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Monthly Archives: January 2017

Sightseeing in the Caribbean

The Caribbean comprises of over 700 islands, islets, reefs and cays. The region is renowned for its diversity of terrestrial and marine flora and fauna amongst which is eight percent of the world’s coral reefs. With all these natural resources at its disposal, the region offers unparalleled sightseeing opportunities. Additionally many historic landmarks going back several centuries add to the sightseeing experience.

One of the most enduring pictures of the Caribbean is its gorgeous beachfront scenery from pristine white sand dotted with palm trees to the pink sands of the Bahamas, the black sand of St Lucia lapped at by clear warm blue water. Although some Caribbean beaches are a little rougher than others, they all provide sightseers with stunning views, idyllic places to laze in the sun and valuable opportunities to indulge in some water sports.

Lakes, rivers, waterfalls, forests and natural landmarks of the Caribbean isles are the other much lauded attractions. Among them are active and dormant volcanoes in the Lesser Anitilles group of islands. The most visited is probably La Soufriere the ‘drive in’ active volcano in St Lucia. The regions’ different forest types with flowering plants and tree species are also a joy to explore. Many have hiking trails. St John’s National Park in US Virgin Islands and El Yunque the 28,000 acre rainforest in Puerto Rico are some of these. Limestone caves are also among the popular natural attractions here while Harrison’s Cave in Barbados is one of the most visited. The largest of its kind, visitors board an electric tram to explore the vast cave system that has spectacular stalactites and stalagmites, a 40 foot waterfall and clear pools and streams.

Among the waterfalls is Diamond Mineral Falls in St Lucia. The result of underground sulphur springs, the waterfall is famous for changing colours throughout the day. Dunn’s River Falls Jamaica, a series of waterfalls dropping from 600 feet is a very popular natural attraction.

The Caribbean’s coastal and underwater scenery as well as marine life is probably its biggest attraction. The caverns and tidal pools among the huge boulders by the sea in the British Virgin Islands referred to as The Baths is a favourite with snorkelers and explorers. Sting Ray City in the Grand Caymans where divers encounter hundreds of tame stingrays at 12 feet has been an extremely popular sightseeing destination for a long time. Non divers get to ride out to a sand bar to snorkel or just stand in the shallow water among the sting rays. Bio Bay a shallow bay surrounded by mangrove forests in Vieques is famous for its micro organisms that emit a blue green light reportedly stronger than a flashlight. Sightseers can swim, kayak or take a trip on an electric boat to see this astounding sight. Buck Island Reef in St Croix has been called ‘the finest marine garden in the Caribbean Sea’. This extraordinary coral reef system is made up of several species of hard coral supports more than 250 species of fish and other marine creatures including leatherback, green and hawks bill turtles. One of the most prominent underwater sights however is the Belize Great Barrier Reef, the longest in the Americas.

The abundance of colonial historic sites means that the Caribbean offers some of the most interesting historic sightseeing. The colonial cities of Havana, Trinidad, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the fortifications of St Juan Puerto Rico, the city of Willemstad in Curacao, St Kitts Brimstone Hill Fortress and the town of St George in Bermuda are the most prominent Caribbean historic destinations. The sites date from end of the 15th century to the 17th and 18th centuries.

Accessed only by boat, Parrot Cay Turks and Caicos provides much sought after privacy and seclusion and offers a thousand ha area and a mile long beach to explore and enjoy the sun and sea. As the only Turks and Caicos beach resort guests can enjoy spacious modern accommodation and a relaxed lifestyle. This Turks and Caicos Luxury resorts offers exceptional services and facilities and Asian inspired therapies to sooth, restore and nourish and guests leave knowing they have had a one of a kind holiday experience.

The Mirror Wall in Sigiriya

Sigiriya said to be the capital of a 5th century monarch of Sri Lanka is noted as one of the best preserved examples of urban planning anywhere in the world. It is also known for its frescos, water, boulder and terraced gardens and the mirror wall. In its heyday this wall is said to have been so highly polished that the king could see a clear image of himself in it.

The mirror wall is by a two meter wide walkway leading to the main entrance and through it to the top of the rock. It is protected from the elements by a rocky overhang. The wall also protects the outer edge of the narrow walkway. The lime, plaster and brick masonry wall, burnished to a high degree was apparently built to reflect the frescos on the opposite wall. It remains burnished to this day with surface texture, colour and evenness of paint applied long ago remaining almost intact. The wall is also perfectly vertical and smooth and its curvature hardly noticeable, that it looks flat to the casual observer. While the techniques used to achieve the sheen and its quality of construction are highly appreciated, its value is in the verses scratched on to it by the many ancient visitors who wished to leave some record of their trip to a fabulous historical site.

The first verses were apparently scratched on to the wall between the 6th and 7th centuries CE. A total of 1500 writings have now been deciphered and they include jottings all the way up to the 14th century. These casual writings are now considered some of the earliest works of poetry in Sinhala and are of outstanding literary value. They also offer a commentary on society through the centuries and a record of the people who wrote them, the language and modes of expression. Many of the writings are dedicated to the ladies in the frescos while others are about those who came to Sigiriya to view the art, architecture and garden design. It is interesting that as long ago as 1400 years Sigiriya was considered a special place well worth visiting.

Stay in a site redolent with history at one of the hotels Sigiriya while having easy access to many of the country’s other cultural gems. Enjoy spacious and modern accommodation at this hotel in Sigiriya and facilities and services that include relaxing ayurvedic spa therapies, dining on locally sourced fresh produce, onsite leisure facilities and a range of outdoor activities that include elephant treks and hikes through rural landscapes and hot air ballooning. As one of longstanding and prominent hotels Sigiriya guests are assured of comforts and services that are second to none.

The Arabic Museum of Modern Art

The Arabic Museum of Modern Art or Mathaf as it is popularly known is the first institution in Qatar to offer modern and contemporary art from an Arab perspective. The exhibits are intended to inspire creativity and bring forth new ideas.

Housed temporarily in 5,500 sq meters of a converted school building in Doha’s Education City complex it holds a collection of more than 6000 paintings, sculptures and mixed media work from every Arab country. The works are displayed in twelve galleries and in the grounds of the museum. The collection offers an overview of modern art in the Middle East from the mid 19th century to the present. It was donated by the artist and collector Sheik Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali al Thani to the Qatar Foundation and was acquired by the Qatar Museum Authority. Mathaf was opened to the public in 2010.

Visitors are introduced to the art works straight away with many large sculptures being displayed in the museum’s forecourt. A granite sculpture entitled Guardian of the Fertile Crescent, featuring two seated figures is the most imposing piece of work in the museum forecourt. The Ship, a sculpture in pink and black granite adorned with bronze animal, bird, plant and human sculptures is another impressive work displayed in the forecourt.

Inside is a soaring well lit lobby that leads to a succession of galleries. In addition to the 6000 works in the permanent collection are paintings, sculpture, photographs, video, multimedia installations and interactive digital art commissioned by Mathaf from 23 artists with connections to the Arab world. The themes addressed in the multitude of works range from family, politics and society to 20th century civic struggles in the Arab World. Cityscapes, portraits and text based art also features prominently. Artists from around the Arab World are represented here and the eclectic collection has something that appeals to everyone.

Works displayed according to themes include Doha featuring paintings by artists who have stayed in the city, Individualism showcases self portraits and portraits of influential Arab personalities, Horoufiyah portrays works using Arabic letters as abstract forms, City, features streetscapes of the region, Struggle, features upheavals and protests in modern Arab history.

The museum holds exhibitions throughout the year to showcase the work of new and well known Qatari and regional artists.

The museum premises have a book and souvenir shop, an outdoor cafe, a library, an artist’s workshop and research facilities.

Kingsgate Hotel Doha offers an excellent location with easy access to city attractions, business and shopping areas. This Doha Qatar hotel that is more of an apart-hotel offers a selection of guest rooms and suites with fully equipped kitchenettes in additional to standard room equipment. Stay at this hotel Doha to enjoy its many convenient features suited for business or leisure visits.

Oman Adventure Sports

The benefits of sports have been expounded at length by enthusiasts and scientists and every year, new advantages of such activities are being constantly discovered. Such benefits often include mental advantages such as an improved confidence, stress related benefits while sports also benefit physically by helping you lose weight, improve posture and body shape.

Engaging in sporting endeavours as a child would also have helped develop a number of social benefits such as meeting people and making friends as well as personal qualities such as co-operation and a degree of healthy competitiveness. Nevertheless, even after you become an adult, these benefits do not cease. As a result, when visiting a country especially like Oman, whether you are visiting the state for business or pleasure, engaging in some healthy sporting activities will definitely not harm you and will add variety to your holiday.

For instance, the mountainous terrain of Oman as well as its deserts, offer tourists, travellers, businessmen and explorers with the option of engaging in a number of activities. Thus, one such obvious choice is definitely hiking and trekking. The terrain of the state allows for a number of beautiful trekking trails around its mountains and depending on your competency, a trail can easily be found for your convenience. This is true especially in the Western Hajar Mountains, an important eco region location found a stunning two thousand meters above sea level and is the only one of its kind in the sub-continent.

Other options in terms of sporting ventures include abseiling, mountain biking, kayaking and of course, for the truly adventurous: rock climbing. The vicinity of the Arabian ocean also gives Oman a home advantage in terms of sporting options and gives their guests the choice of water sports as well. As the coastal waters are fairly well preserved, guests can choose to enjoy beautiful coral reefs that dot the coast via diving or snorkelling from Muscat, the Daminiyat Islands and even Musandam.

For those who want to reside in a Muscat hotel which enjoys proximity to the ocean, the Millennium Resort Mussanah is definitely an option worth consideration. This Oman Muscat hotel boasts of spectacular views of the Gulf of Oman and the Hajar Mountains and offers its guests the privilege of unwinding on a private beach as well.