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Young Saudis start restoration and preserve work on historical stone castles in Jazan

Monitoring Desk

MAKKAH: Forty young Saudis from Al-Dayer governorate in the south of the Kingdom have started restoration and preservation work on historical stone castles in the region, to help protect them from damage caused by heavy rain and floods.

Under the guidance of experts in the field, they began by repairing damaged canals.

“Al-Dayer is a mountainous governorate in Jazan that is home to a great number of stone palaces and castles, to the point where some people see it as the largest archaeological concentration of historical castles in the world,” said Yehya Sharif Al-Maliki, an adviser to the restoration team.

Almost every part of the region has forts and castles, he added. Al-Yehya area alone is home to a large number, along with five small villages.

“After noticing the effects of climate factors and manmade practices, the team fenced off the sites and began to restore the castles, in line with technical consultations, to preserve their very old, historical value,” he said.

The castles date back as far as 4,000 years and are renowned for their strength and outstanding durability, Al-Maliki added. In 1940, for example, an earthquake of magnitude 6.7 struck the area and the castles were not damaged at all.

He said the restoration team includes engineers, architecture enthusiasts and others. They were motivated to restore the castles by the large numbers of Saudi and foreign tourists attracted each year by their architectural and artistic beauty.

“The historical castles of Al-Dayer feature ancient inscriptions and engravings, reflecting the religious culture of the Himyarite and Sabaean civilizations,” said Al-Maliki. “Linarite, a type of stone known for being abnormally strong, was used in building these castles, thus preserving these inscriptions for thousands of years.”

The leader of the restoration team, Jaber Ali Al-Maliki, said some villages in the region have experienced natural disasters, which motivated the team to take the initiative to protect the castles from the effects of strong winds and heavy rainfall.

“The team has repaired the canals and fenced off the sites, especially the castles that are located in residential neighborhoods, which increases the chance of their collapse,” he said.

Local residents interested in preserving heritage and culture have joined the preservation efforts and a “plan of action has been developed to study the restoration priorities” he added

Al-Yehya is on the slopes of Al-Areef mountains, surrounded by virgin forests to the east and water-rich valleys, including a manmade valley to the west, created long ago, with lavish architecture that showcases the rich history of the area and its peoples.

Although the geographical location of the area provided it with some protection from invasion and conquest by the armies and nations that have ruled the region since ancient times, such as the Sabaeans and Himyarites, the influence of these eras and cultures can be seen in the architecture.

“These castles reflect the architectural advancement of the successive civilizations,” said Jaber Ali Al-Maliki. “Built with beautiful stones, some of these castles are higher than four floors, with wooden doors and geometric patterns.”

Courtesy: (Arabnews)

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Bahrain restarts visa on arrival services for 68 countries

Monitoring Desk

MANAMA: Bahrain has announced to resume its visa-on-arrival services, which according to Bahrain Airport company is now open to travellers from 68 countries except Qatar.

A message posted on the Twitter account of the Bahrain Airport read that the Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs announced resuming its visa-on-arrival services for 68 countries.

“The service is open to all GCC citizens, excluding those from Qatar who are required to obtain a visa before their arrival to gain entry.”

“Entry is restricted to Bahraini citizens, residents, GCC citizens who do not need a visa, passengers eligible to obtain a visa on arrival, passengers with a valid eVisa, diplomats, military personnel, airline crew, or holders of official, service or UN passports,” said Bahrain Airport in a tweet.

All arriving travellers are also required to undergo a PCR test at their own expense upon arrival and should remain in self-isolation until the result is available.

“Arrivals must remain in self-isolation until the result of the PCR test is determined,” said Bahrain Airport on its twitter account.

It further said that visas on arrival are reintroduced for citizens of nationalities that are eligible for it and asked those seeking information to visit, evisa.gov.bh.

According to local media reports, the reopening follows a decision by the Government Executive Committee chaired by Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister to resume on-arrival visa services immediately.

Passengers staying in Bahrain for more than ten days or longer are also required to repeat the PCR test on the 10th day following their arrival in the Kingdom, the eVisa authority said on its website.

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Photographer uses drones to capture tourist treasures

Monitoring Desk

MAKKAH: Saudi photographer Hassan Al-Hresi looks for opportunities day and night to venture upwards into the skies and shed light on the archaeological and tourist treasures of the Kingdom’s south.

He takes his audience on journeys during all seasons of the year so that they can experience and witness the southern landscapes that he captures through his lens.

The professional photographer, who is in his thirties, has documented distinctive destinations such as the Wahidah Waterfalls, Ghiyeh, Al-Qahar villages and other locations.

And he offers an exceptional experience, as he seeks to showcase the undiscovered despite the danger that these sites pose.

“These trips spark my passion like a high that has been there since my childhood,” Al-Hresi told Arab News.

“It is a dangerous profession due to the need to move across steep mountains and stay there for days with the necessary equipment to capture moments that immortalize the sites’ beauty and magnificence. These moments shed light on the beauty of the Kingdom’s southern region.”

He said that many of his followers from around the world were convinced that Saudi Arabia was not just defined by camels and the desert, that it was a first-class tourist destination with pristine landscapes that were unimaginable by both locals and foreigners.

“Something fascinates you and takes your breath away as you film. It is the clouds covering the mountains and villages, the people living their lives amid continuous rainfall, Sarawat’s cold weather and Tihama’s moderate weather during winter, and how Saudis go about their daily lives in all their details according to a village life full of love.”

It is a dangerous profession due to the need to move across steep mountains and stay there for days with the necessary equipment to capture moments that immortalize the sites’ beauty and magnificence.

Al-Hresi said that photographing Al-Qahar mountains — a massif located 80 km northwest of Jazan with peaks rising 2,000 meters above sea level — was a fun trip particularly when using his drone, which has helped to uncover and depict such scenery in a wider and more comprehensive way.

“These images showed the villages located along the Kingdom’s deep south along with the simple village life of their residents, living at the heart of an unending natural beauty found in the greenery, the fog and the rain.”

The volcanic peaks that enrich Asir’s nature invited people to discover their scattered green areas that added to the region’s beauty, which he believed was unmatched by any other place in Saudi Arabia.

“This is particularly true in Mount Tahwi’s Ghiyeh village, which represents beauty in small, eye-catching and breathtaking geographical areas.”

The rock formations showcased in Al-Hresi’s images are, according to him, “some of the most important pillars of tourism in the world.”

He said it became even more worthwhile to document the Kingdom’s natural wealth amid the global coronavirus pandemic, which turned the focus of Saudis inwards and toward local travel and tourism.

He spoke of fortified and beautiful villages that showed off a particular type of architecture and construction, with forts built high in the mountains.

The fog-covered villages stand at high altitudes exceeding 2,400 meters above sea level, particularly those located in the areas of Al-Baha and Asir, and require twice as much effort to reach, especially when moving with equipment and drones.

“Al-Qahar mountains feature narrow valleys containing forest trees, along with drawings and inscriptions,” Al-Hresi said, adding that it was difficult to reach the mountain peaks due to their rough terrain.

“The rainwater falling on top of the mountain ends up in Wadi Bish Dam.”

Al-Qahar mountains stand tall on the cusp of Al-Raith governorate, east of Jazan, forming a fascinating scene. They are considered one of Al-Raith’s most beautiful sites due to their breathtaking nature and terrain, moderate weather and continuous rainfall throughout the year.

Courtesy: (Arabnews)

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Coronavirus: £50 household voucher scheme in draft tourism plan

Monitoring Desk

IRELAND: A draft tourism action plan has suggested introducing a voucher scheme to give households £50 to spend at local businesses.

The document, obtained by BBC Radio Ulster’s Inside Business programme, describes the pandemic as an “existential threat” to the industry.

It was put together by industry bodies involved with the tourism working group.

The Department for the Economy said it would not be appropriate to comment.

Northern Ireland’s tourism sector has been valued at £1bn and the industry had believed 2020 would be a record year.

The coronavirus pandemic, global lockdowns and current travel restrictions have damaged the international market.

The Department for the Economy says the action plan was still in draft form

Economy Minister Diane Dodds established a working group, made up of industry representatives, to make recommendations as to how to aid the recovery of the sector.

Among the recommendations from those on the working group:

Running a voucher scheme in partnership with major NI media outlets. The promotions will allocate a set number of £50 vouchers to readers to redeem at participating businesses. These will be available to all households in Northern Ireland

A comprehensive Covid-testing programme to be implemented at island of Ireland airports to ensure confidence in the destination for both visitors and local residents

Marketing campaigns in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and extensive market research, estimated to cost £11m over three years

Creation of a ‘local lockdown’ fund to support staff and businesses, events and venues if a localised lockdown is required.

The draft document is understood to be from the end of July and may have been amended at further meetings.

The plan also asked for targeted financial support to the value of £5m for the coach industry and £2m for B&B operators.

A spokesperson for the Department for the Economy said “the action plan is still in draft form and yet to complete due process”.

“It would not be appropriate to comment at this stage,” they added.

Courtesy: (BBC)

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Thailand managed 101 days without local coronavirus cases. Will it open borders soon?

Monitoring Desk

BANGKOK: Just a day after marking the significant milestone of 100 days without local coronavirus transmission, the virus has reared its head once again in Thailand.

News of a fresh infection came as the Thai government faces growing pressure from businesses to reopen borders to international tourists, as months of travel restrictions have devastated its heavily tourism-dependent economy.

The latest case was revealed to be a 37-year-old man who was arrested in Bangkok on drugs charges and tested positive after arriving at a Bangkok correctional center. Health officials say that he had no recent travel history and that his quarantine cellmates had all tested negative.

“This case is a local transmission case after over 100 days were passed with no report of locally transmitted infection,” Dr. Suwannachai Wattanayincharoen, director of Thailand’s Disease Control Department, told a press conference on Thursday.

Until the announcement, the Southeast Asian country has not recorded any local infections since late May. It is still finding coronavirus cases in overseas arrivals, who are subjected to a mandatory 14-day quarantine period. Patients remain in quarantine until they’ve recovered.

So far, the country of 70 million people has a caseload of just 3,427, with 58 deaths. More than 28% of the reported infections are overseas cases, according to the Health Ministry.

Thailand was the first country to detect the coronavirus outside China, confirming its first case on January 13 — a Chinese tourist who had flown to Bangkok from Wuhan.

The country had first refrained from banning Chinese tourists, but in late March, when its caseload surged close to 1,000, the Thai government declared a state of emergency and banned all non-resident foreigners from entering.

The border closure has helped protect the country while the virus rages across the world, but it has also dealt a huge blow to its tourist sector, which according to the World Bank normally contributes close to 15% of Thailand’s GDP.

In June, the Tourism Council of Thailand said it expected to see an estimated 8 million foreign tourists this year, an 80% drop from last year’s record number of 39.8 million.

Thailand’s economy shrank 12.2% in the second quarter of this year, its worst in 22 years since the Asian financial crisis in 1998.

“We hope that we can find ways to bring back tourists in the future. Bringing tourists back is one of the key factors to revive the Thai economy in the remaining part of this year and next year as well,” said Don Nakornthab, Senior Director of Economic and Policy Department at the Bank of Thailand.

“But we have to do it carefully, because if the second wave happens, especially as a result from opening up for tourists, it will put Thailand into trouble again,” he said at a press conference Monday.

“Safe and Sealed”

Thailand’s Minister of Tourism Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said late last month the country is aiming to allow foreign tourists to enter the country through a program dubbed “Safe and Sealed.”

“I have asked the prime minister for approval to set October 1 as the date to allow (inbound) tourists to enter,” he said. “I also have requested to use Phuket as a pilot model … and have received approval from the Center for Economic Situation Administration.”

If successful, the project will be expanded to include other destinations.

In the beginning, tourists will be permitted to fly into Phuket — Thailand’s largest island — and will need to quarantine in a designated resort for 14 days.

Phiphat cited popular Patong Beach as an example of an area where this could work. Special one-kilometer zones consisting of three-to-four resorts could be set up there, allowing quarantined tourists to spend time on the beach — so long as they stay in their designated area.

Travelers will need to get tested for Covid-19 at the beginning and end of their quarantine period. Then, they will be free to travel on the island.

But the minister says tourists who wish to travel beyond Phuket will have to stay in quarantine for an additional seven days and will have a third Covid-19 test at the end of that 21-day quarantine period.

Hotel staff who work in these designated zones will not be permitted to leave without first going into quarantine and will be tested regularly for Covid-19 as well to prevent the spread of the virus.

Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, told CNN Travel last month the plan had been approved by the government and the next step involves holding a public hearing to get approval from local residents — which is expected to take place in early September.

As October draws closer, however, Yuthasak said on Thursday that Phuket might not be able to receive tourists on October 1 as planned.

“There is still a lot to be done. The prime minister has just said that we have to make preparations,” he said.

Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said most members of the association strongly support the program and hope to see tourists returning to Thailand in the last quarter of the year.

“This must be done urgently, (otherwise) Thailand will really be in deep trouble. There will be even more people losing their jobs,” he said.

Balancing risks

While the tourism and hospitality sectors are keen to reopen borders, many Thai residents remain concerned about the potential health risk.

According to a poll conducted by the National Institute of Development Administration in July, over 55% of the 1,251 people surveyed across Thailand were against a proposed “medical and wellness” program, which would open the country to foreigners who test negative for Covid-19 for medical treatment.

Thais don’t need to look far for a cautionary example of how easily the virus can resurface in countries where it has seemingly been eliminated.

Related content

Vietnam to evacuate 80,000 tourists from Da Nang after three residents contract Covid-19

Vietnam, another tourist hotspot in Southeast Asia, also had a 100-day streak of no local transmitted infections — and a proud record of zero coronavirus deaths. But that ended in late July, when a fresh outbreak emerged in its popular resort city of Danang. Since then, Vietnam has recorded 34 coronavirus deaths.

Further away in the Pacific, New Zealand had gone without any local transmitted cases for 102 days, before a new outbreak last month placed its most populous city Auckland under lockdown.

In June, Thailand proposed the idea of a “travel bubble” with select countries where infection numbers were kept low. The plan would have allowed travelers to move between those destinations without having to go through quarantine.

However, the proposal was shelved after new waves of infections hit multiple potential destinations under Thailand’s consideration, including Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong.

Yuthasak told CNN on Thursday that the plan hasn’t been revived. “We are not looking at that option for now,” he said.

Courtesy: (CNN)

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Saudi Airlines imposes travel conditions for 25 states

Monitoring Desk

RIYADH Saudi Airlines on Wednesday imposed seven conditions for travelers between Saudi Arabia and 25 countries due to the novel coronavirus.

The countries are: United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, China, United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, France, Austria, Turkey, Greece, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Malaysia, South Africa, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Indonesia.

In a statement, the country’s national carrier said that all guests must fill out and sign a commitment form for health requirements and submit it later to the airport health monitoring center upon arrival.

All passengers will be subjected to self-quarantine at home for a period of seven days; three days for health practitioners.

Individuals during their visit to the country will have to install a Saudi contact-tracing mobile application.

Visitors will have to log in to provide daily health assessment during their stay and will have to keep themselves under home quarantine, according to the requirements of the health authorities.

Courtesy: (Yenisafak)

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Oh, kebab: The famed meat specialty of Turkey

Monitoring Desk

ISTANBUL: While you may be familiar with döner kebab, there is actually a vast variety of intricate and delectable kebab meat dishes to sink your teeth into in Turkey

Kebab is the widely referred to name for a variety of meat dishes derived from the Middle East that are either cooked on a skewer over a grill or in a vessel. The word kebab is said to be derived from the Sumerian term “kabuba,” which means to char and is used in Arabic and Turkish to denote meat dishes. Throughout history, Turkey has discovered, developed and perfected a number of delicious kebab dishes that go way beyond the döner kebab or gyros that are more popularly known.

The ingredients in kebabs can vary between lamb, mutton and beef. Some are skewered, and some are stewed. Most kebabs are served with yogurt and tomato sauce and either rice, wraps or pide, while some are even prepared with fruits and nuts. The following is a list of the most legendary kebabs to try in Turkey:

Döner kebab gets around

Referred to as both “döner” and “gyros,” the döner kebab along with shish kebab are the most familiar forms of kebab known worldwide, and both are delicious specialties in their own right. Döner is named after the rotating spit used to cook upright stacked meat, which is then cut into very thin slices. This fast-food variety is then encased by bread or a lavash wrap and filled with thinly sliced onions, parsley, tomatoes and papers to easily be eaten on the go.

A family legacy: Iskender kebab

One of the most famous and beloved forms of döner kebab is iskender kebab with thin slices of döner served over cubes of freshly baked pide bread, topped with tomato sauce and accompanied by yogurt, which is then doused in sizzling butter at the table. Named after its inventor Iskender Efendi, who not only developed this signature dish but at the age of 12 invented the entire rotating spit concept for cooking layered meat vertically, iskender kebab has been trademarked by and synonymous with Bursa’s Iskenderoğlu family since the late 19th century. The signature shop is in Bursa, and the family has since branched out to operate nearly a dozen restaurants nationwide. However, the dish is so beloved by the Turks, you can still find it served up occasionally under its well-known name iskender or other creative variations.

Lost in translation: Çöp şiş

With an unfortunate name that has countless times been translated as “rubbage sticks” due to the most familiar meaning of the word “çöp” just happening to translate from Turkish into trash, çöp şiş is one of the most widespread kebabs that is best referred to in English as the classic shish kebab, albeit a skinnier variety. Consisting of scraps of meat (which may be the reason behind the name) that are marinated in garlic, tomatoes and thyme before being shaped onto wooden skewers and cooked over a grill, this dish is generally served with grilled peppers and onions and rice or can be wrapped in lavash bread and is one of the rare kebabs to have a widespread chicken variation.

Don’t be puzzled: Şaşlık is shish kebab

Şaşlık kebab is actually synonymous with shish kebab and consists of significant chunks of lamb that are marinated in vinegar and layered on a wooden skewer with onions and other vegetables.

Tale of two cities: Adana and Urfa

Adana and Urfa are the names of two types of kebabs that are both prepared using minced meat, which is molded into patties on flat iron skewers and grilled over a burning flame. Named after the two cities in Turkey most famed for their kebabs, the only difference between the two is the level of spiciness with Adana kebab bringing on the heat and Urfa kebab being more subtle.

Legendary beyti kebab

Named after the owner of Beyti, the most famous meat restaurant in Istanbul, beyti kebab is a visual delight as patties made from ground beef or lamb that are shaped and grilled on skewers are then wrapped in a lavash and cut into bite-sized slices, which are traditionally spread out into a spiral on the plate and then doused with tomato sauce and yogurt.

You say Çökertme, I say Bodrum

Referred to as both Çökertme and Bodrum kebab, this particular variation is made from marinated strips of veal served over shoestring potatoes, which is slathered in tomato sauce followed by garlic yogurt and served accompanied by fried tomatoes and green peppers. Popular in all of Muğla province, Çökertme is the name of a village in Milas where it is believed this dish was discovered.

Break bread for Tirit kebab

Tirit kebab is a popular hailing from the Central Anatolian region of Konya in Turkey. The delicacy is generally prepared with lamb but can include a number of variations in meats. The most standout feature of this dish is that it uses leftover bread that is reheated and used as a bed for the stewed meat which is then covered in yogurt.

Divine smoked eggplant: Alinazik

With a history hailing back to the Ottoman era and the time of Sultan Yavuz Selim, Alinazik kebab is a beloved combination of cubed lamb laid over a bed of smoked and spiced eggplant. The name is said to have been a derivation of a combination of the Arabic word “Ala” to mean beautiful and “nazik,” which means food. However, legend has it that when the sultan was first served this dish, he asked whose “kind hands,” which is the translation from Turkish, were responsible for creating the dish. Nonetheless, the puffy pillow base of pureed smoked eggplant mixed with garlic and yogurt serves as the ultimate accompaniment to savory stewed lamb. (Here’s the recipe.)

Breaking pots for testi kebab

Hailing from the touristic Cappadocia region of Turkey, testi kebab is an extravagant lamb or beef and vegetable stew that is cooked in a clay pot, which is then cracked open at the table to serve.

Turkey’s tandoori: Tandır kebab

Tandır kebab is slow-cooked by being suspended over an underground brick oven and generally consists of lamb covered in a marinade that is a mixture of yogurt and tomato paste.

Ain’t it a peach: Şeftali kebab

A signature dish from Cyprus, despite the name being şeftali kebab, which translates from Turkish into peach kebab, there is actually no fruit used in this kebab, which is a type of crepinette. In other words, a skinless sausage stuffed with caul fat or stomach membrane and grilled on a skewer. Meanwhile, the name is a misnomer as this kebab is said to have actually been named after Chef Ali who originally prepared it.

Brave new world: Yenidünya kebab

Yeni Dünya has two meanings in Turkish, one being “new world” and the other being “loquat.” Hailing from the nation’s culinary capital Gaziantep, the yenidünya kebab is thus a kebab made from the picturesque layering of loquats and köfte meatballs to either be grilled on a skewer or baked in an oven.

Going nuts: Antepfıstıklı kebab

The most famous kebab to come from Gaziantep, however, has to be antepfıstıklı kebab, which is made with pistachios, a nut the region is famed for. In this kebab, minced meat is mixed with pistachios, onions and garlic and then shaped onto a flat skewer and grilled.

Courtesy: (Dailysabah)

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The untapped potentials of tourism of merged districts

Shabbir Khan

It bestows the geography of the former FATA with great potentials of local and international tourism provided thegovernment takes concrete step to improve the insecurity perception and show willingness to create tourism industry. The entire landscape of the merged districts is gifted with beautiful mountains, lush green valleys, fresh water streams and falls, scenic picnic spots, unique cultural and architectural heritage that dates back to hundreds of year. It is very unfortunate that our fellow Pakistanis have not yet seen the unmatched beauty of these tribal areas. The region remained closed for local and international visitors since 1979 due the terror related conflict and extensive military presence. But luckily, now the government officially declared these areas cleared of terrorists and with no ongoing military operation. Realizing the immense tourism potentials of these areas the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government under the Accelerated Implementation Programme (AIP) allocated Rs 5.120 billionduring fiscal year 2019-20 to kick start the tourism industry in the erstwhile FATA.

The establishment of tourist industry in ex-FATA will not only provide the much needed employment to the local youth and people, generate billions of revenue, promote local products and market, hotel industry and roads infrastructure but will also reduce tourists’ pressures on existing destinations of KP.Opening up of the tribal region will provide an opportunity to the local and international visitor to experience the tribal culture and hospitality and will counter decades old baseless stereotypes of the people of the region. Apart from this, global economies dynamics are changing and more and more economies shifting its dependence on revenues generated by the tourism. To give you an example, a European country Malta with its total 316 km² territory size much smaller than theex-FATA with 27,220 km² size contributes 15 % of revenue to its annual GDP which is more than the 2.7 % GDP share of the entire Pakistan’s tourism industry. Although every merged district of the tribal areas has some of the beautiful valleys and spots for tourists’ attraction, this article will only focus on the potential of three regions of Tirah valley in Khyber and Orakzai, Samana in Orakzai and Kurram, and Shawal valley in north Waziristan.

The breathtaking valley of Tirha is located 90 km to the southwest of Peshawar city and can be easily reached through Bara tehsil of Khyber in around 3 three hours journey. With the ongoing work on the road infrastructure, this journey could be reduced to one and half hours. Tirah is home to six major Afridi tribes with their district and proud ways of living.

The valley is all about unseen greenery, waterfalls, natural forests, mountain peaks, clear water streams and natural water springs. It has hundreds of picnic spots like Saran Sar, DwaToye, HaiderKandau, Bhutan Sharif, Khawajakhel Darra, Takhtakai Kamarkhel, Rajgaland Malkdeenkhel are just a few to mention here. The valley is also home to some of the centuries old structures, locally produced walnut fruits, and locally prepared cuisines. Fortunately this year, few local youth entrepreneurs opened the first ever restaurant in the vellay that provides state of the art accommodation and food to the visitors.

The Samana Range which islush green mountain ridge in the Hanguand Orakzai districts located on 6000 to 7000 ft. height is another picturesque destination that could attract millions of tourists in future. At present it take three hours from Kohat to reach the Samana Range but with improved road infrastructure the travel could be reduced to half of it. This serene valley is home to some of the structures that were built by the British in 1891 after the conclusion of Durand Line agreement. It is also hosting few rest houses that also include Orakzai House, also known as Governor’s Cottage. Tourists would visit the Fort Lockhart and the monument of 21 Sikh soldiers who died while fighting the local tribes. You can imagine the potential of this area from the fact that temperature during the summer in Samana remains between 9 to 15 degree Celsius. Why not it should be summer hill station?

Shawal Valley in North Waziristan with its astounding beauty and snow covered natural mountains also has huge potentials for tourism. During militancy it was known is a valley of death but now after the restoration of peace, the area is known as little Scotland due to its awe-inspiring sceneries andpanaromic small valleys.

The valley is covered with snow in winter and home to fresh water streams, grasslands, hundreds of picnic spots and hiking tracks with average temperature around 10 Celsius in summer. According to one estimation if the valley is developed properly, it could attract annually more tourists than that of Muree hill station.

In a nutshell, the people and valleys of tribal areas have seen enough death, destruction, displacement, unemployment and poverty. They have sacrificed immensely for peace. Now the dividends of peace must be enjoyed by them. Exploring the untapped potentials of tourism and establishing tourists’ facilities, improving road infrastructure and building rest houses will generate enormous employment opportunities and will help alleviate poverty in the region.

Government should establish Tourists’ Information Centers, and subsidized the hotel industry to attract foreign and domestic tourists to explore the picturesque areas of merged districts. Tourism will not only bring revenues and provide employment but will also raise Pakistan tourism revenue share to its GDP. And for the tourism to be successful the area should remain in peace and the visitors should not face unnecessary hurdles in travelling to tribal districts.

Let’s the people of the tribal belt share their astonishing culture, hospitality and cuisines with their countrymen and foreigners and develop their areas at par with the rest of the country.

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From Hittites to Vikings: The hidden history of Turkey’s Bathonea unearthed

Monitoring Desk

ANKARA: Bathonea, on the shores of a lagoon in Istanbul, was once a bustling port city, home to Hittites, Mycenaeans, Alasians, Byzantians, Vikings and the Ottomans. TRT World talks to Kocaeli University’s Sengul Aydingun, the head of the excavation team.

A team of archaeologists, geologists, architects, and underwater architects did a preliminary research project regarding Bathonea between 2007 and 2009 for three seasons. Bathonea is situated by the Kucukcekmece Lake in northwestern Turkey and discovered there were visible sunken boats and the remains of an antique lighthouse.

The local folks had their own take on the lighthouse that was immersed under water. They had thought it was a minaret from a town from long ago. The Bathonea excavation team leader, Sengul Aydingun, of Kocaeli University, says the locals were quite disappointed when they found out that the remnants were not, as they had believed, of a minaret.

Aydingun tells TRT World that Bathonea is a significant discovery because there had not been traces of the Hittites, an ancient group of Indo-Europeans previously known to be confined to central Anatolia, around 1650 BCE. According to Aydingun, the lowermost layer of Bathonea goes back to 2000 BCE. In addition to the Hittites, there were traces of Mycenaeans from the Aegean coast, Alasians from the Mediterranean (Cyprus) and other tribes from the Balkans. This is the first time such civilisations were found in Turkey’s Thrace peninsula.

The figurines, made from ceramics and lead, were discovered in previous years, and Aydingun believes there will be more as excavations continue in the summer of 2021.

This layer was covered up by either the sea levels rising or a great seismic event after a natural disaster, and the area not seeing any civilisation for a thousand years.

In the seventh and sixth century BCE, Bathonea was occupied again by communities that hailed from ancient Greece and formed a port area. “We determined these signs in the Firuzkoy peninsula on the north end of the lake,” Aydingun says.

Then came the Romans, especially Emperor Constantine and his sons after him, who built considerably in this peninsula. “Buildings left over from them are rare enough in central Istanbul, but we are digging and finding pristine examples here,” Aydingun adds. “These are cisterns, antique port buildings, pools, palaces, monasteries, and martyrions (church or shrine built over the tomb of a Christian martyr).”

Aydingun refers to the scratched runic text in the Hagia Sophia, presumably made by a Viking soldier or a commanding officer 1100 years ago, saying “Halvdan was here.” She says that while it was known that the Vikings came to Istanbul to trade, they found proof of it at Bathonea in the form of Viking crosses, and amber goods. The Vikings, it seems, had travelled a long way from the Baltic Sea, where they normally resided.

Meanwhile, numerous amphoras unearthed during the excavation, originating from Spain, Italy, Africa and Lebanon, indicate that there was trade with faraway lands. There were also thousands of medicine containers made out of clay, medical devices, while the mortar and pestles used in the preparation of medicine point to ‘Daphnision’, referred to as the Late Antique Era’s medicine production centre.

The lagoon lake is protected from the elements and was therefore a rich environment for fishing and hunting bird meat. One of the greatest sources of income for the dwellers of Bathonea, was fish and the fish sauce, garum, which also meant tax income for the state. It is known that at one time in Bathonea, 150,000 tons of fish were caught per year.

Bathonea port’s commercial activity peaked in the 5th century AD but suffered a steep decline after the mid-seventh century. The Byzantine Empire has had to deal with natural disasters such as earthquakes, as well as Arabic and Sassanian invaders from the south, and Bulgarian tribes from the west.

The Byzantine Empire went through the biggest commercial decline during the time when all of the Mediterranean posts such as Egypt, Cyprus and Rhodes came under Arabian rule. Due to the fact there were no more grains and olive oil coming from Egypt, other goods from Mediterranean ports appeared at the port of Bathonea. To compound the problem, Cyprian copper and far eastern goods such as rich fabrics, semi-precious stones, ebony, ivory and ostrich egg luxury items from Africa no longer came either. As a result, Bathonea went into decline, just as the Theodosius port, 20 kilometres away, had.

It would not be revived until the Vikings and Varangians arrived between the 9th and 11th centuries. After the 12th century, Bathonea’s port remained unused after the Latin invasion, and was left derelict.

After this era, the Byzantine Empire’s strong religious influence is seen with basilical structures and church remnants. These buildings suggest that the area was set up to be a holy site.

Whereas during Ottoman times, it is believed that the stone terrace shores surrounded the lake completely, some buildings by the shore suggest that Bathonea was used as a shipyard. The Kucukcekmece lagoon lake was from past to present connected to the Marmara Sea, meaning it was utilised as a safe haven for ships.

Bathonea excavations have wrapped up for the year 2020, and will pick up again in summer 2021. Who knows what fresh discoveries next year will bring?

Courtesy: (TRTWorld)

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Egyptian tourism to return after five-month hiatus

Monitoring Desk

CAIRO: Egypt is set to resume cultural tourism on Sept. 1 after a five-month hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision, issued by Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, will involve strict adherence to precautionary measures against coronavirus.

The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced the health regulations after the decision by the Supreme Committee for the Management of the Coronavirus Crisis to allow tourism in the Luxor and Aswan governorates.

Tourist locations are to operate at 50 percent of their maximum operating capacity, while tourist transport (buses, limousines and golf carts) must carry 50 percent of their maximum capacity and leave vacant seats between each passenger. Limousines are limited to two passengers.

Mohammed Othman, head of the Cultural Tourism Marketing Committee in Upper Egypt, said that tourist and hotel establishments in Luxor and Aswan have completed preparations to receive foreign and domestic visitors.

He added that tourists from Poland and Belgium will be the first to visit archaeological and cultural sites, followed by groups from Japan, South Korea and France throughout the month.

Othman said that Egyptian tourism companies sent promotional leaflets to foreign tourism agents for Egyptian tourist destinations.

The leaflets included praise for the Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization, Zurab Pololikashvili, for the suggested precautionary measures applied to Egyptian tourism and hotel facilities.

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who met with Pololikashvili during a recent Egyptian trip, said there is a list of hotels and restaurants in Luxor and Aswan that have health and safety certificates. He added that Luxor International Airport is ready to receive tourists after precautionary measures were put in place.

El-Sisi said that about 700 tourism workers in Luxor have been trained to practice social distancing measures.

Tharwat Agamy, head of the Chamber of Tourism Companies in Upper Egypt, said there have been dozens of requests from countries, including Japan, Italy and Belgium, to organize trips to Luxor during September.

Courtesy: (Arabnews)