Germany is one of the world’s best and safest holiday destinations

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Schwerin Castle.
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Island Museum of Berlin.
Updated 18 October 2017
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Germany is one of the world’s best and safest holiday destinations

RIYADH: Germany, which ranks as one of the world’s best tourism destinations, is also regarded as one of the safest countries for business, medical tourism and leisure.
Since reunification, Germany gained a higher profile as a place to visit, thanks partly to the remarkable resurgence of Berlin, one of the most fascinating and exciting cities in Europe. But the appeal of the reunified Germany is not limited to the German capital only. There are hundreds of places to see in Germany besides hundreds of avenues to enjoy.
On the one hand, Germany is famous for lifestyle, art and culture; while on the other, it is equally important for business and leisure. Germany’s contribution to the world of art and classical music is undeniable, and provides a powerful pretext for a visit, whether to experience the glories of the Berlin Philharmonic or of Wagner’s Ring at Bayreuth, or to follow in the footsteps of great composers: Bach in Leipzig, Beethoven in Bonn.
“Germany’s reputation as the cradle of modernism is also well deserved. German modernism was preceded by the older traditions of the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo, each of which left a rich legacy of artistic and architectural treasures,” said a report on tourism released by the German government. Germany’s prowess in fine art is less well known, yet from the pioneering realism of Albrecht Durer to the ethereal Romanticism of Caspar David Friedrich, it’s a powerful tradition that is well worth discovering.
Most German cities of any size have excellent galleries, with Berlin and Cologne hubs of the European contemporary art scene. The pleasures of a visit to Germany are not only intellectual. Germany’s food culture is traditionally characterized by wholesome but hearty dishes, a vast array of sausages and excellent but calorific cakes. Yet the impact of immigration, travel and increasing culinary ambition has been powerful, and most towns nowadays offer a wide selection of international options, usually including Balkan, Greek, Italian and Turkish.
“Germany offers all what is praiseworthy and what one wants to see as well as experience,” said German Ambassador Dieter Haller, while referring to the growing popularity of German cities in terms of tourism. In fact, Germany is the seventh most visited country today with a growing number of wealthy tourists from Arab countries streaming into Germany. In fact, one unsung pleasure of a visit to Germany is the opportunity to meet its people.
In terms of medical tourism, Germany is far ahead. Many consider the German health care system as one of the best in Europe and around the world. German hospitals have been a primary health travel destination in Europe for hundreds of years and continue to lead the industry today. Patients from Eastern European countries such as Russia, Romania and Bulgaria, besides many Arab nations, who have the resources to pay for high quality medical services, usually seek medical care abroad and Germany is a primary choice.
Medical travelers from Great Britain and the United States are also attracted to Germany’s hospitals mainly because of the high level of medical care and technical advances offered by the German healthcare system. Coming to Germany as a medical tourist also enables the Western medical travelers to reduce the waiting times which are common in many other countries. Patients from the Gulf and Arab nations come to Germany to avail themselves of the expertise and reputation of the German doctors.
Germany is ideal as a destination for health and relaxation — whether travelling with the whole family, unwinding after a business trip or engaging in active pursuits. With around 200,000 km of walking trails and 70,000 km of cycle paths you can explore the country at its most unspoilt, getting close to nature while being kind to the environment. Along the way one will discover amazing and diverse natural landscapes. More than one third of the country’s land area is under some form of protection.
With a total of 16 national parks, 15 UNESCO biosphere reserves and over 100 nature parks, there are more than 130 preserved national landscapes just waiting to be explored. Indeed, Germany offers a wide range of options for sustainable travel. Its leafy towns and cities boast excellent public transport networks and a good cycling infrastructure. Hotels and restaurants support the use of regional produce within a very lively culinary scene that will delight anyone who enjoys good food.
Many attractions and amenities also cater for disabled guests through the ‘Tourism for all” project. The largest city in Germany’s federal state of Saxony, Leipzig is known for its vibrant arts and culture scene shaped by famous music composers like Bach, Richard Wagner and Felix Mendelssohn. Tourists today can enjoy performances of Bach’s music at the St. Thomas Church where Bach once served as choir leader and is now buried. Located in the Baltic Sea, Rugen Island is another attraction and is the largest island in Germany, connected to the mainland by the Rugen Bridge and Rugen Causeway.
Charming villas, romantic seaside resorts and beautiful beaches all draw tourists to Rugen Island, but the star attraction is the Jasmund National Park, famous for its unique chalk cliffs rising 528 feet (161 meters) over the sea. Another notable feature of Rugen Island is Cape Arkona, East Germany’s northernmost tip, where tourists can visit an old lighthouse, remnants of a Slavic castle and a picturesque fishing village.
Another major attraction is Romantic Rhine stretching between the cities of Bingen and Bonn, the Middle Rhine flows through a dramatic geological formation called the Rhine Gorge. This region features a spectacular landscape dotted with some 40 medieval castles, picturesque villages and terraced vineyards. The region’s most famous natural attraction is the Lorelei, the deepest and most narrow section of the Rhine Gorge, which features a large, treacherous rock that caused several boating accidents prior to the 19th century. The best way to experience the Romantic Rhine is by a riverboat cruise.
Another one of the most beautiful cities in Europe is Munich in Germany. Best known as the origin of the world famous Oktoberfest, Munich is one of the best places to visit in Germany with a great culture scene. Munich is home to several sophisticated opera houses and theaters like the National Theatre. The city center is an attractive blend of classic and modern architecture, teeming in historic churches, medieval walls and royal palaces as well as bustling shopping centers and nightlife venues. Munich’s Oktoberfest began in 1810 with a royal wedding celebration. Today, this famous beer festival draws millions of visitors every year to take part in the revelry that involves several gigantic beer tents, delicious Bavarian food and millions of liters of beer.
Then comes the capital city, which is the most important city not only in Germany but in the whole of Europe from tourism and business points of view. A federal state and the capital city of Germany, Berlin is widely associated with its World War II history and former division of East and West Germany by the Berlin Wall during the Cold War. Since the fall of the historic wall in 1989, Berlin today is now a vast, unified city diverse in ethnic groups and abundant in sightseeing attractions, culture and nightlife. Many tourists are drawn to Berlin’s famous historic structures, which include the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag. Although most of the Berlin Wall was demolished, there are some portions still standing near Checkpoint Charlie and Reichstag.

Then, no one can deny the attraction of Cologne, situated on the Rhine River in the German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Cologne is one of the most popular places to visit in Germany. The city offers a vibrant array of attractions, buzzing nightlife and a stellar arts and culture scene. Cologne also packs impressive landmarks such as the city’s informal symbol, the Cologne Cathedral, a stunning Gothic church. Moreover, the Twelve Romanesque Churches are magnificent examples of medieval architecture.
Another city in Germany which attracts sizeable number of tourists is Dresden. Before it was severely damaged from World War II bombings, Dresden was known as the Jewel Box because of its lavish collection of stunning art and architecture. After many years, the city has restored much of its former glory. The capital of the federal state of Saxony, Dresden offers a number of historic sites like the stunning Frauenkirche cathedral. The city also boasts many cultural institutions of which the Semper Opera is most widely esteemed.
As one of the largest Baltic seaports in Germany, Lubeck is a tourist place to see, it is located in the country’s northern-most state, Schleswig-Holstein. Founded in 1143, Lubeck served for several centuries as the capital seat of the Hanseatic League. Although it was the first German city to be bombed and damaged during World War II, Lubeck still retains much of its medieval architecture, making it a popular tourist destination. A walk through the narrow streets of the Altstadt offers views of historic sites like the stunning cathedral, the 12th century Town Hall and the old city gates of which the Holstentor is the most famous.
Any tourist visiting Germany should also not miss Heidelberg. With historic treasures like the medieval Old Bridge, the Heidelberg Castle, the Church of the Holy Spirit and the Knight St. George House, it is no wonder that Heidelberg is a popular tourist attraction. The city center’s main street, Haupstrasse, is packed with pubs, restaurants, museums, art galleries, shops and markets. Home to Germany’s oldest university, Heidelberg’s long academic history can be retraced along the Philosopher’s Walk, a scenic footpath often walked by many earlier philosophers and professors.
On the other hand, the most photographed building in Germany, Neuschwanstein Castle, is also one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations. Nestled among the breathtaking beauty of the Bavarian Alps near the town of Fussen, this fairy-tale castle served as the inspiration behind Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. Constructed in the late 1800s, Neuschwanstein Castle was never built for defense purposes as most castles. Instead, this castle was created as a fanciful retreat King Ludwig II of Bavaria who had a reputation for abiding in daydreams instead of reality.


Saudi Arabia seeks to improve its knowhow

The challenge remains in changing a mindset in the Arab world which still focuses on the number of graduates rather than the quality of education.
Updated 20 min 46 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia seeks to improve its knowhow

  • With the Kingdom ranking 66th out of 134 countries in the Global Knowledge Index, education is key to improving its standing
  • The Arab world needs to make strides in research, development and innovation in order to bridge the gap with the West

DUBAI: With Saudi Arabia standing 66th out of 134 countries in the Global Knowledge Index, the Kingdom is hoping that a focus on  innovative education will boost its ranking. 

Improving the quality and nature of education to enable youth to innovate and be creative will prove key to achieving that goal.

The index results were announced in Dubai last month by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation, in partnership with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), to measure the knowledge sector in 134 countries.

“With Saudi Arabia, we obtained the information from international organizations which were provided data from the government,” said Dr. Hany Torky, chief technical adviser at the UNDP and project director at the Arab Knowledge Project. 

“We rely on international organizations like the World Bank and UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization),” but Arab countries “don’t convey data to international organizations” or they do so “very late,” he added.

The aim of the index is to map trends in different areas of knowledge to be able to identify challenges facing countries in the field.

Saudi Arabia scored high in sectors such as health and environment, information and communications technology, and features of the labor market.  It also proved strong in research, development and innovation, ranking 38th, and the economy, at 47th. 

But in other sectors, the Kingdom scored relatively low. Technical and vocational education and training landed it in the 117th position, followed by 87th in the general enabling environment.

Khaled Abdul Shafi, director of the regional bureau for the UNDP, said focusing on education will be paramount for Arab countries. 

“Education can give young people this freedom and not consider that it should be based on memorization,” he added. 

“All the stages of education are important, and if Arab countries focus on education, we’ll be in a much better position compared to where we stand now.”

The knowledge gap between the Arab world and the West is large, with the exception of the UAE and a few other countries. 

Abdul Shafi blamed this on the quality of education in the Arab world, which he said is based on spoon-feeding and does not encourage innovation as much as it should. 

“It’s also not really related to the marketplace, so students are graduating without really having the skills required for the economy,” he added. 

“Education is the main reason, so we need to pay a lot of attention to the education sector in all its different stages to enhance its quality. It’s very important to determine where the problem is to work on dealing with it.”

He said research, development and innovation as a whole are lacking in the Arab world compared to other countries, with an absence of youth participation and the unavailability of data and research. 

“The importance of the index isn’t the ranking of countries, but to analyze the knowledge status in each country,” he added. 

“They’ll be able to put their hands on their weak points and work on further enhancing these indicators to achieve much more progress,” said Abdul Shafi.

“We encourage countries and work with them to transfer the practices of developed countries to less-developed ones, so we’re not just producing a report, we’re also collaborating with some of these countries to transfer their experience and knowledge.”

As part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plan, a major focus has been placed on youth and their education. 

With a predominantly young population, the Kingdom has identified and developed initiatives to bridge the knowledge gap between the Arab world and the West.

Some include the Misk Global Forum, the flagship platform of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s foundation, which held its “Skills for Our Tomorrow” conference in November to focus on youth, knowledge and innovation. 

The Misk Foundation has also launched a number of programs to foster talent across the Kingdom, with the aim of developing a knowledge-based economy as the country shifts away from oil.

“The report enables us to face reality,” said Aysha Al-Mansouri, a Saudi specialist in youth capabilities development. 

“In Saudi, we have a clear vision and a future objective, which we hope to achieve through our Vision 2030. We need to do right by our youth and our country.”

But with 30 million illiterate people under the age of 18 in the Arab world, the task at hand is momentous. 

“It’s shameful for us as Arabs, and I was surprised to see so many young illiterates,” said Jamal bin Huwaireb, CEO of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation. 

With 30 million illiterate people under the age of 18 in the Arab world, the task at hand is momentous.

“Success is going to be the result of those who work continuously and have a clear strategy. In 40 years, illiteracy was completely eliminated in the UAE, so countries like Egypt or Iraq, which used to disseminate knowledge for centuries, should work on this. We all share the same goal, so it’s not impossible.”

The challenge remains in changing a mindset in the Arab world, which Torky said still focuses on the number of graduates rather than the quality of education. 

“What’s the point in having 100 percent of graduates if they don’t have the skills required for the labor market?” he asked. 

“Investment in education is almost the same in all Arab (Gulf) countries, but the process and deliverables of education are problematic. To maintain the status quo is a failure, and we need to keep improving.”

The education sector will have to keep up with the pace of technological transformation. “There are impacts of the acceleration in technology, like artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, blockchain and the Internet of Things, and the related skills that you need to acquire to deal with such developing technologies,” Torky said. 

“In the near future, there will be seven countries that will lead the world in knowledge, and the UAE is one of them, having jumped six positions in the index in 2018,” he added.

“Arab countries can actually reach such status, like the US, the UK, Singapore, Finland, Sweden and Brazil.”

Bin Huwaireb expressed hope that other Arab foundations will eventually collaborate with the UNDP in disseminating knowledge. 

“We have a single goal of reinforcing the concept of knowledge in the Arab world,” he said. “Over the years, we can now see that the difference is clear and everybody is speaking about knowledge, the knowledge economy, the industrial revolution and knowledge reports.”

Workshops are being held in Arab countries such as Jordan and Egypt to create momentum across the region. 

“We are beginning to reap the benefits of this project,” bin Huwaireb said. “Many Arab countries have a problem with empowering environments, but they should do their best to bridge this gap between them and other developed countries so their knowledge indicators can climb to higher rankings.”

He touched on scientific research, a vital element still lagging in the region. “Scientific research centers are a real obstacle we suffer from in the Arab world, because without such centers there will be no progress and no knowledge generation,” he said.

“But there are major plans and strategies to allocate the proper funds for scientific research, and we want it to increase in all Arab countries. It needs some time, but encouragement, motivation and collaboration should continue.”