Sunday Times

IT’S SHINING and not in a good way


Iread a curious fact this week, which led to an even curiouser fact, centred on the pyramid-like building pictured here. Curious fact number one is that North Korea claims a perfect zero when it comes to cases of Covid-19. According to a report this week by the World Health Organisati­on, the country said it had tested 23,121 people since April 1 and that all the results had come back negative — this after not having detected a single case since the pandemic began.

Though North Korea is not famed for its transparen­cy and so the claim naturally has its sceptics, it did react with astonishin­g swiftness when the mystery illness first emerged, closing its borders on January 21 2020 when just nine people had died in neighbouri­ng China and months before the rest of the world followed suit. It hasn’t reopened since and diplomats who’ve left report stringent lockdown measures inside the country.

This week, North Korea also pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics, saying it did not wish to put its athletes at risk of catching Covid-19.

Fact number two is an odd point of interest about the capital, Pyongyang. Did you know it is home to the tallest unoccupied building in the world, according to Guinness World Records? The building, in fact, is an unfinished hotel, 330m and 105 storeys tall. Otherwise known as the “Hotel of Doom”, it is North Korea’s tallest building but has never hosted a single guest.

Constructi­on began in 1987, and the plan was to have 3,000 rooms as well as eight revolving floors — with restaurant­s — at the top. But economic woes over the next 30 years led to stop-start work that remains incomplete, though the dull concrete has at least been clad in face-saving metal and glass. In recent years it has been used as a large screen showing positive messages about North Korea.

Its name comes from a historical name for Pyongyang, meaning “capital of willows”.

To stand a chance of winning R500, tell us the name of Pyongyang’s famously incomplete hotel. E-mail travelquiz@sundaytime­ before noon on Tuesday April 13. Last week’s winner is Alan Campbell from Summerstra­nd in Gqeberha. The correct answer was Trou d’Eau Douce.

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