Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Kuwaiti students visit historical sites in Istanbul

ISTANBUL, July 9 (KUNA) -- A delegation of excelling Kuwaiti students continued Monday a tour of historical sites in the city of Istanbul under the sponsorship of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development's (KFAED) (be outstanding) program.

The students told KUNA that they have visited historical significant monuments in the city of Istanbul, namely the Hagia Sophia (Mosque), The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the Blue Mosque), and the Topkapi Palace.
The students affirmed that their tour of various historical sites have increased their knowledge of Istanbul, noting that the tour had showcased the significant contribution of Islam to world heritage.
On her part, the delegation supervisor and Ministry of Education Representative Dalal Al-Qabandi told KUNA that the students were very thrilled to be visiting Istanbul and learning from the history of this great city.

She also thanked KFAED for sponsoring the tour which helped expand the students' knowledge.
Al-Qabandi also lauded the Turkish authorities for facilitating the visits to historical sites, affirming that they have done a tremendous job in preserving the Islamic heritage of the city of Istanbul.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

China plans huge tourism project in Tibet capital

China on Sunday started work on a 30-billion-yuan ($4.8-billion) tourism project in Lhasa city, state media said, as it seeks to draw more travellers to the restive Tibet region.

The massive development in the regional capital will include a theme park, commercial district and residential area, Lhasa Vice Mayor Ma Xinming was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.

Construction on the first phase of the planned project, about two kilometres (just over a mile) from downtown Lhasa, will take three to five years, it said.

Lhasa was the scene of violent anti-Chinese government riots in 2008 and authorities have kept the city under tight security since then.

Tibetans have long chafed under China's rule over the vast Himalayan plateau, saying that Beijing has curbed religious freedoms and their culture is being eroded by an influx of Han Chinese, the country's main ethnic group.

Beijing, however, says that Tibetans enjoy religious freedom and have benefited from improved living standards brought on by China's economic expansion.

Ma said the project would create a "living museum" for Tibetan culture as well as relieving pressure on tourist attractions in Lhasa's old city and developing Tibet's tourism industry, Xinhua reported.

Buddhist pilgrims and tourists flock to Lhasa to visit the Jokhang temple in the city centre and the Potala Palace, former home of Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

On May 27, two Tibetans set themselves on fire in front of the Jokhang temple, the first such incident to hit the city following a string of similar acts in parts of China inhabited by the ethnic group.

Travel agents said Chinese authorities closed Tibet to foreign visitors shortly after the incident, though state media later denied any travel ban.

The tourism project will include a theme park dedicated to Princess Wencheng, a member of the Chinese royal court during the 618-907 AD Tang Dynasty who married a Tibetan ruler, Xinhua said.

Beijing has used the story to illustrate close historical ties between China and Tibet. Other features of the development include centres for highlighting Tibetan arts and customs, the Xinhua report said.

Last year, 8.5 million tourists visited Tibet, up more than 24 percent from 2010, official figures showed. The regional government is targeting 10 million visitors this year, producing tourism revenue of 12 billion yuan, the government has said.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Pushkar offers 'mini Israel' experience

Signboards and menus in Hebrew, shopkeepers greeting visitors with "shalom" and familiar food like humus, wraps and soup with dumplings. It's a mini Israel out here with hotels and other businesses tailoring their offerings to suit tourists from the 'promised land'. Even in the scorchingsummer heat, hundreds of tourists from Israel are holidaying in this town, 11 km from Ajmer and about 130 km from the state capital Jaipur. Pushkar, an attractive tourist destination with its lake, desert safaris, camel rides and more, is home to the only temple in the world dedicated to Lord Brahma.

And Israeli tourists are flocking to soak in the experience. Moving around, the unsuspecting visitor could be forgiven for wondering just where they were with hoardings and signboards in Hebrew splashed at many places.There is even a Chabad House, a community centre for the Jewish community run by missionaries.

Food familiar to Israeli visitors is easier to find than traditional Indian food. Where else will you see a menu featuring jachnoon, the traditional bread with tomatoes and eggs! Moussakas, cinammon cakes and even the humble vegetable cutlet are found in plenty, with menus printed in both English and Hebrew.

Local residents, including some priests who perform rituals at the ghats of the Pushkar lake, and shopkeepers have started speaking fluent Hebrew. And some are taking classes to learn the language.Some hotel owners even accept shekels, the Israeli currency.It all makes business sense.

According to the state tourism department, 46,425 foreign tourists visited Pushkar during April 2011 to March 2012. Israelis, many of them young men and women holidaying after their compulsory army training, counted as the highest.

"Israeli tourist arrivals increased up to 64 percent in the last three years and about 13,500 Israelis visited Pushkar last year," said a police official.Israeli tourists usually come in September and stay for several months - mostly till April.

"Even at present there are about 500 foreign tourists in Pushkar despite the scorching heat and most of them are Israelis," said Ravindra Kaushik, a hotel owner in Pushkar, a key attraction in the desert state of Rajasthan.The numbers have encouraged hotel owners to make that extra effort to ensure that the visitors feel at home.

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