Wayward wallaby gets the jump on Australian police at Sydney tourist spot

In this image released by Taronga Zoo Conservation Society, Dr. Larry Vogelnest, senior veterinarian at Taronga Zoo, checks a wallaby is checked at Taronga Wildlife Hospital in Sydney Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. (AP)
Updated 16 January 2018
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Wayward wallaby gets the jump on Australian police at Sydney tourist spot

SYDNEY: Australians often joke that tourists expect to see kangaroos hopping across the Sydney Harbor Bridge but the joke was on police on Tuesday when a wayward wallaby led them in an early-morning chase across the famous landmark.
Police said they chased the mysterious marsupial on foot and in a car over the bridge before dawn before catching it in a downtown park and taking it to the city’s Taronga Zoo.
“Officers took the startled macropod into police custody ... with the police mounted unit arriving on scene soon after to take it to the zoo for veterinary assessment,” New South Wales Police said in a statement.
Video filmed from a pursuing patrol car showed the meter-high wallaby, which looks like a small kangaroo, hopping across the famous bridge.
A policeman stifled a laugh as he drove behind.
“Sydney’s got the best harbor in the world, so I’d imagine he was taking in the view,” police inspector Kylie Smith later told reporters. “We actually do have wallabies or kangaroos that jump down the main street of Sydney.”
Nicknamed “The Coathanger,” Sydney’s famous arch-span bridge opened in 1932 and, with 8 traffic lanes, 2 railway lines and a footpath and cycleway, is the main harbor crossing linking the city with its northern suburbs.
While wallabies and kangaroos are found in both rural and leafy suburban areas, it is highly unusual to see them in the middle of a major city.
“I’m from the ‘bush’ (rural Australia), so I’m used to see them running around all over the place but I’ve never seen one so close to the city before,” said a driver who gave his name as Ray, one of several people who called Sydney radio station 2GB.
Police said the wallaby probably began its city-bound journey at a golf club on the harbor’s north shore before it was spotted hopping south across the bridge in lane 8 at about 5 a.m. (1800 GMT Monday).
“Traffic controllers ... monitored the wallaby as it hopped across to lane 1 and, without indicating, exited onto Cahill Expressway then to Macquarie Street,” police said in a statement.
Larry Vogelnest, senior veterinarian at Taronga Zoo, said X-rays showed the wallaby had not suffered any serious injuries.
“The swamp wallaby remains in a stable condition at Taronga Wildlife Hospital’s intensive care unit ... our hope is that the wallaby will be able to be released back into the wild,” he said in a statement.


Rare silk Qur’an helps preserve Afghanistan’s cultural heritage

Updated 23 May 2018
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Rare silk Qur’an helps preserve Afghanistan’s cultural heritage

  • Each of the Islamic holy book’s 610 pages was produced by hand in a painstaking process that took a team of 38 calligraphers and artists specializing in miniatures nearly two years to finish
  • Turquoise Mountain began work in 2006 in Kabul with the aim of preserving ancient Afghan craftsmanship, including ceramics, carpentry and calligraphy

KABUL: One of the only Qur’ans ever made from silk fabric has been completed in Afghanistan — a feat its creators hope will help preserve the country’s centuries-old tradition of calligraphy.
Each of the Islamic holy book’s 610 pages was produced by hand in a painstaking process that took a team of 38 calligraphers and artists specializing in miniatures nearly two years to finish.
Bound in goat leather and weighing 8.6 kilograms, the Qur’an was produced by Afghan artisans, many of them trained at British foundation Turquoise Mountain in Kabul.
“Our intention was to ensure that calligraphy does not die out in this country — writing is part of our culture,” Khwaja Qamaruddin Chishti, a 66-year-old master calligrapher, said in a cramped office inside Turquoise Mountain’s labyrinthine mud-brick and wood-paneled complex.
With the Qur’an considered a sacred text, calligraphy is highly venerated in Islam and Islamic art.
“When it comes to art we cannot put a price on it. God has entrusted us with this work (the Qur’an) ... and this means more to us than the financial aspect,” Chishti continued.
Using a bamboo or reed ink pen, Chishti and his fellow calligraphers spent up to two days carefully copying Qur’anic verses onto a single page — sometimes longer if they made a mistake and had to start again.
They used the Naskh script, a calligraphic style developed in early Islam to replace Kufic because it was easier to read and write.
The decoration around the script, known as illumination, was more time-consuming, each page taking more than a week to complete.
A team of artists used paint made from natural materials, including ground lapis, gold and bronze, to recreate the delicate patterns popular during the Timurid dynasty in the 15th and 16th centuries in the western city of Herat.
“All the colors we have used are from nature,” Mohammad Tamim Sahibzada, a master miniature artist who was responsible for creating the vibrant colors used in the Qur’an, said.
Sahibzada said working on silk fabric for the first time was challenging. The locally sourced material — all 305 meters (1,000 feet) of it — was treated in a solution made from the dried seeds of ispaghula, or psyllium, to stop the ink from spreading.
Turquoise Mountain began work in 2006 in Kabul with the aim of preserving ancient Afghan craftsmanship, including ceramics, carpentry and calligraphy.
It hopes the silk Qur’an will generate demand for more handmade Islamic religious texts that could create employment for its artisans and help finance the institute.
“We will show it to other Islamic countries to see if it is possible to create job opportunities for graduates to work on another Qur’an,” said Abdul Waheed Khalili, the organization’s Afghan director.
For now, it will be kept in a specially made hand-carved walnut wooden box to protect its delicate pages from the elements at Turquoise Mountain’s offices, which are in the restored Murad Khani, a historic commercial and residential area in Kabul’s oldest district.
There Turquoise Mountain has trained thousands of artisans with the support of Britain’s Prince Charles, the British Council, and USAID.
“The copying of the Qur’an onto silk is very rare,” country director Nathan Stroupe said.
He said the project has been “an amazing way to train our students at an incredibly high level in a very traditional type of work.”
“If a book collector in London... was interested in it, we would be thinking in the $100,000 to $200,000 (price) range,” he added.