Peru — land of the Inca, Andes and Amazon

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Updated 14 April 2016

Peru — land of the Inca, Andes and Amazon

Ever wonder how one could travel and experience sun and sand, then mountains and steep slopes without the need to travel thousands of miles just to get there? To relive an old civilization, to feel the warmth of freshly damp soil of a rainforest, to feel the touch of a cool breeze off the side of a mountain, the warmth of the blazing sun as your toes dig into the sand while the cold ocean waters wash ashore below your feet and eventually realize that it is possible. South America is a boiling pot for all of that, the continent has just the right amount of history hanging on to by scattered indigenous communities mixed with the modernity of progressing and advancing civilization.
Peru, the third largest country in South America, is one with a complex mix of landscapes giving Peruvians and visitors alike the chance to experience something new, different and wild beyond belief. We live in a world deprived of normalcy in the sense that we live in the confines of concrete walls, surrounded by technology and we are very very fortunate for civility. But there will always be humans who relate to nature, a need to be in tune with it and succumb to its force; it’s an innate feeling and one that needs to be fulfilled every now and then. Peru is surely a must visit.
First stop of the trip would be Lima, the modern capital of Peru, a city alive with culture, art and innovative architecture mixed with the appreciation and passion of their historic heritage. Lima is also known as “The City of Kings” after the Spaniards aptly named it its new capital in the South American continent, the discovery of gold and silver put the new capital in the spotlight. Peru became a viceroyalty meaning the viceroy ruled on behalf of the King of Spain at the time over all of South America. Because of Lima’s difficult past with the Spanish monarchy, Limeños now pride themselves for building their city up and returning it to its original setting to show off their pre-Columbian past. When the first Spaniards first arrived in Peru in 1532, they brought with them the riches and civility of Europe thus sweeping away traces of its Inca civilization. The last trace of the city’s founder, Francisco Pizarro’s statue was removed from its old historic center or La Ciudad de los Reyes, and replaced with the flag of Quechua “Inca Nation.”
Located on the coastal waters of the magnificent Pacific, the city has much of the best of what the Spaniards brought with them but this prosperous city has so much more potential than one thought earlier. The mosaic that is Lima is a combination of over 40 districts, from ultra modern designed neighborhoods facing the seaside to shantytowns on the nearby hills. Although it’s technically built in desert lands, it’s considered one of the greenest cities of the world, even housing one of the largest fountain parks. Nicknamed the “Garden City,” the government honed in on one of Peru’s most potential asset, its’ gastronomy, putting Peru in the world spotlight with its emerging national cuisine.
Start your visit at Lima’s Miraflores district, one of the most upscale districts of the historic city, housing most of the hotels and upscale shopping centers. The area is home to modern art galleries, art deco buildings, modern architectural structures and one of the most important archaeological sites in the city, Huaca Pucllana. Located in San Isidro, a laid-back residential area of Lima, this pre-Inca mud-brick temple is an adobe and clay pyramid that served as an important ceremonial and administrative center for the Lima Culture society, founded between 200-700 AD. Nestled between the high rises of the Miraflores district, visitors can roam the preservation and visit the museum and restaurant attached to the pyramid, a night visit to the restaurant provides a magnificent view of the lit pyramid. While it’s not allowed to actually step into the pyramid itself due to ongoing excavations to uncover artifacts and mummies (three mummies were discovered along with a child), the surrounding areas provide sufficient viewing.
A short walk along the seaside area in the Miraflores district comes Larcomar, a multilevel entertainment, food and shopping complex. The view from the area is magical. Set atop the cliffsides, restaurants offer some of the best of Peruvian cuisine, known for its big flavors and spices, clean and crisp and others deep and heavy. To name a few dishes, ceviche, also known as Peru’s national dish, is full of crunch and punch using the freshest of fish combined with hot chili and lime citrus, lomo saltado (stir fried beef), aji de gallina (creamy chicken), papas a la huancaina (potatoes in spicy cheese sauce), pollo a la brasa (literally chicken on coal) and so much more. The prime location of Larcomar makes this gastronomy experience ever more pleasurable with the vast deep blue of the Pacific ocean below.
A major attraction would be El Beso or “Love Park,” a beautiful green space along the ocean inspired by Barcelona architect Gaudí and featuring a sculpture by Peruvian artist Victor Delfín. Not far from Larcomar, it was said that many plunged to their deaths from a nearby bridge because they were unlucky in love, ironically within close range to El Baso.
Next would be the Palaza de Armas, considered to be the birthplace of modern day Lima. It is one of the most beautiful squares, even by European standards. With beautiful architecture surrounding the square, the exquisite bronze fountain surrounded by several government buildings is home to the Palace of the Viceroys and center for all kinds of ceremonies and festivals. Established in 1535, the conquistador Francisco Pizarro founded the area and designed the main square in order for all important institutions to be built around the square itself.
Lima is home to a large number of museums yet the Larco museum is one of Lima’s most unique museums, it’s built on the site of a pre-Columbian temple and houses a vast collection of over 2,000 ceramic, textile and precious artifacts, mummies from the different ancient civilizations that conquered Peru and many more archaeological treasures. Not only are visitors allowed to tour the galleries, what makes this museum more significant than others is allowing visitors to enter the store rooms and look at other artifacts that aren’t on display. Artifacts are preserved and protected since many were destroyed by the Spaniards when they first arrived, destroying much of Peru’s precious history while at it. Unlike the old Egyptian artifacts spread around the world’s most famous and prestigious museums, Peruvians prohibited the extraction of their artifacts outside its borders, making them even more enticing to view.
For a truly interesting Peruvian gastronomy experience, head down to the Surquillo district where a “Boulevard of Gastronomy” was established turning a traditional farmer’s market to a a pedestrian mall showcasing the freshest of ingredients used in Peruvian cuisine. The restaurants never fail to impress visitors, it’s a reflection of local practices and ingredients, heavily influenced from the indigenous populations including the Inca that once ruled the land. Peruvians truly understand the meaning of “holding on to the past” in the most positive and tasty way.
Lima might seem as an extremely far city to visit, but it doesn’t disappoint in the least. History and modernity efficiently coexist and it’s well worth a visit for a truly amazing experience. It’s best to visit during the summer and fall months, May-November, when the weather is warm, the surf is great, festivities are held all over the city and who can pass a great gastronomy experience.

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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 18 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.