Emirates’ First Class is Becoming Even More classier

Emirates is overhauling its first-class offering, reducing the number of available berths, as it seeks to cater to the world’s wealthiest travelers amid slowing growth.

The airline’s new premium section, to be featured on its Boeing Co. 777-300ERs, will have six private suites instead of eight, Emirates said in an e-mailed statement. The cabins will be presented in November sporting “a totally fresh new look,” said Tim Clark, Emirates president.

Emirates, which has been developing new first-class cabins for several years, has been hit by falling demand from premium Gulf passengers and industry-wide concerns about terrorism. To cope with some of the toughest operating conditions in its 30-year history, Emirates is revamping the bars on its Airbus SE A380s, mulling a premium-economy class for the first time and considering introducing narrow-bodies to its all-widebody fleet in cooperation with low-cost sister carrier FlyDubai.

The smaller cabins come just after Qatar Airways announced its Qsuite, a new business-class section with double-beds that morph into meeting rooms. The market for the most expensive seats on an aircraft is at a crossroads, with many carriers either scaling back first-class offerings, while others such as Etihad Airways are taking the opposite approach by adding three-room cabins.

Emirates, which is also known for onboard showers, will show its new first-class cabins and the corresponding routes at the biennial Dubai Airshow.

Emirates to start flights to Zagreb, Croatia from June 2017

Emirates has announced plans to begin daily flights to the Croatian capital Zagreb later this year.

The airline said the new Boeing 777-300 service to Franjo Tuđman (Pleso) International Airport would begin from June 1.

It first began its commercial presence in Croatia in 2003.

“We are also committed to our contribution to growing the trade and tourism flows between Croatia and Dubai, as well as encouraging incoming tourism from the Middle East and Asia Pacific, where Emirates operates 45 destinations,” said Thierry Antinori, Emirates’ EVP and CCO.

Flight EK129 will depart Dubai at 8:15am and arrive in Zagreb at 12:20pm.

Return journey EK130 will depart Zagreb at 3:35pm and arrive in Dubai at 11:05pm.

Emirates will offer 12 first class, 42 business class and 310 economy class seats on each flight with 16 tonnes of cargo.

The airline said it expected the new daily service to benefit travellers in neighbouring Slovenia and regions of Hungary and Austria.

Emirates also recently announced plans to serve its Narita route with an Airbus A380.

 

Zagreb, Croatia

Flights to Zagreb take culture-hungry travellers to a charming city where quaint cafes and locally owned restaurants line busy medieval streets. From the historic Upper Town to the attraction-packed Lower Town, the city embodies new European cool.

During the spring and summer months, venture beyond the capital to explore breath-taking national parks and go hiking in the mountains. You can also spend a few days in the city soaking up the culture – the Museum of Contemporary Art is a must – then head to Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, where you’ll find gorgeous Split. From there, swap the car for the sea and set sail to picturesque Hvar or Brac for a taste of the Adriatic.

Dubrovnik is not to be missed when you visit Croatia. Picturesque and full of history, the whimsical architecture of the walled Old Town will draw you in and ensure your holiday photographs pop.

But Zagreb isn’t just a summer break destination. In the colder months, the many museums offer both shelter and mental stimulation, and the ski resort of Sljeme on mountain Medvednica is just a twenty minute drive from the city. The traditional villages at the foot of the mountain produce some of the best gingerbread you’ll ever taste.

Business travellers with an interest in tech start-ups can seize opportunities in Zagreb too. All the largest Croatian companies, media and scientific institutions have headquarters there.

If time isn’t an issue, you also use Zagreb as your springboard on the ultimate Central European road trip.

What to do in Zagreb

Browse Britanski trg

Zagreb’s British Square is filled with fruit and vegetable hawkers during the week, but on Sunday mornings it’s taken over by an open-air flea market, with over 100 stalls selling all sorts of antiques. Early risers, collectors and culture vultures will all enjoy browsing the wares.

Sample nightlife in Tkalčićeva

The city centre’s main nightlife stretch is lined with cafes, bars and restaurants. Tourists’ hot spots are dotted along its spine, but be sure to delve down every historic side-street too. Otto&Frank is a firm favourite with both locals and visitors.

Wander the Botanical Gardens

A tranquil haven in the summer time, Zagreb’s Botanical Gardens date back to 1889. Fragrant flora and fauna is spread over five hectares, providing the ideal tranquil backdrop to a morning stroll.

Ride the funicular

This 66 metre long track connects the Ilica Street (Donji Grad) with Strossmayerovo šetalište (Strossmayer promenade) to the north (Gornji Grad) – once the busiest path in Zagreb. It may be the shortest cable car ride in the world, but it’s a must when you visit Zagreb.

Swim in Jarun Lake

Join the locals in a cooling dip in Jarun Lake during the summer. Adrenaline junkies can enjoy the many water sports on offer, or if you’d rather stay dry, the pebble beach is surrounded by biking trails. Located in the south of Zagreb, Jarun Lake is known as the ‘Zagreb Sea’ thanks to its multifaceted nature.

Shed a tear at the Museum of Broken Relationships

This slightly cynical museum tells the tale of failed romances through a collection of artefacts, donated by jilted lovers who feel the objects represent their broken affairs. The exhibition is strangely compelling, and there’s also a café on-site where you can indulge.

Singapore – The Asian Hotspot

Singapore Chinatown street scene with old shophouses and Chinese New Year decorations. Crowds of people gathering for Chinese New Year carnival.

Home to glistening skyscrapers, wide open green spaces, historic temples and world-class restaurants, this cosmopolitan city has it all. Just seven hours from Dubai you will find this Asian hotspot offering an unforgettable shopping experience. From the minute you step off the plane into the luxury Changi International airport you will want to flex your credit card to enjoy complimentary lounge access upon arrival for you and a guest. Once settled into the hotel, the first stop must be a walk down the legendary Orchard Road which will awaken your retail senses with row upon row of malls packed with on-trend brands and catwalk couture. Indulge in retail therapy to your heart’s content and use a credit card that has no fees on overseas spend to pay for your purchases. The Bugis Street Market has an array of books and jewellery you won’t find anywhere else in the world, or hunt down unusual antiques and Chinese delicacies in Chinatown.

• Best for: Retail therapy

• Explore: The Botanical Gardens and Gardens by the Bay

Maldives – A diving Paradise

The most stunning collection of islands on the planet is just a short trip away from the Middle East, making them a favourite for everyone from honeymooners to large families needing privacy and a bespoke service. The most significant addition of the last 12 months to the array of stunning resorts is St Regis Vollumi Island. Combining stunning architecture, luxury service from morning until night and a truly personal touch, the destination has already earned an incredible reputation. St Regis Vommuli Island is a once in a lifetime trip and is first class when it comes to unforgettable food and beverage – something often overlooked in the Maldives. Finding a decent place to stay can be tough in the Maldives. If you are booking your room at the last minute, here’s a good tip: some credit cards offer 20 per cent off across the year when you book a room via Hotels.com.

• Best for: Sun worshippers’ and diving enthusiasts

• Explore: The beautiful spa and for dinner the five-course degustation and drink pairing menu held in the underground cellar of Decanter restaurant.

Tour the five ‘Stan’ countries with Islamic World guide Diana Driscoll

For most people, Central Asia is a blur. Rarely in the news, it’s a hard-to-define region of five “Stan” nations that sprang up seemingly out of nowhere when the former Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Then, the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan all gained independence.

It’s an area on the map that fascinated lecturer and Islamic world expert Diana Driscoll who visited the region for the first time in 1998.

 

“What I found fascinating about being in Central Asia was that it was five separate countries, but it never felt like that,” Driscoll recalls. “There never were five countries. It was people, it was migration of ideas and peoples, Persians and Turks and Mongolians coming down, and ideas were floating back and forth. Empires rose and empires fell — fascinating warlords — and I thought ‘this is really where it is all happening’.”

Driscoll traces the formation of the modern nation states in the region to the Tsarists. The Russians came and took over the region they called Turkestan in the 1860s.

“Everyone identified as being a Samarkandi, or a Bukhari, or Almati — you identified yourself with the city you lived in,” Driscoll says. National identity wasn’t so rigid. Someone who spoke Uzbek could have a mother who spoke Tajik and their father could be a Kazakh.

“It really was a melting pot,” Driscoll says. “But the Tsar came down, and they brought all their ethnographers, they made this map, and then came the Russian revolution, and the Bolsheviks came in. They did not know what to do with this area.”

For the revolutionaries, being a good Bolshevik was most important, and to do that, each group needed its own state. “They drew these ridiculous borders,” she says. “Now you have Kazakh, Tajik, Turkmen, Uzbek and Kyrgyzstan.”

Once Driscoll was accompanying a group travelling from Uzbekistan into Turkmenistan. “There was this lovely little older Uzbek lady sitting there, going on and on. She had a wedding to attend in Turkmenistan because her family is there,” Driscoll recalls. “But the silly border cut through their village, so she lives in Uzbekistan and her family is in Turkmenistan.” The lady wanted to bring a carpet as a wedding gift and the border guard wouldn’t let her. “And she said: ‘Ten years ago I could take a camel over the border, now I can’t even take a carpet.’ So that is how bad it is.”

Today, Driscoll can’t quite remember what first drew her attention to Central Asia, having grown up in the United States. But she remembers watching Lawrence of Arabia when she was 13. “I thought how interesting. I knew nothing about it.” Driscoll has a very large family, lots of siblings and cousins. “Nobody does what I do,” she says.

She moved to London in 1974 and, at the School of African and Oriental Studies (Soas), she studied the ancient Middle East. She thought she was going to be an archaeologist, but ended up studying history and languages. “I didn’t want to get my hands dirty,” she laughs.

Driscoll went on to complete a master’s degree at Soas in early Islam.

“I was always interested in the origin of ideas — especially religions,” she says. “Where do ideas come from? I was quite interested in Old Testament studies, and then Christianity, early Christianity, and it is all about monotheism.”

She worked at Soas for 12 years, and then took up a post as Director of Education with the British Council in Hong Kong, giving her the opportunity to travel across China.

“I thought my goodness, there is Islam up here in China also, and that is when I discovered the Silk Road.” She started taking more courses and reading more with friends who were interested in the area.

Over the years, Driscoll travelled to places such as Jordan, Syria, Libya, Morocco and Egypt. Her fascination grew and she started learning and became very fascinated with Ibn Battuta and Ibn Khaldun.

Around five years ago, after Driscoll retired, she received a phone call from Cox & Kings, a bespoke travel company. They needed a lecturer to accompany travel groups to Central Asia and asked her if she would be interested.

The answer was obvious, allowing her to travel regularly to Central Asia. Those who travel to this region do it for different reasons. She cites one person who toured this part of the world for 12 days after having read the noted poem The Gold Road to Samarkand by James Elroy Flecker.

Others watch a film and become interested. “It is all sort of romantic to begin with. A lot of people have seen this film [Lawrence of Arabia] and think ‘I am going to do that’. They want to ride a camel.”

And with her joining them as a tour historian, the trips are not all about sightseeing. One man told her he felt like he was with the History Channel 24/7. “The sense of history that you can look upon a wonderful building in Samarkand, and think it was built in the 10th century,” she says. “The Samanid mausoleum in Bukhara — there’s a picture of it in the Islamic Room of the British Museum — but you can see the brick building. It’s absolutely exquisite. It is a jewel. It is a work of art.”

After the travel groups return to London, Driscoll takes the participants on a visit to the British Museum to put what they’ve seen on the tour into a historical context. “We look at other Islamic things, tiles, and carpets and metal works and glasswork,” she says.

She also volunteers at the museum’s Asia Department one day a week and gives free gallery talks. She and a friend commit to regular study days as well. The history, places and people of the region continue to fascinate her, and she lists off some of the figures from Central Asia: “The names are Timur (Tamerlane) You have got the Safavids down in Persia, you have the 10th century Samanid, Ibn Sina, Al Farabi, Al Biruni. They are all Central Asians,” says Driscoll.

And while on her tours, Driscoll tries to provide something different. “For instance, not many people know that Uzbekistan has the second-largest collection of Russian avant-garde art in the world,” she enthuses. “There was a man called Savitsky in the 1950s. He went around collecting all the things that Joseph Stalin decided was terrible art. And he hid it. He hid it in Uzbekistan.”

Alexander the Great also came to Uzbekistan. “The walls of the ancient city are there,” she says. “And I always tell them about the people that we don’t know anything about. The Sogdians. People don’t know anything about them. They were the middle men on the Silk Road. These people were hugely intelligent, great accountants, spoke five languages, and they lived around Bukhara and Samarkand.”

The tomb of the Biblical Prophet Daniel is also located in Samarkand. It has an 18-metre sarcophagus. “Supposedly Tamerlane brought an arm of Daniel, a relic, and they put it in this tomb,” says Driscoll. “And it started growing, it is about 5 metres long. No one has ever gone inside to see if it really is there. But that doesn’t make any difference. That is the belief. So it is a pilgrimage centre. It is an arm of Daniel and it keeps growing longer and longer.”

Driscoll also conducts a tour of Morocco where she talks about how Islam spread into North Africa. “Who were the people that were there? The Berbers and the relationship between the Berbers and the Arabs. And it is also looking at their art and architecture. Andalusia. It is not the same as the Middle East, certainly not the same as Central Asia, but trade came through. And the early Islamic silver came from Morocco for coins.”

But Driscoll’s knowledge of history also has importance now. She recently spent a day at London’s Institute of Archaeology, giving lectures on the origins of Daesh.

While at Soas, Driscoll studied the ninth century philosopher Al Farabi.

“My dissertation was actually on what makes a prophet a prophet,” she says. “He wrote a very famous treatise on the wise king. Was he a wise king or was he a prophet? What is the relationship between wisdom and prophecy and religion, they are very subtle. And in the Islamic world, these people were very interested in these subjects. And it is very sad that since the 13th century, they don’t talk about it anymore.”

She notes that at the turn of the first millennium, there were great minds who were writing, they were arguing with each other. “The fine points of philosophy, fine points of religious, ideas, the fine points of Sufism,” she says. “All these things were so interesting. But somehow it is all gone.”

She’s a firm believer in the exchange of ideas, where the finer issues are debated without fears for freedom of speech or expression.

For her, one of the maddening things are the constant questions about safety. “People keep asking me is Uzbekistan safe? [It] drives me mad,” she says. “Because they think it’s a Muslim country, they are going to get blown up.” She thinks the United States could be more dangerous. “I say to people: ‘You probably have a better chance of being shot in the United States, because there are guns all over the place’.”

She thinks its regrettable that people don’t understand their own religion. “I find it sad for everybody. I think it is sad that we are in a world now [where] there is no dialogue.”

So what would Al Farabi say now if he were alive today? “Yes,” Driscoll says. “Never stop questioning and always ask why.”

 

Henderson Island has ‘world’s worst’ plastic rubbish density

Henderson Island An uninhabited island in the South Pacific is littered with the highest density of plastic waste anywhere in the world, according to a study.

Island, part of the UK’s Pitcairn Islands group, has an estimated 37.7 million pieces of debris on its beaches.

The island is near the centre of an ocean current, meaning it collects much rubbish from boats and South America.

Researchers hope people will “rethink their relationship with plastic”.

The joint Australian and British study said the rubbish amounted to 671 items per square metre and a total of 17 tonnes.

“A lot of the items on Henderson Island are what we wrongly refer to as disposable or single-use,” said Dr Jennifer Lavers from the University of Tasmania.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, described how remote islands act as a “sink” for the world’s rubbish.

In addition to fishing items, Henderson Island was strewn with everyday things including toothbrushes, cigarette lighters and razors.

“Land crabs are making their homes inside bottle caps, containers and jars,” Dr Lavers told the BBC.

“At first it looks a little bit cute, but it’s not. This plastic is old, it’s sharp, it’s brittle and toxic.”

A large number of hard hats of “every shape, colour and size” were also discovered, the marine scientist said.

Scale of waste

Henderson Island is listed by Unesco as a coral atoll with a relatively unique ecology, notable for 10 plant and four bird species.

It is 190km (120 miles) from Pitcairn Island, about 5,000km from Chile, and sits near the centre of the South Pacific Gyre – a massive rotating current.

The condition of the island highlighted how plastic debris has affected the environment on a global scale, Dr Lavers said.

“Almost every island in the world and almost every species in the ocean is now being shown to be impacted one way or another by our waste,” she said.

“There’s not really any one person or any one country that gets a free pass on this.”

She said plastic was devastating to oceans because it was buoyant and durable.

The research was conducted by the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, and the Centre for Conservation Science at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Singapore luxury ‘car vending machine’ dispenses Ferraris, Bentleys

A futuristic 15-story showroom in Singapore dubbed the “world’s largest luxury car vending machine,” has opened offering customers million-dollar supercars, including Ferraris, Bentleys, Lamborghinis and Porsches.

The facility built by used car dealer Autobahn Motors (ABM) simulates a “fish-bone” system capable of minimizing wind resistance. About 60 luxury cars are displayed in its illuminated showcase.

Vehicles on offer run from modern luxury sports cars to classics, including a 1955 Morgan Plus 4.

According to the company, customers on the ground floor choose from a touchscreen display which car they want to see. The car arrives within one to two minutes using an advanced vehicle retrieval system.

The vending machine format aims to make efficient use of space in land-scarce Singapore as well as standing out from the competition, said ABM General Manager Gary Hong.

“We needed to meet our requirement of storing a lot of cars. At the same time, we wanted to be creative and innovative,” he told Reuters, adding that developers have shown interest in using the company’s Automotive Inventory Management System for parking services.

US company Carvana also uses vending machine-like towers to sell used cars. In March, it opened an eight-floor facility that holds up to 30 cars in San Antonio, Texas. In total, the company has four locations across the United States, with the first car vending machine opened in late 2015. Carvana customers can drop a coin in the slot and pick up their new purchases at the vending machines or have the cars delivered directly to their door.

Hair therapy boosts Turkey’s receding tourist numbers

On his to-do list for his trip to Istanbul, Palestinian tourist Jameel wants to visit the Blue Mosque and take a tour on the Bosphorus, like any other tourist.

But he has one more, less conventional purpose — to have 1,500 strands of hair implanted one by one, in an increasingly popular anti-hair loss treatment in the Turkish metropolis.

With over 300 clinics specialized in hair transplant alone, Istanbul is becoming a growing hub in the industry, attracting patients from all over the world but mainly from the Middle East and the Gulf.

Experienced surgeons, advanced technology and relatively low prices are a plus for many tourists. And its growth in the last couple of years has come as a boon for a city where foreign tourism has fallen drastically since a spate of terror attacks in 2016.

“I came to Turkey for the hair transplant and a bit of tourism. Turkey has an excellent reputation when it comes to hair implants,” 27-year-old Jameel said, speaking to AFP after the surgery at an Istanbul hospital, on condition of not using his full name.

Faisal Abu Ahmad, from Saudi Arabia, said his uncle underwent the treatment in Turkey and so he followed suit.

“Rapid hair loss pushed me to undergo the operation. I started getting bald spots,” he said.

At the tourist hubs of Istanbul such as Taksim Square, it is hard to miss the men wandering around with shaved heads and bandages after their operations, proudly sporting the branded headbands of their clinics.

They have become so ubiquitous that residents of Istanbul joke that a man with a bandaged head could be the city’s new symbol.

“Prices are very, very attractive. However, the second most critical element is the quality of this treatment,” said Talip Tastemel, the general manager of Clinic Expert.

“Turkey is very advanced in cosmetic surgeries and hair transplantation, so the patients are buying a very high quality treatment at a quarter of the normal cost” in some other countries.

Package offers for foreign patients include pickup from the airport, hotel accommodation, the surgery itself and tourism.

Around 1,200 euros ($1,312) would get a patient three days in Istanbul and a top quality medical treatment, whereas the same surgery could cost up to 6,000 euros in Europe, or only slightly less in the Middle East.

The operation is carried out with Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) where tiny hairs are taken out one by one from areas where the patient still has hair like the nape of the neck.

After the harvesting, they are implanted in the areas where the patient has lost hair. The procedure takes around eight to 10 hours, while the tiny transplanted hairs can take weeks or months to take root and grow.

5,000 foreign patients on monthly basis

Emre Ali Kodan, consultant for the Health Tourism Association, said 5,000 foreign patients undergo hair transplants in Turkey every month, with the vast majority coming from the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

“We are setting our sights on a 10-percent increase in hair transplant alone (in 2017). It would not be a dream to reach up to 6,500 patients a month,” he told AFP.

Patients from Greece, Italy and Russia are also showing interest, he said.

“Despite the decline in the tourism sector in 2016, we see a five-percent growth in health tourism, based on statistics,” Kodan said, adding that the aim was to achieve up to seven billion dollars in revenue this year.

Taştemel said the hair treatment sector was showing a resilience lacking in other branches of the tourism sector, which saw revenues plummet more than 17 percent in the first three months of this year compared to the same period in 2016.

No problem in sector

“Even when there were problems in the tourism industry it didn’t affect the medical tourism domain very much,” he said.

“We kept doing a high number of operations even during the crisis period.”

A pharmacist himself, Jameel said he tried many medicines to stop hair loss but they didn’t work.

“At this age, losing your hair has a big impact on your looks.

“That’s why when you lose it, you start looking for solutions to fix this hair problem,” he said.

Taştemel said men need to be proud of their hair.

“To be honest, men don’t have many accessories to present themselves with. It is mainly our cars, our watches and our hair at the end of the day,” he said.

“We are not able to use make-up.

“The look that we have comes mainly from our hair, so when you lose it, it is like something is taken from you.” Clinic Expert offers a range of cosmetic surgeries but hair transplants are its main business and Taştemel said success rates tended to be good.

“In medicine you cannot guarantee a result, you can expect some failures occasionally, but in hair transplantation this is at the very minimum,” Taştemel said.

“Anybody who does this in a decent clinic with a decent doctor, and a decent technique should expect 100-percent success.”

Stuttgart airport offers travellers prayer booth

Designed by Berlin artist Oliver Sturm, The prayer booth at Stuttgart Airport’s Terminal 3 features 300 prayers from various religions in 65 different languages. the photo booth-sized cabin offers a vast variety, including the Christian Lord’s Prayer, the Jewish Shma Israel and the Islamic muezzin’s call to prayer.

Feeling nervous before your flight? Travellers at one German airport can now receive spiritual solace by entering a booth and listening to a prayer of their choice before boarding the plane.

 

The photo booth-sized cabin offers a vast variety, including the Christian Lord’s Prayer, the Jewish Shma Israel and the Islamic muezzin’s call to prayer.

The Hindu Hare Krishna chant and a funeral ceremony from the Solomon Islands are also available. An airport spokeswoman said today the ‘Gebetomat’ prayer booth, which was first designed by Sturm in 2008, was installed Thursday and is free of charge.