Friday 31 March 2017

THAILAND: Al Meroz Hotel Bangkok’s Leading Halal Hotel

The Al Meroz Hotel is Bangkok’s Leading Halal Hotel, conveniently located with easy access to Suvarnabhumi Airport and downtown Bangkok.

It is also close to The Foundation of Islamic Centre of Thailand, which offers religious services and guidance to the Muslim Community.

The Hotel’s accommodation, dining and leisure facilities have been specially created to ensure the comfort and wellbeing of our Muslim and non-Muslim guests.

All meals served in our restaurants are Halal-certified and the Hotel is a non-alcoholic.

The Al Meroz Hotel offers our guests 242 spacious and comfortable rooms, ranging from Superior and Deluxe to Suites, All rooms indicate the direction of Mecca, and contain a prayer mat and a copy of Al Qur an.

For female guests travelling alone, we offer one floor of the Hotel for their exclusive use, with female staff in attendance.

The bathrooms feature the most up-to-date facilities, and the in-room television service is programmed for family-friendly viewing.

A special feature at the Al Meroz Hotel is the selection of functions and meetings rooms.

The Grand Meroz Banquet Hall can seat 650 guests, with a pre-dining capacity of 1,200 guests. The range of Meeting and Seminar Rooms can accommodate from 30 to 800 participants, and Bustan, the open-air roof top is an ideal space for up to 200 guests.

The Halal-certified kitchens can create banquets and special menus to cater for all occasions.

Barakat, the speciality Mediterranean Restaurant and Diwan our all-day family dining restaurant offer Halal-certified cuisine in a non-alcoholic environment.

The menus have been created with our Muslim guests in mind, but we also offer a range of Thai and regional delicacies.

A comprehensive menu is offered for room service, available 24 hours a day.

All kitchen and waiting staff at the Al Meroz Hotel are trained to observe the Halal traditional lifestyle.

The speciality Mediterranean restaurant with luxurious ambience.

Barakat is full of fresh ingredients and tempting aromas.

Tuesday to Sunday during 18:00 - 22:00 Hrs. For Reservation piease call 02-136-8700 extension 4305

Diwan the all-day family dining Restaurant offer delicious Halal-certified cuisine in a non-alcoholic environment, Our menus have been created with our Muslim Guests in mind. but we also offer a range of Thai and regional delicacies.

Bangkok is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia. From traditional sights like the Grand Palace and floating markets to Thai silk production, water theme parks and The Foundation of Islamic Centre of Thailand, visitors can be assured of a memorable stay in Thailand.

Bangkok has also become a shopper’s dream with new arcades and boutiques opening almost daily.

The Al Meroz Hotel is ideally located to access these varied attractions, with both public and private transport easily accessible from the Hotel.

LUXEMBOURG: Touring Luxembourg

Bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany, Luxembourg has a population of over half a million people in an area of 2,586 square kilometres (998 sq mi).

Tourism in Luxembourg is an important component of the national economy, representing about 8.3% of GDP in 2009 and employing some 25,000 people or 11.7% of the working population.

Despite the 2008–2012 global recession, the Grand Duchy still welcomes over 900,000 visitors a year who spend an average of 2.5 nights in hotels, hostels or on camping sites.

Business travel is flourishing representing 44% of overnight stays in the country and 60% in the capital, up 11% and 25% between 2009 and 2010.

Published by the World Economic Forum in March 2011, the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report puts Luxembourg in 15th place worldwide, up from 23rd place in 2009.

Major destinations are historic Luxembourg City, the medieval castle of Vianden, Echternach with its abbey and the wine districts of the Moselle valley.

The Mullerthal with its rocky cliffs in the east and the mountainous Oesling district in the Ardennes to the north are also favourites for outdoor enthusiasts.

Luxembourg has good road and rail and air connections with the rest of Europe, making it an increasingly popular destination for international meetings as well as for extended weekend stays.

Over half the visitors to Luxembourg come from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany with substantial numbers from France, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Camping is popular in Luxembourg, particularly with the Dutch, who camp for much longer than other nationalities, especially in the Ardennes and the Mullerthal.

A representative democracy and constitutional monarchy ruled by a Grand Duke, it is the world's only remaining Grand Duchy.

The country has a highly developed economy, with the world's highest GDP per capita.

Its strategic importance dates back to a Roman era fortress and Frankish count's castle site in the Early Middle Ages.

The City of Luxembourg, the capital and largest city, is the seat of several institutions and agencies of the European Union and an important financial centre.

Luxembourg culture is a mix of Romance Europe and Germanic Europe, borrowing customs from each of the distinct traditions.

While Luxembourgers are fluent in all three of their official languages, German, French and Luxembourgish, most also have a good working knowledge of English.

Luxembourg's road network has been significantly modernised in recent years with motorways to Belgium, France and Germany.

The advent of the high-speed TGV link to Paris has led to renovation of the city's railway station while the new passenger terminal at Luxembourg Airport handled over 1.6 million passengers in 2010, an increase of 5.1%.

There are frequent air connections with many European cities including Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Geneva, London, Madrid, Paris and Rome.

Paris can also be reached in just over two hours by rail and in about three and a half hours by road.

Brussels is some two hours away by road, a little longer by rail.

In 2009, Luxembourg had 261 hotels, inns and hostels able to accommodate 14,709 guests.

The central area including the City of Luxembourg had a capacity of 8,057 guests (55%) followed by the Ardennes region with a capacity of 2,757 (18%). The total number of nights spent in hotels, inns and hostels was 1,264,448, down 8% on 2007.

The number of nights spent camping was 739,208, down 8.4%.

Luxembourg has a number of celebrations of its own, some of which date back centuries. Among the most popular are:

Buergbrennen: held on the Sunday after Shrove Tuesday, huge bonfires blaze throughout the country celebrating the end of winter.
Emaischen: held every Easter Monday in the village of Nospelt and in Luxembourg's Fish Market, the centrepiece of the pottery fair is the Péckvillchen, a bird-shaped earthenware whistle.
Octave: the main religious festival of the year, the octave is held in the second half of April for a period of two weeks when pilgrims come to the cathedral; a market on the Place Guillaume offers food, drink and religious artifacts.
Dancing procession of Echternach: held on Whit Tuesday in memory of St Willibrord, hundreds of people "spring" from left to right as they dance through the town, linked by white handkerchiefs.
National holiday: celebrated throughout the country on 23 June in honour of the grand duke, the festivities begin on the evening of the 22nd with a firework display in the centre of Luxembourg City.
Schueberfouer: the extensive fun fair with all the traditional rides goes up in Limpertsberg on the Glacis around 23 August and remains for about three weeks.
Wine festivals: usually held in October in the wine villages along the Moselle as a thanksgiving celebration for the grape harvest.
St Nicolas: Kleeschen, the patron saint of children, with his servant in black, arrives in every village accompanied by a brass band ready, in agreement with their parents, to distribute presents to the children.

Luxembourg cuisine combines the quality of French dishes with the quantity of German and Belgian servings.

But there are also some national favourites such as Bouneschlupp, a soup with French beans, Judd mat Gaardebounen, neck of pork with broad beans, and Fritür, small fried fish from the Moselle.

Dry white wines from the Moselle valley include Riesling, Pinot gris, Pinot blanc and Auxerrois and the less sophisticated Rivaner and Elbling.

Also popular is Luxembourg's Crémant, a sparkling wine produced in accordance with the traditional method for French champagne.

The City of Luxembourg is not only a historic UNESCO site with its fortifications lining the steep valley but also an important European and financial centre with imposing modern buildings.

In September 2011, the Luxembourg City Tourist Office reported that after several years of decline, the city welcomed 403,085 tourists between January and August 2011, a 6.38 increase over 2010.

The casemates were the most popular attraction with a total of 87,083 visitors, most of whom visited the Bock Casemates.

Within walking distance of each other, places of interest in the old town include the fortifications and the underground defences known as the casemates, the Grand Ducal Palace, the neogothic Cathedral of Notre Dame, Place Guillaume II with the City Hall, the Place d'Armes with its pavement restaurants and cafés, the Gëlle Fra or Golden Lady crowning the obelisk in memory of those who died for their country during the First World War and the nearby Adolphe Bridge towering over the valley.

There are also two particularly interesting museums in the old town.

The Luxembourg City History Museum traces the history of the city from its foundations in the lower floors to the present at the top while the National Museum of History and Art showcases Celtic and Roman findings including the well-preserved Vichten Mosaic depicting the Roman muses.

The valley itself, known as the Grund, also has points of interest such as the Neumünster Abbey and the Natural History Museum.

Once a poor quarter of the city, it has become increasingly popular for its night life in the narrow medieval streets and for its gastronomic restaurants.

The Kirchberg Plateau which covers the area between the city and the airport began to develop in the 1970s with office buildings for the European Institutions.

Over the years, it has become the focus of Luxembourg's financial interests with an impressive array of banks and business centres.

There have also been cultural developments such as the impressive Museum of Modern Art and the Philharmonie concert hall as well as sports and entertainment facilities.

Located close to the German border in northeastern Luxembourg, Vianden is a small hilly town in a picturesque setting on the River Our.

Visitors are attracted above all by the carefully restored medieval castle standing high above the river but also by the old-world atmosphere which pervades the town.

Vianden Castle was built between the 11th and 14th centuries and became the seat of the counts of Vianden.

It was further developed until the 18th century but with the departure of the Counts of Luxembourg to the Netherlands combined with the effects of fire and an earthquake, it slowly deteriorated.

The final blow came in 1820 when William I of the Netherlands sold it to a local merchant who in turn sold off its contents and masonry piecemeal, reducing it to a ruin.

Not until 1977, when Grand Duke Jean ceded the castle to the State, was it possible to undertake large-scale restoration work.

Vianden also has a chair lift up to a restaurant high above the castle, offering extensive views of the town and its mountainous surroundings.

The Victor Hugo museum near the bridge over the River Our presents a number of the author's original letters and drawings in the house where he used to stay.

With a population of some 4,000, Echternach near the German border is the oldest town in Luxembourg. It was founded in 698 by St. Willibrord, an English monk who was the abbot of the monastery until his death in 739.

In his honour, for the past 500 years the dancing procession has taken place every Whit Tuesday, attracting pilgrims from near and far.

The Romanesque basilica with symmetrical towers still houses his tomb in its crypt.

The town of Echternach grew up around the abbey walls and was granted a city charter in 1236. The abbey was rebuilt in a handsome Baroque range in 1737.

Echternach is also the site of a large Roman villa which was discovered in 1975 and is open to visitors.

The picturesque town, still surrounded by its medieval walls, hosts the International Music Festival in May and June each year.

It is an ideal starting point for walks into the Mullertal or for cycle trips along the River Sure.

Echternach also has an interesting Prehistory Museum.

Moselle valley
Stretching 42 km (26 mi) from Schengen in the south to Wasserbillig in the north, the rounded hills of the Moselle valley are lined by vineyards.

The river passes a number of quaint little riverside towns and villages with narrow streets, wine cooperatives and annual wine festivals.

From south to north, the river flows past Schengen, famous for the EU agreement facilitating cross-border travel, Remerschen, Schwebsange, Bech-Kleinmacher, Wellenstein and Remich which has been attracting wine-enthusiasts since Roman times and is still a busy venue for tourists with promenades, gardens, river excursions and wine cellars.

After Stadtbredimus on the river front and Greiveldange up in the hills, the Moselle then passes the charming villages of Ehnen with its Wine Museum, Wormeldange, Ahn and Machtum where some of Luxembourg's finest restaurants are to be found.

Then comes the small town of Grevenmacher before the Moselle meets the Sauer at the busy border town of Wasserbillig.

The Ardennes in the north of the country present excellent opportunities for ramblers and mountain bikers in an area of forested hills, rocky crags and green valleys.

Additional attractions are the castles of Bourscheid, Brandenbourg, Clervaux, Esch-sur-Sûre, Vianden and Wiltz as well as the Lac de la Haute-Sûre which provides opportunities for swimming and water sports.

The Mullerthal, just north of Echternach, also offers interesting walking and cycling circuits through curious rock formations, often complete with caves.

The motorist too can experience a surprising variety of countryside driving through the river valleys and up to the surprisingly flat plains above.

Berdorf and Beaufort are popular tourist centres.

Mondorf-les-Bains in the south of the country not only has a range of modern spa and fitness facilities but is home to Luxembourg's only gambling facility, Casino 2000.

Not far from Mondorf is one of the Luxembourg's most interesting Roman sites, Dalheim Ricciacum, with its old Roman theatre.

Bock Casemates
The Bock casemates in Luxembourg City are open daily from 10 am to 5 pm from March to October.

Now a UNESCO heritage site, these underground passages were part of Luxembourg's former defences.

National Museum of Military History
The National Museum of Military History at Diekirch in the central part of Luxembourg provides insights into the Battle of the Bulge and related episodes of World War II.

The museum is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm.

Les Thermes
Les Thermes, an indoor/outdoor water park in Strassen just west of Luxembourg City, offers an olympic swimming pool, two pools for children, wave baths, slides and sauna.

Parc Merveilleux
From April to early October, the Parc Merveilleux near Bettembourg has a range of attractions for children including rides, mini zoo, and fairy tale presentations.

The historic steam Train 1900 operates between Petange and Fond-de-Gras in the south-east of Luxembourg on Sunday afternoons between May and September.

From Fond-de-Gras, trips on the Minièresbunn narrow gauge railway are also possible.

National Mining Museum
The National Mining Museum in Rumelange, south-east Luxembourg, is open April to September from Thursday to Sunday, 2 pm to 6 pm.

Lasting about an hour and a half, the visit includes a 20-minute trip on the old railway deep into the mine.

Butterfly Garden
The Butterfly Garden in Grevenmacher is open every day from April to mid-October.

Lankelz Railway
The Lankelz Railway in Esch-sur-Alzette, south-eastern Luxembourg, is a miniature railway on a scale of one third normal size.

The railway operates on Sunday afternoons and public holidays from May to mid-October.

The Aquarium is located in Wasserbillig, a small town in the south west of Luxembourg.

Open every day from Easter to the end of September, it is otherwise open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

There are 15 tanks from 300 to 40,000 litres with fish from all five continents in their natural surroundings.

THAILAND: Al Meroz Halal Hotel Lures Muslim Travelers

Thailand has opened its first halal hotel in a bid to attract more Muslim visitors and boost its economy.

The predominantly Buddhist nation received nearly 30 million foreign tourists last year but only about 650,000 were from the Middle East, Reuters reported.

The four-star Al Meroz Hotel opened late last year and is located near Ramkhamhaeng Station in Bangkok. It has mosque-like architecture, two prayer rooms and three halal dining halls. As a Muslim-friendly hotel, all its food is halal and alcohol-free.

“There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. It’s a huge market,” said the hotel’s general manager Sanya Saengboon. “Just 1 percent of that market is enough for us to thrive.”

The rooms cost between 4,000 baht (US$115.44) and 50,000 baht a night, said Sanya.

The hotel has been certified by the Dubai-based Gulf Halal organization, ensuring that halal standards are maintained. It says it is targeting high-end Muslim markets and non-Muslims from Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

An Australian guest at the hotel, Aamir Fazal, 28, said that access to a halal hotel was a comfort to Muslim travelers in Thailand where halal food can be hard to find. “It is a really nice experience. It’s the first halal hotel here and I find that amazing,” said Fazal.

Thailand also launched a mobile application last year, which helps tourist search for halal restaurants and Muslim-friendly attractions.

JAPAN: All Nippon Airways Adds Extra Flight From Jakarta To Tokyo

Japanese airline All Nippon Airways (ANA) is set to add one extra flight schedule to serve the Jakarta-Tokyo route.

Announced on Friday, the extra flight is slated to commence on Aug. 2 and will use a Dreamliner 787-8 aircraft departing from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten, to Haneda International Airport in Tokyo.

The additional flight aimed to accommodate the increased demand of Indonesian tourists to Japan.

“The decision to add another flight was made during an internal meeting as we saw an increased demand of Indonesian tourists who want to visit Japan,” said the airline’s Jakarta office sales administrator Bradley Pardede.

Bradley explained that the airline’s occupancy for the Jakarta-Tokyo flight was considered good, especially during holiday seasons.

“In March or April, the occupancy could reach over 90 percent as it is a sakura season, which is a high season,” he added.

SOUTH KOREA: Nami Island Is A Halal Destination

Nami Island, officially known as the Naminara Republic, is an island that is located 63 kilometers away from Seoul, South Korea.

In 2006, this half-moon shaped island declared its “Cultural Independence” from the Republic of Korea, therefore it has its own diplomatic and cultural policies, including its own national flag, anthem, passport, visa, currency and certificate of citizenship.

The island is also known as the shooting location of very popular Korean drama Winter Sonata.

Last year, the location welcomed 1.3 million foreign tourists from 120 countries. Aside from China, more than half of the visitors came from other regions, such as Southeast Asia, which includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

In light of the rising number of Muslim tourists visiting the island, Nami Island now provides several halal places to ensure they have a more convenient visit.

Asian Family Restaurant Dongmoon became known as one of the places to visit for Muslim travelers after it gained its halal certification in 2014.

The restaurant provides mostly Asian cuisines, which include Indonesian fried rice with egg and shrimp, noodles with black soybean sauce, Mongolian barbecue beef with rice, stir-fried eggplant with eohyang sauce, and other delicious dishes with a starting price of 8,000 South Korean won (US$7).

Other halal culinary destinations that can be visited by Muslim tourists are Swing Café and Book Café. Located near the Bukhan River, the Swing Café offers a comfortable atmosphere and views of the beautiful scenery of the river as it adopts the island’s Song Museum as its theme.

It also frequently hosts performances and exhibitions. Among its recommended menu items is the bread which comes fresh from the oven three times a day.

Meanwhile, Book Café in the Baplex building is a unique place with many books inside. It also offers coffee, sandwiches and various desserts.

Recently Nami Island increased the size of its mushola (prayer room), thus the prayer room is now able to accommodate up to 130 people in its 144-square-meter space.

Equipped with a qibla compass and wudhu (ablution) facilities, the mushola can be found in the central area of the island, on the second floor of the Baplex building.

INDONESIA: Villagers Worried And Shocked After Python Swallows Farmer

“These days, we are supposed to harvest palm oil. But most of the farmers, especially those whose farms are near Akbar’s, are still shocked, afraid that more pythons are still out there,” Junaedi, the secretary of Salubiro village in West Sulawesi, said on Wednesday.

He was referring to the 25-year-old farmer who was found dead inside the belly of a 7-meter-long python at his palm oil farm on Monday night.

Since then, the mood among residents of the village, which is part of the Karossa district in Central Mamuju regency, has turned gloomy.

Junaedi said the last time such a large python was found in the area was in the 1990s, when the forests started to transform into palm oil plantations.

Akbar went missing after setting off to harvest palm oil on Sunday.

“On Monday, his uncle came to his house. He knocked on the door but there was no answer.

With the help of other residents, the door was broken down, only to find out that no one was there,” Junaedi said.

About 60 residents gathered and launched a search mission, he added.

Two hours later, one of them spotted the giant reptile in the bushes next to Akbar’s farm.

Villagers then used a large knife to cut open the snake’s belly, slowly revealing the body of the father of two.

Horrifying footage has been released showing the corpse being slowly removed from the killer reptile.

The process took more than an hour, according to Junaedi.

MALAYSIA: Malaysia Orders Food Chain Auntie Anne To Change Hot Dog

Hot dogs, or at least the name, will soon be off the menu for a US fast food chain selling the popular snack in Malaysia.

The chain, Auntie Anne's, has been told by Islamic authorities that its popular Pretzel Dog, which contains no dog meat, has to be renamed as it is confusing for Muslim consumers.

The Malaysian Islamic Development Department has told the US company to banish the word "dog" from its menu and suggested that the frankfurter wrapped in a pretzel be called Pretzel Sausage as part of conditions to obtain halal certification based on Islamic dietary laws.

Dogs are deemed unclean in Islam.

"It is more appropriate to use the name Pretzel Sausage," the department's halal director Sirajuddin Suhaimee told local media.

The move is not surprising in mainly Muslim Malaysia, where conservative attitudes have been on the rise.

A wide range of products have been certified halal, from mineral water to a newly launched Internet browser and household products to appeal to Muslims, who make up about 60 percent of the country's 30 million people.

Auntie Anne's said it will comply with the request.

Its halal executive, Farhatul Kamilah, said on her Facebook page that the chain has proposed several new names and was waiting for the Islamic department's approval.

Other food outlets selling hot dogs face similar rules.

US fast food chain A&W earlier obtained its halal certification in Malaysia.

In return, its famous root beer is simply called RB on its menu and hot dogs are coneys and franks, short for frankfurters.

Muslim Travelers Expected To Grow To 150 million Visitors By 2020

Muslim women wear the pants when it comes to halal tourism. That’s one of the highlights from the Halal Travel 2016 report.

The study, commissioned by travel technology company Amadeus, revealed that women play an influential role in the travel decision-making process and planning.

They have a key role in destination choice.

According to the findings, women make their decisions based on word of mouth and input from family and friends.

“Women want activities to keep the whole family happy,” the report read.

The report added that women have a high level of involvement when it comes to activity bookings and extra trip preparations.

Input from the fairer sex is especially important, considering that halal tourism continues to gain traction in the travel and hospitality industry.

Muslim travelers are expected to grow to 150 million visitors by 2020. Meanwhile, expenditure from this market segment is expected to rise from US$145 billion in 2014 to US$200 billion by 2020.

The report also called for the industry to recognize diversity among Muslim holidaygoers.

An Amadeus travel agent customer said: “Muslims travelling from Egypt will not be the same as those travelling from Saudi. Even within a market, there are big differences.”

The six variables are: comfort, exploration, core family, extended family, deal-seeking and simplicity-seeking.

In addition to that, the report also outlined three themes on the needs of Muslim travelers. They are: maximizing trip value, relevant accommodation and family-friendly destinations.

As for trip value, Muslim tourists like holiday packages but find them basic and inflexible. Meanwhile, apartments and chain hotels are preferred accommodation.

When it comes to destinations, Muslim travelers prefer to explore within their comfort zones.

This includes excursions that integrate halal dining options and praying possibilities.

SOUTH KOREA: More Halal Restaurants Planned

The Korean government is planning to expand the number of Muslim-friendly restaurants here.

Korea Tourism Organization announced that it will expand the number of such restaurants from 135 to 170 to help reach its goal of hosting 1.2 million Muslim tourists this year.

It started receiving applications from local restaurants Monday and will continue to do so until April 28.

The measure is part of the KTO’s plan to diversify the country’s tourism market, in anticipation of declining numbers of Chinese tourists due to a recent diplomatic spat between Beijing and Seoul surrounding the deployment of an advanced US missile defense system here.

The Korea-US alliance decided last year to station the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system here, which China claimed was against its strategic interest.

The Beijing government has been curbing Chinese tours to Korea, including a reported order to ban its tourism agencies from selling Korea-related programs.

This is a severe blow for the local tourism industry, as 8.05 million of the 17 million foreigners who visited the country last year were Chinese.

“Since the need to expand the tourism market is greater than ever, we will attempt to raise the number of Muslim tourists from 980,000 last year to 1.2 million,” said Park Jeong-ha, director of KTO’s marketing planning team.

The number of Muslims visiting Korea in 2016 increased by 33 percent compared to the year before.

Meanwhile, the KTO has been seeking to expand the number of tourists from countries other than China.

“We allocated a lot of budget that was originally directed at the Chinese market to other regions like Southeast Asian countries,” said a KTO official.

The KTO’s standard for Muslim-friendly restaurants has four categories; those that are halal-certified by the Korea Muslim Federation, those that are self-certified by owners and cooks as being Muslim and using exclusively halal ingredients, those that sell halal food but also sell alcohol which is banned for Muslims-- and those that are free of pork, which is also banned by Islam.

Korea Tourism Organization plans to attend tourism exhibitions in countries with a large Muslim population, such as one in Kazakhstan in late April along with tourism trade shows in Malaysia and Indonesia in the second quarter.

The KTO will also launch a weeklong halal festival for Muslim travelers in September, during which local food made according to halal rules will be featured.

However, whether many Korean restaurants will apply for the halal certification remains to be seen, as some feel that the certification would not be worth the effort and cost.

Cho Hee-kyung, the owner of three Michelin star restaurant Gaon and one Michelin star restaurant Bicena, expressed difficulties in receiving the halal mark.

“In the past, I looked to receive the certification, but there are lots of preparations to be made. Everything has to be different, from the cutting board to knives,” she said, adding that her restaurants have given up on it.

To be halal-approved, operators of the restaurant also have to undergo a training program presented by the Certified Halal Internal Auditor.

Furthermore, Cho said that her restaurants -- which are popular among foreign visitors -- has attracted plenty of Muslim customers with its vegetarian menu, even without the halal seal of approval.

Instead of just focusing on halal certificates, she said the more important thing would be to find aspects of Korean traditional dishes that can be appreciated by foreigners.

“One of the strong points of Korean dishes is its vegetarian menu. I think it would be better for us to present something new that has its own value,” she said.

Despite this, Cho agreed that more Muslim-friendly restaurants would be “the way to go,” given the huge Muslim demographic.

“It is a huge market, and it’s important to target it. As a restaurant, it is only natural to want to attract a wider range of customers,” she said.

NORTH KOREA: Charter Flight Opened Between Pyongyang And Dandong

A charter flight opened between Pyongyang and Dandong, a Chinese city near the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Tuesday, shortening the trip to 40 minutes.

About 50 passengers, mostly Chinese tourists and businessmen, attended the launch ceremony at the Pyongyang Sunan International Airport.

Air Koryo, a DPRK airline, will operate the twice weekly flights, taking off from Pyongyang at 9:00am local time and returning to the DRPK capital city at 11:40am.

Air Koryo has regular flights to Beijing and Shenyang, which is also in Northeast China.

The charter flight to Dandong is its third route to China.

Facing Sinuiju of DPRK across the Yalu River, Dandong in Liaoning province of Northeast China has become a transport hub connecting the two countries.

THAILAND: Python Swallows 25 Year Old Man

Villagers found the remains of an Indonesian man inside the belly of a seven-meter long python.

The victim, identified as “Akbar” had not been seen since setting off to harvest palm oil in a remote village on the island of Sulawesi.

The 25-year-old man was missing since March 26. Villagers then used a large knife to cut open the snake’s belly slowly revealing the father of two’s body.

A search found the giant python sprawled out next to his garden with the 25-year-old’s boots clearly visible in its stomach.

Villagers then used a large knife to cut open the snake’s belly slowly revealing the father-of-two’s body.

The horrifying footage shows the corpse being slowly removed from the killer reptile as the leathery skin is peeled away.

Akbar's neighbor Satriawan said: "He was found in the location of the garden.

"Initially Akbar set out from his home to go to harvest palm.

After not returning to his home, people looked for him."

Akbar's wife, Munu, was away at the time and only found out when pictures and video emerged in the news.

Village secretary Salubiro Junaidi said: "People had heard cries from the palm grove the night before Akbar was found in the snake’s stomach.

"When the snake was captured, the boots Akbar was wearing were clearly visible in the stomach of the snake.

"Resident cut open the belly of the snake and Akbar was lifeless."

Reticulated pythons suffocate their victims before swallowing them whole.

Gulf Air Partners With OAG To Provide Real-time Information On Gulf Air flights

Middle East carrier Gulf Air teams up with air travel intelligence company OAG to launch an online Flight Status Facility on the airline’s website, providing passengers with real-time information on their Gulf Air flights.

Middle East carrier Gulf Air teams up with air travel intelligence company OAG to launch an online Flight Status Facility on the airline’s website, providing passengers with real-time information on their Gulf Air flights. The data includes customised flight trackers, destination, weather and flight status alerts via email/SMS/Twitter in English, Arabic, German and French.

“Today, the speed at which information is delivered is crucial to any business and it is particularly relevant and critical for airlines and an important selling point for today’s connected travellers. With this new facility we are keeping our passengers fully abreast of any changes to their journey and giving them destination-specific information so as to enhance their travel experience both with Gulf Air and at their final destination,” says Yahya Ali Buali, the airline’s director of sales & marketing.

“As a leader in the aviation industry, Gulf Air understands that today’s connected traveller values transparency and real-time information above all else,” adds Ev Jordan of OAG’s EVP Flight Status division.

“Through OAG, Gulf Air is able to keep travellers informed through the world’s most comprehensive status data across mobile, email and social alerts in four languages.”

Customers can find a suite of additional online services offering group bookings, hotel bookings, car rentals and travel insurance.

THAILAND: Revoked Passports To Be Returned To Chaturon, Court Orders

The Central Administrative Court on Friday revoked an order by the Department of Consular Affairs director general to cancel the passports of senior Pheu Thai Party politician Chaturon Chaisang on grounds that the order was unlawful and discriminatory.

The verdict has a retrospective effect to the day the order was issued, August 19, 2015, according to a court statement released Friday.

Chaturon had three passports – two ordinary and one diplomatic – before the revocation. He had served in several Cabinet posts including deputy prime minister, justice minister and education minister.

The revocation of passports in 2015 was made at the request of Royal Thai Police that reasoned that Chaturon criticised the performance of the Prayut Administration as well as of the National Council of Peace and Order (NCPO).

Police said he also resisted an NCPO order for him to report over allegations that he instigated chaos and violated laws after attending a political seminar at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand.

CHINA; Ivory Smugglers And Traders In Trouble, China Shuts Lucrative Ivory Shops And Factories

China is closing down a third of its ivory retailers and factories on Friday before a formal ban on its ivory trade by the end of 2017.

In total, 67 carving factories and shops will be shut on Friday, with the remaining 105 to close by the end of the year, according to China's Forestry Administration.

Officials from the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species will be present to witness the shutdown.

China is the world's largest importer and user of elephant ivory tusks and the move has sparked delight among activists and conservationists.

Yet Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, has not yet followed suit despite outlining a plan last year to ban ivory trading within five years.

The price of ivory in China has dropped by almost two thirds since the country revealed plans to end the legal trade later in the year.

In early 2014, tusks cost on average £1,700 per kilogram, but by February 2017 this had dropped to less than £600.

Experts have claimed Chinese demand for tusks - at one point accounting for 70% of global demand - has driven African elephants towards extinction.

Experts estimate up to 30,000 elephants are killed by poachers each year to meet demand for ivory.

Liu Fenghai has made his fortune in the ivory trade. There was a time when he had 25 craftsmen working exclusively on elephant ivory at his factory in the northern city of Harbin.

He would buy the raw ivory and then have it turned into the pendants, paperweights and statues that once filled shelf after shelf in his shop, as well as the much larger, elaborately carved whole tusks proudly displayed on plinths of their own.

At the height of the market some of them could sell for many thousands of dollars.

Now, to the delight of conservationists everywhere, China is calling a halt to this lucrative end of a brutal and bloody trade.
But Mr Liu, as you might expect, is far from happy. "I feel sad," the 48-year-old said. "I don't feel good at all. This tradition has been carried on for thousands of years but now it will die in the hands of our generation."
"I feel like a sinner," he added. "In a few hundred years time, we will be seen as the sinners of history."

In fact, although ivory carving can indeed be traced back centuries in China, for much of that time it existed only as a niche art form and the Chinese made barely a dent in the global ivory trade.

Throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries, the mass slaughter of elephants was carried out at the hands of the European colonial powers and then later North American entrepreneurs.

Western demand for ivory ornaments, jewellery, piano keys and billiard balls helped reduce the African elephant population from more than 20 million in the year 1800 to just two million by 1960.

Then came Japan's post-war economic rise and the slaughter was propelled through the 1970s and '80s, by which time the elephant was teetering on the brink of extinction.

It was only with the international ban on the trading of elephant ivory in 1989 that the species was given a brief respite.

Once again though, it was another major shift in the global financial order that signalled further disaster - China's emergence as a major economic power.

An explosion of wealth coupled with the Communist Party's unique blend of corruption and crony capitalism made ivory the perfect repository of value, both for ostentatious displays of success and discrete gift giving.

An art form became an industry and in a few short years China began to account for up to 70% of the global demand for ivory.

Today, as a result of the surge in poaching, the elephant is once again facing complete annihilation, with estimates suggesting there are fewer than half a million left in Africa.

There may be no more wild populations within a decade.

If Mr Liu believes it is a sin to lose an ancient art, how much more of a sin to lose an ancient species in the name of the mass-produced - often machine-carved - ivory tat that makes up the bulk of the products on sale in China today?

Not a moment too soon, the Chinese government has decided which side of history it wants to be on.

This week, by the end of business hours on Friday, almost half of China's authorised, government-approved ivory factories and shops will have closed their doors for good.

A team of officials from the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) will be on hand to witness the shutdown.

The rest of China's legal trade will be gone by the end of the year - a total of 34 factories and 138 shops.

It is a deeply symbolic moment, a "game changer" according to campaigners, with one of the most high profile and vocal, the UK's Prince William, publically applauding the Chinese government's decision as "an important commitment".

No small irony, perhaps, given the role the prince's own ancestors played in promoting the trade, with more than 1,000 ivory items still held in the royal collection.

But closing China's carving workshops and retail outlets is so important, it is argued, not only for its own sake, but because this legal business acts as cover for a much bigger black market trade.

In 2008 China was allowed, under the Cites system, to buy a 62-tonne stockpile of seized African ivory.

The theory was that, with careful monitoring and a system of certificates, the stockpile would provide a controlled supply to China's factories and therefore dampen demand for illegal ivory by helping to keep prices low.

It has had the opposite effect. It appears to have in fact stimulated demand by giving consumers the green light that ivory was ok to buy. Coupled with poor enforcement, corruption and fraudulent certifications a huge amount of illegal, newly poached ivory flooded into China and on to the market, some of it under the guise of Cites authorised stock.

Demand rose further and prices, rather than going down, skyrocketed. Research suggests that the illegal stockpile of ivory in China today may stand at 1,000 tonnes or more, far in excess of that supposedly well regulated and controlled quantity purchased back in 2008.

Now, although there are undoubtedly other factors at play - not least the slowing Chinese economy and the crackdown on official graft and gift giving - the announcement of the ban on the legal trade does appear to be helping to bring the speculative frenzy to an end.

Consumers and dealers have been sent a strong signal that the game is up and prices of ivory have recently been dropping, from more than $2,000 (£1,611) per kg in 2014 to around $700 per kilo today.

Big questions remain, however. As in other markets, like the UK, the Chinese announcement appears to allow for the continued trading of antiques, which campaigners fear may act as a loophole.

Meanwhile, the government has not said what it will do with the remaining stockpile of legal ivory and how it will prevent it from leaking on to the black market.

And while the new policy may well drive the illegal trade further underground, controlling it will still depend on the resources given to law enforcement agencies.

Our own research suggests a less than wholehearted willingness to tackle wildlife crime.

For more than two decades, trade in rhino horn has been completely prohibited in China. Selling, purchasing, transporting or mailing it has been punishable by harsh sentences, including life imprisonment for the worst offenders.

And yet, via a quick search on the internet, traders can be found openly offering rhino horn for sale as whole pieces, as jewellery or for use in Chinese medicine.

The risk attached to both buying and selling appears to be small.

"Trust me, I've never had any problems before," one of the online vendors said, after sending us pictures of rhino horn bracelets.

Monday 27 March 2017

UAE: Dubai To Fine Operators Who Rent Out Dirty Traditional Emirati Costumes

Dubai will be issuing fines starting at AED 2,000 (US$ 545) to tour operators and other establishments renting out unclean traditional Emirati costumes to tourists.

"The reuse of specific costume or outfit for different customers whether for the purpose of photography or any other activities is prohibited, without properly cleaning and disinfecting the items after each customer's usage," Dubai Municipality for Health, Safety and Environment Control assistant director general Khalid Mohammad Sharif Al Awadi said.

According to a statement from the authorities, any item of clothing, shoes, socks, headgear or any apparel that comes into contact with the skin should not be used by more than one customer, unless cleaned properly before each use.

Storing or discarding these items on the floor after usage is also prohibited, Al Awadi said.

He continued: "These items must be kept in special cabinets or baskets before or after cleaning and disinfection. The storage of clean and disinfected clothing and items must be done in suitable ventilated areas away from sources of contamination."

Failure to comply will result in fines on violators, starting at AED 2,000 ($545) for the first offence, but which can escalate for multiple offences.

SAUDI ARABIA: Non-Saudi Uber Or Careem Drivers To Be Deported

Saudi Arabia will penalise non-Saudi drivers working for ride hailing applications Uber and Careem with a fine and possible deportation, according to reports.

Rumaih Al-Rumaih, head of the Public Transport Authority, said the penalties were part of the kingdom’s saudisation of the transport sector.

“The number of non-Saudi taxi drivers in the kingdom has dropped to 30 per cent of the total. The authority aims to saudise the sector by 100 per cent,” he was quoted as saying.

“Any non-Saudi caught running the ride-sharing service will face a fine of SAR5,000 ($1,333) and possible deportation,” he said.

The official’s statements follow comments from Careem co-founder Abdulla Elyas last year, who said ride hailing companies could now only employ Saudis directly but expats could work indirectly through public and private taxi companies.

Uber and Careem were also recently banned from picking up passengers at the kingdom’s airports, similarly to the UAE.

Another official, Saeed Al-Bassami, head of the national transport committee at the Council of Saudi Chambers and the land transport committee at Jeddah Chamber of Commerce, said the said services had harmed the interests of taxi drivers in the kingdom.

He said the number of people using regular taxis had dropped by 50 per cent despite taxis fares being cheaper than using the apps.

“The Ministry of Transport is working to develop its own apps to streamline the services of taxi drivers and reserve parking space for them in various locations so that they do not obstruct the flow of traffic in cities,” Al-Bassami was quoted as saying.

The kingdom has backed both Uber and Careem with funding. In June the Public Investment Fund announced a $3.5bn investment in Uber and in December Saudi Telecom Company invested $100m for a 10 per cent stake in Careem.

UAE: Paul Griffiths, CEO Of Dubai AirportsSays A “very tiny proportion” Of Passengers To Switch Airlines

The CEO of Dubai Airports believes the US ban on carry-on large electronics will have no significant impact on passenger numbers at Dubai International.

Griffiths said a “very tiny proportion” of passengers might choose to switch airlines.

“If we are very, very diligent in both communicating exactly what the restrictions are and actually have an efficient process to deal with the situation, I don’t suggest it will have an impact on numbers,” he added.

The CEO further explained the airport would allow people to take their electronic devices through the airport to the gate and they could then be checked into the hold and delivered to the customer as soon as they arrive at their US destination to avoid disruption.

The US moved to ban large electronics like laptops, tablets and portable DVD players on flights from airports in eight countries, including the UAE, on Tuesday with Dubai’s Emirates among the most affected airlines.

Emirates said that the directive comes into effect on Saturday, March 25, and is valid until October 14. It currently flies to 12 US destinations.

Griffiths refused to disclose further details about the threat but explained it was “preferable” for passengers to have no access to large electronics during their flight.

Elsewhere at the airport there were signs the new measures would have an impact.

Dubai Duty Free said it could lose about $2m a year following the ban as US-bound customers cut down on purchases of larger devices, according to The National.

About 2 per cent the company’s $1.85bn sales are generated by passengers travelling to the US, with 5 per cent of these purchases on electronics.

However, the company specified that about 55 per cent of electronics purchased are phones or phones accessories that are not covered by the ban.

Dubai International is the world’s busiest airport for international passengers with annual traffic rising 7.2 per cent to 83.6 million last year. It is forecasting 89 million passengers this year.

German Federal Bureau Of Aircraft Accident Investigation Underway On Airbus A380

An investigation is underway after the wake from an Airbus A380, believed to have been flown by Emirates, nearly caused a private jet to crash over the Arabian Sea on January 7.

The Canadair Challenger 604, operated between Male and Abu Dhabi by Germany’s MHS Aviation, flipped at least three times and was thrown into an uncontrolled descent when the jet flew too close.

The A380, identified as likely to be EK412 from Dubai to Sydney, came within 300m of the smaller craft.

The resulting turbulence forced the private jet into a 10,000ft free-fall from a starting height of 34,000ft, Aviation Herald reported.

Following this, the crew shut down one engine and managed to regain control of the aircraft using “raw muscle force”. The engine was later restarted and the plane made an emergency landing in Muscat.

Several of the nine passengers on-board were hospitalised and one was seriously injured.

The aircraft was also written off after receiving damage beyond repair.

Details of the incident will be revealed in a report by the German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation.

MHS declined to provide further details because investigation is ongoing.

Several turbulence incidents involving A380s have been reported previously including one involving an Emirates superjumbo and an Air France A320 flying near Frankfurt in October 2011, according to the publication.

It indicated air traffic control officers across the world have now been instructed to exercise care with A380s crossing above other aircraft.

UAE: Emirates Bookings To US Fell 35% After Jan Travel Ban

Emirates, the world’s largest long-haul carrier, said on Thursday it was concerned President Donald Trump’s latest travel order will still deter Muslim visitors to America, after booking rates on US flights fell 35 per cent following January’s ban.

Trump signed a new executive order on Monday, which takes effect on March 16, keeping a 90-day ban on travel to the US by citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

However, the order applies only to new visa applicants, meaning about 60,000 people whose visas were revoked by the previous order will now be permitted to enter. It also removed Iraq from the list.

“I am concerned. It’s the tone of it. We have brought millions of Muslims to the United States, but now they may not feel welcome, they may look at going on holiday elsewhere,” president Tim Clark said in Berlin on the sidelines of the ITB travel fair.

Akbar Al Baker, the chief executive of Gulf rival Qatar Airways, said on Wednesday his airline had not seen a drop in demand for US flights.

“I make sure that when I deploy my planes, they are full, that the passengers are allowed to go into and out of a country,” he said.

Demand for travel to the United States over the coming months has flattened with flights to and from the Middle East the hardest hit, a study released by travel analysis company ForwardKeys showed on Monday.

The January order caused chaos and confusion at airports worldwide, with the airline industry complaining about a lack of clear and direct communication from US officials.

Emirates, which flies to 11 US cities, has not fully recovered from the original January 27 travel ban, suspended on February 3. “The effect it had was instantaneous,” Clark said.

He said the revised order issued this week offered more clarity, and there had been some positive movement in bookings on the Emirates network but not a full recovery.

“When will it recapture the original booking curve is anyone’s guess,” he said, adding that he hoped for an improvement in the summer after the usually quiet period during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

UAE: US Electronics Ban, Gulf Airlines Targeted

Emirati commentator Sultan Al Qassemi has accused the US of seeking to rein in Gulf carriers Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways through its recent ban on large electronics.

Under the new rules, announced on Tuesday, passengers from 10 Middle East and North African airports are no longer allowed to bring electronics larger than a smartphone in their carry-on luggage when flying to the US.

The airports on the list include the Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi bases of the three largest Gulf carriers.

In a comment piece published yesterday on the Middle East Institute website, Al Qassemi said the ban was a “pretext” to hurt Gulf airlines so passengers switch to US alternatives.

“That these restrictions do not apply to other airlines with lower standards safety records means one of two things: either the US ports authorities do not trust the Gulf carriers,all of whom have an impeccable safety record or, and more likely, that this move was designed to give an unfair advantage to US carriers,” he said.

Al Qassemi particularly highlighted lobbying efforts by several US carriers for amendments to the country’s open skies agreements with the Gulf states.

In February, a number of US airline CEOs pressed President Donald Trump to impose restrictions on Emirates, Etihad and Qatar – which they accuse of receiving more than $50bn in state subsidies.

At the time the request was refused due to the large amounts of business the carriers generate for other US businesses like plane maker Boeing and conglomerate General Electric.

The Partnership for Open and Fair Skies, backed by American, United and Delta, said earlier this month that 1.2 million American jobs are at risk from alleged trade violations by the UAE and Qatar.

“There is no doubt that a significant reason behind the electronic ban is to stifle competition from Gulf airlines, and to encourage US bound passengers to fly on American carriers,” Al Qassemi argued, referencing lobbying efforts by US carriers.

“The lucrative first and business class passengers sector depends heavily on the fact that travellers can work on board flights.

Now these passengers will start to look to other non-Gulf carriers as alternatives. This laptop ban is merely the latest in a string of protectionist policies fronted by the Trump administration.”

He added that the measure was the latest US protectionist policy to damage the competitiveness of the Gulf big three after the Trump administration imposed a travel ban on passport holders from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen in January.

In an interview Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said he expected the new restrictions to have a limited impact on passenger numbers.

The airport plans to implement a new check-in system for electronics at the gate for flights to the US, he said, allowing passengers to be reunited with their devices once they have reached their destination.

However, the ban is expected to see business travellers from key markets, including India, seek alternative routes to the benefit of US and European carriers.

QATAR: Gulf States To Introduce Sin tax On Alcohol, Tobacco And Fizzy Drinks

Gulf states Plan to introduce a selective tax this year affecting items including alcohol, tobacco and fizzy drinks.

Qatar’s only alcohol shop is reportedly encouraging customers to stock up ahead of the implementation of a planned sin tax for goods deemed harmful to human health.

The country, along with other Gulf Cooperation Council states, plans to introduce a selective tax this year affecting items including alcohol, tobacco, fizzy drinks and some luxury goods.

Employees at the Qatar Distribution Co in Abu Hamour have been warning customers of the impending price rises.

Only residents with alcohol licenses are allowed to make purchases at the shop, with each given a monthly allowance calculated based on their wages.

The exact tax rates remain unclear and it is unknown whether allowances will be raised inline with prices.

The shop said this week residents could purchase three times their normal quota from April 1 – a measure not usually introduced just before the holy month of Ramadan when it closes, according to the publication

Last week, the UAE said the tax could generate $544.5m in its first year from tobacco alone but revenue from other products was difficult to estimate.

Each Gulf government will decide the exact tax rates and the items affected. The cap for excise duty agreed is 100 per cent.

The date of implementation of the tax is expected to vary in each country, with Saudi Arabia reported to be considering its introduction as early as April.

UAE: Nikki Beach Resort To Open In Dubai’s Pearl Jumeira

A new luxury beach resort operated by Nikki Beach in Dubai is set to open its door on December 20.

Located in Meraas’ Pearl Jumeira development, Nikki Beach Resort and Spa Dubai will feature 132 keys including 117 rooms and suites, 15 villas and 63 private residences.

In terms of amenities, the 52,000-square-metre property features four pools, private cabanas with plunge pools, and a 450-metre-long beach accessible to guests.

Leisure and relaxation facilities include the Nikki Spa and Tone gym and a tennis court.

The resort will also feature five restaurant and lounges: Café Nikki – an all-day urban bistro; Soul Lounge; Nikki Beach Dubai Restaurant and Beach Club; Nikki Privé – an exclusive lounge; and Key West – a fine dining restaurant offering Floridian, Caribbean and Latin cuisine which will launch later in 2017.

All the rooms, suites and villas have entertainment systems, mood lighting and complimentary wifi.

The beachside villas also offer direct access to the beach, private pools and terraces.

The resort, which will be operated by Nikki Beach Hotels & Resorts in partnership with local developer Meraas, was previously targeting a 2015 launch.

Jack Penrod, founder and owner of Nikki Beach Worldwide said: “Nikki Beach Resort and Spa Dubai is the brand’s flagship Middle Eastern property, and boasts Nikki Beach’s largest footprint in the world.”

Dubai is continuing to see a growth in hotel rooms as the emirate gears up to achieve its tourism vision of welcoming 20 million visitors per year by 2020.

In October, Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) revealed that Dubai has surpassed a milestone of 100,000 hotels rooms.

The figure was reached following the opening of the Westin Dubai Al Habtoor City in August, it said.

Looking ahead, the emirate is expected to have 134,000 hotel rooms by the end of 2018 with an occupancy of approximately 77 per cent, DTCM added.

TURKEY: AccorHotels And Rixos Hotels Announce Partnership

AccorHotels and Rixos Hotels announce today a strategic partnership illustrating AccorHotels’ strategy to expand its presence in the Upper Upscale/Luxury market,with a primary focus on developing global activities in the resort segment.

Under a long-term joint venture, both parties intend to collaborate, develop and manage Rixos branded resorts & hotels worldwide.

Upon closing, AccorHotels will own a 50% interest in the joint venture management company.

Through this joint venture, AccorHotels will integrate in its network 15 iconic hotels that are ideally located in premium resort markets in Turkey, UAE, Egypt, Russia and Europe and which benefit from strong room rate performance.

As part of this transaction, Rixos plans to reflag five city-centre hotels to AccorHotels brands which will also be managed by AccorHotels.

To this portfolio, Rixos will add a second iconic hotel in Dubai in the very short term as well as two other properties by the end of 2018 in Abu Dhabi and the Maldives highlighting the expansion of the Rixos brand into this key resort market.

Rixos is one of only a handful iconic resort brands in the region that caters to both high- end transient and group customers.

It is recognized as one of the leading luxury destination brands in Turkey and the Middle East due to its best-in-class facilities, dining options and entertainment venues.

Each unique property is able to capture the traditions of its surrounding while providing signature experiences, unforgettable
sensory offerings, and unparalleled level of tailored services. The Rixos collection includes notable landmark assets such as Rixos Premium Belek in Turkey and Rixos The Palm in Dubai.

Additionally, Rixos has invested in Turkey's largest life and entertainment center, The Land of Legends Theme Park, which opened its gates in the country's tourism capital Antalya in July 2016.

The joint venture will also manage the hotel within the entertainment park.

Fettah Tamince, Founder and Chairman of Rixos said : “Our collaboration is part of Rixos’ objective for further expansion and growth globally with a strong partner in the hospitality industry.

Combined with our partner’s strong brand portfolio, reservation and sales network supported by a wide range of digital marketing activities, Rixos will expand its current geographic footprint & customer base.

It is also a great opportunity for our customers to benefit from our participation in Le Club AccorHotels, which is recognized as one of the most powerful loyalty programs in the industry with over 100 million member.

Sébastien Bazin, CEO and Chairman of AccorHotels, said: “This new partnership has many benefits for us. It enables us to become a leading resort operator in a growing market and to complement our offer with attractive leisure destinations to our guests and loyalty members. And moreover, we are going a step further in our ambition to be the best provider of multi-nature services to guests by operating hotels in major entertainment complexes which offers new opportunities both in terms of customer experience and of development strategy.”

About AccorHotels
AccorHotels is a world-leading travel & lifestyle group and digital innovator offering unique experiences in more than 4,100 hotels, resorts and residences, as well as in over 3,000 of the finest private homes around
the globe.

Benefiting from dual expertise as an investor and operator through its HotelServices and HotelInvest divisions, AccorHotels operates in 95 countries.

Its portfolio comprises internationally acclaimed luxury brands including Raffles, Fairmont, Sofitel Legend, SO Sofitel, Sofitel, onefinestay, MGallery by Sofitel, Pullman, and Swissôtel; as well as the popular midscale and boutique brands of 25hours, Novotel,Mercure, Mama Shelter and Adagio; the much-prized economy brands including JO&JOE, ibis, ibis Styles, ibis
budget and the regional brands Grand Mercure, The Sebel and hotelF1.

AccorHotels provides innovative end- to-end services across the entire traveler experience, notably through the recent acquisition of John Paul,world leader in concierge services.

With an unmatched collection of brands and rich history spanning close to five decades, AccorHotels, along with its global team of more than 240,000 dedicated women and men, has a purposeful and heartfelt mission:to make every guest Feel Welcome. Guests enjoy access to one of the world’s most rewarding hotel loyalty programs - Le Club AccorHotels.

AccorHotels is active in its local communities and committed to sustainable development and solidarity through PLANET 21, a comprehensive program that brings together employees, guests and partners to drive sustainable growth.

Accor SA is publicly listed with shares trading on the Euronext Paris exchange (ISIN code: FR0000120404) and the OTC marketplace (Code: ACRFY) in the United States.

About Rixos Hotels
Rixos Hotels, established in 2000, is one of the world’s fastest growing, all-inclusive resort company in EMEA with a strong presence in Turkey, UAE, Egypt, Russia and Europe.

The company has 20 resorts and hotels under its brands, representing a total of 8,000 rooms. Dedicated to offering traditional Turkish hospitality and a unique spa experience in the finest surroundings and luxury ambience, Antalya based group owns and
operates premium resorts & villas including city hotels in key regions.

At the heart of every Rixos hotel is a revitalizing Wellness and Spa Centre with an authentic Turkish Hammam, offering a unique spa treatment,menu and atmosphere.

Known for their hospitality, attentive personalized service and fine cuisine, Rixos Hotels received global recognition and top ratings from distinguished specialist professional bodies such as the American Five Star Diamond Award, Conde Nast, World Travel Awards and Great Hotels of the World.

UAE: Rixos Announced Latest 443 Room Dubai Property To Open May 15 2017

Turkish hotel brand Rixos has announced its latest Dubai property will open on May 15.

Rixos Premium Dubai, located in Jumeirah Beach Residence, will feature 443 rooms and suites, a private beach, gym and spa with Turkish hammam and six food and beverage outlets.

Events space includes 10 meeting rooms and a ballroom able to cater for 1,000 guests.

“This is an excellent time to expand Rixos Hotels portfolio in Dubai as the market continues to experience radical growth while establishing itself further as one of the world’s premier leisure and business destinations,” said Erkan Yildirim, SVP of operations for Rixos Hotels.

Among the dining outlets will be all-day restaurant Turquoise, Italian fine-dining restaurant Luigia’s, music and sports bar Lock Stock & Barrel, American steakhouse STK and burger outlet Black Tap.

In addition the hotel will include retail stores Rodeo Drive, Via Rodeo and Ocean Drive.

Rixos has two further hotel openings planned in Abu Dhabi and the Maldives in 2018 and already operates an existing property on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah.

The Rixos Premium Dubai and the two 2018 properties will come under a luxury joint venture announced with France’s AccorHotels earlier this month.

USA: United Airlines Stops Girls In Leggings From Flight

On 26 March 2017, Shannon Watts was traveling from Denver International Airport to Minneapolis when, she says, she overheard an agent from United Airlines telling a family near her that they would not be allowed to board the plane unless the two young girls changed their clothes.

Watts added that the girls’ father, who was wearing shorts, was allowed to board without incident. The story quickly spread, with many expressing confusion over the seemingly arbitrary rule.

United Airlines replied to concerned and surprised people on social media, confirming that the incident took place and that a representative of the company had told the girls to change their clothes, which they had deemed inappropriate.

We found no explicitly stated rules or guidelines about leggings or any other articles of clothing on United’s web site, but the One Mile at a Time site offered a putative explanation for the issue.

The passengers in question, according to United were flying on employee passes, and United’s dress code for “non-revs” i.e., non-paying passengers deems “form-fitting lycra/spandex tops, pants and dresses” among other forms of dress as unacceptable.

Similarly the passengers were using a United employee pass and therefore had to meet different dress standards than paying customers do.

United Airlines spokesman Jonathan Guerin confirmed the two teens were not allowed on the flight. But he said they were traveling using a United employee pass and “were not in compliance with our dress code policy for company benefit travel.”

An internal policy for employees using the airline travel benefit, he said, specifically forbids leggings while traveling.

“Our regular passengers are not going to be denied boarding because they are wearing leggings or yoga pants,” Guerin said. “But when flying as a pass traveler, we require this pass travelers to follow rules, and that is one of those rules.

“They were not compliant with the dress policy with the benefit,” Guerin said, noting that the girls were aware of the internal rule. “This morning, the attire of the pass travelers on this flight didn’t meet the dress code policy.”

Travelers familiar with the airline employee travel pass say it has long been a requirement for those using the benefit to dress up more than paying passengers.

United issued a short statement on the matter, saying that “The passengers this morning were United pass riders who were not in compliance with our dress code policy for company benefit travel.”

THAILAND: Bangkok Online Drugs Sellers, 19 Arrested With Guns And Drugs

In a recent crackdown on a Bangkok-based gang that brazenly sold marijuana online, police searched 19 locations and arrested 19 suspects, as well as seizing evidence including drugs and weapons.

The haul included eight guns and more than 60 rounds of ammunition, 35 kilograms of dried marijuana, 1,000 Yaba pills and 60 grams of crystal methamphetamine, or ice.

A subsequent operation saw gang members’ assets worth about Bt100 million seized, Patrol and Special Operation Division chief Police Maj General Surachet Hakpan told a press conference on Monday.

The case stemmed from a police investigation into a Thai Facebook user who allegedly posted information about illicit drugs for sale, along with prices and customers’ postal tracking numbers, Surachet said.

Last Wednesday, police identified a suspect by postal slips but found that she was innocent, as the slips were actually for selling cosmetics and were reposted by others who sold drugs, he said.

The Facebook page in question also carried a profile picture of innocent Thai model Chorkan “Puinoon” Wongkandee, 25, without her permission, he said.

Police later identified the alleged culprits as Kanchai Reuksaensuk, 31, and Sakao Yanprai, 30, and arrested them at a house in Min Buri district. At the house, they also seized 28 kilograms of marijuana, three property deeds worth Bt35 million, a bank account with a balance of Bt2.1 million, and three cars.

As the pair allegedly confessed to sending marijuana via post to 19 customers in Bangkok’s Sathorn area, Pathum Thani, Yala, Nakon Pathom and Phuket, police extended their operation, he added.

Surachet said this was a major drug dealing network earning Bt200,000 a month from selling marijuana. Kanchai’s bank account reportedly showed a sum of Bt16 million for this year.

Chorkan said she learned from friends that her photo had been used as a profile picture on the drug selling Facebook page and filed a police complaint against those who ruined her reputation.

Apologising for smearing someone’s good name, Kanchai said he used Chorkan’s picture to attract customers’ attention and used another person’s postal tracking number slips to boost his customers’ confidence in the delivery method.

Kanchai said he posted clear price tags in response to the government’s earlier announcement that all online shops must show product prices.

As police later tried to arrest Kanchai’s supplier, nicknamed Jack, in Soi Ekkamai 23, they found that he had already escaped from the house, leaving behind 16.5 kilograms of marijuana, 1,000 Yaba pills and 60 grams of ‘ice’, as well as a pistol with some ammunition, said Surachet’s deputy, Police Colonel Samran Nuanma.

Sunday 26 March 2017

PALESTINE: West Bank Tourism Very Low, Palestinians Blame Israel

The Palestinian National Authority has been making increased efforts to attract tourists to its historical religious sites.

However, earnings from tourism are still meager with the West Bank under tight Israeli control.

Watchtowers, barbed wire, and rifle-toting Israeli soldiers can't be an attractive sight for tourists heading to Palestine to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, to see the Church of the Nativity and to eat some tasty hummus. They hardly ever remain overnight.

The government data shows that last year tourism rebounded with 2.4 million foreign visitors. The figure is slightly higher against 2.2 million the year before but is still below the 2.5 million in 2014.

At the same time, very few visitors spend the night in the Palestinian territories.

Hotel stays by foreign visitors declined from 1.1 million in 2014 to 906,000 last year, compared to 8.5 million tourists staying in Israel in 2016.

According to the most recent data, Israel earned over $6 billion from tourism last year, while Palestinian areas reported less than $1.1 billion in 2014.

The annual rush to Bethlehem at Christmas does not bring these lands enough revenue. Tourists spend the day visiting the Holy sites and leave without spending much cash.

Moreover, most visitors go to Palestinian areas via Israel, which gets the first crack at serving them.

Political tension does not help the occupied territories attract tourists. “If we had an independent state, it would be magnificent,” said Saeb Erekat, Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), who puts hope on Christians flocking to Bethlehem year-round, bike trails through the Jordan Valley and sunbathing and spas on the Dead Sea.

Last year, the PLO accused Israel of obscuring the Palestinian identity of the most famous West Bank sites by rebranding them as the “Holy Land.”

The Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association hardly disputed the complaint.

“All tourists go through our system. Palestinian areas are an extension of our product,” said the head of Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association.

At the same time, Palestinian infrastructure can hardly provide competition with European-quality roads, cafes, and hotels that Israel can boast.

There’s only one five-star hotel in Bethlehem, but it hasn’t seen any repairs in years.

The city has few to offer the travelers compared to Jerusalem’s Old City attractions.

Manger Square, a city square in the center of Bethlehem, is surrounded by gift shops selling cheap olive wood renderings of the Madonna and Child, pearl-inlaid boxes, and T-shirts saying “I Love Palestine.” It takes a visitor an hour to explore the old town beyond the square.

The Walled Off Hotel is one of the most recent attempts to hook in some tourists. Opened by the London street artist Banksy, the guesthouse boasts “worst views of any hotel in the world,” as the windows of its ten rooms look out on to the 5-meter graffiti-covered concrete wall built to prevent Palestinians from getting into Israeli territory.

The three-story hotel has a low-lit bar, and restaurant decorated like a British colonial clubhouse, with ironic works by the artist covering the walls. The inn is fully booked until June.

“We hope to raise international awareness of how ugly this wall is and in that way contribute to peace,” says hotel manager Wissam Salsaa.

ISRAEL: Chinese Tourists Increase,White Flowers Symbolize Death And Mourning In Chinese Culture

The Ministry of Tourism’s investment in promoting Israel in China has paid dividends, with a 68.6% increase from 2015 to 2016.

The ministry has invested nearly ten million shekels a year, and China’s largest private airline, Hainan, started offering flights to Israel.

The Ministry of Tourism’s data show that 79,268 tourists from China visited Israel in 2016, but the ministry’s goal is to cross the 100,000 barrier in number of Chinese tourists per year.

Hoteliers adapt their offerings, from breakfast to flower colors, to accommodate the 69% boom in tourists from China. These visitors benefit the Israeli economy by spending 69% more than their European counterparts per day in the country.

The average Chinese visitor is extremely interested in Israeli history and culture from biblical times to the modern high-tech boom.

The preferred destination is Jerusalem, with 81% of Chinese tourists visiting the capital with most making sure to visit the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Despite Jerusalem’s popularity, Israel’s second city still receives a fair amount of Chinese tourists, with 71% visiting Tel Aviv. The Dead Sea sees 56% of the Chinese who come to Israel.

According to the official data, the average Chinese tourist spends considerably more in Israel than the average European, with the former spending about $267 per day versus the latter’s $158.

Israeli hoteliers at the Dan and Isrotel chains have sought to adapt their offerings to their new guests from the Far East, with many hotels establishing a “Chinese corner” in the breakfast room.

Apparently, many non-Chinese guests have also taken to the rice congee and steamed broccoli to start their day rather than the traditional Israeli offerings of salads, cheeses and baked goods.

Roy Kriezman, Manager of China and Far East Markets at Dan, says that representatives from his hotel chain are travelling to China to learn from Chinese hotels how best to accommodate the influx of new visitors.

In addition to the breakfast offerings, modifications for Chinese guests include the coffee selections in the rooms being switched out with teas, the addition of two Chinese television station, written information being provided in Chinese, and providing smaller complimentary slippers.

A seemingly small detail has also been addressed, Kriezman shared: flower colors. Dan learned to change out the white flowers in its room with red ones, as white flowers symbolize death and mourning in Chinese culture.

ISRAEL: City Of David

City of David in Jerusalem is a wonderful story.

Every year more than 400,000 schoolchildren, soldiers, students, tourists and whole families flock, coupons in hand, to the place “where it all began.” It’s no accident that David Be’eri, who conceived of this tourism site where Jerusalem was born, has won an Israel Prize for life achievement.

The website of the Ir David Foundation (also known as Elad) is an invitation to an exciting experience: gravity-defying leaps between historical eras and interactive tours, not to mention offers of attractive prices. One video on the site features actor Mati Seri wearing an Indiana Jones-style hat.

He tells the story of the Meyuhas family in the village called Shiloah in Hebrew; that is, the City of David.

Seri stands beside an Arab house that flies the Israeli flag, testifying to the Jews’ return to the village. Seri exults in Rabbi Rahamim Natan Meyuhas, who bought a home in the area, moved there with his family and thus became “the first to return to the City of David in modern times.”

The presenter skips among times and spaces. By leaps and bounds he goes from the largely Arab Silwan neighborhood, where the City of David sits, back to the end of the 19th century, when Jews moved outside the Old City walls.

Then it’s further back in time – to the days of King David. His narrative creates a continuum of Jewish time and space, from the biblical Jewish kingdom to the Israeli republic.

This is a thrilling story of rediscovery, returning home, pioneering and making the desert bloom. It’s also a journey in search of the lost past. The narrative is tightly constructed and polished in the style of an advertisement.

But despite the considerable effort to wipe them off the map and bury their past, it’s hard to ignore the people who live near the archaeological site and the homes of the Jewish newcomers with their guard towers.

Arabs have been living for hundreds of years in Silwan. The story of the City of David is the story of the eradication of Silwan. The popular tourism site conceals a violent project of taking over public and private space and robbing the inhabitants of their homes.

Through no fault of their own, the Meyuhas family find themselves in this story.

The Meyuhases moved just beyond the Old City walls in 1873. The move by a native-born Jew from the Old City to Silwan was perfectly natural at the time. Rabbi Meyuhas merely wanted to earn a living; he didn’t aim to change the space but rather to become a part of it, as is told in the biography of the family’s eldest son, Yosef Meyuhas. The narrative that the Elad nonprofit group is constructing piles theological and mythical baggage onto the family’s story that it packs into a smooth narrative.

Elad was created about 30 years ago by a small group of Jewish settlers, and over the years it has become a policy project of the first degree.

Along with receiving generous support from the state, the Ir David Foundation also collaborates closely with the Jerusalem municipality, the Education Ministry, the Defense Ministry and the Israel Antiquities Authority. As a result, every year thousands of young people, educators, soldiers, high-tech employees, young Jews from abroad in the Taglit-Birthright program and tourists are channeled to “discovering the secrets of biblical Jerusalem.”

Many see this flourishing project as further evidence of the settler right’s takeover of Israel’s power centers and education system.

Countless condemnations have been voiced in the political left and center since this month’s announcement that Be’eri, who founded and runs Elad, had won the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog was among the few outside the right-wing coalition government who found the selection of Be’eri appropriate and congratulated him.

Still, the City of David’s tremendous success isn’t a story of the marginal right taking over the Zionist narrative.

The City of David has never been a marginal story. It’s a faithful reflection of basic building blocks of the Zionist mainstream and the principle of basing the return of the Jews on revisiting the biblical story.

This idea drew an imaginary line between Zionist nationalism and Jewish sovereignty in the Bible.

The leap in time makes it possible to base the demand for Jewish ownership of the territory while wiping out the history of the land and its Arab inhabitants.

One of the first to point out the problems with this way of thinking was Yosef Meyhuhas, Rabbi Rahamim Natan’s son. He spent his childhood in Silwan, where he got to know the Arab-Palestinian tradition, which became an integral part of his own culture.

For many years he helped translate the Palestinian Arabic tradition into Hebrew, in an attempt to forge a connection between the Jewish newcomers and the indigenous Arabs.

In the introduction of his 1919 book on Palestinian peasant farmers he wrote: “One pervasive limitation inherent in us, the Jews from all walks of life, with respect to the land is that when we come to settle here we are trying to live our own life insofar as possible, without in the least considering the life of the people in it.”

As he put it, “Along with all the excellent qualities we developed during our time in the Diaspora, we also developed many qualities and customs on which the seal of the Diaspora is embossed and which are very, very far from our own independent Eastern Jewish virtues. It is these that we can restore and adopt for ourselves precisely by going deeply into the lives of the populace, the people who have always lived in the land and by precise study and inquiry into them and their essence.”

For many years Yosef Meyuhas, whom Elad has co-opted as a symbol, chided the Jews’ arrogance and alienation regarding the indigenous Arabs. Meyuhas was one of the most important translators and documenters of Palestinian Arab culture into Hebrew. He published scores of articles and books about the Palestinians and their way of life, customs and culture.

In his 1919 book he wrote: “The ways of these good neighbors, their qualities, way of life, conversations and stories have endeared me. They became a kind of girsa deyankuta [knowledge acquired as a child], and to this day I love them, as they always stir in me memories of the good days of my childhood.”

His most important work is the trilogy “Children of Arabia” (1927-1929), a compendium of translations of Bible stories from the local Arab oral tradition. Meyuhas proposed an unusual analysis of the relationship between the biblical text, the Arab inhabitants and the physical space of the land, and presented a political alternative to the doctrine that is still accepted in the Zionist narrative.

Instead of seeing the biblical text as a basis for the historical Jewish ownership of the land, he pointed out the shared Muslim-Jewish tradition of the biblical text. Relying on the traditions shaped over generations, Meyuhas questioned the exclusive Jewish ownership of the biblical text and, by extension, of the land.

About 75 years after his death, the only opportunity students have to learn about Meyuhas is an organized tour in the City of David.

But they won’t hear about the shared Hebrew-Arabic space into which he was born and which he nurtured. When school groups stop in front of the Meyuhas home, with an Israeli flag flying from a window, they’ll be told about the place where the project of the return to the City of David and the dispossession of the Palestinians began.

Instead of protesting the prize to Be’eri, one should embark on a journey to reshape the Jews’ connection to the soil in a way that respects the history of the place and its inhabitants, thereby continuing the path of Yosef Meyuhas.

NETHERLANDS: This Is Amsterdam, Enjoy Amsterdam

You can spend a long weekend in this Dutch gem, with the help of direct flights and walking shoes. But it may leave you wanting more.

When we first discussed a trip to Amsterdam last year, I pictured long walks beside quiet canals, street vendors selling tulips and gabled guildhalls from the 17th century.

But here we were on our first morning in the Dutch capital, on a steel catwalk above a cavernous warehouse, peering down at the crazy din of 20 million flowers on their way to market.

This was the FloraHolland auction center — the world’s largest floral clearinghouse, a depot bigger than 200 football fields, a hub where jumbo jets and robots move half of the cut flowers sold in the world each day.

It was a spellbinding operation. Hundreds of electric carts zipped across the warehouse floor, piloted by clerks holding bar-coded order sheets and towing long trains of gardenias, tulips, roses, chrysanthemums, orchids and flowers we couldn’t identify. They picked up orders, they dropped off consignments — imagine a Pixar movie choreographed by Busby Berkeley.

It was easily a highlight of our trip, but it also turned out to be an accidental metaphor for the Netherlands. For five centuries, this society has combined a talent for beauty with a genius for commerce — and the result is a city that is modern and efficient yet imbued with warmth and charm.

But then the entire trip was something of an accident.

In a strange, busy year of travel, my wife and I had passed through Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport several times — usually sleep-deprived and always groggy. Each time we found it bright, friendly, well organized and glowing with tulips. It was so inviting that it hatched a crazy thought: Why not make Amsterdam the destination for a long weekend? It’s a direct flight from MSP. Schiphol has good, fast public transit into town. And Amsterdam’s compact historic city center makes it an easy walking vacation.

Of course you can’t see all of Amsterdam’s important attractions in three days. But you can take in some major sights — the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, the Anne Frank House, one or two of Amsterdam’s “hidden churches,” and, yes, the Red Light district — while slowly soaking up the vibe of this gracious, cosmopolitan city.

Our base of operations was the Jordaan, a residential neighborhood northwest of the city’s core. It’s just a 15-minute walk from the center of town, Dam Square, but it’s also a quiet retreat from the bustle of central Amsterdam. We found the Jordaan’s main avenues lined with cafes, taverns, bookshops and bakeries — the perfect neighborhood to come home to at the end of a busy day.

To say that Amsterdam is modern and efficient, however, is not to say you can’t get lost. Organized around a set of concentric, U-shaped canals and crisscrossed by tram lines and boulevards, it can be completely baffling to a newcomer.

Our first taxi driver dropped us off at the head of a lane too narrow for his minivan and pointed toward our apartment: “That way. Fifty meters.” Hah! After asking directions five times from five locals — each of them cheerful, confident and completely wrong — we finally found our street, tiny Tweede Leliedwarsstraat.

We had much the same experience the next day, when we hoped to take the tram to a museum. Again, the natives were friendly and misinformed. (“This line, but opposite direction.’’ “No, wrong tram — you have to cross that intersection.” “No, the tram doesn’t go there. You must take a bus.”)

But once you get your bearings it’s an easy city to navigate, and strolling along the canals and bridges was the perfect way to take in the fabled architecture and absorb the city’s extraordinary history.

Amsterdam came to power in the 17th century, when its talent for trade and banking made it a colonial power and the richest city in the world. Wealthy merchants built magnificent gabled homes and sponsored the painters who gave the Renaissance its northern sequel: Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals.

A good walking tour would start at Dam Square, where the city’s founders dammed the Amstel river (“Amstel-dam”), then erected the magnificent New Church, now an exhibition center, and what became the Royal Palace. From here, head west to the Herengracht (the canal of the gentlemen), where Amsterdam’s worthies built their elegant row houses, which now compete for the flaneur’s eye with an infinite variety of decorative facades.

A separate district to the south, organized around a plaza called the museumplein, houses Amsterdam’s great art collections. An essential stop is the Rijkmuseum, where an audio guide will introduce you to the world’s greatest collection of Dutch paintings while sparing you from Old Master overload.

Just across the plaza from the Rijksmuseum is the Van Gogh Musuem, a second essential stop. This sleek, modern building houses more than 200 paintings, including an entire sequence of the great Van Gogh self-portraits.

It also presents surprising insights into Van Gogh the man, a deeply literate guy who wrote hundreds of letters to his brother Theo and others, in which he mused on poetry, painting and religion.

The Netherlands’ wealth and location also made it a crossroads for every conquering power that marched across Europe.

Though a famously tolerant city, it succumbed to the religious wars triggered by the Reformation and became home to a form of Protestantism so strict that Catholics had to worship in “hidden churches.”

You can still tour a few of these, and while they lack the grandeur of the city’s baroque chapels, they convey the humility and devotion of people living in a time of raging passions.

Four centuries later, it was the Nazis who descended on the Netherlands. The enlightened country had been a refuge for Europe’s Jews since the Spanish Inquisition (the great philosopher Baruch Spinoza was born in Amsterdam); Hitler deported more than 100,000 Dutch Jews to the concentration camps.

I thought I knew the Anne Frank story pretty well, but nothing quite prepares you for a visit to the house where she and her family hid from the Gestapo between 1942 and 1944. Exploring the hidden staircases and cramped attic rooms gives you a palpable sense of the anxiety and dread that fell over Europe as fascism spread.

Amsterdam remains an open-minded city — even if hashish cafes are the current hallmark of tolerance — and it is one of the most cosmopolitan in Europe. We ate croissants for breakfast, gyros for lunch and Indonesian rice tafel (do not miss!) for dinner.

Amsterdam’s history as a global trading crossroads shows up in retailing as well: The “Nine Streets” district is lined with inviting shops and small boutiques, with clothing from Paris to Kazakhstan, where shopping is a blast even if you never buy a thing.

Still, my favorite pastime in this gracious city was simply walking.

On our last morning, my friend Hap and I set aside an hour to wander the canals and cobbled lanes of our neighborhood (by now, we were confident that we could actually find our way back to the apartment).

We happily crisscrossed bridges, watched a stonemason repair an old church, and looked on as canalboats tied up for the day. The hour passed far too quickly, and we left for the airport feeling that, well, maybe three days in Amsterdam wasn’t quite enough.

NETHERLANDS: The Netherlands Tourism

The Netherlands is located in Europe, in Western Europe, and borders to Germany in the East and Belgium in the South. The northern and western part of the country border the North Sea, which means the country has a large coastal area where you'll find beautiful beaches, boulevards and lots of tourism.

If you look at the map above you'll notice there are some islands in the North, these islands are called the Wadden Islands. The five most western islands belong to the Netherlands, the ones to the east to Germany. These islands are very popular with as well Dutch as foreign tourists.

In 2014 the Netherlands was visited by 13.9 million foreign tourists, with nearly 4 million coming from Germany.In 2012, the Dutch tourism industry contributed 5.4% in total to the country's GDP and 9.6% in total to its employment.

With its global ranking of 147th and 83rd place for total contribution to respectively GDP and employment, tourism is a relatively small sector of the Dutch economy.

Visitors To Netherlands In 2014 were from the following countries:

Germany - 3,894,000
United Kingdom - 1,857,000
Belgium - 1,828,000
United States - 991,000
France - 725,000
Italy - 503,000
Spain - 406,000
Switzerland - 256,000
China - 249,000
Russia - 196,000
Total foreign 13,925,000


Amsterdam is the capital city and most populous city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The city is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, receiving more than 4.63 million international visitors annually, excluding the 16 million day trippers visiting the city every year.

The most important museums of Amsterdam are located on the Museumplein (Museum Square), at the southwestern side of the Rijksmuseum.

Considered to be the cultural and financial capital of the country, Amsterdam is known for its historic canals, which earned it the monniker Venice of the North, as well as a host of historic buildings and state of the art facilities.

Amsterdam is famous for its vibrant and diverse nightlife centred around the Leidseplein and the Rembrandtplein. The Paradiso, Melkweg and Sugar Factory are cultural centres, which turn into discothèques at night.

Main sights and events of interest include:

- The Canals of Amsterdam, 100 kilometres of canals, about 90 islands and 1,500 bridges.
- The Rijksmuseum is the largest museum and one of the national museums of the Netherlands.
- The Van Gogh Museum specialises in works by Vincent van Gogh.
- The Stedelijk Museum specialises in modern art.
- The Anne Frank House, a museum based around the life of Anne Frank located in the house where she and her family lived.
- The Hermitage Amsterdam, a dependency of the Hermitage Museum of Saint Petersburg.
- The Tropenmuseum, anthropological museum.
- The NEMO, the science museum in a building that looks like a sinking ship.
- The Verzetsmuseum, the Amsterdam resistance museum.
- The Joods Historisch Museum, The Jewish Historical Museum collects objects and works of art associated with the religion, culture and history of the Jews in the Netherlands and its former colonies.
- The Nederlands Scheepvaart Museum, a museum about Dutch maritime history. Reopened on 1 October 2011 after renovations lasting since January 2007.
- The Royal Palace, former town hall, built in 1648.
- The red-light district or De Wallen, a network of alleys containing about 300 one-room cabins rented by prostitutes who offer their sexual services from behind a window or glass door, typically illuminated with red lights.


The city of Rotterdam is known for the Erasmus University, its riverside setting, lively cultural life and maritime heritage.

The near-complete destruction of Rotterdam's city centre during World War II has resulted in a varied architectural landscape including skyscrapers, which are an uncommon sight in other Dutch cities.

Rotterdam is home to some world-famous architecture by renowned architects like Rem Koolhaas, Piet Blom, and Ben van Berkel, and was voted 2015 European City of the Year by the Academy of Urbanism.

The port of Rotterdam is the largest cargo port in Europe, and its extensive distribution system including rail, roads and waterways has earned Rotterdam the nickname "Gateway to Europe", and conversely "Gateway to the World" in Europe.

Sights and events are:

- Diergaarde Blijdorp, one of the oldest and largest zoos in the Netherlands.
- North Sea Jazz, an annual music festival held on the second weekend of July at the Ahoy venue, and acknowledged as the "biggest indoor jazz festival in the world"
- Rotterdam Centraal railway station
- Summer Carnival, a large carnival parade organised by the Dutch Caribbean community
- Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, an art museum with a collection ranging from medieval to contemporary art, with works of Rembrandt, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, and Salvador Dalí
- The port of Rotterdam, the largest cargo port in Europe
- The Cube houses, a set of innovative houses built by tilting the cube of a conventional house by 45 degrees.
- The Dutch Architecture Institute, a cultural institute for architecture and urban development.
- The Wereldmuseum, an ethnographic museum showing more than 1800 ethnographic objects from various cultures in Asia, Oceania, Africa, the Americas and the Islamic world.
- Maritime Museum Rotterdam, a maritime museum dedicated to naval history.
- The historical shipyard and museum Scheepswerf "De Delft" where the reconstruction of ship of the line Delft can be visited


Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands and was the most important city in the northern Netherlands until the Dutch Golden Age, which is reflected in its ancient city centre which features many buildings and structures, several dating back to the High Middle Ages.

The centre of the city houses the Oudegracht, a curved canal lined with the unique wharf-basement structures that create a two-level street along the canals.

Utrecht has been the religious centre of the Netherlands since the 8th century, and houses both the Archbishop of Utrecht and the offices of the Dutch Reformed Church

As such Utrecht's cityscape is dominated by churches and other clerical buildings, the largest of which is the Dom Tower, the tallest belfry in the Netherlands.

Partly due to the presence of Utrecht University, the largest university in the Netherlands, the city has a vibrant night life.

Sights And Events:

- Dom Tower, a 112.5 metre (369 feet) high Gothic-style tower and symbol of the city. The tower was part of the Cathedral of Saint Martin, Utrecht, also known as Dom Church, and was built between 1321 and 1382.
- Railway Museum, a museum housing many historic trains and locomotives.
- Museum Catharijneconvent, a museum showing the history of Christian culture and arts in the Low Countries.
- Centraal Museum, an art museum housing a varied collection of both historical and modern art, including a permanent exhibition on the Dutch cultural icon Nijntje, better known internationally as Miffy.
- Letters of Utrecht, an endless poem.
- Utrecht Centraal, the main railway station of Utrecht, is the largest and busiest in the Netherlands, with over 900 trains arriving and departing each day.
- Rietveld Schröder House, a world heritage site and one of the best-known examples of De Stijl architecture.
- Royal Dutch Mint, the only Dutch entity authorised to strike and issue coins.
- Museum Speelklok, a museum housing the world's largest collection of automatically playing musical instruments.

The Hague

The Hague is the seat of the Dutch government and parliament, the Supreme Court, and the Council of State.

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands lives at the Huis ten Bosch and works at the Noordeinde Palace in The Hague, together with Queen Máxima.

Most foreign embassies in the Netherlands and 150 international organisations are located in the city, including the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, which makes The Hague one of the major host cities of the United Nations, along with New York and Geneva.

The district of Scheveningen, formerly an independent village, is known for its modern seaside resort with a long sandy beach, esplanade, pier and historic lighthouse.

The beach is popular for water sports such as windsurfing and kiteboarding.

Sights And Events:

- Binnenhof is the oldest House of Parliament in the world still in use, located in the city centre next to the Hofvijver lake. It houses the meeting place of both houses of the States General of the Netherlands, as well as the Ministry of General Affairs and the office of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Located within the complex is the Ridderzaal, which houses the Dutch throne.
- Noordeinde Palace and Huis ten Bosch, two of the three official palaces of the Dutch royal family.
- Kurhaus, a beachfront hotel and one of the few remaining Grand Hotels built during the Belle Époque.
- Museon, a museum of science and culture with large collections in the domains of geology, biology, archaeology, history, science and ethnology.
- Paard van Troje ("Trojan Horse"), one of the largest music venues of the Netherlands.
- The Mauritshuis, an art museum housing the Royal Cabinet of Paintings, which consists of 841 objects, mostly Dutch Golden Age paintings. The collection contains works by Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt van Rijn, Jan Steen, Paulus Potter, Frans Hals, Hans Holbein the Younger, and others.
- Madurodam, an iconic miniature park home to a range of 1:25 scale model replicas of famous Dutch landmarks, historical cities and large developments.
- Peace Palace , a building often called "the seat of international law" because it houses the International Court of Justice, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Hague Academy of International Law, and the extensive Peace Palace Library.
- Prinsjesdag, the day on which the reigning King of the Netherlands addresses a joint session of the Dutch Parliament in the Knights Hall with the "Speech from the Throne". It includes an eleborate ceremonial procession, in which the King is seated in the Golden Coach.

Nijmegen, Gelderland

• Historic old town, former imperial residence of the Holy Roman Empire and member of the Hanseatic league.
• Ancient Roman remains .
• Valkhof museum, focussing on Roman and medieval history.
• Velorama, a bicycle museum.
• Four Days Marches, the largest marching event in the world.

Bergen op Zoom, North Brabant

• The fortified city of Bergen op Zoom has existed for over 800 years. Bergen op Zoom, this is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands . Bergen op Zoom has more than 800 historic buildings that form a unique backdrop to many shops, cafes and cozy restaurants. The narrow streets and old squares around the monuments around to tell you the story of a rich and eventful life . The center has more than 600 monuments, of which over 200 are on the monument list. The most striking monument is the Markiezenhof , the former residential palace of the Lords and Marquises of Bergen op Zoom. Today the Markiezenhof is used as a museum.

Delft, South Holland

• Historic old town.
• Delft Blue pottery.
• Nieuwe Kerk, the traditional burial place of the Dutch Royal Family and the second tallest church tower of the country.
• Het Prinsenhof, urban palace where William of Orange was murdered, now a museum.

's-Hertogenbosch, North Brabant

• Historic old town, including the Binnendieze the medieval canal system through and below the city.
• St. John's Cathedral, considered to be the zenith of Gothic architecture in the Netherlands.
• Yearly carnival celebrations.
• Bossche bol, a famous local pastry.

Brielle, South Holland

The history of Brielle as a city goes way back, when Brielle was elevated. The City got officially city rights in 1330. In 1418 the city was equipped with wooden vests, which were demolished in times of trouble to make fire beacons. Clay lining the walls arose after 1450.

Brielle, also called Den Briel, has been immortalized in the Dutch language in many proverbs, ways of speaking and songs. Almost all of them refer to the events of April 1, 1572, when the Beggars took Brielle 'in the name of Orange'.

The Spaniards lost thus for the first time their authority in a Dutch town. After the Beggars quite easily had captured Brielle, they started replacing the medieval city walls by a modern fortress.

This process of renewal and replacement would last until 1713. In that year, the fortress came to completion.

Since then, little has changed at the fortress, allowing the defense, which is among the most important water and land fortifications in the Netherlands, still breathe the atmosphere of that time.

Maastricht, Limburg

• Historic old town, containing 1677 national heritage sites.
• Sint Servaasbrug, medieval stone footbridge across the Meuse river.
• Basilica of Our Lady, largest Romanesque church of the Netherlands, built in the 11th century.
• Bonnefanten Museum, a fine arts museum containing focussing on Early Dutch, Golden Age and Flemish Baroque paintings.

Leiden, South Holland

• Historic old town, including medieval canals and Gravensteen, a 13th-century fortress.
• Naturalis, one of the largest natural history museums in the world.
• Leiden University, the oldest university of the Netherlands.
• Hortus botanicus, one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world.
• Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, the National Museum of Antiquities.

Breda, North Brabant

• Historic old town.
• Breda Castle, traditional headquarters of the Royal Dutch Army and Koninklijke Militaire Academie.
• Grote Kerk, large medieval church built in the Brabantine Gothic style.
• Béguinage.

Dordrecht, South Holland

• Holland's oldest city is situated on wide rivers and lets you enjoy numerous monuments, historic inner harbors and above all a great atmosphere.

Walking or driving through the city, visit the Great Church and the Court, roam museum Huis van Gijn, watch your eyes to the many art and antique shops and meet Dutch masters in the Dordrecht Museum.

Dordrecht could develop the strategic location at the crossing of rivers in the Middle Ages to a flourishing trade city.

The lively trade in timber, grain and wine attracted merchants and craftsmen from far beyond the city limits.

The rich past is still palpable when you walk along the Old Town harbors, monuments, winding streets and walks of Dordrecht rivers.

Not to be missed are the Grote Kerk, the critically acclaimed collection of paintings of the Dordrecht Museum, the beautiful interiors of the old mansion house of Gijn and the thirteenth-century Augustinian monastery Court.

Enkhuizen, North Holland

• Historic old town.
• Former harbour-town of the Dutch East India Company.
• Zuiderzee Museum, an open-air museum dedicated to the cultural heritage of the Zuiderzee-region.

Gouda, South Holland

• Historic old town.
• Traditional Dutch cheese market.
• 15th century Town Hall, one of the oldest Gothic Halls in the Netherlands.
• Traditional foods, including Stroopwafels and Gouda cheese.

Alkmaar, North Holland

• Historic old town.
• Traditional Dutch cheese market.
• The only remainining functional Waag of the country.

Groningen, Groningen

• Historic old town.
• Martinitoren
• Near the coast of the Wadden Sea, the only natural world heritage site of the country.

Amersfoort, Utrecht

• Historic old town.
• The ancient Koppelpoort, part of the city wall
• The Onze Lieve Vrouwetoren, the third tallest church tower of the country.

Haarlem, North Holland

• Historic old town.
• The Grote Markt square with the Grote Kerk.
• Near the popular seaside resort of Zandvoort

The Netherlands has 20 national parks, consisting of natural terrains, water and/or forests, with a special landscape and flora and fauna.

The tourism industry of the Netherlands is focused on North Holland, where the country's largest airport Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is located. Given the relatively small size of the Netherlands, it is easily possible to travel to locations in South Holland within an hour. These two provinces constitute the majority of the densely populated Randstad, where the largest cities are located. The other provinces of the Netherlands are much less popular with foreign tourists[21] and do not have as many tourist attractions. With a long coastline along the North Sea and its many lakes, the Netherlands offers plenty of opportunities for water sports and beach recreation.

North Holland
In North Holland the capital Amsterdam is the most visited city of the Netherlands, with 4.3 million foreign hotel guests.

It is home to the three most frequently visited museums of the country, respectively the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House and Rijksmuseum.

Several times a week events are being organized in the capital, like on Rembrandtplein, Leidseplein and Dam Square. For instance there is a National Tulip Day each year in January. Amsterdam's canal rings are a World Heritage Site.

The Netherlands is one of the few countries which tolerates the consumption of cannabis and has legalized prostitution. This has made Amsterdam a popular destination for drug tourists. According to research, 22.5% of tourists in Amsterdam have visited cannabis coffee shops.

The city's red light district called De Wallen was visited by 20% of tourists.

North of Amsterdam are the windmills of Zaanse Schans, as well as two former fishing villages, Volendam and Marken. These villages are frequented by tourists for their appeal to traditional life.

Alkmaar is known for its cheese market and old center. To the southeast of Amsterdam lies the Muiderslot, a castle. Further to the southeast is the town of Naarden, with its very well-preserved star fort.

To the west lies Haarlem, the province's capital, a city notable for its historical legacy and old city center. Once important for its production of paintings, many of these are now exhibited in the Frans Hals Museum. West of Haarlem is the seaside resort of Zandvoort, which has an automobile racing circuit.

South Holland
In South Holland lies the Keukenhof, the world's largest flower garden. In 2013 it had 849,000 visitors, of whom 80% were foreign tourists.

Because the garden is only open for a few weeks during the spring, it receives the highest number of visitors of all Dutch attractions on a weekly basis.

A system of 19 windmills at Kinderdijk forms the largest concentration of windmills in the Netherlands and is designated as a World Heritage Site.

The Hague is the seat of the Dutch Government and the Dutch royal house. The Binnenhof and the Ridderzaal are government buildings which can be visited.

Close by is the Mauritshuis, an important art museum. Scheveningen is known for its beach and Madurodam, a miniature park. Leiden, north of The Hague, possesses an extensive historical center, as well as Naturalis and the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, respectively the national museums of natural history and archaeology in the Netherlands.

The Hortus Botanicus Leiden is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world. Further north are Noordwijk and Katwijk, both popular seaside resorts. The latter also has a narrow gauge railway museum.

To the south of The Hague lies Delft, which is known for its pottery and old center. The sole remaining pottery factory in Delft, De Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles, can be visited.

Also in the town is the Prinsenhof, now a museum of William the Silent, the founder of the modern Netherlands. Further south is Dordrecht, which also has a historic center.

Utrecht, the capital of the province of Utrecht, is one of the oldest cities of the Netherlands. One can climb the Dom Tower of Utrecht, the tallest church tower of the Netherlands at 112.5 metres (369 feet).

The city is also home to the Netherlands Railway Museum, housed in a former station, and the Musical Clock Museum. Kasteel de Haar and Slot Zuylen are castles which can be visited.

North Brabant
Near Kaatsheuvel lies Efteling, the largest theme park in the Netherlands and one of the oldest in the world. With 4.1 million visitors in 2011, it is by far the most visited attraction of the Netherlands.

In Eindhoven is the Effenaar, a popular music venue that attracts visitors. Den Bosch is a walled city with an old center.

The province of Gelderland is notable for its many castles, such as Slot Loevestein. Het Loo Palace near Apeldoorn served as the residence of the Dutch royal house, but is now a museum open to the public.

Nijmegen, the oldest city in the Netherlands, is a city with a historic center and is famous for the International Four Day March in July.

In Arnhem, the province's capital, is the Netherlands Open Air Museum, popular with tourists, while at Oosterbeek nearby is the Airborne Museum, dedicated to the Battle of Arnhem in 1944.

At low tide one can walk from the mainland of Friesland to the West Frisian Islands, which is called mudflat hiking.

Middelburg, the capital of the province of Zeeland, is a historic city. The province has several seaside resorts including Domburg.

The drug policies of the Netherlands are often viewed as pragmatic and soft by those nations seeking to impose stricter penalties on the sale and use of illicit drugs.

The pragmatic approach means that in case a problem is unsolvable, like the drug usage, it is better to control it then try to eradicate it and fail.

Many individuals in the Netherlands believe that the Dutch policies are working far better than the laws in many other countries, and have actually resulted in lower rates of abuse or at least less disturbance on the streets.

Much of this could be and is in fact often debated by lawmakers from various countries seeking to find a better way to deal with the problem.

For what it’s worth, let’s take a look at the Dutch drug policies, and what they do, and do not allow.

All Drugs Are Against the Law
That pretty much sums up what the law in the Netherlands states.

Drugs are neither encouraged nor legal.

However, there are a few differences in how those laws are enforced and carried out.

One such difference is in the coffee shop model. So, while many claim that drugs are accessible and not penalized in the Netherlands, it is not generally recommended to test out that theory.

They are in fact illegal, regardless of what you may have heard. There is however a tolerant policy which means you will not be prosecuted for having up to 5 grams of cannabis, they can however confiscate it.

Some of the accusations of non-enforcement come from the way lawmakers in the Netherlands view different types of drugs.

Cannabis is widely considered a “soft” drug, with very little negative effects, and is therefore not harshly pursued or prosecuted.

Cannabis is not legal but it is tolerated. The Dutch view is that harshly penalizing people, including young people, for their use of cannabis, will actually push them toward harder drugs.

Therefore, the offense for smoking cannabis in small amounts is minor, and does not result in a “record”, if in fact it is prosecuted at all.

Interestingly enough, the cultivation of cannabis is strictly illegal, but only selectively prosecuted. Only the large-scale importer and exporters are generally prosecuted.

Coffee shops in the Netherlands are known to be places where cannabis can be purchased and smoked in small doses: generally not more than five grams per person per day.

The shops are not allowed to advertise the sale of the so-called “soft” drug, and children under the age of 18 are not allowed to enter the coffee shops.

There are actually strict laws concerning the selling of this drug by the coffee shops: which seems odd since the drug is illegal in the first place.

However, the government seems to take the view that if people are only smoking a little in a safe and regulated environment, they will not feel the need to seek out drugs from those who are also selling “hard” narcotics as well.

There seems to be some indication that a softer approach to “soft” drugs is having a positive impact on the amount of drug use.

Contrary to what you might expect, there seems to be less of a problem with the purchase and smoking of cannabis in the Netherlands than in many other countries, including the ones directly surrounding them.

The number of various types of drugs is no greater then in other countries but more importantly the number of drug-related deaths is the lowest in Europe.

The pragmatic approach means that authorities can actually focus on the big criminals.

Visiting another country can be compared to entering into a sort of fantasy land, where new and delightful sights, smells, and sounds are blended with a strange and eccentric way of life – one that is quite different from what you’re used to. It’s one of the most exhilarating experiences ever; however, it can be intimidating to the uninitiated.

The Netherlands is no exception to this truth. It is an amazing country with an even more amazing culture. But if you’re not properly prepared, you could possibly find yourself confused by some of their common cultural tendencies.

For this purpose, I have put together a sort-of cultural strategy guide for your visit to the Netherlands. It should provided you with the major essentials you’ll want to know to be well prepared to enjoy all that the Dutch culture has to offer. While this may not be an exhaustive list, I’ve made every effort to include what will most likely matter the most.

As of March 9, 2011 the Netherlands has a population of 16,805,037. It is currently ranked as the 64th most populated country in the world.

Languages. The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch, and it is spoken by a vast majority of the country’s population. It closely resembles German and borrows terms from both French and English. The secondary language of the Netherlands is Friesian, which is spoken by approximately a half-million citizens of the Dutch province of Friesland.

The Dutch society as a whole is very independent and modern. Many believe in equality for all, yet focus on individuality more than community. They are considered a middle-class society.

The Netherlands has an advanced free market economy. The major sectors for employment are the agriculture, trade, and service industries.

Respect from other Dutch citizens is not garnered via age or association, but by hard work and acquired skills.

The Netherlands is one of the most secularized countries in Western Europe. Only about 39% of citizens claim to be religious, and of those 39% only 6% attend church on a regular basis.

There are currently two main religions prominent in Dutch society: Roman Catholic and Protestant. The Roman Catholics make up approximately 25% of the Dutch population, and Protestants make up approximately 15%.

Muslims make up 5% of the population. Buddhists make up 1%, and Hindus make up 0.9%.

Traditional Dutch cuisine is not very diverse. It’s very simple and straightforward. The traditional Dutch meal consists of a lot of vegetables with a little meat.

The average Dutch household prepares food from other cultures as well. The major influences are Italian, Chinese, Mediterranean and Indonesian.

These same influences, and others, can be found among the Netherlands selection of dine-out restaurants as well.

Breakfast typically consists of a slice of bread with various toppings like different cheeses, peanut butter, treacle, and chocolate spread.

While lunch can include the same foods as breakfast, often times there will be sandwiches with different cold cuts and cheeses – Gouda, Edam, and Leyden.

Dinners in the Netherlands are typically a two or three-course meal consisting of soup as an appetizer, potatoes with a large portion of vegetables and a small portion of meat as the main course, and pastries or cookies for dessert.

Stamppot or stew is a traditional winter meal and snert (pea soup) is often times the soup of choice for dinner.

Culinary Staples. The Netherlands is famous for its cheese. Gouda, Edam, and Leyden are known worldwide, and Alkmaar is a town famous for its cheese market. Salted herring is another staple to the Dutch. Other staples include hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles), stroopwafel (caramel waffle cookies), French fries and mayonnaise, and pffertjes (small, thick pancakes).

Breakfast is served first thing in the morning between 6 and 8 A.M. Lunch is typically served 12 and 1 P.M. And dinner usually starts around 6 P.M. (early by international standards.)

Tea time is a combination culinary and social event. It typically takes place either between breakfast and lunch (10 to 11 A.M.) or lunch and dinner (4 to 5 P.M.).

Tea time involves inviting friends and/or neighbors over for a spot of tea or coffee and a single biscuit or cookie.

It is considered rude to leave the table during dinner for any reason, whether it is to take a phone call, use the bathroom, etc.

At the start of a meal, take a smaller portion. You will be asked if you would like a second portion. It is always polite to accept this offer for second portion.

In the Netherlands, it is polite to leave your hands on the table while eating. However, you still want to make sure you do not rest your elbows on the table.

While Dutch etiquette closely mirrors that of the rest of the Western world, there are certain traits and practices specific to Dutch citizens.

Keep in mind that what you’re about to read below may not be practiced in all areas and by all people. Instead, consider it a general guide to showcasing proper etiquette in a majority of circumstances and situations.

The Dutch either shake hands upon greeting and departing, or, if they have a close bond with the person, kiss the cheek three times, starting with the left cheek. A simple accompanying “hello” will suffice.

Don’t be surprised if a dinner with a Dutch friend is scheduled six weeks in advance. The Dutch live by schedules and are strict on adhering to them. There’s no such thing as stopping by someone’s home. It needs to first be agreed upon by the other party, and then properly placed into the schedule.

Dutch citizens are very straightforward and direct. What some people would call rudeness, they call it “openness.” They tell it like it is – honest and straight to the point. It’s not meant to be rude, it’s just their particular style.

The Dutch maintain strong eye contact when conversing with others.

They are also very direct in their speech. Criticism is welcome, and most Dutch are not easily offended.

Do not be surprised if you greet a person in Dutch and they respond in English. The Dutch are very proficient at speaking foreign languages and they can easily pick up on foreign dialects.

While the Dutch have nothing against becoming wealthy, it is typically seen as a negative character trait if you publicly spend large sums of money.

You are labeled as a “show off.” Also, never ask someone how much money they make.

To put it bluntly, the Dutch can be impatient and rude on the road. Gestures, honks, and expletives are commonplace in many areas, and swift lane changes are also the norm.

In other words, be prepared for an adventure if driving through the Netherlands.

Gift giving. If you’re invited to a Dutch home, it is customary to bring a gift for the hostess. The most acceptable gifts include flowers which is always an odd number, and never thirteen, a book, quality chocolates, or a potted plant.

The Dutch typically have a wine already chosen for the meal, so bringing a bottle as a gift is uncommon.

Sports are a very important part of life for many Dutch citizens. There are currently over 35,000 operational sports clubs in the Netherlands and approximately 28% of the population is active members in these clubs.

Furthermore, there are still more of the population who are not members, yet are still very active in sports.

The major sports of the Netherlands in order of popularity are football, cycling, and speed skating.

Football is a way of life more many sports fans in the Netherlands.

The Royal Dutch Football Association is the most revered football federation in the country and was one of the founding members of FIFA.

Throughout the years, the Dutch have achieved several accolades for football, such as three bronze medals in the Olympics and three FIFA World Cup finals appearances.

Johan Crujiff is the country’s most revered football player.

The Dutch’s cycling boom started in the late 1890s and took off in the early 1900s.

In 1928, the Royal Dutch Cycling Union was formed and cycling soon became a premier sport in the Netherlands, and has maintained its status ever since.

There have been two Dutch Tour de France winners in Jan Janssen and Joop Zoetemelk, and seven have been crowned World Champion. No matter the terrain, open road, off trail, or track, cycling is still very popular.

Speed Skating. While footballs and bicycles take center stage for most of the year, when winter hits, speed skating becomes the undisputed king of sports.

While the Dutch experienced some success in the early 1900s, it wasn’t until the 1960s, when speed skating titles became the norm for Dutch athletes, that the sport took off with the rest of the country.

It hasn’t slowed down since. During the winter months it’s normal to overhear conversations about speed skaters, along with seeing fellow citizens strapping on a pair of skates for a race.

Other sports. While football, cycling, and speed skating are the main focus for Dutch’s sports enthusiasts, there are still other sports that remain fairly popular and are worth mentioning: basketball, baseball, volleyball, field hockey, cricket, rugby, and korfball.

The Netherlands is world-renowned for its number of art and historical museums, along with its impressive collection of fine art.

The most prolific period for Dutch art was the Golden Age (17th century), where the Baroque style, inherited from the Italians, became the basis for several Dutch masterpieces.

The next resurgence began in the twentieth century with modern art and continues to flourish today. International art festivals occur year-round and draw big crowds from all over the world.

Dutch architecture also became prominent during the Golden Age, where Baroque-style buildings were considered the norm.

The end of the nineteenth century saw a resurgence of Gothic Revival architecture, and modern architecture found its place, starting in the 20th century. The vast array of buildings offers a magnificent view of varying historical styles that span centuries.

MTraditional Dutch music consists of simple melodies and rhymes that focus on central emotional themes like loneliness, happiness, and sadness.

Today, popular culture is fixated on Nederpop (pop music), electronic/trance, and Nederhop (Dutch Hip-Hop).

Classical and orchestral scores are also very popular, and Jan Sweelinck is still considered the most prolific composer in Dutch’s illustrious musical history.

Other popular genres include folk, jazz, and various types of metal.

The Netherlands has its own unique form of cabaret that is aimed more at provoking thought on social and political themes, instead of laughter. Cabaret shows can be found in most cities and even on some television networks.

The Netherlands is a hot bed for annual events in all different kinds of niches and markets, and the locals love to attend.

For art there’s the Maastricht Art Show in the first half of March.

The Amsterdam Roots Festival in June showcases music from the Netherlands and other parts of the world. For techno lovers, the FFWD Dance Parade is held in August. And Sinterklaas comes in December.