China advises its tourists to avoid Maldives until political tensions ease

Opposition supporters protest against the government's delay in releasing their jailed leaders, including former Maldives resident Mohamed Nasheed, despite a Supreme Court order, in Male on February 4. (Reuters)
Updated 05 February 2018
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China advises its tourists to avoid Maldives until political tensions ease

BEIJING: China’s foreign ministry on Monday advised Chinese citizens to avoid visiting the Maldives until political tensions subside on the Indian Ocean archipelago.
A tropical paradise for holidaymakers, the Maldives has been beset by fractious politics for years, but concern over potential instability heightened after its attorney-general warned on Sunday that the government would resist any attempt by the Supreme Court to impeach President Abdulla Yameen for disobeying its order to free jailed opposition leaders.
“China suggests that Chinese citizens who are preparing to go to the Maldives in the near term to postpone going until the situation on the ground stabilizes,” Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told a regular briefing, noting that the upcoming Chinese New Year was a peak period for Chinese tourists to visit the Maldives.
Geng said that China supports the resolution of differences between all relevant sides in the Maldives through dialogue and consultation to protect its national and social stability.
The Chinese embassy to the Maldives on Friday issued a travel warning urging Chinese citizens to be cautious when traveling to the country, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Mohamed Anil, attorney general of the Maldives, said on Sunday that the government had received information that the Supreme Court was preparing to fire Yameen, but such a move would be illegal and the police and army had been instructed not to carry out such an order.
Yameen has fired two police chiefs since Thursday, when the Supreme Court threw out terrorism convictions against former president Mohamed Nasheed and eight other opposition figures. Police had indicated they would enforce the ruling.
In power since 2013 and facing elections in October, Yameen is under international pressure to heed the court decision, while hundreds of protesters have taken to the country’s streets to demand compliance with the order.
President Yameen’s government has had good relations with China and a free trade agreement between the two countries was signed in December, despite criticism from the opposition.
China has been striking deals with countries in Asia and Africa in line with its “belt and road initiative” to improve imports of key commodities, upgrade infrastructure and trade routes in the region and boost its diplomatic clout.


Travel back in time at Jeddah’s cultural and heritage cafe

Cafe Magad is home to precious and rare historical antiques where tourists feel a strong sense of connection with historic Jeddah. AN photo
Updated 27 May 2018
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Travel back in time at Jeddah’s cultural and heritage cafe

  • The people of the historic area still hold their values and Ramadan traditions
  • Tourists can learn about the historical area over a cup of coffee

JEDDAH: Historic Jeddah is home to Cafe Magad, the cultural and heritage cafe. It holds many hidden treasures of the historical area. The owner and historical consultant Mazen Al-Saqaf explained how the cafe surfaced.

“It was created for visitors and tourists at the historical area of the city of Jeddah.
“Before we created the cafe, we looked at what visitors and tourists needed there, and we found that there was no restful place. Therefore we created a cafe that resembled the sitting rooms and salons in the old houses,” Al-Saqaf told Arab News.
Tourists can learn about the historical area over a cup of coffee, he said.
“It includes a small library that has books on historic Jeddah in Arabic, English and French, for tourists.”
It is also a popular destination among intellectuals and scholars. “Many historians, thinkers and literary scholars are quite fond of this cafe. They enjoy visiting it and writing about historic Jeddah,” Al-Saqaf said.
“I help historians who are writing about historic Jeddah. If anyone has a scientific paper on it, we assist them with rare photographs, rare documents, and rare books and sources,” he added.
“On the walls, you have old photographs of historic Jeddah. Visitors and tourists can see how the historic area was and how it is now. There are photographs of embassies: The American Embassy, the British Embassy, the French Embassy. When tourists visit, they can see their embassies. They used to be in these historic houses. There are also photographs of the Dutch Embassy and the Italian Embassy.
“And tourists feel some sort of connection between their history and historic Jeddah,” Al-Saqaf told Arab News.
The cafe is also home to precious and rare historical antiques.
“It holds rare antiques of historic Jeddah. For example, here we have a rare manuscript from the Mamluk period. It is from the year 800 H., and a telephone of King Farouk of Egypt, and a document of the first cheque in the Arabian Peninsula,” said Al-Saqaf.
“Every Saturday we hold a literary night, for historians, scholars and thinkers. We also have musical nights. We do all this to attract visitors from outside the historic area. We are contributing to enriching tourism,” Al-Saqaf told Arab News.
He explained that the cafe is relatively new, but the building is not: “The cafe is three years old, the building is over 400 years old.”
The people of the historic area still hold their values and Ramadan traditions.
“They gather here at the cultural and heritage cafe as one family. Each person brings a dish, and we experience Ramadan like the old days,” Al-Saqaf told Arab News.