Tourists invited to live like Gandhi

Updated 03 November 2013
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Tourists invited to live like Gandhi

Tourists searching for peace and simplicity can for the first time check in to Mahatma Gandhi’s most famous ashram in India. But don’t expect modern comforts. And chastity is required.
For 1,000 rupees ($16) a night, tourists can sample the lifestyle of India’s famously ascetic independence leader by staying at the first ashram he established, set up in 1915 in the western state of Gujarat.
Guests at the ashram, which opened to holidaymakers earlier this month, can try their hand at spinning, visit local communities, pray and meditate, all while wearing khadi — hand-woven cloth — during their stay.
But they must adhere to Gandhi’s 11 vows that he promoted including non-violence, no possessions, use of local goods, working for daily food, self restraint, including chastity, and control of diet.
And they are also encouraged to follow Gandhi’s austere daily routine, such as waking at 5am and undertaking domestic chores.
“The objective of this program is to allow people to experience a sustainable lifestyle, to enjoy the simplicity of Gandhi, experience the virtue of Mahatma,” said Nischalavalamb Barot, a travel agent who helped develop the program called “Live Gandhi for a While.”
“This might change perceptions of tourists towards life, society and our natural resources. This might also help tourists find peace and satisfaction within,” Barot told AFP.
Gandhi went to stay at the bungalow, now called Kochrab Ashram and then owned by a lawyer friend, after he returned to India from South Africa in 1915.
From this base, in a village on the outskirts of the city of Ahmedabad, he rejected material wealth and developed some of the ideas for which he became famous.
In one incident, he upset neighbours by inviting a low-caste man, a so-called “untouchable”, to come and live at the ashram as part of his campaign against India’s rigid and deeply ingrained caste system.
The ashram is managed by a nearby university called Gujarat Vidyapith, which Gandhi himself founded in 1920 to “liberate the Indian youths from the shackles of British colonial rule.”
The “Live with Gandhi” program was launched on Oct. 2 to coincide with the 144th anniversary of the birth of Gandhi. Tourists have not yet made bookings, but Barot stressed there were lots of inquiries.
India has plenty of museums and monuments to honour the country’s independence icon, whose personal philosophy and ideas are considered outdated by many in rapidly modernising India.
Known as Mahatma or Great Soul, Gandhi spearheaded a non-violent campaign against the British Raj that finally saw India gain its freedom from colonial rule in 1947. He was shot dead by a Hindu hardliner in New Delhi just months later in 1948.
Despite the many commemorations for Gandhi, Barot, who developed the program with the university, said he hoped the ashram offered something different.
“This is the first time that we are attempting to understand the value and principles of a sustainable life, which Gandhi believed in and practised,” said Barot, who operates a sustainable tourism agency.
However he stressed a stay at the ashram would not be an easy one.
“They will have to follow the vows that Gandhi himself followed in the ashram.... They will also wear the khadi throughout the program.”


Israel to open new international airport near Red Sea

Updated 21 January 2019
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Israel to open new international airport near Red Sea

  • Initially Ramon Airport will handle only domestic flights, operated by Israeli carriers Arkia and Israir
  • A date has not yet been given for the start of international flights

JERUSALEM: Israel was to inaugurate a new international airport Monday in its desert south meant to boost tourism to the nearby Red Sea and serve as an emergency alternative to Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport.
The official ceremony was scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in attendance.
Initially Ramon Airport will handle only domestic flights, operated by Israeli carriers Arkia and Israir.
A date has not yet been given for the start of international flights.
The new airport, named after Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut who died in the crash of the space shuttle Columbia, will in future host jumbo jets from around the globe.
Its website says that it will be able to initially handle up to two million passengers annually, but will be able to expand to a capacity of 4.2 million by 2030.
It says that it has a 3,600-meter-long runway and apron parking space for nine “large and wide-body aircraft.”
It also has freight-handling facilities.
Ramon is about 18 kilometers (11 miles) from the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat and the adjacent Jordanian port of Aqaba.
Low-cost and charter airlines currently flying to Ovda airport, about 60 kilometers from Eilat, will move to Ramon, its website says.
They include Ryanair, Wizz Air, easyJet, SAS, Finnair and Ural Airlines.
It will also replace Eilat’s small municipal airfield, where for decades arriving aircraft have swooped past hotel towers.
Construction costs for the new airport have been put at 1.7 billion shekels ($455 million).
Work began in 2013 but original specifications for the project were revised to allow for upgrades.
The Israel Airports Authority (IAA) has said that the plans for the Ramon project were revised in light of lessons learned during the 2014 Gaza war.
“In an emergency, not only will Israel’s entire passenger air fleet be able to land and park there, but also additional aircraft,” the IAA says.
After a rocket fired by Hamas militants in Gaza hit near the perimeter of Ben Gurion airport in 2014, international carriers suspended flights.
Israeli media have said that a 26-meter high, 4.5-kilometer long “smart” anti-missile fence has been installed to help protect Ramon, which is adjacent to the border with Jordan.
The IAA refused to comment on those reports.
Tourism brings in significant revenue for Israel, accounting for $5.8 billion in 2017, the last full year for which figures are available.
Arrivals to the country of more than eight million citizens hit a record 3.6 million last year, the Israeli tourism ministry said.
The United States, Russia, France, Germany and Britain accounted for most of the visitors.