KP plans projects to boost tourism

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The main courtyard at the Takht Bhai archaeological complex in Mardan. (AN photo)
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A view of a tourist spot developed by Tourism Corporation KP at Bishigram in Swat district. (AN photo)
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A view of a tourist spot developed by Tourism Corporation KP at Bishigram in Swat district. (AN photo)
Updated 23 September 2018

KP plans projects to boost tourism

  • Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government plans to start a Rs 500 million project to promote tourism with cultural and religious attraction
  • South Korean embassy in Islamabad has expressed willingness to work on heritage sites in KP since many sites are considered holy by Buddhist monks

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government has decided to establish a dedicated authority to boost tourism industry in the province.

New projects are also planned by the provincial government to promote religious tourism in particular — giving much hope of a business boom to tour operators in the province.
“The proposed Tourism Authority would include representatives from the tourism, communication and works and local government departments, and all these departments would work jointly,” said the provincial Minister for Tourism, Atif Khan, while talking to Arab News.
Khan added that the new autonomous authority would ensure efficient coordination between different departments for the promotion of tourism.
“Currently, a lot of time is wasted under the existing mechanism when authorities approach another department for construction of a road to a certain area or the provision of some other facility,” he added.
The KP government also plans to launch a project worth Rs 500 million to promote religious tourism, Khan told Arab News. “This would also entail facilities for historical sites which are considered holy by Buddhists,” he said.
New hotels would also be opened to provide accommodation to foreign tourists under this religious tourism project.
The South Korean embassy in Islamabad has expressed willingness to work on the heritage sites in KP since many sites are considered holy by Buddhist monks, said Khan.
“Takht Bhai relics are also among the world heritage sites,” he added.
“There is a centuries-old Hindu temple in Bughdada area in the Mardan district, but there are no facilities for those who wish to stay at the place,” Khan continued.
Shamsher Khan, a local tour operator, told Arab News: “We also have the world-famous Takht Bhai archaeological complex that is considered sacred by Buddhist monks across the world, but there is no hotel for foreigners to stay in the area.”
“The decision to establish a tourism authority is a positive step because KP has much potential for tourism compared with other areas of the country, and we need to focus more on it,” said Nazir Ahmed, another tour operator.
Nawazud Din, research officer at the KP Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, said: “Peshawar has Gor Gutri’s complex, which is holy for Hindus and Buddhists. The complex is around 400 years old.”
He added that the directorate is also working to set up a park at Elum Mountain in Buner district, which is a holy place for Hindus and Buddhists alike.
“Before the 9/11 attacks, foreigners, especially Buddhists, used to visit the archaeological sites in KP. However, due to the wave of terrorism that hit this region, many stopped coming and now their younger generation is unaware of such sites in KP, said Din.
“We plan to promote religious tourism through exhibitions, online portals and printed books about such sites in KP,” Din added.
Gurpal Singh, an elder of the Sikh community in Peshawar, says that the government should revive the religious places of all communities.
“Now that peace has been restored, the government should give visas to foreigners and facilitate foreign tourists to visit the country. The Gurdwaras [temples] of Sikhs should also be opened for tourists,” he added.


What We Are Eating Today: Roxy and Lala in Jeddah

Updated 16 April 2021

What We Are Eating Today: Roxy and Lala in Jeddah

Roxy and Lala is a mother and daughter business inspired by the family’s grandmother, who has Spanish roots and used to be a very good baker in her hometown in Peru.
The Jeddah brand offers a type of cookie called “Alfajor,” an Andalusian cookie dating back to the 8th century. It is a variant of the popular Castilian sweet known as alaju (a sweet made of almond paste, nuts, breadcrumbs, and honey) and the name derives from the Arabic word Al-Fakher, meaning luxurious.
The recipe for Alfajor, which is made of butter, eggs, sugar, corn starch, flour, was brought to Spain by the Arabs, and the colonizing Spaniards later introduced it to America.
Roxy and Lala offer the classic Alfajor cookies with different fillings, including the original filing of the homemade “dulce de leche,” a caramel mixture that requires a lot of attention, Nutella, Italian meringue, and peanut butter.
If you want a present for your loved ones, the brand offers a Ramadan box with 30 pieces and more, with a small Ramadan lantern and Ramadan wrapping paper.
For more information and order, visit their Instagram @roxyandlalaco.sa or the website roxyandlala.com


What We Are Reading Today: The Third Pole by Mark Synnott

Updated 16 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Third Pole by Mark Synnott

Mark Synnott’s The Third Pole transport readers to Mount Everest during the 2019 climbing season as he searches for the remains of Sandy Irvine that may help prove the British summited Everest in the 1920s.

This was an interesting look into Synnott’s quest to find the body of Irvine who was lost on Everest in 1924.

A mountaineer and rock climber himself, Synnott skillfully describes early 20th century exploration, then dives into a story about Everest that merges mystery, adventure and history into a single tragic bundle.

Synnott writes a compelling story that combines the 2019 season on Everest, historical attempts to climb Mt. Everest, and mountaineering culture as a whole.

He “describes horror stories about frostbite and strokes (blood clots are more likely at high altitudes) and oxygen tanks that hit empty at the worst possible moment,” Edward Dolnick said in a review for The New York Times.

Synnott “knows how to keep readers turning the pages, and they will speed their way to his mystery’s resolution. But any Everest story today has an unavoidable dark side.” said Dolnick.


J-Rod are done: Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez have split

Updated 15 April 2021

J-Rod are done: Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez have split

  • Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez told the ‘Today’ show, in a joint statement, that they are calling off their two-year engagement
  • The couple was given the nickname ‘J-Rod’ three years ago after they landed on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine

LOS ANGELES: J-Lo and A-Rod are no longer J-Rod — officially.
Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez told the “Today” show Thursday in a joint statement that they are calling off their two-year engagement.
“We have realized we are better as friends and look forward to remaining so. We will continue to work together and support each other on our shared businesses and projects,” it said.
“We wish the best for each other and one another’s children. Out of respect for them, the only other comment we have to say is thank you to everyone who has sent kind words and support.”
The couple started dating in early 2017. They issued a statement in March that disputed reports they were breaking up.
The couple was given the nickname “J-Rod” three years ago after they landed on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine.


Egypt to unveil ‘portion’ of 3,000-year old city

Updated 10 April 2021

Egypt to unveil ‘portion’ of 3,000-year old city

  • Famed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass had announced earlier this week the discovery of the “lost golden city”
  • Items of jewelry have been unearthed, along with colored pottery vessels, scarab beetle amulets and mud bricks

LUXOR: Archaeologists near Luxor have unearthed just a portion of the “largest” ancient city ever found in Egypt and dating to a golden pharaonic age 3,000 years ago, officials said Saturday.
Famed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass had announced earlier this week the discovery of the “lost golden city,” saying the site was uncovered near Luxor, home of the legendary Valley of the Kings.
“We found one portion of the city only. But the city extends to the west and the north,” Hawass told AFP Saturday ahead of a press conference in the archaeologically rich area.
Betsy Bryan, professor of Egyptian art and archaeology at Johns Hopkins University, had said the find was the “second most important archaeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamun” nearly a century ago, according to the excavation team’s statement on Thursday.
Items of jewelry have been unearthed, along with colored pottery vessels, scarab beetle amulets and mud bricks bearing seals of Amenhotep III.
The team began excavations in September between the temples of Ramses III and Amenhotep III near Luxor, some 500 kilometers (300 miles) south of Cairo.
Amenhotep III inherited an empire that stretched from the Euphrates River in modern Iraq and Syria to Sudan and died around 1354 BC, ancient historians say.
He ruled for nearly four decades, a reign known for its opulence and the grandeur of its monuments, including the Colossi of Memnon — two massive stone statues near Luxor that represent him and his wife.
“It’s not only a city — we can see... economic activity, workshops and ovens,” Mostafa Waziri, head of the country’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said Saturday.
Since the announcement, some scholars have disputed that Hawass and his team have succeeded where others had failed by locating the city.
Egyptologist Tarek Farag posted Friday on Facebook that the area was first excavated more than a century ago by a team from New York’s Metropolitan Museum.
But Waziri dismissed these concerns, saying previous digs had taken place further afield to the south the site.


Syria juice vendor gears up for Ramadan as crisis bites

Updated 11 April 2021

Syria juice vendor gears up for Ramadan as crisis bites

  • The popular street vendor says he usually has more customers during Ramadan
  • On his daily rounds of the Hamidiyah covered market, dozens of customers approach him to quench their thirst

DAMASCUS: In a busy market in Syria’s capital, 53-year-old Ishaaq Kremed serenades customers and agilely pours tamarind juice from the ornate brass jug on his back ahead of Ramadan.
The popular street vendor says he usually has more customers during the Islamic holy month starting next week, during which many favor the drink to break their day-long fast at sundown.
But he says his trade of more than 40 years has also taken on new meaning since the war-torn country has been plunged into economic crisis.
“My main job is to make customers smile,” says the moustachioed father of 16, dressed in billowing trousers, a patterned waistcoat and red fez.
“What’s most important is that they leave me feeling happy — that whoever turns up stressed leaves feeling content,” adds the street vendor.
On his daily rounds of the Hamidiyah covered market, dozens of customers approach him to quench their thirst, often taking pictures of him and his traditional get-up with their cellphones.
As he nimbly pours juice in long streams into plastic cups, he distracts them for a while with a song.
A surgical face mask lowered under his chin, Kremed intones lyrics for a mother and her two young daughters, before handing her a cup of the dark brown beverage.
He takes his fez off to collect his payment, then places it back on the top of his head.
Another man, dressed in a long white robe, joins Kremed in a song then gives him a peck on the cheek as he leaves.
Syria’s economic crisis has sent prices soaring and caused the national currency to plummet in value against the dollar on the black market.
In a country where a large majority of people live in poverty, Syrians have also had to contend with several lockdowns to stem the spread of coronavirus.
“For three years, Ramadan has been different because of people’s financial worries,” Kremed says.
“When people come to the market, you see them bumping into each other as if they were in a daze.”
The Damascus government blames the economic crisis on Western sanctions, but economists say the conflict, the pandemic and the financial crisis in neighboring Lebanon are also major factors.
Some state institutions have temporarily been closed over the pandemic and the economic crisis, but for now, markets remain open.
Although he does his best to keep up a cheery demeanour, Kremed says he too is feeling the effects of the economic crunch.
Tamarind and sugar are becoming increasingly costly, he says, and not everyone has enough spare cash for a refreshment.
“People’s priorities have become putting food and drink on the table, before tamarind juice,” he says.