In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Stansted airport to trial ‘no embarrassment’ body scanner
A state-of-the-art security body scanner is to be tried out at a busy airport.
A shop window-style mannequin image will be seen by security officers checking passengers who have activated the walk-through security arch in the trial at Stansted Airport in Essex.
The stick-like figure will have marks showing where the scanner has detected concealed items.
No images will be saved or will be retrievable at a later date.
Stansted said the scanner was designed to provide an additional and less-intrusive method of security screening while improving customer service for passengers by reducing the need for pat-down searches.
The ProVision scanner, manufactured by the L-3 security company, uses radio frequency millimetre wave technology, not X-rays or ionising radiation. The trial will start on Thursday and is due to run for three months.
It will be mandatory for passengers who are selected for a scan to comply. Any passenger refusing to be scanned will not be allowed to travel.
John Farrow, Stansted Airport’s head of terminal, said: “The trial of new body scanning technology is the next step on the way to further enhancing our security processes at Stansted.
Mecca’s mega architecture casts shadow over hajj
A glowing green disc hovers high in the sky at night, casting an eerie glow over a forest of minarets, cranes and concrete frames that seem to stretch endlessly into the dusty distance, like a vast field of dominoes. The disc is the largest clockface in the world – and not only does it adorn the tallest clocktower in the world, it also sits atop a building boasting the biggest floor area in the world. Visible 30km away, this is the Abraj al-Bait, which rises like Big Ben on steroids to tower 600m over the holy mosque of Mecca in the spiritual heart of the Islamic world.
This thrusting pastiche palace houses an array of luxury hotels and apartments, perched above a five-storey slab of shopping malls. Completed last year at a cost of $15bn (£9bn), it stands where anOttoman fortress once stood. A stone citadel built in 1781 to repel bandits, the Ajyad fortress’s demolition sparked an international outcry in 2002, but this was quickly rebuffed by the Saudi Islamic affairs minister. “No one has the right to interfere in what comes under the state’s authority,” he said. “This development is in the interest of all Muslims all over the world.” The fortress wasn’t just swept away – the hill it sat on went, too.
Shooting 26 searchlights 10km into the skies, and blaring its call to prayer 7km across the valley, the Abraj al-Bait is also the world’s second tallest building. Encrusted with mosaics and inlaid with gold, it is the most visible (and audible) sign of the frenzied building boom that has taken hold of Saudi Arabia’s holy city over the last 10 years. “It is truly indescribable,” says Sami Angawi, architect and founder of the Jeddah-based Hajj Research Centre, who has spent the last three decades researching and documenting the historic buildings of Mecca and Medina, few of which now remain. In particular, the house of the prophet’s wife, Khadijah, was razed to make way for public lavatories; the house of his companion, Abu Bakr, is now the site of a Hilton hotel; and his grandson’s house was flattened by the King’s palace. “They are turning the holy sanctuary into a machine, a city which has no identity, no heritage, no culture and no natural environment. They’ve even taken away the mountains,” says Angawi.
Morgue to reopen as a hotel
A former morgue, complete with autopsy tables and mortuary fridges, is being turned into an off-beat hotel by an Australian businessman.
In a creepy twist, cold slabs once used for autopsies could become beds as part of plans to redevelop Willow Court in Tasmania.
The 1950s morgue, on a site which also housed a convict hospital from 1830, served psychiatric patients as well as the wider community before it was closed down 12 years ago.
Its other features include two pull-out fridges and a stainless steel bathtub once used for washing cadavers.
Hadyn Pearce, the owner, is gradually restoring the buildings in the Willow Court precinct, which have been subject to vandalism while in disuse.
He told Australia’s ABC News that he hoped the hotel would “attract the unusual” and described the dissection table as “our main suite”.
“We’ll be looking at putting a double bed in one of the rooms and then we have three slabs and two pull-out fridges which could be used,” he said.
Asked whether he thought travellers would actually want to sleep in the new accommodation, he replied: “We’re going to find out.”
Mr Pearce, an antiques dealer, has already opened a motel at a former asylum on the site.
Plane awkward: Bust a move, in your seat?!
Flying is already a test of patience at the best of times, but imagine finally drifting off to sleep in your cramped airline seat only to awaken with a jolt as the passenger next to you manoeuvres herself into strange positions. Now she’s upside-down in her with her feet near your nose – that’s awkward!
This may soon become the reality of air travel, with more airlines gearing up to roll out in-flight yoga sessions via the entertainment units by 2013.
Currently only a handful of airlines, such as Qatar Airways, offer yoga in the skies, but major airlines such as Thai Airways, Hong Kong Airlines and Caribbean Airlines are now jumping on board the idea.
Jamie Newland from Yocalm Media, a company providing its well-being channel to airlines, said the sessions offer a great way for passengers to unwind and also to reduce the adverse effects of flying such as DVT risks.
“Yoga is a service that’s needed, especially on long-haul flights”, Newland told TerminalU.com.
“The video is focused on moving all areas of the body in a yoga way – calm, controlled and always focusing on the breathing.”
While there’s no doubting the health benefits it will offer those stuck on planes for hours, it may make for quite an awkward scenario.
Mr Newland said while it may take some getting used to, the yoga sessions will ultimately make flying a more sociable experience.
“We understand that people get very self conscious especially in small confined places,” he said.