Ad by The Cutting Edge News

The Cutting Edge

Tuesday July 17 2018 reaching 1.4 million monthly
Ad by The Cutting Edge News

The Cutting Edge Traveler

The Cutting Edge Gourmet 

Emerging Destination

Somalia Steps Up Appeals to Foreign Backers

June 9th 2012

S/V Quest

Somalis are working to change the image of their country from a war-torn African nation to an attractive destination for foreigners. Somalia, after decades of unrest, is now slowly opening its doors to business with the international community now that government and African Union (AU) forces have pushed al-Shabab militants from most regions of the country. Nowhere is the transition more obvious than in Mogadishu. Expatriates are flocking back to the capital with a new vision of the future that includes trendy shops catering to a foreign clientele.

Parliament member Mohammed Amin Osman says the capital is undergoing a transformation. "Now, business, hotels, restaurants have started opening, roads are building, schools are building so now, a lot of hope are [is] there," he said. Ahmed Jama recently left Britain and returned to his native Somalia where he is opening two Western-style restaurants in hotels that he owns in Mogadishu. Jama says he is using the skills he acquired in Britain to help Somalia prosper. Read more ..

Traveling Safe

Jewish Tourists Kicked out of Jordanian Town by Local Residents

June 6th 2012

Karak castle Jordan
Lower court of the Karak castle in Al Karak, Jordan. Photo: wiki commons.

A group of Jewish tourists were attacked and forced out of the town of Kerak, in Jordan recently, after a local store owner noticed them wearing religious clothing. “Salem Jeradat – who owns a grocery in the town – was surprised on Sunday afternoon by a delegation of Jewish men and women who were wearing the clothing of religious Jews, which led him to throw his shoes at them,” writes Al Jazeera.

It was after this that local residents escalated the attack, forcing the tourists to leave on June 3.

“‘Then the people of the town immediately approached the group, threw shoes and stones, and kicked them out of town,” Jeradat told Al Jazeera. “The people of Jordan do not accept the Jews entering their homeland, and the Araba Valley treaty between Jordan and the Zionist entity does not represent us,” he said. Read more ..

The Destination Edge

White Water Rafting in Lebanon is a Hit

June 4th 2012

whitewater Lebanon

Nobody offers up adrenalin and nature bliss quite like Adventures in Lebanon. Their first whitewater rafting trip of the season on Nahr El Assi – an animated river roaring with springtime snowmelt – commences at 8.30am on Sunday at Futuroscope in Beirut and ends twelve hours later in the same spot. A scenic three hour drive (that includes a breakfast pitstop in Ksara) winds 150km away from the concrete jungle and toxic fire tires to the verdant Hermel Bekaa, where the real fun begins.

Extreme adventure for everyone

Anybody but the super unfit should feel comfortable joining Adventures in Lebanon, whose tour leaders will brief rafters about appropriate postures and techniques to be used during an exhilarating 2.5 hour trip down the Assi River. This promises to be an extreme adventure complete with 7 km of unrivaled natural splendor and no fewer than five waterfalls!

The same company that offers skiing adventures during the winter pledge to participants that experience will be both physically and psychologically challenging, which anyone knows is exactly the recipe for heart-pumping adrenalin that keeps us going back for more. Exerting energy in the sun and water is bound to rev up a healthy appetite, which the company has arranged to satisfy with a delicious lunch at a nearby club before part two of the day begins. Read more ..

Destination Edge

A P­erfect Beach Holiday at Green Papaya in Thailand

June 4th 2012


Even Green Prophets need to get out of the Middle East once and a while. Although you can find the world’s most perfect sand and beaches on the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea in Sinai, or pristine beaches in the Gulf, sometimes we just want something a little different. This February we took one of our beach holidays to Thailand for a month. As best as we could we looked around for resorts that catered to the green traveler and found a few that fit our fancy. We’ve already featured our slow boat ride from Bangkok, and the luxurious hotels on Koh Kamui like Zazen. After leaving Samui, we decided to go to the quieter island of Koh Phangan. Note to readers: Phangan is only quiet a week before or after a full moon party. So plan a trip around the full moon if you want to avoid the crowds. My parents love to party so they took off to the full moon while we chilled back at the resort.

Getting to Green Papaya is a bit of adventure. And that’s what makes it extra fun. Once you are there, tucked away on a secluded beach, you can be almost sure that most full moon partiers won’t find you except for the occasional one that gets shipwrecked or lost. After an hour drive from Hadran Beach (Full Moon Party Headquarters) we wound up a dirt road to be greeted by the Green Papaya sign. Since traveling to Thailand, I’d be promising my mom an Avatar experience, sites with lush green vegetation, overgrown flowers, butterflies galore, and Green Papaya helped me fulfill the promise. Read more ..

Israel's Leading Edge

Jerusalem Plans Massive Tourism Expansion--200 More Hotels

June 3rd 2012

Jerusalem Light Rail Jaffa Street October 2011

A new master plan for Israel's capital includes 200 new hotels, an international airport outside Jericho and expansion as far west as Beit Shemesh and as far north as Modiin.

The brainchild of Australian entrepreneur Kevin Bermeister, Jerusalem 5800 envisions new roads and train service and a band of green space around the city.

Though a private initiative, the Times of Israel reports that Bermeister has met with Jerusalem authorities, who endorse his ideas. The Hebrew date of 5800 corresponds to the international year 2040. “Our plan will create a ring of parks and green corridors that will surround Jerusalem and be scattered throughout the city,” Bermeister told the Times of Israel from his home in Sydney. The green space will enable walking tours, bicycles, and personal electrical means of transportation, and allow easy access to Jerusalem’s centers of culture, tourism, conventions and other events and attractions."

According to Bermeister, the international airport outside Jericho will accommodate up to 35 million passengers per year. Bermeister acknowledges that he will face challenges, among them Arab claims on the West Bank and East Jerusalem and Jewish objections to building on burial grounds. To his mind, the plan aims to improve the lives of all Israel's residents. “Our only goal is to improve the lives of the people who live in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas – it makes no difference if they are Jews or Arabs,” he says. Read more ..

Cheap Travel

Cheap Travellers and Surprising Stats for Tourism Industry

June 2nd 2012


It’s easy to look down on the lowly backpackers when you are a country looking to earn lots of income from tourism. Many Middle Eastern countries rely seriously on tourism for bolstering the local economies, like Egypt, Morocco, Turkey and even Israel. When tourism drops, people feel it. So popular is tourism to iconic sites like the Nile River and the pyramids, or the Old City of Jerusalem that luxury vacations and hotels spring up all around these markets to reel in the Big Fish: you know the rich tourists who spend a week and $300 and per night on a hotel room. Bargain travellers, you know who they are: they look for deals on last minute flights, search online sites like Agoda religiously looking for the best hotel deal, and when they arrive at their destination tend to stay at cheaper hotels and hostels, sometimes working in reception, even washing dishes to subsidize their “rent”.

Tourism ministries haven’t been too keen to focus on these kinds of travelling “parasites” who try to live on dollars a day. Because, you  know, the Big Fish bring in more money –– or so it would seem. Our friends over at the Fauzi Azar Inn in Nazareth just sent us an illuminating article based on research that will surprise you about the economic impact of budget travellers.

According to a new book Tourism for Development by Regina Scheyvens, luxury-tourism actually relies on foreign rather than local products, foreign skills like language over local skills and knowledge. The overall effect is that budget travellers actually benefit more the local economies, and tend to interact with local services like public transportation. And contrary to the notion that luxury tourism will trickle down to the locals who need it, the income tends to stay focused in developed locations, and does not go “off the beaten path” as it were, writes Nicole, a regular guest at the Fauzi Azar Inn. Read more ..

The Edge of Architecture

Bauhaus Design goes Underground at Israeli Train Station

June 2nd 2012

Israeli Underground station

Galmidi Yitzhar and the industrial designer Yaksein Eliran won first place in a design competition for a new underground train station in one of Israel’s most vibrant cities – Tel Aviv. Borrowing inspiration from some of the city’s most iconic features, such as its ubiquitous collection of Bauhaus architecture and the Ficus Microcarpa trees planted throughout in order to provide shade and shelter, the pair have designed a subterranean space that swims in natural light.

Combining the color of Bauhaus homes (white!) and the ambience it creates on the street with the fluid, arboreal form of the Ficus Microcarpa, Yitzhar and Eliran’s winning train station design is far more aesthetically pleasing than any existing station. Steel trunks are rooted to the floor while branches bend up under a transparent glass shield that permits natural light. Several of these line the station, which is enclosed by Bauhaus-styled edges. Read more ..

The Biblical Edge

Where is the Upper Room and Does it Matter?

May 23rd 2012

Upper Room
Interior of the place believed to be the location of the Upper Room.

The exact location of the Upper Room, mentioned in the New Testament, is not known nor is it known whether the scripture speaks of the same location in each instance. Today in Jerusalem you can visit the site traditionally held to be the "Upper Room" but it is unlikely that it preserves the actual place where Jesus ate with his disciples or the place to which the disciples went after Jesus' ascension on Mt. Olivet. Acts 1:12 says, "then they (the Apostles) returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying."

Theories abound on where in Jerusalem this room might have been, some point to the lower city west of the Temple, others south of the Temple where the chief priests lived, while still other indications point to a place both near the Temple and King David's Tomb.

From scripture we do know that all of the events from Acts 1:13 through 2:41 occurred in proximity of that "upper room." Later, on the day of Pentecost it says: "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place." Acts 2:1 Read more ..

Azerbaijan on Edge

Visitors to Azerbaijan wary over Hotels' Hidden Cameras

May 20th 2012

Baku Azerbaijan Airport Sheraton
Sheraton Baku Airport Hotel

No sex under any circumstances.

That's what one local rights group is advising visitors to Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, for the Eurovision Song Contest there next week. The group, Azad Genclik Teskilati (Free Youth), claims "hidden cameras are installed on the premises of all...hotels without exception," and that footage made with the cameras "can later be used against tourists for blackmail." The corporate headquarters of major international hotels in Baku have given assurances that they have policies in place to protect guests' privacy.

But the concerns arose after hidden cameras were used in some Azerbaijani hotels to make secret sex videos of opposition journalists and critics of Azerbaijan's government -- violating their right to privacy in an attempt to blackmail them and silence dissent. In one case, a video of two opposition journalists engaged in sexual acts was later broadcast on a television channel owned by a cousin of Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev. Read more ..

Travel Safe

TSA Reports 25,000 Airport Security Breaches to Congress

May 17th 2012

Airport glove

The security breach at Newark Liberty International Airport reported on May 15, although troubling to many, was not the first serious lapse in aviation security and it probably won't be the last to occur in a multi-billion dollar government enterprise, according to security experts. They point to a government report that documents upwards of 25,000 breaches of airport security checkpoints since November 2001.

The Homeland Security Department had completed an initial study to validate the scientific basis of the Transportation Security Administration's Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program; however, additional work remains to fully validate the program, according to a report released by the Government Accountability Office in July. The House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations called a subsequent hearing to investigate airport security after reports showed there had been 25,000 breaches of security checkpoints since November 2001.

Subcommittee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a frequent critic of the TSA, complained about the security breaches and called them "unacceptable." “We appreciate TSA in tracking and providing that data, but obviously, those are the ones we know about,” Rep. Chaffetz said at the start of the May 16 hearings. “The deep concern is, what about the ones we don't know about?” Chaffetz added that he was concerned that the TSA had not conducted threat-vulnerability assessments of most U.S. airports. Only about 20 of the more than 450 airports for which the TSA is responsible for security have been reviewed by the Homeland Security Department. Read more ..

Travel Safe

Illegal Alien working as Airport Security Supervisor with Assumed Identity Arrested

May 15th 2012

Bimbo Olumuyiwa Oyewole

Department of Homeland Security officials are shocked to discover that an illegal alien held the position of security supervisor at an airport from which United Flight 93 departed on September 11, 2001 and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania when passengers rose up and attacked their terrorist captors. In a shocking revelation, a Post Authority of New York and New Jersey police source have confirmed that a veteran security supervisor at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey -- one of three major airports in the New York City metropolitan area -- has been using the identity of a murder victim for about 20 years.

The police source stated that the illegal alien -- whose real name is believed to be Bimbo Olumuyiwa Oyewole -- was arrested on May 14 in his home in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The 54-year old Nigerian had assumed the identity of American citizen Jerry Thomas, who was a murder victim in 1992 in an unsolved homicide in New York City. "Investigators have reopened the case in order to rule out Oyewole as a suspect in the 20-year old cold case," the police stated.

Homeland Security and Port Authority Police are investigating how Thomas' personal information was allegedly stolen by the Nigerian illegal alien. A Nigerian crime syndicate has been involved for a number of years in identity theft and creating fake identification documents including driver licenses, social security cards and other ID instruments. Read more ..

Broken Airlines

Hated Spirit Airlines Now Charges $100 for Carry-on Bags

May 4th 2012

spirit airlines

Spirit Airlines will begin charging $100 per bag for passengers who bring luggage for stowing in overhead bins. This is the first U.S. carrier to impose such fees for carry-on bags. Currently, the airline charges $45 when passengers show up at a gate with a carry-on bag. The rate hike is scheduled to go into effect on November 6, according to the airline’s website.

The change means that any passenger who comes to a boarding gate without having pre-paid for the privilege of stowing their carry-on will be charged at the new rate. Spirit offers a confusing menu of fees for baggage that are linked to the point during reservations when passengers ‘buy’ the option of taking a carry-on bag. Spirit offers to passengers "ultra low base fares" for airline tickets by paying fees only for "the extras they value," the website says. Read more ..

The Race for Hi-Speed Rail

Italy's New 'Bullet Train' Aims to Shake Up Euro Travel

April 29th 2012

Italian Hi-Speed Rail
Italian High-Speed Rail

Italy will launch Europe's first private high-speed train service Saturday, as the country moves towards a more liberal economy.  The move could lead other European countries to follow Italy's example of privatizing rail transport and creating new jobs and competition in the marketplace.

The new bullet-shaped "Italo" trains can travel at a top speed of 360 kilometers per hour. They are run by NTV, a company headed by Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo, which invested $1.3 billion. He says the real achievement was having brought about liberalization in Italian rail transportation. "At last, Italian citizens and foreign travelers will be able to choose, and one of the longest monopolies in our country has come to an end," said Montezemolo. Montezemolo says passengers would benefit from the competition.  He adds that the aim is to take a quarter of the market from the state rail network Trenitalia, the biggest employer in the country, by 2014. Read more ..

South Africa on Edge

Infamous Johannesburg Minibus Taxi Drivers Trained to Behave

April 28th 2012

Taxi Driver Protest
Taxi Driver Protest

In South Africa, minibus taxis are the most used and yet the most dangerous public transport. They account for double the rate of crashes than all other passenger vehicles. It is rush hour for one of the busiest taxi stands in downtown Johannesburg. Hundreds of people zigzag through the lined-up minibus taxis. One passerby almost gets hit by a taxi as it suddenly pulls out of the parking area. South Africans have a live-hate relationship with minubus taxis. Princess has been using them for over 20 years. "I take taxis because to me, it's quick, and it’s cheaper than the bus," said Princess, who is among the 65 percent of South Africans who use minibus taxis every day. The minibus taxis came into use in the 1980s, under the apartheid, to take black workers from their restricted home communities to work and back. But now it is the most available and affordable means of transportation in the country. Despite its popularity, the minibuses have a disastrous reputation for dangerous and careless driving, posing hazards to not only all cars on the road - but the very passengers who support the taxi business. Read more ..

The Race for Hi-Speed Rail

Dreaming the Impossible Dream: Rail Travel from America to Russia and Beyond

April 28th 2012

russian bullet train

The country’s budgets are balanced. Debt is low. Savings are piling up. Russians are getting their pre-recession mojo back. On the consumer end, sales of foreign cars made in Russia jumped 90 percent during the first quarter of 2012 over last year.

In the Kremlin, leaders are thinking big again.

In rapid succession, the government leaked a plan to create a “super agency” to develop the Russian Far East; President-elect Vladimir Putin vowed to spend $17 billion a year for new and improved railroads, and Vladimir Yakunin, president of Russian Railways, promoted a think big plan — a rail and tunnel link connecting Russia and the United States.

“It is not a dream,” Yakunin, a close ally of Mr. Putin, told reporters last week. “I am convinced that Russia needs the development of areas of the Far East, Kamchatka. I think that the decision to build must be made within the next three-five years.” Next year, Russia’s railroad czar will open one big leg on the trip toward the Bering Strait – an 800 kilometer rail line to Yakutsk, capital of Sakha Republic, a mineral rich area larger than Argentina. Read more ..

Hotel Edge

Hilton Wilmington Riverside

April 27th 2012

Hilton Riverside-Wilmington, NC
Hilton Wilmington Riverside

The Hilton Wilmington Riverside is a welcoming hotel, commanding Wilmington's best riverfront view of the Cape Fear River. Doormen set the congenial tone from the moment you arrive. Our bellman launched the visit with special congeniality. Too often hotels do not realize that one staff member's cordiality or stiffness in those first few moments can set the tone for an entire visit. Management should bear this in mind whether senior staff or the desk personnel. Hilton Wilmington Riverside obviously does keep this in mind--and successfully. When we had problems with a reservation date mix-up, but managers corrected the date quickly and smoothly.

Although this property is quite large, the lobby is small, comfortable and bustling as guests stream in and out for their many on-site conferences. Somehow the front desk manages to keep it all together as they handle volume visitors with aplomb. This is not a typical Hyatt lobby that entertains or provides alcoves of personal space. It is all business. Read more ..

The Biometric Edge

Facial Recognition Technology Offers Security at Airports and on the Battlefield

April 20th 2012

Eye biometrics

AOptix, a developer of advanced optical technologies and products, announced that Morpho, a high-technology company of the Safran group, has become an AOptix strategic partner in the area of biometric technology. With this agreement, AOptix products, including the combined face capture and iris recognition system, InSight® Duo, will be integrated into Morpho’s solutions offered to countries around the world to check the identities of persons crossing their borders on land, sea and air. Morpho provides advanced solutions for border control, detection, identity management, criminal justice, and secure biometric access.

“For years, we have respected AOptix’s commitment to innovation in enhancing iris usability in biometric identification systems. The match between our two companies is natural as we unite to offer biometric solutions for a vast array of applications,” says Bernard Didier, Senior VP, Technology & Strategy at Morpho. “Combining the knowledge and expertise of our two companies in iris and facial recognition solutions will offer tremendous benefits in security and time savings for governments, airports, airlines and the traveling public.” Read more ..

Travel Safe

Don't Assume The Sand Is Safe

April 13th 2012

Kid on the beach

On warm days, the beach seems an ideal destination for family rest and relaxation. Who hasn't built a sand castle or been buried up to the neck in sand? However, that family fun has a dark side -- sand can harbor illness-causing microbes.

Unfortunately, there are no guidelines for sand quality at recreational sites.Now, environmental scientists at the University of Miami (UM) and at Northern Illinois University have created a reference guide for potentially harmful germs in sand, similar to the guidelines set by the US Environmental Protection Agency for marine water. The report is published in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology. "These values can be used by beach managers to make decisions concerning sand quality," says Helena Solo-Gabriele, professor in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at the UM College of Engineering and principal investigator of this project. "That way, when regulators are faced with a decision about a potential health risk, there is a guideline available with which to decide whether or not the levels of microbes found in the sand are cause for concern." Read more ..

Destination Edge

A Culture Shock Hangover in Tunisia’s Second City

April 4th 2012

Sfax, Tunisia
Sfax, Tunisia by: RichJe

When the bus stopped at the station in Sfax, 170 miles from Tunisia’s capital city, I seriously considered getting back on and heading as far south – away from civilization – as I could get. But the adjacent municipal dump was a strong catalyst for quick decision-making, so when a little yellow taxi pulled up just then, I got in. “To the medina!” I said.

We arrived at the ancient walls via a circuitous route (the driver hadn’t understood my English), as the locals cleared up the market debris. The inside of the medina was dark and deserted. I’ve rarely felt more conspicuous during my travels through the MENA region, nor so depressed. By this stage, I was prepared to pay a cool $5,000 for a room, in which I planned to hide for several days.

Maybe I can’t fault Sfax. I left Tunis in a bad mood after losing thousands of dollars and dealing with over-enthusiastic Tunisian men, but the trash, the staring, the way the buildings are jammed together in no particular order – it all got under my skin, and not in a good way. It was like a rash, coupled with a migraine, that made me want to close the blinds to my room and never leave. Read more ..

Destination Edge

Burma's Tourist Industry Booms

April 3rd 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi

Burma's political reforms have drawn international attention and sparked a boom in its still fledging tourism industry. Hotels and tour operators are scrambling to meet the growing demand from visitors eager to witness a country in the midst of transformation. This week in Rangoon 20 contestants competed for the title of Miss Tourism Myanmar 2012, a beauty pageant organized by the tourism board to appeal to foreign visitors.

Tourism Board Secretary Kyaw Htun says Aung San Suu Kyi's endorsement of "responsible tourism" last year has been a vital boost in Burma, also known as Myanmar. "Before 2010 the Lady [Suu Kyi] didn't support visitors to come to Myanmar, but after 2010 she was encouraging visitors to come see Myanmar," noted Htun.

Since Aung San Suu Kyi's release from house arrest in 2010, tourism has more than doubled, and is projected to keep increasing at a rate of 30 percent per year. Burma's political isolation has long kept it off the typical itinerary of holiday travelers. Now, it is that isolation and ongoing political reforms that are drawing newcomers - some of whom are still anxious about visiting.

"The reason I'm here in Myanmar, I'm interested in the political situation," said Mari Nakogawa, a tourist from Japan.  "Like Aung San Suu Kyi, I cannot say it here, it's kind of scary. Most of Japanese newspapers say Myanmar is dangerous." Read more ..

Destination Edge

How To Choose a Cruise

March 18th 2012

Cruise Ship

The recent tragic events experienced by Costa Cruises notwithstanding, cruising remains one of the safest and most popular holiday choices and were enjoyed by more than16 million people last year.

If you are planning a cruise holiday you have more than 200 ships from which to choose. The question therefore arises which is the right cruise for you and what should you look for before handing over your money.

Once you have decided on your travel dates, how long a cruise you wish to take and the region of the world you wish to visit it’s time to check out which companies and which ships meet your requirements. You can begin by going to the website of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) which has two handy tools: a “Cruise Ship Destination Finder” and a “Ship Features Finder.” After you have narrowed down your choices to a manageable few it’s time to consult a travel agent to help you with your booking. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Commercial Jets not Affected by Rules for Grand Canyon Tours

March 17th 2012

Grand Canyon

New rules planned for air tours of the Grand Canyon would not affect commercial aircraft flying over the park, under a measure approved by the Senate. A deal brokered by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., clears the way for the National Park Service to develop rules that set new limits on the number of sightseeing flights over the canyon while reducing noise pollution. The measure was included in a broad transportation bill approved Wednesday by the Senate. McCain and Reid said they were concerned that passenger jets flying high above the park on the way to Las Vegas and other airports could be negatively affected by the Park Service plan, which is intended to increase the number of air tours over the Grand Canyon while at the same time making the environment quieter.

McCain was originally a champion of decreasing noisy air traffic over the Grand Canyon. In 1987, he co-sponsored a Senate bill to restore "natural quiet," saying, "When it comes to a choice between the interests of our park system and those who profit from it, without a doubt the interests of the land must come first." Fast-forward to yesterday's Senate decision, when McCain opposed the overall plan for noise reduction, which he said could "decimate" air tours through unfair noise restrictions. McCain said the plan could eliminate hundreds of tourism jobs and cause tour operators to lose as much as $18 million in the first year alone. "Air tours provide a unique sightseeing experience for people who might otherwise not be able to visit the Grand Canyon, particularly the elderly and the disabled," the Arizona senator said. Read more ..

South of the Border

Texas, Mexico and the U.S. Contend over Tourist Safety in Advance of Spring Break

March 11th 2012

Mexican soldiers at the beach

The latest Mexico travel warning emitted by the state government of Texas has set off a wave of criticism south of the border. Government officials and representatives of the international tourism industry lashed out against a March 6 advisory issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (TDPS) that urged young springbreakers not to visit Mexico this vacation season because of ongoing narco-violence and other criminal activity in the neighboring country.

Citing information from the U.S. Department of State, the TDPS warning highlighted an increase in the number of U.S. citizens murdered in Mexico, from 35 in 2007 to 120 in 2011, as well as other violent crimes including kidnapping, carjacking, highway robbery and more. Read more ..

Turkey on Edge

Istanbul’s Main Square To Become Lifeless And Isolated In New Urban Plan

March 5th 2012


Today, Istanbul’s Taksim Square is a bustling hub of activity, with majestic Gezi Park providing some natural solace — even when the trees are brown in winter, as in the above photo. But a new plan would eliminate most of the greenery in this photo and cut off Taksim from the rest of the city. That’s the argument of the Taksim Platform, a group of concerned citizens, urban planners, lawyers, and academics who have so far collected more than 13,500 signatures against the project. See what the new square would look like after the jump.

In the government’s vision for the new Taksim Square, the front of Gezi Park would be replaced by a building with a courtyard, while the back would be reduced to a small patch of grass and a mall. The streets running through and around Taksim Square would be paved over and replaced by deep underground tunnels, increasing the volumeand speed of traffic as vehicles exit the tunnels. Read more ..

Destination Edge

The Waldorf-Astoria's Newest Hotel: Creatively Built by Inhabitants of the Negev Desert

March 3rd 2012

Semadar Art Center
Semadar Art Center

Take the Waldorf-Astoria, a beacon of luxury, and add a group of environmentally conscious mud-brick builders from the middle of the Negev Desert. Though an unlikely partnership from the outset, together they cooperated on a building that is sure to be designated one of Jerusalem's most inspired architectural works. The interior design of the soon-to-be-opened upscale hotel is the work of acclaimed Turkish architect Sinan Kafadar. Knowing that the Waldorf-Astoria is located on the grounds of the former Palace Hotel, Kafadar painstakingly preserved and restored the 1923 building to its original magnificence. As any hotel guest would agree, it's the little things that make the biggest difference. So when Kafadar needed glass fiber-reinforced concrete for intricate details, in addition to complex geometries, he turned far south to Kibbutz Neot Semadar, which is best known for its communal living, organic farming and environmental activities. It's also acclaimed for its unique desert architectural techniques and new building materials. Read more ..

The Edge of Nature

Diving in the Dead Sea: An Adventure Well Worth the Challenge

February 25th 2012

Dead Sea Divers

The first time Avraham Bresler was asked to dive in the Dead Sea, he was being paid to purge an air pocket in an underground pipe. More than 20 years later, he is still plunging into waters often deemed unfit for scuba divers. What's more, Bresler runs tours for extreme diving fans in the cloudy Dead Sea. "The water is warm but it's as if you're in the Antarctic. Everything is white; it looks like you're diving in ice. The water glitters because of all the salt. It really is another world," according to Bresler. The Dead Sea has always been one of Israel's most popular destinations. It is the lowest point on Earth and a place renowned for its vistas, healing powers and natural beauty. The 47-year-old Bresler never dreamed of turning the Dead Sea into an extreme water-sport destination. Rather, diving is his profession. But then, out of nowhere, a Japanese television crew asked him whether it was possible to film in the Dead Sea. They wanted to verify whether cucumbers could be pickled in the salty water (they could, but Bresler says they were "not very tasty").


Bhutan on Edge

Bhutan Seeks More Tourists to Boost Economy

February 24th 2012


Rising incomes across Asia in the last decade have helped create millions of new tourists, eager to explore foreign places. Bhutan, an Asian nation that has seen relatively few international visitors, is hoping to dramatically boost its tourism industry and provide a vital jolt to its economy. Guests are welcomed by a Bhutanese traditional song of greeting as they arrive at the hotel in the capital Thimphu. The kingdom, with its snow capped ranges and forested valleys, is preparing to draw more travelers interested in its Mahayana Buddhist faith and traditional artwork, distinctive architecture, forested treks and crisp clean air. With a population of just 700,000, Bhutan is braced between Asia’s giants of India and China. Officials here have long sought to protect local culture from the influence of foreign visitors.

Tshering Tobgay, a resort owner in Paro Valley, 55 kilometers from Thimphu, says avoiding the excesses of mass tourism that have damaged or overdeveloped other locations in Asia remains a priority. “The government is taking a very good initiative to promote tourism in a way that we don’t want a lot of people in one go. So we focus on high value and low volume. It’s a very good concept - that is a small country, we don’t want a lot of tourists to come in and spoil our culture and heritage likewise in other countries,” said Tobgay. Read more ..

Air Quality

Pollution From North Africa Shuts Down Israeli Airports

February 13th 2012

Israel Topics - Polluted Sky over Tel Aviv
Polluted Sky over Tel Aviv,                        Photo by: Austinevan on Flickr

Last week two airports in Israel had to shut down because the sky was so hazy and visibility was so limited, Haaretz reports. Both the Sde Dor Airport in Tel Aviv and Eilat’s airport shut down on 7th of February as a result of air pollution concentrations more than twelve times higher than usual. These conditions are expected to continue through Wednesday.

Israel’s Environmental Ministry explained that a low pressure weather system over Southern Greece moved into Israel and trapped particulates that traveled from a dust storm in North Africa. This is not the first time that Israeli researchers have discovered pollution stemming from outside the borders – sometimes laced with heavy metals.

Pollution travels

We often note that nature has no borders and this is a classic example. Pollution from Eastern and Western Europe hover in Israeli skies 2/3 of the year, according to a Haaretz news report from last year. And for 1/5 of the year, harmful pollutants travel from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and North Africa. Read more ..

Destination Edge

From Byzantine to Bauhaus: Israel's Top Ten Architectural Wonders

February 11th 2012
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we have attempted to identify some of the most striking buildings in the Holy Land. There is more than enough to choose from, as modern Israel's architecture is an eclectic mix of the ancient to the avant-garde.

1. The International YMCA, Jerusalem

Photo by Yossi Zamir/Flash 90

A landmark on the Jerusalem skyline, the YMCA was designed by Arthur Louis Harmon, the same architect behind the Empire State Building. Like its New York cousin, the YMCA was the tallest building in the city at the time of its opening around 1935.

Harmon wanted to embrace the architectural traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, so the YMCA's design has elements of Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic and neo-Moorish styles and its foundation contains stones from quarries believed to have been used in the construction of the Second Temple. Forty columns in the courtyard represent the 40 years of Israelite desert wanderings as well as the 40 days of temptation of Jesus, while the 12 windows in the auditorium and 12 cypress trees in the garden symbolize the 12 tribes, the 12 disciples of Jesus and the 12 followers of Mohammed.

The Jerusalem YMCA is considered the most beautiful YMCA building in the world. At the top of the 50-meter tower is a relief figure of the six-winged seraph described by the prophet Isaiah. The capitals of two entryway columns depict the Woman of Samaria mentioned in the Gospels and a lamb represents Jesus. Read more ..

South of the Border

A Mexican Resort City Fights for its Collective Soul

February 7th 2012

Mexican Topics - Puerto Vallarta Mexico

It might be called Puerto Vallarta's "Stairway to Heaven." Climbing up a double row of steps and fronting white homes with red-tiled roofs, the cobble-stone heights of Iturbide Street offer a magnificent view of blue Banderas Bay and its population of wintering humpback whales and playful dolphins. From the high ground, the eyes can see the far-off flutter of sail boats, the medium-shot profile of the upright Sea Horse statue on the boardwalk below and the close-up touch of the downtown's historic Roman Catholic church.

Usually exuding calm, Iturbide Street is actually one of the flashpoints in an ongoing struggle to shape, re-define and direct the Mexican resort city's future. On a recent January day, as workmen pounded away with a jack hammer to make way for a new garden at the bottom of the street, a small group of residents held a protest against a city project they contended would choke off circulation in the neighborhood. A placard posted on the construction enclosure read: "No to street closures." The new garden, they charged, would make parking impossible and hurt small, struggling local businesses in tough economic times. "We need ambulances to have access," added Berta Elena Martinez, a 57-year resident of the neighborhood. Read more ..

Edge on Travel Safety

Risk-Based Security Analysis Increases Travel Safety and Diminishes Costs

February 1st 2012

Travel - tsa security

Anyone who has flown on a commercial airline since 2001 is well aware of increasingly strict measures at airport security checkpoints. A study by Illinois researchers demonstrates that intensive screening of all passengers actually makes the system less secure by overtaxing security resources. University of Illinois computer science and mathematics professor Sheldon H. Jacobson, in collaboration with Adrian J. Lee at the Central Illinois Technology and Education Research Institute, explored the benefit of matching passenger risk with security assets. The pair detailed their work in the journal Transportation Science.

“A natural tendency, when limited information is available about from where the next threat will come, is to overestimate the overall risk in the system,” Jacobson said. “This actually makes the system less secure by over-allocating security resources to those in the system that are low on the risk scale relative to others in the system.” When overestimating the population risk, a larger proportion of high-risk passengers are designated for too little screening while a larger proportion of low-risk passengers are subjected to too much screening. With security resources devoted to the many low-risk passengers, those resources are less able to identify or address high-risk passengers. Nevertheless, current policies favor broad screening. Read more ..

Destination Edge

Eilat, Timna and the Negev

January 26th 2012

Israel Topics - Timna Valley
Timna Valley in Israel's Aravah

When we planned our visit to Eilat, we expected a glorious seaside holiday, but little did we know that we would also walk in the footsteps of the ancient Kenites and Midianites and that we’d also enjoy an encounter with “kibbutzniks” who create exquisite works of art and raise organic foods in the Negev desert.

Moments after our El Al flight touched down at the Eilat airport, we checked into the luxurious Dan Eilat Hotel, located on the Red Sea beach front, in the centre of this thriving resort community. We knew the hotel’s reputation but we were not prepared for the splendour of our room. Like the hotel itself, the room was decorated in hues of pink, turquoise and beige and its furnishings had a distinct art deco look. But the icing on the cake was an enormous terrace complete with hot tub and breathtaking views. We felt as though we had landed on the set of a 1950’s Hollywood musical spectacular and expected Gene Kelly and Doris Day to sweep in at any moment. Read more ..

Travel Safe

TSA Collected $400,000 in Spare Change Left in Airports by Passengers in 2011

January 14th 2012

Travel - TSA Checkpoint

Airline passengers left more than $400,000 at airport security checkpoints operated by the Transportation Security Administration in 2011.

TSA found $409,085.56 in spare change last year that was unclaimed by passengers, according to figures released by the agency. Historically, if no one comes back to get the money, it stays with the TSA.

A Florida lawmaker is trying to change that, however: Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) filed a bill in April of 2009 that would require TSA to transfer money that is not claimed by passengers when they leave airport security checkpoints to United Service Organizations. Read more ..

Inside Travel

McCain Changes Tune on Support for Grand Canyon Air Tours

January 1st 2012

Travel - Grand Canyon

A quarter century has elapsed since Sen. John McCain championed a new law to restore “natural quiet” in the majestic Grand Canyon where the clatter of choppers and small planes reverberated as they ferried sightseers over the national park. Vowing to curtail air traffic that was both noisy and that had seen fatal collisions, the Arizona Republican said that parks regulate dogs, campfires and trail and river use, and “I see no reason why overflights should be any exception to the rule.” The Grand Canyon, he proclaimed, “does not exist for anyone’s financial benefit.”

Today, however, McCain defends air tourism and its operators - including one of his biggest campaign backers - against what he sees as overzealous restrictions that the National Park Service is planning under that 1987 law. Following years of squabbling and litigation, the agency is finalizing rules on when and where the flights can go, including a cap on daily traffic. McCain believes the restrictions, which are outlined by the agency in a long-awaited environmental report, could “cripple” air tourism and jeopardize more than 1,100 jobs. Read more ..

Travel Safe

Turkey Day provides TSA a Chance to Test New Security Procedures

November 24th 2011

Travel - US passport

The Transportation Security Administration says passengers will likely notice fewer pat-downs of children and other changes at airports over this long weekend, the busiest travel days of the year.
The changes are part of TSA’s move toward a “risk-based” security approach. Most of them have been in place since earlier in the fall, but they will be new to an estimated 3.4 million people who are expected to fly for the holidays.
“When traveling this holiday travel season, passengers may notice new procedures in place at airports, including modified screening for passengers 12 and under and additional privacy protections on more than half of our imaging technology units,” the agency said in a statement provided to The Hill.  “TSA is also in the process of testing new ideas at some airports to further strengthen security while enhancing the passenger experience whenever possible,” the agency continued. Read more ..

Among the Druze

Daliat el-Carmel, the epicenter of Druze culture

November 11th 2011

Israel Topics - Daliat el-Carmel
A View of the Streets in Daliat el-Carmel

Most people go to the Galilee Druze village of Daliat el-Carmel to sample ethnic cuisine or bring home bargains from the bazaar. But the town, located between the bucolic wine country in Zichron Yaakov and the high-tech hub of Haifa, is also rich in history that Ragaa Mansour is eager to share.

"This is the southernmost Druze town in the world and the largest in Israel," says Mansour, a member of the Druze sect that is based mainly in Lebanon and Syria.

Two years ago, Mansour opened the Carmel Center for Druze Heritage, a hands-on living museum dedicated to educating visitors about the Druze people, religion and culture through exhibits on dress, foods, crafts and industries. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Google Rides the Swiss rails for Spectacular StreetView

October 20th 2011

Switzerland railway

Google Street View technology has put imagery of some of the world’s most interesting and significant sites online. So now Google has now captured the beauty and majesty of the Swiss Alps from its winding train tracks and switchbacks.

Cooperating with Rhaetian Railways of Switzerland, a Google Street View team collected images from the Albula-Bernina line in Switzerland that will soon be live on Google Maps. The route winds through the Swiss Alps and is one of most famous in the world, passing through alpine forests from Thusis, Switzerland and past the resort town of St. Moritz, then to its final stop just over the border in Tirano, Italy Read more ..

Hotel Review

Chicago's Sofitel

October 12th 2011

Travel - Sofitel Chicago

Coming Soon

One of Chicago's architectural gems is the Sofitel on Chestnut, where the stunning corner suites make you feel like your flying. Flying in style. Coming soon from the Cutting Edge Traveler. 

Destination Edge

The Three Centuries of San Miguel nestled in the Mountains of New Mexico

October 6th 2011

Travel - San Miguel NM chapel

Driving south of Las Cruces on Highway 28, travelers pass through the shady canopy of Stahmann Farms’ pecan forest before gliding into the small town of San Miguel. There, along the few blocks of old abode buildings and signs for fresh farm produce, day trippers might very well encounter friendly folk like Mike Otero.

A federal government retiree, Otero stands outside the striking stone façade of the San Miguel Church reminiscing about decades past and his wedding at this very place in the 1950s. Originally a mountain boy from the village of Manzano in north-central New Mexico, Otero says his real first name is Miguel but everybody just calls him Mike.

After completing military service in Korea, Otero came to Dona Ana County to work at White Sands Missile Range, where he soon met a young woman named Dora from San Miguel. The couple exchanged vows at the historic church and raised a family during a time when Dona Ana County was transitioning from a rural, agricultural-oriented county into part of a border metroplex with a growing university and an expanding federal government presence. Read more ..

Destination Israel

WeMakeIt Mobile Pocket Hotspot Connects Israel Travelers to the Country and the Planet

October 1st 2011

Jerusalem-Temple and Wall

More than three million people visit Israel each year. More every month. They are tourists, pilgrims, businessmen, diplomats, students, and celebrants. 

Most visitors to Israel are highly wired and connected individuals who need to stay in touch with home and business. But they also need to maximize their enjoyment of Israel's endless attractions. The problem is that getting connected in Israel is difficult. Naturally, your smartphones are going to become completely stupid in Israel due to incompatible signal. Therefore, any hookup for telephone is still going to require a global phone--very expensive, or a travel phone rental--less expensive.

The workaround for smartphone apps is your laptop or iPad. But your iPads and tablets will not work because you lack an Israeli wireless connection. When you finally connect at your hotel, the daily connect fee is often double or triple the cost of a typical US hotel fee—as much as $20 to $30 per day plus tax just to get connected. All this aggravation can be avoided with a small box about the size of a wallet--the mobile hotspot. It is offered by a recently formed Israeli hi-tech company called WeMakeIt. You will find it easily available on demand from the leading car rental company, Eldan, or delivered to your hotel. The fact that Eldan makes the mobile hotspot—or MiFi—as easily available as US rental agencies do for navigators, sets Israeli travel ease a notch ahead for ease and access. Read more ..

See Earlier Stories 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Copyright © 2007-2018The Cutting Edge News About Us