Thursday. 12/5/2022

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Welcoming hosts

Those doubting the return of international tourism have clearly not been in attendance at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) trade fair, which wraps up in Dubai today. A full-blown hospitality spectacle, it’s a showcase of national tourism boards, airlines and major hotel chains from countries ranging from South Korea to Kazakhstan. While the more than 20,000 attendees are no doubt excited to share in-person conversations with faces from across the globe, the real buzz at ATM is being generated by what’s happening in the Middle East.

Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Saudi Arabia have been vying for attention in a grand exhibition hall, where marquee announcements, such as the NBA’s decision to host its first match in Abu Dhabi in October, are being made and travel deals done. While Dubai is highlighting its wealth of hotels and thriving culinary scene, Abu Dhabi is pushing messages of progress: its soon-to-open Abrahamic Family House is an interfaith complex hosting a synagogue, mosque and church, designed by architect David Adjaye. Abu Dhabi’s marketers are keen to remind us that the UAE’s capital is more than just an oil-rich city of posh hotels and theme parks.

While the big players in tourism attempt to address problematic homegrown issues, others are trying to overhaul foreign perceptions. At the Syria stand, sales reps are promoting Damascus’s heritage sites, pointing out that adventurous European tourists are already returning to the war-damaged nation. While I don’t think that I’m quite ready for downtown Damascus, a buzzy Dubai packed with international travellers and brimming with interesting restaurants and retail has endeared itself to me. When it comes to readiness for post-pandemic tourism, this sunny region feels as though it has the jump on most parts of the world.

Image: Getty Images

Defence / Nato

Together we stand

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland quickly stepped up co-operation with Nato, including a major military exercise profiled in the latest issue of Monocle. Both are expected to reveal in the coming days whether they plan to join the military alliance. But one of the concerns is that, not unlike Ukraine itself, these traditionally neutral Nordic countries could be vulnerable to Russian aggression in the so-called “grey zone”, the period between filing their applications to join and ratification of their membership. Which is why Boris Johnson, during a visit to the Nordic countries yesterday, has offered his support to Sweden and Finland should they come under attack. “The declaration serves a crucial purpose regardless of the choices Sweden will make in terms of our security policy,” Sweden’s prime minister, Magdalena Andersson (pictured, with Johnson), said in a joint press conference. Johnson’s pledge is evidence of a strengthening transatlantic unity – fostered, ironically, by Vladimir Putin, who is set on division.

Image: Reuters

Mining / DRC

Dig for fairness

More than 70 per cent of the global supply of cobalt, one of the world’s most precious metals used in lithium-ion batteries, is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo. And the country’s mining minister, Antoinette N’Samba Kalambayi (pictured), is determined to make the process fit for the modern economy. While much of cobalt ore comes from major industrial miners, one third is still generated by so-called artisanal miners, who dig by hand and sell to unregulated (and often unscrupulous) middlemen.

Previous efforts to manage the industry involved granting an ineffective monopoly over purchasing, processing and selling artisanal cobalt to the state-owned Entreprise Générale du Cobalt. This week, Kalambayi told Reuters that she’ll cancel the monopoly, which she labelled a “violation of the laws of the republic”, and reintroduce private competition. Bringing artisanal mining into the formal economy is a delicate process – but her success could be crucial to the future of so many electronic products that we hold dear.

Image: Alamy

Business / Germany

Better butchery

Growing locally and sustainably has become a priority for nations across the globe. And while the name Hall of Meat will sound like a challenge to vegetarian, climate-friendly readers, the point for its founder, Olaf Mahr, is to show that meat can also be done in the right way. The former software engineer, who is based in Brandenburg outside Berlin, has already launched a delivery service that pays farmers a premium over mass-market butchers and won the state’s marketing award last year. Now he’s expanding with a major new Hall of Meat outlet that opens today in the town of Wildau.

The shop requires all farmers to sign a pledge to work sustainably and humanely. Mahr keeps transportation costs (and emissions) low by sourcing only from the nearby Dahme-Spreewald and Teltow-Fläming regions. And he sells all parts of the animal to avoid waste. His mantra? “Eat less meat but seek better quality.” Mahr’s climate-friendly project is one that could easily be copied in other regions around the world and shows that there are ways we can have our meat and eat it too.

Image: Getty Images

Transport / Jamaica

On the rails

Back in 1845, Jamaica was one of the first countries outside Europe and North America to have a railway network but the country has not had a comprehensive service since 1992, despite a population of almost three million people. Now this could be set to change: a new memorandum signed by the University of Birmingham in the UK and Jamaica’s University of Technology aims to find engineering solutions to help revive the country’s railways.

The academic partnership is part of a larger project that is currently trying to create a railway line between Kingston station and the Culture Yard in the capital’s Trench Town neighbourhood. As well as offering the potential for increased ease of travel and the movement of goods, the initiative also shows why old ideas are sometimes the best – and that there’s still room for clever ways to revive the way that trains and trams connect people.

Monocle’s forthcoming June issue is a transport and mobility special. It will be on newsstands next week or you can subscribe today so that you don’t miss an issue.

Image: Björn Ceder

Monocle 24 / Food Neighbourhoods

Recipe edition, Tommy Myllymäki

A recipe by the founder of Michelin-starred restaurant Aira in Stockholm.

Monocle Films / Turin

The new urban rowers

We wake up bright and early to meet creative director Luca Ballarini at the Circolo Canottieri Caprera, a rowing club on the banks of the river Po in Turin. We follow his slender boat and glide along the river beside charming palazzi, castles and bridges, while the rest of the city comes to life.

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