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22 Oct, 2012

Over SR1 Billion Projects Implemented at Holy Haj Sites

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 22 October 2012 (06 Dhul Ḥijjah 1433). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.


Wealth Of Programmes For Visitors During Visit Terengganu Year 2013

Nine tourism programmes based on sports, photography and recreational activities have been planned by the Terengganu Tengah Development Authority (Ketengah) in conjunction with Visit Terengganu Year (TMT 2013) next year. Its general manager, Wan Mat Amin Wan Daud said, most of the programmes will be held at Tasik Kenyir to promote the largest manmade lake in South-East Asia. “We want the natural beauty of Tasik Kenyir to be fully explored throug TMT 2013 so that tourists not only take back new experiences, but also promote the lake to their country, he said. Ketengah begins its lineup of tourism programmes with the Jelajah Tasik Kenyir Fishing Competition, held in five series, beginning from Feb 10 to 11, March 8-9, April 12-13, Sept 13-14 and Nov 22-23 2013. The Kenyir Lake International Triathlon will be held on March 10, Boat on the Road Fishing Competition in April and the Kenyir Festival from May 16 to 20.

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/.

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twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia


Over SR1 Billion Projects Implemented at Holy Haj Sites

Makkah, 28 Dhul Qaada 1433 / 14 October 2012 (IINA) – New development projects worth more than SR 1.1 billion have been implemented at the holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah as part of the government’s efforts to enhance facilities for the annual Haj pilgrimage.

This was announced by Habib Zain Al-Abidine, head of development projects at the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, yesterday during a meeting with Makkah Governor Prince Khaled Al-Faisal. The governor was on an inspection tour of Haj facilities and arrangements at the holy sites. Prince Khaled urged government officials to put extra efforts to impress foreign pilgrims.

“Everybody should work hard to take care of the guests of God by providing them with all the necessary services to help them perform their Haj rituals comfortably and return to their countries with good memories about Saudi Arabia and its people,” he said. Prince Khaled stressed the importance of the Haj awareness campaign titled “Haj is Worship and Civilized Behavior” and urged pilgrims to uphold the noble message and spirit of Haj, following the regulations set by the government for the smooth and successful management of the annual event.

He commended the government for implementing new development projects at the holy sites for the welfare of pilgrims and thanked Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for allocating huge funds for Haj welfare projects. The Haj is scheduled to start on Oct. 24. More than 1,056,000 foreign pilgrims have already arrived to take part in the annual event. As many as 1,003,149 pilgrims arrived by air, 42,479 by land and 11,034 by sea. The governor began his tour from the third floor of the Jamrat Bridge in Mina, where he was greeted by Makkah Mayor Osama Al-Bar, Zain Al-Abidine and other top officials. He later watched maps and models of new development projects implemented in the area.

Prince Khaled inspected the tunnels that would link Aziziya with the Jamrat. The new tunnels would facilitate the movement of pilgrims coming from Makkah to perform the stoning ritual. The governor also inspected the road system and tents in Mina and the new projects carried out to reduce congestion of vehicles in Makkah roads during the peak Haj season. The inspection tour also covered the new slaughterhouses in Muaisem, the new center for Red Crescent services, the new center for stranded pilgrims and a project for building modern lavatories at the holy sites. Prince Khaled also inspected a new IPR system in Shumaisi, which enables automatic reading of number plates of vehicles that pass by the Makkah-Jeddah Expressway.

The new automatic system would help traffic authorities to allow passage of authorized vehicles during the peak Haj days, avoiding long queues of vehicles and delays. Cameras installed at the checkpoint would be able to read the number plates quickly and prevent entry of unauthorized vehicles to Makkah and other holy sites.

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Haj Exhibition Held in Madinah

Madinah, 01 Dhul Hijja 1433/ 17 October 2012 (IINA) – Madinah Governor Prince Abdulaziz bin Majed, who is also chairman of Haj Committee in Madinah, inaugurated yesterday an exhibition on management of partnership in Haj operations in the presence of Minister of Haj Dr. Bandar Hajjar.

The exhibition, ‘Bonian 5’, is held next to the Prophet’s Mosque and organized by the University of Taibah in Madinah. Meanwhile, the Minister of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Call and Guidance Sheikh Al-Sheikh inspected yesterday the Ministry’s facilities at the holy sites and the headquarters of the accommodation program for the guests of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah. In a statement, Sheikh Saleh said that the Ministry will host 1400 pilgrims from Asia and Africa within the framework of an annual hosting program at the expense of King Abdullah.

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Health minister launches Haj Web portal

Riyadh, 29 Dhul Qaada 1433/ 15 October 2012 (IINA) – Saudi Health Minister Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah launched yesterday an Internet portal, www.moh.gov.sa, to help guide Haj pilgrims. Al-Rabeeah said yesterday it is a comprehensive portal, which gives all details about Haj services rendered by health providers under the able guidance of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.

A visual presentation of the new portal was made before health officials in the presence of the minister at the MoH headquarters in Riyadh.

The portal gives health information related to pilgrims staying in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, the locations of hospitals, clinics, phone numbers for ambulances, MoH staff directory and health institutions located within the holy cities.

The site also carries a message from King Abdullah and minister of health to pilgrims. The portal includes quarantine requirements for pilgrims and about health awareness programs targeted at the pilgrims. It gives a detailed account of the coronavirus, which is considered one of the common etiological agents of the common cold but can be fatal.

The portal said coronaviruses are well known and most of the patients recover completely with no complications after receiving the needed supportive therapy. About 95 percent of the patients recover quickly without any problems. Pilgrims are to contact their doctors if the symptoms continue for more than two days. Patients are advised to take Vitamin C as a remedial measure.

The portal advised people to pay special attention to personal hygiene, and said hand cleansing and covering the mouth and nose while sneezing would help prevent the spread of the disease. According to a directive from the Ministry of Health, 16 entry points to the Kingdom have been alerted, and Health Ministry officials are carefully monitoring the pilgrims for any infection among them.

This year, the Kingdom has focused on diseases such as yellow fever, meningitis, seasonal influenza, polio and food poisoning. The stipulated vaccines should be given 10 days before the date of departure for the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.

The MoH has deployed more than 20,000 health officials to serve the pilgrims and there is some 10,000 beds in various health facilities to cater to the needs of the pilgrims.

Every year, the ministry prepares a medical convoy to help hospitalized patients reach Arafat. And they are moved from the hospitals of Makkah, Mina, Madinah, and Jeddah, accompanied by an integrated medical crew. On average 350 to 500 men and women perform the Haj rituals annually in this manner.

In a separate meeting held at the MoH headquarters yesterday, Al-Rabeeah said that his ministry is also coordinating with all other governmental and nongovernmental organizations to offer the best health services to the guests of Allah. Under the aegis of Interior Minister Prince Ahmed, who is also the chairman of the Supreme Haj Committee, the minister said various health sectors have been integrated to give the best services to the pilgrims.

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‘Record’ Chinese Muslims Embark on Haj

(IslamOnline), 16 October 2012 CAIRO – Charging their spiritual batteries, a record number of Chinese Muslim pilgrims are embarking on hajj this year, seeking forgiveness in the soul-searching journey.

“Going to Makkah is something every Muslim dreams to accomplish in their lifetime,” Zhao Wenqi, an imam from Xi’an, told The Global Times. Making his pilgrimage in 2010, he described the experience as “dreamlike” and “deeply spiritual.”

“We met Muslims from around the world and talked about what it’s like to be a Muslim in China,” Zhao said. Wenqi was among Muslims who gathered to bid farewell to thousands of Chinese pilgrims who were granted the chance to fulfill their life-time journey of hajj.

The trip, including lodging and flight tickets, could cost 30,000 yuan ($4,786). “More people are now able to afford the trip,” Ma Zhongping, deputy director of the China Islamic Association, said.

Muslims from around the world pour into Makkah every year to perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.

Hajj consists of several rituals, which are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family. Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime.

Hajj starts on the eighth day of the lunar month of Dhul Hijjah, which falls this year on October 24. Most pilgrims come earlier to visit the holy mosques in Makkah and nearby Madinah, where Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) was buried over 1,400 years ago.

Marking the largest convoy from China, the numbers of pilgrims this year show a gradual increase in hajj figures. “There has been a gradual increase in the number of Chinese pilgrims over the past years,” Ma, the deputy director of the China Islamic Association, said. The number of Chinese Muslims making the pilgrimage first exceeded 10,000 in 2007. In 2010, it climbed to 13,300. This year 13,800 Muslims will make the pilgrimage.

“China currently forbids its citizens to travel to Makkah on their own, following the request by the Saudi Arabian government,” said Ma, adding that 3 million Muslims are expected to visit Makkah this year. “We had around 1,000 people in Shaanxi Province applying for the trip, but only 279 people ended up going,” Wenqi, the imam from Xi’an, added.

According to official data, China has 20 million Muslims, most of them are concentrated in Xinjiang, Ningxia, Gansu, and Qinghai regions and provinces. More than 2.25 million Hui live in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, accounting for more than one-third of the total population of the region.

Smaller Muslim communities can also be found throughout interior China. Unofficially, Muslim groups say the number is even higher, stating that there are from 65-100 million Muslims in China — up to 7.5 percent of the population.

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Hotel Industry Upbeat About More Revenue This Haj Season

Saudi Gazette – 16 October, 2012 – The Haj season remains one of the most lucrative seasons for the travel and tourism industry in Saudi Arabia, as recent studies showed that hotel revenues in Makkah have hit SR4 billion in the Haj season alone.

Ziyad Bin Mahfouz, President of the Elaf Group of Companies, a leader in Saudi travel, tourism and hospitality, emphasized the importance of capitalizing on the available potential to bolster both the airlines and hotel services segment – particularly to address the needs of tourists making their pilgrimage to Makkah and Madinah. He also reaffirmed the company’s continuing commitment toward enhancing its service offerings.

Industry experts have reported that local tourism and travel agencies are moving to act under the recent directives of the Saudi Ministry of Haj. Elaf Group has announced a 50 percent increase on incentives and group packages during the beginning of this year in comparison to the same period of last year. Ahmad Al Bayat, general manager of the travel and tourism division, expressed confidence in achieving higher growth by the end of the season.

“We remain upbeat in achieving outstanding results during this year’s Haj and Umrah season. In fact, we have prepared ourselves for the increased number of tourists making their pilgrimage this year by providing them with all the services that they will need for their visit. In addition, the growing demand on airline ticket bookings is testament to the comprehensive and excellent services we offer. We will continue to offer the best services and international standards to serve our rapidly growing customer base, particularly the pilgrims making their trips to Makkah and Madinah,” Bin Mahfouz added. Due to its continued efforts to offer high-quality service, the Elaf Group has received an excellence award from Etihad Airlines for agency performance during the year 2012

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Oman soon to get its own National Museum

Oman Daily Observer – 15 October, 2012 – The National Museum project is now in an advanced stage of construction and will be ready by early next year. A joint meeting, which was held under the chairmanship of Salim bin Mohammed al Mahrooqi, Under-Secretary for Heritage Affairs, and attended by representatives of various companies, discussed the preparations for the opening of the museum.

Al Mahrooqi said the National Museum to be built by early next year will be a leading cultural project in the Sultanate and seeks to boost education, tourism, conservation and preservation of culture and scientific methods. The visitors will get to see various elements highlighting the culture, history and heritage of the Sultanate.

He said that the meeting discussed several aspects of the tender of supplies to the museum, in addition to visiting the construction site in Muscat, as well as facilities and maintenance of art collections. The Tender Board will open the tenders for supplies of material for the museum on November 5 and the winning company will begin its work in March 2013.

Jamal bin Hassan al Musawi, Director of the National Museum, said that the meeting comes in preparation for the tender for interior supplies that was re-bid in September 2011, to the companies previously qualified and made submissions in 2010. He added that the purpose of this meeting is to inform the companies of the technical and other aspects relating to the interiors of the project and to enlighten them on collections to be displayed which reflect various aspects of the history, heritage and culture of the Sultanate.

The field visit to the construction site has familiarised them with the progress of the work. Al Musawi added that there are five participating companies from Europe, Britain, Spain, Singapore and Hong Kong which have experience and a long history in interiors of museums and we hope through this high-level participation in the project will enhance the museum’s importance.

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Theatre opens up new worlds in Tunisia

by Amina Benkhlifa

El Kef, Tunisia, Global Arab Network – 17 October 2012 – The Tunisian city where I took my first steps is called El Kef. My first dreams and earliest ambitions were born in this city. Yet when most Tunisians hear the name El Kef, certain stereotypes come to mind that have been long held by a majority of Tunisians: harsh winter weather, and economic and social insecurity due to the vast size of the region, most of which is composed of small, isolated villages.

Located in the northwest of Tunisia, El Kef is renowned for its rich Roman and Numidian (an ancient Berber kingdom) history. But what distinguishes El Kef above all is theatre, which has created a window to the world for the city.

In El Kef, it is through theatre that different cultures come together and openness toward the other is alive and well.

The openness expressed by El Kef’s theatre is also present in the composition of the city. The city centre, constructed centuries ago, contains a church, a cathedral and a mosque within the same 5km space. This demonstrates that the tolerance of Tunisians, and the residents of El Kef, dates back centuries. There is a legacy of openness to all visitors, shared across generations. It is this spirit that is expressed in its theatre.

The greatest names in Tunisia’s theatre and music scene come from El Kef. They include actors such as Ahmed Snoussi; comedian and film actor Lamine Nahdi, who received the prize for best actor in the Carthage Film Festival; and the singer Choubaila Rached, whose musical works have enriched the repertoire of the Tunisian contemporary music.

In the 1970s Moncef Souissi founded El Kef’s theatre troupe, an alternative group that reflected the social, economic and political realities of the era. This focus on current issues, instead of history, was new for Tunisia. Soon they were able to challenge Ali Ben Ayed’s famous classical theatre troupe in Tunis and create an alternative school of theatre.

In honour of World Theatre Day, 27 March, El Kef organised an event known as “24-Hour Nonstop Theatre.” This event, launched in 2001 by the artist Lasaad Ben Abdallah, is a mélange where everything is welcome. The last event brought together 22 plays, six musical acts and a street performance, as well as an art workshop.

Performances take place in various sites: the centre for dramatic arts, the basilica, the Church of Saint Peter, the cultural centre, and even the sports hall where the national circus school presented one of its productions, “The Beautiful Harvest” in 2006.

Every year, troupes from foreign countries are invited to participate in this event. In the past, troupes from Italy, France, the Netherlands, Morocco, Lebanon, Syria and Sweden have participated, opening the city to the world. Guests from foreign countries are invited to discover the warm and welcoming city that is El Kef and to foster cultural awareness.

Today, El Kef continues to welcome the young artists who aspire to make a difference by changing the face of Tunisian theatre and bringing it to the world. “24-Hour Nonstop Theatre” has become an artistic and cultural success, but more than that, the event has influenced the city itself, bringing visitors from all over the world and creating a space where different cultures come together and enrich the city.

Amina Benkhlifa, 22, is a native of El Kef, Tunisia. She studied international commerce but has always been passionate about art, and theatre in particular. This article was written for a series featuring voices of Tunisian youth after the revolution for the Common Ground News Service.

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Brunei’s Kampong Katok forms ‘One Village, One Product’ committee

Achong Tanjong, Borneo Bulletin Online – The Kampong Kapok Village Consultative Council, which acts as the backbone of all the activities organised and held in the village, has formed a working committee for the “One Village, One Product” initiative (Satu Kampong, Satu Produk).

The council reached an agreement to mass produce one product that is exclusively produced by the residents of Kampong Kapok: the ‘Keripik Pisang’ or Banana Crackers.

This was highlighted recently by the Village Head of Kg Kapok, Awg Hj Marali bin Hj Ahmad. He said that the project is one of their efforts to involve the Women’s Bureau of the village and the residents economically. The project is expected to nurture the residents of Kampong Kapok to be proactive in bringing many other village products in the future.

The village with a total population of 4,439 from various ethnic backgrounds is located about 23km from the capital and covers an area of 487.67 hectares. The village is one of the popular places visited by foreign guests including delegations of the East-Asia Ministerial Forum and 1Malaysia recently.

There were cultural performances by the youths of the village and the village products were showcased to the visiting guests. The traditional weaving of high quality fabrics is one of the textile industries found in Kg Kapok, which is now receiving a good response from the public. These fabrics, better known as ‘Kain Jong Sarat’, are produced using threads of high quality and skillful workers. The product is mainly used to dress brides and bridegrooms in traditional wedding ceremonies. This home-based business has received encouraging response from the local community.

There are also others businesses such as making concrete bases for graves and Syarikat Noraini’s Bakery, one of the producers and distributors of assorted biscuits and cakes in the country which supplies its product nationwide.

The council is under the supervision of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Any suggestions or concerns raised by the village residents via the village head are to be relayed to the appropriate parties or government agencies and vice-versa, said the Village Head of Kampong Katok.

The council’s vision is to monitor the needs of the village residents to achieve high quality of life whilst producing residents with integrity and good moral values to achieve excellence socially, physically and spiritually in line with the Malay Islamic Monarchy (Melayu Islam Beraja, MIB) philosophy.

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Palestine: Qatar’s $254 million plan to rebuild Gaza

17 October 2012, Global Arab Network – Qatar has launched a $254 million plan to rebuild and modernise Gaza, the biggest injection of reconstruction aid for the Palestinian enclave since it was devastated in an Israeli military offensive nearly four years ago, Global Arab Network reports according to Reuters.

Projects announced at a news conference by Qatari ambassador Mohammed Al-Amadi will require the cooperation of Israel and Egypt to admit building materials and heavy machinery to Gaza, which is under a partial blockade.

Amadi said this had been arranged. Work would begin on site within three months, starting with a highway that will run the length of the Mediterranean coastal strip.

The projects are of sufficient scale to transform Gaza and the lives of its 1.6 million people, 28 percent of whom are unemployed.

Economists said thousands of jobs would be created by local contractors who have won tenders to do the work and smaller businesses that will supply and service them.

The Islamist Hamas movement which rules Gaza welcomed the announcement as proof that Gaza had emerged from isolation. An aide to Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh called it “the first drop of rain”.

Qatar’s envoy said politics played no role in the emirate’s aid decision, but acknowledged that the government of Gaza would ultimately benefit, in addition to the people.

“The policy of the state of Qatar is that we make the projects, we design them, we finance them, and once they are finished we hand them over to the relevant ministry,” he said. This is the policy of Qatar everywhere we act and Gaza is no exception.” (Reuters)

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Egypt: 20% rise in tourist arrivals

Global Arab Network, 21 October 2012 — Egypt projects a rise of about 20 per cent in tourist numbers this year, the tourism minister said, despite outbreaks of violence after last year’s Arab Spring. The uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak last February and political instability since then have stopped millions of potential visitors to Egypt’s beach resorts and ancient sites.

Tourism accounted for more than a tenth of Egypt’s gross domestic product before the 18-day revolt that was driven by widespread anger at poverty and high-levels of corruption. The country’s large cities are still prey to unrest. But Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou cited strong recent occupancy rates at hotels. About 8.8 million tourists visited Egypt in the first nine months of this year, he said at an industry event, and revenue was 6.9 billion.

“What I’m targeting is 11.5 million to 12 million tourists by the end of December. For sure over 11 million,” Zaazou said. He said numbers should return to 2010 levels by the end of 2013 depending on the security situation.

Some 14.5 million tourists visited Egypt in 2010, generating around 12.5 billion Egyptian pounds (Dh7.5 billion or $2.05 billion) in revenue, whereas last year 9.8 million tourists brought in 8.8 billion pounds, according to government figures. The government has a long-term plan to draw 30 million tourists by 2020, generating industry revenue of $25 billion.

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Malaysia-Turkey FTA Projected By Year-End

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 16 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia is optimistic about signing a free trade agreement (FTA) with Turkey by year-end, said International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed. He said FTA negotiations between Malaysia and Turkey, which commenced in May 2010, was progressing well and both countries have decided to compromise on several contentious issues which were a stumbling block to finalising the agreement.

“We had several major challenges during the negotiations such as the rules of origin and halal standards. When I was in Ankara recently, I met government leaders from Turkey and we decided to compromise on the issues. “We were supposed to have concluded the FTA by December 2011. So, we are well behind the target,” he told reporters Tuesday.

Mustapa will meet his Turkish-counterpart, over the next few days, to formalise final negotiations. “We will set everything right in the coming days and after that the proposal will be passed to Cabinet for the Prime Minister to make a decision,” he added. Last year, Malaysia’s export to Turkey stood at US$1.567 billion while imports amounted to about US$182 million.

Meanwhile, the Anatolia News Agency reported that the trade volume between Turkey and Malaysia has the potential to hit $11.7 billion, from the current volume of $1.7 billion, Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan said Oct. 12 at the Turkey-Malaysia Business Council meeting.

He said that although total foreign trade of both countries was more than $776 billion, the trade volume between the two countries was only $1.7 billion, adding that the two countries would be working to increase their trade volume to $5 billion in the shortest possible period of time.

“Turkey and Malaysia complete each other with regards to their industrial structure and would become more powerful [with more business between] the industries of both countries,” Çağlayan said.

Turkey has attracted $120 billion of foreign direct investment in the past eight years, he stressed, adding, “I hope Malaysian businessmen will make good use of opportunities in Turkey.”

According to Çağlayan, Turkish and Malaysian businessmen would benefit from a free trade agreement between the two countries, and such an agreement should be signed as soon as possible.

“Both Turkey and Malaysia should know that the economic currencies in the world have changed course. Developed countries can no longer sell goods to developing countries and they will not be able to that in the future either. Emerging markets, including Turkey and Malaysia, will take important places in the world [in the future],” he said, adding that there was increasing need for global cooperation to weather the ongoing global economic crisis.

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Iran Is The World’s 9th Largest Fruit Producer

TEHRAN, Oct. 14 (NNN-MNA) — Iran ranks first in the Middle East and 9th in the world in fruit production, with an annual harvest of about 20 million tons, according to the Agriculture Jihad Ministry. The products are exported to 100 countries, bringing in over $2.87 billion in income, ISNA reported on Saturday.

Iraq and the United Arab Emirates are the major buyers of Iranian fruit. Citrus fruits, apples, grapes, and peaches are the main fruits exported by Iran. On June 6, IRNA quoted Iranian Agriculture Jihad Minister Sadeq Khalilian as saying that imports of fruits decreased to 769,000 tons in the previous Iranian calendar year, which ended on March 19, compared to 1.08 million tons the year before.

The Iranian cabinet has approved the allocation of 150 trillion rials (about $12.2 billion) to support agriculture projects this year, Khalilian said on May 1. Moreover, 40 trillion rials (about $3.3 billion) has been earmarked for boosting agricultural infrastructure, he added.

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Indonesia’s Economic Growth World’s Second Highest

JAKARTA, Oct 13 (NNN-ANTARA) – Indonesia’s economic growth rate, projected to reach 6.3 percent at the end of this year, will be the second highest in the world after China’s 7.8 percent, according to Bank Indonesia (BI). “Compared with other countries in the world, our economic growth rate will be much higher. We will be second only to China,” said Perry Warjiyo, the central bank`s director for economic research and monetary policy, here on Friday.

He stated that the Indonesian economy would grow at a relatively high level of 6.3 percent this year, although it would be less than the 6.4 percent growth seen in 2011. Earlier, the central bank had predicted that the national economy would expand in a range of 6.1 percent to 6.5 percent in 2012, before rising to 6.3-6.7 percent next year.

However, the global economy is expected to grow by 3.1 percent this year, down from the previously projected 3.2 percent. “Indonesias economic growth is expected to fall this year from 6.4 percent to 6.3 percent because of the global economic crisis, which has begun to affect the countrys exports,” Perry explained.

“Growth this year is expected to be fueled by strong domestic consumption and investment in the third quarter, which are projected to increase by 5.1 percent and 10.9 percent, respectively,” he added.

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Gulf Air launches new e-freight service

Gulf Daily News – 16 October, 2012 – Gulf Air has achieved a major milestone with the launch of its electronic Air Way Bill (e-AWB). It will replace the traditional paper Air Way Bill that consumed significant time, cost and paperwork.

The first cargo shipment under the e-AWB was moved from Bahrain to Dubai and with this, Gulf Air has joined the ranks of a very few e-Freight capable airlines in the region.

The move also marks another important environment-friendly initiative as the e-AWB reduces the use of tonnes of paper for filling in several forms and documents.

“This is indeed a great achievement as it involves several stakeholders in the cargo supply chain such as freight forwarders, handling agents and customs and civil aviation authorities to ensure seamless electronic process from beginning to end,” said Gulf Air chief executive Samer Majali.

“We are hopeful of turning our Bahrain hub into a complete e-Freight station by the middle of 2014 with support from Bahrain’s Civil Aviation Affairs, Bahrain Airport Company, Bahrain Airport Services and freight forwarders in tune with IATA’s vision of achieving 100 per cent e-Freight by 2015,” he added.

“IATA congratulates Gulf Air on its first e-AWB shipment and becoming only the third Gulf-based airline to achieve this capability,” said IATA Middle East and North Africa regional vice-president Hussein Dabbas.

“The e-AWB is a crucial step towards adoption of full e-Freight, which replaces up to 20 paper documents with electronic versions for every shipment. E-Freight increases speed and security of air cargo, which will serve to benefit world trade and economic growth,” he added.

“In today’s electronic world, air cargo still relies heavily on paper documentation with each international airfreight shipment requiring more than 20 paper documents,” said Gulf Air cargo services senior manager Khalid Faqih.

“It is also not an environment-friendly practice to use tonnes of paper. By switching to e-AWB, we have addressed all these issues – lower costs, faster supply chain transit times, greater accuracy and adherence to regulatory compliance.”

The e-AWB will be introduced across Gulf Air’s network progressively in the coming months as it requires parties in the supply chain such as freight forwarders, airlines, handling agents and customs authorities to modify their systems capable of accepting and approving e-AWB information.

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Stability ‘crucial for the Bahrain tourism industry’

Gulf Daily News – 16 October, 2012 – Stability is the key to boosting the region’s tourism sector and further reflect economic confidence, according to Bahrain’s travel industry veteran and leading businessman Jamil Wafa. He said that the kingdom faces challenges and requires serious steps to provide world-class tourist facilities.

“Unfortunately, we are not tackling tourism properly. We have the resources yet do not have trained bilingual guides as there are tourists from Germany, France and other countries coming to Bahrain,” said the Unitag Group founder and executive chairman, Mr Wafa.

His comments came yesterday as the World Travel Service (WTS), a subsidiary of the Unitag Group, signed an exclusive multi-year and multi-country agreement with Sabre Travel Network Middle East chief executive Daniel Naoumovitch, at the Unitag House building in Manama. “World Travel Service has had a long and successful history in the region. It has successfully managed international corporate travel accounts and achieved much in the travel trade arena,” said Mr Naoumovitch.

Mr Wafa said they were strengthening their ties, which date back 25 years, with Sabre to generate passenger traffic from the region via its Global Distribution System, which is used worldwide by airlines and travel agents to register and provide services for its customers. “Sabre’s proven low-fare search capabilities, travel security and mobile solutions have helped us retain our customers,” said Mr Wafa.

The businessman stressed that the media played a negative role that affected Bahrain adversely. “The international media was not portraying the picture in the true sense, when it came to the political arena. This reflected in tourism being affected along with hotels, taxis, airlines and other economic generation areas. Unless there is stability, we cannot move on the financial side as there are a number of development projects at a standstill.”

The businessman said tourist centres in Bahrain should be clean and well-equipped for travelers to provide them with facilities.

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Arab ministers to foster inter-regional tourism

Saudi Gazette – 15 October, 2012 – The four-day 15th session of the Arab Tourism Ministers Council (ATMC) will convene in Cairo to discuss the issues that the Arab tourism industries have in common and agree on the most important requirements to promote inter-Arab tourism and implement the Arab Tourism Strategy that came out of the Arab leaders summit in March.

The body will also review the progress of the implementation of resolutions of the Arab leaders’ summit such as economic and social development, in addition to the adoption of the capitals for Arab tourism for the years 2014-2015.

On this occasion, Issa Al Mohannadi, Chairman of Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), who will head the Qatari delegation, said “QTA’s participation comes in line with its mission to strengthen the country’s relations with the Arab nations within the tourism industry and fully utilize its key memberships in regional and international commissions.”

“These tourism ministries’ meetings are key opportunities to share knowledge and expertise and discuss the most important elements and challenges that tourism faces in the Arab world, especially with the current evolution taking place in the region. We hope that the 15th session of the AMCT will result in our sharing useful knowledge about the industry and lead to effective consensus and decisions that will greatly enhance tourism in the Arab world,” Al Mohannadi added. QTA will also be attending the 10th meeting of the Executive Committee of the Arab Tourism Ministers Council, which will precede the ATMC session on Oct. 16-17.

The meeting is set to recommend the topics for the agenda of the Arab Tourism Ministers Council session.

QTA is a member of the Arab Tourism Ministers Council and its Executive Committee alongside the Republic of Yemen, the Republic of the Sudan, Libya, Republic of Iraq, The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Lebanese Republic.

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Uzbekistan courts Saudi entrepreneurs

Saudi Gazette – 15 October, 2012 – Saudi entrepreneurs and investors have been asked to attend the forthcoming eighth International Uzbek Cotton and Textile Fair scheduled to be held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on Oct.17-18. The invitation has been facilitated by professor of Russian language and translation at King Saud University, Sharustam Shamusarov.

Highlighting the significance of the Saudi market in a statement, Shamusarov said exploring new dimensions would prove mutually beneficial for both the countries. At the seventh edition of the fair last year, deals were signed for around 600,000 tons of cotton. In addition, future contracts of $ 550 million were booked.

Shamusarov said several global firms from the US, EU, Russia, India, Japan, China, Bangladesh, states of CIS, the Middle East, South Korea, Africa and Asia-Pacific region have confirmed their participation in this year’s fair. The Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industries is also participating in the fair, he added.

According to the organizers, the fair would involve active participation of the Expo Advisory Committee on Cotton Outlook, and would provide the participants an opportunity to interact with traders from other countries and bag direct supply contracts for Uzbek cotton.

Besides, efforts would also be made to gather views of competent global experts on matters like global cotton and textile market: price and factors, demand and supply; existing scenario and future of production and marketing of cotton in Uzbekistan; present and future of global cotton and textile market; new techniques to enhance competitiveness of cotton; and investment conditions and overseas investment in Uzbek cotton and textile industry.

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World Bank, Islamic Development Bank sign Islamic finance deal

Arab News – 15 October, 2012 – The World Bank and Islamic Development Bank have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to set out a framework for collaboration between the two parties and lend support to global, regional and country efforts in the development of Islamic Finance. World Bank Managing Director Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin and Islamic Development Bank Group President Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali signed the memorandum on behalf of their institutions with the common objectives of fostering, encouraging, and studying the expansion of Islamic finance globally.

The MoU adopts the following principles:

Knowledge sharing to identify and disseminate sound practices in the Islamic financial services industry.

Cross fertilization of ideas that would foster the development of Islamic finance that is critical for growth, efficiency and financial inclusion.

Encourage research and promote awareness of appropriate risk management framework for Islamic financial institutions in particular and the Islamic finance industry in general; and

Capacity building in the Islamic financial services industry with a view to fostering financial stability and promoting increased access to Islamic financial services in markets around the world.

World Bank Managing Director Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin stressed the importance of the memorandum for increased capacity-building and knowledge-sharing between the two organizations. “The MoU signed today between the IDB and WB will help us deepen our understanding of Islamic finance and build capacities to develop institutions and instruments to support sustainable inclusive growth and help societies to achieve their development goals with emphasis on poverty alleviation and shared prosperity,” he said.

“The signing of MoU between the World Bank and IDB aims to forge a strategic partnership between our two institutions in the area of Islamic finance to support inclusive growth, including greater access to finance for the poor, and financial stability in our mutual member countries,” said IDB President Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali.

“We expect to do this by expanding our knowledge base as well as our ability to support our member countries’ efforts to build resilient institutions and develop instruments to achieve greater financial inclusion and sustainable development,” he added. The core tenant of Islamic finance is a system which promotes risk-sharing and the avoidance of interest and leverage.

Global Islamic Financial assets have increased significantly over the past three decades, crossing $ 1 trillion in 2010 and estimated to have exceeded $ 1.2 trillion in 2011, up from about $ 5 billion in the late 1980s. Islamic finance could accounts for a substantial share of financial services in many countries in the coming years.

Through the MoU, the World Bank and Islamic Development Bank will explore Islamic Finance as a potential tool supporting the efforts of countries to reach their development goals.

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Kuala Lumpur forum to spur GCC-Malaysia trade

Arab News – 15 October, 2012 – The GCC-Malaysia Trade Investment Forum, which opens in Kuala Lumpur today, will focus on expanding cooperation in key areas such as training and education, property and infrastructure development, agriculture and food security, health care, oil and gas support services, leisure and tourism, Islamic banking, and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Malaysian Minister of International Trade and Industry Mustapha Mohamed will open the forum at Hotel Istana in Kuala Lumpur.

Prominent speakers at the opening session include Abdul Rahim Hasan Naqi, secretary-general of the Federation of GCC Chambers, and Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassem Al-Thani chairman of Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The first session, titled “Revisiting the GCC-Malaysia Trade Path — A Business Leader’s Perspective,” will be chaired by Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, secretary-general of Malaysia’s ministry of international trade and industry in Malaysia. Pemandu CEO Idris Jala, AmBank Chairman Azman Hashim, Khazanah Nasional Managing Director Azman Mokhtar, Qatar Chamber Director-General Remy Rowhani, and Shah SCOMI Group CEO Hakim Zain will address the session.

There will be a special session on “SME — new economy generator and emerging opportunities” to be chaired by Hafsah Hashim, CEO, SME Corp., Malaysia. Panelists include Yong Poh Kon, president of FMM, Lim Wee Chai, chairman, Top Glove Corporation, and Rafe Haneef, CEO, HSBC Amanah. Another session will focus on business opportunities in 5 key sectors in Malaysia, including training and education, agriculture and commodities, leisure and tourism and SMEs, organizers said.

The high-impact forum showcases investment opportunities in both Malaysia and GCC states and includes fused business sessions apart from site visits to selected industries within Klang Valley and the signing of bilateral agreements. It provides a critical assessment of current trade and investment climate in Malaysia and encourages multilateral cooperation between international investors and role-players, academic institutions, business practitioners, and policy makers.

The forum offers a platform for initiating relevant opportunities in critical trade and investment related matters, facilitates the development of competitive investment attraction strategies for FDI, and gives a platform for business leaders, policy makers, researchers and academics, from both regions to share ideas, debate and build consensus around trade and investment issues.

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Deal signed to establish Islamic Development Bank gateway office in Turkey

Arab News – 14 October, 2012 – On the margins of the 28th meeting of the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (COMCEC) in Istanbul, the Islamic Development Bank Group (IDB Group) and Turkey signed a host country agreement to establish IDB’s gateway office in Turkey. The agreement was signed between IDB Group President Ahmad Mohamed Ali and Turkey’s Deputy Undersecretary of Treasury and IDB Alternate Governor for Turkey Burhanettin Aktash.

The agreement is the first of its kind for establishing a chain of gateway offices in IDB member countries to develop sustainable cooperation between the bank and member countries as well as to promote IDB’s program for partnership strategy with these countries. This initiative is indicative of the importance IDB attaches to Turkey’s role in supporting the implementation of the bank’s development agenda for its member countries. The opening of the gateway office in Turkey is expected to accelerate transfer of Turkey’s expertise in various fields of economic activity to IDB’s Least Developed Member Countries (LDMCs).

Meanwhile, the IDB Group is taking part in the 14th MUSIAD (Turkey’s Independent Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association) International Exhibition and the 16th IBF (International Business Forum) Congress, which kicked off on Thursday and ends today (Sunday). The IDB Group on Friday delivered a presentation on its activities and operations in member countries particularly on its services to the private sector.

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Oman Air to host airline internal auditors meet

Oman Daily Observer – 13 October, 2012 – Oman Air, the national carrier of the Sultanate, is hosting tomorrow at Bar al Jasa resort the 4-day 21st Annual Conference of the International Association of Airline Internal Auditors (IAAIA). The inaugural ceremony of the conference will be held under the auspices of Shaikh Nasser bin Hilal al Mawali, Chairman of the State Financial and Administrative Audit Institution (SFAAI).

Mohammed bin Ali al Musafir, Chief Officer Internal Audit, Oman Air and Chairman of the IAAIA 21st Annual Conference, said that the annual conference has become the key event for professionals from around the world to network, share experiences and discuss best practices. “The event also provides an excellent opportunity for internal auditors to voice opinions over future decisions impacting the airline audit environment.

He added that the conference will focus on ways to contribute to the achievement of key business objectives of companies, such as cost reduction, revenue enhancement and discuss the major challenges facing the airlines at this time. The IAAIA is the only voluntary, non-profit organisation serving the aviation industry’s audit community and comprises over 60 member airlines from around the globe. It promotes best practices and research and studies on current issues related to the aviation industry.

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Iraq’s City Of Irbil To Be Arab Tourism Capital For 2014, Sharjah In 2015

CAIRO, Oct 16 (NNN-KUNA) — An agreement has been reached to put forward Iraq’s city of Irbil as the Arab tourism capital for 2014 and the United Arab of Emirates’ city of Sharjah as the Arab tourism capital for 2015. The choice of the two cities to represent Arab tourism capitals is in accordance with specific foundations and standards, Jordanian Minister of Tourism Nayef Al-Fayez said in press statements following the meetings of the 15th Executive Office of the Arab Tourism Council here on Monday. Al-Fayez also noted that Monday’s meeting addressed several important issues such as intraregional tourism among Arab states.

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Islam Gains Followers In Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Oct 12 (NNN-VOA) — Christianity is among the dominate religions in Haiti, but Islam has shown a noticeable increase in followers since the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people and left more than 1 million others homeless. Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, is now home to at least five mosques.

School teacher Darlene Derosier, a mother of two, helped build one of the mosques in her neighborhood. She said she converted to Islam after losing her home in the earthquake and the death of her husband a month later. “For me the victory is that you lived, but you did not think you would,” she said. People of many religions arrived in Haiti following the earthquake to lend assistance.

But Muslim convert Kishner Billy, who hosts a nightly TV program, said that Muslims appear to have had the most lingering impact. “After the earthquake Muslims came from everywhere, like the UK, USA, France, Belgium, to help bring some order. Catholics and Protestants also came. Yes, after the quake we have more Haitians converting to Islam,” he said.

Billy said Islam has helped give Haitians some direction in their lives following the earthquake. There has been no official tally on how many Haitians have converted to Islam, a religion still not recognized by the Haitian government.

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GCC-Malaysia spur growth of takaful industry

Gulf Daily News – 18 October, 2012 – The global takaful industry has been experiencing double digit growth rates, with the GCC and Malaysia being the major drivers. Although the GCC market remains at the top in terms of overall contributions, latest industry data reveals a deceleration in the growth rates, according to Middle East Takaful Forum (METF 2012) chief executive David McLean.

“A critical factor that will determine the success in taking the industry to the next level of development will be the readiness of industry players to formulate and execute successful strategies in response to new market opportunities that will re-ignite growth levels,” he said at the opening of the METF 2012 at the Gulf Hotel yesterday.

“A key challenge for takaful operators will be to maintain growth momentum while boosting profitability and this calls for taking proactive steps and new thinking to overcome key challenges in order to sustain growth,” he added. A major highlight of METF 2012 was the industry leaders’ keynote power debate. The session was chaired by Ernst & Young Islamic finance services leader Ashar Nazim and featured International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) principal Peter van den Broeke.

METF 2012 continues with a series of sessions today and features exclusive discussions on financial performance improvement and operational efficiency priorities for Middle East takaful players and a country focus roundtable session that provides insights on tapping into the high-growth potential markets for takaful in the Middle East.

“A successful takaful industry, from a regulatory perspective, is the one that is, at a micro-level fair, safe and stable for the benefit of the policyholder and at a macro-level, is stable as a sector,” said Mr van den Broeke. “The IAIS is very much interested in the developments concerning takaful and pressure on profitability in the takaful industry has been amplified by the unlevel playing field,” he said.

“Of major interest to the IAIS is that takaful is well understood by insurance supervisors and is regulated consistent with international principles, notably the IAIS Insurance Core Principles, without affecting its unique features,” he added.

“Some of the key challenges that the takaful industry currently faces amplify the importance of taking a concerted approach to the development of takaful and retakaful at the global level,” said former chairman of the Malaysian Takaful Association Dato’ Haji Syed Moheeb Kamarulzaman.

“Takaful products and services need to be accessible to more consumers and there is a need to have a greater range of products to meet wider public needs, so that the benefits of takaful can be made available to the global community. It is also important to maintain and enhance public confidence in takaful, supported by strong legal and regulatory infrastructure, robust risk management practices, comprehensive IT solutions and transparent disclosure and operating requirements,” he added.

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Turkey to grant Egyptian entrepreneurs 5-year entry visas

Ahram Online, Monday 15 Oct 2012 – Turkish Prime Minister’s Press Service,Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi salute the members of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012 (Ph

Egyptian enterpreneurs will now be granted five-year entry visas to Turkey in an effort to bolster trade exchanges between the two countries, state daily Al-Ahram reported on Monday, citing Turkish Ambassador to Cairo Hussein Awny.

Previously, business visas to Turkey had only been issued for one-year periods, according to Al-Ahram.

Earlier this month, Mostafa Mekawy, head of Egypt’s commercial service office in Turkey, announced that bilateral trade volumes had reached some $3 billion in the first half of this year.

Mekawy added that total Turkish investments in Egypt – including 415 projects in the textiles, garments, processed food, industry and mining sectors – currently stood at some $1.5 billion. During President Mohamed Morsi’s visit to Ankara last month, Turkey agreed to grant Egypt $1 billion as part of a total $2 billion Turkish aid package to Cairo.

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Iraq plans to invest up to $1.6 bn in solar and wind energy

Reuters, 16 Oct 2012 – Iraq plans to spend up to $1.6 billion on solar and wind power stations over the next three years to add 400 megawatts to the national grid to help curb daily blackouts, an official from the ministry of electricity said on Monday. Nine years after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, investment is needed in most of Iraq’s industries, not least power generation, which produces just 8,800 MW of the 14,000 MW needed.

The dilapidated national grid supplies only a few hours of power a day, leaving Iraqis to swelter in the summer months, when temperatures can top 50 degrees Celsius. Invitations have been sent to about 25 leading companies to manufacture and install solar and wind power plants, said Laith al-Mamury, the head of the planning and studies department at the ministry of electricity. The companies include Japan’s Toyota Tsusho Corp, Swiss engineering group ABB and Egypt’s Orascom Construction.

The ministry has allocated an initial $200 million from the 2013 budget to add 50 MW to the grid next year, focusing on deserted and border areas, Mamury said. Solar energy is rare in Iraq, expect for lighting on some of its main streets. The ministry has plans to reach 22 gigawatts of power generation capacity to meet demand in 2016 by upgrading and building new power projects to solve the chronic shortages.

Mamury said each megawatt of solar or wind energy cost around $3.5-$4 million, but the initial outlay would be offset by lower running costs because the stations do not need fuel to operate. In the long term, the aim is for solar and wind energy to account for 2 percent of power generation volume, Mamury said.

OPEC member Iraq has the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves and is producing more than 3 million barrels per day (bpd) for the first time in three decades. “It is true that we are an oil country but we should save oil for the coming generation not only sell it or burn it,” he said.

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S. Korea to develop infrastructure projects worth US$50 billion in Indonesia

Fri, October 12 2012 Jeju, South Korea (ANTARA News) – South Korea has agreed to develop eight infrastructure projects, worth a total of US$50 billion, in Indonesia.

The agreement was made at a Jeju Initiative meeting held between representatives from the two countries here on Friday.

“The agreement is expected to boost economic cooperation between Indonesia and South Korea. The implementation of the projects will be supervised by the two countries’ representatives working at the Joint Secretariat, which was established in early 2012,” said Hatta Rajasa, the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, who led the Indonesian delegation to the Jeju Initiative meeting.

“The eight projects agreed upon during the meeting involve: the construction of Batam island (Riau Island province)-Bintan bridge; the restoration of Ciliwung river (Jakarta province); the construction of railway for coal transportation from Bengkulu province to Muara Enim (South Sumatra).”

Also the construction of Sunda Strait bridge connecting Sumatra and Java islands; the development of compressed natural gas (CNG); the construction of coal power plant in South Sumatra province; the opening of a new branch of Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME); and the development of an agriculture-based multi-industry area, he added.

Meanwhile, South Korea`s Minister of Knowledge Economy, Sukwoo Hong, expressed hope that the new projects would boost relations between Indonesia and South Korea.

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Lebanese, Thai films share top award at Busan fest

16 Oct 2012 – A gripping Lebanese drama and low-budget, experimental production from Thailand and a shared the main award at Asia’s largest film festival, which drew to a close on Saturday. Jurors for the New Currents award at the Busan International Film Festival described first-time Thai director Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit’s “36” as “breathtaking” while praising the “extraordinary sympathy” director Maryam Najafi was able to draw from her audience throughout her entry “Kayan”.

Both productions receive $30,000 for the award, which offers two first prizes and is open to first- or second-time Asian filmmakers.

Nawapol’s film — made for just $20,000 — is set around 36 static images and tells the story of a young woman struggling to relate to her own memories. “The first time I screened this film it was in a conference room for about 20 people so I was honoured to be invited to Busan,” said Nawapol. “My story’s about how many different ways there are to look at the way we live our lives.”

The New Currents jury, headed by the veteran Hungarian director Bela Tarr, celebrated Nawapol’s work for creating his “own film language”. “The jury found especially that the writing was breathtaking, artful, economic, and never included an unnecessary word,” they said in a statement.

Praise came also for first-time director Najafi’s sympathetic portrayal of a Lebanese woman trying to juggle the twin demands of business and family in a foreign country and for the filmmaker’s ability “to go from emotion to analysis in the acute portrait of a woman fighting to keep a new life going”.

“We did everything you are not supposed to do with this film — from using child actors to borrowing sets — but we persevered,” said Najafi. The 10-day BIFF closes with the official awards presentation and the world premiere of Bangladeshi filmmaker Mostofa Sarwar Farooki’s comedy-drama “Television”, which focuses on a clash of generations in a rural village.

Festival organisers said more than 220,000 people had attended this year’s 17th edition, a record for the event. While film fans were treated to 304 films from 75 countries — with 93 world premieres — much of the talk surrounding the festival was about how strong the local representation was this year

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Brunei Adding Bukit Tempayan Pisang to the tourist map

Borneo Bulletin Online – A group of five people comprising three project supervisors and two attachment students at Brunei Tourism at the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, led by Dyg Adilah Multazimah Hj A Abd Rahman, Tourism Officer, Marketing and Promotion of Brunei Tourism, yesterday made a familiarisation visit to Bukit Tempayan Pisang – located in Kampong Kapok, Brunei-Muara District.

The group was accompanied by members of the Kg Kapok Village Consultative Council led by the Village Head of Kg Kapok, Awg Haji Marali bin Haji Ahmad. “Our objectives are to familiarise ourselves with the place and see what facilities will be needed in the area,” Dyg Adilah said. “Normally, we will examine and see the potential of the place, and what needs to be done before we (the department) will support it.”

When asked to comment on her climbing to the top of Bukit Tempayan Pisang, she said, “For me it’s amazing because this is my first time climbing the hill, especially witnessing the beautiful view and scenery of the surrounding islands from the back and front view of the hill – tourists can definitely have a good relaxation at the top. As interesting as the scenery of the hill, is the hill’s own legend. A legend that could be told to both foreign and local tourists. The younger generation of locals don’t know much of the legend and stories such as ‘Gua Harimau’ and ‘Gua Radat’.”

She said the project supervisors will later become the frontline guides who will explain to tourists on the potential places of interest in the country. “For those of us in the office, we will do the marketing and product development. We provide them with the products and they will promote it further to the people. They will be stationed at Kampong Ayer and Brunei International Airport and they can share their experiences with tourists on what tourism products are available in the country,” she said.

“For the attachment students, they are here to gain experience because if they don’t visit the place, they will never know. So it’s good exposure for them to inform their friends and colleagues, and at the same time they will also make their project report,” she added. The Village Head of Kg Kapok, Awg Haji Marali said, “Culture and arts as well as a recreation park are among the tourism icon products of the village.”

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Durable peace in world is not possible excluding 1.5 billion Muslims: Bangladesh PM

GAZIPUR, Oct 16, 2012 (BSS) – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today said establishing any permanent and durable peace in the world is not possible excluding 1.5 billion Muslims and there must have proper understanding of the distinct code of their life and culture. “Proper understanding of the distinct code of life and culture of the 1.5 billion Muslims is essential for real peace and stability of our beloved planet,” she told the 26th convocation of the Islamic University of Technology (IUT) here.

Due to the strong bonding of brotherhood among 57 OIC countries, she said, the world at present, particularly the developed, has realised that a relationship with the Islamic World, based on justice is vital. With IUT Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Imtiaz Hussain in the chair, the function was also addressed by Mehmet Vakur Erkul, Ambassador xtraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Turkey to Bangladesh and Chairman of the Governing Board, IUT.

Dr. Razley bin Nordin, Director General of Science & Technology, OIC read out a statement of OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu at the function, while Dr Ahasan Habib, Registrar of the IUT, delivered the vote of thanks. The Prime Minister also called upon the graduates of the IUT to move forward by facing all challenges in the practical field through hard labour.

“You will have to work for your country’s socioeconomic development through the technical knowledge and experiences you acquired,” she said, adding, “now, it is your responsibility to expose yourself in front of the real world and work hard to face and win all challenges.”

Sheikh Hasina advised the graduates not to give up hope when they face any obstacles. “You would continue your efforts, as ceaseless endeavours and integrity must bring successes,” she said. “We all need to open our minds and hearts to understand the needs of others, and be willing to compromise and make sacrifice, on the basis of justice and fairness, and thereby, achieve a world of peace and harmony, for our future generations,” she added.

The Prime Minister said, “As scientists and technical experts you will have to find out the solutions of various contemporary problems. I believe that IUT has implanted in you the spirit of nation-building, and has given you the mental power to become the guiding lights for others to create a successful world of peace.”

Sheikh Hasina said that the success of IUT largely lies in the achievements of the alumni of IUT. “Remember that the real achievements are hidden not only in personal accomplishments but also in devotion for the large humanity.” She said the rapid change around us is noticeable today due to the fast pace of globalisation and the instant dissemination of information around the world.

“Current globalisation is helping the nations of the world to come closer to each other thereby making strong bonding among them.” However, she said, each change is introducing more new challenges which are difficult to define and identify; because individual countries are meeting the challenges in their own ways.

Greeting all on the occasion of the 26th convocation of the IUT, the Prime Minister said Bangladesh earned the membership of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) under strong leadership of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. She thanked the IUT governing body for giving approval to admission of female students to the university two years back. But, she said, the decision is yet to be implemented as there is no female dormitory here.

“I would like to request the OIC to take effective steps soon to build a female hostel so that girl students of the OIC countries could be admitted to the university,” she said, hoping that the future convocation would be more colourful with the participation of women.

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Kyrgyzstan revives crafts, boosts economy

Centralasiaonline.com 2012-10-12 BISHKEK – Kyrgyzstan, in an attempt to develop private businesses and the rest of the economy, is trying to revive some of the country’s ancient crafts, which some say could also attract tourists. Only in recent years have Kyrgyz begun to pay attention to the development of crafts, said Aynura Bozgunchiyeva, exhibition manager of the Central Asian Craft Support Association Resource Centre in Kyrgyzstan.

“Crafts are beginning to develop well in Kyrgyzstan,” she said. “Many articles are already going for export and are beginning to gain recognition.” Though traditional Kyrgyz crafts represent less than 1% of GDP, since 2006, the sector has steadily grown, increasing from only a few dozen craftspeople to several thousand. This revitalisation began with a UNESCO initiative to encourage artisans to include their work in festivals and international exhibitions.

In September 2011, the prime minister’s office began promoting traditional craftsmanship and various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that support the sector in hopes of creating jobs, bringing tourist money into the economy and preserving the country’s cultural heritage. The government even exempted from taxation income derived from traditional crafts.

Unlike in neighbouring Uzbekistan, with ancient tourist towns like Samarkand and Bukhara, Kyrgyz crafts died out when the Soviet Union collapsed. “But thanks to the efforts of craftsmen and donors, crafts have been reborn,” she said.

The best-known Kyrgyz crafts are made of felt, and the sale of such souvenirs is part of a niche industry that is bringing additional income into family budgets.

Aysulu Madylova, for example, sews made-to-order felt articles – such as lambs, birds, and handbags – for a big firm. “They provide the templates and patented patterns, and we receive payment depending on the complexity of the work,” she told Central Asia Online.

One day Madylova, 40, plans to open her own business. “I want to open my own workshop and sew my own items,” she said. “The souvenirs for which I earn about 94 to 141 KGS (US $2 to $3) each are sold abroad for ten times as much. But I don’t yet know how to break out onto the international markets.”

The crafts support centre could help people like Madylova, Bozgunchiyeva said. For several years now, the centre has organised exhibitions and festivals for craftspeople across Central Asia. “Such measures not only expand the horizons of the local craftspeople but also have a positive effect on their products.” she said. “The range of craft articles becomes wider, and their quality noticeably improves.”

Tourists have begun taking an interest in the revived crafts in recent years, tour guide Asel Moldaliyeva said. Her tours now include workshops and stores, which provide another avenue of income for the local population. Potter Aleksandr Spiridonov, with the help of his wife Irina, sells vases and jars on the side of the central highway. He sold his car so that he could open his own workshop and meet other costs, like renting a barn to store his goods.

After eight years of working toward mastering his craft and starting his business, he can see his dream within reach. “We had to build a firing furnace and buy moulds, tongs, clay and paints,” he said of the challenges involved with starting a business. “It wasn’t really until this year that I managed to assemble all the main equipment.”

This year, for the first time, Spiridonov took part in an international exhibition. His business is on its way up, he said, adding that he soon hopes to expand. “What (other) work could you find in our village? There isn’t any work,” said Spiridinov, who formerly ran a sweet shop but found the business taxes too much of a burden. “But pottery is what I want to do; it’s what really interests me.”

The country’s tax structure opened the door for him to change careers, he said. “The state can only create the conditions in which crafts can flourish,” Damira Alyshbayeva, Chief Specialist of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, said of the tax exemption for craftspeople. “Crafts bring income to the craftspeople themselves and help to develop the tourist sector, which is making a contribution to the development of the economy.”

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Bangladesh plans two more botanical gardens at Sunadia, Sitakunda

CHITTAGONG, Oct 12, 2012 (BSS) – Environment and Forest Minister Dr Hasan Mahmood today said that two more botanical gardens would be set up at Sunadia of Cox’s Bazar and Sitakunda of Chittagong in order to save the endangered nature. He said the work on setting up the two botanical gardens has already started and the government has embarked upon setting up a natural butterfly park in Sitakunda.

The minister said this while inaugurating the country’s first-ever privately owned park of butterflies titled “Butterfly Park” this morning. Terming butterflies as an important creature of the nature, the minister said the park would play an important role in reproduction system of nature by providing safe heaven to butterflies. “Butterflies should be protected to save our world endangered by unwise activities of the mankind,” the minister added, He also urged all to come forward to save this beautiful creature of the nature.

The 6.5-acre park aims at saving different species of butterflies from being extinct is located at Number- 15 Ghat area of the Karnaphuli River adjacent to Chittagong Shah Amanat International Airport.

Vice chairman of Intraco Group Monowara Hakim Ali presided over the function while MA Laif, MP, Ambassador of the Maldives to Bangladesh Abdullah Shahid and consultant of the park Prof Dr Shafik Haider Chowdhury, among others, attended it as special guests.

Butterfly Park, owned by Intraco Group, attracts the city dwellers for its exceptionality and unique scenic beauty. Dr Shafik Haider Chowdhury, a consultant of the project, said there are about 23 species of butterflies and about 500 plants and trees in the park. There is also a museum of butterflies in the park where mummies of 57 species of butterflies are kept.

The park, which remains open from 9.00am to 11.00pm every day, also provides the visitors with an artificial lake, a restaurant, a party hall and a resort.

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Bangladesh Embassy organizes ‘Baul Festival’, Country Music in Washington DC

DHAKA, Oct 14,2012 (BSS)- Bangladesh Embassy in Washington DC and Friends and Family inc., a renowned cultural group of Bangladeshi Diasporas in the USA, jointly organised a ‘Baul’- Festival and Country Music on Saturday at Sylvan Theatre stage, Washington National Monument Ground. Bangladesh folk singers and South Bay, an American band group, performed their country music and songs.

The festival attracted around 500 hundred spectators including American nationals, journalists, members of academia and Bangladeshi diaspora in the USA. The festival was aimed at portraying the power of folk country music transcending gaps between the two cultures.

Bangladesh Ambassador to the USA Akramul Qader and Secretary of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs Mrs. Suraiya Begum spoke on the occasion. Vincent C. Gray, Mayor, District of Columbia sent a message in this connection which was read out by Dr. Shahjahan Mahmud.

Popular Baul singers Shafiuddin Mondol, Anima D. Costa and Fakir Shahabuddin performed Baul songs in the audience. Some popular local artists also performed. The US band’s performance was widely acclaimed by the spectators. The performers lauded Bangladesh Embassy’s effort to stage such a unique event.

Ambassador Akramul Qader called upon the Bangladeshi diaspora to introduce the country’s rich folk songs to the USA as it helps in bringing all cultures under one umbrella aiming at forging greater unity among the peoples of the world. He also said such cultural festivals facilitate bridging the gap among the people and contribute to harmonious society that helps create a happy and healthy environment.

Cultural Affairs Secretary Ms. Suraiya Begum referred to the essence of the cultural heritage of our country and said Bangladesh people have always lived in the rich tradition of this heritage and cultivated it.

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‘Parts of Cox’s Bazar to be made protected tourism areas’

DHAKA, Oct 16 (BSS) – The government will declare Cox’s Bazar tourism areas as protected tourism areas to flourish the tourism and hospitality industry. “Cox’s Bazar’s tourism areas will be declared protected tourism areas. A gazette notification to this end would be published soon,” Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Lt Col (retd) Faruk Khan told BSS today.

Khan said the government plans to declare at least 10 tourism areas of Patuakhali, Sylhet and Cox’s Bazar districts each as tourism protected areas. About the security for the protected tourism areas, he said local people in cooperation with respective district administrations would look after the protected tourism areas.

The ‘Bangladesh Tourism Protection and Special Tourism Act’ was passed but so far no step has been taken to develop the tourism sector, the minister pointed out. “We must develop country’s tourism areas alongside ensuring their protection,” he said, adding it is not possible to implement a single tourism project under either Public-Private Partnership (PPP) or under Public Procurement Rules (PPR).

“Rather, we should follow the short and medium term strategies like the power sector to develop the tourism sector.”

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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New Al Ain map to help navigate Oasis City’s heritage, adventure attractions

Abu Dhabi, UAE, 22 October 2012: Visitors to Abu Dhabi’s Oasis City of Al Ain can now find their way around a heritage and adventure trail of the emirate’s second largest city thanks to a new compact, fold-out map produced by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) in consultation with its stakeholders and Al Ain Municipality.

“Our new map features some of the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Al Ain, including the city’s ancient oases with its unique falaj irrigation system and the landmark Al Jahili Fort, one of the UAE’s most historic buildings,” said Saeed Al Dhaheri, Tourist Information Manager, TCA Abu Dhabi.

Al Ain, the first city in the United Arab Emirates to make it to UNESCO’s World Heritage List is one of the world’s oldest, permanently inhabited settlements and now the emirate’s heritage heartland. The new map has been crafted to offer self-guided orientation of the city and its diverse range of attractions.

The map features 3D representations of attractions, including the Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum, Al Ain Oasis, Al Ain Paradise Park – which holds the Guinness Book of Records entry for the most hanging baskets – and the rocky heights of Jebel Hafeet, the emirate’s highest peak reaching 1,240 metres.

The new heritage route connects attractions and experiences across the city encouraging visitors to explore some of Al Ain’s World Heritage sites, renovated forts, palaces and museums, such as Al Qattara fort which now houses an arts centre and gallery.

More adventurous visitors can follow the entertainment route highlighting the diversity of the Oasis City, including water and adrenaline-filled activities at the action-packed Wadi Adventure aqua park, the country’s only camel market, and Al Ain Zoo, which boasts over 180 species and a new hippo exhibit. The map also offers practical information and a street plan.

The new design concept will be carried forward into the first Al Gharbia map, guiding visitors through the stunning diversity of Abu Dhabi’s western region. These include island experiences, stunning beaches, and vast desert that make up over two-thirds of the emirate’s landmass. Due for publication by the end of the year, detailed mapping will highlight the picturesque harbour town of Al Mirfa, the oasis city of Liwa, the maritime heritage of Delma Island and the archaeological and conservation destination of Sir BaniYas Island.

The map is available in Arabic and English from TCA Abu Dhabi information centre, by calling toll free within the UAE on 800 555 can be downloaded from www.visitabudhabi.ae.

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