Venues from across Arab world feature in TIME’s ‘World’s Greatest Places’ list

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King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture - also known as Ithra. (Wikimedia Commons: AhmadElq)
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Louvre Abu Dhabi. (AFP)
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Warner Bros. World in Abu Dhabi. (AFP)
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14th century Al-Qarawiyyin Library in Fez. (AFP)
Updated 25 August 2018
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Venues from across Arab world feature in TIME’s ‘World’s Greatest Places’ list

  • The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Dhahran, also known as Ithra, is included in the list
  • The beautiful 14th century Al-Qarawiyyin Library in Fez also made the cut

LONDON: A Saudi architectural icon has been named in TIME magazine’s first annual list of the “World’s Greatest Places.”
The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Dhahran, also known as Ithra, is included in the list of places to visit, as are Abu Dhabi’s Louvre and the UAE capital’s Warner Bros. World theme park.

Ithra was built as a corporate social responsibility initiative by Saudi Aramco to serve as a national and regional catalyst for intellectual development, creativity and cross-cultural sharing. Its state-of-the-art, multi-disciplinary facilities attract thousands of visitors for initiatives and events from around the world.

The center consists of a 1600-square-meter Great Hall; a museum with four galleries, each focusing on a specific range of cultural expression spanning Saudi identity and heritage, Islamic art and civilization, and the culture of the Arabian peninsula. A cinema is home to the Saudi Film Festival, and a library holds more than half a million items. The Performing Arts Theater is a 1,000-seat opera house, and the Knowledge Tower hosts 2,000 annual workshops including STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and reading programming for youth. 

By showcasing the Kingdom’s rich cultural heritage and hosting or collaborating on international projects, the King Abdulaziz Center encourages the understanding that flows from artistic expression into all aspects of life, at home and abroad. 

Since its inauguration by the King Salman in 2016, the Center has emerged as a pioneering force offering unprecedented access to unique arts, culture and knowledge programming.

The beautiful 14th century Al-Qarawiyyin Library in Fez also made the cut, while Cairo’s Marriott Mena House hotel was considered one of the best places to stay in the world.
In its introduction to the list, TIME explained how it asked for nominations “across a variety of categories— such as museums, parks, bars, restaurants, theme parks, cruises and hotels— from editors and correspondents around the world as well as dozens of industry experts.” 

They then used a series of criteria to evaluate each nomination — quality, originality, innovation, sustainability and influence.

See the full list here.


Malaysia welcomes its first durian-friendly hotel

An overview of the Durian Research Center. (AN photo)
Updated 16 July 2019
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Malaysia welcomes its first durian-friendly hotel

  • Tan sees the resort’s agritourism ecosystem as a long-term goal toward creating a platform for durian research and cultivation

KUALA LUMPUR: Durians are known for their distinct, pungent smell, which many foreigners describe as a combination of rotten onions and old socks. As such, most hotels in Asia forbid the fruit on their premises.
But with the rising popularity of durians among locals and foreign tourists, Malaysia is welcoming its first durian-friendly hotel and resort.
Situated an hour from Kuala Lumpur’s city center, the beautiful, scenic Bangi Golf Resort includes a hotel overlooking a golf course, and an agriculture farm.
“When you first go into any hotels, you usually see the signs ‘durian is not allowed’ or ‘durian is forbidden’,” said Tan Ban Keat, director of the resort. “We soften the tone for the hotel to be ‘durians are allowed in durian-friendly zones’.”
Hotel patrons can buy, eat and bring durians to designated zones throughout the resort.
“We’re actually the first hotel to practice that,” said Tan, adding that he does not believe the move will prompt other hotels in Malaysia to follow suit.
“It doesn’t do anything to their business. We do it because we grow durians on the premises. We have the annual durian festival … and we’ll include the Durian Research Center in the near future,” he said.

FASTFACT

Musang Kings are considered premium durians due to their intense yet well-balanced, custardy sweet taste. They are the premier durians for export to China and other overseas markets.

Tan expressed his hope that the center, which is under construction, will become a premier research hub for better durian breeds.
“I hope to create a Super Musang King,” he said. Musang Kings are considered premium durians due to their intense yet well-balanced, custardy sweet taste. They are the premier durians for export to China and other overseas markets.
Tan sees the resort’s agritourism ecosystem as a long-term goal toward creating a platform for durian research and cultivation.
“These durian-friendly zones are created to be a platform for agriculture. Durians have a place in many people’s hearts. They’re a national treasure,” he added.