Life & Leisure

Great Wall of China reopens with thin footfall, amid strict measures

By Javier Triana

Beijing, Mar 27 (efe-epa).- The Great Wall of China has reopened its doors to visitors amid strict security measures after two months of closure.

But the monument is a shadow of its former vibrant self. Accustomed to hoards of tourists flocking to the wall, since it reopened all shops and hotels rather than closed seem abandoned.

For the moment very few Chinese tourists have ventured to the landmark and in the four days since it reopened some 4,000 people have visited.

A far cry from the average 27,000 visitors a day the busiest section receives normally.

Strict controls include a baggage check, three different temperature checkpoints, two mobile apps that verify the state of the visitor’s health, the obligation of wearing a face mask, maintaining social distancing on the access bus and providing IDs at the entrance to the monument.

Only the Badaling section of the wall has reopened after its closure on 25 January, when the majority of museums and monuments near the capital were shuttered as a result of the outbreak.

It is the closest section to Beijing (some 60 kilometres north) and the most visited by tourists.

The Unesco World Heritage site these days offers a unique experience. The small footfall means the long wall, as the Chinese call it, looks like a gargantuan private garden.

The stone structure winds over the snow-capped mountains peppered with flowering cherry blossoms and pine trees.

Visitors barely outnumber security guards who take refuge from the wind, sheltering themselves at strategic points. They sip on hot tea they pour from flasks to warm up and battle the boredom on their mobile phones.

But what of the virus?

Tourists take off face masks briefly to pose for photos or to have a drink of water after a steep climb.

The strenuous physical activity forces many to slip the masks off in order to breathe better.

The teenage son of a Chinese couple says he was “wanting to get out of the city” and felt happy to be able to enjoy the experience.

Although in Beijing and in other parts of China the healthy have been able to leave their homes during the nationwide quarantine, outings have been strictly limited to the essential and always entailed wearing protective gear and being submitted to strict checks.

The Great Wall is made up of myriad unconnected stretches built by small states to defend themselves against invasions from the north.

It was not until the self-proclaimed first emperor of China Qin Shi (221-210 BC) decided to unite them.

The emperor’s tomb was protected by another of the Chinese gem, the terracotta army.

Despite not being particularly tall or thick, the Great Wall, considered one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, straddles a stretch of thousands of kilometres that prevented the Mongol light cavalry of archers from invading.

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