An ancient military demonstration held at Daming Palace National Heritage Park in Xi'an.
An ancient military demonstration held at Daming Palace National Heritage Park in Xi'an.

China turns history into cash



The flat expanse in front of the rebuilt Danfeng Gate in the northern part of the city of Xi'an is no less impressive than Tiananmen Square in its vastness.

People walking across it appear as ants, while a colourful military re-enactment at the far end looks so tiny it brings to mind action on the screen of a miniature hand-held computer game.

It is startling to think that just two and a half years ago, this slightly barren expanse was part of a bustling neighbourhood with 100,000 residents.

In a project said by officials to have cost 12 billion yuan (Dh6.62bn), the householders were paid off and moved, their homes demolished and a supersized public space created.

The Danfeng Gate itself, which dates from the Tang dynasty more than 1,300 years ago, was rebuilt from scratch as a museum - there was almost nothing left of the original - while, nearby, contractors created a park with lakes, sculptures and a model of Daming Palace, the district's original grand centrepiece.

Surrounding land was sold off to help finance the scheme, the central part of which is fenced off as another tourist attraction in this Shaanxi province city.

Xi'an, one of China's four ancient capitals and also the eastern end of the fabled Silk Road, additionally has attractive pagodas, drum and bell towers and, just outside the city and most famous of all, the Terracotta Army.

Visitors were first allowed into the redeveloped Daming Palace National Heritage Park on October 1, China's National Day.

"Maybe people know the Terracotta warriors in Xi'an, but I believe in future when people come to Xi'an, they will come to Daming Palace and not only the Terracotta warriors," says Zhou Bing, a director in the local municipality.

A trip to the new visitors centre shows no expense has been spared. An IMAX cinema screens a specially created short film about a romance between two young members of the ruling elite of centuries ago.

While the issue of whether there were problems linked to the shifting of 100,000 people are slightly skirted over by local officials - they insist everyone was happy with the offer of compensation and a new home - that the project will draw in visitors seems more certain. The aim is to attract 300,000 foreign tourists from the more than 50 million who travel to China annually.

"This project shows the combination of modern development and ancient heritage," Mr Zhou says. "This should be an example for other cities."

There is probably no country with a greater sense of its own history than China, with its millennia of dynasties.

Yet the turbulence of the Cultural Revolution and the breathless development of the past three decades have obliterated many reminders of that heritage. Three years ago, Qiu Baoxing, a vice minister in the ministry of housing and urban-rural development, warned of "a thousand cities having the same appearance".

Leo Yatming Sin, a professor in the School of Hotel and Tourism Management in The Chinese University of Hong Kong, acknowledges that a great deal of cultural heritage that could have attracted tourists has been lost but believes there is now greater appreciation of its importance.

"Sometimes they have sacrificed cultural heritage for development," he says. "Now many government officials have noticed cultural heritage is important for attracting tourists, [so] now they start thinking about preserving."

In the south of Xi'an, efforts have been made to ensure that new developments at least retain an essence of the city's glorious past. Many of the recent buildings in Qujiang New District, including a sweeping boulevard with sculptures of emperors and warriors on horseback, are built with traditional architectural motifs, a welcome change from the sometimes-bland new residential developments sprouting in countless Chinese cities.

"We need to combine the modern face and the ancient face to display a new kind of city to people around the world," says a spokeswoman for the district.

"Xi'an has a long history, and the rich cultural heritage decides the development of the modern city."

It is no surprise Xi'an is focusing increasingly on attracting tourists, because tourism in China is booming.

The global economic slump may have led to a slight decline in the number of foreign visitors - from 54.7 million in 2007 it fell to 53 million in 2008 and 50.9 million last year - but thanks to China's economic growth, domestic tourism has continued to expand.

Last year, domestic tourists made 1.9 billion trips within China, up 11 per cent on 2008, according to the National Tourism Administration, helping revenue in the sector grow 9 per cent to 1.26 trillion yuan.

In Beijing, there were 9.3 million tourist arrivals over the week-long National Day holiday this year, an increase of 13.7 per cent. Revenue over the same period rose 21.7 per cent to 6.03bn yuan. Again, it was Chinese people - Beijing residents and people from outside the capital - who fuelled the increase.

Mr Sin expects continued growth, saying infrastructure improvements will spur more domestic travel.

"With the high-speed [rail] system improving, you open the market and more people can travel from one city to another in a short time," he says. "It will enhance the motivation of people to travel from one place to another."

China has more than 7,500km of high-speed rail lines, and the ministry of railways plans to increase this figure to 16,000km by 2020.

"The economic growth will continue for the coming years so … for the tourism industry, it is very optimistic," Mr Sin says.

Slow loris biog

From: Lonely Loris is a Sunda slow loris, one of nine species of the animal native to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore

Status: Critically endangered, and listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list due to growing demand in the global exotic pet trade. It is one of the most popular primate species found at Indonesian pet markets

Likes: Sleeping, which they do for up to 18 hours a day. When they are awake, they like to eat fruit, insects, small birds and reptiles and some types of vegetation

Dislikes: Sunlight. Being a nocturnal animal, the slow loris wakes around sunset and is active throughout the night

Superpowers: His dangerous elbows. The slow loris’s doe eyes may make it look cute, but it is also deadly. The only known venomous primate, it hisses and clasps its paws and can produce a venom from its elbow that can cause anaphylactic shock and even death in humans

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

SPECS

Engine: 4-litre V8 twin-turbo
Power: 630hp
Torque: 850Nm
Transmission: 8-speed Tiptronic automatic
Price: From Dh599,000
On sale: Now

Dengue fever symptoms
  • High fever
  • Intense pain behind your eyes
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle and joint pains
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen glands
  • Rash

If symptoms occur, they usually last for two-seven days

How to turn your property into a holiday home
  1. Ensure decoration and styling – and portal photography – quality is high to achieve maximum rates.
  2. Research equivalent Airbnb homes in your location to ensure competitiveness.
  3. Post on all relevant platforms to reach the widest audience; whether you let personally or via an agency know your potential guest profile – aiming for the wrong demographic may leave your property empty.
  4. Factor in costs when working out if holiday letting is beneficial. The annual DCTM fee runs from Dh370 for a one-bedroom flat to Dh1,200. Tourism tax is Dh10-15 per bedroom, per night.
  5. Check your management company has a physical office, a valid DTCM licence and is licencing your property and paying tourism taxes. For transparency, regularly view your booking calendar.
MATCH INFO

Uefa Champions League semi-final, second leg result:

Ajax 2-3 Tottenham

Tottenham advance on away goals rule after tie ends 3-3 on aggregate

Final: June 1, Madrid

EXPATS

Director: Lulu Wang

Stars: Nicole Kidman, Sarayu Blue, Ji-young Yoo, Brian Tee, Jack Huston

Rating: 4/5

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation 2 to 5
Rating: 5/5

Company profile

Name: Yabi by Souqalmal 

Started: May 2022, launched June 2023

Founder: Ambareen Musa

Based: Dubai 

Sector: FinTech 

Initial investment: undisclosed but soon to be announced 

Number of staff: 12 

Investment stage: seed  

Investors: Shuaa Capital

Ziina users can donate to relief efforts in Beirut

Ziina users will be able to use the app to help relief efforts in Beirut, which has been left reeling after an August blast caused an estimated $15 billion in damage and left thousands homeless. Ziina has partnered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to raise money for the Lebanese capital, co-founder Faisal Toukan says. “As of October 1, the UNHCR has the first certified badge on Ziina and is automatically part of user's top friends' list during this campaign. Users can now donate any amount to the Beirut relief with two clicks. The money raised will go towards rebuilding houses for the families that were impacted by the explosion.”

START-UPS IN BATCH 4 OF SANABIL 500'S ACCELERATOR PROGRAMME

Saudi Arabia

Joy: Delivers car services with affordable prices

Karaz: Helps diabetics with gamification, IoT and real-time data

Medicarri: Medical marketplace that connects clinics with suppliers

Mod5r: Makes automated and recurring investments to grow wealth

Stuck: Live, on-demand language support to boost writing

Walzay: Helps in recruitment while reducing hiring time

UAE

Eighty6: Marketplace for restaurant and supplier procurements

FarmUnboxed: Helps digitise international food supply chain

NutriCal: Helps F&B businesses and governments with nutritional analysis

Wellxai: Provides insurance that enables and rewards user habits

Egypt

Amwal: A Shariah-compliant crowd-lending platform

Deben: Helps CFOs manage cash efficiently

Egab: Connects media outlets to journalists in hard-to-reach areas for exclusives

Neqabty: Digitises financial and medical services of labour unions

Oman

Monak: Provides financial inclusion and life services to migrants

Company profile

Company name: Letswork
Started: 2018
Based: Dubai
Founders: Omar Almheiri, Hamza Khan
Sector: co-working spaces
Investment stage: $2.1 million in a seed round with investors including 500 Global, The Space, DTEC Ventures and other angel investors
Number of employees: about 20

Seemar’s top six for the Dubai World Cup Carnival:

1. Reynaldothewizard
2. North America
3. Raven’s Corner
4. Hawkesbury
5. New Maharajah
6. Secret Ambition

Ain Issa camp:
  • Established in 2016
  • Houses 13,309 people, 2,092 families, 62 per cent children
  • Of the adult population, 49 per cent men, 51 per cent women (not including foreigners annexe)
  • Most from Deir Ezzor and Raqqa
  • 950 foreigners linked to ISIS and their families
  • NGO Blumont runs camp management for the UN
  • One of the nine official (UN recognised) camps in the region
The biog

Name: Sari Al Zubaidi

Occupation: co-founder of Cafe di Rosati

Age: 42

Marital status: single

Favourite drink: drip coffee V60

Favourite destination: Bali, Indonesia 

Favourite book: 100 Years of Solitude 

Company profile

Name: Tratok Portal

Founded: 2017

Based: UAE

Sector: Travel & tourism

Size: 36 employees

Funding: Privately funded

THE BIO:

Sabri Razouk, 74

Athlete and fitness trainer 

Married, father of six

Favourite exercise: Bench press

Must-eat weekly meal: Steak with beans, carrots, broccoli, crust and corn

Power drink: A glass of yoghurt

Role model: Any good man

The Greatest Royal Rumble card as it stands

50-man Royal Rumble - names entered so far include Braun Strowman, Daniel Bryan, Kurt Angle, Big Show, Kane, Chris Jericho, The New Day and Elias

Universal Championship Brock Lesnar (champion) v Roman Reigns in a steel cage match

WWE World Heavyweight Championship AJ Styles (champion) v Shinsuke Nakamura

Intercontinental Championship Seth Rollins (champion) v The Miz v Finn Balor v Samoa Joe

United States Championship Jeff Hardy (champion) v Jinder Mahal

SmackDown Tag Team Championship The Bludgeon Brothers (champions) v The Usos

Raw Tag Team Championship (currently vacant) Cesaro and Sheamus v Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt

Casket match The Undertaker v Chris Jericho

Singles match John Cena v Triple H

Cruiserweight Championship Cedric Alexander v tba

 

COMPANY PROFILE


Company name: Clara
Started: 2019
Founders: Patrick Rogers, Lee McMahon, Arthur Guest, Ahmed Arif
Based: Dubai
Industry: LegalTech
Funding size: $4 million of seed financing
Investors: Wamda Capital, Shorooq Partners, Techstars, 500 Global, OTF, Venture Souq, Knuru Capital, Plug and Play and The LegalTech Fund

Other must-tries

Tomato and walnut salad

A lesson in simple, seasonal eating. Wedges of tomato, chunks of cucumber, thinly sliced red onion, coriander or parsley leaves, and perhaps some fresh dill are drizzled with a crushed walnut and garlic dressing. Do consider yourself warned: if you eat this salad in Georgia during the summer months, the tomatoes will be so ripe and flavourful that every tomato you eat from that day forth will taste lacklustre in comparison.

Badrijani nigvzit

A delicious vegetarian snack or starter. It consists of thinly sliced, fried then cooled aubergine smothered with a thick and creamy walnut sauce and folded or rolled. Take note, even though it seems like you should be able to pick these morsels up with your hands, they’re not as durable as they look. A knife and fork is the way to go.

Pkhali

This healthy little dish (a nice antidote to the khachapuri) is usually made with steamed then chopped cabbage, spinach, beetroot or green beans, combined with walnuts, garlic and herbs to make a vegetable pâté or paste. The mix is then often formed into rounds, chilled in the fridge and topped with pomegranate seeds before being served.

Everybody Loves Touda

Director: Nabil Ayouch 

Starring: Nisrin Erradi, Joud Chamihy, Jalila Talemsi

Rating: 4/5

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
Dengue fever symptoms

High fever (40°C/104°F)
Severe headache
Pain behind the eyes
Muscle and joint pains
Nausea
Vomiting
Swollen glands
Rash

JOKE'S ON YOU

Google wasn't new to busting out April Fool's jokes: before the Gmail "prank", it tricked users with mind-reading MentalPlex responses and said well-fed pigeons were running its search engine operations .

In subsequent years, they announced home internet services through your toilet with its "patented GFlush system", made us believe the Moon's surface was made of cheese and unveiled a dating service in which they called founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page "Stanford PhD wannabes ".

But Gmail was all too real, purportedly inspired by one – a single – Google user complaining about the "poor quality of existing email services" and born "millions of M&Ms later".

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone


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