Liv Tyler, Robbie Williams among celebrity guests at British royal wedding

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Princess Eugenie is driven towards St George's Chapel with her father Prince Andrew, Duke of York, for her wedding to Jack Brooksbank at Windsor Castle, Windsor, Britain October 12, 2018. (Reuters)
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Britain's Princess Eugenie of York (CL) and Jack Brooksbank (CR) are seen at the altar during their wedding ceremony at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, in Windsor, on October 12, 2018. (AFP)
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Britain's Princess Eugenie enters St George's Chapel with her father Prince Andrew, Duke of York, for her wedding to Jack Brooksbank in Windsor Castle, Windsor, Britain October 12, 2018. (Reuters)
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Front row from left,, Sarah Ferguson, Princess Beatrice, Peter and Autumn Phillips and Mike Tindall take their seats ahead of the wedding of Princess Eugenie of York and Jack Brooksbank in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, near London, England, Friday Oct. 12, 2018. (AP)
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US actress Liv Tyler arrives to attend the wedding of Britain's Princess Eugenie of York to Jack Brooksbank at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, in Windsor, on October 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 12 October 2018
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Liv Tyler, Robbie Williams among celebrity guests at British royal wedding

WINDSOR: Hollywood stars Liv Tyler and Demi Moore and singer Robbie Williams were among the first celebrity guests to arrive at Britain's second royal wedding of the year on Friday to see Queen Elizabeth's granddaughter Princess Eugenie marry Jack Brooksbank.
Models Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell as well as singer Ellie Goulding were also among the attendees at Windsor Castle, the venue where Eugenie's cousin Prince Harry and Meghan Markle married in May.

Britain's Princess Eugenie married tequila executive Jack Brooksbank in a star-studded royal wedding Friday at St. George's Chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle.
The 28-year-old bride, a granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, is ninth in line to the British throne. She wore a long-sleeved gown with a fitted top, a peplum and a long train by British designers Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos and a diamond-and-emerald tiara loaned to her by the queen.
The queen and her husband, Prince Philip, attended the wedding, along with other senior royals, including Prince Charles, Prince William and his wife Kate, the duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry with Meghan, the duchess of Sussex.
There had been doubts about whether the 97-year-old Philip would be well enough to attend, but he seemed to be in good form during a rare public appearance.
Eugenie's sister, Princess Beatrice, served as maid of honor — she read a selection from F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" during the service.
They are the daughters of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, who are divorced but enjoy an amicable relationship.
Eugenie's dress was cut in a deep V in the front and the back, a feature requested by the bride that revealed a vertical scar from her surgery at 12 to correct scoliosis. She has said previously it's important for people to show their scars.
There were occasional blue skies on a generally cloudy, gusty day as the royal standard flew atop the Windsor Castle complex, indicating the queen was in residence. The strong winds forced many women to hold on to their elaborate hats as they approached the chapel.

 


Iraqis turn to budding ecotourism to save marshes

Updated 22 May 2019
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Iraqis turn to budding ecotourism to save marshes

  • The Mesopotamian marshes are a rare aquatic ecosystem in a country nearly half of which is covered in cracked desert
  • Legend has it, they were home to the biblical Garden of Eden

CHIBAYISH, Iraq: Thirty years after Saddam Hussein starved them of water, Iraq’s southern marshes are blossoming once more thanks to a wave of ecotourists picnicking and paddling down their replenished river bends.
A one-room home made of elaborately woven palm reeds floats on the river surface. Near it, a soft plume of smoke curls up from a firepit where carp is being grilled, Iraqi-style.
A few canoes drift by, carrying couples and groups of friends singing to the beat of drums.
“I didn’t think I would find somewhere so beautiful, and such a body of water in Iraq,” said Habib Al-Jurani.
He left Iraq in 1990 for the United States, and was back in his ancestral homeland for a family visit.
“Most people don’t know what Iraq is really like — they think it’s the world’s most dangerous place, with nothing but killings and terrorism,” he said.
Looking around the lush marshes, declared in 2016 to be Iraq’s fifth UNESCO World Heritage site, Jurani added: “There are some mesmerizing places.”
Straddling Iraq’s famous Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the Mesopotamian marshes are a rare aquatic ecosystem in a country nearly half of which is covered in cracked desert.
Legend has it, they were home to the biblical Garden of Eden.
But they were also a haven for political opposition to dictator Saddam Hussein, who cut off water to the site in retaliation for the south’s uprising against him in 1991.
Around 90 percent of the once-expansive marshes were drained, and the area’s 250,000 residents dwindled down to just 30,000.
In the ensuing years, severe droughts and decreased water flows from the twin rivers’ source countries — Turkey and Iran — shrunk the marshes’ surface from some 15,000 square kilometers to less than half that.
It all culminated with a particularly dry winter last year that left the “ahwar,” as they are known in Arabic, painfully parched.
But heavier rains this year have filled more than 80 percent of the marshes’ surface area, according to the United Nations, compared to just 27 percent last year.
That has resurrected the ancient lifestyle that dominated this area for more than 5,000 years.
“The water returned, and with it normal life,” said 35-year-old Mehdi Al-Mayali, who raises water buffalo and sells their milk, used to make rich cream served at Iraqi breakfasts.
Wildlife including the vulnerable smooth-coated otter, Euphrates softshell turtles, and Basra reed warbler have returned to the marshlands — along with the pickiest of all species: tourists.
“Ecotourism has revived the ‘ahwar’. There are Iraqis from different provinces and some foreigners,” Mayali said.
A day in the marshes typically involves hiring a resident to paddle a large reed raft down the river for around $25 — not a cheap fare for Iraq.
Then, lunch in a “mudhif” or guesthouse, also run by locals.
“Ecotourism is an important source of revenue for those native to the marshes,” said Jassim Assadi, who heads Nature Iraq.
The environmental activist group has long advocated for the marshes to be better protected and for authorities to develop a long-term ecotourism plan for the area.
“It’s a much more sustainable activity than the hydrocarbon and petroleum industry,” said Assadi, referring to the dominant industry that provides Iraq with about 90 percent of state revenues.
The numbers have steadily gone up in recent years, according to Assaad Al-Qarghouli, tourism chief in Iraq’s southern province of Dhi Qar.
“We had 10,000 tourists in 2016, then 12,000 in 2017 and 18,000 in 2018,” he told AFP.
But there is virtually no infrastructure to accommodate them.
“There are no tourist centers or hotels, because the state budget was sucked up by war the last few years,” Qarghouli told AFP.
Indeed, the Daesh group overran swathes of Iraq in 2014, prompting the government to direct its full attention — and the bulk of its resources — to fighting it back.
Iraq’s government declared victory in late 2017 and has slowly begun reallocating resources to infrastructure projects.
Qarghouli said the marshes should be a priority, and called on the government to build “a hotel complex and touristic eco-village inside the marshes.”
Peak season for tourists is between September and April, avoiding the summer months of Iraq when temperatures can reach a stifling 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).
But without a long-term government plan, residents worry that water levels will be hostage to fluctuating yearly rainfalls and shortages caused by Iranian and Turkish dams.
These dynamics have already damaged the marshes’ fragile ecosystem, with high levels of salination last year killing fish and forcing other wildlife to migrate.
Jurani, the returning expatriate, has an idea of the solution.
“Adventurers and nature-lovers,” he said, hopefully.