Abu DHabi: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) has announced that UAE nationals with diplomatic, special and normal passports can now travel toTajikistan without pre-entry visas and for stays of up to 90 days for each visit.
The decision comes into effect on January 1, 2022.
Entry to Tajikistan for tourism is currently suspended because of the conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Khalid Abdullah Belhoul, Under-Secretary of MoFAIC, said the agreement reflects the strong ties between the UAE and the Republic of Tajikistan, that were founded on mutual understanding and respect and a will to bolster bilateral relations, to reflect the aspirations and visions of the leaderships of the two countries and serves common goals and interests.
Belhoul added that this step is part of MoFAIC’s diplomatic and consular efforts that aim to strengthen the UAE’s global position.
He stressed that providing distinguished consular services to ensure the happiness of Emiratis is one of the Ministry’s strategic goals, in accordance with the directives of the wise leadership to provide all means of care and happiness to UAE nationals around the world.
Abu Dhabi: The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) has announced a further update to the ‘Green List’ of countries for inbound travel into Abu Dhabi. The update is effective from December 26, 2021.
Passengers arriving from the updated ‘Green List’ destinations will be exempt from mandatory quarantine measures after landing in Abu Dhabi.
Travellers will be required to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result, valid for a maximum of 48 hours before departure and undergo a PCR test upon arrival at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Vaccinated passengers from the updated ‘Green List’ will take another PCR test on day 6 (the day of arrival into Abu Dhabi is counted as day 1). Unvaccinated travellers arriving from the ‘Green List’ countries are required to take PCR tests on days 6 and 9.
The list is regularly updated based on international developments, and the DCT has said that inclusion on the list is subject to strict criteria of health and safety protocols for travel, ensuring and prioritising the well-being of the UAE community. The countries included on the ‘Green List’ have been given the green light for travel and refers to inbound travel origin, not citizenship of passenger.
Below is the updated ‘Green List’ as of December 26, 2021
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Hong Kong (SAR)
Papua New Guinea
Republic of Ireland
Taiwan, Province of China
United States of America
Ever since I read the historical novel, Raiders from the North, by Alex Rutherford, I always held a desire to visit Fergana in eastern Uzbekistan, the land of great Mughal emperor Babur who was crowned at the age of 12, and discover more about the rich cultural heritage of this magnificent country.
We are avid travellers and due to the current pandemic could not think of any other destination than The Republic of Uzbekistan, which has reported very few Covid cases. So, it was time to buckle up and fly to Tashkent, which is visa free for UAE residents.
Uzbekistan has a wealth of historical monuments, not least the towns of Bukhara, Khiva and Samarkand, which were the capitals of powerful kingdoms for many centuries. Shimmering minarets, curvaceous domes and mesmerising mosaics make the Uzbek cities of Samarkand and Bukhara grand.
Learn from mistakes and so did we and would suggest travellers about the MUST online booking of Afrosiyob Train [Bullet train] in advance or at the station prior to your journey as it is difficult to get tickets on the same day of travel. The only option left for us was to travel for six exhaustive hours to Bukhara in a normal train, Sharq but all the struggle and the tiredness paid off as soon as we stepped into the Silk route city Bukhara.
The Historic Centre of Bukhara, situated on the Silk Roads, is more than two thousand years old. It is one of the best examples of well-preserved Islamic cities of Central Asia of the 10th to 17th centuries. Important monuments that survive from early times include the famous Ismail Samanai tomb, Poi-Kalyan minaret, The Ulugbek medresseh, the Lyabi-Khauz ensemble, the Kosh Medresseh and the Gaukushon medresseh to name a few.
A lively atmosphere with tourists and locals makes night life in the city more enchanting. The Arc of Bukhara is another marvel of architecture and history, while the Water Tower Shukhova, built by a talented mathematician and brilliant engineer is also worth visiting. The best thing about Bukhara is that all the hotspots can be covered on foot.
Our next destination was Samarkand, which was covered by bullet train. One of the oldest cities in the world, Samarkand was founded around the 7th century BC. Poets and historians described the city as The Pearl of the Eastern Muslim World. Timur wasn’t only a great conqueror but also a great builder. He’s the man behind the greatest constructions in Samarkand, including the Bibi Khanym Mosque, Shah-i-Zinda, the Ulugh Beg madrasah at Registan, the Ulug Beg Observatory, and the Gur-e-Amir mausoleum.
All the main roads of Samarkand lead to Registan, one of the most beautiful squares of the world. It was used as a public square for royal proclamations, celebrations, and public executions. Our first glance of the awe-inspiring monument complex was at twilight. We just could not take our eyes off the stunning and enigmatic architectural marvel.
Our journey came to an end at Tashkent where I wanted to explore the Chimgan mountains, the ski resort and Charvak lake by car. The austere open chair car ride from Beldersoy to the snow-capped Chimgan mountains was thrilling and captivating.
The republic of Uzbekistan is least explored by travellers, but I highly recommend this country as a lifetime experience not only for its cultural and architectural glory but for its friendly, humble, and helpful people. Any visit to a country is incomplete without trying out its food delicacies, so be sure to taste the shashliks, herbs and other salads, variety of soups, lepyoshka bread, tandyr nan, patyr nan, pilaf and last but not the least local tea and coffee. Moreover in this Covid era, it is a hassle-free exercise to get all important documents be it PCR, air tickets and immigration formalities in Uzbekistan. All medical centres deliver PCR reports within six hours. Hotels, food and other amenities are reasonably priced.
With fond, cherishable and warm memories, we hereby end our Uzbekistan diary.
Christmas is around the corner. And the New Year too. This is travel season, and I’m travelling to India. A journey after two years. That’s true for many people whose travel plans have been put on hold due to COVID-19.
Call it revenge travel, as in revenge tourism in the aftermath of the global pandemic. Most people are headed for their home countries to share the festive joy with their family and friends. Besides Christmas and New Year, this is also the season of weddings and get-togethers.
Leave requests are filed, tickets are booked, and the countdown had begun. That’s when Omicron, the new coronavirus variant, announced its arrival to the world. What followed was panic, sheer panic. My anxiety was not fuelled by the threat posed by the mutant strain but at the thought that the travel plans could evaporate.
How Omicron impacts travel
When you haven’t travelled for two years or haven’t seen your loved ones for two years, such panic is bound to happen. Will the flights be scrapped? Will the borders remain open? Will I be able to return after the leave? Questions, numerous questions, race through my mind.
Unfortunately, there are no answers. On current evidence, there’s no reason to worry. The scant data on Omicron shows the infections so far have been mild, although the transmission rate in the Gauteng province of South Africa has been high. Is it high enough to ground the flights? The World Health Organisation doesn’t seem to think so, and it has been critical of the move to ban flights from countries in southern Africa.
The WHO’s stance may have stemmed from the thought that the flight ban is akin to closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. All the cases that have surfaced worldwide must have been the result of infections from at least a week ago. Now, these cases will lead to local transmission. So what’s the point in banning international flights? Well, the WHO has a valid point.
More precautions and delays ahead
That gives me enough reason to be optimistic that the flights won’t be disrupted. But precautions will be ramped up at airports and other ports of entry. So brace for inordinate delays, and take adequate precautions throughout the trip.
Precautions, precautions, precautions. Nothing is too much, although experts dismiss the need to wear N95 masks; they say KN95 masks are good enough. Hand-washing or sanitising and social distancing are very effective in keeping the virus at bay. Social distancing may not be feasible on aircraft, but I will adhere to it whenever possible.
- COVID-19: How Omicron will affect me and my daily life
- COVID-19: Why the world is worried about new variant Omicron
- Omicron could knock a fragile economic recovery off track
- Omicron Variant: Seven ways India can keep a step ahead
- Over-60s, vulnerable should postpone travel due to Omicron COVID-19 variant: WHO
The threat is not just from Omicron. Delta too is still around. So travel if you must, but be prudent with your visits. I certainly won’t be calling on the elderly, or friends and relatives with health conditions. That would be irresponsible. I might be alright, but I don’t want to carry germs that would put their lives in danger.
I’m going shopping next week for some gifts. Bags are to be packed. Then the PCR test followed by uploading the result and numerous forms to fill up. It’s a pain. But that pain is worth it when you travel after two years.
I’m leaving on a jet plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again, John Denver sang. I’ll be back in the New Year. What about you?
Shyam A. Krishna is Senior Associate Editor at Gulf News. He writes on health and sport.
Given the opportunity to travel again after being locked up at home by the COVID-19 pandemic was such a breath of fresh air. And it certainly helped that my destination was no less a paradise for weary travellers like me looking for a much-needed respite: Seychelles, the famed archipelago in the Indian Ocean.
As the Emirates flight took off for the four-hour journey from Dubai to Mahe, the main island of Seychelles, I could not help but think of the beautiful white sand beaches and picturesque nature scenes — coconut trees, fresh fruits, a peaceful life. And Seychelles indeed did not disappoint.
From the moment we landed, it was clear what we could look forward to: a simple, uncomplicated life and an adventure full of nature’s bounty. Growing up in the island of Cebu, Philippines, my visit to Seychelles only made me miss island life even more.
During the trip, we visited three of the famous islands in Seychelles — Mahe, La Digue and Praslin. My personal favourite is La Digue, located some 43km from the main island of Mahe and 6.5km from Praslin.
The fourth-largest island in Seychelles, La Digue is a granite island that receives its visitors mainly by a ferry boat at a quaint jetty in the village of La Passe.
As we arrived at the ferry pier, we were greeted by locals singing distinctive Seychelles music, but there was one thing I immediately noticed on the island, something most city dwellers like me would find unusual: there were very few vehicles in the streets. Instead, the majority of people — citizens and tourists alike — travel using bicycles or they simply just walk. Yes, the primary means of transportation is the bicycle, which is something of a pleasant surprise for me. In fact, it was one of the things I liked most about the island. You rarely see people using cars or other vehicles in the island. And getting on a bike was easy with rental facilities located near the ferry pier.
A visit to the island, however, wouldn’t be complete if you don’t get a chance to see and take a snap of one of its most famous beaches — Anse la Source d’Argent. Locals call the place the “postcard” of Seychelles as it is said to be the most-photographed beach in Seychelles. The beach has also been used as the backdrop for numerous advertising campaigns for brands like Bounty Chocolate.
To truly have an authentic La Digue experience, a visit to L’Union Estate is a must. Thousands of tourists flock L’Union Estate every year to see and experience the big and towering granite rock formations, one of the most-photographed formations on Earth. Apart from the big granite rock formations, La Digue’s L’union estate park is also one of the popular tourist attractions. It comprises Aldabra giant tortoises pen, copra (dried coconut kernels) factory, vanilla plantation and the cemetery of the first settlers of La Digue Island. The giant land tortoise is endemic to the islands of the Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles. It is one of the largest tortoises in the world.
While it is a famous destination for beach lovers and honeymooners, the 115-island archipelago in the Indian Ocean is also a haven for nature lovers and adventure seekers. With its natural charm and having plenty of activities to choose from, every island we visited certainly had something special to offer along with its own hidden gems.
So when we moved to Praslin island, it indeed felt like a new adventure. Praslin is the second-largest island of Seychelles, lying northeast of the main island of Mahe. It is accessible by domestic flights 15 minutes from the main island. It was named Isle de Palmes by explorer Lazare Picault in 1744. During that time, it was used as a hideaway by pirates and Arab merchants. In 1768 it was renamed Praslin in honour of French diplomat Cesar Gabriel de Choiseul, duc de Praslin.
It was easy to understand why the island was used as a hideaway by pirates: it features a lush forest. While the two other islands we visited distinctively offered the island living experience most people have come to associate with Seychelles, Praslin features its own distinctive vibe mainly as a nature park. One of the best places to visit is Vallee de Mai Nature Reserve, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, recognising the outstanding value of its forest. The nature reserve consists of a well-preserved palm forest, flagship species made up of the island endemic coco de mer, as well as five other endemic palms.
It is said that the landscape here can feel very much pre-historic, and it does feel like that when you get to see some of the indigenous plants and wildlife that’s like no other you’ve seen before. One that really caught my attention was the coco de mer, a monocot tree in the Arecaceae (palm) family that has the largest seeds (double nut seed/double-lobed coconut) of any plant in the world. And unlike the coconut palm, the coco de mer palm has separate male and female trees. It is the female tree that produces the fabled fan-shaped seeds, which is also the world’s heaviest, weighing in at between 15kg and 30kg. For centuries it was thought to come from a tree beneath the ocean.
The main island of Seychelles, Mahe, is home to the archipelago’s capital, Victoria, where you can visit many of the country’s historical and landmark sites. At the centre of Victoria is the Victoria Clocktower. Some people call it the small version of Big Ben. Built in England, the clock tower arrived on the island in nine cases and it took nine days to put it in place. It was unveiled on April 1, 1903. The simple structure is steeped in history and many tourists make it a point to drop by for a few snapshots.
Hinduism is actually Seychelles’ second-largest religion after Christianity, so an important stopover for practitioners is the Arulmigu Navasakti Vinayagar Temple, the first and the only Hindu temple in Seychelles. With Ganesha as the presiding deity, the temple easily stands out as one of most beautiful historical structures in the city.
One of the must-go beaches here is the Beau Vallon Beach. It is the island’s most famous and popular beach — for both tourists and locals — and one of the longest beaches in Seychelles, perfect for a lazy stroll to unwind as you enjoy the view of beautiful scenery and different water sports activities, which was what my fellow travellers did while we were there. There are also plenty of souvenir items sold in the area.
The food in Seychelles was equally amazing. Naturally, it features a wide array of seafood, and one of the local delicacies you should try is the octopus curry, a beloved dish that strongly reflects the fusion of cultures that exists in the archipelago. The octopus curry (Kari Zourit) is considered as Seychelles’ “national food”. The Seychelles Creole dish is available anywhere — be it in luxury hotels or restaurants.
There’s also plenty of fruits and vegetables, with the Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market the best place to check out the island’s fresh produce. Plus, you can also find gift and souvenir shops there.
If you are looking for shops to buy souvenir items, visit the souvenir kiosk fiennes esplanade. It is just a short walking distance from the Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market. One of the most famous souvenir items to buy is the coconut oil.
Looking for a place where you can unwind, relax and be in touch with nature? Then Seychelles is a must on your bucket list. But looking back on that trip, I realise that all the beautiful places we visited and all the great food we feasted on we’re really just one part of what makes Seychelles a must-visit destination. What really tied it together as a wonderful vacation experience was the hospitality of the people. Seychelles does not only offer beautiful places, it also boasts friendly and warm people who will truly make you feel at home in these islands.
UAE travellers can plan their travel from a range of holiday packages, with Emirates Holidays offering a three-night stay with curated experiences starting from Dh4,699 per person. Flights from Dubai take around four hours, with both locations having the same time zone.
Coconut leaf hats
Since coconut is a big industry in the islands, among the locals’ many handicrafts are items made of handmade-coconut leaf like hats, vegetable tray and even brooms.
Mango House Seychelles
Having a great place to stay will make your holiday in Seychelles even more memorable. One of the unique places to go is the Mango House Seychelles, which recently opened this year. The place offers a homey feel – staying away from the mould of traditional luxury hotels. It was once the grand family home of Italian fashion photographer Gian Paolo Barbieri.
Seychelles is proud to be a disease-free environment: there is no risk of contracting malaria or yellow fever. UAE travellers to Seychelles are required proof of a negative COVID-19 test, conducted within 72 hours of the date of travel.
Abu Dhabi: The UAE on Saturday announced recalling its diplomats in Beirut and banning its citizens from traveling to Lebanon in solidarity with Saudi Arabia in the backdrop of the unacceptable approach by some Lebanese officials against the Kingdom.
The move was announced by Khalifa Al Marar, Minister of State, who said: “The work will continue at the consulate and visa section within its diplomatic mission in Beirut during the current time.”
The action comes one day after Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador in Beirut and asked the Lebanese ambassador to leave Riyadh within 48 hours over the offensive remarks made by the Lebanese Minister of Information against the Arab coalition supporting legitimacy in Yemen.
The Kingdom also ceased all imports from Lebanon. Kuwait and Bahrain also recalled their ambassadors in Beirut.
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