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food / travel

Interlaken, The New Swiss Mecca For Rich Muslim Tourists

The boom from Gulf countries is the direct result of a promotional campaign that features halal menus, Arabic speakers and prayer mat in front of hotels.

Canoeing in burqa
Canoeing in burqa
Mehdi Atmani

INTERLAKEN — By the end of June, the "Indian summer" in this lakeside Swiss town was already ending. Along the Höheweg, the avenue of Interlaken's luxury watchmakers and five-star hotels, just a few Indian travelers remain, scattered among the continuous flow of Chinese visitors. One tourist season is ending, but another is about to start.

A few days before the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, this tourist destination is working on the last details to welcome the flow of wealthy Arabs tourists about to turn up: restaurant menus translated in Arabic are brought out, and watchmakers are refilling their stock of luxury models.

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Mariateresa Fichele

Fifteen years ago, Francesco kept busy by scamming people. He was a regular visitor to the beaches of Terracina, south of Rome, where he was caught several times selling counterfeit Ray-Ban sunglasses. Then came the drugs, which fed a serious substance-induced psychosis and eventually he tested positive for HIV.

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