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From Iraq, an Intimate Glimpse of the Religious Holiday of Arbaeen

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The walls of the Imam Abbas shrine in Iraq’s holy city of Karbala seemed to heave and sway with the boisterous, devoted crowd. By holding onto a rope, ushers partitioned a makeshift runway from one entrance of the mosque to another. This was the stage where a parade of religious men and women would perform latom, or ritual chest-beating, and other forms of ceremonial mourning.

The first group was understated: Dressed in black outfits that were deliberately muddied and torn, the group of Iraqi pilgrims beat their chests in unison. They cried out in grief — “Oh, Hussein!” they shouted, in reference to a 7th-century Islamic leader — so loudly that they cut through the music blaring from the speakers dragged behind them. The next group was younger and rowdier. In an explosion of chaotic energy, these young devotees struck at themselves and at each other with abandon.

This wasn’t a normal day at the Imam Abbas shrine. This was Arbaeen, and the shrine would see some 15 million visitors and thousands of religious performances pass through its red glow before the two-day event concluded.

Every year, millions of pilgrims descend on the central Iraqi city of Karbala, a usually quiet desert city, to commemorate the religious holiday of Arbaeen, one of the largest organized gatherings of people in the world. The events center on two adjacent mosques: the Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas shrines.

The event is a spectacular display of grief, mourning and religious ecstasy. It commemorates the death of one of Shiite Islam’s most important leaders, Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Hussein is said to have died 1340 years ago in the dusty plains of Karbala. A grave was established to commemorate his death, and the city of Karbala, in what is now modern-day Iraq, slowly built around it over time.

In 2019, when a colleague told me the Imam Abbas shrine was inviting a small group of journalists to visit during Arbaeen, I jumped at the chance to go. The shrine was instrumental in organizing my stay in Karbala; they arranged my tourist visa and helped me negotiate travel both within Iraq and among the massive crowds in Karbala. (I paid my own travel expenses but was given a room at a modest hotel owned by the Imam Abbas shrine.)

My only moment of uncertainty came shortly before heading inside the Imam Abbas shrine. A group of clerics at the shrine queried whether it would be appropriate for me, a woman, to rove around and take photographs. After deliberating for 15 minutes, they permitted me to enter. It was hard to tell if I had fallen on the winning side of a religious debate, or if the rightly famous Iraqi sense of hospitality had simply won out.

Tradition holds that, in A.D. 680, Hussein and his followers were on their way to challenge the succession of Caliph Yazid, whom they saw as an illegitimate successor after the death of Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Yazid responded by sending a massive army to intercept Hussein, who continued to refuse allegiances with the Caliph. A battle ensued, and Hussein and all his followers were massacred. To this day, Hussein’s death is a defining drama of the Shiite faith and, in Christ-like fashion, remains powerfully resonant.

Nowhere is this more visible than in Karbala during Arbaeen.

Every year after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 — until 2020 — millions of pilgrims have traveled to Karbala, 60 miles southwest of the capital Baghdad. In the years of relative calm since 2010, the city of Karbala, together with its sister holy city of Najaf, the seat of Iraq’s pre-eminent Shiite clerical establishment, have become major centers of economic power and theological influence. This was unthinkable under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, when Shiite religious events were banned, and clerics were hounded from Iraq.

Last year saw the shrines at their peak. Once inside, pilgrims offered a religious and cultural demonstration to express their love for Imam Hussein, often through choreographed chanting and flag twirling, but sometimes through violent (and less choreographed) flagellation, like the intense display I witnessed on the first day. In either case, nearly everyone was in tears, grieving. An astonishing number of people passed out from the emotional intensity of the experience.

Many of the pilgrims within Iraq and from neighboring Iran make the journey by foot, trekking and camping for hundreds of miles along routes lined with stalls that dispense hot meals and encouragement. In recent years, Iraqis and Iranians have been joined by hundreds of thousands of religious tourists from a growing number of countries outside the Middle East, including the United Kingdom, Bosnia, Pakistan, Malaysia and Australia.

Most foreigners come as groups organized by Iraqi travel agencies specializing in pilgrim tours. Individual visas are by invitation from one of the city’s two shrines. But, in comparison to Hajj, a similarly significant pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, what makes Arbaeen unique is the fact that the shrines actively invite leaders and people of other faiths.

Of course, this year has proved to be anything but ordinary. Iraq’s religious tourism industry — which, until 2020, was the country’s largest non-oil economic sector — has been decimated. And for Arbaeen, which began on Oct. 7 and ended on Oct. 8, the government issued only a few thousand religious tourism visas. Clerical and health authorities are worried that continuing rites at the holy cities might become super-spreader events.

This year, as a result, Arbaeen was once again mostly for Iraqis.

By: Andrea DiCenzo
Title: From Iraq, an Intimate Glimpse of the Religious Holiday of Arbaeen
Sourced From: www.nytimes.com/2020/11/09/travel/arbaeen-karbala-iraq.html
Published Date: Mon, 09 Nov 2020 10:00:31 +0000

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What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?

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People have always liked to drink on board flights, especially people from Australia. Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that there was an inflight bar offering in the 1970s.

Ansett Airlines were a major player in the Australian domestic market up until their demise in September 2001. For many years, there were two domestic airlines, Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) and Ansett.

Ansett’s Inflight Bar

At the time, Ansett operated Boeing 727s, Douglas DC-9s and Fokker F27 Friendships on domestic routes in the country. Airline tickets were quite expensive, with tariffs agreed upon by both airlines thanks to Australia’s weird two-airline policy at the time.

While tickets were expensive and food complimentary, you still had to pay for a drink at the bar. Here is an inflight bar menu from the era, showing the drinks available and their prices.

Clearly the pricing is astounding by today’s standards – 30 cents for a beer? I’ll have thirty-three please! I like how Australian gin is 35c while the imported gin is just 5c more. Which would you choose?

You can tell it is from another era as you can buy cigarettes on board. These price up at 45c, a far cry from the extortionate prices people in the west pay these days for a smoke!

Overall Thoughts

The on board offering is pretty comprehensive for internal flights, and I imagine you’d be hard pressed not to find something you might like. In those times, all payments would have been by cash as well, which would have meant a lot of coinage being handled on board.

Of course, things haven’t changed too much over the years. On many airlines you pay for your drinks just as they did back in the 1970s. Shame the prices aren’t the same of course!

Did you ever buy drinks on board flights from the inflight bar back in the day? Do you still? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Daniel Tanner on Airliners.net via Wikimedia Commons.
Menu image by Ikara on Australian Frequent Flyer.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?
Sourced From: travelupdate.com/ansett-airlines-inflight-bar-menu/
Published Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2020 15:03:14 +0000

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These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?

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The shrimp stop swimming at dusk and gather near the river’s edge. After sunset, they begin to climb out of the water. Then they march. All night long, the inch-long crustaceans parade along the rocks.

The parading shrimp of northeastern Thailand have inspired legends, dances and even a statue. (Locals also eat them.) During the rainy season, between late August and early October, tourists crowd the riverbanks with flashlights to watch the shrimp walk.

Watcharapong Hongjamrassilp first learned about the parading shrimp, and the hundred thousand or more tourists who come each year to see them, about 20 years ago. When he started studying biology, he returned to the topic. “I realized that we know nothing about this,” he said: What species are they? Why and how do they leave the safety of the water to walk upstream on dry land? Where are they going?

Mr. Hongjamrassilp, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided to answer those questions himself. His findings appeared this month in the Journal of Zoology.

Working with wildlife center staff members, Mr. Hongjamrassilp staked out nine sites along a river in Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province. They found shrimp parading at two of the sites — a stretch of rapids, and a low dam.

The videos they recorded revealed that the shrimp paraded from sundown to sunup. They traveled up to 65 feet upstream. Some individual shrimp stayed out of the water for 10 minutes or more.

“I was so surprised,” Mr. Hongjamrassilp said, “because I never thought that a shrimp can walk that long.” Staying in the river’s splash zone may help them keep their gills wet, so they can keep taking in oxygen. He also observed that the shells of the shrimp seem to trap a little water around their gills, like a reverse dive helmet.

DNA analysis from captured shrimp showed that nearly all belonged to the species Macrobrachium dienbienphuense, part of a genus of shrimp that live mostly or fully in freshwater. Many Macrobrachiumspecies spend part of their lives migrating upstream to their preferred habitats.

Most parading shrimp that Mr. Hongjamrassilp captured were young. Observations and lab experiments showed that these shrimp probably leave the water when the flow becomes too strong for them. Larger adult shrimp can handle a stronger current without washing away, so they’re less likely to leave the water.

Walking on land is dangerous for the little shrimp, even under cover of darkness. Predators including frogs, snakes and large spiders lurk nearby, Mr. Hongjamrassilp says. “Literally, they wait to eat them along the river.”

And the shrimp can survive on land for only so long. If the parading crustaceans lose their way, they may dry out and die before they get back to the river. A few times, Mr. Hongjamrassilp came across groups of lost shrimp dead on the rocks, their once-translucent bodies baked pink.

Yet most navigate upstream successfully, and scientists have spotted other freshwater shrimp around the world performing similar feats, scaling dams and even climbing waterfalls.

Leaving the water when the swimming gets tough may have helped these animals spread to new habitats over their evolutionary history, Mr. Hongjamrassilp said. Today, the number of parading shrimp in Thailand seems to be declining. He thinks tourist activity may be a factor, and learning more about the shrimp might help protect them.

The study’s authors made “some really excellent observations,” said Alan Covich, an ecologist at the University of Georgia who was not involved in the research. But understanding why the Ubon Ratchathani shrimp move upstream, and how far they travel, will require more research, he said.

“The most surprising thing to me was that it attracted so many tourists,” Dr. Covich said. He doesn’t know of any other example of people gathering to appreciate a crustacean in quite the same way.

“We have crayfish festivals, we have all kinds of things,” Dr. Covich said, “but generally it’s people eating them, not watching them move.”

By: Elizabeth Preston
Title: These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?
Sourced From: www.nytimes.com/2020/11/18/science/shrimp-parade-thailand.html
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 17:02:07 +0000

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Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?

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There are reports that Aer Lingus have applied for 1,500 slots at Manchester Airport for the Summer 2021 season. This will allow the airline to base four aircraft there and service flights to the United States.

At present, there have been no press releases from the airline stating what is going on. Even so, it probably makes sense for the Irish airline to do this in the current market.

Aer Lingus And Manchester

From what is known, there will be three Airbus A321LRs and an A330 based at Manchester. These will operate non-stop services to New York JFK, Boston, Chicago and Orlando, and the season starts on 28 March 2021.

With Thomas Cook having gone out of business, there is likely space for another competitor. New York and Orlando will see competition from Virgin Atlantic, while the other two routes have no airline flying at the moment.

Aer Lingus has been connecting passengers over Dublin very successfully from the UK regions for a while now. Due to this, they will have visibility on traffic patterns, potential yields and more, making this an informed decision.

I imagine they also hope to cream off some of the connecting traffic that routes through London Heathrow on British Airways and Amsterdam on KLM among others. It would prove to be quite successful.

Transatlantic Joint Venture Approval

The US Department of Transport has tentatively given its approval for Aer Lingus to join the oneworld transatlantic joint business. This is operated by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia and Finnair.

These airlines coordinate schedules and pricing, share revenues and expenses. For the consumer, it means more choice – those making a booking on British Airways across the Atlantic will also see options on American Airlines on the BA web site as one example.



Theoretically, it would allow people seeking flights on the British Airways web site to automatically be given options to fly non-stop with Aer Lingus, along with the Manchester-London Heathrow-US city connecting itinerary.

Whether Aer Lingus will join the oneworld alliance, even in a oneworld connect capacity remains to be seen. Frequent flyers would welcome it, especially those in Ireland.

Overall Thoughts

No doubt the boffins have been working behind the scenes to see if the business case for transatlantic flights from Manchester stack up. As things have proceeded as far as a slot application, I would guess chances are good that it will go ahead.

Either way, let’s see if this happens and if it does, whether Aer Lingus will stay for the long haul. If they can make more money elsewhere, they’ll up sticks and leave. Regardless, it is an interesting development in European aviation.

What do you think of Aer Lingus starting transatlantic services from Manchester? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons.
Aer Lingus A321neo LR by Pitmanaaron via Wikimedia Commons.
Business class cabin via One Mile At A Time.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?
Sourced From: travelupdate.com/aer-lingus-manchester/
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 18:03:48 +0000

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