Category Archives: General Information

About Fuerteventura

Fuerteventura
Fuerteventura

The volcanic island of Fuerteventura (Spanish for “strong fortune”) is the second-largest of the Canary Islands (after Tenerife). Located about 100 km. off the North African coast, Fuerteventura is the second largest of the Canary Islands – blessed with having the longest white sand beaches within that archipelago.

The Spaniards first settled in Fuerteventura during the early 1400s. However, since the island (along with other nearby Canary Islands) are geographically distant from mainland Spain and the Spanish crown in Madrid, Fuerteventura was subject to occasional pirate attacks, including one launched by North African Berbers in 1593 (who went as far inland as the capital), and the English in 1740 (which attempted but failed to take the Fuerteventura town of Tuineje), among others. No doubt, this and other Canary Islands were a port of call for successive waves of Spaniards en route to settle in the Americas – including Mexico and South America, and Cuba & Puerto Rico (when the two destinations were the last of Spain’s Latin American colonies in the 19th century).

With pirate attacks no longer being an issue by the 19th century, life at Fuerteventura became uneventful. Still, successive decades translated into limited commercial growth on the island (to commercial sea traffic). This remained the case well into the 20th century, until the Spanish government decided to build an airport at El Mattoral (just south of Puerto del Rosario — the island’s main town) in the late 1960s. With a functioning international airport, the Spanish authorities were able to tap into global commercial air travel as a solution to the island’s limited economic opportunities — with tourism being its engine of growth (especially from colder Northern European countries like the UK and Germany). As a result, the local population currently stands at 113,275 inhabitants, while 2.25 million tourists visited Fuerteventura in 2018 (according to surveyor Statista.com). That number is still modest, next to Gran Canaria (4.5 million visitors) and Tenerife (5.95 million visitors) in 2018.

Fuerteventura’s arid landscape meant that agriculture would always be a challenge, severely limiting the island’s population growth. Still, it made sense for Fuerteventura to turn to tourism for its economy, because the island is blessed with eternal Spring & Summer temperatures (meaning that it never goes below 15 degrees Celsius during the winter, nor rising above 30 degrees Celsius during the Summer). Its position in the sea means that trade winds usually keep hot Saharan winds away from Fuerteventura.

As a result, Fuerteventura is a great spot for windsurfers (especially those visiting Playa de Sotavento – on the southeast part of the island), along with Corralejo (a tourist enclave on the island’s north coast), and Costa Calma (which is not far from Sotavento). Other water activities pursued by visitors include traditional surfing, kite surfing and diving. Occasional windsurfing and kite surfing competitions are held at Fuerteventura, which literally puts it on the map among water sports enthusiasts.

About Brazil

Brazil
Brazil

Brazil was first discovered in 1500 when a fleet commanded by Portuguese diplomat Pedro Álvares Cabral arrived at a site between present-day Salvador and Rio de Janeiro called Porto Seguro. Since the Portuguese Empire’s priority was trade with the Far East, it didn’t bother to colonize the country until after 1530, when other European powers were threatening to claim Brazil for themselves.

Brazil got its name from the red wood found in its forests (pau-brasil) –which spurred for a time the lucrative international trade in that item (since it was used for making dyes). The early waves of Portuguese settlers first used indigenous Indian labor to establish plantations and settlements, but later turned to African slaves to help build a colony with a land mass the size of Europe.

By the end of 1600s, gold, emeralds and diamonds were discovered in the Brazilian province known as Minas Gerais (“general mines” in Portuguese) – which spurred development in that part of Brazil (with the arrival of skilled laborers from Europe, as well as fortune hunters). That region became responsible for shipping 30,000 pounds of gold a year to the Portuguese Empire in Lisbon. By 1763, Rio de Janeiro became the capital of Portuguese-ruled Brazil, and the colony’s economic importance to the Portuguese Empire was reinforced by its expanding list of exports (cotton, tobacco, and sugar). Brazil’s agrarian economy was expanded by the introduction of cattle ranching in the country’s interior.

In 1808, French conqueror Napoleon invaded Portugal, forcing that country’s monarch (Dom João VI), the Royal Portuguese family and their entourage to take refuge in Rio de Janeiro. For the next 14 years Rio de Janeiro was the capital of the Portuguese empire. At last, in 1821, the king returned to his native Portugal and left his son, Dom Pedro, to rule Brazil. The next year Dom Pedro, following the advice of José Bonifácio de Andrada, his minister of the interior, declared Brazil independent of Portugal.

Brazil was an independent empire from 1822 until 1889. Dom Pedro reigned for nine years, then turned over the throne to his 5-year-old son, Dom Pedro II, who became emperor in 1840 at age 14. Dom Pedro II ruled Brazil for 49 years, during which the nation became larger and richer. Wars with Argentina (1851-52) and Paraguay (1865-70) were settled peacefully. Railroads were built. Rubber from the Amazon jungle doubled foreign trade.

The early part of the 20th century was marked two phenomena: the emergence of a coffee and rubber-driven economy, and the wave of European immigrants (including Italians and Germans) that arrived in the country (with the encouragement of the Brazilian government). Still, the fall of world coffee prices during the Great Depression of the 1930’s brought new difficulties. In 1930, Brazil’s president was overthrown, and Getúlio Vargas became dictator. He patterned his government after the fascist regimes in Italy and Portugal. Vargas encouraged a spirit of nationalism and worked to boost the economy. Under his rule, living conditions improved and trade grew. During World War II (1939-45), Brazil fought on the side of the Allies and sent troops to Italy.

For many years after World War II, Brazil went through a series of military and civilian presidents. One of them (Juscelino Kubitschek of Minas Gerais) was responsible for creating the Brazilian state & bureaucracy as they’re known today – centered around the new capital of Brasilia in the country’s interior (which he established in 1960). Surrounded by tanks and technocrats, the Brazilian military brought about the “economic miracle” of the 1970s. However, it did not last. Their pharaonic projects — from hydroelectric and nuclear power plants to the conquest of the Amazon — never completely succeeded, and inflation soared. Power was to go peacefully back to civil hands in 1985.

During much of the 1980s, civilian rule was hampered by periods of hyperinflation (fueled by a debt crisis the government had with international creditors). Civilian politician Fernando Collor de Mello was elected president in 1990, promising to solve Brazil’s economic woes. However, rampant corruption under his rule resulted in Collor losing power two years later (1992). His then-Vice President Itamar Franco became the Brazilian head of state that year. Franco’s “Plano Real” finally brought the country’s runaway inflation under control.

Brazilian democracy entered a new phase when famed union leader Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva was elected President in 2002 (making him the country’s first working-class president). Despite his leftist background (which concerned the country’s business class), Lula’s presidency was marked by unprecedented economic growth. High prices for Brazilian commodities brought in sufficient revenues to finance social programs – with millions being lifted out of poverty. His protégé Dilma Rousseff became the first woman to be elected into the

MIAMI – THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Miami Nikki Beach
Miami Nikki Beach

The city of Miami is one of America’s younger metropolises. Located in the American state of Florida, that state (including the area now known as Miami) was originally settled by Spanish explorers in the 1560s. With that colonial power and Great Britain alternatively controlling it over the centuries, Spain ceded Florida to the U.S. in 1821.

The city of Miami didn’t officially exist until 1896, with a population of just over 300. The city got its name from a river of the same name that ran through it. The name “Miami” is actually borrowed from the Mayaimi Indians who once lived some miles northwest of the city, toward Lake Okeechobee.

After going through a wave of prosperity during the 1920s, which first made Miami a vacation destination and a site for real estate development, the local economic suffered during the Depression in the 1930s. World War II, though, gave the Miami area an economic boost, since the U.S. military built a base there to defend that part of the country against German U-boat submarine attacks. By 1940, Miami’s population grew to over 170,000 residents.

Perhaps the biggest impact toward the city’s future was the Cuban Revolution of the late 1950s, which resulted in a large exodus of middle and upper class Cuban professionals who relocated mainly into the Miami area. Since then, the Cuban exile presence, as well as latter waves of middle and upper class individuals from other Latin countries helped make the city into the unofficial “capital of Latin America”. By the 1980s, they helped turn Miami into a major export center for goods being shipped into various Latin countries. Because of the economic instability of some of those countries (especially during the Latin debt crisis of the 1980s), wealthy Latins and companies based in South America felt more comfortable conducting their banking with Miami (given the U.S. banking law’s protections of depositors’ funds against bank failures). This gave the Miami area’s banking sector a huge boost, which it still enjoys to this day.

The city’s designation as the “unofficial capital of Latin America” was reinforced by the presence of studios for Spanish-language U.S. networks Telemundo, Univisión and Telefutura, as well as producing soap operas (“novelas”) and news programming for audiences in various Latin countries. That, as well as over 1,400 U.S. companies setting up the headquarters of their Latin American operations there (especially in Brickell Avenue – Miami’s answer to New York’s 5th Avenue, as well as in the wealthy Miami district known as Coral Gables).

By the 1990s, Miami began attracting hip young European vacationers (especially to Miami Beach). Them, along with American, Latin and other visitors, helped make Miami a popular tourist destination. Miami Beach benefited the most from this upsurge in tourism, since that once run-down part of the city went through a revival – complete with various hotel groups buying and renovating formerly abandoned Art Deco-style buildings, high-end retailers like Armani setting shop there, and trendy nightspots like Club Liquid and Crobar attracting celebrities like Madonna and designer Gianni Versace (who once owned a mansion in South Beach, before his untimely death in 1997).

A local magazine, Ocean Drive, helped make Miami a fashion center of the U.S., due to its steady features of top-name fashion models, as well as its success in promoting Miami as a luxury lifestyle destination (complete with marketing the million-dollar condo apartments that were being built in South Florida at the time). Thanks to a construction boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Miami’s skyline was transformed, ranking it the third most impressive in America – just after New York and Chicago.

Along with this land activity, its shoreline and air space were also very busy. The Port of Miami is the world’s busiest cruise ship port (with major cruise ship companies headquartered there), and Miami International Airport is the busiest airport in Florida — with the city being the largest gateway between the USA and Latin America.

These days, Miami attracts over 38 million visitors a year, spending an estimated US$17 billion. Miami’s status as a major American tourist destination is confirmed by the city hosting various world-class events, ranging from Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Miami, to Art Basel, and even the electronic music events “Winter Music Conference” and “Ultra Music Festival” (which attract the “who’s who” of the international dance music scene, along with various record labels and radio stations).

About Balearic Islands

Balearic Islands
Balearic Islands

The Balearic Islands are a Spanish archipelago in the western Mediterranean sea, near mainland Spain’s east coast. The four largest islands are: Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera. With these islands’ official language being Catalan and Spanish, they are considered an autonomous community.

Given their location in the Mediterranean, the history of these islands go far back in time, past the Roman Empire period to even the times of Greek and Phoenician settlements (with evidence of Phoenician artifacts found in the town of Mahon in Menorca). The Romans themselves established the present-day towns of Palma and Pollença in Mallorca. A Roman presence (in the form of a statue) can presently be seen at the entrance of the medieval period Dalt Vila castle in Ibiza town.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Balearic Islands went through periods of conquest by the Moors, the Crusaders, incorporation by the Kingdom of Aragon (Spain) during the 13th century, attacks by Barbary pirates, and occupations by the British and the French during the 1700s. By the early 1800s, the Balearic Islands permanently returned under Spanish rule.

These days, given the favorable climate that these islands enjoy, tourism (and to a lesser degree, luxury real estate) drive the local economy. Ibiza, in particular, attracts hundreds of thousands of young international party goers every Summer (to enjoy that island’s famed House music culture and nightlife). This, while Mallorca and Menorca attract tourists of varying age groups.

About England

England
England

London, the capital of England, is a place that goes back in time. As confirmed by an accidental archeological find during the construction of a railway tunnel in London in October 2013, the city was first established as the capital of the Roman province of Britannia. With that settlement having been abandoned after the collapse of the Roman Empire, the place that became known as London didn’t re-emerge until it was re-established by Alfred the Great in 886 AD (with the city becoming the largest in England by the 11th century).

One of London’s tourist attractions, the Tower of London, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078, while another local site, Westminster Hall, was erected in 1097 (and became the English monarch’s principal residence by the late Medieval period). Having survived the Black Death of the mid-14th century, London grew in importance during the rise of Mercantilism in the 16th century (during the same period that a certain literary icon named William Shakespeare made a name for himself there). This was also the reign of well-regarded English monarch Elizabeth I (daughter of King Henry VIII), who ruled at a time when the country’s navy successfully fought off the Spanish Armada

By the 17th & 18th centuries, England began the process of building its empire, which eventually stretched to all corners of the globes – from the Americas to Africa, India, Australia and the South Pacific (making the port of London grow in importance). By the 20th century, London was the world’s largest city (a by-product of the country, which became Great Britain, having the largest empire in the world). With the city enduring aerial bombings by the Germans during both World War I & II, London not only survived, but grew even more during the post-war period. From the 1940s onward, London received large waves of immigrants from countries that became its former colonies, like Jamaica, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Even though Britain no longer has its empire, London still reigns in another respect – as a global center of finance (vying with New York City as the most important location of global finance). Perhaps to no surprise, London’s largest industry is finance (with around 325,000 individuals employed in that sector by 2007, and over 480 overseas banks having a presence there). London is also a major retail center (earning the highest non-food retail sales of any metropolis in the world in 2010).

Nowadays, the Port of London is the third-largest in England and the rest of the UK (after Felixstowe and Southampton). Aside from finance, tourism is another major industry in London, attracting 27 million visitors (and employing well over 300,000 full-time workers). One of the drivers of London’s tourism is the Royal Family and anything connected to it (from Buckingham Palace to the Tower of London). Of course, London, now a multi-cultural trading center boasting a hodge podge of architectural styles, made the most of its tourist appeal by hosting the 2012 Olympics (attracting millions more visitors into the country). Both visitors and residents agree that London is a city on the move that constantly changes with the times.

About Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, the largest part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was the first emirate state to discover oil. It currently holds 9% of the world’s proven oil reserves (98.2bn barrels) and almost 5% of the world’s natural gas (5.8 trillion cu metres). Abu Dhabi (whose city of the same name had a population of 921,000 in 2013) lies on a T-shaped island jutting into the Persian Gulf from the central western coast. It acts as the seat of the UAE’s federal government, and the home for both the Abu Dhabi Emiri Family and the President of the UAE (from that family).

Abu Dhabi is home to important financial institutions such as the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates and the corporate headquarters of many companies and numerous multinational corporations. One of the world’s largest producers of oil, Abu Dhabi has actively attempted to diversify its economy in recent years through investments in financial services and tourism.

Like the other emirates, especially Dubai, Abu Dhabi’s oil wealth has transformed it into an advanced metropolis with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. In 2008, Abu Dhabi alone generated 56.7% of the UAE’s GDP. Abu Dhabi is the second most expensive city for expatriate employees in the region, and 67th most expensive city in the world. International media outlets like CNN and Fortune Magazine declared Abu Dhabi the richest city in the world. Before significant amounts of oil were discovered in Abu Dhabi in the late 1950s, it was best-known for pearl diving, a trading activity that goes back hundreds of years for its locals.

Due to Abu Dhabi’s economic transformation since the discovery of oil, its population has mushroomed. As of 2001, the native UAE population was 25.6%, with the other 74.4% being expatriates from various countries, ranging from the nearby South Asian countries (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka), to the Philippines, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the UK.

This unique socioeconomic development in the Persian Gulf has meant that Abu Dhabi is generally more tolerant than its neighbors. While Islam is the main religion, Emaritis have been known for their tolerance; Christian churches, Hindu temples, and Sikh gurdwaras can be found alongside mosques. The country is home to several communities that have faced persecution elsewhere. The cosmopolitan atmosphere is gradually growing and as a result, there are a variety of Asian and Western schools, cultural centers and themed restaurants.

Arab food is very popular and is available everywhere in the city, from the small shawarma to the upscale restaurants in the city’s many hotels. Fast food and South Asian cuisine are also very popular and are widely available. The sale and consumption of pork, though not illegal, is regulated and it is sold only to non-Muslims in designated areas. Similarly, the sale of alcoholic beverages is regulated. A liquor permit is required to purchase alcohol; however, alcohol, although available in bars and restaurants within four or five star hotels, is not sold as widely as in its more liberal neighbor Dubai.

About New Zealand

New Zealand
New Zealand

 

New Zealand, like nearby Australia, is perceived by many as being a relatively young country – compared to the Far East nations (which boast civilizations going back thousands of years). Historians suggest that New Zealand was first settled by the Maoris (an eastern Polynesian ethnic group) in the 13th century A.D. The first European encounter with this country was in 1642 – when Dutch explorer Abel Tasman first came across it, in a brief and hostile encounter with locals. The country got its present name from Dutch cartographers, who just a few years after Tasman’s voyage, recorded its existence as “Nova Zeelandia” (naming it after the Dutch province of Zeelandia).

Since then, Europeans were not known to have explored New Zealand until British explorer James Cook mapped virtually the entire coastline of the country during his voyage there in 1769 – and anglicized its name to New Zealand. With Australia (New South Wales)’s Governor declaring New Zealand a part of his domain in 1788, the British Crown eventually declared sovereignty over all of New Zealand in 1840. By 1853, the British Parliament granted self-governance to the country. Throughout the remainder of the 19th century, as British settlements grew, the indigenous Maori population was disenfranchised with the confiscation of most of their lands.

With New Zealand being part of the British Commonwealth, its economy went through both periods of growth (especially during the 1950s & 1960s) and recession in more recent decades. Nevertheless, because New Zealand is still an advanced western economy, it still attracts its share of immigrants from the Far East and other Pacific islands.

Since agriculture and extractive industries have played traditional roles in the country’s economy, tourism is becoming a growing factor as well (with both direct and indirect contributions to New Zealand’s GDP being 8.7%). At present, tourism is the country’s second-largest export sector – behind dairy. Interestingly, the “Lord of the Rings” movie series (which was filmed in New Zealand) has been a major tourism draw over the years. In 2004, for example, 6% of tourists traveling to New Zealand cited the film series as being a major factor in their decision to visit that country (between 120,000 and 150,000 visitors). Since that year, an average of 47,000 international tourists has visited a “Lord of the Rings” film location each year.

CAR RENTALS

CAR RENTALS
CAR RENTALS

CAR RENTALS – the following car rental agencies operate in Suva:

Axis Rental: +679 966 5164
Central Rentals: +679 999 3787
Coastal: +679 777 8516
Freedom Rentals Ltd.: +679 999 6013
Go Easy Rentals: +679 809 5857
Pacific Tours Rental Car: +679 942 1110
Rajs Car Hire Services: +679 999 3798

About Fiji

Fiji
Fiji

Fiji, a country in the South Pacific, is an archipelago of more than 300 islands. Historians note that Fiji was originally settled by Austronesians and later by Melanesians, with some Polynesian influences. The first European contact with Fiji was during the 17th century (when Dutch explorer Abel Tasman came across the islands during his voyage through the South Pacific in 1643). The islands’ ruler Seru Epenisa Cakobau declared himself King of Fiji in 1871. A short time later (1874), he ceded sovereignty of Fiji to the British, making it a Crown colony of the British Empire. This happened at a time when other European powers and even the then isolationist USA competed for outposts in the Pacific.

British rule continued until 1970, when Fiji became independent. Since then, Fiji has gone through occasional periods of political instability, particularly in 1987 when a series of coups occurred. Another coup occurred in 2006. Even though Fiji is currently a republic, there’s still on and off debate on whether Fiji should return to British rule and recognize Queen Elizabeth once again as its monarch.

Fiji is one of the most developed of the Pacific island economies, though it remains a developing country with a large subsistence agriculture sector. Agriculture accounts for 18% of gross domestic product, although it employed some 70% of the workforce as of 2001.

In recent years, tourism and sugar have been Fiji’s main sources of income. About 40% of Fiji’s visitors come from Australia, with large contingents also coming from New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Pacific Islands. Tourist arrivals grew by 7% in 2011 and reached the 680,000. Fiji’s gross earnings from tourism in 2011 totaled $1.051 billion, more than the combined revenues of the country’s top five exports (fish, water, garments, timber, and gold).

The direct contribution of tourism to Fiji’s GDP is measured through the accommodation & food services activities sector (which includes short term accommodation activities of hotels & resorts as well as food & beverage serving activities), which has increased from an average of 3.0 percent in the 1980-1990s to 6.4 percent of GDP in the 2011-2016 period.

What brings tourists to Fiji is obvious: its location in the South Pacific (which enjoys enviable tropical weather all year round). The tourism industry’s combined direct and indirect contributions to GDP averaged above 30.0 percent, over the past seven years. Additionally, the industry provides direct and indirect employment to an estimated 45,000 people. All this, despite the fact that Fiji must compete with other South Pacific destinations for tourists, such as Samoa, and French Polynesia (Tahiti and Bora Bora), along with Hawaii.

Buses

Buses
Buses

Buses – The public transportation company known as Mowasalat started its public bus service for the first time in QATAR in October 2005 with new high standard vehicles. Mowasalat network has an outreach to cover all areas within the state of QATAR. Mowasalat public bus service is affordable in a wide range. These buses are available in the main bus station or from any of its bus stops that can be found on the roads. See their website for more details, including route maps: http://eng.mowasalat.com

A bus ride costs QR3. For passengers to pay the bus fare, Mowasalat uses smart cards known as ‘Smartcard 24 Hours Limited’ and ‘Smartcard 24 Hours Unlimited’ are available at QR10 and QR20 respectively and are valid for 24 hours. The cards are available in all major shopping malls and 71 Mowasalat partner merchants across the country. Mowasalat also offers commuters a QR10 bonus when they top up their existing ‘Smartcard Classic’ with QR100.

 

Tourist Buses: Two tourist buses were recently introduced. One is the hop-on bus run by a private company Dohabus (http://dohabus.com) (“Day Pass” costs QR180 for adults, QR90 for children). This bus goes up and down Doha’s coastline.

The other tourist bus is the one operated by Qatar Museums Authority as a shuttle between Museum of Islamic Art and Mathaf. The buses operate from Wednesday to Sunday from 11am to 5pm and is free. See their website for more details: www.qma.com.qa