In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Cultural capital: why business now draws from heritage
British culture came to the fore during 2012’s ‘summer like no other’. Now a number of emerging economies are drawing from their traditions to attract visitors and drive investment.
In recent times, celebrating national culture has become somewhat a staple on British soil – the boost that events such as the royal wedding, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and London’s 2012 Olympic Games provide to the economy are undeniable.
And, while 2012 has seen the UK revel in national traditions and heritage, 2013 will see this replicated in the new emerging superpowers as cultural capital becomes just as dispersed as its financial equivalent. Symbols, lifestyles and traditions that may have been downplayed in the past are being brought up to date by local luxury brands to cater to increasingly wealthy and self-confident domestic consumers, but also increasingly to interested global shoppers and travellers.
Here are just a selection of new brands from emerging economies that revel in proudly flaunting their cultural heritage in the global marketplace:
China’s first luxury fashion brand, NE-TIGER is renowned for its East-meets-West, ethnically inspired designs. September 2012 saw the company’s founder Zhang Zhifeng give a speech entitled ‘From China, to the World’ before the brand presented its latest haute couture ‘Huafu’ collection in Milan, Italy.
Mumbai-based luxury fashion designer Masaba Gupta’s House of Masaba has reinvented the traditional Indian saris with quirky, modern motifs and Pop Art prints that are targeted at young female consumers. Released in spring 2012, her black-and-white camera print sari has been favoured by several Indian celebrities, as have her cow- and animal-print versions. Prices start from INR 8,000 (around £90).Luxury Brazilian fashion house Osklen unveiled its spring/summer 2013 collection at New York’s Fashion week for the first time in September 2012. The brand’s founder and creative director said that the style was “Brazilian soul meets Californian dreaming”. Osklen has 62 stores in Brazil, and is available in stores in the US, Japan and Italy, amongst others.
Beyond Australia’s Great Barrier Reef
This week’s solar eclipse will draw huge crowds to Queensland. But the ancient rainforest and colourful reef provide the real show.
On Tuesday, the sky above Queensland’s reefs and rainforests will undergo a brief but dramatic transformation. Just after sunrise, a black mark will appear at the sun’s edge and expand to cover its entire disc. Darkness will envelop the strangler figs and pencil cedars of the forests below and engulf the angelfish and wrasse on the Great Barrier Reef. Thousands will visit the region to watch the spectacle and see the sun endure “that darkening of his radiant face”, as William Wordsworth once described an eclipse. The solar corona and prominences, normally invisible, will be seen flickering against the inky blackness of space: an unforgettable experience.
But those who visit merely to look skywards will miss an equally extraordinary vision – for the landscape that lies below the eclipse’s path is one of the most remarkable on the planet: a juxtaposition of rainforest and a vast expanse of gleaming coral. The former, a chunk of forest left over from the ancient supercontinent of Gondwanaland, is more than 110 million years old. By contrast the Great Barrier Reef, in its current form, only started growing a few thousand years ago.
This is a landscape of incredible diversity – though intriguingly the two habitats have links. For a start, they are contiguous: the sea that covers the barrier reef also laps the beaches that edge Daintree rainforest. You can visit both in a day, though I’d recommend a week and would have happily made my trip last months.
To reach the rainforest, you drive north from Cairns, the main town of Far North Queensland, through sugarcane plantations and grazing kangaroos until you reach Daintree River. Beyond this point, there are no mobile phone signals, no mains electricity and no lavish spa hotels. This is a wilderness, the largest chunk of tropical rainforest in Australia, home of one of the world’s oldest flowering trees, the idiot fruit (Idiospermum australiense), and one of the last refuges of the cassowary, a 6ft, blue-throated, flightless bird whose powerful legs and claws can inflict grievous injuries on overcurious humans.
Allure of glorious Cordoba, Spain
Tucked into a bend of its river, the Andalusian town of Cordoba has a glorious Moorish past. While its old wall evokes the history of a long-ago empire, its elegant cityscape and convivial squares show a modern pride. Typical of southern Spain, it’s a people-friendly place filled with energy and colour.
Cordoba’s centrepiece is its massive former mosque — or, in Spanish, Mezquita (for pronunciation, think female mosquito). Magical in its grandeur, this huge building dominates the higgledy-piggledy old town that surrounds it. At its zenith, in the 10th century, the mosque was the centre of Western Islam and a cultural hub that rivalled Baghdad and Constantinople. A wonder of the medieval world, the mosque is remarkably well-preserved, giving visitors a chance to appreciate Islamic Cordoba and the glory days of Muslim rule.
Grand gates lead to a courtyard sheltered by orange trees. Long ago, worshippers washed here before prayer. Entering the mosque, you step into a fantastic forest of delicate columns and graceful arches that seems to recede into infinity, as if reflecting the immensity and complexity of God’s creation.
During the Dark Ages, when much of Europe was barbaric and illiterate, Cordoba was a haven of enlightened thought — famous for a remarkable spirit of religious tolerance, artistic expression, and dedication to philosophy and the sciences. Jews, Christians and Muslims had figured out how to live together more or less harmoniously.
Everyone spoke the same language, cooked the same dishes, wore the same type of clothes and shared the same public baths. It was one culture, with three religious traditions.
Cordoba has a fortress (Alcazar), a 14th-century synagogue, a Roman bridge, and the Museum of Al-Andalus Life, but most tourists leave the city having seen only the Mezquita, the trinket shops and cute medieval quarter that surround it. But Cordoba is much more than its historical self. A short walk beyond the tourist zone takes you to a zigzag of residential lanes, whitewashed and narrow. People really live here.
Tourists swim through the streets as ‘Floating City’ Venice is flooded
Floodwaters have drenched most of Venice and led to the evacuation of 200 people in Tuscany, as bad weather hit northern Italy.
In Venice itself, heavy rains and winds from the south triggered “acqua alta” (high water) and 70 per cent of the city was flooded, with sea levels reaching a peak of 1.5 metres above normal before receding slightly, they said.
In Tuscany, around 200 people were evacuated because of heavy rains that flooded homes and caused mudslides, local officials said.
The most affected region was the province of Massa and Carrara, which produces the famous Carrara marble.
In Massa di Carrara alone, some 50 people were evacuated and a car was carried away by an overflowing river, but the couple in the vehicle were saved by firefighters.
The authorities have urged the local population to avoid going into the streets and to stay in the the upper floors of their homes.
In Pisa, some streets have been without electricity following the floods.
In the large Tuscan port of Livorno, civil defence forces were on alert because of the heavy rains.
In Liguria, the region bordering Tuscany, 30 people had to be evacuated, the authorities said.