Desert Lotus Hotel

A magnificent new hotel has bloomed amid the vast sea of sands in Xiangshawan Desert, Inner Mongolia, 800 kilometers west to Beijing. Named the “Desert Lotus Hotel”, the structure consist of repeating triangular white tent tops, rotated 45 degrees and connected together in a circular formation like a lotus. Free of tiles and bricks for construction, the resort is built with low carbon environment friendly materials to utilize solar, water and wind energy in the desert, reducing environmental pollution and strengthening ecology protection. Load bearing walls give the structure the bulk of its structural integrity, while a dazzling array of repeating triangular panels provide shade and protection from the harsh elements.

Due to the restriction by its special geographic condition, PLaT Architects invented a new structural system that fix in fluid sands using only steel panels without the help of concrete or water. The panels and the supporting skeleton structures are pre-fabricated, and make the base of the building a large container for sands. Thus, the steel panel structure can function as a boat floating on desert that carries the building. The sands in and out of the structure exert same forces to each other, and thus it is flexibly stabilized.

The hotel is part of a new resort built amid a vast sea of sand dunes, increasingly popular with Chinese tourists. The resort hosts Mongolian-themed performances, camel rides, desert surfing, and more.


Half Dome - The Granite Peak

One of Yosemite National Park's most familiar sights is Half Dome, a granite dome rising nearly 5,000 feet above the valley floor. In 1865, the California Geological Survey declared the dome "perfectly inaccessible, being probably the only one of the prominent points about the Yosemite which never has been, and never will be, trodden by human foot." Ten years later, George G. Anderson reached the summit and in the process, laid the predecessor to today's cable route. Today, thousands of Yosemite hikers reach the top each year by following a strenuous trail from the Valley floor.

The trail starts with a 13.7 km hike, followed by a rigorous 3.2 km approach including several hundred feet of granite stairs. The final 400-foot ascent up the peak's steep but somewhat rounded east face is ascended with the aid of a pair of post-mounted braided steel cables raised on posts that lead to the breath-taking summit. This cable route was constructed close to the Anderson route in 1919 by the Sierra Club for visitors who have no rock climbing ability or equipment. Following the Half Dome Cables Trail is a unique experience, and it has become one of the most popular hikes in Yosemite National Park. As many as 1,000 hikers per day have sometimes climbed the dome on a summer weekend, and about 50,000 hikers climb it every year.

The top of Half Dome is a large, flat area where climbers can relax and enjoy their accomplishment. The summit offers views of the surrounding areas, including Little Yosemite Valley and the Valley Floor. A notable location to one side of Half Dome is the "Diving Board," where Ansel Adams took his photograph, "Monolith, The Face of Half Dome" on April 10, 1927. Often confused with "The Visor," a small overhanging ledge at the summit, the Diving Board is on the shoulder of Half Dome.

Even with support from hand rails, climbing the sheer vertical face of the Half Dome is a risky business. Since 1919, there have been six fatal falls from the trail to the top. Injuries are not uncommon for those acting irresponsibly.

Ansel Adams’ famous photograph, "Monolith, The Face of Half Dome"


Al Waba Crater, Arab Saudi

The Al Wahaba crater is located in the Saudi Arabian desert, 254 km from Taif on the western edge of the Hafer Kishb basalt plateau, which contains many volcanic cones. This photogenic crater is the largest of its kind in the Middle East - 2 km in diameter with cliffs dropping 250 meters to a flat base, in the center of which is a thick crust of dazzling white sodium phosphate crystals.

For some time it was thought that the crater was formed by a meteorite, as its appearance resembles that of the Barringer Crater, with its circular form and high sides. It is now commonly accepted by geologists that the crater was formed by volcanic activity in the form of an underground explosion of steam generated when molten magma came into contact with groundwater. On one side of the crater lies an ash cone which is all that is left of the volcano.

The crater is situated in an area where there was intense volcanic activity in the past. The surrounding sandy plain is in fact a bed of volcanic ash. To the north-west is a mound with a vertical face on the edge of the crater, which was an earlier volcano, split in half when the crater was formed. In this cliff face can be seen lava-filled dykes. On the northern face of the crater are palm trees and green grass.