The Great Barrier Reef undergoes world’s biggest IVF procedure

The Great Barrier Reef undergoes world's biggest IVF procedure

A ground-breaking coral reef experiment, likened to the world’s biggest IVF procedure, could be the answer to a healthy future for the Great Barrier Reef which, at 70 million football fields in size, is the world’s largest living organism and a natural asset valued at $56 billion.

Professor Peter Harrison, the marine scientist who co-discovered coral spawning 35 years ago, conducted the oversized “fertility treatment” at the Heron Island Research Station with help from the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. The experiment was first trialled in November 2016 when millions of microscopic sperm and eggs were harvested from last year’s annual coral spawning event, and placed into giant tanks for fertilisation. The subsequent coral larvae were then planted back onto the reef.

Professor Peter Harrison on Heron Island

Professor Peter Harrison on Heron Island

Based on the learnings from the 2016 trial, Professor Harrison this month captured and reared more larvae, taken from the 8th-9th November 2017 spawning event, in a larger-scale study that has already shown signs of successful larval settlement. This time round, mesh tents were used to veil the planted larvae to prevent them from floating to the surface, which Professor Harrison says assists the larvae to attach and settle onto the reef and form juvenile colonies.

“This is the first large-scale study of its kind and our research shows that we can help corals reproduce successfully by increasing larvae settling on the Great Barrier Reef and allowing them to develop into juvenile corals,” said Professor Harrison. “From our previous studies, we know that microscopic larvae, once settled, can grow into dinner plate size corals in just three years and become sexually reproductive.”

“The success of this project on Heron Island could increase the scale of coral restoration on the Great Barrier Reef in future; if we can fast track coral growth and regeneration and apply this to other areas of the reef, we hope to see larger areas of healthy coral that can be enjoyed by generations to come.”

Heron Island

Heron Island

The success of the larval reseeding project at Heron Island is a marker of hope for restoring areas of the Great Barrier Reef previously affected by coral bleaching. Like any parent-to-be, Professor Harrison will continue to anxiously monitor the growth of both coral colonies and refine techniques for future application to other areas of the Great Barrier Reef.

Great Barrier Reef Foundation Managing Director Anna Marsden said Heron Island, once rated by Jacques Cousteau as one of the Top 10 dive sites in the world, was well qualified for pioneering reef studies. “It’s not only tourists who come from all over the world to experience the sheer magic of the Great Barrier Reef at Heron Island, marine scientists also flock to the island to access one of the best reef research laboratories in the world, the University of Queensland Research Station,” said Anna.

“Researchers on the island are looking at innovations like larval reseeding to help coral reefs rebuild and adapt so they can live through everything the world is throwing at them and to survive into the future.”

Acropora valida

Acropora valida

Professor Harrison and the team at the Heron Island Research Centre worked alongside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on the project, which was made possible through a donation by Stephen Fitzgerald, the former chairman of Goldman Sachs Australia and New Zealand.

More Information

Tourism and Events Queensland
The official site of all things Queensland and tourism.

 

 

The world’s most welcoming cities

The world's most welcoming cities

Online travel specialists TravelBird have released a study ranking international cities according to how welcome they are in relation to their levels of over-tourism. Reports this summer have shown how over-tourism is dampening the spirits of local communities and affecting visitor experiences.

To create the ranking, the study first analysed the global top 500 tourist destinations (taken from the UN-WTO) based on factors that can make a visitor feel welcome, such as a welcoming port of entry (such as an airport or train station), citizens’ happiness, safety, openness to host tourists, and English language proficiency. Furthermore, they ran an expert poll asking over 15,000 travel journalists how welcoming they found each city based on their personal experiences. The study then weighted all of these factors with a formula that measures over-tourism in each destination to determine the final ranking of 100 cities. This research highlights a precise selection of popular cities around the world in order to give an international overview, meaning there are undoubtedly many welcoming cities not included.

When a city reaches its capacity for the number of tourists it can carry, issues such as overcrowding, lengthy queues at attractions, and increased living costs start to occur. This can negatively affect the daily lives of local residents, and therefore, impact how welcoming the city is to tourists. To determine a quantifiable figure for an issue as complex as over-tourism, the study specifically looked into the tourism carrying capacity of each city. This was calculated by comparing the following factors: number of residents compared to the number of tourists during the peak season, which indicates levels of overcrowding. Next they looked at number of licensed hotel beds in addition to the number of peer-to-peer rental beds (per square kilometre), which indicates if the city has adequate tourist accommodation. Following this, they conducted a second representative poll which asked local residents how tourism has positively or negatively impacted their daily lives, and used this data to create a weighted average that contributed to the city’s total over-tourism score.

The top 20 most welcoming cities in the word:

  1. Singapore, Singapore
  2. Stockholm, Sweden
  3. Helsinki, Finland
  4. San Francisco, USA
  5. Rotterdam, Netherlands
  6. Lisbon, Portugal
  7. Tokyo, Japan
  8. Oslo, Norway
  9. Zurich, Switzerland
  10. Orlando, USA
  11. Hamburg, Germany
  12. Copenhagen, Denmark
  13. Dublin, Ireland
  14. Toronto, Canada
  15. Nice, France
  16. Bruges, Belgium
  17. Geneva, Switzerland
  18. New York, USA
  19. Berlin, Germany
  20. Phuket, Thailand

Findings from this study:

  • Copenhagen, Denmark is the most welcoming city according to travel experts.
  • Singapore scores the best for port of entry.
  • Abu Dhabi, UAE is the safest city in the index.
  • Oslo, Norway is the happiest city.
  • Dublin, Ireland scores highest for English proficiency.
  • Doha, Qatar, Manama, Bahrain and Lima, Peru have the lowest levels of over-tourism.
  • The Netherlands is home to cities that feature in both the top 10 and bottom 10 for over-tourism. Amsterdam ranks as the 3rd worst city for over-tourism, while Rotterdam ranks as the 4th best city for low levels of over-tourism.

To read more about the study, click here.

 

main image: Stockholm, courtesy of Thomas Fabian, Flickr creative commons

 

The festive season in… Wales

The festive season in... Wales

The Brecon Beacons National Park, located in South Wales, is a treasure trove for visitors. From adrenaline-fueled abseiling and mountain biking, to scenic walks and pub lunches, visitors can explore the destination year-round.

Christmas is a particularly magical time to visit the National Park as the market towns come to life with festive markets, food celebrations and Santa grottos in underground caves.

Here are a roundup of festive activities to do in the Brecon Beacons this winter:

Hay Festival Winter Weekend
23-26 November 2017

father-xmasThe world famous Hay Literature Festival’s Winter Weekend promises an array of literary talks and events throughout the book town alongside a food and vintage festival. To get visitors and locals alike into the Christmas spirit, festivities include local choirs singing, mulled wine, mince pies and late night shopping. Over 40 exhibitors will attend the food festival and those looking to pick up a vintage bargain will be able to do so on Sunday 26 November at the fashion fair. 

Royal Welsh Winter Fair
27-28 November 2017

2013-10-16-9e18aRecognised as one of the most popular attractions on the British agricultural show calendar and the finest prime stock show in Europe, the best Welsh food producers get together to showcase their produce. Christmas shoppers can explore the hundreds of trade stands, demonstrations and exhibitions while enjoying the festive atmosphere. The two day event includes cookery, produce, handicraft, poultry, horticulture, floral art and meat products competitions, a firework display, Christmas gifts and a
Santa’s grotto. 

aberfoodfest-1Abergavenny Christmas Food Festival
10 December 2017

The annual Christmas Food and Drink Fair showcases over 90 stalls and exhibitors from all over Wales, including fresh and cured meats, poultry and game, cheeses and chocolates, cakes and desserts, wines and liqueurs, ales and cider. The festival includes bite-size chef demonstrations throughout the day and the chance to spend time with food experts and learn the newest seasonal tips. 

Dan-yr-Ogof Cave and Cathedral Cave Christmas Experience

about-02Forget a Santa’s grotto in a high street store and instead head deep underground and explore a magical world in the caves and caverns in the Brecon Beacons. Children can step right into a Welsh mountain and discover the ancient caves whilst visiting Santa in his authentic grotto. Furthermore, families can call by the National Showcaves Centre and marvel at one of the largest collections of life-sized dinosaur models in the world. Kids can also enjoy a trailer ride to look at the animals, including the Shire Horses, on the Morgan Brothers’ farm. The caves are open every weekend in December. 

Christmas at The Angel, Abergavenny

angel_xmas426panelThe Angel Hotel offers a number of special Christmas packages and events, including The Après Ski Bar – a popup bar bringing the ambience of alpine ski lodge to Abergavenny and serving Swiss fondue, sausages and steins. Every weekend leading up to Christmas, Santa will be in his grotto outside the hotel with a horse and carriage. Christmas packages include a glass of mulled wine and a minced pie on arrival, a three course dinner in the Oak Room and full English breakfast. 

The historic translocation of Africa’s rarest antelope

The historic translocation of Africa's rarest antelope

Conservation-led travel company andBeyond recently celebrated the success of its breeding programme for Africa’s rarest antelope species by translocating four Ader’s duiker to a brand new breeding site on the island of Zanzibar. With only between 300 and 600 Ader’s duiker remaining in the wild, the breeding programme has been up and running since 2005, when five of the little antelope were introduced onto &Beyond Mnemba Island, a private island paradise situated off the coast of Zanzibar.

With no natural predators and a plentiful supply of food, the duikers have bred extremely well, with the estimated population on Mnemba growing to 35. As a result and at the request of the Minister of Natural Resources and Fisheries in Zanzibar, four animals were recently translocated from the island to form a new breeding population on Unguja Island.

Mnemba-Island-Lodge-view-from-the-sky-3.jpgA team of experts was assembled on Mnemba Island for the translocation in early June, consisting of representatives from Zanzibar’s Department of Natural Resources, as well as Dr Dave Cooper, Head Veterinarian for the Provincial Conservations Department in South Africa, as well as Les Carlisle, andBeyond Group Conservation Manager. The translocation techniques used were influenced by prior research carried out by University of South Africa researcher Lorraine Braby, who had collared a number of the little animals to collect information on their diet and behaviour as part of efforts to improve the outcomes of the breeding programme. Darting the duiker had proved to be most stress-free method of capture and was therefore chosen for the translocation.

The required darting equipment and drugs were provided by andBeyond and, with the placement of the tranquiliser dart on the little animals absolutely critical, the expert skills of Dr Dave Cooper were called upon to dart four duikers. With the little animals running off into the dense forest covering Mnemba on darting, they were quickly tracked, blindfolded and carried back to the loading area. The darts were then removed, the wounds treated and a sedative administered to calm the duiker before the antidote to the immobilisation drug was administered.

Once all four of the little animals were successfully crated, the crates were taken by boat from Mnemba to the main island of Zanzibar. The last leg of the duiker’s trip to their new home was by vehicle.

The historic translocation process, which marks the first time that Ader’s duiker have been moved from Mnemba, is aimed at creating a brand new population of the endangered antelope on Zanzibar, while also ensuring that the number of animals on Mnemba does not exceed the resources available on the island. It is estimated that 25 to 30 duiker remain on the island and, should the animals continue to breed at the same rate, andBeyond plans to translocate 10 to 12 of the little antelope every year.

More Information

andBeyond
andBeyond is one of the world’s leading luxury experiential travel companies, designing personalised high-end tours in 15 countries in Africa, five in Asia and four in South America.

The best places to spot humpback whales in Hawaii

The best places to spot humpback whales in Hawaii

Calling all wildlife lovers: from Hilo to Hanalei, Hawai‘i boasts one of the largest seasonal populations of North Pacific humpback whales in the world as they commence their annual winter migration from the Gulf of Alaska to the North Pacific Ocean.

Visitors travelling to the volcanic archipelago between November and May are in for a treat as thousands of 45 tonne magical mammals fill the tropical waters surrounding the islands.

It’s possible to get up close and personal with the humpback whales, or koholā as locals fondly refer to the guardian animal, on a boat trip – or you can even view whales breach from the shore!

The largest concentration of whales reside between the shallow ‘Au‘au Channel between Maui, Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i. Below is a list of some of the boat tours available this season:

humpback whalesAtlantis Cruises
Hawai‘i’s largest company offering ocean tour experiences has just launched daily whale watching cruises. While searching for humpback whales, guests can enjoy a buffet lunch and panoramic cruise on board the 150-foot Majestic. A naturalist is on hand to provide guests with educational information about the whales’ behaviour and biology. Tours start from $40 for children and $69 for adults.

Pacific Whale Foundation
Certified Marine Naturalists provide an innovative and educational whale watch eco tour, offering sailings from both Mā‘alaea and Lahaina Harbours. Guests can choose from a number of different excursions, ranging from sunrise cruises, whale safaris and sunset cocktail sailings. Tours start from $35.

Lāna‘i Ocean Sports
Tours depart from Mānele Small Boat Harbour and include whale watching expeditions, as well as snorkelling excursions, PADI certification courses and private tours.

humpback whalesCaptain Dan McSweeney’s Whale Watch
For more than 35 years, Captain Dan McSweeney has been known for his pioneering efforts on behalf of whales and dolphins. The tours specialise in whale watching and learning adventures and visitors are guaranteed sightings or invited to come along again for free. Tours start from $110.

For those looking to remain on land, check out the top humpback whale spotting viewpoints:

The Makapu‘u Lighthouse Trail, O‘ahu
The lookout point is at the most eastern part of O‘ahu, just off Kalaniana‘ole Highway after Waimānalo and Sandy Beach. Boasting spectacular views of Moloka‘i, the channel is also a popular route for migrating whales and the state park provides telescopes for those wanting a closer view.

Pu‘ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site, Island of Hawai‘i
Pu‘ukoholā, ‘the hill of the whale’, offers a great free observing spot with its elevated views over Kawaihae Harbour. Located next to Spencer Beach Park, there are plenty of picnic tables and a campground, allowing visitors to maximise their experience whilst whale watching.

humpback whalesKīlauea Lighthouse, Kaua‘i
The elevated peninsula offers an excellent viewing point for whales spouting and breeching just offshore from the lighthouse (an entry fee of $5 is required to enter the lighthouse). Visitors should also keep their eyes peeled for Hawaiian monk seals and native birds.

As well as whale watching, Hawai‘i offers marine lovers an array of unique experiences and animal encounters, including the chance to see Hawaiian spinner dolphins, green sea turtles and Hawaiian monk seals and swim with manta ray. Furthermore, visitors can snorkel with the world’s most exotic fish and enjoy the abundance of marine life.

More information

Go Hawaii
The Official Hawaiian Islands Tourism Board

How will Hurricane Irma affect the tourism industry?

How will Hurricane Irma affect the tourism industry?

The path of destruction of Hurricane Irma up Florida’s Gulf Coast and the islands of the Caribbean is expected to disrupt the region’s thriving tourism sectors – just months ahead of the busy winter travel season – when Northern Hemisphere holidaymakers typically seek out the more tropical climates.

Just over a month ago, Florida announced a record-setting number of visitors with more than 60 million tourists vacationing in the Sunshine State since January and nearly 113 million in 2016, spending $109 billion overall.

Although the extent of the damage is yet to be determined and has been deemed incalculable in the short-term, it is clear that travel brands will suffer from quite dramatic fallout this year – especially smaller tour operators and local, family-run businesses dependent on tourist traffic for business.

Furthermore, many of the impacted islands rely on tourism more than any other sector as a source of income – and dependent on how quickly infrastructure can rebuild, how many cruise lines choose to cancel or change itineraries, and how soon travellers chose to return to the area – the fourth quarter of 2017 will be a slow one.

The lowdown:

  • State officials estimated that 5.6 million residents and tourists have been evacuated north since the storms hit.
  • Some of Florida’s biggest attractions have announced temporary closures, including Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, Legoland and Sea World.
  • More than 3000 flights in to and out of Florida have been cancelled. Airlines are expecting to return to normal operations this week.
  • Approximately 20 cruise lines have Miami as a port of call, and many have made statements saying they have revised their itineraries or cancelled them altogether. Multiple companies even sent ships full of employees and evacuees out to sea.
  • Several popular port destinations including Anguilla, Barbuda, St. Martin, St. Thomas and the British Virgin Islands have suffered extensive damage that will most likely keep cruise traffic away for the foreseeable future as cruise ports, hotels and airports recover.

 

 

main image: Satellite image of Hurricane Irma, image by Antti Lipponen, Flickr creative commons

Forecast: Travel trends for 2018

Forecast: Travel trends for 2018

From remote luxury to achievement-based travel, 2018 is set to be a year of long trips, slowing down, and learning to appreciate the world around us.

Wildlife in Latin America

Awazi Iguazu, Argentina

Awazi Iguazu, Argentina

Where Africa was once solely considered the destination for wildlife spotting, there have been amazing developments in Latin America’s conservation scene. From bird-watching to jaguar conservation, this region has a lot to rival other parts of the world, and there are now several luxury properties that specialise in wildlife viewing.

A few notable hotels and lodges dedicated to the local wildlife scene:

  • Caiman Ecological Refuge: Caiman Ecological Refuge, in Brazil’s Pantanal region, is the perfect place for luxury jaguar safaris. The Onçafari Jaguar Project based here is a conservation initiative habituating jaguars in order for people to witness the fascinating behaviour of these beautiful animals. It is also a driver for eco-tourism, with many eco-friendly developments taking place in the area.
  • Cristalino: Cristalino Lodge is dedicated to the conservation of the local biodiversity of the Amazon Region. In 1999, the Cristalino Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, was set up to work in partnership with the eco lodge. Visitors have the chance to go on safari to see some of the amazing wildlife local to the area, like the harpy eagles, giant otters, white-whiskered spider monkeys, and crested owls.
  • Awasi Iguazu: In Argentina, the Awasi group of hotels is opening a third location later in 2017- the Awasi Iguazu. Placed on the edge of the famous Iguazu Falls bordering with Brazil, Awasi’s new excursions will uncover the Atlantic Rainforest, taking guests to parts of Iguazu which are never normally seen. Personal and unique itineraries are developed with a biologist, exploring the area around the falls with a private guide, in the style of a traditional safaris.

Achievement-based travel

With 2017 as the year of experiential travel, connecting closely with the country or destination, 2018 will see this taken a step further and people pushing to achieve a lifelong goal or using travel to “find themselves”.

Asungate

Asungate

More and more, people are travelling to achieve something, whether that be climbing Mt Kilimanjaro or hiking the Annapurna Circuit. Travel companies have recently seen a rise in the number of trips that involve trekking and hiking. For example, between 2015 and 2016 the number of such trips taken with Jacada Travel doubled, with a similar growth rate happening in 2017.

This trend is a reflection of another notable trend in the travel industry that sees travellers wanting more from their trips than just a standard sightseeing tour.

Sustainability gets interesting

Sustainability has been a buzzword in the travel industry for a few years, but we are finally seeing the concept go from theoretical to legitimate practice, with luxury properties and operators around the world increasingly adopting interesting ways to put their money where their mouths are.

Several vineyards have taken to using animals, as opposed to traditional machines, to pick their grapes and fertilise the ground. Kayotei in Japan, as well as Emiliana in Chile and Vergenoegd in South Africa, use ducks. Matetic Vineyard – also in Chile and set to open in 2018 – will be letting llamas and chickens roam between the vines, nibbling on the leaves and fertilising the soil as they go. Tractors are heavy and push the oxygen out of the soil, so it also affects the quality of the earth to use these vehicles.

Solar Panels at Singita Kruger

Solar Panels at Singita Kruger

A few other interesting ways that companies are demonstrating a serious commitment to improving our world’s ecological situation:

  • Baines Camp in Botswana was built using a frame of elephant dung and recycled cans.
  • Jacada Travel is investing in a portfolio of community projects aimed to help fight climate change – the result of which means that 100 per cent of the carbon emissions from trips taken with them are offset (including all flights).
  • The Kulala Desert Lodge has officially launched E-powered bikes as a fun, easy and eco-friendly way to explore the Kulala concession.
  • Solar technology being introduced in Singita Kruger Park in 2017.
  • Perhaps the most famous example is Kenya’s banning of plastic bags, accompanied by hefty punishments for those who break the rules.

Though the travel industry still has a long way to go, sustainability is no longer the theoretical concept we were seeing a few years ago.

Remote luxury

Luxury is increasingly being associated with remoteness and disconnectivity. And with people dedicating more time towards travel (see below) they are willing to travel to far flung, often difficult to get to destinations in order to feel like they have a small piece of the world – or almost – entirely to themselves.

Annandale. New Zealand

Annandale, New Zealand

Lodges and hotels are being built completely off the map, specifically in areas that have poor phone reception and are more challenging to get to.

A few of the most popular remote hotels in the world include:

  • Hosteria Helsingfors, Calafate Argentina – specifically built away from the crowds.
  • Annandale, New Zealand – Here, lodges are so remote, you have two options for food: hire a private chef or you can enjoy the ‘We Create, You Serve’ programme where breakfast, a picnic lunch and three-course dinner are prepared and left in your fridge for you to simply pop in the oven and enjoy.
  • Midgard, Iceland – built as far away from the crowds as possible, so guests can enjoy the Northern Lights without an iota of light pollution around.
  • Hoanib Skeleton Coast, Namibia – Accessible only by chartered flight, deep in the Namibian desert.

Long trips – taking the time to explore

Going remote

Going remote

Jacada Travel has seen a growth in the number of travellers who want to take longer trips (defined here as trips lasting longer than two weeks), with some clients even pushing for ‘around-the-world’ trips. In 2017, 40 per cent of bookings were for trips longer than two weeks, but for trips already booked for 2018, 50 per cent are over two weeks long.

“People are getting to a point now where they just want to slow down, unwind and fully let go. That often means ‘switching off’ for more than a week or ten days,” says Jacada’s Founder, Alex Malcolm.

Jacada has even seen a rise in trips lasting longer than 30 days, going from 1.36 per cent of 2017 trips to 3.4 per cent of 2018 trips booked so far. This is great news for the travel industry, as it shows that travellers are willing to slow down and take their time exploring new places, perhaps adopting more ‘slow travel’ practices along the way.

Louvre Abu Dhabi to open in November

Louvre Abu Dhabi to open in November

Louvre Abu Dhabi today announced it will open its doors to the public on 11 November 2017. It is the first museum of its kind in the Arab world: a universal museum that focuses on shared human stories across civilisations and cultures.

The opening celebrations will include a wide range of public programmes, including symposiums, performances, concerts, dance and visual arts by renowned contemporary and classical artists.

Louvre Abu DhabiLocated in Abu Dhabi, Pritzker Prize winning French architect Jean Nouvel has designed a museum city (Arab medina) under a vast silvery dome. Visitors can walk through the promenades overlooking the sea beneath the museum’s 180-metre dome, comprised of almost 8,000 unique metal stars set in a complex geometric pattern. When sunlight filters through, it creates a moving ‘rain of light’ beneath the dome, reminiscent of the overlapping palm trees in the UAE’s oases.

On display will be the museum’s important collection of artworks, artefacts and loans from France’s top museums. In addition to the galleries, the museum will include exhibitions, a Children’s Museum, a restaurant, a boutique and a café.

His Excellency Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority and Tourism Development & Investment Company, said: “Louvre Abu Dhabi embodies our belief that nations thrive on diversity and acceptance, with a curatorial narrative that emphasises how interconnected the world has always been. The museum represents the latest innovation in a long-standing tradition of cultural preservation nurtured by the founding leaders of the UAE.

“Louvre Abu Dhabi forms one element of Abu Dhabi’s cultural strategy, which safeguards our rich heritage and catalyses creativity. Investment in a vibrant cultural ecosystem supports the UAE’s economic diversification and development as a modern, dynamic society. Louvre Abu Dhabi will inspire a new generation of cultural leaders and creative thinkers to contribute to our rapidly-changing and tolerant nation.”

Louvre Abu DhabiHer Excellency Ms. Françoise Nyssen, the French Minister of Culture added: “This museum is one of the most ambitious cultural projects in the world, brought to light by Jean Nouvel’s exceptional architectural masterpiece. With the expertise of its cultural institutions and loans from its national collections, France is particularly proud to play a significant role in the completion and the life of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and so for several decades to come.

“Endowed with an innovative scientific and cultural project combining the expertise of 13 French museums and institutions steered by the Agence France-Muséums, the Louvre Abu Dhabi will indeed offer visitors a unique experience: a brand new journey through major works of art from different civilisations, mirrored to reveal our common humanity. The Louvre Abu Dhabi therefore carries a message of tolerance and peace and stresses the unwavering commitment of our two countries to promote culture and education as a shield against extremism.”

What’s inside?

Louvre Abu Dhabi’s story will begin in the“Great Vestibule, where visitors are introduced to themes such as maternity and funerary rituals. The dialogue between works from different geographical territories, sometimes far apart, highlights similarities between the canons despite each having its own mode of expression. The galleries will be both chronological and thematic, and subdivided into 12 chapters. Displays include works from the earliest empires, including the first figurative representations, such as the Bactrian Princess created in Central Asia at the end of the 3rd Millennium BCE, funerary practices of ancient Egypt illustrated by a set sarcophagi of Princess Henuttawy, and the creation of new economies with a Decadrachm coin of Syracuse signed by the artist Euainetos.

Louvre Abu DhabiA gallery dedicated to universal religions will feature sacred texts: a Leaf from the “Blue Quran”, a Gothic Bible, a Pentateuch and texts from Buddhism and Taoism. The artistic exchanges on the trading routes during the Medieval and Modern periods are brought to the fore through a number of ceramic works. Between Asia and the Mediterranean and then between Europe and America, guests will appreciate how the world’s horizon gradually expanded. A set of screens from the Japanese Namban demonstrate the dialogue between the Far East and Europe. From the image of the Prince throughout the world, illustrated by an important Ottoman Turban Helmet to a more intimate vision of a new art of living, the museum presents a chest of drawers made in Red Chinese lacquer by Bernard II Van Risenburgh (BVRB, 1696–1766), created in France. In a section about Modernity are Edouard Manet’s (1832–1883) the Gypsy, Paul Gauguin’s (1848–1903) Children Wrestling, and Piet Mondrian’s (1872–1944) Composition with Blue, Red, Yellow and Black. On show will be a monumental work by the artist Ai Weiwei (1957) and his questioning of globalisation.

Louvre Abu Dhabi’s first site-specific works installed in the outdoor areas by renowned contemporary artists, interact with the spirit of the museum and the fabric of the architecture. American artist Jenny Holzer (1950) has created three engraved stone walls named For Louvre Abu Dhabi (2017). These cite historical texts from Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah, the Mesopotamian bilingual (Akkadian / Sumerian) Creation Myth tablet, and the 1588 annotated edition of Michel de Montaigne’s Les Essais. Italian artist Giuseppe Penone (1947) has produced several works specifically for Louvre Abu Dhabi. Leaves of Light (2017) is a vast bronze tree with mirrors placed in its branches to reflect the ‘rain of light’. Propagation (2017) is a wall of porcelain tiles that depict hand-drawn concentric circles originating from the fingerprint of Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s founding father. It was produced in collaboration with the workshops of Sèvres – Cité de la céramique in France.

3-louvre-abu-dhabi-photo-courtesy-mohamed-somjiThe inauguration week will also feature two prestigious events coproduced under the French-Emirati Cultural Programme that was initiated over a year ago by our two countries and supported by the creative momentum generated by the Louvre Abu Dhabi. I have the hope that the Louvre Abu Dhabi will always bring this energy further, inspire new callings, promote mutual understanding, and always reinforce the strong bonds uniting the United Arab Emirates and France.”

Jean Nouvel, the architect of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, commented: “After eleven years of studies and construction, guests will be able to enter this place of light, this revelatory meeting place of a number of planetary cultures beyond the seas and centuries. It is an architecture that is protective of its treasures, it is homage to the Arab city, to its poetry in geometry and light, and, under the large cupola, it is an evocation of the temporalities which inexorably punctuate the hours, days, and the passing of our lives.”

Artworks on loan

Jean Nouvel Gaston Bergeret

Jean Nouvel Gaston Bergeret

In the galleries, important artworks on loan from 13 leading museums in France will be presented. Highlights include Leonardo da Vinci’s (1452–1519) La Belle Ferronnière (on loan from musée du Louvre); Vincent van Gogh’s (1853–1890) self-portrait (musée d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie); a rare ivory saltcellar from the Benin Empire (musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac); a Globe by Vincenzo Coronelli (1650–1718) of Bibliothèque nationale de France; a pair of gui vessels (Musée national des arts asiatiques Guimet); Jacques-Louis David’s (1748–1825) Napoleon Crossing the Alps (Château de Versailles); Auguste Rodin’s (1840–1917) Jean d’Aire from the group the Burghers of Calais (Musée Rodin); a 13th century reliquary chest (Musée de Cluny – Musée national du Moyen Âge); a Chinese ewer of Persian shape (Musée des Arts Décoratifs); a Breastplate of Marmesse (Musée d’archéologie nationale – Saint Germain en Laye); the Apollo Belvedere statue by Primatice (1504–1570) from Château de Fontainebleau; and Standing Woman II by Alberto Giacometti (1901–1966) from Centre Pompidou.

 

The intergovernmental agreement includes the loan of the Musée du Louvre’s name for 30 years and 6 months, temporary exhibitions for 15 years, and loans of artworks for 10 years.

To find out more click here.

 

images courtesy of Mohamed Somji

 

Must-do Asia travel in the second half of 2017

Must-do Asia travel in the second half of 2017

Dreaming on an Asian adventure? From flying above ancient ruins in Myanmar to blessings by monks in Cambodia, this travel guide reveals where to be in Asia over the next five months.

AsiaSeptember – Light a Lantern in Hoi An

Much ritual revolves around the full moon in Asia. Each month in Hoi An, when the moon reaches this pivotal phase the Old Town transforms under the glow of thousands of lanterns. The main river that snakes through the UNESCO World Heritage site becomes awash with flickering lights and sampans that ferry tourists and locals alongside the lights. In September the event is set for the 4th and starts at dusk.

AsiaOctober – Honour a Guru in Bhutan

Crisp clear days and the celebration of Thimphu Tshechu, one of Bhutan’s most majestic festivals, make a trip to the country’s capital a must in October. Monks donning elaborate masks and vivid, colourful garb perform traditional dances in honour of Guru Rinpoche, a Buddhist master who brought the religion to Bhutan in the 8th century. From 30th September to 2nd October throngs of locals and travellers descend on the city’s numerous dzong (fortresses) to watch the captivating performances.

November – Bag a Balloon over Bagan

Over 2000 temples, stupas and pagodas stud the ancient plains of Bagan. For the best vantage point take to the sky and gently float above the otherworldly landscape in a hot air balloon.

BhutanThe season runs from October through April, with the busiest time (and priciest) over the Christmas holidays, making November the sweet spot for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

December – Solicit a Monk’s blessing in Cambodia

With the weather cooling and the rains now halted, December is the prime time to visit Cambodia. Angkor Wat tops many bucket lists but there’s more to do in Siem Reap beyond the ancient ruins. decVisit a local pagoda to take part in a Buddhist ceremony where you’ll receive a blessing from a monk for safe travel, luck, and a long and happy life. What better way to get a head start on 2018.

To find out more visit Exotic Voyages.

 

 

 

The gentrification battles of Boyle Heights

The gentrification battles of Boyle Heights

Located just a few miles east of downtown and just across the river from the arts district, Boyle Heights is a district of Los Angeles where 90 per cent of the population of 100,000 is Hispanic.

Churros, image by Andres Reyes, Flickr creative commons

Churros, image by Andres Reyes, Flickr creative commons

In recent years, the district has gained a reputation for being home to the best Mexican restaurants and street food in town. A visit to El Mercadito, the central market on 1st Street, feels like Mexico proper. The breadth of items for purchase is overwhelming with colourful stalls selling everything from cowboy boots and hats to first communion dresses and me vale madre potion – an herbal concoction believed to calm the nerves. And that’s not to mention the food: churros, mole, tamales, palanquetas (nut bars) and bunuelos (fritters covered in sugar and syrup) are just a few of the essential “must trys”. The dueling mariachi bands entertaining clients in the upstairs restaurants are the icing on the pastel.

The charm of El Mercadito – and Boyle Heights in general – is that it isn’t touristy, unlike Olvera Street in the downtown district, long the preferred destination for travellers seeking a taste of Mexican life in LA.

Street murals, image by Laurie Avocado Flickr creative commons

Street murals, image by Laurie Avocado Flickr creative commons

However, Boyle Heights is changing. With the influx of coffee shops and art galleries in recent years, local activists are resolutely fighting against new developments in fear of what they might foreshadow: a wave of gentrification and the threat of displacement. The locals have termed the process “art-washing”.

In May of last year a non-profit art gallery called PSSST was preparing to open in the neighbourhood. Instead, on what should’ve been opening day, the gallery faced a crowd of protesters gathered in front of the building, beating drums, waving posters and chanting slogans such as “We don’t need galleries, we need higher salaries!”

Local street food vendors, image by Ray S, Flickr creative commons

Local street food vendors, image by Ray S, Flickr creative commons

This would not be the last protest in the district against the ‘hipster hangouts’ popping up. Recently, PSSST announced its shuttering. In a statement on its website they reasoned: “Our young non-profit struggled to survive against constant attacks… our staff and artists were routinely trolled online and in person.”

The anti-gentrifiers have been criticised for using confrontational tactics to push their case forward – personally singling out people for public condemnation and physically chasing unwelcome visitors out of the neighbourhood.

The Eastside has long been a centre of Los Angeles’ protest movements, whether it was residents marching against the Vietnam War in the 1970s to more recently demonstrating for immigrant rights.

 

main image: Streets of Boyle Heights, image by jondoeforty1, Flickr creative commons