‘I love Paris’ may soon be passe for Chinese tourists

Updated 02 April 2013
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‘I love Paris’ may soon be passe for Chinese tourists

Mass muggings and attacks on Chinese tourists in Paris have spawned alarm and warnings of a decline in the number of free-spending visitors from the Asian giant who swarm to France.
More than one million Chinese visitors come every year to France, a country which for them epitomises luxury, romance and quality products.
But that may very well change, said one expert, citing a slew of recent attacks which he says takes the sheen off the “City of Lights” for Chinese visitors.
“This has become a scourge. Since the past year, we have been seeing attacks almost every day,” said Jean-Francois Zhou, the head of Ansel Travel, which specializes in tours to and from China.
On March 20, a group of 23 Chinese visitors were robbed in a restaurant shortly after they landed in Paris’s Charles De Gaulle airport.
Their passports, plane tickets and cash were stolen and the group leader sustained an injury to the face.
“The situation is serious. If these attacks continue, we may have to pay the price,” Zhou told AFP.
He said about 10 Chinese visitors were robbed on one day in October, mainly in the famed Louvre museum, right in the heart of the city.
And in February, “a minibus caught in a traffic jam was attacked, its windows were smashed and hand bags stolen,” he said, adding there was a more recent attack on Chinese nationals at a four-star hotel in Paris.
Li Peng, who is in charge of consular affairs at the Chinese embassy in Paris, said: “There has been an increase in the number of complaints filed over the past year.
“In a week we could have five to six demands for travel documents” to replace stolen passports, Li said.
French Tourism Minister Sylvia Pinel has pledged that “everything will be done to find the perpetrators” of the latest mass mugging, and underscored “the determination of the French government to ensure the security of tourists in France.”
Zhou, the travel agency boss, said the Chinese were targeted as they were big spenders, adding: “Some of them carry up to 20,000 euros ($ 25,000) for shopping.”
The latest incident has fueled concern and some anti-French feeling on China’s talkative social media scene, but several Chinese travel agencies declined to comment to AFP on the possible consequences.
One municipal travel committee in China’s Jiangsu province urged travelers to take precautions.
“Chinese tourists who travel abroad are recommended to take less cash, never show off money or valuables, never talk to strangers in public places or scenic spots, always keep an eye on personal belongings,” it said on its weibo account, a Chinese website similar to Twitter.
They should “take proper care of valuable items including passports” and “avoid going outside alone at night or in any remote places,” it added.
Many Chinese Internet users reacted angrily to the attacks.
One said the incidents “impinge on the esteem and respect of Chinese people,” adding: “We must demand justice.”
Another said: “The French government should give the Chinese people a reasoned explanation, and the criminals should be severely punished.”
But other reactions were more nuanced. The incident “shows the dark side of developed countries, but also highlights that Chinese tourists stand out too much,” said one post on weibo.
“They spend a lot of money, take a lot of cash along with them, they even wear luxury jewellery to flaunt their wealth. It’s better to keep a low profile.”
Renlai Zhu, the head of a Chinese language website on the French capital named YouParis.com, said the situation was being blown out of proportion.
“The phenomena of thefts and aggressions, yes they are growing, but they also exist in Spain and in Rome,” he said.


Mariam’s journey to North Pole ‘an inspiration for Saudi women’

Crossing the unwelcoming terrain of the North Pole is not for the faint-hearted. Mariam Hamidaddin’s brave and inspirational journey to the top of the earth was ended by the threat of frostbite. Reuters
Updated 20 May 2018
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Mariam’s journey to North Pole ‘an inspiration for Saudi women’

  • Mariam Hamidaddin was one of 11 women from Europe and the Middle East taking part in the recent Women’s Euro-Arabian Polar Expedition, an initiative aimed to foster greater dialogue and inspire women to push their limits and fulfill their ambitions.
  • Two weeks later and Hamidaddin still could not feel her fingertips. She struggles to cut a steak and needs help to tie her shoelaces. Medics say it could be months or even years before she fully recovers.

LONDON: Mariam Hamidaddin was skiing toward the North Pole in temperatures as low as minus 38 C when she was advised by her team leader to give up on her dream and take a helicopter back to base camp.
She did so reluctantly. Frostbite had taken its toll on the Jeddah-born entrepreneur’s hands, but with no previous experience of such climates, Hamidaddin was unaware of the severity. Only when she was assessed by a Russian medic who spoke pidgin English did she appreciate how close she was to losing her fingers.
“The words he told me were: ‘No chop’ ... which was scary but also a great relief to hear,” said Hamidaddin, one of 11 women from Europe and the Middle East taking part in the recent Women’s Euro-Arabian Polar Expedition, an initiative aimed to foster greater dialogue and inspire women to push their limits and fulfill their ambitions. Team leader Felicity Aston deliberately chose women with no athletic or Arctic experience with the intention of demonstrating that anybody can achieve their goals with determination.
As Hamidaddin discovered, however, having an expert on hand helps. The transition from frostnip to frostbite can be a matter of five or 10 minutes, so it is essential for people in extreme weather to pay attention to their body. The tiniest sign can help avoid severe consequences.
The 32-year-old had followed all the instructions learned during training camps in Iceland and Oman: She kept moving to circulate her blood and had not removed her gloves even once in the Arctic. She felt pain, yes, but the entire team had frostnip, so why should she consider quitting?
Fortunately for her future — and her fingers — the decision was taken for her.

Mariam Hamidaddin was an inspirational member of the North Pole expedition before a doctor’s verdict cut her journey short.


“There was no proper moment where I realized I had frostbite,” Hamidaddin told Arab News after returning to the heat of Saudi Arabia. “If it was up to me, I would have wanted to continue, so I am extremely thankful that I was asked to evacuate because the frostbite gradually got worse and worse.
Basically, the team leader saved my fingers.”
Two weeks later and Hamidaddin still could not feel her fingertips. She struggles to cut a steak and needs help to tie her shoelaces. Medics say it could be months or even years before she fully recovers.
This month on her Instagram feed @InTuneToTheSound, she is posting photos of her journey in non-chronological order. The intention is to be “open and vulnerable and hopefully inspire people.” In a post, a video shows her typing at a computer using only her right pinky finger.
“There is a negative media perception of what a Saudi woman looks like and what she can and can’t do,” said Hamidaddin. “For this reason, it’s important for us to show that what you see in the media isn’t necessary a true reflection of who we truly are.
“It is also important to share our failures as well because when I see success upon success, I cannot connect with that. I am human, I have weakness and I fall, and I need to know that when I fall, I can rise again. Those stories are the ones that will connect most with people.”
With Saudi Arabia women now competing at the Olympic Games, being allowed to attend football matches at certain stadiums and the imminent lifting of a ban on driving, opportunities for women in the Kingdom are blossoming.
Hamidaddin, founder of the Humming Tree, a co-working space and community center that focuses on creativity and wellbeing, said she sees examples of strong, athletic and confident women every day.
“You can see them everywhere — women running, biking, climbing mountains,” she said.
“So we are already there. It’s just a matter of sharing these stories more. We are strong women; we know what we want and we find a way around it. We do what we need to do and we get it done. The fact that driving now is going to be open for us, just makes all that easier.”
Although Hamidaddin’s journey to the North Pole was cut short, the team’s doctor said she could wait out the expedition in the warmth of base camp and celebrate with her team when they reached their destination.
It was an opportunity that, even with frostbite, she was never going to turn down. What she found at the top of the world was a beautiful, dreamlike landscape — and, perhaps fittingly, a perpetual chase to reach her goal.
“Unlike the South Pole, which is a landmass, the North Pole is a constantly drifting landscape. It’s sea ice on top of the Arctic Ocean and it’s always moving, so you are constantly trying to catch it,” she said.
“One minute you’re on top of the world taking a photo and by the time you’re done taking it, well, the North Pole is a few miles away. You have to keep trying to catch it.”