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Category: ‘Travel’

Maraya Concert Hall Smashes A Guinness World Records Title As The Largest Mirrored Building In The World!

AlUla, Saudi Arabia – Located in the north western province of AlUla, Saudi Arabia, Maraya Concert Hall has set the Guinness World Records™  for largest mirrored building in the world. “Maraya” means “mirrors” in Arabic, and the “mirrored wonder” got this name due to the giant mirrors attached to its structure which reflect AlUla’s breath-taking landscape. This includes the Hegra region, which is the first historical site in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to be included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites.

The “Maraya” is a giant mirror cube, a silent and respectful building, a” site-specific landmark”, meaningful and elegant with intrinsic and extravagant simplicity, a true “Land-art Architecture”.

The extraordinary new façade of the Maraya Concert Hall was unveiled with a special ceremony held by the Royal Commission for AlUla during the second season of the Winter at Tantora Festival. The concert hall can hold up to 500 seats and hosted leading and prominent international artists, including musician Omar Khairat and opera singer Andrea Bocelli. The festival began its artistic journey with the renowned singer Aziza Jalal, who surprised her fans with a return after a 35-year hiatus.

Located in Wadi Ashaar, near the volcanic freeway, The Maraya Concert Hall is highly equipped with the latest theatrical and operatic sound systems. The structure is cube shaped with the exterior walls covered entirely in mirrors that reflect the picturesque nature of AlUla.  A landscape which has captivated creatives, artists and architects since the Nabataean civilisation and to the present day.

The external cladding displays 9,740 square metres of mirrors, which exceeds the minimum of 6,500 square metres. Commenting on the achievement, Amr Al Madani, CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla, said, “AlUla is a cultural heritage to the world, and this step comes in fulfilment of AlUla’s vision, to create a regional and global cultural centre. We have developed Maraya Concert Hall as a hub for world events, concerts, celebrations, gatherings, and business conventions. The mirrored hall is a global platform where nature, culture, and human heritage coexist in harmony.”

Al Madani added, “We are proud to celebrate the opening of Maraya Concert Hall, and we thank our partners, experts, engineers, and architects, who worked day and night to create this astounding monument in the heart of the marvellous desert environment of AlUla.”

Designer Florian Boje of Gio Forma said, “As evident in the architecture of the Nabataeans, Maraya Concert Hall was created utilising segmentation and [by] sculpting the blocks. This unique edifice makes us think about the unique landscape of the geological saga, the radical abstraction of the enchanting environment of AlUla, and the uncommon incursions for man in the natural landscape; the reflections give an overwhelming balance and a deep sense of the connection of human heritage with nature and its intertwining and harmonising together, which provides us with the responsibility of protecting our human culture that is combined with the exceptional nature of AlUla.”

The development of the Maraya Concert Hall came within the framework of the cultural and heritage statement of AlUla, which was recently issued and published by the Royal Commission for AlUla, inviting global arts and business communities to join the Royal Commission in a new cultural chapter in the rich history of AlUla.

The cultural and heritage vision of AlUla states, “The artistic mission of AlUla is clear, and [it] will remain the destination for artists to draw their inspiration from a site that highlights the monuments of historical civilisations.”

“What remains of great cultures is art and architecture. Successive civilisations have formed the cultural scene with their knowledge and experience, and AlUla will remain the artistic destination for artists to enhance a spirit of imagination and inspiration in their being, and the expression that constitutes the infrastructure of AlUla and its structures and daily life to enrich the encounters of the visitors.”

During the current season, the Winter Festival of Tantora witnessed a celebration of international events, including the “First Hegra Conference of Nobel Prize Laureates 2020,” which was held in the city of AlUla from January 30 to February 1. Eighteen Nobel Peace Prize laureates in various categories like economics, literature, physics, chemistry, physiology, and medicine joined the event along with an elite group of intellectuals, politicians and social leaders from 32 countries around the world. They presented theses’ to meet the challenges affecting humanity and the world. The conference sought to make a significant impact and offer provisions to urgent global dilemmas, and the discussions aimed to provide precise solutions regarding the future of education, health, agriculture, and the world’s economy.

The Winter at Tantora Festival offers a wide range of diverse experiences that cater to all tastes from all walks of life. The festival took place every weekend starting 19th December 2019, and until the 7th March 2020. Guests had the unique opportunity to visit the historical heritage sites before they are closed to the general public until October 2020 when AlUla will be open for tourist throughout the year. For more info please visit https://experiencealula.com

– The 26m high building includes a concert hall, capable to host generously 500 guest and unique performance stage as well as a dining hall with a breathtaking roof terrace and art features including the installation of the the renown Japanese Artist Yayoi Kusama .

– The gigantic stage features an unseen high-tech background ,a large retractable glass window of more than 800 square meters ,providing an exceptional outdoor view on Alula’s amazing landscapes blending the magic of nature and entertainment.

– The Stage design includes high-tech equipment to host the world’s most innovative and powerful shows.

Guinness Book of World Records

To qualify for a record in the Guinness Book of World Records as “The Largest Mirror-Covered Building in the World,” the Maraya Concert Hall has achieved the following criteria:

1. The façade of the building is made entirely of mirrors, not just glass.

2. The building is a permanent structure.

3. It is open to the public.

The size of the stage and the mirrors’ façade were verified on the date of registration with the Guinness Book of World Records on December 26, 2019, by independent surveyors from AECOM led by Thomas Koenig.

First Ship In Branson’s New Fleet Arrives In UK To ‘Shake Up’ The Booming Cruise Industry

  • Scarlet Lady,  first of new fleet of 4 Virgin Voyages cruise ships arrives in Dover
  • Aims to bring ‘Rock Star’ cruising’ to a booming sector
  • No kids on board as Branson targets an adults-only younger cruising audience
  • On-board formal dinners and dances replaced by gigs, tattoo parlours & vinyl stores
  • Massive Rockstar suites include mini music studios
  • Cruise passenger numbers have doubled in a decade and sector now worth $150 billion

At Sea, 20th February 2020 –  The first of Sir Richard Branson’s brand new fleet of cruise ships which aims to shake up the cruise industry arrives in the UK. Scarlet Lady is the first of four Virgin Voyages ships that will come into service each year for the next four years.

Virgin Voyages aims to do to the booming cruise industry what it did to the airline industry when Virgin Atlantic launched. Its fleet of four ships known as the ‘Lady ships’ will offer adults only, rock ‘n roll cruising to a new audience.

Globally the cruise industry is booming with passenger numbers almost doubling in the past decade from 17.8 million in 2009 to a forecast 32 million this year.

The latest cruise industry report reveals there are now 55 cruise lines globally with a total of 278 ocean ships and another 19 scheduled to debut in 2020 including Scarlet Lady. According to the same report the cruise industry is worth $150 billion worldwide and sustains 1,177,000 jobs.

Branson has spotted an opportunity in this growing sector. The average age of cruise passengers is getting younger and Virgin Voyages believe this new generation of sailors want a different kind of cruise holiday.

Virgin Voyages believes couples in their twenties, thirties and forties want a cruise experience that isn’t either high end formal or family friendly with theme park style rides.

The cruise line, set to make its maiden voyages in April, boasts state-of-the-art technology and opulent features, including a champagne delivery service, to ensure the ultimate passenger experience. 

Other features include:

– 1,330 cabins and 78 Rockstar suites, two of which offer the full rock star treatment with their own music rooms with their own guitars and amplifiers

– No buffets and big dining halls; Scarlet Lady has over 20 eateries ranging from brunch bars to restaurants run by Michelin-starred chefs

– Traditional tourist excursions at local ports will be replaced with visits to exclusive beach clubs

– Entertainment on board will be more festival-like in its offering with gigs, nightclubs, comedians, drag artists, and a variety of unusual shows

– Scarlet Lady has its own vinyl record shop and the first ever tattoo studio on board a cruise ship

– A major focus on wellness with spas, gyms, yoga, wellness pools and even a mud room

Virgin Voyages are also keen to emphasise the fleet’s green credentials; the company has banned single use plastics on board, is converting engine waste heat into clean electricity and exploring turning on-board waste into energy.

And as you’d expect from Virgin the crew will be dressed in unique uniforms.

Scarlet Lady will arrive in the UK after her five-day inaugural voyage undergoing sea trials from Genoa in Italy where she was built at the Fincantieri shipyard.

From Dover, she will head to Liverpool for two days before heading across the Atlantic for a star-studded reception in New York and then on to Miami where she will based and make her inaugural passenger voyage around the Caribbean in April.

Routes on offer include a five-day sailing to Costa Maya in Mexico, Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, and a quick getaway to Key West and Bahamas.

The ship will later be joined by sister liner Valiant Lady which features seven-night Mediterranean itineraries out of Barcelona, Spain when she debuts in May 2021.

World’s Busiest Airport Goes Plastic Free In 2020

Dubai Airport Partners With Costa, Pret And Giraffe To Herald New Era Of Plastic-Free Air Travel 

– Phasing out of single-use plastics at world’s busiest international airport due to begin on January 1, 2020

– Coffee giant Costa backs initiative by launching new fully-sustainable coffee cup

– McDonald’s is replacing a total of 5,608,740 items with recyclable materials at Dubai’s two airports DXB and DWC

– Other major food outlets, such as Pret a Manger, McDonalds and Giraffe join pledge to ban single-use plastics in their concessions at DXB and DWC

Change is coming to the world of air travel.

In just over three weeks’ time, plastic cutlery, drinking straws, take-away food packaging and polythene bags will start to disappear from cafés, restaurants and shops at the world’s busiest international airport.

The reason for this is Dubai Airports’ pledge in June 2019 to ban all single-use plastic from January 1, 2020.

With 90 million passengers passing through Dubai’s two airports – DXB and DWC – every year, consuming tens of thousands of plastic items from straws to water bottles to coffee lids on a daily basis –  the plastic-free initiative presents a huge logistical challenge to the management team and to every business in their supply chain.

But with the UAE alone producing around 7 billion tonnes of plastic waste every year1 – it’s a challenge they fully intend to meet, rolling out the ban with a phased approach with the aim for completion scheduled by the end of the 2020.

Pressure is growing for corporations and individuals to act more responsibly and adopt more sustainable practices to fight against plastic pollution and preserve marine life. The changes happening on such a huge scale as a result of Dubai Airports’ ban could soon become a template for other major transportation hubs and organisations around the world to follow.

Already 95% of Dubai Airports’ commercial partners have signed the pledge to stop using disposable plastic in their outlets.

Notable amongst them is Costa Coffee which has committed to replacing its plastic-lined cups with a 100% renewable, plant-based “smart” cup. The coffee giant sells over 2.6 million cups of coffee in Dubai’s airports a year – that alone has a great impact on change. This will be followed later next year by the introduction of a coffee cup lid made entirely from wood and paper fibre instead of single-use plastic.

Pret a Manger, McDonalds and Giraffe are also on board, alongside around 290 other retail and F&B outlets, and have started the process of eliminating consumer-facing plastic items from their concessions and replacing them with more sustainable alternatives in just 6 months.

New research commissioned by Dubai Airports highlights widespread public support for recycling initiatives.

In Britain, almost half (49%) of air travellers say they carry a reusable water bottle, almost a third (31%) say they will choose to eat in a restaurant to avoid plastic packaging and 1 in 5 (20%) say they don’t buy items at the airport containing  non-recyclable materials.

But it is clear that passengers feel airports could be doing more on the issue with 86% saying that they need to be more vocal about what they are doing to recycle waste.

 

Facts:

– 5,500 tonnes of single use plastic is estimated to be generated at Dubai Airports each year

– Already changes are being made at Dubai Airports, with 29 metric tons of plastic bottles being recycled from the security check points so far this year (an average of 11,000 bottles per day)

– So far, in total around 280 tonnes of single use plastic have been recycled in 2019

– Starting March 2020, Dubai Airports will recycle a minimum of 2,000 tonnes of single use plastic per year – over 40% of the current volume being generated, and equivalent to 3.5 Airbus A380s

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“Visa For Venice” – New Campaign To Preserve City For The Future

Venice, Italy – Venice’s idyllic canals and quaint alleys make it a dream destination for many travelers but with over 20 million visitors each year, the unique charm of the city is under threat.

On June 13, Visa and the City of Venice hosted a ceremony at Venice City Hall to announce the launch of “Visa for Venice”, a three year programme that will help Italian merchants showcase their businesses to international visitors, while helping protect their city’s most treasured sites.

The new programme encourages locals and visitors alike to pay with Visa at businesses throughout Venice. The incremental revenue generated from this campaign will be contributed to a newly established fund that will be used to safeguard the city for the future.

Donation kiosks are now set up around the city where both locals and tourists can choose to make a contribution directly to the fund.

For those outside the city who would like to make a difference, donations will soon also be accepted through a web-based donation page.

New Survey Results

In a recent survey of international travelers, Visa found 68% think about their impact on the local community when planning a trip outside the U.S. and 77% agree that travelers have more of an impact today than five years ago.

Not only is there a strong awareness, an astounding percentage of international travelers surveyed want to make difference and are willing to use their spending power to lessen their impact and support the local community. This willingness includes:

– Purchasing items from local artists and eating local food (92%)

– Spending money at businesses that support sustainability locally (90%)

– Making a donation to ensure historic monuments are preserved (84%)

– Forgo a specific activity that has a negative impact on the environment or community (83%)

– Spending a little more on something if it means having less of an impact on the local community (83%)

– Spending more time in less touristy attractions to lessen impact (78%)

– Forgoing ground transportation in favor of biking or using mass transit systems (73%)

– Volunteering while in the local area (66%)

International travelers showed a very strong desire to support local businesses and indicated they are most likely to choose local, independent businesses for dining and shopping if the:

– Location was easy to find (50%)

– Business had great online reviews (44%)

– Business accepted credit or debit cards (44%)

Methodology: Visa commissioned a survey of 500 adults 18-65 years old in the U.S. who had traveled outside the U.S. in the past two years. The survey was conducted by Logica Research on behalf of Visa in May 2019.

Additional Messaging

The global appetite for international travel has never been stronger. In fact, according to the WTTC, international arrivals reached 1.3 billion last year, on pace to grow to 1.8 billion border crossings by 2030.

Visa is the most widely accepted payment network – enabling safe, secure, seamless cross-border transactions, all over the world. It starts when consumers plan and book their journey, and more importantly, continues through all phases of travels.

Travelers deserve the same payment benefits and conveniences they enjoy in their home country when traveling abroad and Visa is making that a reality.

By removing the barriers to how, where, and when you can pay abroad, travelers have peace-of-mind knowing they can use Visa virtually anywhere in the world, securely and at any time, while focusing on enjoying the experiences in front of them.

About Visa Inc.

Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) is the world’s leader in digital payments. Our mission is to connect the world through the most innovative, reliable and secure payment network – enabling individuals, businesses and economies to thrive. Our advanced global processing network, VisaNet, provides secure and reliable payments around the world, and is capable of handling more than 65,000 transaction messages a second. The company’s relentless focus on innovation is a catalyst for the rapid growth of digital commerce on any device, for everyone, everywhere. As the world moves from analog to digital, Visa is applying our brand, products, people, network and scale to reshape the future of commerce.

Photo Image: Candre Mandawe

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Queensland And Uber Launch scUber – “The World’s First Rideshare Submarine On The Great Barrier Reef”

Heron Island, Queensland, Australia – Queensland, Australia in partnership with Uber, today launched the world’s first rideshare submarine experience on the Great Barrier Reef.

Announcing  scUber, Tourism Industry Development Minister for Queensland, Kate Jones, said this new form of travel gives riders an unfiltered lens to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, a playground rich in marine life offering remarkable underwater experiences.

“How excited are we today to have a world first on the world’s largest and most beautiful reef,” said Kate Jones.

“We all know that you can see the Great Barrier Reef from space. But from today, you’ll be able to see the Great Barrier Reef from the world’s very first rideshare submarine.”

But it was Dr David Wachenfeld, Chief Scientist for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the first person to experience scUber, who captured the heart of curious bystanders when he described scUber as a cross between two Hollywood icons.

“We were hovering over the bottom looking down and … you get to see the big stuff and you get to see the little stuff. And, it really is bizarre … like a cross between Nemo and a Bond movie,” Chief Scientist, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority,  Dr David Wachenfield said.

Queensland and Uber have teamed up to deliver this exclusive experience, in a landmark partnership to showcase the reef.

Passengers will get 180-degree views of the underwater icon and taken to depths of up to 30 metres, without even needing a scuba mask.

The rideshare experience will be available at the touch of a button, costing AUD$3000 for two passengers.

“Having this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to access a submarine typically only available to the ultra-rich is a world changing experience,” said Uber Australia and NZ General Manager, Susan Anderson.

Riders can book the underwater adventure through the Uber app, which kicks off on Heron Island off the coast of Gladstone in Queensland on Monday, 27th May, 2019.

To celebrate the launch of scUber, Queensland and Uber are offering this exceptional bucket-list experience to one lucky winner and a friend from each of the following countries: USA, Canada, United Kingdom, France, New Zealand and Australia.

Uber will further be donating $100,000 to Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef to help support conservation initiatives on the Great Barrier Reef, and will match the equivalent value generated from every scUber ride taken.

The unique rideshare service starts on 27th May, and will move to Agincourt Reef, off the coast of Port Douglas in Tropical North Queensland until 18th June.

Heron Island is a small coral cay, based at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef,  that has captured the hearts of David Attenborough and Jacques Cousteau.

Greater than 69 million football fields in size, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef with an extraordinary range of habitats and species.  It has more than 600 different types of coral, 1625 species of fish and more than 1000
Islands, making it one of the most complex natural systems on earth.

 

Source: Tourism and Events Queensland

Location: Heron Island, Queensland, Australia

Internationally Renowned Artists Set To Illuminate United Arab Emirates In Major Light Festival

Artists from around the world come together to celebrate science, creativity and heritage for the Sharjah Light Festival 2019

Iconic landmarks will be lit up during 11-day festival which is set to see 1 million people visit UAE’s third largest Emirate

Over a million people from around the globe are expected to attend the United Arab Emirates’ Sharjah Light Festival, taking place between Wednesday, February 6th and Saturday 16th February 2019.

Following in the footsteps of world events such as Lumiere London, and Vivid Sydney, the show is expected to draw seven-figure crowds to the UAE’s third-largest Emirate, and cultural hub of the region.

The show, which attracted an audience of 1 million last year, is now in its ninth year and is welcoming both up-and-coming and established artists from across the globe who will light up 18 of the city’s landmark buildings. To add to the spectacle, the visual feast will be accompanied by music from international elite musicians.

Every February, the Sharjah Light Festival transforms the famous landmarks in several locations of the emirate into dazzling displays.  Utilising creative and innovative light technology and specifically curated music, the architectural beauties of the emirate, such as Al Noor mosque, Al Hisn Fort, Sharjah University City Campus as well as others can literally be seen in a new light.

Each year brings some new marvel in technology and design as well as new additions to the collection of buildings. Many of the designs are poetic and inspired by local culture, stories and traditions or incorporate nature and space, some are based on more modern art and design, all are beautiful and though provoking. 

Sharjah Light Festival 2019 is enhanced by the addition of University City Hall which will be the façade for a special show referencing myths and mysterious tales from East and West, illustrated with varied drawing techniques and computer animations. 

Located along the southern coast of the Arabian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula, Sharjah is the third largest and third most populous city in the United Arab Emirates. The Sharjah Light Festival extends to the east coast towns of Dibba, Khorfakkan and Kalba.  

2018 saw well known artists and curators such as Larent Langlois, Gilbert Coudène as well as creative companies; Spanish Tigrelab and Bulgarian Artslide take the buildings of the emirate and interpret them anew for the festival.  Sharjah Light Festival 2019, taking the theme of “Family and Culture” is the next highly anticipated edition, from 6 to 16 February.

Shows: Sharjah, UAE

– Title Slate:

– Menu Slate

0:09 – 2:25 Sharjah Municipality Building (and location where Crown Prince opened the Festival)

2:29 – 03:02 Al Qasba (attractions and entertainment area)

03:03 – 03:29 Al Noor Mosque (lit by Raphaelle Martinez)

03:29 – 03:45 Palm Trees alongside Khalid Lagoon

03:46 – 03:51 Palm Trees in University City

03:52 – 03:58 University City Hall

03:59 – 04:06 American University of Sharjah

04:07 – 04:19 University City Hall

04:20 – 04:53 Khalid Lagoon Light and Firework Show

04:53 – 06:00 His Excellent Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman of SCTDA

06:04 – 06:25 Raphaelle Martinez (lit Al Noor Mosque)

06:29 – 06:49 Director of Groupe F (who worked on the Khalid Lagoon show)

06:50 – end: Director of Ilotopie (also worked on Khalid Lagoon show)

Other: None

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