Dining out in London

They met 10 years ago while working together in an Italian restaurant in Herzliya. Last summer, accomplished husband-and-wife chefs Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer took the plunge of opening their own 25-seat restaurant in a fashionable residential district of London.

Honey & Co. is already creating a buzz among British foodies.“The food here is stunning, alive with colour and texture,” gushed one critic. “This little Israeli-run café and takeaway only has a few seats, but they’re the most sought-after in Fitzrovia,” revealed another. “The cakes, enticingly displayed in the window, are true eye-candy.”

The self-taught Srulovich said, "Desserts are the thing we are most proud of. Our cakes are sensational. My wife is a pastry genius — one of the best pastry chefs in the world.”

Before opening Honey & Co. with her husband, Packer was a pastry chef for the famed Israeli restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi, and executive chef at one of his four successful London eateries. Everything at Honey & Co., from the breads to the jams, is made on premises from scratch. Read more ..

Destination Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley--the Mecca for Geeks

January 21st 2013

Silicon Valley Los Altos

If you want to get a taste of how the future might look and feel, head to California’s Silicon Valley. It will both illuminate the present and give you a hint of what the future promises.

Properly known as the Santa Clara Valley, this region lies just south of San Francisco and includes the communities of  Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Cupertino and San Jose and it was dubbed “Silicon Valley” because of the concentration of semiconductor and computer-related industries which are located there. The area has become a kind of mecca for computer “geeks” the world over and you can find a greater concentration of brain power--- and youthful multi-millionaires--- there than virtually anywhere else on earth.

Palo Alto, some 3 miles south of San Francisco, might properly be called the Birthplace of Silicon Valley for it was there, at Stanford University, that some of the best-known tech companies, including Cisco, Google, Hewlett Packard and Yahoo got their start. In fact, one can actually see, but unfortunately not visit, the garage at 367 Addison Avenue, the private residence where Hewlett Packard was founded.  Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Civilian Airliner Anti-Missile Defense System Advances

January 19th 2013

airplanes shadows

An Israeli defense technology company says it has successfully tested an anti-missile system designed to protect commercial passenger jets. Elbit Systems Ltd. on Wednesday said its C-MUSIC system to protect large jets against shoulder-launched missiles from the ground passed tests. Elbit said it proved effective a number of times in protecting a Boeing 707 aircraft. In 2002, militants fired two surface-to-air missiles at an Israeli charter plane shortly after takeoff in Mombasa, Kenya. The missiles missed their target but spurred an Israeli effort to improve countermeasures. Elbit says the new system can be applied to any aircraft. It says it integrates advanced fiber laser technology with a thermal camera to protect against missiles fired from the ground.

The technology provides protection for a variety of airborne platforms against shoulder-mounted missiles by diverting them from their trajectories through the use of a laser beam. The capability was originally developed for military usage, and due to the increasing threat to civilian aircraft, Elbit also developed a parallel system for civilian use.


The Digital Edge

Booking Air Travel is About to Become a Whole Lot Easier

January 17th 2013

United Airlines jet liner

Once upon a time, to buy airline tickets we’d either call our travel agent or dial the airline directly. It wasn’t efficient and it wasn’t cheap. But there was a human being on the other end of the line who didn’t demand that we type into dozens of fields, check this box and that, then choose dates from pop-up calendars before trying to make sense out of pages of results.

A new Israeli startup is restoring a “travel agent-like experience” to the Internet age. Tel Aviv’s Evature is built with technology that helps modern travel websites understand natural language queries. Using Evature, travelers can type (or, on a mobile device, speak), “Book me a flight from Tel Aviv to New York for two weeks, anytime in May, in business class at the lowest fare.”

Evature’s software then translates that free text request into the standard fields a travel site can work with. The website takes it from there. If follow-up is necessary to clarify something, that can be done using an Evature natural language text field, too. Read more ..

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