48 hours in Beijing, China’s compelling capital city

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A huge portrait of Mao Zedong hangs over the entrance to the Forbidden City, a closed network of nearly 1,000 buildings from which China was remotely ruled for close to 500 years. (Reuters)
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A trip outside Beijing to the fabled Great Wall can be easily done by booking one of the readily available half-day minibus excursions to the ever-popular restored brickwork of Badaling. (AFP)
Updated 11 August 2018
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48 hours in Beijing, China’s compelling capital city

  • No traveler should leave China without ticking off three headline attractions — The Forbidden City, Summer Palace and The Great Wall
  • Grab a workers’ lunch at Wangfujing Snack Street, a lively alleyway where locals chow down barbecued cockroaches, grasshoppers and scorpions,

SINGAPORE: If you’re only planning to spend 48 hours in Beijing, then you’ve already made your first mistake. Of course, the same could — or should — be said of every capital city, but frankly, the impenetrable sprawl and intensity of bucket-list attractions of the world’s most populous capital put it in a league all of its own.
No traveler should leave China without ticking off three headline attractions — The Forbidden City, Summer Palace and The Great Wall — each uniquely headline-grabbing, gasp-inducing manmade marvels united only by their rare ability to clog one’s windpipe on first viewing.
And despite the distances between them, with a little planning one can fit all three icons into two days, and still have ample time to soak up 21st Century Beijing.
Start by ticking off the Summer Palace, the glorious complex of gorgeous gardens and picture-postcard pavilions that served as a retreat for generations of Chinese emperors. Set over three square kilometers around the tranquil Kunming Lake, it’s as quintessentially “Chinese” a sight as you might ever see.
Take a cab back toward the center and grab a workers’ lunch at Wangfujing Snack Street, a lively alleyway where locals chow down barbecued cockroaches, grasshoppers and scorpions, alongside more conventional street food. From there, you’re within striking distance of the looming, monolithic might of the infamous Tiananmen Square, the northern side of which is flanked by the main entrance to the Forbidden City, the sprawling, closed network of nearly 1,000 buildings from which China was remotely ruled for close to 500 years. Today, a huge portrait of Mao Zedong hangs over the entry passageway.
Allow the rest of the afternoon to explore its ornate majesty, off-limits to mere mortals for centuries.
Nearby is the National Center for the Performing Arts — a dazzling , domed venue known to locals as “The Egg” — which has been hailed as the center of the much-touted Chinese classical music revolution since opening in 2001. Here, you can catch a world-class symphony, or dabble in traditional Peking Opera.
A great spot to stay locally is the Zhong An Hotel, handily located near the main Beijing Railway Station. It also serves as an extra tourist attraction — it was the former residence of Edgar Snow, the American journalist who penned the influential “Red Star Over China.”
A trip outside the city to the fabled Great Wall is mandatory for day two. To make the most of your time, it’s advisable to book one of the readily available half-day minibus excursions to the ever-popular restored brickwork of Badaling. However, for a more authentic experience, dodge the crowds and touts by riding out to Wangjing West Station and hopping on a local bus to make the 130km journey to the untamed, hikeable stretch of the wall at Jinshanling.
Upon your return, head to the ancient Drum Tower and explore the area’s “hutongs” — narrow, Insta-ready alleyways bristling with color, quirks and tradition.
After soaking up the past, get a taste of how today’s young and affluent Beijingers do things by stopping for a bite at the hip Punk Rock Noodles to refuel, before heading to check out the city’s thriving underground music scene. Nearby hotspot Temple Bar programs multiple original bands nightly, of a uniformly intriguing standard, while downstairs in the same DIY building block Dada Bar serves edgy electronic beats until well past your bedtime.


Five historic mosques to be restored in Asir province

The historic mosques will be restored and renovated so that they can receive worshipers again. (SPA)
Updated 17 November 2018
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Five historic mosques to be restored in Asir province

  • Abdullah bin Ali Al-Asmari, a 100-year-old resident, said that he had served and supervised the mosque’s services 40 years ago and ascertained that according to some books, the mosque was built 400 years ago

JEDDAH: Five mosques in Asir have been added to the first phase of a SR50 million ($13 million) project to restore historic places of worship in the Kingdom.
The mosques have been added to the “Mohammed bin Salman project for Developing Historical Mosques” project, which includes 30 historic mosques in 10 of the Kingdom’s regions.
The historic Asir mosques will be restored and renovated so that they can receive worshippers again.
They have been abandoned in recent years as worshippers became used to visiting modern mosques in the light of urban development in the Kingdom. Some older mosques have been neglected and destroyed despite their historical value.
The historic Al-Mudfat in Abha is one of the mosques included on the list of buildings to be restored. Abdullah bin Ali Al-Asmari, a 100-year-old resident, said that he had served and supervised the mosque’s services 40 years ago and ascertained that according to some books, the mosque was built 400 years ago.
Al-Asmari said that the mosque consisted of a musalla that was six meters wide and 20 meters long, standing on five pillars of juniper trees; 92 branches of juniper trees were used to cover the ceilings.
The musalla has an entrance on the southern side, and an outdoor guest room with an old minaret where the muezzin stands. The lake was removed during previous restoration works and replaced by a modern water tank, he said.
Saudi resident Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Asmari said that the mosque is characterized by the ablution spaces, like the rest of the area’s historic mosques.
The second mosque to be renovated is the archaeological Sadreid Mosque in the north of Al-Namas governorate. The mosque’s features are very similar to those of the rest of the mosques in the area, but it is characterized by historic inscriptions. Saudi resident Mansoor bin Saad Al-Aajlan said that these inscriptions show that it is one of the oldest mosques in the Arabian Peninsula, built in 728, according to credible historical sources.
The Al-Sarou is the third mosque that will be renovated in Asir. Residents said that the history of the mosque remains unknown but that it is very old.
The Aaqisa Mosque in the old village of Asir is also on the list. This mosque is situated near an old fortress and houses and is considered to be very old, according to information from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH).
The mosque occupies an area of 72 square meters with an outdoor space and a lake for ablution.
Al-Nusb Historic Mosque, the fifth on the list, is situated in the center of Abha city.
A local resident, Bandar bin Abdullah Al-Moufarreh, said that the mosque was built in 1744 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Moufarreh and later restored in 1841 by his grandson Sheikh Mohammed bin Ahmed Al-Moufarreh, and again in 1897 by Sheikh Abdullah bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Moufarreh.