General Travel News
Discover Valletta, Malta
The capital of Malta, Valletta is a beautiful harbour city, popularly known as one of the best preserved fortified cities in the world. “A city built by gentlemen for gentlemen”, Valletta is named after its founder Jean Parisot de la Valette.
The magnificent fortress city grew on the arid rock of Mount Sceberras peninsula, which rises steeply from two deep harbours, Marsamxett and Grand Harbour. Started in 1566, Valletta was completed, with its impressive bastions, forts and cathedral, in the astonishingly short time of 15 years - given that mechanical tools did not exist at the time and the whole city was built entirely by hand.
The city is busy by day, yet retains a timeless atmosphere by night, giving the feeling that you are walking back in time. The grid of narrow streets boasts some of Europe's finest art works, churches and palaces.
Here’s a list of things to do if you find yourself in Valletta some time soon.
1) Take a ‘karozzin’
A ‘korazzin’ is a traditional Maltese mode of transportation consisting of a horse-drawn carriage that takes you around the beautiful city of Valletta. Although it is no longer strictly used as a means of transport, the korazzin is still popularly used in ceremonies to date, such as funerals. These rides are great for tourists as the driver takes you around all the famous spots, and lets you stop for photos during the tour.
You can find these carriages at popular tourist spots.
2) Visit St. John’s Co-Cathedral
Out of all churches in Malta, St John’s Co-Cathedral is the most impressive. Described as the first complete example of the high Baroque anywhere, the cathedral is testimony to the talent of Maltese military architect Gerolamo Cassar. With Mattia Preti’s intricately carved stone wall designs, as well as the painted vaulted ceiling and side altars with scenes from the life of St John, this place is not one to miss. The cathedral also houses one of Europe’s most impressive and famous art works – Caravaggio’s Beheading of St. John the Baptist. The cathedral also has a museum with artifacts worth checking out, and tombs of famous knights.
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 9:30am-4:30pm, Sat 9:30am-12:30pm. Last admission 30 min before closing. Closed on Sundays, public holidays & during services
Entrance fee: Seniors €4.60, adults €6.00, students €3.50, children under 12 enter free (when accompanied by an adult)
3) Grab a ‘ftira’ at Ta’ Nenu
Whether one is a tourist or a local, the most popular reason for a visit to Ta’ Nenu is the tasting of typical Maltese authentic food, especially the Maltese traditional ftira. This traditional Valletta bakery turn family pizzeria is the place Malta’s traditional pizza, particularly if you are travelling with kids. Ftira tend to have thick crusts with toppings including local specialities like capers, Gozitan cheese and olives, and sometimes fish, meat and/or potato (ask for the no-meat option as this spot isn’t halal). Italian pizza is also available, as are a few non-pizza traditional Maltese dishes.
This is not a halal restaurant, and it does serve alcohol, therefore be sure to ask if the food contains alcohol and to request it to be removed if it does.
Ftira from €6.50
143 St Dominic’s Street, Valletta
4) Stroll through the Upper Barrakka Gardens
Malta has a couple of really great gardens, but if you’ve only got time for one, you should check out the Upper Barrakka.
The beautiful Upper Barrakka Gardens is situated next to Castille Palace, offering fantastic views of the Grand Harbour, the cities of Senglea, Vittoriosa and Kalkara as well as the Breakwater. Visitors can spend hours here simply admiring the stunning view. The Upper Barrakka Gardens are built on top of a bastion, on the highest point of Valletta and date back to 1661 when it used to be a private garden of the Knights.
Every day at noon, members of the Malta Heritage Society (dressed in British Artillery uniforms) fire a salute.
5) Sip coffee at Cordina Caffe
Having been founded in 1837, the cafe was developed over the years to become what can be considered a minor landmark within the bustling streets of Malta’s stunning capital, Valletta.
Caffe Cordina’s location in the heart of Valletta, facing Piazza Regina and the impressive Biblioteca, puts it within reach of many places of interest including the Grand Masters Palace, St. John’s Cathedral, The Manoel Theatre, The Museums of Fine Arts and Archeology and Castille, the Prime Minister’s office.
6) Take a ride in a ‘dghajsa’
Take a ride on Malta’s traditional boat, the ‘dghajsa’ (pronounced as daisa), to the old fortified city on the sou town of Birgu and visit Ford St. Angelo, the scene of heroic fighting during the great siege of 1565. The ‘dghajsa’ is similar to Venice’s gondola.
7) Visit the only mosque in Malta
There is only one masjid in Malta in the town of Paola on Triq Kordin. The location of the masjid, known as Mariam Al-Batool, is about 6-7Km from Valletta. Visitors can take a bus from Valletta and reach the masjid in about 10 minutes. You can also find a halal meat shop and a halal shop close to the masjid.
8) Walk along Republic Street
Republic Street is one of the most popular pedestrianized shopping streets of Valletta. This long street is full of clothing shops, bookshops, souvenir vendors, cafes aplenty and everything in between, it is a must for all tourists and locals alike. Be sure to check out the traditional Maltese balconies - just look up!
9) Manoel Theatre
If theatre is at all your thing, try to catch an event at this jewel-box of an 18th century theatre, which is Europe’s third-oldest and is still very much in working order. The theatre is Malta’s National Theatre and home to nearly all performances held by the National Orchestra. There are a good many plays in English. Or, take a back stage tour. They are run most mornings except Sundays.
10) Il-Monti, Merchant Street
The Merchant Street Market, open every day from 8:00 am until noon, is a popular open-air market in Valletta. This colorful street market resembles a European flea market, offering everyday and brand name clothing, antiques, old books and many other items at bargain prices. Visit this place for a true Maltese native feel.
Last Updated on Monday, 31 August 2015 18:41
Last minute holiday shopping during US Labor Day weekend
If you have one more week of summer holiday left you should head off to the United States and benefit from the massive sales that take place over the Labor Day weekend - from September 3-7 2015. But be prepared for crowds.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) is expecting over 35 million Americans will be traveling during this period and more than 30 million of them will travel by road. If you want to be part of this huge travel experience, take a trip to Boston - Emirates has a daily flight from Dubai while many European airlines fly directly to the city - and go on a shopping spree.
The Assemby Row shopping outlet in Boston is a great place for bargains on designer clothing. But during the Labor Day weekend even tony Newbury Street boutiques will have great offers for the shopper.
Take a last minute holiday, head for a brief visit to Boston, there are a large number of Halal restaurants there and you will save enough on shopping to justify the airline ticket!
Last Updated on Monday, 31 August 2015 00:35
Fast & Furious: Supercharged coming to Universal Orlando Resort
You’ve seen the cars. You’ve seen the action. And soon, you’ll be able to live it. One of the most successful film franchises of all-time will soon become one of Universal Orlando Resort‘s most action-packed ride experiences.
Buckle your seat belts, because Universal Orlando Resort announced that Fast & Furious: Supercharged will join its line-up of attractions in 2017 – continuing the unprecedented growth of the destination. You’ll feel like part of the “Fast family” as you embark on a thrilling new Fast & Furious adventure that will put you right in the middle of the action.
Guests will experience a high-octane journey that fuses an original storyline and incredible ride technology with everything that fans love about the films: popular characters, exhilarating environments, nonstop action and, of course, high-speed cars.
Immerse yourself in the underground racing world made famous in the films, explore the headquarters of Toretto and his team and even check out some of the supercharged cars you’ve seen on the big screen. Then, board specially-designed vehicles and take off on an adrenaline-pumping ride with your favourite stars from the films.
Fast & Furious is Universal Pictures’ highest-grossing film franchise of all time. Since the release of the first film in 2001, the Fast & Furious series has become a cultural phenomenon.
Fast & Furious: Supercharged will replace ‘Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue’ and ‘Disaster: A Major Motion Picture Starring You!’ at Universal Studios Florida. Disaster will close on September 8th, 2015 and Beetlejuice will close later this year to make way for the new attraction.
Last Updated on Thursday, 27 August 2015 16:21
Barbie is coming to Dubai to celebrate Mall of the Emirates’ 10th anniversary
Majid Al Futtaim, the leading shopping mall, retail and leisure pioneer across the Middle East and North Africa, has announced the arrival of the original fashionista - Barbie® - in celebration of Mall of the Emirates’ 10th anniversary. Over the course of September, the mall will host two exciting, diverse, and exclusive collaborations for Barbie® fans and women of all ages.
Mall of the Emirates will unveil the first-ever haute couture Barbie® Collector exhibition in the region, as the iconic doll whose style has inspired and entertained generations of young girls, will take centre stage in a chic Parisian setting from September 2-8.
The display, located at the Central Galleria, will debut a series of 24 limited-edition Barbie® dolls, each with stunning hand-crafted designer outfits, inspired by signature looks from the catwalk shows, from a collection which has been developed over 50 years.
Giving those who have grown up with Barbie® a chance to reminisce, the Barbie® Collector exhibition sees the legend in replica outfits of high-end fashion houses such as Hervé Léger, Christian Dior, Oscar de la Renta, Monique Lhuillier, Versace, Zuhair Murad, Christian Louboutin, and many more.
On September 9-14, little ones can experience the glamorous world of the modern-day rock star with Barbie® Rock’n Royals. Young girls can experiment with sparkle as they get glammed up with nail art at the Barbie Hand Spa, and have fun with temporary Barbie® motif tattoos. A great outing for the younger generation of Barbie® fans, groups of girlie friends can pretend to be a pop star getting ready for a stage show.
Hussain Moosa, Associate Director for Mall of the Emirates, said: “Mall of the Emirates is thrilled to partner with the star that is Barbie®, as part of our milestone 10th anniversary celebrations. A momentous occasion for the mall, we wanted to create great moments for everyone, everyday through offering unique experiences for Barbie® lovers of all ages – appealing to all generations who love the brand.”
Last Updated on Thursday, 27 August 2015 02:42
Banksy’s Dismaland opens
Are you looking for an alternative to the sugar-coated tedium of the average family day out? Or just somewhere a lot cheaper? Dismaland Bemusement Park might just be the place for you.
Described as “the UK’s most disappointing new visitor attraction”, this dark parody of Disneyland is the latest project of British street artist Banksy. The famous ‘guerilla’ artist first appeared 20-years ago in the UK, where his political and often provocative work quickly made him the biggest name in the international street-art scene.
For five weeks only, catch over 50 artists from the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. The line-up features big names, including American artist Jenny Holzer, Britain’s Damien Hirst, and David Shrigley, Saudi Arabia’s Huda Beydoun, Syria’s Tammam Azzam, Palestine’s Sulaiman Mansour and Shadi Alzaqzouq. There are three galleries, tents, dozens of installations, an open-air cinema showing short films and bands like Massive Attack and The Savages will perform in the coming weeks.
The ‘anarchy-infused theme park’ features an interesting take on Cinderella, in which the princess-to-be hangs from the window of her overturned carriage, with little sparrows attempting to lift her limp and presumably dead figure. Paparazzi snap photos of the scene. Other notable artworks include the Little Mermaid, a statement piece about Britain’s current political leadership, boats full of refugees in a pond providing an interesting twist to the “it’s a small world after all” theme, and much more.
Dismaland is now open to the public everyday from 22nd August – 27th September 2015. Tickets can be purchased on the door from 9am on Saturday and Sunday, and then online from Tuesday the 25th. Admission is £3 and free for the under 5’s and you can book a time slot for guaranteed entry.
On a side note, the website clearly states that the following are strictly prohibited in the Park – spray paint, marker pens, knives and legal representatives of the Walt Disney Corporation.
Dismaland is situated on the seafront in legendary Weston-super-Mare and is easily accessible by train, bus and road. Marine Parade BS23 1BE
Last Updated on Sunday, 23 August 2015 15:43
Top 6 places to visit in Seoul
Planning a trip to Seoul, or looking for some inspiration? Here’s a quick guide on what to see if you happen to find yourself in the bustling yet beautiful capital city of South Korea.
1. Gyeongbok Palace
Built in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace was located at the heart of newly appointed capital of Seoul (then known as Hanyang) and represented the sovereignty of the Joseon Dynasty. The largest of the Five Grand Palaces (the others being Gyeonghuigung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace), Gyeongbokgung served as the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty.
Gyeongbok Palace has been destroyed and reconstructed numerous times. English tours are available about three times daily for visitors to learn more about Korea's architectural traditions and court customs. Make sure you allocate time to stroll around the premises too, as there are beautiful pavilions and halls within the palace’s spacious grounds worth checking out.
2. Walking tour of Bukchon Village
This traditional Korean village has over 600 years of history and stories worth discovering. The walking tour takes visitors around the area of Bukchon Hanok Village - the only place in Seoul where hundreds of traditional Korean houses, or hanoks, are clustered together. Bukchon Hanok Village is an important area for culture and the arts, with its number of museums, craft workshops and historic landmarks.
3. Dongdaemun Market
Dongdaemun Market is a large commercial district comprised of traditional markets and shopping centers that covers the entire area around Dongdaemun (Gate), a prominent landmark in Korea. It is Korea’s largest wholesale and retail shopping district featuring 26 shopping malls, 30,000 speciality shops, and 50,000 manufacturers. All kinds of goods can be found here including silks and fabric, clothes, shoes and accessories, electronics, leather goods, sporting goods, office supplies, pet products and toys. You can also discover and munch on Korean snacks as you shop.
4. Seoul City Wall
The Seoul City Wall was originally built in 1396, surrounding Hanyang (present-day Seoul) during the Joseon Period (1392-1987). The wall stretches for 18.6km along the ranges of Bugaksan (Mt.), Naksan (Mt.), Namsan (Mt.), and Inwangsan(Mt.), and stands at average height of 7-8m.
The Seoul City Wall consisted of eight gates which were originally built between 1396-1398, but only six remain today. The North, South, East, and West gates of the wall are known as the “Four Great Gates” (Sukjeongmun, Heunginjimun, Sungnyemun, Dongeuimun), while the Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and Southwest gates are known as the “Four Small Gates” (Changuimun, Hyehwamun, Gwanghwamun, Soeuimun). A walk along this wall and observing all the beauty that comes with it, is one for the books.
5. First islamic Mosque in Korea - Seoul Central Masjid
Located in Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu in Seoul, the Seoul Central Masjid was the first Islamic mosque in Korea. Construction of the mosque began in October 1974 on a piece of land (5,000 square meters) that was donated by the Korean government. Funded by Islamic countries, the mosque officially opened on May 21, 1976 and now stands proudly halfway between the Hangang River and Namsan Mountain.
The first floor of the mosque houses meeting rooms and the office of the Korea Muslim Federation; on the second floor is the men’s musalla (prayer hall) measuring 427 square meters; and on the third floor is the women’s musalla (prayer hall). The Islamic Center, originally a 2-story building (1,362 square meters) attached to the mosque, saw the addition of a third floor on July 20, 1990 thanks to generous funding from the Islamic Development Bank of Saudi Arabia. The Islamic Center now features a madrasah (educational institution for Muslim children), the Islamic Culture Research Institute, and more.
6. Makan - Korean Halal Restaurant
Makan provides Muslim tourists and residents of Korea with a taste of the authentic Korean cuisine. Highly recommended and just down the street from the Seoul Central Mosque, this restaurant is the perfect destination for a good, Halal meal.
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 August 2015 18:39
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