Assad regime promotes Syria as a 'tourist' destination

Syrian soldiers walk in front a destroyed building in Aleppo, Syria. The Syrian government is advertising Aleppo, along with other destinations in Syria, at the Fitur International Tourism Trade Fair in Madrid.(AP)
Updated 20 January 2018
0

Assad regime promotes Syria as a 'tourist' destination

MADRID: It is over a year since Bashar Al-Assad's regime, with the help of Russian air strikes and barrel bombs, pounded the rebel-held east of Aleppo into submission.
Buildings were flattened, those who survived were left terrorised, hungry and filled with despair, and the stench of dead bodies rose up from the rubble as families searched for their loved ones.
Now, having largely destroyed the city it sought to control, the Assad regime wants the world to visit what remains: as a tourist destination.
This week the Syrian government is advertising Aleppo, along with other destinations in Syria, at the Fitur International Tourism Trade Fair in Madrid, "promoting" the country's attractions to the world.
It is the first time Syria has attended the trade fair since 2011, before the war broke out.
Along with the ruins of Aleppo, it also encourages people to visit the ancient Roman-era ruins of Palmyra, the UNESCO-listed archaeological site which was twice controlled by Daesh.
Daesh fighters blew up some of the temples and burial towers before being forced out of the city for the final time last year by Syrian government forces and their Russian backers.
"This year is the time to rebuild Syria and our economy," Bassam Barsik, director of marketing at the Syrian Ministry of Tourism, told AFP.
Barsik said 1.3 million foreign visitors travelled to Syria last year, although that figure includes those who came from neighbouring Lebanon for only one day.
"We're targeting two million visitors this year," he said.
He argued that religious destinations, such as the historic Christian town of Maaloula, one of the last places on earth where Aramaic is still spoken, are still a draw to tourists.
Damascus, Tartus, Latakia and the historic Crusader castle of Krak des Chevaliers close to the border with Lebanon, although damaged by bombing, are other possible attractions.
"In 2017, the army controlled much of the country, and that was a big help to promote Syria abroad and attract tourist groups again," said Barsik.
Most countries advise citizens against all travel to Syria.
The war has displaced millions of people and is estimated to have claimed the lives of at least 340,000 people since 2011.


In Jordan’s ancient Petra, sirens warn of flash floods

Updated 46 min 22 sec ago
0

In Jordan’s ancient Petra, sirens warn of flash floods

  • Earlier this month, sirens blared minutes before a torrent fed by heavy rains approached the UNESCO World Heritage site
  • The last fatal flash flood struck Petra in 1963 when 22 French tourists and a local guide were killed by rapidly rising waters

PETRA, Jordan: In ancient times, Arab tribesmen dug diversion tunnels to protect their low-lying trading post of Petra against desert flash floods. More than two millennia later, an alarm system warns visitors if flood water rushes toward what has become Jordan’s main tourist attraction.
Earlier this month, the alarms were activated for the first time, said Hussein Al-Hasanat of the Petra Development & Tourism Region Authority. Sirens blared minutes before a torrent fed by heavy rains approached the UNESCO World Heritage site carved into rose-hued rock face.
Hundreds of tourists were able to seek higher ground and were later evacuated, he said.
Amateur video posted online at the time showed visitors running through a steep, narrow canyon leading to the Treasury, Petra’s main draw, as guides urged them to hurry. Later, visitors were seen standing on a higher patch near the Treasury as knee-high water poured through the canyon.
Elsewhere in Jordan, such alarms are still missing. Thirty-four people were killed in flash floods in late September and early November.
The last fatal flash flood struck Petra in 1963 when 22 French tourists and a local guide were killed by rapidly rising waters. In response, Jordan’s Department of Antiquities built a dam to keep water from entering the canyon leading to the Treasury.
In 2014, the alarm system was installed as added protection, with sirens set to go off when flood water rises above four meters (yards).
On Nov. 9, the system was triggered for the first time, through a computer in the Petra Authority’s control room. The computer is connected to eight rain forecast systems and two water detection stations placed in the area, within 8 kilometers (5 miles) of Petra.
The network generates instant data allowing officials to measure possible danger and warn people by the time the water reaches Petra.
Omar Dajani, a meteorologist at the Arabia Weather company, said alarms should be installed in all vulnerable areas in Jordan.
He said urban sprawl has exacerbated the flood risk, which is particularly high in dry areas.
“Now towns have spread so much and many of them were not built with respect for the geography of the region, such as valleys for example, where the water has naturally caused floods for millions of years,” Dajani said.