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1 Oct, 2012

Saudi Arabia Launches Largest Expansion of Prophet’s Mosque

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 01 October 2012 (15 Dhul Qa’dah 1433). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



Malaysia has once again gained the trust of the international community by Kuala Lumpur’s recent successful bid to host the 127th International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session in 2015. The prestigious event is expected to be attended by about 1,500 delegates including IOC members and their guests, IOC Honorary Members, representatives of Host Cities of future Olympic Games, Bid Cities of the 2020 Olympic Games, sponsors/partners of the IOC and staff members. About 1,500 members of the print and electronic media will also be there. Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB), Mr. Zulkefli Hj. Sharif, Chief Executive Officer, commented, “The Host City of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games will be selected at this committee meeting. For the announcement to be made in Kuala Lumpur will definitely made a positive impact on the country and enhance our mission in positioning Malaysia as Asia’s business events hub”. As the session will be stretching up to a seven-day span, IOC is estimating the requirement of 8,000 rooms around the city to accommodate participants. The session is expected to garner approximately RM 26 million (EUR 6.6 million / USD8.4 million) in economic impact. Tunku Tan Sri Imran ibni Al-marhum Tuanku Ja’afar, President of the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) said, “The hosting of this session marks Malaysia’s entry into the ranks of other Asian countries that have previously hosted this prestigious meet such as China, Japan, Korea and Singapore.”

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


Saudi Arabia Launches Largest Expansion of Prophet’s Mosque

Madinah, 09 Dhul Qaada 1433/ 25 September 2012 (IINA) – Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah laid the foundation stone for the largest expansion of the Prophet’s (PBUH) Mosque here yesterday evening. The new project will increase the mosque’s capacity to more than two million worshippers.

On arrival at the Prophet’s Mosque, the king was received by Madinah Governor Prince Abdul Aziz bin Majed, Sheikh Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, head of the Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, and Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Faleh, deputy head of the presidency. Before launching the expansion project, the King watched two replicas of the project and he was briefed on it by the Minister of Finance Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf. After that the king received a commemorative gift from Sheikh Al-Sudais, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Addressing the stone-laying ceremony at the mosque’s courtyard, Sheikh Al-Sudais said: “The current expansion will be implemented in three phases; the construction area will be about one million square meters; and the accommodation capacity of the mosque after the expansion will be up to 1.6 million worshippers,” he said.

Sheikh Al-Sudais noted that Allah Almighty has bestowed on Saudi Arabia, the homeland of the Two Holy Mosques, countless blessings and Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) has been sent as a mercy to all human kind.

A number of hotels and buildings in the area would be demolished to create enough space for implementing the huge expansion project. The newspaper put the total amount to be paid to property owners in compensation at SR 25 billion. In order to carry out the expansion, the Madinah Development Authority (MDA) will have to remove 23 hotels from the central area around the mosque, one report said, adding that the removal of those hotels would create a shortage of 4,760 rooms to accommodate those who visit the mosque. The MDA has played down the effect of losing such a large number of rooms, saying 21 new hotel projects would be completed this year to make up for the shortfall.

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20-Year Turkish Urban Transformation Project To Start Oct 5

ANKARA – Anatolia News Agency – Turkey’s multi-billion dollar urban transformation project, which is expected to keep the local construction sector active for years to come, will begin on Oct. 5 with an initial phase that includes the demolition of 150 public buildings in 33 provinces.

Police stations, military and primary school buildings, maternity hospitals and health care centers are among those buildings to be rebuilt. In total some 6.5 million at-risk buildings across the country will be demolished. The process will commence with a ceremony, which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar are scheduled to attend.

The government attaches great importance to the urban transformation process, as Prime Minister Erdoğan had vowed to see it through even if it costs him political power. The urban transformation process is estimated to take 20 years. Istanbul is home to the highest number of buildings to be demolished under the plan. Various demolition methods will be utilized under the urban transportation plan, including dynamite and construction equipment.

Urban transformation in Istanbul will begin with the demolition of 23 lodging buildings belonging to the Ministry of Defense in the Sarıgazi district and the Kadıköy Police Station’s service building on the Asian side of the city, as well as lodging buildings attached to Şişli’s Okmeydanı Hospital, Sarıyer’s İstinye Clinic, and the Rumeli Feneri Family Health Center on the European side.

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Malaysia Promotes Healthcare Travel Industry In Dhaka

NEW DELHI, Oct 1 (Bernama) — The Malaysian Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) has set up its representative office in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to promote Malaysia’s healthcare travel industry in the country of 161 million people. “Our relations will strengthen by medical tourism,” The Financial Express reported, quoting Malaysian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Norlin Othman.

She said the Malaysian High Commission would provide the cooperation to facilitate medical visa for Bangladeshi patients. Norlin opened the council’s office, Malaysian Healthcare Services Ltd.

Popular treatments and procedures sought by healthcare travellers include orthopaedic procedures like knee and hip replacement, angioplasty, oncology, in-vitro fertilisation, cardiology, plastic and reconstructive surgery and health screening, said the report.

The MHTC was stablished in 2009 as the primary agency to develop and promote healthcare travel industry and to position Malaysia as the healthcare destination of choice in the region. It will galvanise public-private sector collaboration to formulate strategic plans for the development and promotion of healthcare travel services and coordinate promotional activities for Malaysian healthcare providers and related stakeholders.

While the healthcare travel industry will be private sector-driven, the government will assume an active role to facilitate its growth. MHTC will also be a focal point or a “one-stop centre” for all matters related to healthcare travel to facilitate enquiries on policies and programmes on healthcare travel development and promotion and serve as a one-stop centre for solutions on matters related to healthcare travel.

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50 Green Projects To Be Approved in Malaysia Next Year

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 (Bernama) — Malaysian Green Technology Corp expects over 50 green projects to be approved by financial institutions under the Green Technology Financing Scheme (SPTH) next year, compared with 30 this year, Acting Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Zairin Ismail said.

Ahmad Zairin, who is also the corporation’s Energy, Manufacturing, Building and ICT Division Senior Vice-President, said banks are now more keen to approve green projects as the government, through the Ministry of Finance, is also ready to promote this line of business.

The Ministry of Finance allocated another RM2 billion to the SPTH to further push up the production and use of green technology-based products, with the scheme extended until Dec 31, 2015.

“So far, RM805 million worth of projects have been approved by over 21 participating banks in the country, while over RM250 million worth of loans have been disbursed,” he told reporters at the media sneak preview of the International Greentech and Eco Products Exhibition and Conference Malaysia (iGEM) 2012.

He said the time taken by banks to approve green projects has also decreased significantly, from over a year to between six weeks and two months.

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National eID & ePassport Conference to be held in Malaysia

STOCKHOLM, KUALA LUMPUR and LISBON, Oct. 1 /PRNewswire-AsiaNet/ — PrimeKey Solutions, SecureMetric and MULTICERT will organize the National eID & ePassport Conference (http://www.eid-epass.org) – the Global Forum on the drivers behind the digitalization of citizen ID documents.

A total of 40 speakers, 300 experts, key industry and top-level government are expected to participate from 40 countries. The event will be held at the Sunway Resort & Spa, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 8-9 October 2012.

Over 80% of the European Union Member States and ICAO Countries have introduced or are in the process of introducing biometric based ID documents. The trend towards this form of technology is so essential and therefore of important consideration for all national administrations. The event has the official endorsement of Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation Malaysia, the official support of CyberSecurity and Malaysia National ICT Inititative.

According to Hans Graux, ICT lawyer and Legal Advisor European Commission: “Opportunities to discuss industry innovation, legal frameworks, technology developments are few and far between, especially at the international level. This is a well-balanced conference for industry and government leaders, allowing them to learn from counterparts around the world and to optimize their contribution to future developments.”

Mr Cor de Jonge & Mr Jeen de Swart, Ministry of Security and Justice, Netherlands: “Automated Border Control is an everlasting struggle of balance between high security and short waiting time for passengers. In the end every solution needs to support all necessary ICAO compliant algorithms and provide a high

security environment alongside other operative requirements.”

Mr. Giorgi Vashadze, Deputy Minister of Justice, Republic of Georgia: “This Global Forum provides the ultimate platform to discuss the needs, motivation, impact and challenges of acheiving eID interoperability. Learn from actual real life implementations and look into the future of eID, Social Media and Cloud.”

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Maldives Destination Guide iPhone App now available on App Store

2012-09-19 – This is a faster and easier way for you to discover Maldives on your iphone. This application holds all the information in the Maldives destination guide. It includes information about the environment, climate, and history and culture. Your simple and easy way to access listings of all Maldives hotels, resorts, liveaboards, restaurant and cafes. This App also enabes you to mark your favorite resorts, hotels and liveaboards. You can download this app here: http://www.visitmaldives.com/en/news_posts/301

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Jordan to Host World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa

Global Arab Network, 25 September 2012 – King Abdullah II of Jordan and World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab met in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly and announced that the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa will be held at the Dead Sea in Jordan on 24-26 May 2013.

The World Economic Forum and the King Abdullah II Fund for Development (KAFD) today signed a memorandum of understanding that marks the official start of preparations for the 2013 World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa. The meeting will convene over 1,000 participants from government, business, civil society and academia.

King Abdullah II said that the on-going developments in the Middle East and North Africa warrant renewed efforts to shape the new regional context to positively support socio-economic development and address youth issues, especially youth unemployment; and to “answer our young people’s cry for a normal future, in dignity and opportunity, in view of all the developments and challenges taking place in our MENA region.” Schwab said the next World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa will take a practical look at the policies and business strategies that are necessary to support the aspirations of the region’s economies.

In the new Middle East and North Africa context, decision-makers across the region are responding to the challenge of translating the current societal momentum into concrete positive outcomes for all citizens. This situation represents a key opportunity for industry, government and civil society to jointly make historic gains in crucial areas, including youth unemployment, transparency, income disparity reduction, private sector development and infrastructure. At the same time, the deep economic slowdown in Europe and continuous geopolitical uncertainty in the Levant underscore the need for enhanced regional cooperation as well as the importance of relations with emerging markets.

“Building on Jordan’s recognized role in the region and internationally, the aim of 2013 meeting is to drive the dialogue needed to overcome long-standing fault lines and foster the spirit of multistakeholder partnerships that are so essential for ensuring peace and security at this time of fundamental change,” said Miroslav Dusek, Director and Head of Middle East and North Africa at the World Economic Forum.

“We are proud to host the World Economic Forum for the seventh time in Jordan, and look forward to playing a very active role in helping achieve its goals of enhancing regional cooperation and partnerships,” said Nasser Al Lozi, Chairman of the King Abdullah II Fund for Development (KAFD), Jordan.

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Egypt: Horizon 2020 targets environmental management for SMEs in coastal areas

Global Arab Network – 25 September 2012 – About fifty people, mainly stakeholders from coastal Egyptian governorates and some from Cairo, have attended a training workshop addressing the issue of pollution-intensive small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in coastal areas, organised in Cairo in the framework of the Horizon 2020 Capacity Building/ Mediterranean Environment Programme (H2020 CB/MEP).

The workshop, said a press release, sought to highlight the sustainability concerns in the management of SMEs in Egypt. It aimed at building the capacity of the participants on how to properly manage the environmental impacts of industries, and on tools and measures for mitigating the impacts on the Mediterranean Sea. The presentations covered European experiences, and participants learned about processes and approaches implemented by some projects and agencies at the national level such as the Egyptian Pollution Abatement Project, EPAP II, and the role and best practices from the National Cleaner Production Centre.

Among the themes discussed was the portfolio of funding and technical assistance mechanisms available from national authorities in coordination with funding partners for SMEs which embark on complying with the Egyptian Environmental Law. The workshop also provided a better understanding of the concepts of green economy and energy efficiency as adequate approaches for mitigating the impacts of polluting industries.

The workshop concluded with a site visit to the Singer Bricks Factories in South Helwan, where participants witnessed a good model of minimising pollution, enhancing energy efficiency, providing a better work environment for employees while at the same time producing better products and achieving higher financial revenues.

The Horizon 2020 Capacity Building/Mediterranean Environment Programme (H2020 CB/MEP) aims to improve the quality of life of more than 420 million citizens living in the 25 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It is an umbrella programme drawing together all the policies, strategies and action plans for enhancing environmental protection.

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Vigorous recovery in Mauritania – Economic growth to reach 6.2 percent

Global Arab Network, 24 September 2012 – A mission of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) led by Mr. Amine Mati, visited Nouakchott from September 10 to 24, 2012 in the context of the fifth review of the 2010-2012 three-year arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF)1. The mission issued the following statement at the end of its visit:

“The macroeconomic results recorded during the first half of 2012 have been satisfactory. Following the acute drought conditions of 2011, a rebound in agricultural production and an uptick in activity in the building and public works sector are expected to underpin a vigorous recovery of economic growth. Real GDP growth for 2012 is, therefore, expected to reach 6.2 percent, despite the significant fall in mining production and the slowdown in demand from Europe. Inflation remains contained at 6 percent (y-o-y), owing in part to the stable prices of some administered products. However, this macroeconomic performance, achieved in spite of the difficult national and global economic environment, must be further strengthened and sustained in order for the country’s still very high unemployment rates and poverty levels to be significantly reduced.

“Fiscal and external policy space have reached unprecedented levels, thus creating the conditions for making the Mauritanian economy more resilient to exogenous shocks. Indeed, for the first time since 2006, the overall budget balance is expected to be positive. This better-than-expected performance is attributable to intensified revenue collection efforts, substantial mining revenues, and a considerable increase in external assistance (including in the form of grants). Further, despite the significant worsening of the balance of payments current account position, accounted for mainly by high mining sector import levels financed by foreign direct investment, the official reserve position will be strengthened and by the end of the year is projected to reach record levels of around US$750 million, i.e., the equivalent of 5.3 months of imports.

“The mission was heartened by the better rainfall prospects for this year, which means that the authorities could considerably streamline the components of the EMEL program, which was put in place to attenuate the effects of the drought. The mission noted with satisfaction the efforts undertaken to eliminate poorly targeted subsidies on energy products. It encouraged the authorities to continue phasing these out, along with the emergency programs, and replace them by a social welfare system that is better targeted to the most vulnerable segments of the population. The introduction of a cash transfer program in the capital and some rural areas constitutes a first step in that direction.

“The mission reached agreement with the authorities on the optimal allocation of a share of tax revenues to the diversification of the productive base of the economy, in particular increasing agricultural investments with a high job creation potential. The mission also invited the authorities to ensure that these new expenditures remain in line with the priorities established in the PRSP, are consistent with absorptive capacity, and comply with the new public procurement procedures.

“The mission also called on the authorities to improve the business climate further, in particular, by bringing on stream the one-stop window. In addition, the mission reaffirmed the importance of putting in place, in the very short run, a new instrument for monetary policy management and of quickening the pace of implementation of structural reforms in the financial sector, public enterprises, and public financial management. The mission noted with satisfaction the start of arrears clearance, the reform aimed at introducing a more progressive tax on wages and salaries, and a salary increase for 2013, in line with the objective of keeping the wage bill under control.

“Further, the objectives set for 2013 are designed to consolidate macroeconomic stability in a global environment that will continue to be challenging. They are targeted towards achieving a real GDP growth rate of more than 6 percent, keeping the inflation rate stable, ongoing implementation of fiscal policy geared towards the development of non-extractive industries, and maintaining adequate levels of foreign reserves. Going forward, discussions on the creation of a transparent mining fund and on the devising of a medium-term debt strategy will also contribute to anchoring these achievements.

“In view of the satisfactory performance of the program objectives, Fund staff will recommend that management request the completion of the fifth review under the three-year ECF arrangement, to be taken up by the Executive Board in November 2012.

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Rising purchasing power in Algeria: increasing demand for international brands

Global Arab Network, 26 September 2012 – As Algeria’s economy has continued to sidestep most of the global turbulence, domestic consumption has strengthened, attracting an increasing amount of interest in the country. Alongside a shift away from informal retailers, increasing demand for international brands and medium to high-end retail outlets, supported by rising purchasing power, has been a boon for new mall projects.

One such project is being carried out by Swiss-owned Société des Centres Commerciaux d’Algérie (SCCA), which is developing a retail centre in Oran. The project was announced following the success of SCCA’s first large-scale shopping centre in Bab Ezzouar, on the outskirts of Algiers.

SCCA has laid out plans for a 32,000-sq-metre retail and entertainment complex in the community of Es Sénia, located on the south-western edge of the provincial capital. Spanish architectural firm L35 was chosen to develop the facility on a recently acquired 5-ha plot, and construction is expected to begin by the end of 2012. The choice of the site in Es Sénia, located near the University of Oran and the province’s Ahmed Benbella airport, should help to funnel traffic into the shopping area.

The Es Sénia centre will include roughly 20,000 sq metres of retail space, including a 7500-sq-metre anchor store. Another 10,000 sq metres will be dedicated to leisure facilities. The complex’s mix of retailers is expected to be similar to that of SCCA’s Bab Ezzouar shopping centre, which combines a handful of local retailers with international brands.

The centre will be one of the first large-scale, high-end shopping centres outside of the capital when it opens in 2015. This marks a distinct shift in consumption habits by Algerian consumers, given that the informal retail market is estimated to account for roughly 40% of all retail and trade activity in Algiers, with an even higher percentage in other cities.

This is attributed to a variety of factors. In addition to rising purchasing power over the past few years, the population is increasingly “exposed to foreign retail standards through the internet, television and other media, and is demanding high shopping standards,” Alain Rolland, the general manager of the SCCA, told OBG last year.

While Algeria has a variety of shopping areas and markets, Bab Ezzouar was one of the first to feature a large number of international brands and entertainment areas. In the months following its aggressively hyped opening in August 2010, the shopping centre saw an average of 60,000 visitors per day, with a peak of 90,000 people per day during the first few weeks, which coincided with Ramadan, a key shopping period.

Visitor numbers have since levelled off at an average of 25,000-30,000 individuals per day, with roughly 55-60% of all visitors making purchases, according to SCCA.

The steady footfall figures will likely be reinforced by recent government measures to increase purchasing power and stimulate spending. The government raised public sector salaries in 2011 for the second time in two years and introduced subsidies for household goods. In 2010, the IMF predicted a 4% annual increase in household spending through 2013.

While Bab Ezzouar, and in the future, Es Sénia, fit into the higher end of the retail market, Algeria also has a number of current and planned retail facilities aimed toward the mid-range market. The Algerian company Arcofina Holdings is developing a large mixed-use retail and real estate project on the Bay of Algiers, named Alger Médina, which includes a large shopping mall and a hypermarket and should significantly increase formal retail opportunities in the capital’s city centre in 2012.

In addition, Sidar Algeria, a subsidiary of the Saudi-based real estate developer, manages the Al Qods shopping centre in Algiers, which has been a key outlet for the mid-range retail market since 2008. Sidar is currently developing several new retail projects, including a 62,000-sq-metre commercial and business centre in Oran and the development of four shopping districts and centres in the Algiers area.

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Islamic investment bank in Egypt wants to buy brokerage

Reuters, Wednesday 26 Sep 2012 – Cairo-based Ridge Islamic Capital is seeking to buy a local brokerage as part of its expansion plan, so that it can offer a full range of sharia-compliant financial services in the country, a company official told Reuters. “We want to start providing sharia-compliant brokerage services during the fourth quarter of 2012,” Ahmed Rizkallah, country manager of Ridge Islamic, told Reuters on Wednesday.

He said his firm was looking for an established brokerage with a solid reputation and a track record, but declined to name any possible targets or specify a potential deal size.

Despite Egypt’s current economic troubles, prospects for Islamic finance in the country appear to have improved with last year’s ousting of Hosni Mubarak’s regime and the election in June this year of President Mohamed Mursi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Ridge Islamic plans to develop products in the areas of wealth management and pension funds, Rizkallah said.

Entering Egypt’s takaful (Islamic insurance) market is also on the company’s priority list, either through the purchase of an existing company or by applying for a licence, but this will not happen before the beginning of next year, he added.

Earlier this month the company said it would have $100 million available to place as capital or to invest in funds over the next two years.

Ridge Islamic was created this year through the acquisition by Dubai-based Ridge Solutions International Holdings of Egyptian asset management firm El Rashad Holding. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

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Asialink resident leaves Indonesia inspired

Thu, September 20 2012 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Australian arts producer Kath Papas completed her five-week stay in Indonesia this month, during which she learned about and supported contemporary Indonesian performance.

“Kath Papas is from Melbourne and is a creative producer and consultant who specialises in dance and works with independent artists. She is passionate about creating opportunities for artists, fostering diversity and contributing to the development of the performing arts,” the Australian embassy in Jakarta said on its official website on Thursday.

Papas worked in Indonesia as part of Asialink`s Arts Management Residency Program, which is aimed at enabling arts managers, from all art forms, to work for extended periods of time with a variety of organisations across Asia.

She worked with renowned choreographer and performer Agung Gunawan at the Arts Island Festival in Yogyakarta, building a strong relationship with the festival and deepening her understanding of Indonesian culture.

“The time I spent working with the team and artists from the Arts Island Festival was a culturally enriching experience. I met with local contemporary artists and learned a lot about traditional Indonesian cultural practices, while helped me develop a new connection with the festival,” Papas said.

“I am inspired by Agung`s vision to conduct a festival that reaches beyond the usual hotspots of Jakarta and Yogyakarta and is held in Bali, Kediri and Batu-Malang. This precious time in Indonesia has enabled me to establish relationships with artists and organisations that I will be able to use more broadly in my professional work, especially given my strong focus on international work,” she added.

While in Jakarta, Papas was invited by Kelola to present a workshop on production skills, which was attended by dance artists, arts managers and emerging producers.

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Egypt culture centre in Tripoli to host film forum next month

MENA, Monday 24 Sep 2012 – Under the auspices of the Egyptian embassy in Tripoli and Egyptian Ambassador to Libya Hisham Abdul-Wahab, a forum devoted to Egyptian film will be held in the Libyan capital on 2 October. Egyptian Cultural Attaché in Tripoli El-Helali El-Sherbini told Egypt’s official news agency MENA on Sunday that the forum was being organised in conjunction with the Libyan Film Club and would feature a selection of Egyptian short films and documentaries at the Egyptian Cultural Centre in Tripoli.

El-Sherbini explained that the event aimed to promote greater cooperation with the Libyan Film Club and familiarise its members with the development of documentary and short filmmaking in Egypt.

Egyptian films to be screened at the event are set to include Ayam Al-Radio (‘Radio Days’), Ya’eeshoun Baynana (‘They Live Among Us’), Saet Al-Asary (‘The Evening Hour’), Khaleek A’ed (‘Sit Still’) and Al-Lun Al-Azraq (‘The Colour Blue’).

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Tour de Brunei likely to elevate sports tourism

Borneo Bulletin Online – The Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Hazair bin Hj Abdullah in a speech at the BSB Waterfront hoped that the Brunei-Butra HeidelbergCement Tour De Brunei 2012 would make inroads towards elevating sports tourism and the sports industry and towards being recognised as an international sporting event, which would attract both athletes and supporters and visitors from overseas to Brunei Darussalam.

The minister explained that such an event would create international exposure for the country and achieve its aspiration to become a unique tourist destination. “It is also a proof of how ‘Public-Private Partnership’ can bring about tremendous outcomes for the benefit of the country and people,” he said. “This tournament will also help to generate interest (among) youths, not only in cycling but also in encouraging sports volunteerism, developing character-building amongst the youths, and social and political unity in the spirit of hosting major events.”

Brunei has been primarily active in the increasingly popular sport with the recent Cycling Expedition 2012 in conjunction with the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s 66th birthday celebrations, which saw 700 cyclists completing a gruelling 66km challenge. The minister expressed his confidence that “these events promote a healthy lifestyle through physical activities”.

The minister also confirmed the participation of 19 teams in the Brunei-Butra Heidelberg Cement Tour De Brunei 2012 with 115 riders, comprising six national teams, six continental teams and seven cycling clubs, a year after an impressive hosting of the competition. Highlighting the competitiveness of the event and further re-enhancing the image of local talents in cycling in Brunei, the minister said he was also delighted to learn that the tour will be participated by teams of international cyclists.

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Bangladesh PM calls upon all to step forward for tourism development

DHAKA, Sept 26, 2012 (BSS) – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today called upon all countrymen including tourism related all public and private bodies to step forward for ensuring development of tourism in a sustainable way through using renewable energy. “It is possible to ensure sustainable economic development in the country’s tourism and service sectors through using technology of renewable energy,” she said in a message on the eve of the World Tourism Day-2012.

The Premier said her government put special importance on the tourism sector to project country’s heritage, culture and natural beauty in front of international community. She said this year’s theme of the day “Tourism and Sustainable Energy: Powering Sustainable Development” is very time befitting. Sheikh Hasina wished all success of the World Tourism Day-2012.

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Brunei Tourism promotion seminar at 9th China-Asean Expo

Borneo Bulletin Online – Brunei Tourism participated in the 9th China-Asean Expo in Nanning, China, as part of its continuous efforts to further promote Brunei Darussalam as a unique tourist destination. Aside from the “Brunei City of Charm” tourism booth located within the exhibition halls with other Asean member countries, Brunei Tourism held a seminar to provide visitors an in-depth preview of what they can expect in Brunei.

Present at the seminar was the Director of the Promotion and Facilitation Services Division under the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, Hj Awg Damit bin Hj Mohd Arshad; Wang Jiaxin, First Secretary at the Chinese Consulate in Brunei Darussalam; Ak Zulkhairi Pg Abdul Razak, Brunei Tourism Officer (Far East Markets); Raymond Kong from Beijing Longway, the Brunei Tourism marketing representative in China, and Sheren Khew, Ghanim International Food Corporation representative Compliance Officer.

The seminar started with opening remarks by Hj Awang Damit, followed by brief remarks by Wang Jiaxin who spoke about the many attractions in Brunei, as well as business opportunities, such as large-scale construction, that may become a win-win situation for Brunei and China.

Raymond Kong delivered a presentation about Brunei, the many points of interest, the culture, food and hospitality that Brunei has to offer, as well as the initiatives by their side to promote Brunei Tourism which are by setting up the Chinese version of Brunei Tourism website at www.bruneitourism.com.cn and setting up a Sina Weibo (a hybrid of the popular Facebook and Twitter microblogging site) account weibo.com/btchn, followed by a Q&A session.

Sheren Khew gave her presentation as the last section of the seminar, representing Ghanim International Food Corporation, the Marketing and Trading arm of the Brunei Halal brand. She explained to the participants that Brunei Halal was born out of a concerted effort between crucial governmental bodies and commercial initiatives to introduce its Islamic heritage to the world.

“Brunei Darussalam today has two proud brand ambassadors to date – the Brunei Halal commercial brand, and the Brunei Halal religious accreditation. Brunei Halal religious mark is the religious accreditation aspect of the brand, which works independently but in tandem with the brand. It has served as the standard and only national accreditation in the country of Brunei and is under the authority of the Brunei Religious Council. The religious mark itself is only awarded to manufacturing facilities in Brunei that have achieved the required Halal standards,” she said.

Sheren added that it is revered today to be the strongest and most respected of all Halal accreditation systems due to its independent governance and strict audit controls that are driven by the government.

“It is therefore a concerted effort of political will in the country, a testimony to its diversification ambitions and strict Islamic standards,” she added.

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Govt eyes on bringing Bangladesh in Top 10 Asian tourist destination

DHAKA, Sept 22, 2012 (BSS) – Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister M Faruk Khan today said the government has taken holistic approach to make Bangladesh as one of the top 10 Asian tourist destinations by exploring this untapped economically potential sector of the country.

“We got many exotic natural, cultural and culinary tourist attractions. Now we just need to have good policy and proper investment to make Bangladesh one of the Asian top 10 tourist destinations,” he said while speaking at a tourism conference as the chief guest at a city hotel.

After assuming the state power, the minister said the present government has made tourism sector prioritized as one of the country’s thrust sector and provide such allocation that was higher than any of the previous governments.

“We have already formed Cox’s Bazar and Kuakata Development authorities for ensuring proper ecotourism friendly infrastructure development of these two most excited tourist destinations of Bangladesh,” he said.

He said the government believes that development of tourism would be taken place by the private sector. “We are here to give policy support to the private sector for flourishing tourism,” he added. The minister said the government has started work of establishing exclusive tourism zone only for the foreign tourists at an area of 1000 acre in Shahporir dip in Teknaf.

“Now we are getting many proposal of foreign investment for development of the country’s tourism sector,” he said and adding presently his ministry is scrutinizing the proposals to allow proper sustainable and environment friendly foreign tourism investment in the country.

The minister laid emphasis on brining diversification in the country’s tourism. “You can’t keep tourists more than one day by showing one particular attraction, for that we need to bring diversification in tourism with a blend of natural beauty, culture and heritage,” he added.

Policy Research Centre Bangladesh (PRCbd), a civil society think tank organized the conference titled ‘Beautiful Bangladesh-towards Asia’s Top Tourist Destination. Faculty member of Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB) Qantara K Khan presented the keynote paper.

Member of Parliament Advocate Sikder, Danish Ambassador to Bangladesh Svend Olling, former ambassador of Bangladesh to Nepal Professor Dr Neem Chandra Bhowmik, Chief Executive Officer of Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) Akhteruzaman Khan, Executive director of Himalayan Institute of Development, Nepal Professor Prakash Raj Sapkota, and PRCbd chairman Professor Dr Akbaruddin Ahmed also spoke, among others on the occasion.

In her keynote paper, Qantara said the World Travel and Tourism Council (2011) claimed the direct contribution of tourism sector was 2.3 percent of the country’s national GDP, somewhere around Taka 184.4 billion in 2011 that would be increased by 6.3 percent to Taka 339.2 billion in 2021.

She marked lack of preservation, inadequate transport facilities, shortage of accommodation, security concerns, weak management, lack of knowledge, complicacy in issuing visa, lack of budgetary allocation and lack of publicity and marketing activities as drawbacks of Bangladesh tourism sector.

She recommended imparting training and education on tourism,ensuring security for tourists, conducting positive propaganda, branding Bangladesh, encouraging local people, increasing basic infrastructure, welcoming private initiative, diversifying food culture, promoting public private partnership in tourism, increasing relational activities, creating tourism products for sustainable development of tourism sector in Bangladesh.

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Badakhshan aims to become a tourist haven

Centralasiaonline.com 2012-09-26 KHOROG – Just a dozen years ago, the mountainous Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO), Tajikistan, was a forgotten place on the edge of the earth. Now Khorog, a town that recently received media attention because of a July battle between government troops and militants, holds the potential to become known not only as a hub for insurgents but as a tourist haven, observers say.

“Ten years ago, counter-terrorism operations were taking place nearby,” Khorog travel agent Murtoza Gafurov said. “The development of tourism in Badakhshan was unthinkable. There was no infrastructure for foreign travellers.”

Now, though, Badakhshan is gaining popularity among low-budget travellers, including hikers, bicyclists and motorcyclists, he said.

“Prices are low, the nature is lovely, there are things to see and do both in summer and winter, and the food is delicious,” said Gafurov, who added that he gets more than 100 tourists a year. Recent events have affected tourism, of course, and I lost about half of my clients for a couple of weeks. But I hope that we will recover, and visitors will start coming back.”

Khorog, with a population of more than 50,000, had reported growth in the tourist industry before this year’s militant action.

More than 183,000 tourists visited Tajikistan in 2011, according to the Tajik Statistical Agency. About one-sixth of them (30,000) visited Badakhshan, whereas five years ago, the GBAO saw no more than a couple of thousand visitors per year, tourism specialists said, attributing the uptick to a 2010 visit by the World Tourism Organisation’s secretary general that garnered interest in the area.

The thinking is that if the GBAO can continue developing tourism, it will improve the economy and curtail militant actions. About 15% of the population works in tourism year round, and more join the industry in summer.

“If we can develop tourism, there will be more work and less discontent, and who then will support the militants?” asked a local resident and elder, Abduali. “Please come and visit us. We are hospitable people, and there is much to see and do in our mountains.”

Tourism is also starting to drive economic development in other sectors. “With the increase in tourism to the city and oblast, establishments that provide employment for the locals – such as guest houses, cafes, small companies that manufacture and sell souvenirs, transportation providers for tourists and, finally, travel agencies – are opening,” said Shagarf Sherzod, the head of a Khorog tour agency, Pamir Silk Travel.

The Tajik government, with help from Norway, is financing the construction of guest houses and the development of tour guide services. And the Aga Khan Fund, named after the spiritual leader of the Ismailis, has helped finance tourism projects in local communities. For example, in the Afghan village of Sarhad, which has a population of 500, three guest houses have been built with the fund’s help.

Zarik Amirmamat, the owner of one of the Aga Khan-funded guest houses, said the tourist business will significantly boost his family income, which previously relied on agriculture alone. “Over the summer, 100 to 120 tourists stay with us,” he said. “We provide them with accommodation and simple food, the best we can, for a small fee.”

Tourists are attracted to Badakhshan by the local customs, the ability to climb previously inaccessible mountains and the beautiful scenery.

Two young tourists from Germany, Michael Tshirwa and Marie Spindler, are travelling around Badakhshan by bicycle and described their trip as interesting and educational. “The people we have met here are very welcoming and open,” Tshirwa said. “The locals are very hospitable, and the nature is strikingly beautiful. In addition, prices here are low, which is important for young tourists like us.”

Sherzod expressed hope the Tajik government would further help develop tourism in the region. That’s a hope that might be realised. When Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon visited the GBAO recently, he pledged to help with development.

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Istanbul bay welcomes floating piers for yachts

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet – Two floating piers with a 388-boat capacity will be inaugurated tomorrow in the Tarabya and İstinye districts on Istanbul’s European side of the Bosphorus. The floating pier project was conceptualized by İSPARK, a subsidiary of the Istanbul Municipality that runs and constructs parking lots in the city, to provide a solution to irregular moorings in Istanbul’s bays. A tender for the project was opened in March 2011.

The demand for this boat parking, exceeding 1,000 spaces, is far more than the current capacity. The municipality plans to open more parks increasing the total capacity to 5,000. The piers, which cost 10 million Turkish Liras, were constructed by Ekin Yapı. Water, electricity, shower facilities and security will be provided on the piers for boat owners, who can rent space on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis.

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New book approaches Ottoman history through jewelry

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News – Gül İrepoğlu’s book is a fresh alternative to reading about the Ottoman Empire’s journey from magnificence to decay using a dynastic jewelry collection. In examining a dynastic jewelry collection, art historian and novelist Gül İrepoğlu’s latest book reveals that as the Ottoman Empire approached its end, jewelry manufactured at the time decreased in quality despite an increase in the size of gems used.

On the whole, the book, titled “Imperial Ottoman Jewelry: Reading History through Jewelry,” offers an alternative way of learning about the history of the Ottoman Empire’s journey from magnificence to decay. The book presents a fresh attempt at cultural history writing, examining a rather new and rarely studied field for both Ottoman historians and general readers alike.

According to İrepoğlu’s research, jewelry was seem most during the empire’s growth period, which could be traced back to the reign of the Selim I. “In the 16th century the craftsmanship of the goldsmiths is excellent and the priority is a colorful design. This continued until Ahmed I’s reign. But after him, although the interest in jewelry continued, the quality drastically dropped. Hand-made pieces were replaced with standardized, molded mountings,” İrepoğlu said.

When the empire began to move into a period of decline and when land losses reached their peak, a denial of the slow downward trend was reflected in the jewelry designs of the time, similar to the case of the construction of Yıldız and Dolmabahçe palaces.

“When the empire was literally sinking, what the Ottoman rulers could only think to do was to hide it. In order to give a falsified impression of welfare and wealth, they liberally emptied the treasury. This is very noticeable in jewelry designs. The worse the empire got, the bigger the gems on the pieces of jewelry of grew. A fake magnificence was shown off at a symbolic level to conceal the decay of the empire, which had already become too visible to hide,” she said.

İrepoğlu carefully described her book as just an opening to an extremely rich field of study, adding that she would continue her research in Ottoman jewelry with a study of the Sultan’s aigrettes.

The roots of the book date back to 1986 when İrepoğlu published her first article on the Ottoman dynasty’s jewelry collection. In the following years, İrepoğlu continued to collect data about the jewelry collections of world dynasties, mostly through museums’ souvenir shops. “I made myself a huge library on jewelry out of museum bookshops,” she said. Similarly, İrepoğlu’s book is on sale at the Topkapı Palace’s souvenir shop.

“My chief research sources among all of Topkapı’s archival documents were inheritance registries known as ‘muhallefat.’ According to Ottoman legislation, when a statesman or a member of the dynasty dies, all his property is counted and officially registered. As there is no private property concept in the Ottoman Empire and everything in Ottoman territory, including people, is the sultan’s property, there is no inheritance law. After the property of the deceased was counted, all of it was transferred to the Ottoman Treasury. It was the sultan’s prerogative to either donate a portion of the inheritance to the deceased’s inheritors so that they could live on it. However, the sultan did not have to grant that,” she said.

Letters and diaries

İrepoğlu’s second basic resource for research was letters and diaries written by members of the dynasty. One very sad example was a letter written by Safiye Sultan, wife of Sultan Murad III, who used to be a very powerful figure during her son Mehmed III’s reign, İrepoğlu said. Upon the ascension of her son Mehmed III to the throne in 1595.

“After Mehmed III’s death, Ahmed I ascended on the throne. He broke with the fratricide tradition and sent his brother Mustafa to live at the old palace at Beyazıt Square, along with their grandmother Safiye Sultan. And Safiye Sultan’s property was confiscated in the process. In this letter that I found in the Topkapı Palace archive, Safiye Sultan claims her jewels back, saying she did not inherit them but had bought them with her own allowance.” İrepoğlu said this story is very instrumental in understanding what the concept of jewelry stood for in a culture that has no notion of private property,” the author said.

“When we are talking about jewelry, the reader should immediately think of the Ottoman sultans, not their wives. Then, the reader should consider (the jewelry) as a belonging, not a means of adornment for Harem women,” she said.

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İzmir Opera and Ballet opens Bosnian festival

IZMIR – Hürriyet Daily News – The Third Sarajevo Ballet Festival opened in Bosnia-Herzegovina’s capital of Sarajevo on Sept. 20 with a performance of “Othello” by the İzmir State Opera and Ballet’s 33-member group. The performance was choreographed by Uğur Seyrek. The İzmir State Opera and Ballet soloist Aytül Büyüksaraç said that they had been invited to the festival upon invitation by the Sarajevo Public Theater.

Aside from Turkey, ballet dancers from Serbia, Macedonia, Ukraine and Bosnia-Herzegovina joined in the inauguration of the festival.

Despite Bosnia’s sour economy and the financial constraints on most of the country’s cultural institutions, the festival’s organizers insist they will fight to keep it alive, including by attracting audiences with their program and by inviting interesting guests from the Balkans and further afield.

This year’s festival will continue until Sept. 27

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Cambridge Gets Eco Mosque

IslamOnline 25/09/2012 LONDON – After years of planning and campaigning, Muslim plans to build the first environment-friendly mosque in the British city of Cambridge have finally been approved. “This is wonderful news for Cambridge,” said Tim Winter, Chair of the Muslim Academic Trust, the UK charity promoting the new mosque development, was quoted as saying by Euronews.

Muslims have applied in 2008 to an environment-friendly mosque in Cambridge, Europe’s first eco mosque. The Muslim worship place was suggested to help minimize carbon emissions and maximize the role of faiths in environment protection.

Following years of campaigning, the Muslim plans have finally received planning permission. “Cambridge is one of Britain’s great international cities, welcoming thousands of overseas students and academics every year, many of them of Muslim heritage,” Winter said. “It’s tragic that there is still no significant purpose-built mosque to accommodate this community. Now a solution is in sight.”

The mosque will incorporate many green features, including a large community garden which will be created by world-leading landscape designer Emma Clark.

The garden will offer a much needed green lung and oasis for the run-down part of Cambridge, Winter explained. Heat pumps, water recycling, natural ventilation and lighting and a sedum roof are also included in the mosque design. The Muslim project also dedicates areas to support the nesting of local bird species and facilities provided for cyclists.

The mosque will also include a teaching zone for the entire community, a cafe with a garden terrace, an art exhibition space and a performance area.

The new mosque is seen as evidence on Islam champions the protection of environment. “Reflecting Islam’s contribution to contemporary debates over sustainability, the mosque will incorporate significant design features which will minimize carbon emission and emphasize the role of faith in promoting responsible management of the earth’s resources,” the Muslim Academic Trust said.

The mosque committee is now working to raise the money needed for the mosque construction. Donating brick by brick, Muslims have raised 67,832 of the 350,000 bricks needed to build the mosque, representing 19% of the funds needed.

In Islamic Shari’ah, there are regulations and guidelines on how we are supposed to treat the natural world. It is forbidden in Islam to kill animals without necessity. The slaughtering of animals for consumption provides food and clothing, while hunting for sport is considered unnecessary cruelty.

It is also prohibited to cut down trees without just cause. Damage to the natural environment and all living things is a criminal offence and laws do exist for protection, assigning punishments to those who oppose the law. The punishment of crimes against nature, as well as the duty to protect and conserve Allah’s creation, makes Islam very much in tune with the needs of the environment.


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Toronto Muslims Preserve Environment

IslamOnline 26/09/2012 TORONTO – Joining hands with their non-Muslim neighbors, Muslims in Canada’s largest city of Toronto have taken part in a national environmental program to reduce the harmful effect of litter on fragile aquatic ecosystems.

“Shoreline cleanups are important because they are a tangible means to mitigate pollution, reduce threats to wildlife and ecological health, and reconnect people with nature to help keep our shared waters sustainable,” Aasiya Hussain of Ecohesian Inc. and Site Coordinator of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup at the Finch Meander site told OnIslam.net.

At the Finch Meander in the Rouge Park community, located in the north-east of the Toronto, a number of Muslim groups collaborated this weekend in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. Among participating groups are CivicMuslims, Khaleafa.com, Canadian Muslim Fellowship of Scouting, Islamic Institute of Toronto and Pickering Islamic Center.

During the cleanup, participants removed harmful items from the shorelines of a small river, near the north end of the Metro Toronto Zoo, and recorded the type and amount of litter they collected on data cards.

“From our rivers, to our lakes, to our oceans – water connects us all,” Hussain said. “And as Canadians, we have a strong connection with water. Our nation has the longest shoreline in the world, 20% of the world’s freshwater, and 7% of the world’s renewable freshwater supply – we’re also blessed with breathtakingly beautiful and essential natural capital.”

In 2002, the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup emerged as a national program, providing all Canadians the opportunity to make a difference in their local communities. Shoreline Cleanups started appearing in every province and territory, and by 2011, the Shoreline Cleanup celebrated its 18th anniversary with more than 56,000 volunteers.

Over the following years, the program continued to expand its reach and influence, aided by the support of sponsors, donors, and partners, such as WWF Canada, who became a full partner of the Shoreline Cleanup in 2010. Today, it is recognized as one of the largest direct action conservation programs, as well as the most significant contributor to the International Coastal Cleanup in Canada.

Meanwhile, a group of students from the University of Toronto came out to another site at Cherry Beach to take part in the Shoreline Cleanup as part of a monthly program that seeks to actualize virtues through a community service project.

“Our Shoreline Cleanup was organized by the Multi-Faith Center and Volunteering with Virtue, with help from a number of other organizations, including Common Ground Project, Hillel, Muslim Students’ Association, and Faiths Act, UofT,” Ishraq Alim, one of the student organizers, told OnIslam.net.

“Volunteering with Virtue is a once-a-month project that brings together students and youth of different faith backgrounds to discuss common virtues and to work together on a community service project,” he said. “This month’s theme was Environmental Preservation.”

Following the cleanup, the students reflected on the day’s project. “We discussed what we came out of the event,” said Alim. “Some students were quite impressed at the efforts of Toronto Parks Services at keeping the beaches clean, while others were quite surprised by the level of small and unusual items that were left on the beach, such as cigarette butts, drinking straws, personal hygiene material and a coconut.”

Participants have praised cooperation between followers of different faiths in preserving environment. “The efforts of today’s volunteers and supporters from various faith-based, environmental, business, educational, and outdoor communities were inspiring,” Hussain said. “Our collective efforts became a tangible means to keep our shared waters and environment sustainable, while leaving a positive national legacy for generations to come.”


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Kuwait Fund Offers US$60.5 Million Loan To Egypt

CAIRO, Sept 26 (NNN-KUNA) — In the presence of Egypt’s Prime Minister Hesham Qandil, the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) signed here a KD 17 million (USD 60.5 million) loan to Egypt for the second stage of an expansion of the natural gas network project in the governorates of Cairo and Giza. The project aims to leverage the household, industrial and commercial uses of natural gas as an environmentally-friendly fuel that could help curb the growing rate of air pollution.

The two sides also signed on Tuesday an agreement on the arrangements of the partnership between the KFAED and the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS), which is implementing the project.

The documents were signed by KFAED’s Director-General Abdulwahab Al-Bader, on one hand, and the Egyptian Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Dr Ashraf Al-Araby and EGAS Board Chairman Mohammed Shu’aib.

Al-Bader said: “The loan agreement signed today is the 36th of its kind between KFAED and the Egyptian government and affiliate agencies. The loans, amounting in value to KD 584 million (about USD 60 billion), were channelled to projects in various development sectors.

“The Fund offered Egypt eight grants for technical assistance amounting to KD 1.97 million (USD 6.9 million) that helped develop feasibility studies for economic projects,” he noted. “The Fund has also managed two grants from the Kuwaiti government to Egypt that totalled in value KD 4.8 million (USD 16.1 million) to help rehabilitate public schools in the wake of the devastating earthquake of October, 1992, and the torrential rains of 1995,” he added.

On his part, the Egyptian Minister of Petroleum and Metallurgical Wealth said the second stage of the national gas project aims to meet the needs of 500,000 consumers of natural gas. “The project targets launching six gas pumping stations with a total capacity of 450 cu metres/hour and extending gas pipelines. “The projects costs up to 1.5 billion Egyptian pounds (some KD 75.6 million). KFAED’s loan, to be repaid over 21 years with a four-year grace period, will cover 49 per cent of the total cost of the project,” the minister added.

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Call For Concerted Effort By ASEAN To Develop Halal Industry

From Linda Khoo

BANGKOK, Thailand Sept 25 (NNN-Bernama) — A halal science centre in Thailand has called for a concerted effort by Asean countries to develop a regional halal industry, using a globally-accepted unified logo and certificate.

The Halal Science Centre of Chulalongkorn University (HSC-CU) felt that a unified logo and certificate would be accepted by all organisations and countries and enable Asean to tap into the emerging halal markets.

Its assistant director, Sulida Wangchi, said each of the Asean member countries now had its own logo and certification which were not universally accepted.

She anticipated tremendous growth in the halal industry following increasing demand for halal food and other consumer products, but lamented that the market was currently dominated by countries such as Brazil, China and the United States.

“Therefore, it is better for Asean members to work together using a unified halal logo and certificate which will be accepted by all organisations so that we can compete with them and tap into the emerging halal markets,” she told a group of Malaysian journalists who visited the Halal Science Centre of the university, here.

The visit was part of a media familiarisation trip to Thailand hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand.

Today, there is an estimated population of 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide and the global demand for halal products for both the food and non-food sectors is estimated at US$2.3 trillion (RM7.05 trillion).

Sulida said Asean countries with Muslim populations, such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, should take the lead to capitalise on the potential complementarities and collaborate to explore the huge potential halal market.

“The halal market is the future for Asean, especially after the Asean Economic Community comes into effect in 2015. There are many areas that Asean countries can look into to tap the halal market, especially among member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

“Therefore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia should be at the centre of Asean in the halal industry and we must strengthen our cooperation and use our expertise to ensure that halal products from Asean pass the international standards, right from the raw material up to the store shelf,” she said.

Sulida said Asean countries must work closely as halal products from Asean could face trade barriers and other policy challenges outside the region because of countries protecting their homgrown products.

She also said that Thailand hoped to work closely with Malaysia to develop the halal food industry in the region.

The HSC-CU would sign two memorandums of understanding (MOU) with Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) on science and technology to support the halal industry, at the Halal Science, Industry and

Business International Conference (HASIB) 2012 in Hat Yai from Oct 13 to 15, she said.

The conference was being held in conjunction with the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle Halal Expo 2012, and the topics to be discussed include Halal ICT and Innovation, Seamless Potential of the Halal Industry and Business in the Halal Economy.

Sulida welcomed Malaysian halal industry players to participate in the HASIB 2012.

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Islamic Development Bank Launches First Representative Office In Indonesia

JEDDAH, Sept 24 (NNN-QNA) — The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has launched the first representative office for its Business Forum (THIQAH) outside Saudi Arabia, at the office of the Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) in Jakarta. The IDB said in a statement on Sunday that the step is in line with an attempt to strengthen trade relations among the private sector in member countries.

Signing a memorandum of understanding with Khaled Al-Aboodi, CEO of the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), IDB Group’s private sector arm, Chatib Basri, Chairman of BKPM, said that the opening of the THIQAH office in Indonesia was aligned with their efforts to attract more investment from IDB Group’s member countries and thus boost economic growth in his country. He stressed that fostering stronger strategic partnership with business organisations of IDB member countries was one of their main objectives.

Representing the IDB Group, Al-Aboodi stated that the occasion marks an important step in strategic partnership between the government of Indonesia and the IDB Group towards creating better trade relations and business opportunities especially in the private sector.

The office is expected to play an important role in promoting Indonesia as a preferred investment destination for member countries of the IDB Group. The THIQAH’s mission is to establish strategic partnerships with the private sector and spearhead efforts to maximize cross-border investments among the IDB Group member countries.

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Algeria Taking Part In Burkina Faso Tourism & Hotels Fair Beginning Sept 27

ALGIERS, Sept 27 (NNN-APS) — Algeria is participating for the first time in the International Tourism and Hotels Fair of Ouagadougou (SITHO) in Burkina Faso, being held from from Sept 27 to 30, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Craft Industry here.

The ministry said in a statement Wednesday that the fair was being organized by the Burkina Faso Ministry of Arts, Culture and Tourism under the theme “Which strategy for better service”.

The fair will allow the organizing country and participants to enhance and highlight their tourism potential and ensure the promotion of their products.

The Algerian participation in this fair is part of the implementation of a programme of the National Tourism Office (ONT) to promote its activities abroad. A space has been reserved for ONT to promote the Algerian destination.

Algerian tour operators will also have the opportunity to build business relationships with foreign partners while ONT will present its message under the theme “The role of tourism in the domestic economy”, the ministry added. The cultural activities at the Algerian stand will highlight a Bedouin folk troupe and basketry and copper craftsmen.

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Dubai To Set Up First Crocodile Park In The Middle East

DUBAI, Sept 26 (NNN-QNA) — Dubai is planning to set up a crocodile park in the near future as its latest tourism attraction. The project would be the first of its kind in the Middle East.

The Dubai Municipality said the crocodile park would be set up “in the near future,” adding that it was studying similar parks in France, Tunisia and Belgium.

The project entails an estimated investment of about USD 8 million to USD 10 million. Expected to come up near the planned Dubai Safari in Mushriff area, the park would be spread over 25,000 square metres of area and house Nile crocodiles. The authorities are targeting to complete the project by next year.

“We are holding discussions with the investors and once that is done, the park would take about nine to 11 months to come up. Apart from attracting tourists, the park would be an educational destination where people will be able to see how crocodiles live,” Faisal Jumaa Al Badaiwi, Head of Investment Unit of Assets Management Department, told the UAE daily (Gulf News).

As of now, discussions are on with investors which include a local and a French investor. “We are discussing the details with a French company that is already handling three crocodile parks. The design is yet to be finalised,” added Al Badaiwi.

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Islamic assets seen jumping to $ 3tn on Asia, GCC

Gulf Times – 26 September, 2012 – Global Islamic financial assets will double by 2015 to as much as $ 3tn as demand for the securities in the Gulf Co-operation Council and Malaysia lures issuers to the market, Standard and Poor’s has said. Yields on Shariah-compliant bonds, known as sukuk and paying returns on assets to comply with Islam’s ban on interest, dropped to record lows this month, prompting issuers including the Turkish government to sell the securities.

Islamic financial assets are currently valued at $ 1.3tn, S&P financial services associate Paul-Henri Pruvost said.

“There is a classic imbalance between demand and offer in the Islamic finance sphere, it’s really demand driven,” Pruvost said yesterday. “We could well be looking at a $ 2 to $ 3tn industry by 2015.”

Global sales of Shariah-compliant bonds jumped to $ 36bn this year, just shy of 2011’s full-year record of $ 36.7bn, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The average global sukuk yield fell 102 basis points, or 1.02 percentage points, in 2012 to a record 2.97% on September 14, before rising to 3.03% on Monday, the HSBC/Nasdaq Dubai US Dollar Sukuk Index shows.

That compares with a yield of 4.14% on non-Islamic Middle East bonds tracked by HSBC/Nasdaq Dubai’s Middle East Conventional US Dollar Bond Index.

Pruvost said a doubling of the industry’s assets by 2015 was a “conservative estimate,” and that if they tripled it “wouldn’t be shocking.” Turkey sold $ 1.5bn of sukuk in a debut offering this month, receiving bids valued at $ 8bn.

Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board is also seeking approval from Malaysian authorities to issue Shariah-compliant notes, Dermot O’Reilly, business development executive at the Irish International Development Agency, said last week.

Still, the value of sukuk sold this year compares with $ 2.9tn of international bonds sold in 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. A key hurdle impeding the industry’s ability to take a greater share of global business is a lack of cross-border “standardisation,” Pruvost said.

Companies and governments aren’t bound by the regulations set by standard-setting bodies including Manama-based Accounting & Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions and Kuala Lumpur-based Islamic Financial Services Board.

“If you take a bank in Saudi Arabia, they will say ‘we have a golden standard in terms of Shariah, and we cannot invest in sukuk issued in Malaysia because it is not a similar interpretation’,” Pruvost said. “So even in some parts of the industry, they confiscate some of the possibilities that are offered to them.”

Malaysia is “creating a template that has some chance to be adopted by other neighbouring countries,” he added.

Islamic finance is growing in the six-nation GCC, which supplies about a fifth of the world’s oil. The Gulf region’s industry for Islamic insurance, known as takaful, will “continue to significantly grow faster than local and global conventional insurance,” S&P said in a report yesterday.

Saudi Hollandi Bank’s board this month approved plans to sell Islamic bonds valued at 1.4bn riyals ($ 373mn), while Qatar Islamic Bank plans to raise as much as $ 750mn of the debt. “The momentum continues because this industry is in a maturation phase,” Pruvost said. “It’s a small amount of the global financial sphere, so it has room to grow.”

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More efforts needed to promote Saudi tourism

Arab News – 25 September, 2012 – The Kingdom still needs to grow more in terms of tourism and manpower, says a top industrialist. “Saudi laws are still inadequate in terms of boosting tourism,” Dr. Nasser bin Aqeel Al-Tayyar, president of Al-Tayyar Travel Group, told Arab News in an interview.

Dr. Nasser, who has been ranked 13th overall by Arabian Travel News in 2010, is a prominent Saudi personality from the private sector in the tourism industry.

Despite the inadequacies in the Saudi tourism laws, Al-Tayyar group plays an important role in the tourism sector, promoting internal and external tourism in light of the global developments, thus enhancing its contribution to the GDP.

Through his vision, experience and education, Dr. Nasser has been able to lead Al-Tayyar Travel Group to various achievements over the past three decades. “I expect a major renaissance in terms of the economy, especially investments and infrastructure,” he said.

“Building the Kingdom’s infrastructure and managing it is the biggest challenge that we face today. We have many projects that are pending and consequently delaying the country’s development and progress,” said Dr. Nasser. “We should invest more in education. We should benefit from the 300,000 students who study abroad,” he said.

He also stressed the need to secure women’s economic, financial and social rights. “Driving is a clear example about the rights that Saudi women have to get. Islam doesn’t ban driving by women,” he added.

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MENA region invests $ 250b in new rail projects until ’15

Saudi Gazette – 25 September, 2012 – Rail construction boom in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is expected tomaterialize in the next three years as the region allocates more than $ 250 billion worth of investments in various rail projects. The region has one of the lowest density rail networks in the world, with just under 34,000 km of track over a landmass of 15 million square km. The boom in the construction of railway infrastructure is expected to double the track network to 67,000 km and create huge opportunities for local and international businesses – from consultancy and design services to track, rolling stock and communication systems.

This year, there are currently $ 156 billion worth of rail projects planned or under way in the region, according to projects tracker MEED Projects. Nearly 29 percent of these are currently being built and 12.5 percent are currently being tendered. The most active countries are those that cover large areas and have comparatively large populations. Iran has the most projects planned or under way with $ 34 billion of schemes, closely followed by Saudi Arabia with $ 31 billion. Other markets with more than $ 10 billion of projects are Iraq with $ 13 billion, Kuwait with $ 14 billion, Qatar $ 13 billion, and the UAE with $ 14 billion.

Against this backdrop, MEED’s “MENA Rail Projects 2012” conference will be held on Oct. 15-17 at the Beach Rotana Hotel, Abu Dhabi, to address, among others, a myriad of challenges such as interoperability issues, financing and resourcing.

In addition, conference attendees will get the inside track from clients on project pipelines and announcements, including updates and developments on the Saudi Landbridge, Haramain High-Speed Rail network, North South Railway, the Doha Metro, an operational assessment of Dubai Metro’s planned Green and Red line networks and Kuwait’s $ 7 billion, 3 line metro network.

Government officials and railway operators in attendance will likewise provide real-time project updates and opportunities, such as railway developments taking place in Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Libya; thus providing visitors the opportunity to capitalize on the opportunities in these exciting new markets.

Andrew Price, respected transport economist and former advisor of the UK’s Department of Transport, will present how various stakeholders can capitalize on the rail projects opportunities in the region, exploit favorable market conditions and protect against forecasted challenges in developing markets

For new work in the near future, different markets will dominate as smaller rapidly growing countries develop urban rail schemes. Qatar currently had $ 8.5 billion of railway construction contracts out to tender, Iraq has $ 2.5 billion and Tunisia has $ 2.1 billion.

The most significant scheme to start construction over the coming year will be in Doha, which recently invited 18 consortiums to bid for five packages on its proposed metro network that will alleviate congestion in the Qatari capital and transport football fans across the city during the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The tenders attracted international interest and more than 60 local and international groups attempted to prequalify to bid for construction work.

A much as $ 149 billion worth of rail projects are in the planning or construction stages in the Arabian Gulf up to 2030, according to Zawya data. These projects include plans for national railway systems, city rail systems or metros, and trams. Some of these will ultimately converge to form part of the ambitious GCC Rail project, which aims to unify the region and enhance people connectivity and freight movement. The population of the six Gulf countries is expected to grow to 49.4 million in 2016, according to research by Samba Financial Group.

With crude oil prices averaging around $ 115 per barrel in the first half of 2012, the GCC governments will fundamentally remain committed to spending.

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SFD to finance Tunisia projects

Arab News – 26 September, 2012 – Saudi Fund for Development yesterday signed three agreements in Tunis to provide soft loans worth SR 828.7 million to finance Tunisia’s development projects, bringing total SFD loans to the country to SR 2.2 billion.

The deals were signed by SFD Managing Director Yousuf Al-Bassam and Tunisian Investment and International Cooperation Minister Riyad Baltayeb in the presence of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali and Saudi Ambassador Khaled Al-Anqari.

Al-Bassam said the new loan agreements would boost Tunisia’s development as it would finance vital projects. Altayeb highlighted the strong relations between the two countries.

SFD will give SR 450 million for an electricity project in Sousa, SR 318.75 million to finance a gas pipeline project and SR 60 million to develop the country’s vocational training system, an official statement said.

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Saudi Arabia-Pakistan trade surged to SR 18 bn in 2011

Arab News – 27 September, 2012 – Trade exchange between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan rose 31 percent to SR 18 billion in 2011 compared to the previous year, Commerce and Industry Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah announced yesterday.

Addressing the Saudi-Pakistani Joint Commission, he expressed his optimism that the meeting would boost commercial and economic relations between the two OIC countries. He urged Saudi and Pakistani businessmen and women to make use of the huge investment opportunities in both countries.

“We have to work together to mobilize our untapped potentials in various sectors including trade, investment and information technology for the welfare and progress of people in our countries,” the Saudi minister said.

He said Saudi and Pakistan businessmen could play a big role in accelerating the economic progress of their countries by entering into joint ventures in vital sectors, making use of incentives offered by governments.

Al-Rabiah underscored the deep-rooted relations between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and thanked Islamabad for hosting the commission’s 9th meeting. Pakistan’s Commerce Minister Amin Fahim led his country’s delegation during the talks.

Al-Rabiah commended the contribution of more than a million Pakistani expatriate workers to the Kingdom’s development. “We receive about 200,000 Haj pilgrims and 500,000 Umrah pilgrims from Pakistan every year.”

The Saudi minister arrived here last night at the head of a large business delegation. During the commission meeting, Pakistan will seek Saudi support to finalize Pak-Gulf Cooperation Council negotiations on free trade agreement and investments in various sectors.

According to informed sources, the two sides would take up issues ranging from trade to investment and cooperation in energy during the two-day Islamabad talks.

The discussions will also cover cooperation in banking, industry, investment, power sector, energy, petroleum products and infrastructure, one source said.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy excellent relations. The close geographical proximity, historic trade ties, religious affinity and the complementary nature of economic needs have created a strong bondage of trust between the two countries. In addition, there is a convergence of views and interests of the two countries on most of the regional and international issues.

In the trade sector, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia maintain good relations that are improving with the passage of time. The Kingdom is among the top 15 major export destinations of Pakistan. Saudi-Pak annual bilateral trade stands at nearly $ 5 billion. Major items of exports from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia include raw cotton, cotton yarn, cotton cloth, readymade garments, bed linen, towels, tents and canvas, art silk and synthetic textiles, leather garments, furniture, carpets and rugs, footwear, sports goods and surgical goods, rice, fish, fruits, vegetables, spices, biscuits, jams, and juices.

Pakistan imports petroleum from Saudi Arabia. Other imports from Saudi Arabia include petrochemicals, organic chemical products, plastic and plastic products, fertilizers, steel products, electrical equipment and materials, raw skins, tanned leather, boilers and heavy equipment, copper and copper products, aluminum and aluminum products, chemicals (in-organic), components, precious metals, steel castings, tractors and other floor coverings of man-made fibers, various chemical products, rubber and rubber products.

There are more than 350 Pakistani investors in the Kingdom who have obtained licenses from Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) and have established companies in various fields of construction and services.

Major joint venture investments both in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan include companies like HUBCO, Pak Electron, Attock Cement, National Tiles and Ceramics, Saudi-Pak Industrial and Agricultural Investment Company, Prime Commercial Bank, Falcon Cement, Attock Oil Refinery, Pak-Arab Refinery, Pakistan Cables Limited, Faisal Islamic Bank, Sanaullah Woolen Mills, Al-Dahlawi Sana Co. for manufacturing Surgical Strings, National Fabric Products Factory, United Spinning & Textile Factories Co., Al-Olyan Descon Engineering Co.

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Foreign investment in Iran grows by 83%

Tehran Times – 27 September, 2012 – Foreign investment in Iran amounted to $ 6.8 billion in the first half of the current Iranian calendar year, which began on March 20, showing 83 percent rise year on year, the director of the Organization for Investment, Economic and Technical Assistance of Iran said.

“It is projected that Iran will attract $ 10 billion in foreign investment during the current year,” the IRIB quoted Behrouz Alishiri as saying on Wednesday.

On September 3, Alishiri told the Mehr News Agency that foreign investment in Iran hit $ 4.37 billion in the previous Iranian calendar year, which is a 141 percent rise compared to four years ago.

However, Iran needs up to $ 400 billion in direct foreign investment to materialize its objective of 8 percent economic growth, he added.

Over the next five years, the government will need new sources of capital sourced through the input of national and international private finance, Alishiri said.

In October 2011, he noted that Iran was one of the top destinations in the world for direct foreign investment and that despite the economic sanctions, more than 400 foreign companies were directly investing in Iran.

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Arab Monetary Fund in $127m loan to Morocco

Reuters, Tuesday 25 Sep 2012 – The Arab Monetary Fund said on Tuesday it was arranging a $127 million credit facility for Morocco to help the North African nation deal with rising food prices, which could threaten its political stability. “The amount of the loan contributes to helping the Kingdom of Morocco confront urgent economic conditions, including the increasing value of imported agricultural products,” the Fund, a regional Arab body with 22 member states, said in a statement.

It did not give details of the loan, but said it would bring the Fund’s total lending to Morocco so far to $1.46 billion. Since last year Morocco has experienced bouts of protest against poverty, corruption and the perceived failure of the state to help – complaints which sparked ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings in other North African countries in 2011.

In June the Moroccan government announced one of the sharpest rises in fuel prices in several years as part of plans to cut subsidies on food and energy products and reduce the burden on state finances.

Morocco has been hit by the economic slump in Europe, a major trading partner and source of tourism revenues and workers’ remittances. The International Monetary Fund approved a $6.2 billion, two-year precautionary line of credit for Morocco in August, in case its economy deteriorated and it faced sudden financing needs.

Also, wealthy Gulf Arab states – Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – have pledged a combined $5 billion of financial aid to Morocco, according to the IMF, but it is not clear if any of that money has been delivered so far.

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