Booming tourism on scenic isle

Silhouettes of fishermen are seen at the Galle beach during sunset.
Updated 03 February 2017
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Booming tourism on scenic isle

Sri Lanka is among this year’s biggest tourism destinations — with the island attracting an increasing number of visitors.
The island attracted 2,058,000 tourists in 2016, an increase of 14 percent compared with the previous year, according to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA). Tourism Minister John Amaratunga said the number was the highest ever.
While it promises well for the industry, the numbers were far below that of competing destinations like Thailand and Malaysia, which draw 25-30 million tourists annually, the minister said. He further stated that earnings from tourism increased to $3.5 billion in 2016 from $2.8 billion in 2015.
Sri Lanka has set a target of attracting 2.5 million tourists in 2017 and intends to open its doors to four million tourists by 2020, according to the minister.
Beaches
The exotic Sri Lankan beaches have long been the reason behind the substantial number of tourists the island is attracting. Some of the most pristine shores, each differing from the cities across the island, have caught the eye of not just those who wish to sunbathe, but also diving aficionados and those who love water sports.
Historical cities and monuments
What’s more exciting about a trip to Sri Lanka is that it is home to around eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The rich diversity of the county is why travel bloggers who have visited Sri Lanka spam our Instagram-feeds with picture-perfect green sceneries and sunset silhouettes on white sandy shorelines.
Other attractions are the colonial ruins, national parks and the country’s famous tea plantations.
Culinary culture
Gourmet globetrotters have been visiting the island to indulge in the street food and the traditional repasts of rice and curry. The variety to feast on includes tropical fruit, spice-infused curries, freshly-caught seafood and great street food — all of which has made Sri Lanka a foodie’s paradise.
Luxury hotels and infrastructure
With the fast-growing infrastructure in place to promote the industry, the island is seeing an upgrade in its air, sea, road, power and telecom backbone.
In recent years, Sri Lanka has been on the radar of international visitors not only for its beaches and attractions but as of late largely for its growing global luxury hotel brands.
Although a few years ago Sri Lanka wouldn’t be an ideal choice for luxury, with a promising economic outlook the island has been drawing big luxury names investing into the industry.
According to the latest JLL report “Charting an Upward Momentum” on the island’s hospitality industry, the island is seeing the entry of internationally-branded hotels on a large scale, starting from on the south-west coast before spreading to the capital of Colombo and eventually to other parts of the country.
Wildlife tourism
Wildlife tourism has been garnering much interest from visitors over the last few decades, mostly due to the increasing awareness of conservation of Sri Lankan wild animals.
Home to around 123 species of mammals, 277 species of birds, 173 species of reptiles and 140 species of amphibians, Sri Lanka is also the world’s best place to experience wildlife. Tourists flock to Mirissa for a feast of dolphin and whale watching. Yala holds the country’s second largest wildlife parks known for its variety of wild animals. It has one of the highest leopard densities in the world.
The Sinharaja forest reserve is another attraction that allows tourists to experience the wilderness of a rainforest buzzing with exotic birds and insects.
Ask any tourist who has just returned from a vacation in Sri Lanka and they will tell you why a trip to the pearl of the Indian Ocean is a perfect holiday getaway. It is undoubtedly affordable, and will certainly have you booking a return trip.


FaceOf: Dr. Hussein bin Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, imam at Prophet’s Mosque and high court judge

Updated 20 August 2018
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FaceOf: Dr. Hussein bin Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, imam at Prophet’s Mosque and high court judge

Dr. Hussein bin Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh is a respected imam and sermon performer at the Prophet’s Mosque, as well as a judge at the High Court in Madinah.

A royal recommendation by King Salman made Al-Asheikh the official sermon deliverer on the day of Arafat, 9 of Dul Hijjah. He will give this year’s sermon at Al-Nimra Mosque, one of the holy sites in Arafat, as well as leading Dhur and Asr prayers.

Last year, the Arafat sermon and prayers were performed by Sheikh Dr. Saad Shafaee Al-Shetri. In 2016, Sheikh Dr. Abdurrahman Al-Sudais, chief of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques, led the prayers.

Born in Bani Tamim in southern Saudi Arabia, Al-Asheikh pursued his scholarly career in Riyadh. He received his bachelor’s degree from Shariah College in Riyadh, and then joined the Higher Judicial Institute, receiving a master’s degree before pursuing a doctorate.

Al-Asheikh studied under great Islamic scholars, getting appointed as a magistrate in 1985. Five years later, he became a judge in the Great Court of Najran. He was transferred a year later to the Grand Court in Riyadh, where he stayed for many years before he joined the Grand Court in Madinah in 1997, receiving the royal decree that appointed him as an imam at the Prophet’s Mosque.

He has been leading prayers at the Prophet’s Mosque for more than two decades, while lecturing at the University of Madinah.

He has delivered many scientific lectures in jurisprudence, Tawheed, Hadith and grammar, in addition to some lectures at places such as the Great Mosque in Riyadh.