Air Nannies To Make Flights Bearable For Kids, Parents And The Travelers Around Them

Flickr user JPMatth

Parents — and easily annoyed travelers — know just how difficult flying with kids can be. One airline offers a free nanny service to help keep the little ones entertained and quiet, while a second is planning to roll out their program by the end of the year.

There’s only one caveat: you’ve got to be flying to or from the Middle East to take advantage of the program.

United Arab Emirates’ Etihad Airways plans to roll out the nanny program by the end of December, according to NBC’s Today show. More than 300 crew members have gone through training at Norland College, a prestigious U.K. nanny training school, with 200 more slated to undergo training by the end of December.

Bahrain’s Gulf Air offers a similar program, according to its website.Ethiad’s nannies will “offer an extra pair of hands to help settle kids, age-appropriate games and activities, or advice and support for frazzled parents,” according to Today. Each plane will have an assortment of toys and craft projects that will hopefully keep the children distracted from the fact they’re trapped in a pressurized metal tube while flying 40,000 feet in the air in defiance of God’s will.

If you’re looking to snag some in-flight childcare, but don’t want to drop several thousand dollars for a ticket to the Middle East, Nanny in the Clouds allows you to find your own personal Marry Poppins who happens to be traveling to your destination. The usual fee is $20 an hour for a cross-country flight, but if your kids are particularly rambunctious, you can be sure that your fellow travelers will take up a collection to help you pay the costs.

Could Bahrain Become The Next Big Heritage Tourism Destination?

Bahrain, Dilmun
Desert Island Boy, flickr

The tiny Persian Gulf island nation of Bahrain is home to one of the most mysterious ancient civilizations of the Middle East.

Archaeologists have long known about a civilization called Dilmun. It’s mentioned in many Mesopotamian texts as a wealthy place of “sweet water.” Even the Epic of Gilgamesh mentions it, but all the sources were vague about its location.

It wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that excavations in Bahrain uncovered impressive cities and temples and proved that Dilmun was located there. Archaeologists found that Dilmun had been an important center for the Persian Gulf trade route that flourished between the Mesopotamian civilizations in what is now Iraq and the Indus Valley in southern Asia around 2000 B.C. Dilmun’s trade connections also extended to civilizations in Oman, Turkey, and Syria.

Dilmun owed its importance for being one of the few spots to get fresh water along the route. Ships would stop there to rest and fill up on supplies, and Dilmun became an important player in world trade.

Now the Bahraini government is looking to make Bahrain a destination for heritage tourism. Of the two UNESCO World Heritage and five tentative sites in Bahrain, five belong to the Dilmun civilization. One of the most important, the ancient city of Saar, is now undergoing restoration after a recent excavation. The BBC reports that Bahraini archaeologists have shifted their efforts from excavating more of the site to developing it for tourism and exhibiting the many artifacts they’ve uncovered, such as this seal dug up near Saar.

%Gallery-188932%Saar is remarkably well preserved. The site is encircled by thick stone walls that in parts still stand as high as ten feet, and there are well-preserved foundations of temples, homes with intact ovens, shops, and even restaurants.

The capital of Dilmun was the even more impressive Qal’at al-Bahrain, a town that was occupied from 2300 B.C. to the 16th century A.D. Remains of the city and its port can still be seen today. The most striking building at the site is actually the latest, a fort the Portuguese erected when they were trying to control trade in the Gulf.

Other sites include the Barbar Temple, which dates back to the earliest period of Dilmun and was rebuilt on the same site over several centuries. Bahrain is also home to some 170,000 burial mounds, some of which date back to the Dilmun period. These are collected in what are called “tumuli fields”, where hundreds of artificial mounds cover the remains of this ancient people.

Despite all the excavations, we still don’t know several basic facts about Dilmun, such as when the civilization started and ended, or what language the people spoke. Its borders are equally unclear. It appears that at time Dilmun controlled more than just Bahrain, extending to the eastern coast of the Saudi peninsula.

The modern Bahrain National Museum in the capital Manama has an entire hall devoted to Dilmun. There you can see maps and artifacts explaining the role this civilization played in the long-distance trade in the Persian Gulf. The museum also has exhibitions for other historical periods and a large collection of traditional costumes.

Bahrain plans major airport expansion

bahrainBahrain International Airport (BIA) will begin a new expansion program that is expected to increase the airport’s capacity by 50 percent.

“The plans we are initiating for an expanded international airport are essential to Bahrain‘s continued development, not only in providing businesses in Bahrain with the access they demand for the future, but also in bolstering the growing aviation and logistics industry in the kingdom,” said Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chairman of the Bahrain Airport Company.

The entire expansion program is expected to take four years and add 40,000 square meters, five new gates and forty check-in counters, boosting the airport capacity from 9 million to 13.5 million passengers, reported Arabian Business News. This project – which will help drive business investment and infrastructure development – follows recent investment in housing, water and education following the lifting of the State of National Safety by His Majesty King Hamad.

Seeing international airports expand is always a positive sign for travelers, as it means increased flight numbers and lower prices.


Welcome to Bahrain[Flickr via Jacobs Creative Bees]

Reflections on Revolution – A photographer’s travels through the Arab tumult


“May you live in interesting times” is a proverb with an unattributed origin. Most speculate the phrase came from China, some assume its origins to be of 20th century English design, but all agree that the phrase is a curse. We no doubt live in “interesting” times. 2011 has already brought revolution, quakes, tsunamis, government shutdowns, and an escaped cobra. Interesting is not always a good thing, but it can be.

With this video, photographer John Moore provides a glimpse into the hectic travel schedule of a front-line photojournalist during the Arab revolution of 2011. His photographs and stories from the Middle-east will leave an impression on you, and this video is interesting in a good way. From Egypt to Bahrain to Libya, the video showcases the revolution from one photographer’s view behind the lens.

Photographer John Moore on ‘Epic’ Libya Battles, Arab World Revolutions from Mike Fritz on Vimeo.

Travel industry battered by world crises says CNN

CNN reports that the travel industry is suffering due to recent world events. A recent report from CNN says that the spate of world crises that have occurred in the first three months of the year has hit the travel industry especially hard. Natural disasters and political unrest have left many travelers rethinking their plans or cancelling trips altogether as they scramble to avoid a host of issues across the globe.

The earthquake and tsunami in Japan, coupled with fears of radiation and a potential nuclear meltdown in power plants there, has significantly reduced demand for travel to that country. It has gotten so bad that Delta Airlines has announced that they are cutting capacity to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport by as much as 20% through May, and suspending flights to another regional airport altogether.

Similarly, travel to Northern Africa and the Middle East has also dropped significantly as political upheaval has spread across that region. It hasn’t just been the airlines that have felt the pinch however, as disruption in travel to Bahrain, Tunisia, and most importantly Egypt, has put a dent in the cruise industry too. According to Carnival Cruise Lines more than 280 of their cruises have seen a change in their itineraries thanks to issues in the Middle East. They estimate a loss of $44 million so far, and the region hasn’t stabilized just yet.

The Middle East unrest has brought another unwelcome side effect to the travel industry as well. Any threat to the distribution of oil means an increase in prices, which is always passed on to the consumer. Soaring oil prices has led to an increase in the cost of airfares, and the dreaded term “fuel surcharge” has reared its ugly head once again too. With the busy summer travel season still ahead, it seems unlikely that oil prices will be coming down again anytime soon.

2011 is certainly off to a turbulent start. If the first few months are any indication, we could be in for one very memorable, but chaotic, year. Has any of the recent global calamities caused you to change your plans? Are you now going elsewhere because of recent events? Worse yet, have you canceled your plans to travel this year altogether?