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8 Oct, 2012

Australian World War II Veterans, Aged 88-95, To Hold Memorial in Egypt

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Muqbil

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 08 October 2012 (22 Dhul Qa’dah 1433). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.



Mountain Torq Sdn Bhd, Southeast Asia’s first mountaineering training center, based on Mount Kinabalu, has launched alpine sport climbing courses. Leveraged off the expertise of Via Ferrata climbing, three alpine sport climbing courses have been added to their list of product offering. The introduction of alpine sports climbing makes Mt Kinabalu truly an alpine playground offering hikers and mountaineers the ability to experience a range of activities like hiking, via ferrata climbing, sport climbing, rock climbing and alpine rock climbing expedition. Mountain Torq offers 3 types of single pitch alpine sport climbing courses. They are: Beginner Alpine Sport Climbing, Advanced Alpine Sport Climbing and Alpine Sport Climbing – Lead climbing. All the courses will be conducted on Mt Kinabalu by Mountain Torq’s instructors, all trained and certified by internationally recognized mountaineering instructors from the British Mountain Guides and the UIAGM/IFMGA (International Federation Mountain Guide Association) associations. Mountain Torq Sdn Bhd is Southeast Asia’s first mountaineering training center and premier mountaineering company based on Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. The management team comprises some of Southeast Asia’s most accomplished mountain climbers, instructors and educators with a shared passion for the outdoors.

For more information about what makes Malaysia one of the most popular destinations in the Islamic world, as well as on planning your next holiday or MICE event in Malaysia, please click: http://www.tourism.gov.my/.

facebook: http://www.facebook.com/friendofmalaysia

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia


Indonesian President Says He Longs For His Hometown Soup

October 6 2012 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he very much enjoys soto (soup) and tofu rice cakes that are specialties from his hometown Pacitan, East Java.

“I like soto and kupat tahu (tofu rice cake),” the President said, regarding the two special dishes of Pacitan district during a post-fasting month gathering, Pacitan-Ngawi-Magetan-Madiun-Ponorogo (Pawitandirogo) communities, at Beautiful Indonesia in Miniature Park (TMII) on Saturday.

Accompanied by his wife, Mme Ani Yudhoyono, the president said he longs for the special side dishes which originated in his hometown.

During the event, which was attended by many Pacitan natives and residents of other districts in East Java, Yudhoyono expressed his hopes that those present would always guard the image of their respective hometowns and their nation.

“You should not act with deeds that could tarnish the image of your hometowns and nation,” the head of state said.

Yudhoyono also expressed the need for citizens to maintain their regional identities.

“Although Indonesia is united in its diversity, it does not mean that we disregard the importance of personal (ethnic) identity,” the president said during the gathering, which was attended by some 10,000 people who came together and were grouped in the associations of Pacitan, Ngawi, Magetan, Madiun, and Ponorogo districts in East Java(Pawitandirogo).

According to the President, as long as the identities were positioned as an asset and a strength of the nation, they would not create a negative impact on the nation`s unity and integrity.

He added that the Pawitandirogo communities were not bound together by a negative primordial bond. Rather, the Pawitandirogo could contribute to their communities, the nation and the state.

Further, the president expressed his conviction that community groups were still relevant in the currently globalized world and would not undermine the country`s unity and integrity.

The gathering was also attended by Coordinating Minister for Politics, Legal and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto, Coordinating Minister for People`s Welfare Agung Laksono, and Culture and Education Minister Muhammad Nuh.

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Malaysia a favorite destination of Saudis, says official

Arab News – 03 October, 2012 – The number of Saudi tourists visiting Malaysia, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Islamic world, is increasing each year with their number reaching 87,693 in 2011, Malaysian Consul General Mohammed Khalid Abbasi Abdul Razak said.

“Saudi Arabia is considered as a primary market for our tourism,” the consul general said addressing a reception marking 55th anniversary of Malaysia’s National Day.

Muhammad Tayeb, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s office in the Makkah region, who was the chief guest at the ceremony, supported the consul general. “Malaysia has always been a favorite destination for Saudi tourists,” he said.

Tayeb congratulated the Malaysians on their National Day and underscored the great strides made by the Southeast Asian country within a few years. “Malaysia offers state-of-the-art medical facilities for Saudis and other foreigners who seek medical treatment,” Abdul Razak said. “Foreigners can avail the opportunity to stay in our country under Malaysia My Second Home Program,” he added.

Malaysia being the center of educational excellence has attracted more than 3,000 Saudi students who have been pursuing their higher studies in various institutions of higher learning in the country.

Last April the Malaysian Consulate General, in association with the country’s Ministry of Higher Education organized an education exhibition bringing together over 24 renowned public and private higher educational institutions from Malaysia offering a wide range of full-time, part-time and long-distance learning programs.

The consul general urged both countries to take concrete steps to increase the volume of bilateral trade and expand the scope of cooperation between the two OIC countries. The reception was attended by a large number of foreign diplomats, Saudi government officials and businessmen and media persons. The guests were entertained by a group of children who sang a song highlighting the “One Malaysia” theme.

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Australian World War II Veterans, Aged 88-95, To Hold Memorial in Egypt

5 October 2012 – Australian Second World War veterans, who helped defeat the Germans in North Africa, will soon make the return journey to Egypt to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein and the North Africa campaigns.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon, said the 21 veteran representatives, aged between 88 and 95, come from all over Australia and represent each arm of service involved in the North Africa campaigns.

He said the group includes a Prisoner of War, several ‘Rats of Tobruk’ and a nurse, and for most, it will be their first time returning to North Africa since the war.

“This group represents the thousands of men and women who so bravely served in North Africa through some of the most ferocious fighting of the Second World War, including the decisive Battle of El Alamein from 23 October to 4 November 1942,” he said.

The Allied forces comprised Navy, Army and Air Force personnel from Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India; fighting against Germany and Italy.

On the night of 23 October 1942, the Allies launched a major offensive at El Alamein that would lead to 12 days of brutal fighting. The Australians of the 9th Division were tasked with holding the northern flank against the German assault while the British forces breached the enemy line on the southern flank.

The RAAF provided air support, the Navy patrolled in nearby waters and nurses helped evacuate the wounded to nearby casualty clearing stations. Together, their efforts forced the Germans to retreat along the Mediterranean coast and abandon North Africa in May 1943.

“Whilst ultimately a success, the El Alamein campaign was extremely costly for the Australians – between July and November more than 1,000 were killed, almost 200 listed as missing in action and more than 3,600 were wounded,” Mr Snowdon said.

The veterans travelling to North Africa will participate in a range of commemorative activities including an Australian service at the 9th Division Memorial to honour lost mates, and services at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission El Alamein War Cemetery with Allied counterparts they fought alongside 70 years ago.

The El Alamein War Cemetery contains the graves of 7,240 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, more than 1,000 of whom are Australians.

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Malaysia To Maintain Halal Product Exports At Rm35.4 Bln This Year

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Oct 2 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia intends to maintain the export value for halal products at RM35.4 billion this year, the same as last year’s figure. About 20 per cent of the total are by Bumiputra exporters, who have targeted to export their products to overseas markets including Singapore and China.

Halal Industry Development Corp (HDC) chief executive officer, Jamil Bidin said for this year, the corporation hoped that more Bumiputera companies are able to participate in the industry to increase the contribution by Bumiputera exporters. “Halal products have to be viewed in a bigger scope. It does not only involve food products such as raw beef but also cosmetics, pharmaceutical, Muslim dresses and headscarves, and others.

“In view of the high demand for such products, the Bumiputera businesses should know how to take advantage of the available opportunities,” he said at the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signing ceremony, here today. Jamil said for the first half of this year, Malaysia recorded RM16.3 billion worth of halal product exports, but the percentage contribution by Bumiputera enterprises had dropped to 14 per cent.

“In Budget 2013, the government has allocated RM200 million for the halal industry, which aims to assist in increasing the production and services of local small and medium enterprises to enable them to penetrate the global markets, and subsequently generate their income,” he said.

At the ceremony, Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) and CIMB Islamic Bank signed an MoU separately with Shapers Malaysia Sdn Bhd to strengthen cooperation in conjunction with Halal Fiesta Malaysia (HALFEST 2012), to be held from Oct 10-14 in Kuala Lumpur.

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Indonesia To Get First B2B Travel Show

October 4, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — The SATTE travel exhibition and conference, acquired by UBM Asia in 2011, will be held for the first time in Indonesia from 12-14 June 2013. Boasting good accessibility and connections with major cities around the world, great infrastructure and a reputation as tourists’ paradise, Bali promises to be an excellent host venue for this prestigious travel mart. It will be the first comprehensive B2B travel mart of international importance to be held in Indonesia since PATA 2007 and ATF.

Indonesia is one of the fastest growing markets for travel and tourism in the world. The launch of SATTE Indonesia recognises the growing importance of Indonesia as a B2B travel and tourism destination and promises to be a must-attend event for buyers and sellers from Indonesia and around the globe.

Indonesia’s economy is growing at over 6% and air travel in the country is increasing by 16%. Domestic tourist traffic is rapidly expanding with an estimated 245 million domestic travels in 2012 and USD18 billion total in expenditure. The country is also expected to achieve its target of 10 million in-bound tourists by 2014. Against this background, SATTE Indonesia offers an unparalleled strategic platform for overseas destinations and travel and tourism suppliers to tap into the Indonesia market.

Christopher Eve, Senior Vice President of UBM Asia Ltd commented: “The growth of Indonesia’s economic importance in the Southeast Asian region and around the world means that there are huge opportunities for both inbound and outbound travel and tourism operators and suppliers. On the inbound side, Indonesia’s rich diversity of exquisite tourism offerings, as well as its rapidly increasing business travel, offer huge potential. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s vast population and burgeoning middle classes mean that there are enormous opportunities for outbound and domestic travel.”

Mr. Panca R Sarungu, CEO of RajaMICE remarked: “By bringing SATTE to Indonesia in 2013, we hope to support government introducing the world to Indonesia and Indonesia to the world. Organised by UBM, SATTE is proven to be a successful B2B travel trade brand. Last year the original SATTE event, SATTE India, attracted 33 countries and 6,249 unique qualified buyers and sellers. We hope that SATTE Indonesia will take the tourism industry of both countries to the next level.”

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Rapid growth seen for Indonesia bicycle industry

October 6, 2012, Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Youth and Sports Affairs Minister Andi Mallarangeng has predicted that the bicycle industry in Indonesia will grow rapidly due to the increasing number of people using bicycles for transportation.

“I see that Indonesia’s bicycle production capacity is able to double that of Taiwan and China,” the Youth and Sports Affairs Minister said after opening CycleIndo 2012 bicycle expo here on Saturday.

Andi added that industries in Indonesia were now able to not only manufacture bicycles, but also their spare parts and other accessories while maintaining the same quality and selling them at lower prices.

The country’s tourism industry also enjoyed the benefit of the growth in the bicycle industry with the increasing number of fun-bike events, including cycling festivals such as the Tour de Singkarak and others, the minister noted.

Further, he said, the government and the B2W (Bike To Work) community have been preparing a lane for cyclists riding bicycles to work.

B2W Indonesia chairman Toto Sugito said his organization had established cooperation with the Transportation Services of Jakarta in providing a special lane for cyclists along the Eastern Flood Canal (BKT) so the public could bicycle conveniently and safely.

Steve Tamaela, who is director of PT International Event Asia and the organizer of the CycleIndo 2012, said the expo was aimed at encouraging the Indonesian people to use bicycles as a healthy means of transportation.

The CycleIndo is being held at Kartini Hall from October 5 to October 7, 2012.

With a population of about 240 million, Indonesia is well-suited for profitable bicycle businesses as well as bicycle spare parts and accessory industries, he said.

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Philippines strikes landmark peace deal with Moro

Manila, 21 Dhul Qaada 1433/ 07 October 2012 (IINA) – The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have agreed to a preliminary peace deal for the country’s troubled south, President Benigno Aquino has announced, signaling an end to a 40-year conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people and crippled the region’s economy.

The deal with MILF, announced today, sets in train a roadmap to create a new Bangsamoro autonomous region in the Muslim-majority areas in the south of the mainly Catholic country before the end of Aquino’s term in 2016. Aquino described the deal as a “framework agreement”. Expectations are high that after nearly 15 years of violence-interrupted talks, both the government and the country’s largest Muslim rebel group will work side-by-side to realize the promises contained in the agreement, to be signed on October 15 in Manila and witnessed by Aquino, MILF Chief Al Haj Murad Ibrahim and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. The two sides reached the deal for the resource-rich region during talks in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. “This agreement creates a new political entity and it deserves a name that symbolizes and honors the struggles of our forebears in Mindanao and celebrates the history and character of that part of our nation. That name will be Bangsamoro,” Aquino announced via a live broadcast from the presidential palace.

It spells out the general principles on major issues, including the extent of power, revenues and territory of the Muslim region. If all goes well, a final peace deal can be reached by 2016, when Aquino’s six-year term ends, according to the officials. “This framework agreement paves the way for final and enduring peace in Mindanao,” Aquino said, referring to the Philippines’ main southern region and the homeland of the country’s Muslims. “This means that the hands that once held rifles will be put to use tilling land, selling produce, manning work stations and opening doorways of opportunity.” He cautioned, however, that “the work does not end here,” saying “there are still details both sides must thresh out”.

Al Jazeera’s Jamela Alindogan, reporting from Manila, said the framework agreement had been a long time coming. “Negotiations between the MILF and the Philippine government in fact have been going on for decades,” she said. “This is just a preliminary peace pact agreement,” she said. “The most crucial part is the implementation of the peace pact agreement on the ground – how to effectively change the lives of people on the ground. As we know there are many forces there, are they going to be willing to share the powers and controls that they have?” “Since President Aquino took office two years ago there have been very strong relations, good relations, between the two parties,” our correspondent said. “The sincerity of President Aquino to have a long-lasting peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has been well accepted. I think that political capital has been well spent.”

The deal marks the most significant progress in 15 years of negotiations with the 11,000-strong Moro group on ending an uprising that has left more than 120,000 people dead and held back development in the south. Western governments have long worried that rebel strongholds could become breeding grounds for Al-Qaeda-affiliated extremists. “The parties agree that the status quo is unacceptable,” said the 13-page agreement, seen by The Associated Press. It calls for the creation of a new Muslim autonomous region called the “Bangsamoro” to replace an existing one, which was created in 1989 and that Aquino characterized on Sunday as “failed experiment”.

The accord calls for the establishment of a 15-member “Transition Commission” that would thresh out the details of the preliminary agreement and draft a law creating the new Muslim autonomous region in about two years. The rebels would undertake a “graduated program” to decommission their armed guerrilla units “so that they are put beyond use,” the agreement said, without specifying a timetable. Philippine officials said the preliminary accord would be posted on the government’s website for public scrutiny.

The Transition Commission has time until 2015 to draft a law creating the new entity to replace the current autonomous region. The new entity and its jurisdiction will be determined through a plebiscite after the passage of the organic law. The Muslim area will gain more political and economic powers, including imposition of taxes to cut central government subsidies, a bigger share in revenues from natural resources and a more active role in internal security. After four decades of conflict, the MILF leaders are ageing and, analysts say, eager to see some fruit from the years of peace negotiations. The leadership may also be motivated by the prospect of royalties from huge untapped deposits of oil, gas and mineral resources in rebel areas, part of an estimated total of $312 billion in mineral wealth in Mindanao. France’s Total has partnered with Malaysia’s Mitra Energy Ltd. to explore oil and gas fields in the Sulu Sea off Mindanao.

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Maldives Travel Agents Confer First Travel and Tourism Awards

MALE, MALDIVES 02 October 2012, 10:39 – Maldives Association for Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) honoured the travel and tourism industry with first ever Maldives Travel Awards. The grand awarding ceremony was held on 28th September 2012 at Paradise Island Resort. Awards for 21 categories including resorts, hotels, liveaboards and aviation were awarded trophies. The event began with awarding of appreciation plaques to Mr. Abdulla Jabir, Mr. Yoosuf Riffath and Mr. Maleeh Jamal for their contribution to the development of MATATO.

The event included entertainment items popular Maldivian artists including Unoosha, Barchi, Ritte, Mummu, Mira and Furadhan. The ceremony closed with the rhythms of DJ Paidey. Senior management members of top hotel chains in Maldives attended the event. Members of the executive board of MATATO and the Minister of State for Tourism, Arts and Culture also attended the event.

This year’s judging panel and expert panel, appointed by MATATO, was made up of Dr. Mahamood Shougee (Former Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation), Dr. Ahmed Adham Abdulla (CEO of MTCC), Ms. Zeenaz Hussain (Dean of Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism Studies), and Mr. Ghaly Murthala (Tourism Development Consultant for FJS Consulting Pvt Ltd).

“This is a dream come true for us here at MATATO and sets the precedence for many awards to come. We believe this is just the beginning and hopefully we have learnt a lot from this year’s first experience and this will help us built better and more comprehensive awards for 2013” said Mr Mohamed Khaleel, President of MATATO.

Maldives Association of Travel Agents & Tour Operators (MATATO) was found in 2006 and currently, the association represents more than 70 travel agents and tour operators in the Maldives. The mission of the association is taking travel and tourism industry of the Maldives forward through unity, empowerment, collective bargaining and co-operation.

The association is very proud in taking MATATO international and this will help build the brand of the association, allow its members to be recognised internationally and the association has also started joint partnership initiatives with various travel agents associations around the globe and recently was named the official Association Partner for World Travel Market, London 2012.

“We urge all stakeholders to support local travel agents and especially the hotels, to give preference to local agents and allow us to play on fair grounds with other international operators. We also request more local agents and hotels to join us as members, and this will add to our synergy and betterment of this organisation” added Mr Khaleel, President of MATATO.

MATATO is the exclusive organizer of Maldives Travel Awards, and this year’s event was managed and organized by High Rise.


Leading Luxury Hotel – Hulhule Island Hotel

Leading Wellness & Spa Resort – Six Senses Laamu

Leading Business Hotel – Paradise Island Resort

Leading Cruise Brand – Voyages Maldives

Leading Budget Hotel – Adaaran Club Rannalhi

Leading Cruiser – Dhaainkanbaa

Leading Luxury Resort – Anantara Kihavah Villas

Leading Resort Website – Adaaran Select Meedhupparu

Leading Beach Resort – LUX Maldives

Leading Liveaboard Website – Island Pearl

Most Romantic Resort – Naladhu Maldives

Most Supportive Resort given by MATATO members – Sun Island Resort & Spa

Leading Dive Resort – Sun Island Resort & Spa

Leading Domestic Airport – Villa Maamigili Airport

Leading Surf Resort – Chaaya Island Dhonveli

Leading International Airline – Emirates

Leading ECO Resort – Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu

Leading Family Resort – Centara Grand Island Resort & spa, Maldives

Leading Meeting & Conference Resort – Sun Island Resort & Spa

Leading Meeting & Conference Center – Sun Island Resort & Spa

Leading Wellness & Spa Brand – Chavana Spa

A tourism personality award of lifetime achievement was awarded to Mr. Ibrahim Gasim as his achievements and contribution to the development of the hospitality industry in Maldives.

“MATATO thanks all the sponsors for their assistance and support in making the first Maldives Travel Awards a grand success. We also thank all the nominees and congratulate all the winners, and hope that more resorts, hotels, Liveaboards, airlines and airports will participate in next year’s awards” concluded Mr Khaleel, President of MATATO.

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Another Freedom Flotilla Off to Help People of Gaza

Naples, 21 Dhul Qaada 1433/ 07 October 2012 (IINA) – A Swedish ship with rights activists from several countries aboard has sailed from Naples in the latest bid to break Israel’s blockade against Gaza.

A crowd of well-wishers saw off the sailing vessel Estelle on Saturday as it left the Italian port as part of the “Freedom Flotilla” movement. “We think it will take around two weeks to get to Gaza, but it will obviously also depend on the weather conditions,” spokeswoman Ann Ighe said earlier. The Estelle, whose voyage was organized by an international pro-Palestinian coalition, is carrying humanitarian goods to the Gaza Strip. The 17 activists from around the world on board include passengers and crew from Canada, Israel, Norway, Sweden and the United States.

Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent weapons from entering the coastal territory, which is run by the Islamist movement Hamas. The first Freedom Flotilla in May 2010 ended in tragedy when nine Turkish nationals were killed after Israeli commandos boarded the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, the lead ship, as it tried to break through the blockade. “When people think of flotillas, they think of the Mavi Marmara. But the Estelle is very different, she was chosen to change the perception of the campaign, to show that it’s a non-violent campaign,” Ighe said. At just 53 meters long, the Estelle is much smaller than the Marmara ferry, and has sails as well as an engine. “It is a vessel that has travelled for Greenpeace protests and on fair-trade missions. The Estelle is a peaceful ship,” Ighe said.

Naples mayor Luigi de Magistris said on Friday on visiting the Estelle: “This is not an initiative in favor of Hamas but in favor of Palestine, of the Palestinians who live in Gaza, and in favor of two states living as neighbors in peace and security.” The Estelle set off originally from Sweden and arrived in the Gulf of Naples on Thursday after a tour of Europe, including Finland, France and Spain. Its exact location can be followed on the flotilla’s Ship to Gaza website (http://shiptogaza.se).

A second attempt to break the blockade last summer with a coalition of ships setting sail from Athens failed after Greek authorities intercepted the boats, banning their departure and towing back into port those who tried to leave. In November last year, the Israeli navy also intercepted two Irish and Canadian ships carrying 27 passengers and crew that were trying to breach the blockade in international waters off Gaza.

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More Chinese Muslims head for Haj

2012-10-08 (Xinhua) YINCHUAN – A total of 332 Muslims from northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region flew to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday evening for the annual pilgrimage. This is part of the government-organized pilgrimage tours that will carry 13,800 Chinese Muslims via 41 charter flights to the holiest city of Islam this year.

Previously, more than 2,700 Muslims from neighboring Gansu Province had flown to Mecca in eight groups.

In Ningxia, one of major regions inhabited by Muslims in China, 2,676 Islamic followers will go on the pilgrimage this year, according to Li Yushan, vice president of the regional Islamic association.

The Mecca pilgrimage, also known as the Hajj, is a Muslim religious tradition that specifies that all able-bodied Muslims who can afford to travel to Saudi Arabia must visit Mecca at least once in their lives.

China has more than 20 million Muslims, about half of whom are from the Hui ethnic group. In addition to Ningxia, Chinese Muslims mainly live in the western provinces of Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan, and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

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Afghan films on display at Asian festival

AP, 3 Oct 2012 – Along with the now inevitable galaxy of stars promoting blockbusters from across Asia, this year’s Busan International Film Festival will screen a North Korean film for the first time in almost a decade as well as six classic Afghan movies that were hidden in a wall to save them from the Taliban.

The continent’s showcase film festival, a glitzy nine-day affair that opens Thursday, has become a way for Asian nations such as China and especially South Korea to highlight their rise in the world pop culture scene. This year’s fest will even take a break from film for a performance by South Korean rapper PSY, who galloped to global fame with his song “Gangnam Style.”

Six Afghan movies made from the 1960s to the 1980s will also be shown, including “Like Eagle,” a 1965 work about a wide-eyed girl traveling in Kabul. The films were hidden in a wall when the radical Islamist Taliban regime took power in the 1990s and banned most forms of entertainment, including movies. The films resurfaced in 2004 after the Taliban were ousted.

“These Afghan films shed a light on the lives of people in a country that we have only known as war-torn and once a hideout for Osama bin Laden,” said Kang Yu-jung, a South Korean film critic. “Their screening shows that this part of Asia has started to have an interest in the stories of Afghans, not just in the country’s political situation.”

The festival, held since 1996 in the southeastern port city of Busan, is considered the biggest of its kind in Asia and has expanded rapidly along with the region’s film industry, led by China and South Korea. Both countries films and stars will be front and center at this year’s event.

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Algerian Handicraft Exhibition In Paris Marks 50th Anniversary Of Independence

PARIS, Sept 28 (NNN-APS) — An exhibition of Algerian handicraft in all their splendour and diversity is being held in Paris to mark the 50th anniversary of Algeria’s independence from French colonial rule and the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the National Traditional Crafts Agency (ANART), the event’s organizer said.

Utensils carved from wood or paintings on aluminum highlighting the beauty of Algiers’ Casbah and Algerian women’s outfits worn in weddings and other ceremonial occasions are among the items displayed at the exhibition, which runs from Sept 26 to Oct 13 at the Algerian Cultural Centre (CCA) in Paris.

Invited to assess the diverse Algerian handicraft 50 years after the country’s independence, ANART Director-General Fazia Barchiche said: “There is good reason to be both proud and honoured of this art, because we have kept the authenticity, symbolism and assets of out extensive handicraft heritage.”

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Qatari cuisine in the spotlight at Tokyo festival

Gulf Times – 29 September, 2012 – The Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) is showcasing the traditional cuisine of the Qatari and Arab cultures at the ‘Qatar Week: Ferjaan Tokyo’ celebration being held in the Japanese capital Tokyo.

During the five-day celebration, being held as part of a set of cultural activities marking the 40th anniversary of Qatar’s ties with Japan, the QTA is presenting Qatari cuisine including chicken Majbous, Tharid, Rice, Salonahot, Balalithot as main courses.

The QTA, in collaboration with the Ritz Carlton, is also sending five of the hotel’s top local chefs to cook dishes at the Ferjaan festival.

Hana al-Emadi, of QTA, said: “Qatar’s heritage is rich in history and in its cuisine. In addition to the traditional set of activities we’ll be presenting at the QTA booth, we’ve decided to set up a custom-made café dedicated to Qatar Week: Ferjaan as we hope to bring to the Japanese audience a delicious flavour of our nation and help them grasp the richness of the Qatari culture.”

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Ajman plans to make Masfoot a tourist city

Khaleej Times – 28 September, 2012 – The Ajman Municipality has made a strategic plan until the year 2030 to develop Masfoot as a tourist city. Mohammed bin Omair, director of planning department of the Ajman Municipality, said that the city, ideally located between the Oman borders and Dubai, has all the features of a tourist city in terms of nature, weather and environment.

The plan also includes the expansion of residential areas since the demand of residences in the area has increased tremendously. The plan to be executed by the beginning of 2013 include Masfoot hospital with 30 beds, banks, government offices, abattoir, vegetables and fruit market and industrial areas with several labour camps.

The industrial areas will include heavy and light industry. Hotels and tourist attractions have also been included in the plan to attract tourism. “We are focusing on tourism as part of the development of Masfoot,” said bin Omair. “There will be a number of schools, and other education centres as well entertainment areas such as Al Warqa and Masfoot parks.

He pointed out that, currently, the number of residents is 6,000 of which 90 per cent belong to the Bedouin tribes and the rest are expatriates working in service areas.

A study on the recently opened five dams in the area has been made and referred to the Ministry of Environment. Five more dams are being planned to prevent floods during the rainy season and emphasis is laid on increasing the water sources and green areas of the city, and on landscaping. A variety of trees and flowering plants will be planted on either side of the main roads.

With regard to the road networks, the plan includes development of Ittihad road in addition to a number of internal and external roads based on international standards. All streets will be well-lit and the municipality will undertake the task of naming and numbering them. The municipality will also ensure that 70 per cent of the land is held by UAE nationals in the area, and all types of municipal services will be rendered to the residents. The municipality will also hold meetings with residents and explain the new development plans.

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Urban Planners, Tourism Managers Play Vital Role In Tourism Development

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 (NNN-Bernama) — Urban planners and tourism managers play an important role in ensuring sustainable tourism development complements with overall municipal policies, besides meeting the needs of both, city residents and its visitors. Kuala Lumpur Mayor Ahmad Phesal Talib said tourism planning at all levels was essential to achieve sustainable tourism development and management.

“The experience of many tourism areas in the world has demonstrated that, on a long term basis, the planned approach to developing tourism can bring benefits without significant problems, and maintain satisfied tourist market,” he said in his speech at the launch of the Global Tourism Cities Conference (GTCC) 2012 here.

His speech was read by Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur Deputy Director-General (Planning) Zulkifli Ibrahim.

Ahmad Phesal said places which allowed tourism to develop without the benefit of planning often suffered from environmental and social problems. “These are detrimental to residents and unpleasant for many tourists, resulting in marketing difficulties and decreasing economic benefits. These uncontrolled tourism areas cannot effectively compete with planned tourist destinations elsewhere,” he noted.

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Guyana: Govt Launches Two New Tourism Packages

GEORGETOWN, Oct 1 (NNN-GINA) — The government in its continued efforts to promote Guyana as a popular tourist destination has established a strategic partnership with the private sector and other stakeholders which has recently seen a number of tourism packages being offered around the country’s rich cultural diversity.

The two packages were the Diwali Nagar at the Tourism Village and the Third Caribbean Motor racing Championship. The launch was held at the GuyExpo at the Sophia exhibition site. Vishun Persaud, Executive Member of the Guyana Motor Racing Sports Club (GMRSC) said that the Club has partnered with the Ministry of Tourism for the past three years, promoting motor racing as a sport event around the Caribbean.

“This year is going to be no different…we’ve got a new and energetic minister of tourism this year and he is on us to move at a faster pace and put greater emphasis on the event,” Persaud explained.

He added that the high points for Caribbean motor racing was in 2007 when the Caribbean championship started back with Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.

“At that event in November, Guyana had more spectators than the largest day of cricket World Cup earlier that same year… since then we have been on a hype, and have successfully acquired the sponsorship of Seaboard Marine… they started moving the cars between the events,” Persaud explained.

The Caribbean Motor Racing Championship comprises three events in three countries, staring in Jamaica in May, Barbados in September and ending in Guyana in November.

Persaud asserted that because of this partnership between a sports organisation and government, a significant investment was made which attracted a value in excess of $90M, with government investing $40M.

Minister of Tourism Irfaan Ali said that motor racing, though seemingly a small event, presents an opportunity for the ministry.

“Government’s role is to facilitate… to ensure that we provide the enabling environment through which the private sector and these entities can thrive and, we are very happy to see that the dynamic leadership of this sporting association has lead to tremendous growth in terms of the tourism sector,” Minister Ali said.

He explained that the year thus far has been good for the tourism sector, as in August the country’s arrival was 31% more than the best arrival rate ever.

“Our year to date arrival is 21.2% so far…we are doing simple things…to utilise sporting events and our culture to develop packages and bring people into Guyana,” the Tourism Minister explained.

“We are going to work with the airlines and the entertainment sector…together with the sporting association to develop a weekend package for this event that will be advertised aggressively in North America, Trinidad and Barbados…our aim is to get 5000 people here on this sporting event,” Minister Ali explained.

Speaking on the Diwali Nagar package, Ali said that earlier this year the ministry spoke of developing packages around Guyana’s diverse culture and significant religious programmes and a partnership with the private sector was birthed.

“EzJet had put on a special package for the Muslim festival of Kurbani…coming out of the US for US$450 return…once again we are partnering…in promoting the Festival of Lights (Diwali) and we have asked them again to promote a special package,” Ali said. A tourism package centered around the Muslim event of Kurbani has thus far sold 2,700 packages.

He further explained that now indeed is quite an exciting time for the tourism sector as there is a packaged programme for Diwali, which will see full support for all the activities.

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StanChart launches world’s 1st Islamic euro nostro account

Gulf Times – 02 October, 2012 – Standard Chartered has launched the “industry’s first” Islamic euro nostro account, the lender said. Islamic banks across the world will now be able to earn Shariah-compliant profits on their account balances at the Standard Chartered branch in Frankfurt.

“Nostro” refers to a bank account held in a foreign country by a domestic bank, denominated in the currency of that country. Nostro accounts are used to facilitate settlement of foreign exchange and trade transactions.

Bank Alfalah, one of the leading banks in Pakistan, is the first to sign an agreement with Standard Chartered for the nostro account.

Standard Chartered’s Saadiq euro clearing account utilises a Shariah-compliant account sweep facility. At the end of each business day, available euro balance in the client’s Saadiq clearing account will be invested using the Islamic finance mode of Murabaha. Profit generated from these transactions will be credited on a monthly basis, Standard Chartered Qatar said in a statement.

“Following the success of our Saadiq dollar nostro account last year, we have identified a need to extend this innovation to our euro clients,” said Afaq Khan, Standard Chartered Saadiq’s chief executive for global Islamic banking business.

The Saadiq euro nostro accounts will be available to clients globally across the bank’s network. The facility allows financial institutions to earn profits on available euro balances in their accounts and provides Shariah-compliant account reporting statements as well as a full range of commercial and treasury payment capabilities. It also provides a full suite of beneficiary deduction and principal protected products for incoming and outgoing payments and the ability to customise transaction fees on multiple levels – by customer, beneficiary, country, branch or code word, Standard Chartered Qatar said.

To ensure Shariah-compliance for its products, Standard Chartered’s is advised by an independent committee comprising three of the world’s most renowned Shariah scholars – Dr Abdul Sattar Abu Ghuddah, Sheikh Nizam Yaquby and Dr Mohamed Ali Elgari.

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Dubai hotel revenues jump by 22%

Emirates 24/7 – 02 October, 2012 – As hotel industry is rapidly expanding in Dubai, the emirate’s hotels and hotel apartments played hosts to 5,027,223 guests in the first half of this year, an increase of 10 per cent over the corresponding period in 2011.

Meanwhile, guest nights of Dubai hotel facilities amounted to 19,209,370 nights in H1 this year, an increase of 18 per cent against H1 2011. Likewise, revenues of both Dubai hotels and hotel apartments in the first six months of the year amounted to Dh9,797,283,000, a rise of 22 per cent in comparison to the same period in 2011.

Khalid Bin Sulayem, Director General, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing in Dubai (DTCM), made the announcement at the sideline of the annual Natalie Tours Congress, the 8th in a row, which kicked off on Monday at the Atlantis Palm hotel, Dubai, with focus on the significance of the Russian market to Dubai, and the best ways to boost up tourist relationships.

The five-day conference, being run by Natalie Tours, the biggest tourist company in the Russian market, in collaboration with the Alpha Tours, is to see the participation of 250 tourist companies from across Russia.

In his inaugural speech, Khalid Bin Sulayem, Director-General, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing in Dubai (DTCM), said the event is a good chance to update guests’ information about Dubai tourist attractions and mega projects, and best promote the emirate in the Russian market.

Present at the function, being hosted by the Atlantis Palm hotel, for the 4th consecutive year, were Natasha Vorobieva, CEO AND gm – Natalie Tours, Ghassan Al Aridi, CEO – Alpha Tours, Brett Armitage, Senior Vice President, sales, Atlantis, as well as a number of DTCM senior officials and events managers from both companies.

Hailing bilateral relationships between Dubai and Russia in terms of tourism, Bin Sulayem said Russia is one the most important tourist markets to Dubai.

Bin Sulayem indicated that DTCM has always been very keen on participating in all tourist fairs and exhibitions in Russia. “These span the Moscow Autumn Travel Industry Week or ‘Leisure 2012’, in which we won three awards.” Echoing the same, Ghassan Al Aridi, CEO – Alpha Tours , said the event this year is quite different. “This congress, we have the pleasure to host the best of the best tourist companies promoting Dubai in the Russian market.” Noting that Russia is one of the most important five markets to Dubai in terms inbound tourists and sales, Al Aridi said the Russian tourist is atop the list of the most spending tourists worldwide.

“Alpha Tours has managed to attract around 120,000 Russian tourists in the first nine months of 2012 as compared to over 75,000 in 2011.” Natasha Vorobieva, CEO and GM – Natalie Tours, said :”Natalie Tours, expecting sales up to $ 1billion this year, attracts some 150,000 Russian tourists to the UAE on an annual basis – 65 per cent to Dubai and 35 per cent to the other six emirates.”

Bin Sulayem, unveiling the key performance indicators of the emirate’s flourishing hotel industry, said Dubai hotel played host, during H1 2012, to 3,982,615 guests, an increase of 10 per cent over the corresponding period in 2011 which saw 3,626,960 guests. A 9 per cent increase was reported in the guest numbers of Dubai hotel apartments, amounting to 1,044,608 in H1 of 2012 against 958,059 over the corresponding six months in 2011.

Guests of both Dubai hotels and hotel apartments amounted to 5,027,223 in the first half of this year compared to 4,585,019 in H1 2011, an increase of 10 per cent.

Dubai hotels revenues recorded AED 8,395,557,000 from January to June 2012 against Dh6,913,834,000 over the same period in 2011, a rise of 21 per cent. However, Dubai hotel apartments scooped Dh1,401,726,000 in H1 2012 as compared to Dh1,136,359,000 in H1 2011, an increase of 23 per cent.

Revenues of both Dubai hotels and hotel apartments in the first six months of the year amounted to Dh 9,797,283,000 in comparison to Dh8,050,194,000 over the same period in 2011, a rise of 22 per cent.

Similarly, Dubai hotels guestnights swelled by 16 per cent to touch 13,356,818 in H1 2012 as compared to 11,531,935 in H1 2011. Likewise, the guestnights recorded in Dubai hotel apartments rose by 24 per cent to hit 5,852,219 in H1 2012 against 4,735,739 guestnights in H1 2011.

Guestnights of both Dubai hotels and hotel apartments amounted to 19,209,037 in H1 this year against 16,276,674 in H1 2011, an increase of 18 per cent.

A 5 per cent hike was registered in the average length of stay in Dubai hotels hitting 3.4 nights in H1 2011 against 3.2 in H1 2012 whereas the average length of stay in Dubai hotel apartments recorded 5.6 nights in H1 2011 against 4.9 in H1 2012, a boost of 13 per cent.

The average length of stay in Dubai hotels and hotel apartments swelled by 8 per cent to touch 3.8 nights in H1 2012 as compared to 3.5 nights in H1 2011.

Similarly, the number of Dubai hotel rooms increased from 54,221 in H1 2012 against 52,897 in H1 2011, a boost of 3 per cent. Also, the number of hotel flats swelled by 7 per cent to reach 21,787 in H1 2012 as compared to 20,360 in H1 2011.

Witnessing a 4 per cent hike, the number of Dubai hotel rooms and flats rose from 76,008 in H1 2012 against 73,245 in H1 2011.

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Air Arabia passenger traffic grows 22% in August

Saudi Gazette – 02 October, 2012 – Air Arabia, the first and largest low-cost carrier (LCC) in the Middle East and North Africa, announced Monday that it has welcomed 379,092 passengers in August 2012, an increase of over 22 percent compared to the corresponding month in 2011.

The airline also reported that the average seat load factor – passengers as a percentage of total seats available – for the month stood at 83 percent, registering an increase of three per cent over the figure for August 2011.

“Eid break is a busy period for air travel across the region, especially this year where the industry witnessed a significant increase in passenger traffic,” said Adel Ali, Group Chief Executive Officer, Air Arabia.

“More customers continue to take full advantage of Air Arabia’s affordable fares to an ever growing range of destinations. This demonstrates the single most strength of Air Arabia — its proven business model and product offering.”

In the second quarter of this year, the low-cost pioneer carried 1.3 million passengers, an increase of over 15 percent compared to the corresponding period in 2011. The airline attributes this impressive growth to ever-growing customer demand for its value-for-money services. Air Arabia recently announced the launch of service to Odessa in Ukraine, marking the airline’s 76th destination worldwide.

In addition, the airline also increased frequency to New Delhi to double daily from its Sharjah hub.

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Etihad inks codeshare agreement with nasair

Saudi Gazette – 02 October, 2012 – Etihad Airways and Saudi Arabia-based nasair have signed an agreement to codeshare on 26 flight sectors across the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, a joint statement said Monday.

Under the agreement, Etihad Airways will place its ‘EY’ code on nasair flights between Jeddah and Medinah and Etihad Airways’ home base, Abu Dhabi.

nasair will place its ‘XY’ code on Etihad Airways flights between Abu Dhabi and Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Colombo, Dhaka, Kuwait, Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam, Tehran, Beirut, Bahrain, Muscat, Jakarta, Amman, Damascus, Basra, Baghdad, Erbil, Khartoum, Cairo, Tripoli, Istanbul and subsequently on flights operating to Europe, the Americas and South East Asia over the coming months.

Subject to regulatory approvals, Etihad Airways and nasair will display their respective codes on these routes during their winter schedules.

James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ President and Chief Executive Officer, said: “This codeshare agreement with nasair continues Etihad Airways’ pledge to connect air travellers with key destinations on our network and those of our partner airlines.”

“The agreement will provide air travelers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with seamless flight connections and access on more than 20 short and long haul Etihad Airways flights. It also enables Etihad Airways to boost our connections to Jeddah, and for the first time, Medinah.”

In addition to the codeshare with nasair, Etihad Airways has 38 other codeshare agreements in place with airlines across the world. Codeshare partnerships, along with equity acquisitions and organic growth, form the three pillars of Etihad Airways expansion plans.

Captain François Bouteiller, nasair’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “This new codeshare partnership with one of the fastest growing major airlines in the world is just one of many strategic projects being delivered over the coming months within nasair to expand our network and distribution. We are delighted to offer these new routes to our customers.”

“We are excited to launch the first freesale codeshare relationship with Etihad Airways to give our customers more options when traveling with nasair,” said Ahmed Sultan, nasair’s Director of Bilateral Agreement and Strategic Alliances.

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Kuwaiti firm set to launch USD 150m luxury housing project in Karbala, Iraq

Kuwait News Agency – 02 October, 2012 – Kuwait’s Dar al-Kawthar are set to complete a luxury real estate project in Iraq worth USD 150 million, including a hotel and fractional-full ownership housing units, with annual revenues of 15-20pct expected as a result.

The Al-Rawdatain Residences project will offer people the opportunity to own houses in the historic and religious city of Karbala, located around 100km southwest of Baghdad, through Islamic Sharia-compliant beneficial ownership of assets, head of projects in the Kuwaiti real estate firm Hussain Haajji announced in a press conference.

Rights to ownership of a housing unit in the project can be through full ownership or a lengthy (50-year) or short-term (7-10-day) timeshare agreement. Sacred religious sites in the city are as close as 15 minutes walking distance, he added.

The project is currently underway and is planned to be launched mid next year as currently the only five-star resort in the city, which contains the historic tombs of the scared Muslim figures, Imam Al-Hussain and his brother Al-Abbas.

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Mideast carriers expand with rise in passenger traffic, cargo

Arab News – 02 October, 2012 – Middle Eastern carriers gained market share during the first eight months of the year, with passenger traffic rising 17.1 percent and cargo demand increasing 14 percent from a year ago.

“The region’s carriers continue to expand their long-haul market share with connections through their expanding hubs, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said.

Saudi Arabian Airlines and other Middle Eastern carriers had a 11.5 percent share of international passenger traffic in August this year, up from 4.8 percent in 2002, according to IATA data, cited in a Reuters report.

The share could rise further as Emirates last month signed a deal where Australia’s Qantas Airways agreed to use Dubai instead of Singapore as its hub for European flights from March 2013. Under the deal, Qantas will also end a 17-year old alliance with British Airways.

Globally, IATA raised its forecast for passenger demand despite weak confidence in Europe, but pushed its forecast for cargo into the red. The economically sensitive sector is expected to see a 0.4 percent contraction in 2012 instead of 0.3 percent growth as previously forecast.

About 40 percent by value of internationally shipped goods go by air and cargo demand is seen as a barometer for world trade and the health of the economy.

IATA represents some 240 airlines that in turn account for 84 percent of global air traffic. IATA said the world’s airlines have raised their profit forecasts for 2012 and expect improved performance in 2013 as efforts by North American airlines to trim capacity have boosted margins and demand in Asia has held up despite a weak global economy.

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Oman, Turkey seek to expand trade

Oman Daily Observer – 02 October, 2012 – Yahya bin Saeed bin Abdullah al Jabri, Chairman of the Special Economic Zone Authority at Duqm (SEZAA), left here yesterday for Ankara to lead the Sultanate’s delegation in the deliberations of the 9th session of the Oman-Turkish Joint Committee. The three-day session, which opened yesterday, will discuss co-operation in the economic, trade, tourism, cultural and arts areas, as well as review the investment opportunities in the two countries.

The Omani side in the committee comprises representatives of government institutions and authorities, such as the Foreign Ministry, the Commerce an Industry Ministry, the Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry and the Heritage and Culture Ministry, in addition to the Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development (PAIPED) and representatives of the Omani private sector.

Meanwhile, the National Records and Archives Authority (NRAA), in co-operation with the Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA), will organise a symposium on Oman in Ottoman Documents in Istanbul on Saturday. The two-day symposium will be inaugurated by Bekir Bozdag, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey. The symposium will be attended by researchers, scholars and university vice-chancellors and history professor, in addition to officials and accredited consuls in Istanbul.

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Abu Dhabi plans Dh10.8bn new airport terminal

Emirates 24/7 – 01 October, 2012 – Abu Dhabi has launched a Dh10.8 billion project to build a new large terminal as part of ongoing expansions intended to face growing business and boost capacity to up to 40 million passengers in 2017. The project will be completed in 2016 but will be commissioned in 2017 after a six-month test period to ensure its preparedness.

“After the completion of this project, we expect the airport’s capacity to rise to between 30 and 40 million passengers,” said Ali al Mansoori, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Airport Company (ADAC), which manages the emirate’s airports.

Quoted by Arabic language newspapers, he said the new terminal has a capacity of 8,500 passengers and can handle over 18,000 bags per hour. It will be fitted with 165 gates and 145 lifts and will have a three-star hotel.

“We expect that more than 60 aviation companies will use the airport in 2017 against around 50 at present,” he said. “In 2012, the airport is expected to handle 14 million passengers, far higher than earlier projections of 12 million.”

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RAK airport awards multimillion-dollar contract to ARINC

Gulf Today – 01 October, 2012 – Ras Al Khaimah International Airport has awarded a 10-year contract to ARINC Incorporated to design, supply and install core suite of airport passenger processing solutions and advanced airport operational systems.

The multi million-dollar contract involves, in addition to the above mentioned products and installation of ARINC’s core suite of airport passenger processing solutions, advanced airport operational systems and state-of-the-art, common use passenger processing systems (CUPPS) and boarding operations at the expanding airport.

The news was announced in Abu Dhabi at the 18th World Route Development Forum (World Routes) by Tony Lynch, ARINC’s Regional Director, ARINC Middle East & Africa and Andrew Gower, CEO of Ras Al-Khaimah International Airport, on Sunday.

The installation of VMuse/CUPPS, L-DCS, AirVue (FIDS), AirDB (AODB), InfoHub and Multi-Channel at RAK, in what will be the first off-site hotel check-in and bag drop in the region, will also equip the airport with future intelligence that will change the way in which people use it today.

It is anticipated that the number of CUPPS workstations and services will increase during the lifetime of the contract, as not only is the existing terminal being expanded, but there are plans for a new passenger terminal, dedicated to charter activity. Tony Lynch highlighted that ARINC won the bid through its close collaboration and consultation with the team at RAK Airport. “We spent 18 months carefully ascertaining their requirements,” he said. “From a small hosted L-DCS the scope has been extended to the airport-wide suite of products which has now been ratified.”

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Iraq contract for US consortium to modernise Basra port

Arab News – 03 October, 2012 – Iraq yesterday signed a $ 14 million deal with a US consortium to modernize a major port in the country’s southern province of Basra in a move aimed at developing key infrastructure neglected during years of war and sanctions.

Under the 10-year agreement with a consortium led by North America Western Asia Holdings, the companies will invest in a new heavy-lift crane as well as container handling capabilities and build a modern container yard in one of the 14 berths in the Maqal Port on Shatt Al-Arab waterway, the company said in a statement.

The consortium also will dredge Shatt Al-Arab, which is currently unable to welcome deep-water vessels because of years of neglect, to nine meters (yards) to make it a “deep water” port, the statement added. The 93-year-old port is one of four in Basra on the Persian Gulf for commercial goods.

The Shatt al-Arab waterway, known in Iran as Arvand River, is formed by the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates river, meandering south between Iran and Iraq before it spills into the northern Persian Gulf. Basra, where the signing ceremony took place, is located some 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad.

“Modernizing Maqal Port is one step in Iraq’s greater vision to improve and expand our country’s shipping and port capabilities,” the Iraqi minister of transportation, Hadi Al-Amiri, said in a statement. He added that NAWAH’s commitment to Iraq’s long-term economic growth “sends a strong message to other American and international investors that Iraq is truly ripe for investment.”

One of the two companies teaming up with NAWAH is the New Jersey-based Triton Container International Ltd., which is the world’s largest owner-lessor of marine cargo containers with operations in 15 countries and more than 200 depot locations worldwide. The other is the Chicago-based Marmon Crane Services, an international owner, operator and lessor of crane equipment that operates in 14 countries around the world.

NAWAH, which is based in Washington State and is chaired by Paul Brinkley, a former US Defense Department official who sought to attract companies to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Iraq’s oil-reliant economy is expected to see significant growth in the coming year as it has awarded 15 oil and gas deals to international energy companies since 2008, the first major investments in the country’s energy industry in more than three decades.

The original goal was to boost daily production from about 3 million barrels now to 12 million barrels by 2017. That may be revised downward to fewer than 10 million barrels, however, because of infrastructure bottlenecks and a possible falloff in demand on international markets.

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Bahrain set to increase food production by 40 per cent

Gulf Daily News – 03 October, 2012 – Bahrain is set to increase domestic food production from 20 per cent to 60pc in the next four years. Concerns about food security and plans to enhance the role of small farmers and local businesses have prompted the government to outlay projects to boost the country’s agriculture sector, said Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Minister Dr Juma Al Ka’abi.

“Our objective is to increase domestic food production from 20pc to 60pc in the next four years,” he told the GDN after the fourth consultative meeting of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry with small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). “Some traders wanted to know about food security and the government’s plans in this regard. We reassured them that we have several projects outlined to boost the sector. We are hopeful of more businesses participating in the programmes geared to mobilise our agricultural production.”

During the consultative meeting, the minister outlined plans to increase productivity of fisheries, agriculture and poultry and invited businessmen to invest in these sectors. Development initiatives in these sectors were also being studied by an international bank, he said. The Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry is planning to construct a green town in Manama and agricultural nurseries in A’ali.

In the last BCCI meeting, the ministry came under criticism for not participating in the interaction between traders and the government. The minister was keen to reassure that he was willing to engage more with traders, who formed an integral part of Bahrain’s economy.

“We always look at enhancing economic development and traders make significant contributions to Bahrain’s economy,” he told the GDN. “According to the Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030, the private sector can play a key role in enhancing and attracting businesses.”

A committee will be set up jointly with the BCCI to address complaints about municipal fees and commercial zoning. “Traders raised issues about the municipal fees and to some extent it is not easy to change regulations,” he said. “Last year we tried to help people by exempting them from fees for a certain period. We’ve adopted a very relaxed approach, asking traders to pay fees in instalments, if it suits them. We’ve listened to them carefully and I’ve spoken with the president of the BCCI. The challenges will be considered in the action plan and we will try to solve them all.”

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Dubai to stimulate cruise tourism

Gulf Today – 04 October, 2012 – The Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), Government of Dubai, announced that it has successfully completed an inaugural series of workshops dedicated to promote cruise tourism.

The road show, which took place recently, visited seven cities across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Sultanate of Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain, and welcomed over 500 representatives from major tourism companies and the media.

Representing the DTCM at the workshops, which were conducted in collaboration with two key cruise lines – Italy’s Costa Crociere and US-based Royal Caribbean International – were Hamad M Bin Mejren, Executive Director of Business Tourism and Jamal Humaid Al Falasi, Director of Cruise Tourism.

Commenting on the aim of the road show, the first of its kind for the DTCM, Bin Mejren said: “The aim of the road show was not solely to promote cruise tourism for Dubai; the broader objective was to introduce cruise tourism to the region and to emphasise its significance to the region’s economy. Consolidating efforts and sharing knowledge and experiences with travel agencies across the GCC also formed a core part of the workshops. We are honored, once again, to have the encouragement and support of both Costa Crociere and Royal Caribbean.”

The DTCM road show was initiated due to the substantial growth and development witnessed in the sector over the past few years – in 2010, Dubai welcomed 103 ships, which hosted 390,255 passengers. This was topped in 2011 when 108 ships hosting 396,500 passengers docked in Dubai, the Department’s forecast for 2012 is to receive 110 ships and over 400,000 cruise tourists, a figure it hopes will reach 125 ships with 475,000 passengers by 2015.

Speaking about their involvement in the roadshow, Ms Lakshmi Durai, Executive Director – Middle East Royal Caribbean International, said: “The cruise tourism sector in the GCC region has witnessed near exponential growth in recent years, yet there is still enormous potential for further expansion. We are privileged to be able to work with DTCM to leverage this potential to its fullest extent and look forward to many more successful collaborations.”

Fabiana Maeran, Sales and Product Development Director Costa Crociere commented, “We are very pleased to be working with Dubai to promote cruise tourism in the GCC, a region with a massive potential.”

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Australian authors to embark upon cultural travel across Indonesia

Fri, October 5 2012 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Authors from Australia will travel across Indonesia as part of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival`s (UWRF) expanding children and youth program.

Australian Ambassador to Indonesia Greg Moriarty said the children and youth program was a wonderful example of Indonesian-Australian collaboration and cross-cultural exchange, the Australian embassy said in a statement here Friday.

“The Australian writers will be cultural ambassadors for Australia,” Ambassador Moriarty said.

The Australian writers taking part in the program are: novelist Colin Falconer from Western Australia; novelist Inez Baranay from Sydney; children`s and adult fiction writer Jon Daust from Western Australia; and writer and journalist Ruby Murray from Melbourne.

“This is a chance to develop mutual understanding in Indonesia and Australia of the quality and diversity of literature of the other country. It will also provide opportunities to build inter-cultural understanding and establish long-term links between the writers and the communities they visit and the people they meet from across Indonesia,” he added.

This initiative will take the writers to Aceh, Jakarta, Makassar (Sulawesi); Banjarmasin (Kalimantan); and Kupang (East NusaTenggara). Among the arts and youth organisations they will work with are: Komunitas Tikar Pandan, Komunitas Komseni, Komunitas Payingkul, and Komunitas Sastra Papua. With funding support from the Australia Indonesia Institute, the Australians will present a one-day workshop developed by each author together with community leaders, local writers and young people.

Executive Producer at the UWRF Jane Fuller said the writers would take part in an open forum for emerging writers, poets, thinkers, future leaders, songwriters, students and interested community members. “The idea behind the program is to extend the reach of the UWRF beyond Bali and to deepen the festival’s existing links with communities through a program of literature, writing, ideas and literacy, said Fuller.

“The community, the writers, the emerging writers and other participants will come together to learn, engage, share and discuss literature and ideas. They all will get an opportunity to discuss their thoughts and perspectives with the visiting writers, facilitating an exchange of ideas, processes and networks,” she said.

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Bali building 60 new hotels

Wed, October 3 2012 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesia’s tourist island Bali will have 10,466 hotel rooms in 2014 with 60 new hotel projects under construction, property research agency Knight Frank predicted. Supply of hotel rooms in Bali has continued to grow with 3,922 additional rooms in the second half of the year, Senior Associate Director of Knight Frank, Fakky Hidayat, said here Wednesday.

In the next two years , the hotel rooms on the resort island would total 10.466 units, he added. In the first half of the year, 5-star hotels contributed the largest number or 37.7 percent to the total number of hotel rooms in Bali, Fakky said.

The second largest number was contributed by 4-star hotel accounting for 31.3 percent followed by 3-star hotels accounting for 31 percent, he said. The largest number of the new hotels would be built in Kuta until 2014, he said.

He said 4-star hotels grew faster in number in Bali with the growing number of domestic and foreign tourists. The number of 4-star hotels rose 50.2 percent with 3,358 rooms in the first half of the year. The number of rooms of five star hotel totaled only 924 units in Nusa Dua, he said. Four-star hotels are dominant in Seminyak, Sanur and Legian with rooms 691 units, 1,025 units and 617 units respectively.

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Libya says pushing forward with Islamic finance plans

Reuters, 1 Oct 2012 – Libya hopes to start implementing its new Islamic banking law by the end of the year and expects strong demand among the public for Sharia-compliant financial services, Libyan central bank governor Saddek Omar Elkaber said on Monday.

The country approved an Islamic banking law in May and has been working to amend its legislation to attract foreign investment and stimulate its private sector following last year’s war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi.

“The demand is so high in Libya so we set up a higher committee for Islamic finance…Now they are working to set up a road map for Islamic finance in Libya,” Elkaber told reporters on the sidelines of an Arab central bankers’ conference in Kuwait. Asked when Libya might be able to start implementing the rules, he said: “Hopefully very soon. Hopefully this year.”

He said the authorities envisaged several options for Islamic banking services. One would be to allow conventional banks to open branches or windows for Islamic finance; another would be permitting conventional banks to become Islamic. Libya is also looking at introducing a special licence for Islamic banking, he said.

The licensing option is still under discussion because authorities have yet to agree on capital requirements, he added. Apparently for ideological reasons, Gaddafi did not support the development of Islamic banking, which follows religious principles such as bans on interest and pure monetary speculation.

Libya’s banking system under his regime was dominated by a few state-owned institutions; most ordinary Libyans did not use credit cards and their banking services were largely limited to basic cash deposits and withdrawals, making it easier for Gaddafi to keep control over the economy and society.

The country’s new authorities want to develop the financial sector and the central bank has been looking to update a 2005 banking law which first allowed foreign banks into Libya. Asked whether planned changes to the law might mean that Libya would start awarding new foreign bank licences soon, Elkaber said that topic was under assessment.

“We asked the World Bank to do a financial sector review – they sent the first draft and we need to review it. Then we will decide,” he said. “But Libya will be an open market anyway, for everyone.”

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Al-Futtaim, Emaar plan $820 million project in Egypt

Reuters, Wednesday 3 Oct 2012 – Al-Futtaim Group and Emaar Properties, two real estate developers from the United Arab Emirates, plan a LE 5 billion tie-up to build a retail and entertainment complex outside Cairo, Al-Futtaim said on Tuesday. The companies said they reached a preliminary decision to develop the “Cairo Gate” complex on 160 acres of land off the Cairo-Alexandria desert highway, a statement said.

A shopping mall would be the centrepiece of the development, complemented by an office park, luxury hotel, schools, medical facilities and residential space. Al-Futtaim did not say when the agreement on the venture might be finalised or when construction would be completed.

The two companies already have substantial investments in Egypt; Emaar has a real estate investment portfolio in the country of 31.7 billion pounds, the statement said. Gulf investors have shown more interest in investing in Egypt since the election in June of President Mohamed Mursi, whose government has requested a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary fund to help stabilise state finances.

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Tunisia plans to issue Islamic bonds early 2013

Reuters, Sunday 30 Sep 2012 – Tunisia plans to issue Islamic bonds early next year as the North African country seeks to reform its banking sector and diversify sources of funding, the central bank governor said on Saturday. “Tunisia will begin issuing Islamic bonds early next year … This is part of the draft budget for 2013,” Tunisian central bank governor Chadli Ayari told Reuters on the sidelines of a banking seminar. “There are studies under way for Islamic finance in the country, including issuing Islamic bonds.”

Committees set up by the finance ministry, religious affairs ministry and the central bank are currently working on an Islamic finance law in order to establish Islamic banking in Tunisia, where there are only two Islamic banks. Nadia Kamha, Director-General of the Tunisia central bank told Reuters the law would be ready “within weeks” and that it will be presented to the government for approval.

The moderate Islamist Ennahda movement is leading Tunisia’s government after winning elections last year that followed the ousting of former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

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‘Farah El-Bahr’ Festival to open in Alexandria

Ahram Online, 3 Oct 2012 – Initiated by the Anna Lindh Foundation, and in collaboration with Oyoun Masr Association (The Head of Egyptian Network of ALF), ‘Farah El-Bahr’ Festival (Festivities of the Sea) will take place from 3 October until Friday 5 October, featuring a number of musical performances and concerts from Egypt and abroad in Alexandria.

The festival will present a variety of programmes and activities with the participation of 100 artists and seven Euro-Mediterranean countries, including Egypt, Austria, Holland, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, and Turkey, which will gather together at the symbolic Qaitbay Citadel and several cultural spaces in the city in order to celebrate cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue.

Furthermore, during the three-day festival, a number of international bands from Austria and Turkey will perform. The festival will also include art workshops, street art, and an international souk (market).

The festival has also received full support from different Egyptian and International institutions, including the League of Arab States, the European Union as well as the various Egyptian ministries.

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S. Kyrgyz women’s interest in Islam on the rise

Centralasiaonline.com 2012-10-03 OSH – Diloram Khamrakulova runs a private religious school, or hujeer, at her home in Chekabad village, Aravan District, Osh Oblast.

Women come to her to learn more about Islam, practice reciting Qur’an suras and prayers from the heart and observe Islamic rites and traditions in a small and private setting. “Forty girls and women aged 10-60 … have come to my home to gain some knowledge of Islam,” Khamrakulova told Central Asia Online. “They are interested, among other things, in what is needed for a person to make a hajj to Makkah or how to keep correctly the Orozo fast during the holy month of Ramadan.”

Although Khamrakulova is not a religious school graduate, herself, she decided after retirement to devote her free time to women’s religious education, offering women a place to meet and discuss their faith.

As women in southern Kyrgyzstan have shown an increasingly strong interest in Islam and Islamic education, hujeers have been growing in popularity. Kyrgyz Women Peacemakers’ Network (KWPN), with UN support, in July conducted research on the increasing number of hujeers in the south, estimating that the number of such schools has grown from fewer than 10 to several dozen within the past year. KWPN confirmed an increase in the trend of women seeking to strengthen their knowledge of Islam.

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Bangladesh draft law calls for responsible, eco-friendly tourism

DHAKA, Oct 4, 2012 (BSS) – A draft seeking to enact an umbrella law on tourism now awaits final government nod with officials saying it incorporated inputs from all shareholders to promote responsible and eco- friendly tourism and quality services.

“The draft law, to be called, Tourism Registration and Control Act 2012, seeks to ensure that tourism service providers are registered with appropriate authorities and strictly follow environment protection laws and deliver quality services to promote responsible tourism,” Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) Akhtaruz Zaman Khan Kabir told BSS.

He added: “We expect the parliament to pass the law in the very first session of the coming year after the cabinet approval of the draft”.

So far, Kabir said, the development of tourism industry have been taken place in an unplanned way as many hotels, motels, resorts and restaurants were built in recent years without maintaining proper environment friendly compliance. The new law will help the government to take actions against unplanned tourism development as well as substandard of services,” he said.

The law will bring coordination among all tourism service providers including owners of hotel, resorts, restaurants, tourist vehicles and tour operators that will increase standard of overall services, he said.

It would also bring all the tourism establishments that were built without taking prior permissions under its jurisdiction he said and adding that it would be an umbrella law that will cover overall monitoring of tourism sector.

Kabir said the new law will be combined several scattered laws, and reduce the complexities of establishing a new service in the sector.

In July, the civil aviation and tourism ministry formed a high-power committee consisting of all stakeholders, including government officials, owners and operators of hotels, motels, resorts, restaurants, tourist coaches and beverage sellers to make the draft of the law.

In 2011, the travel and tourism sector accounted for Taka 18,250 crore or 2.2 percent of Bangladesh’s gross domestic product, according to a report published by the World Travel and Tourism Council.

The amount is expected to raise Taka 19,590 crore in 2012 and Taka 35,370 crore by 2022, according to the London-based institute.

The sector created 13.29 lakh jobs directly in 2011 or 1.9 percent of the country’s total employment. It will generate another 13.77 lakh jobs this year, according to the report.

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Palestine, Jordan sign trade deals

Ramallah, 18 Dhul Qaada 1433/ 04 October 2012 (IINA) – Palestine Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and the visiting Jordan’s Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh signed today a number of vital trade agreements.

Fayyad said during a press conference following a meeting with Tarawneh at his Ramallah office that the trade agreements, most importantly the free trade agreement between the two countries, will help build strong relationships and benefit both the Palestinian and Jordanian people. Tarawneh pointed out that the free trade agreement will commit both sides to improve the level of trade between Palestine and Jordan.

He also condemned Israeli measures in occupied East Jerusalem, particularly at Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City, which he said violate international law and the Geneva Conventions. Tarawneh had earlier met with President Mahmoud Abbas and discussed the latest political developments in the region. His visit was to attend the meetings of the Joint Jordanian-Palestinian Higher Committee.

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New culture venue opens in Bodrum

BODRUM – Doğan News Agency – Officials in the southwestern district of Bodrum have opened a new, multimillion-dollar cultural center featuring an art gallery, two conference halls and a classroom.

“The cultural center was designed by the (Muğla Sıtkı Koçman) University and the (Turkish Physics) Foundation to serve scientific, cultural and social events such as national and international congresses, symposiums, conferences, workshops, discussions, seminars, exhibitions, theater plays and film screenings,” said Şükran Nasuhoğlu, an 87-year-old retired teacher who donated 2 million Turkish Liras for the construction of the 4.2 million-lira building, which has been dubbed the Şükran-Rauf Nasuhoğlu Research Education and Cultural Center.

The facility, which is located at the university’s Fine Arts Faculty and is spread out over a wide area, was opened Oct. 3 with a ceremony that drew Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay.

The opening ceremony featured a 40-minute classical music concert from members of the Fine Arts Faculty who played works by Vivaldi, Mozart and Edgard. Günay said the number of culture-related facilities was increasing in Muğla.

“For example, we have started the restoration of the Telmessos Ancient Theater. When it is finished, we will have the chance to organize events in a theater seating 2,000 to 2,500 people. The mausoleum and its environs reveal a rich history as we dig. We have also revived the Roman-era Beçin Castle, which is 500 meter away from this place,” he said.

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