Snow business: the epic appeal of Greenland

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Nuuk Fjord in Greenland. (Shutterstock)
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Greenland is a great location for whale-watching. (Shutterstock)
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The island is home to a variety of wildlife. (Shutterstock)
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Ittoqqortoormiit, at the entrance to the Scoresby Sound fjords in eastern Greenland. (Shutterstock)
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There are more dogs than humans in Greenland. (Shutterstock)
Updated 12 June 2019

Snow business: the epic appeal of Greenland

  • The world’s largest island is spectacular, and more accessible than you might think
  • Greenland is wonderfully welcoming to visitors, with the locals happy to show you their country

DUBLIN: Greenland is not the first country most in the Gulf would think of visiting, but it’s one of the most striking places on the planet, and a country that has become increasingly accessible in recent years. The least densely populated nation in the world — two-thirds of it is covered by an ice sheet — this is a land with jaw-dropping scenery: epic mountain ranges, sheer ice walls, whales, and, of course, the otherworldly spectacle of the Northern Lights.

The only part of Greenland accessible to travellers is the east coast. The capital, Nuuk, is usually the first port of call and there are direct flights there from both Reykjavik and Copenhagen. Nuuk itself is a charming fishing town, with plenty to see. Head first to Nuuk Tourist Office, housed in a charming wooden structure built in 1922. It can provide a host of information about Nuuk and Greenland in general, and it’s a great place to plan out an itinerary. Just outside of town lies Ukkusissat, a mountain more than 2,500 feet high that looms over the capital. Best to get a local guide who will bring you to the summit, which offers spectacular views of the city and the surrounding coast. Back in Nuuk, head for the Greenland National Museum and Archives, which provide a compelling look at the history of Greenland and its people. Close by is the Nuuk Art Museum, which offers a cultural entry point to the country’s heritage. For most travellers, Nuuk is just a starting point, with the real highlights located further north. There’s a local ferry which goes up and down the east coast on a daily basis. It’s the most cost-effective way of getting around and most travellers base their journey around the ferry timetable.

One of Greenland’s highlights is undoubtedly Ilulissat, a picturesque fishing village about two days (yes, days… it’s a big country) by ferry from Nuuk. The jewel in the crown of this region is the mammoth Sermeq Kujalleq, the world’s largest glacier, which creates 46 cubic kilometers of icebergs annually (the iceberg that sunk the Titanic came from this glacier). A world heritage site, you can hike from the town to the glacier, and there are few more awe-inspiring views than the one that greets you as you trek through the tundra and the glacier reveals itself. Five kilometers wide and 65 kilometers long, it pushes icebergs out into the sea, and the views overlooking it are truly spectacular. Take a seat and watch nature do its thing, as whales breech in the bay below and the ice cracks and grinds. It’s hard to overstate how inspiring the view is, and how lucky visitors feel. The whole area is a UNESCO world heritage site and is worth the flight price alone.

There are more dogs than humans in Greenland and there are few things cuter than a group of Arctic puppies. These are working dogs and while some are perfectly friendly, caution is advised when getting that Instagram picture. Get the ferry from Ilulissat north through Disko Bay, which offers the most spectacular views of icebergs, and head to Aasiaat, a beautiful coastal town dotted with colorful wooden houses overlooking the sea. There is plenty to do, from kayaking and whale-watching to fishing and sailing. The sea dominates every aspect of life here, and there are numerous opportunities to interact with the locals. For many of them the burgeoning number of tourists is both a blessing and a curse — as they try to balance catering for visitors while holding onto their way of life. Aasiaat manages to do both and is a wonderful way to experience what life is really like for Greenlanders.

Another issue right now is the one of independence from Denmark, which many locals want to see happen by 2021, the 300th anniversary of Danish colonial rule. The country’s 40,000 inhabitants are divided on the matter, with some nervous about what life would be like without Danish subsidies. Whatever happens, Greenland is wonderfully welcoming to visitors, with the locals happy to show you their country. The best time to go is late summer to early autumn, when there are about 12 hours of sunlight and the winter snows have yet to move in. If you are dead set on seeing the Northern Lights, then September and October are the best months to go.

 


Russian museum CEO: Archaeology in Saudi Arabia is at its peak

Since the launch of the Vision 2030 reform plans, many steps have been taken to present Saudi Arabia’s ancient wonders such as Al-Gara Mountain in Al-Ahsa to the world. (Shutterstock)
Updated 15 October 2019

Russian museum CEO: Archaeology in Saudi Arabia is at its peak

  • Undiscovered archaeological treasures key to cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Russia

MOSCOW: Archaeology in Saudi Arabia has seen an unprecedented number of discoveries and findings in recent years. With over 44 Saudi and international missions working in the Kingdom this year alone, Russia’s State Hermitage Museum director, Mikhail Piotrovsky, commended the country’s efforts in presenting its hidden treasures to the world.
Arab News met with the director in Moscow to discuss the future of archaeology in Saudi Arabia and his interest in hosting one of its most famous exhibits, “AlUla: Wonder of Arabia.”
Piotrovsky, the urbane general director of the State Hermitage Museum located in Saint Petersburg, was appointed in 1992 by decree of the prime minister at the time.
He has a long history with the museum.
He took up the position following his father, Boris Piotrovsky, who was director from 1964 until his death in 1990.
Piotrovsky’s work at the museum is inspired by both his passion for the arts and a deeply rooted adoration for archaeology.
A graduate of Leningrad University, he spent a year taking part in archaeological explorations in Yemen, the Caucuses and central Asia, with over 200 scholarly publications, including catalogues of Arabic manuscripts.
A fluent Arabic speaker, he dedicated many years of his career to the archaeology of the Arab world, the spiritual and political history of Islam and Arab culture as well as medieval works and ancient inscriptions.
He told Arab News how the school of archaeology is always developing, and in order to achieve success in any excursion, it is key that teams coordinate with others to learn from their experiences.
“It is a very international field. If it is not, it will become too narrow and nationalistic,” Piotrovsky said.
“Archaeological departments are the most open bodies in every country. Be it Russia, Egypt, Iraq or Saudi Arabia, they are accustomed to working with different points of view and people from other civilizations. Openness is important for achieving success.”
The director said that many archaeologists from the Kingdom have been invited by the museum to partake in expeditions alongside Russian archaeologists to gain experience and exchange knowledge.
“AlUla is one of the jewels of archaeology,” he said. “It is a rare site, the Nabataeans controlled the routes from south to north. The Romans, Indians, ancient Palmyrians and Bedouins have been there.” The director told Arab News that they have been working in joint teams not only in archaeological diggings but also with plans to develop what they call an “archaeological park.”

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4.5m - people visited the State Hermitage Museum.

The Russian State Hermitage Museum tells the story of Russia, its palaces, Peter the Great and many more significant historical moments. The museum also exhibits artifacts of different civilizations: Islamic, Buddhist, Catholic and others.
The museum’s message and goal is for “different civilizations to speak to each other and to us and make a connection,” he exclaimed.
Piotrovsky believes the same concept can be developed for AlUla.
Speaking to Arab News last January, Dr. Abdullah Al-Zahrani, general director of archaeological research studies at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, said that digs in Saudi Arabia are increasing at an unprecedented rate.
“Archaeology in the Kingdom is on the rise,” said the director.
“There is still a lot to be discovered and we are still in the period where you begin to dig and make a discovery, dig more and make another discovery. In the Arab world, everything is new and holds a base for the development of knowledge.”
Piotrovsky has been following the progress of archaeology in the Arab world for many years and he said that more archaeologists are going to Saudi Arabia now than at any point in the past 10 years.
Antiquities discovered in the Kingdom are known to come from one of the oldest areas of human settlements, with discoveries dating back 1.2 million years. In this past year alone, 15 new sites were discovered across the country.

FASTFACT

85,000-year-old discovery of a rare fossilized finger bone in the Nefud Desert is the oldest human fossil on record unearthed.

“It is a very important region which is still undiscovered properly. We all know the first man, according to our theories, was born in Africa and then we see its traces moving to Europe and Asia through the Arabian Peninsula,” said Piotrovsky.
“Ancient archaeology is very important but I think for this time period it should be the archaeology of the written period. Archaeology of the trade routes, coming from India and Africa, trade routes from Iraq and Palestine and Syria. There were fantastic kingdoms and sites.”
The museum’s keen interest in Saudi Arabia’s archaeological findings are a reflection of the director’s move to enhance cooperation between the countries.
It is planning on bringing the Kingdom’s first international exhibition dedicated to the human and natural heritage of AlUla titled “AlUla: Wonder of Arabia” to Saint Petersburg.
In 2011, the museum hosted the third leg of the “Saudi Archaeological Masterpieces through the Ages” exhibition after the successful exhibitions at the Louvre Museum in Paris and the La Caixa Foundation in Barcelona.
Aimed to introduce the historical and cultural importance of the Kingdom, the 450 relics were displayed for the first time outside of Saudi Arabia. They date back to a time between the Palaeolithic era and the pre-Islamic ages.
Since the launch of the Vision 2030 reform plans, many steps have been taken to present Saudi Arabia’s modern culture and ancient wonders to the world.
There is history lying beneath the Kingdom’s vast sand dunes, and a dig will not suffice, there is more to be done for the world to connect with the Kingdom.
“Opening up to the world is a little bit dangerous, but a museum recipe is a good one,” said Piotrovsky.