Visit Jamaica for more than just sun, sand and sea

1 / 4
From its distinctive sayings to its culinary treats, Jamaica is a destination able to offer far more than just sun, sea and sand. (Shutterstock)
2 / 4
Negril is home to picture-perfect beaches.
3 / 4
Ackee and salt fish is a popular breakfast dish.
4 / 4
Jamaica is famous for its delicious jerk chicken.
Updated 18 November 2017

Visit Jamaica for more than just sun, sand and sea

NEGRIL, Jamaica: “One love” — “respect” — “irie.” Heard across the island, these terms are Jamaica. That may sound superficial, but it is not until you spend time within Jamaican culture that you realize Bob Marley wailing about “One Love” was not a disposable line, it was him being genuinely Jamaican.
Picture yourself on a postcard-perfect Caribbean beach — white sands kissed by crystal clear waters, palm trees snoozing over sun loungers — and then turn to someone and, in your worst Jamaican accent, say: “One love.” That is something close to what it means. It is how you feel. It is peace; it is love; it is joy and it is a close relation to the other two sayings, with “respect” being obvious and “irie” being a positive term close “cool” or “good.” With sayings like these, how could you not fall in love with Jamaica?
However, there are downsides. Most visitors will arrive in either Kingston on the south coast — the capital — or Montego Bay on the north coast, Jamaica’s second city, and both are noted on numerous travel sites as having perilous, no-go areas. You need to aware, but not permanently wary. Just as you would avoid areas in London, New York or New Delhi, so you need to be aware of not straying into the wrong neighborhoods of Jamaica’s major towns and cities.
For most tourists, this advice is academic as the majority will power their way to the nearest sun lounger, but for those taking a short swing at Kingston, be sure to take a tour around Port Royal, a historic British settlement that was once known as the wickedest place on Earth. The original vice-laden, pirate-ridden town mostly disappeared beneath the sea following an earthquake in 1692 that killed around 2,000 people. Today, it is a fishing village toured by history buffs keen to see the impressive Fort Charles, a fortress that never saw battle, but did struggle to keep relevant, its guns originally pointing over the sea. Following centuries of earthquakes and sand deposits, however, they now point across scrubland, not able to see even a drop of water.
Most tourists do not want history tours, they want sun, sea and sand. Nowhere in Jamaica is better for such needs than Negril, a resort town on the west coast that boats a 11-kilometer beach of creaminess, dotted with beach bars and hotels. This is where Jamaica locks horns with beach offerings across the Caribbean, competing for travelers and package holiday makers, yet it is able to offer something unique: Jamaican culture. It is a lure that brings people back year after year, highlighted by an American couple I met who had been returning to Negril for 23 years running.
Your Jamaican beach holiday should start early. Rising at 6:30 a.m. is not normally associated with relaxation, but it is only with the dawn chorus that you will have the beach to yourself, devoid of daytime hawkers flogging cigarettes, T-shirts, carvings, music, wraps and patties. Rising early will also guarantee cooler temperatures and calmer seas and during hurricane season, it is most likely the weather will be best as daytime heat usually whips up short afternoon rains, forcing sunbathers to flee for shelter. As an added bonus, you will also be first in line for the breakfast buffet.
Being offered the choice between a full English breakfast and a Jamaican breakfast is a tough decision, but when in Rome — so a Jamaican breakfast was tried and devoured. Fried plantains, callaloo, ackee and salt fish, papyrus and fried dumplings. Nothing on the menu was familiar, but broken down, plantain is a cousin of the banana, served sliced and fried; callaloo is a West African dish of green leafy plants — you can use spinach or kale — chopped, steamed and spiced; ackee and saltfish is a yellow tree fruit diced up with salted white fish, resulting in a specialty not too dissimilar in appearance to scrambled eggs, yet far, far saltier and dumplings are akin to small scones, deep fried. The combination of these ingredients, alongside papyrus, results in a Jamaican treat, one that is sure to re-energize you after your early morning swim.
Another Caribbean dish served across the region is jerk chicken. The reason I mention it is not to fawn over its simplistic beauty, but to flag the number of businesses claiming to make Jamaica’s finest jerk chicken. Yet buyer beware, the street vendor may claim greatness, but your stomach will likely prefer the hotel’s version.
For those travelers to Negril able to tear themselves from a sun lounger, the highlight of the area is a visit to Rick’s Café. This bastion of entertainment perched on the West End Cliffs is wildly overpriced for the area, but it has been in business since 1974 and offers the chance to watch — or take part in — cliff jumping. The more risk-averse may wish to check their travel insurance, but the jump is easy — impressing the crowd is far harder. For those wishing to steer clear, there is live reggae music, with wafts of Bob Marley recreating a similar vibe to bars up and down the main beach.
The classic, stereotypical version of Jamaica, tinged with Bob Marley, is everywhere and while there is much more to Jamaica, there is no shame in relaxing with a cold drink, admiring the sunset and humming along to “One Love,” It is how the maestro himself would have wanted you to feel.
Respect.


Saudi Arabia’s AlUla lands interactive art exhibition

AlUla is an archaeological marvel — boasting golden sandstone canyons, colossal arches and rock formations — that has played host to numerous ancient civilizations, making it a significant cultural crossroads. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 20 January 2020

Saudi Arabia’s AlUla lands interactive art exhibition

  • Famed for its rock formations and archaeological treasures, the valley’s dramatic landscape inspires creative concepts

JEDDAH: The Royal Commission for AlUla has collaborated with Desert X to bring an interactive installation to the area for the first time.

Desert X began in 2017, in California’s Coachella Valley, as a way to connect modern art with desert communities and cultures.
It is Desert X’s first international collaboration and starts on Jan. 31, running through to March 7, as part of AlUla’s Winter at Tantora festival.
AlUla Valley is famed for its rock formations, dramatic desert landscape and archaeological treasures.
Neville Wakefield, artistic director and co-curator for Desert X, said the exhibition would bring together local artists and ones from further afield.
“You discover that the same things that we find artists following in southern California — the interest in the environment, natural resources, cultural memory, trade and migration — they’re common for everyone,” he told Arab News. “What’s interesting to me about Saudi Arabia is the demographic, it’s a very young nation. I hope this opens the door to encourage a new generation of artists to emerge and take (their) place on an international stage and vice versa.”

Outdoor exhibition
Site-specific exhibitions differ greatly from a gallery setup in a museum with a controlled or fixed environment. Curators and artists face more external factors that could hinder the installation process from the weather to safety measures such as falling rocks. Wakefield said the uncertainty made shows such as Desert X exciting. “It really is about engaging with the landscape.”
Artists were brought to the Kingdom on a site visit last year to process the surroundings and create their own installation proposals.
They were selected based on their response to the landscape, not only its physical nature but culturally, historically and socially.
Riyadh-based artist Muhannad Shono said he would have done anything to take part in Desert X.
“I wasn’t going to let it slip through my fingers,” he told Arab News. “We don’t get a lot of chances with free access and support to visualize and bring to life something in the desert — an enchanting and romantic place to set up an installation.”
He changed his mind about the concept several times before finally embracing his design — a sculptural path.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Desert X began in 2017, in California’s Coachella Valley, as a way to connect modern art with desert communities and cultures.

• Artists were brought to the Kingdom on a site visit last year to process the surroundings and create their own installation proposals.

• They were selected based on their response to the landscape, not only its physical nature but culturally, historically and socially.

“I wanted to trigger things we’ve experienced as children in the audience. For example, finding a treasure map of the desert and an X that marks the spot where oftentimes, you reach the spot and find nothing there. The chest is empty — either with nothing there or that someone got there first. But the journey and adventure are amazing,” said Shono.
The Saudi artist wanted to give people a chance to unleash an inner curiosity that would set them on a purposeful discovery, not one of materialistic value but to find meaning in themselves.
He said the installation was not easy to find. “It goes further and higher and the more you go, the more you discover yourself. Alone with yourself and that’s what’s important,” he added.

Humans and nature
Tunisian-born and US-based artist Lita Albuquerque has often explored the relationship between humans and nature. Her AlUla project also draws on her passion for cosmology.
“I’ve been working on a narrative about a female astronaut who comes to this planet to see interstellar consciousness. She wants to teach us about our relationship to the stars,” she told Arab News.
The astronaut visits through different periods of time, the artist explained. She comes from the future but also visits the past “as if she’s birthing astronomy, giving us this whole map of the stars down the valley.”
The astronaut sits on a boulder positioned at the western end of the valley, looking eastward down the entire valley.
“It looks as if she is offering something, and below her are 99 blue circles of different diameters that correspond to the aligned stars above. She’s a little bit bigger than life-sized. It’s surprising to see her in such a grand space,” Albuquerque said.
She first visited AlUla last September and got to see the whole region while scouting for sites.
She has worked in desert sites since the start of her career, so Desert X was a natural step for her. “I felt like I was part of Desert X from the very beginning,” she added.