Iraq’s ‘Marsh Arabs’ look to restore once-lost culture with help from US scientists; Andrew O’Reilly; Fox News

Iraq – The Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities

For more than 6,000 years, the marshlands of southern Iraq played a major role in sustaining the agriculture, economies and livelihoods of those residing in the Fertile Crescent.

Living in arched reed houses and relying on water buffalo along with rice, barley, wheat and pearl millet for sustenance, the inhabitants of these wetlands – the so-called Marsh Arabs – maintained for centuries a lifestyle that was both unique and separate from the rest of the Middle East.

But things changed rapidly in 1992, when former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein – angered by claims that the Marsh Arabs were harboring defeated Shia rebels – decided to punish them by sending engineers to divert the Tigris and Euphrates rivers away from the marshes.

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On the magic carpet of flowers; Santosh BS; Deccan Herald

India – Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks

The Valley of Flowers National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, is on the wishlist of any adventure seeker. In early August last year, I set off for this heaven. I caught an early morning flight to Delhi and then took a bus the same day to reach the holy city of Haridwar; in time for the ‘Ganga Aarti’ spectacle.

The next day was a long journey in a bus to reach Govindghat by nightfall. Stopping enroute at every town, meeting new people and savouring the beauty of the Garhwal Himalayan ranges complimented the statement that the journey is more beautiful than the destination. I spent the next day visiting the temple town of Badrinath and took a dip in the cold waters of the mighty Alaknanda river.

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Experience the Unesco World Heritage Aztec Ruins; RVwest

USA – Pueblo de Taos

Aztec has a fascinating attraction that you will want to explore immediately.

Among the many astonishing things that can be enjoyed and explored in the American Southwest is the Aztec Ruins National Monument.

This major Ancestral Puebloan ruins development is more than 1,000 years old and dates back to the 12th century. The location is central to the City of Aztec. This 27-acre site is located near the banks of the Animas River. Its historical, cultural and physical significance is so great that in 1987 it was designated with the prestigious title as a UNESCO World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Presently, the United States has only 23 UNESCO Sites, among which include the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park and the Statue of Liberty.

The Ruins were primarily constructed using stone and mortar.

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Sadly, UNESCO Label Won’t Save These 2 Indian World Heritage Sites; Shalini Iyengar; The Quaint

India – Keoladeo National Park

Last week, a study warned that human activity is severely damaging over a 100 UNESCO Natural World Heritage Sites around the globe.

What’s worrying is that two Indian sites – Assam’s Manas National Park and Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan – have been listed among those that are especially threatened.

What is a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site?

To be listed as a Natural World Heritage Site, a location must be of be of “outstanding universal value”. It must also meet criteria ranging from natural beauty to ecological significance.

There are four selection requirements to be listed as a Natural World Heritage:

  • It must have “superlative natural phenomena” or places of “exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance”
  • It is an “outstanding example” of “major stages of earth’s history”
  • It represents important and ongoing processes in the creation and development of ecosystems

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Salt poses threat to Senegal′s Siné Saloum Delta wetlands; Deutsche Welle

Senegal – Saloum Delta

In Senegal, seawater seeping into underground fresh water aquifers is slowly increasing soil salinity causing havoc for farming communities living near wetlands rich in biodiversity.

Senegal’s Siné Saloum Delta is a biodiversity hotspot. Just 180 kilometers south-east of Dakar, the UNESCO world heritage site covers some 180,000 hectares, comprising wetlands, lakes, lagoons and marshes, as well as sandy coasts and dunes, terrestrial savannah areas and dry, open forest. It’s home to 400 species and plays a vital role in flood control and regulating the distribution of rainwater for the local people and wildlife.

Lack of fresh water

But due to drought, climate change and the uncontrolled logging of mangrove forests, the ground’s salinity has shot up – threatening the livelihoods of thousands of people living there. One of them is Khadiome Ndongue, a resident of Sadio Ba near the west coast town of Foundiougne.

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Hiroshima A-Bomb Dome lighting event stirs controversy; The Japan Times

Japan – Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome)

A daily illumination event involving trees around the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima has raised questions over whether it is appropriate to promote tourism in the area that was destroyed by the U.S. weapon in the closing days of World War II.

The tourism event was begun in December by the Hiroshima Municipal Government to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the dome’s addition to the UNESCO World Heritage List in December 1996.

The dome, which is apparently not adorned with any of the LEDs involved in the controversey, consists mostly of the skeletal remains of a building next to ground zero that survived the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing by the United States.

At least one hibakusha has raised concerns about holding the event as part of a tourism promotion campaign and underlined the need for debate.

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Discover Canada – 36 Amazing Outdoor Adventures from Coast to Coast; Dave N Deb; The PlanetD

Canada – Gros Morne National Park

Canada is a massive and beautiful country with endless adventures to be had. It’s no wonder The New York Times and Lonely Planet named Canada the number one place to visit for 2017. To celebrate our 150th anniversary, we rounded up the best Canada Adventures from our experiences criss-crossing the land. Plus we recruited the help of several top Canadian travel bloggers to share their favourite Canadian adventures too!

Canada Adventures from Coast to Coast

Starting from the East Coast moving north, west and everywhere in between.These are the most epic adventures for the outdoor lover in all of Canada. Enjoy!

Eastern Canada

Nova Scotia – Tidal Bore Rafting

The Bay of Fundy is home to the world’s highest tides.

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Commentary: How is an urban development project safeguarding a World Heritage site in Suriname?; Natasha Kate Ward; Caribbean News Now

Suriname – Historic Inner City of Paramaribo

Last year when I went to Suriname for the first time ever, even the worldliest among my friends and family struggled to put the small former Dutch colony on a map. Suriname, along with Guyana to its West and French Guiana to its East, make up the “Guianas” a geographic region in north-eastern South America, considered culturally part of the Caribbean.

Suriname is a fascinating country, boasting spectacular natural and cultural attractions. While it may be the smallest country in South America, it boasts a whopping 95% forest cover — the highest in the world, and its population, a little over half a million, is considered one of the most ethnically and culturally varied in the world.

My colleagues and I were in Suriname to discuss a new development program with national authorities to support the urban rehabilitation of the historic centre of Paramaribo.

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10 Awesome Must-See Attractions in Israel & Palestine; Dominic Low; Tripzilla

Israel – Bahá’i Holy Places in Haifa and the Western Galilee

Banish your perception that the Levant region is just all rocks and sand with these 10 breathtaking attractions in Israel & Palestine.

Try this experiment: tell your loved ones that you are going to Israel. Watch as at least half of them shriek and demand the reason for your apparent insanity. Then watch the other half provide general suggestions to “stay safe” and recommend travel insurance policies.

Contrary to popular belief, travel to and around Israel & the West Bank is generally safe, especially for tourists. Frequent flights from various cities, including Bangkok, to Israel can attest to that. It is also a myth that the region is all desert and grim solders. Wondrous cities, lush forests and beautiful coasts are aplenty.

One of TripZilla’s writers, Dominic Low, spent four months in both Israel & Palestine, and absolutely loved his time there.

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An archipelago of killer cats; Jack Palfrey; BBC

Bangladesh – The Sundarbans

Each year, approximately 30 people are killed by tigers in the Sundarbans – so why do locals revere rather than fear these killer cats?

“In 23 June 1984, I was attacked.”

Phoni Gyen took a seat on a dock overlooking the still waterways of the Sundarbans, a low-lying archipelago in the Ganges Delta, and settled quickly into his gory sermon. A wispy grey hairline retreated from a scarred, sun-dyed face, like a litter-choked river exposing a dry, cracked riverbed.

“We’d spent the morning fishing,” he said, his small audience fidgeting in the fierce Bengal sun. “I was on the riverbank when I heard a noise coming from the trees.

“I tried to run, but before I could move it was on top of me.”

A tiger had pounced on Gyen from a nearby palm tree, pinning him to the ground.


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Russia returns cathedral to Orthodox Church; Roman Goncharenko; Deutsche Welle

Russia – Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments

The largest church in Saint Petersburg, Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, is to be transferred from Russia’s museum holdings into the hands of the Orthodox Church. The decision has caused protests and is not an isolated case.

Saint Isaac’s Cathedral is a “must” for tourists. It is the largest and most famous church in Saint Petersburg, and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The magnificent building, with its highly visible golden dome, attracted some 3.8 million visitors in 2016. However, these days the cathedral is at the center of a fight in the Russian cultural metropolis; which also happens to be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hometown.

Never owned by the church

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Thap Lan: Thailand’s unsung forest gem under threat, but still abrim with life; Demelza Stokes; Mongabay

Thailand – Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex

Thap Lan National Park, a key part of one of Southeast Asia’s most significant forest ecosystems, faces poaching, encroachment and a major highway project.

  • Thailand’s Thap Lan National Park is part of the Dong Phayayen – Khao Yai Forest Complex (DPKY-FC), designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its importance to global biodiversity.
  • The DPKY-FC supports 112 species of mammals, 392 species of birds, and 200 species of reptiles and amphibians.
  • Thap Lan receives few visitors and faces major threats, including poaching, illegal logging and the expansion of a highway leading from Bangkok to the country’s northeast.
  • The park, along with the rest of the DPKY-FC, could be downgraded by UNESCO to inscription on the “List of World Heritage in Danger.”

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7 Off-the-Beaten Path Destinations for Your Travel List; RSSC Blog

Australia – Fraser Island

Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ luxury travelers are always looking for new experiences in destinations less frequented.  As part of the spectacular 2018-2019 Voyage Collection, we introduced 28 new ports within 113 itineraries aboard our luxurious ships.

From the largest sand island in the world to a charming city in a forest, we spotlight seven off-the-beaten-path ports to add to your travel list.

Bodo, Norway

Located on a stretch of coastline in northern Norway, Bodo is an extraordinary place. Here you can go kayaking under the midnight sun, take a tour on a fast passenger boat through the impressive archipelago or fish in the world’s strongest tidal current, Saltstraumen.

Visit Bodo aboard Seven Seas Explorer® on the 12-night Splendor of Norway itinerary.

Kingfisher Bay (Fraser Island), Australia

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World Heritage sites Like Yellowstone under threat from human activity; Daily Express

Nepal – Chitwan National Park

SOME of the most stunning landscapes in the world, including Yellowstone National Park, are in danger of being destroyed by human activity, according to experts.

More than 100 World Heritage sites could be damaged beyond repair if urgent action isn’t taken to protect them.

World Heritage sites are designated by the UN as places of outstanding universal value which should be protected for future generations.

But urbanisation, farming, industry and deforestation are having an increasing impact on them, according to a team of international experts writing in the journal Biological Conservation.

They found the human footprint increased in 63 percent of National World Heritage Sites (NWHS) across all continents except Europe over the past two decades.

The sites which suffered most were in Asia and include the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary in India, and Chitwan National Park in Nepal and Simien National Park in Ethiopia.

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World Heritage Sites are being damaged by human activity; Lea Surugue; IB Times

USA – Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone and other major sites are suffering from a range of human threats and forest loss.

Human activity and forest loss are threatening more than 100 natural World Heritage Sites around the world, scientists have shown. This includes the iconic Yellowstone National Park in the US, which has lost a major part of its forest since the turn of the century.

In 1972, the World Heritage Convention was adopted, paving the way for better protection of the planet’s most valuable natural and cultural resources to safeguard them for future generations. A total of 229 sites are recorded as Natural World Heritage Sites, meaning the landscape is particularly beautiful and important for biodiversity conservation.

In the past decades, human pressures on the natural environment have increased. Agriculture, infrastructure building and urbanization are having a negative impact on biodiversity and threatening many ecosystems.

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Outside a Moorish Café, Tunis, Tunisia; World Digital Library

Tunisia – Medina of Tunis

This photochrome print is part of “Views of Architecture and People in Tunisia” from the catalog of the Detroit Photographic Company. It shows men gathered outside a café in Tunis. Such cafés offered men pleasant shaded spots to be sociable. It is interesting that one of the individuals deep in conversation is dressed in European clothing, which indicates that the clientele at the end of the 19th century was somewhat diverse. Tunisia was occupied by the French in 1881 and administered as a protectorate in which the nominal authority of local government was recognized. Europeans at one time made up half the population in Tunis. Rapid redevelopment of the city occurred as the French built new boulevards, neighborhoods, and infrastructure and the city became divided into a traditional Arab-populated medina and a new quarter populated by immigrants.

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See and enjoy southern Italy; Martin Roddewig; DW Travel

Italy – The Trulli of Alberobello

Naples, Capri, Sicily – these holiday destinations evoke a yearning for Italy in tourists. The area around Bari however is still untouched by tourism – something that is bound to change by 2019 at the latest.

“It’s best to arrive at midday,” our hotel owner informs us. Bari is a perfect starting point to discover the Apulia and Basilicata regions, which are in the “heel” of boot-shaped Italy. Even though over two million people pass through the city’s ferry port, Bari remains very much untouched by tourism and still adheres to the southern Italian rhythm of daily life. At midday the city belongs to visitors. Occasionally a cat will languidly gaze out from of a doorway, and once in a while you might spot a tourist or even two.

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More than half the world’s most important natural sites are under threat: it’s time to protect them; James Watson, James Allan & Sean Maxwell; The Conversation

Ethiopia – Simien National Park

Would we knock down the pyramids or flatten the Acropolis to make way for housing estates, roads or farms? You would hope not. Such an indictment would deprive future generations of the joy and marvel we all experience when visiting or learning about such historic places.

Yet right now, across our planet, many of the United Nations’ World Heritage sites that have been designated for natural reasons are being rapidly destroyed in the pursuit of short-term economic goals.

In our paper published in Biological Conservation, we found that expanding human activity has damaged more than 50 of the 203 natural sites, and 120 have lost parts of their forests over the past 20 years. Up to 20 sites risk being damaged beyond repair.

So how can we better look after these precious sites?

Jewels in the crown

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Flemish Beguinages – Belgian Charm and History: Bram; Go 4 Travel Blog

Belgium – Flemish Beguinages

Although you might not even have heard of them before, beguinages are some of the most unique places in Belgium—if not in the world. Especially the Flemish beguinages are notable for their historic value, undeniable charm and atmosphere.

Flemish Beguinages – What Are They?

First of all, let’s explain where the name comes from. A beguinage is a place where beguines lived. These beguines were religious women who lived together in a separate community, yet without taking any vows or retiring completely from the rest of the world.

In the Middle Ages, lay religious women used to live in convents, but that kind of life brought with it less freedom and many rules. So, starting in the 13th century, a much more open community type emerged in the Low Countries—Belgium, the Netherlands and northern France.

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Palermo is Italy’s Culture Capital for 2018; Orlando, “We uphold culture of welcome”; Alessandra Baldini; OnuItalia

Italy – Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalú and Monreale

Already recognized as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, Palermo has been picked as Italian culture capital for 2018, Culture Minister Dario Franceschini announced after the selection by a jury led by Bocconi University Professor Stefano Baia Curioni.  The other finalists were Alghero, Aquileia, Comacchio, Ercolano (Herculaneum), Montebelluna, Recanati, Settimo Torinese, Trento and a group of northern Sicilian towns.

“We’ve all won,” said a jubilant Palermo mayor, Leoluca Orlando. “The most significant cultural asset we uphold is the culture of welcome. We support the right of all human beings to be and remain different, but to be and remain the same”.

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