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5 Nov, 2012

Afghan Hidden Treasures Exhibition to Tour Australia in 2013-14

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 05 November 2012 (20 Dhul Ḥijjah 1433). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



Tourism Malaysia teamed up with rising celebrity MasterChef Australia star, Billy Law, to provide Australians with the opportunity to join an exclusive nine-day culinary tour of Malaysia to share his passion for food, love and family in the country where he grew up. This unique tour showed what delights this ‘food obsessed’ country has to offer. As Malaysia is a cultural melting pot, ‘typical’ Malaysian dishes are derived from an amalgamation of multi-ethnic, historical influences which have created an exciting cuisine praised worldwide for its delicious flavours. The first in a series of four culinary tours to Malaysia ran from 31 October to 8 November, and saw ten participants visiting Kuala Lumpur, Melaka and Penang. The tour saw the guests sampling Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisines, learning how to make ‘typical’ Malaysian dishes, getting private food tours, experiencing incredible cooking demos and classes given by the likes of Florence Tan, one of Malaysia’s celebrity chefs, and having dinner at Amy Nyonya Heritage Cuisine Restaurant, Melaka. They also ate in the numerous bazaars, world famous ‘Penang Food Trail’ and Georgetown, the UNESCO world heritage site, Little India’s hawker food and delicious seafood at Bali Hali Seafood Restaurant. They learnt how spices are used for functional and medicinal purposes and in traditional Malaysian dishes. The programme is just one of the ways in which Malaysia is being promoted as a destination for affordable luxury holidays, in line with the Government’s goal of attracting 36 million tourists and RM168 billion tourists receipts by the year 2020.

For more information on the Malaysia Culinary Tours, click http://uniqueculinarytours.com/, or contact: Mr. Syed Muhadzir Jamalullil, Deputy Director, America, Europe and Oceania Division, Tourism Malaysia, Tel: 03-8891 8000. Email: syedmuhadzir@tourism.gov.my

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/ or

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

Blog: http://blog.tourism.gov.my

UK to Open Exhibit of Stunning Mughal Art & Culture Nov. 9

Oct 29, 2012 – Mughal splendour and power in India was founded by Babur in early 16th century and ended effectively with the exile of Bahadur Shah Zafar after the 1857 War of Indian independence to Burma.

The four centuries of the Mughal rule and its extravagant rulers will be depicted in the British Library’s exhibition, Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire, which opens on November 9. The glittering exhibition will include more than 200 manuscripts and paintings of the Mughal rulers, who were great patrons of art, architecture and culture.

Last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar’s gem-encrusted gold crown and the only known black and white photograph poet-emperor Zafar, whose official title was Bahadur Shah II, are the highlights of the ambitious exhibition. The photograph was taken in May 1858, while the British held him in Delhi awaiting his trial for his part in the 1857 Uprisings. He was exiled to Burma and the vast Mughal collections of jewellery, artefacts and art were auctioned in Delhi.

Zafar’s crown, which is on loan from the Royal Collection, and two throne chairs were bought by Major Robert Tytler, who had taken part in the Siege of Delhi. He declined £1,000 for the crown and instead offered the relics to Queen Victoria, who purchased them in 1861 for a mere £500. Jewels and rare ornaments will also be included in the exhibition, described as the first to document the entire historical period of the Mughal rule in India. Rare manuscript, Notebook of Fragrance, written for Emperor Shah Jehan’s court as guide to princely household management and courtly activities will also be displayed. The manuscript has never been exhibited till now.

The exhibition will also include drawings, paintings and photographs of Mughal architecture in India, including the Taj Mahal. The Mughal dynasty’s descent from Genghis Khan and Timur was celebrated in Mughal genealogical paintings. A dynastic group portrait of Emperors Babur, Humayun, Akbar and Jahangir with their ancestor Timur and poet Sa’di will also be displayed. A miniature of Emperor Akbar ordering the slaughter of animals to be stopped during a hunting expedition in 1578 will also be displayed. The miniature on a folio is from Akbarnama and is attributed to the artist Miskina.

“The objects in our collection span four centuries, from the foundation of the Mughal dynasty by Babur in the 16th century, through the heights of the empire and the ‘Great’ Mughal emperors of the 17th century, into the decline and eventual collapse in the 19th century. It is with great pleasure that we are able to share our collection’s beauty with a wider audience,” according to Dr Malini Roy, the curator of visual arts at the British Library, who also has curated the exhibition.

The exhibition will cover extravagant lives of the emperors, focusing on family battles for crown, love affairs and a constant hunger for knowledge and power.

“We are so pleased to be displaying these stunning manuscripts, paintings, and jewelled objects from Mughal India, some never before exhibited, opening a window into a long-diminished world,” Dr Roy added.

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Four Islamic countries reinforce support for UNESCO’s Memory of the World

Paris. 31.10.2012 – UNESCO Communication & Information – Tarja Virtanen, Director of UNESCO’s Tehran Office, being interviewed by a TV channel Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Turkmenistan agreed last week to strengthen UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme in the region. The steps to be undertaken by the four countries include the establishment of national Memory of the World committees for countries that have no such committee in place, capacity-building activities aimed at protecting and safeguarding documentary heritage, and regular exchange of information and experts.

The agreement came as part of the Recommendations reached by participants representing the four Asian countries at a sub-regional seminar held in Tehran on 21 to 22 October. The event was co-organised by UNESCO’s Tehran Cluster Office and the Iranian National Commission for UNESCO, with support from the Iranian National Library and Archives and the Iranian National Committee for Memory of the World.

The Tehran Recommendations also include the creation of documentary heritage databases at a national level, particularly through the implementation of national surveys and networking among the four cluster countries and facilitating access to documentary heritage for the general public through digitization and other multimedia solutions.

According to the Recommendations, the Memory of the World Programme should be integrated into educational curricula, and a sub-regional consultative committee comprising the four countries (with possible future extension to other countries) should be formed. The most important activity to be pursued by and through this committee at the initial phase would be training and exchange of experiences and information on the Memory of the World. Further activities could include the implementation of joint projects and the preparation of a sub-regional tentative list of nominations.

In her opening remarks at the seminar, Tarja Virtanen, Director of UNESCO’s Tehran Office, stressed the importance of collaborative efforts to be pursued by the four participating countries in order to respond to the current challenges facing the Memory of the World Programme. Ms Virtanen said she saw the seminar as a platform for sharing ideas and experiences, particularly those of Iran, which currently has five items inscribed on the Memory of the World Register.

While Pakistan has one item inscribed in the Register, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan do not currently have any, but both have the potential to explore their documentary heritage and share it through future entries in the Memory of the World Programme.

Ms Virtanen encouraged the development of future plans and ideas in the context of the Vancouver Declaration, issued by more than 500 participants of the Memory of the World in the Digital Age conference in late September.

In her written remarks prepared for the Tehran seminar, UNESCO’s focal point for the Memory of the World Programme at UNESCO Headquarters, Ms Joie Springer, outlined a brief history of the Programme, as well as its importance for future generations. She said Memory of the World must be preserved through a variety of means, including digitization.

The need for closer and stronger collaboration between the four countries was underlined by the Secretary-General of the Iranian National Commission for UNESCO, Dr Mohammad Reza Saeidabadi. He suggested the creation of a sub-regional team and the joint submission of nominations to the Memory of the World Register. In their speeches, the representatives of Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Turkmenistan agreed that they should have closer collaboration, while taking into account the specific conditions and resources of each country.

Speaking on Iran’s participation in the Memory of the World Programme, Dr Eshagh Salahi, Head of the Iranian National Library and Archivesand President of the Iranian National Committee for Memory of the World, outlined the activities that have been implemented by his country over the past years and pointed to future plans for continued engagement.

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Afghan Hidden Treasures Exhibition to Tour Australia in 2013-14

Canberra, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for the Arts, 1 November 2012 – Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Arts Minister Simon Crean today announced that the Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures of the National Museum, Kabul exhibition would tour Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane in 2013 and 2014.

Comprising more than 230 artefacts dating from sites along the Silk Road between 2200 BC to AD 200, the exhibition attests to the role Afghanistan has played as a crossroads of the ancient world. Senator Carr said the items were feared destroyed after Soviet occupation and civil war in Afghanistan, and were kept hidden by museum staff during the period of Taliban rule.

“The exhibition illustrates the motto of Afghanistan’s National Museum – ‘a nation stays alive when its culture stays alive’,” Senator Carr said. “The human stories behind these artefacts add to their value as a cultural record of ancient Afghanistan.”

Minister Crean said the exhibition highlights the important role cultural diplomacy and exchange plays in strengthening Australia’s engagement with the rest of the world. “Arts and culture are the essence of our identity and how we understand each other people-to-people, country-to-country and region-to-region,” Mr Crean said.

“The partnership between Australian and Afghan state museums and galleries is a fusion of cultures that will reinforce the strength of our identity and our engagement with Afghanistan and the rest of the world. As home to one of the oldest cultures on earth and also welcoming to greater diversity of cultures, we are thrilled to bring the Hidden Treasures exhibition to Australia.”

The Australian Government has provided diplomatic and financial support to bring the exhibition to Australian audiences, following successful tours of the Hidden Treasures to the United States and Europe. The exhibition will tour the Melbourne Museum, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Queensland Museum and the Museum of Western Australia.

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Malaysia-Australia FTA in Australian Parliament

Canberra, 1 November 2012 – In the week of the release of the White Paper on Australia in the Asian Century, the Gillard Government has today introduced into Parliament legislation for a comprehensive free trade agreement between Australia and Malaysia. The Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement (MAFTA) was signed in Kuala Lumpur in May this year.

The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties yesterday recommended that the agreement be adopted.

Craig Emerson, the Trade and Competitiveness Minister and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Asian Century Policy, welcomed the committee’s approval of MAFTA, which will further integrate the Australian economy with the fast-growing Asian region. “This is a timely piece of legislation, coming in the week of the Asian Century White Paper launch,” Dr Emerson said.

Malaysia is Australia’s 10th largest two-way trading partner, and the third-largest among the ASEAN countries. Once in force, the FTA will guarantee tariff-free entry for 97.6 per cent of current goods exports from Australia. This will rise to 99 per cent by 2017.

Malaysian exporters, meanwhile, will enjoy duty-free entry to the Australian market. Australia has also agreed to provide a three-year package of up to 21 short- and long-term scholarships, fellowships, awards and exchanges to support Malaysia’s economic reform efforts.

“The agreement goes well beyond the lowering or elimination of import tariffs,” Dr Emerson said. “It is a vote of confidence in the Malaysian people, and in the importance of the Asian region to Australia in the Asian Century.”

Australian exporters of dairy products, automotive parts, iron and steel will benefit from improved market access under the MAFTA. Malaysia has also committed to allowing majority Australian ownership of service providers in such industries as telecommunications, insurance, education, tourism, research and development, accountancy and mining-related services.

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Iran’s handicraft exports increase sixfold

Tehran Times – 30 October, 2012 – Iran exported about $ 640 million worth of handicrafts in the first half of the current Iranian calendar year, which began on March 20, showing a notable 6-fold rise compared to the same period last year, the deputy director of Iranian Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts Organization said on Monday. “The exports stood at around $100 million last year,” IRIB quoted Mohammad-Hasan Salehimaram as saying. He said in August that Iran will pay $1.5 billion in loans to support exporters of handicrafts. The loans will be paid with 6 percent interest. The value of exports is anticipated to reach $ 1.5 billion in the current year, Salehimaram noted.

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Middle East leads growth in long-haul airline seats

Saudi Gazette – 31 October, 2012 – According to IATA reports, the Middle East will process 400 million air travelers by 2020 as state-of-the-art airports come on line, major carriers expand their route networks and aircraft orders from the Gulf region further boost capacity. The current pipeline of new hotels pegged for the region and expanding cruise facilities in several key destinations are also translating into new business opportunities will bring the industry’s main players together under one roof.

“The Middle East is leading global growth in long-haul airline seats and added 22,000 extra seats per day in September alone, according to the latest OAG report. The UAE is also the single biggest market for Airbus, with total orders valued at $223.9 billion over the next 20 years. With this kind of mid to long-term growth forecast, there couldn’t be a better time for our members to convene in the region,” said Stephen White, International Travel Catering Association (ITCA) president.

Against this backdrop, ITCA joined forces with SIAL Middle East 2012 for the upcoming event that will be held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) Nov. 26-28. They target new business opportunities in the region as aviation sector forecasts indicate exponential growth across the GCC through to 2020, buoyed by up to $ 90 billion investment into infrastructure expansion.

The show will host over 70 exhibitors from across the air, rail and sea sectors including companies such as De Ster Driessen Aerospace Group Nv, Fly Hidrate, Linstol and Sola. Taking place at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) from 26-28 November.

Saudi Arabia is investing billions of dollars into airport expansion for all 27 of its existing sites, and will triple capacity at Riyadh International Airport by 2015 with the launch of a new terminal. Neighboring Bahrain also plans to boost passenger capacity by 50 percent by 2015.

Qatar is investing over $15 billion on airport development to accommodate aggressive expansion by Qatar Airways, with the first of three phases set to open at the end of 2012, with final completion expected by 2015. Kuwait International Airport has also unveiled a $ 2.1 billion expansion plan, which will initially drive capacity up to 13 million passengers per year, with 50 million passengers targeted by 2017.

In the UAE, both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are forging ahead with airport expansion plans. Abu Dhabi’s new 700,000-sq-m Midfield Terminal Building is set to open in 2017 with capacity for 30 million passengers per annum, while Dubai International Airport’s new Concourse 3, which debuts in Q1 0213 will be the world’s first purpose-built A380 facility.

The 500,000-sq m concourse is part of the emirate’s $7.8 billion 2020 aviation master plan, which aims to boost annual airport capacity to 90 million passengers by the end of the decade. Additional plans include the expansion of Terminal 2 to double its current size and a further concourse with capacity for over 110 international airlines.

“The Middle East market is definitely one to watch, and this will be the most significant outing for ITCA to date. Our 700-strong member base includes all major airlines, regional carriers and inflight catering companies, as well as sea, rail and other suppliers; and our Hosted Buyers program puts them directly in front of the region’s top decision makers,” White said.

ITCA is bringing the Mercury Awards to the region for the first time. Mercury is the most prestigious award in travel catering worldwide, sought after by the best and most pro-active companies in the industry.

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Iran offers to help Libya rebuild economy

Tehran Times – 31 October, 2012 – Iranian First Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi says the Islamic Republic is ready to help Libya rebuild its economic infrastructure. In a message on Monday, Rahimi congratulated Ali Zidan on his election as the Libyan prime minister and announced Tehran’s readiness to transfer its experiences to the North African country. Rahimi further expressed hope that a new era of political life and national sovereignty would begin in Libya.

On Sunday, Libyan General National Congress (GNC) elected Zidan, one of the long-time opponents of slain dictator Muammar Gaddafi, as the country’s new prime minister. Zidan’s election came a week after the GNC dismissed Mustafa Abushagur as premier following the rejection of his second proposed cabinet line-up to form a “crisis government.”

Libyans rose up against Gaddafi in February 2011 and deposed him in August 2011. He ruled for more than four decades without a legislature. The country’s first peaceful transition of power in decades took place in an official ceremony in Tripoli on August 8 when the assembly took over from Libya’s National Transitional Council almost a year after the revolution that toppled Gaddafi.

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Dubai hotels expected to see double-digit capacity growth

Khaleej Times – 01 November, 2012 – Dubai’s hospitality industry expects to see a double-digit growth in capacity in 2013 as the Middle East and Africa region prepares to add 150 new hotels next year, a leading global hotel industry consultancy said.

STR Global Construction Pipeline Report for the region said Dubai would see 28.6 per cent growth in hotel room capacity with 17,409 rooms in the construction pipeline. Hotel construction markets in Saudi Arabia and Oman are also forecast to see strong double-digit growth. There will be acceleration in new hotel builds in the region in 2013 compared to 2012, the forecast said. It said year-to-date, 46 hotels opened in the region adding 10,510 rooms.

STR Global predicts that in the remainder of 2012, 72 more hotels are to open in the region offering 18,072 more rooms, with properties in the more upmarket sectors set to dominate. In 2013, the region is predicted to open 150 hotels offering 37,349 rooms, with the Upper Upscale segment set to add the most rooms with 9,870 rooms in 35 hotels.

A total of 493 hotels totalling 122,942 rooms are included in STR Global Construction Pipeline Report in September. The total active pipeline data includes projects in the construction, final planning and planning stages. STR Global data showed that more than 6,400 rooms are in Riyadh’s hotel construction pipeline making it the Middle East’s biggest market for potential growth.

It said the Saudi capital’s hotel sector could grow by 84.5 per cent if all 6.413 rooms in the pipeline open while Jeddah’s hotel market is also set for major expansion of 70.7 per cent with 4,225 rooms expected to open. Muscat is poised for 60.9 per cent growth if all 2,634 rooms open and Abu Dhabi is set to see 50.7 per cent with 9,114 rooms in the pipeline.

Jones Lang Lasalle, a property consultancy company said in a recent report that Dubai’s total capacity will witness a big jump from 54,300 rooms currently available with 4,500 additional hotel rooms expected to be completed in 2012, and a total 11,000 units in supply pipeline until 2014.

“The positive upswing in tourism volumes in Dubai has raised confidence levels and following a slowdown witnessed in the last couple of years,” it said. Cushman & Wakefield has listed Dubai among the top 25 global hotel investment destinations for 2012 in its “Winning in Growth Cities 2012-13” report. It has put Dubai, the only city in the Middle East to feature on the list, at the 16th position in the top destinations for hotel ranking.

Alpen Capital is also very upbeat on the growth prospects of the UAE hotel industry, the second largest in the GCC region after Saudi Arabia. “While tourist arrivals in the UAE are likely to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.3 per cent between 2012 and 2022, hotel supply is expected to increase at 5.3 per cent from 96,992 hotels in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to 125,383 hotels in 2016,” Alpen said in its GCC Hospitality industry report. Alpen has predicted occupancy rates in the UAE to rise to 75.per cent in 2016 from 71 per cent in 2011as the momentum of tourist arrivals growth picks up.

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“1Malaysia. The Futurists” Art Competition Winners Announced

PUTRAJAYA, 29 OCTOBER 2012: The Minister of Tourism, YB Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen announced the winners of the “1Malaysia. The Futurists” art competition today at the Ministry of Tourism Art Gallery in Putrajaya.

The competition, which is part of the 1Malaysia Contemporary Art Tourism Festival, attracted 34 entries from seven institutions of higher learning all over Malaysia. The theme of the competition encouraged participants to explore the changes that mould and bond the life, spirit, culture and heritage of Malaysia and its society, and to represent modern life and experiences in an abstract art/contemporary art.

Organised by the Ministry of Tourism, Tourism Malaysia, Balai Seni Visual Malaysia and Gabungan Persatuan Pelukis Se Malaysia (GAPS), the art competition is aimed at ensuring a thriving and sustainable art culture for the future among the young generation of artists, cultivating quality and excellence among upcoming artists, identifiying potential prodigies, establishing an understanding of the level of art competency, and providing an opportunity and space for young artists to exhibit their artworks.

Lim Zee Chee, of Limkokwing University, took home the first prize of RM5,000 and a certificate, with the winning entry, “Under One Roof.” The acrylic on canvas painting depicted Malaysians from different walks of life living peacefully together as a community.

Second prize winner was Nurhidayat bin Arshad of UiTM Perak with his acrylic painting, “Seminda Sejiwa” which reflected on equality among humans of various cultures, races and religions.

A further eleven participants were awarded RM1,000 each and certificates for coming in third place, while the rest were given consolation prizes of RM500 each and certificates.

The competition began receiving entries in mid-September until early October from The One Academy, ASWARA, Malaysia Institute of Art, Limkokwing University, New Era College, UiTM Seri Iskandar in Perak and Saito College.

The artworks were judged on originality, creativity, artistic impressions and interpretation of subject matter/theme. A panel of judges that included Deputy Director-General of Tourism Malaysia, YBhg. Dato’ Haji Azizan Noordin; Director General of Balai Seni Visual Negara, YBhg. Dato’ Mohd Yusof Ahmad; Editor of Art Malaysia magazine, Mr. Liew Kian Yap; Project Director of Art Expo Malaysia, Sim Pojinn and Gabungan Pelukis Se Malaysia Vice President, YBhg. Dato’ Mahsun Taib determined the winners.

All the entries are being displayed at the Ministry of Tourism Art Gallery in Precinct 5, Putrajaya.

Held for the third consecutive year, the 1Malaysia Contemporary Art Tourism Festival was initiated in 2010 to diversify Malaysia’s tourism product offerings and establish Malaysia as a reputable destination for art aficionados in the region to enjoy and acquire contemporary art, with museum-quality pieces in line with the theme “Malaysia, Your New Art Tourism Destination.”

The event, with a series of nationwide art-related events organized from July to September, serves as a platform to promote Malaysian artists and artworks to a global audience as well as to discover, groom and launch the careers of young Malaysian artists.

The first 1Malaysia Contemporary Art Tourism Festival in 2010 recorded 42,000 visitors and about RM14 million in art sales throughout the three-month festival from July to September. One of the most significant turn of events during the festival was the success of the Henry Butcher Art Auction, a first in Malaysia, which recorded sales of RM1.7 million in a single afternoon with 90% of the works sold.

The following year, the Henry Butcher Art Auction registered total sales of over RM3 million, while in 2012, total sales was RM4.1 million, proving that apart from a growing interest in collecting Malaysian artworks, the secondary art market for Malaysian artworks is well and truly on the rise as well.

For more information, contact Mr. Ramzi Abu Yazid, Sr. Deputy Director (Advertising Division, Tourism Malaysia) at 603 8891 8702 or email ramziabuyazid@tourism.gov.my.

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Bahrain to go ahead with $80m seafront projects

Saudi Gazette – 01 November, 2012 – Bahrain is to push ahead with two major coastal projects worth nearly $ 80 million, including a marina development and a new seafront. Muharraq Municipal Council has given the green light for a BHD25m ($ 65 million) marina development, which will include a hotel, public beach, shopping mall, an indoor and outdoor theme park, fish market, a main office tower and commercial and residential buildings, TradeArabia reported.

The project was originally pitched in late 2011 and while phase one of the proposed development was started in 2006, phase two was deadlocked by disagreement among officials and was never started. Located between the Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Causeway and the Shaikh Isa bin Salman Causeway, the coastal project includes backing from a consortium of Turkish, Saudi and Bahraini investors.

“Even though we were divided on whether the place should be invested in or developed by the ministry last year, we have reached a point where we are convinced that supporting private investment is better than waiting for the government to find the budget,” Council chairman Abdulnasser Al Mahmeed was quoted as saying.

A second project also set to be rejuvenated is the delayed BHD5.4 million ($ 14.21 million) King Faisal Corniche seafront project, which will be located near the Bahrain Financial Harbour.

The new design will include a theme park and tourist attractions, family facilities, restaurants, recreational outlets, a 1km walkway, green areas and a plants nursery, Trade Arabia added. The project is due to be opened to the public in 2015. The projects are part of Bahrain’s bid to reignite its tourism sector after months of civil unrest.

Earlier this year, hotels in the Gulf kingdom’s capital, Manama, reported a 112 percent rise in occupancy rates to 45 percent, according to latest figures released by STR Global, and authorities hope to capitalize on this with their latest ambitious projects. Last month, it announced plans for a US$ 5m theme park based on The Smurfs, the popular Belgian children’s cartoon centered around a group of small blue fictional creatures.

The BHD2 million ($ 5.27 million) Smurf village has been given the go ahead by Bahrain authorities and will be built on an 8,350 sqm site in West Riffa at the Prince Khalifa bin Salman Grand Garden, it was reported by Bahrain’s Gulf Daily News. The development will include 30 Smurf houses measuring around 50 sqm and which can accommodate up to 20 children each.

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Oman major boost for cruise tourism

Oman Daily Observer – 01 November, 2012 – The luxury cruise ship MV Mein Schiff 2 arrives here today on a maiden sailing to the Sultanate, kicking off a season of port visits that will bring tens of thousands of German-speaking European tourists to Oman’s shores over the next five months.

Around 20 calls are scheduled at Port Sultan Qaboos this winter season as the magnificent liner prepares to embark on a season of weekly roundtrip voyages around the Gulf using Dubai as its homeport. Muscat’s inclusion in the weekly itinerary, which also includes Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, attests to the Sultanate’s robust international appeal as a world-class stopover for luxury cruise liners.

Mein Schiff 2, which means ‘My Ship’ in German, is operated by TUI Cruises, a joint venture partnership of TUI, Europe’s best known leisure travel group, and Royal Caribbean Cruises, one of the world’s largest cruise line operators. TUI Cruises’ decision to deploy the splendid 263-metre-long ocean liner in the Gulf follows on from the success of the positioning of its sister ship, Mein Schiff, in the region last winter.

The massive 77,700-tonne liner is scheduled to dock at Port Sultan Qaboos this morning after a four-day sailing from Safaga (Egypt) at the start of a calendar of weekly roundtrip sailings in the Gulf region. Its debut in the Middle East is itself part of a Trans-Arabian Cruise that began in Antalya (Turkey) on October 20 and concludes in Dubai on November 3. En route, the vessel called Port Said (Egypt) and Aqaba (Jordan).

At the end of its positioning in the Gulf on March 24, 2013, Mein Schiff 2 will retrace this voyage back to the Mediterranean, stopping over at the same destinations in reverse order. On its inaugural sailing to Muscat, Mein Schiff 2 is carrying 1,854 tourists at the upper limit of its passenger capacity. The vast majority are German-speaking tourists from Europe with the remainder hailing from the United States. The vessel is also carrying a complement of around 900 crew members.

Given the popularity of Arabian cruises among European holidaymakers, Mein Schiff 2’s voyages are expected to net an average of 1,800 passengers per voyage, thereby generating tourist numbers in excess of 35,000 visitors during the winter season. These figures bode well for the Sultanate, which depends on Europe, particularly the German speaking region, for the bulk of its tourists. The German speaking market is by far the most important for Oman’s vibrant tourism and leisure industry, supplying in the order of 120,000 holidaymakers every year.

Arrivals from this key source market, covering Germany, Austria and Switzerland, are projected to soar this year on the back of TUI Cruises’ positioning of its latest luxury liner, Mein Schiff 2, in the Gulf this winter season. Despite the global economic downturn, cruise vessel calls at Port Sultan Qaboos have been on the rise, jumping from 109 port calls in 2010 to 115 last year — an uptrend that has prompted the government to call for its conversion into a tourist and heritage port, and the relocation of all cargo operations to Sohar.

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Qatar, GCC plans give global railway industry a boost

Gulf Times – 30 October, 2012 – The multi-billion dollar rail project in Qatar and across the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries will be the main driver of the sector’s growth internationally, a report has shown. Qatar’s rail project exceeds $ 13bn whereas in the Arab region projects worth $ 156bn are either planned or under way.

Rail projects in the Arab region covers a landmass of 15mn sq km and 34,000km of rail tracks, a Bechtel release said. Despite the global economic downturn, multi-billion dollar mega-projects planned or under construction in the GCC are propelling this momentum of growth which, according to a recent report by UNIFE (European Rail Industry), will continue until 2018. In the last three years, the sector grew by 9.6% internationally and is expected to continue on the same trajectory until 2018, with a further growth of 16.2%, mainly driven by rail projects in the GCC states.

Dr Amjad Bangash, managing director, Rail (Bechtel), one of the world’s leading engineering, procurement and construction companies, said “the Middle East and North Africa region (Mena) is currently one of the world’s fastest growing markets for rail. The region’s mainline rail network is set to almost double in size over the coming decades, while metro, tram and monorail track lengths will increase 10-fold.”

Dr Bangash, who has been working for Bechtel for 20 years and was recently project director for Bechtel at the Khalifa Port and Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (KIZAD) Project in the United Arab Emirates, said that “the freight market is a key driver for the development of the GCC rail network.

“Rail freight is particularly attractive across long distances,” he explained. “There is potential for significant positive impact on trade and commerce flows.” Centuries ago, the Silk Route connected trade routes into an extensive transcontinental network. In the same spirit, the development of the GCC network could have a transformational effect on international trade and commerce in the region,” he said. Studies show that trains carry freight with nearly 10 times the energy efficiency of trucks per tonne/mile. Saudi Arabia has the most projects planned or under way in the Arab region, at an estimated cost of $ 31bn.

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Etihad Rail: Abu Dhabi-Dubai route confirmed

Khaleej Times – 30 October, 2012 – The UAE’s rail network project has made headway as the route between Abu Dhabi and Dubai has been agreed upon, a top official said. According to Falah Al Ahbabi, who heads the Federal Government Committee on Etihad Rail, further confirmed that the required land has been completely allocated.

This information was revealed at the first meeting of the committee, which reviewed the route of stages two and three of the rail network and the process for ensuring the necessary land allocation to connect the country’s ports, industrial areas and urban communities. “The UAE railway network will connect various communities, industrial centres and ports, with minimal passage through residential areas, and will also later link to the greater GCC railway network,” Falah Al Ahbabi said, who is also the general manager of the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council.

Upon completion, the 1,200km long Etihad Rail network will cater to both freight and passengers. It will connect urban and remote communities, facilitate trade, open up communication channels and foster economic development. The network will also form a vital part of the GCC Railway Network, linking the UAE to Saudi Arabia via Ghweifat in the west and Oman via Al Ain in the east.

The committee also discussed further ways of ensuring the close coordination and collaboration of the various federal and local government entities to ensure the timely delivery of the project. The committee reviewed the procedures for land acquisition in each emirate, referencing the company’s previous experience in development and progression of stage one of the rail network.

The officials explored the possibility of applying the same or a similar strategy in each emirate to ensure time-efficient execution of the project, further discussing procedures for the issuance of no objection certificates by each emirate. Al Ahbabi said: “Appropriate land allocation for the rail project is done through close coordination with the concerned entities and authorities in each emirate, a vital component in ensuring timely implementation of the project.”

He showed his satisfaction on the strong collaboration between government agencies in implementing strategies to establish the most appropriate route for the railway network, ensuring optimum benefit to the UAE economy and ensuring the project remains on schedule. Etihad Rail earlier this year signed an MoU with DP World for the development of an intermodal rail terminal in Jebel Ali Port which will enable the more efficient transfer of containerised freight arriving at the port inland

Comprising representatives from ten federal and local government entities, the committee emphasised the positive impacts of the rail project on the UAE economy, highlighting how it will enhance business and industrial sectors throughout the emirates. Members also discussed means to assure that the rail project is and will be strongly integrated into strategic federal transportation plans.

The UAE is pinning hopes on the rail project to take away trucks from the highways for an efficient transport system, in order to boost sustainable economic growth. The Etihad Rail Federal Government Coordination Committee comprises the Municipalities of Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, the Western Region, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah, as well as other government entities such as the UAE Ministry of Public Works. Other departments represented on the high level committee include the Roads and Transport Authority, the Directorate of Town Planning and Survey in Sharjah, the Department of Planning and Survey in Umm Al Quwain, and officials from Etihad Rail.

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Islamic finance vital to boost Africa growth

Saudi Gazette – 30 October, 2012 – Over the last decade, trade between African countries and the rest of the world has grown significantly and, in particular, charting a 170 percent increase in trade with the GCC. The ongoing shift by African countries from being aid-dependent to increasing trade and investment ties with the Middle East has positioned Islamic finance to play a key role in facilitating further increases in trade and investment flows between Africa and the Middle East. This is even more significant given the inherently strong linkages between Islamic finance and real economic activity and the potential to provide funding for key areas such as SMEs and project finance.

Increased interest from Gulf investors in terms of agricultural land acquisitions combined with a growing Asian investor base, particularly in manufacturing, is expected to provide further impetus to the growth of the continent’s economies.

Speaking ahead of Islamic Banking Summit: Africa (IBSA 2012) conference to be held on Nov. 6-7, 2012 at the Djibouti Palace Kempinski, Djibouti, David McLean, Chief Executive of IBSA 2012, noted that “as a result of the recent policy revisions, regulatory changes and economic reforms in key markets on the continent, Africa has now been re-positioned as the third fastest growing region in the world, after the Middle East and Asia. The resurrection of Africa’s trade ties with the rest of the world has resulted in an increased international investor interest in the region. The rapid expansion of the major economies in the region has also resulted in the need to invest heavily in developing vital infrastructure. These factors highlight the tremendous opportunity that Africa presents.”

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DTCM promotes Dubai’s tourism, megaprojects in China

Gulf Today – 28 October, 2012 – The Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) in Dubai, for the 5th year in a row, concluded its three workshop series in China to promote tourist attractions and mega projects in Dubai.

Initially, the DTCM held two successful workshops in Shanghai and Guangzhou in the presence of 30 representatives of hotels and tourist companies in Dubai and their counterparts in China, which was also attended by Captain Mohammed Abdul Aziz Al Safran, of the General Directorate for Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai. The representatives of the sponsoring bodies, spanning the Emirates Airlines, Atlantis Palm hotel and Royal Arabian Co, gave presentations on the services, facilities, and offers they each provide for attracting more Chinese tourists to Dubai.

The workshop in Beijing held a ‘Dubai Night’ session at the Kempinski Hotel attended by Ahmed Ibrahim Al Saadi, Third Secretary of the UAE embassy in Beijing on behalf of Omar Al Baitar, the UAE ambassador to Beijing. Also present were Adam Lee, Deputy Chairman of the Emirates Airlines in China, and Guy Sun, Chairman of Entertainment International Production, which has shot in Dubai most of a recent movie “SWITCH” to be shown early next year.

Paying a tribute to the DTCM effort, Sun said the Department has helped them a lot in shooting the movie, let alone offering them all the facilities and permits needed. The Chinese companies attracting most Chinese tourists to Dubai were then honoured.

Mohammed Essa Al Sheikh, Head of Australia and Asia Section at the Overseas Promotion and Inward Mission, has congratulated all the attendees for Eid Al Adha and said that Dubai is gifted with a variety of sights most attractive to Chinese tourists. “These include mega shopping centres, heritage sights, tennis courts, luxury coast hotels, and other hotels suitable to all guests and visitors.”

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Malaysia Confident Collaboration With Thailand Can Boost Halal Industry

HATYAI, Oct 31 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia is confident its close collaboration with Thailand will help boost the development and flow of halal products involving the two countries, says Minister of International Trade and Industry Mustapa Mohamed. According to him, Malaysia has the ambition to continue to drive the halal industry as well as its exports and is confident the collaboration would put the country in the best position.

Speaking to Malaysian reporters after delivering his keynote address at the “Potential of Halal Industry and Opportunity for Collaboration between Malaysia-Thailand” seminar here today, he said currently Malaysia’s export value to Thailand amounted to RM1.8 billion, of which five per cent involved halal products. The seminar was the main event in conjunction with Malaysia’s trade and investment mission to Thailand organised by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) together with Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC) and East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC).

“We hope the export value will continue to increase while the percentage of halal product exports will continue to expand,” said Mustapa, who led the two-day trade mission. He hoped the cooperation amongst Malaysian and Thai companies would help fast-track the increase in halal products movement between the two countries. Mustapa described the trade mission as successful as there were some companies in Thailand that had expressed interest to form joint ventures with Malaysian firms.

He is confident the number of joint ventures would grow as 250 Malaysian and Thai companies would discuss the cooperation which could be done during the trade mission here. Mustapa also proposed that entrepreneurs in Malaysia and Thailand formed an association specifically for the halal industry in their respective countries, to facilitate communication, planning and implementation of the collaboration.

He hoped the associations would be formed within two months to spur the halal industry in the two countries. At present, he said Malaysia is improving the halal development infrastructure including developing the Pasir Mas Halal Park in Kelantan which would start operations next year. Mustapa said the halal infrastructure, which had been developed and are being developed, not only proved Malaysia’s enthusiasm to excel in halal product development but also offered room for foreign investors to benefit from the facilities.

Meanwhile, more than 400 entrepreneurs from Malaysia and Thailand attended the one-day seminar, which among others, aimed to promote the halal infrastructure in Malaysia as well as create the halal sector networking between Malaysian and Thai businesses. Also present at the seminar were Thailand’s Commerce Minister, Boonsong Teriyapirom and Malaysian Ambassador to Thailand, Dato Nazirah Hussain.

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Malaysian Firm To Ink MoU On Halal Network With Sudan, China, Indonesia

KHARTOUM, Oct 31 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysian investment firm Pembangunan Buku Hijau Holdings Sdn Bhd will sign a memorandum of understanding on Thursday with Indonesia’s biggest Islamic organisation Nahdlatul Ulama, China’s NingXia province and the Sudan Halal Development Authority (SUHADA). Chief Executive Officer Dr Abdul Rashid Tang Abdullah told Bernama here the MoU’s main aim is to ensure adequate supply of halal food through the Global Halalan Toyyiban Supply Chain (GHTSCP).

The GHTSCP scheme is the world’s first initiative to ensure halal products are not contaminated in the production and distribution chain through a certification system based on the MS2400:2010 Standard. Abdul Rashid said the GHTSCP secretariat comprising bodies like the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) will provide consultancy and technical training to the countries or communities involved.

“The four countries will be able to conduct cross-border barter trade and at the same time help strengthen the economy of Muslims in their respective country,” he said. The company will also sign a collaboration agreement with Al-Gazira and White Nile states on the development of a Halalan Toyyiban hub and export facilitation witnessed by former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the Malaysia-Sudan Trade and Investment Forum to be held on Nov 1-5.

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Halal Beef From Sudan To Enter Malaysian Market In Mid-November

KHARTOUM, Nov 1 (NNN-Bernama) — Beef supply shortage in Malaysia, particularly during the run-up to festive seasons, will be a thing of the past when halal beef from Sudan starts entering the Malaysian market in mid-November. Buku Hijau Holdings Sdn Bhd Chief Executive Officer (Development) Dr Abdul Rashid Tang Abdullah said the company, which has two abattoirs in Sudan, is to export 3,000 metric tonnes of beef a month to Malaysia.

The beef, bearing the brand name “Sudan Beef” will be available in hypermarkets at RM16 a kilogramme, he said. “With beef supply from Sudan, we can meet 30 to 40 per cent demand for beef in the country,” he told Bernama after visiting the company’s Al-Gazira State Abattoir here.

Currently, one abattoir has the capacity to slaughter 500 cows a day, handled by 320 workers, he said. Rashid said Sudan bred about 40 million cows and 75 million goats a year which not only met domestic demand but were also exported, currently only to Middle East countries. The livestock industry played a crucial role in Sudan’s economy, accounting for nearly 50 per cent of Sudan’s total agriculture exports. Rashid said Bumi Hijau Holdings is also planning to develop contract farming in Malaysia to fatten one million cows in five years.

“We’ll work with the Veterinary Services Department for this project. The one million cows will be placed under the Strategic Buffer Stock System under the National Food Security Policy. “The Economic Planning Unit (in the Prime Minister’s Department) has approved this project and is being processed for implementation,” he said.

Rashid said this project would serve as a catalyst to Bumiputeras particularly to earn a higher income and to upgrade their socio-economic well-being. He said US$500 million (RM1.527 billion) would be invested in this ambitious project. “If the project is implemented within five years, domestic demand for beef will be fully met and in fact we can emerge as the halal beef exporter to Islamic countries such as Iran,” he said.

Iran, an Islamic Republic with 75 million population, had once expressed its intention to Bumi Hijau Holdings that it wanted to import 43,000 metric tones of beef a year from Malaysia but the request was turned down due to beef supply shortage in the country, he said. Rashid also said his company would build two European Union-standard abattoir centres in Malaysia and undertake maize farming to meet animal feed requirement for the cows.

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Jakarta Plans To Become National Cultural Centre

JAKARTA, Oct 29 (NNN-ANTARA) — Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo has said the capital city is preparing to become the center of Indonesian culture by organizing a national cultural carnival as of 2013. “Jakarta is the country’s capital city, therefore, it must become the center of the national culture, with Betawi (the culture of the native people of Jakarta), as the host,” Joko Widodo (Jokowi) said during a cultural parade in the National Monument Park, here, Sunday.

According to Jokowi, the present cultural festival would be the embryo of the future national cultural carnival. “Next year, we will have a cultural program to be called Jak Carnival. This will be held annually and the first one will be organized coinciding with the Jakarta’s anniversary on June 22, 2013,” he said. The governor will set up a better management unit to be tasked to to prepare the cultural event. “With a better management on the programs and participants, Jakarta will be proud as the nation’s capital,” Jokowi said. A workshop on culture will be held in January 2013 for a preparation before the carnival take place.

The Jakarta’s Administration on Sunday (Oct 28) held a cultural parade to commemorate the Indonesia Youth Pledge Day (Sumpah Pemuda) which was first declared on Oct 28, 1928. The participants, wearing traditional clothes and performing traditional dances, marched from the City Town Hall to M.H.Thamrin Street and ended in the National Monument park area.

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Morocco’s Academy Of Traditional Arts Opens In Casablanca

CASABLANCA, Nov 1 (NNN-MAP) — King Mohammed VI has inaugurated Morocco’s Academy of Traditional Arts as a symbol of the kingdom’s arts and culture which play a pivotal role in safeguarding the Moroccan identity. The new academy, one of the four components of the Hassan II Mosque Foundation, also reflects the king’s insight into overhauling the kingdom’s craft industry and its trade associations.

The king is continuously underlining the importance to lay the bases for the recognition of handicrafts as stated in his royal message in September 2001 to participants of a forum on the elaboration of an official report on the national craft industry in Fez. The academy, aimed at providing training for officials and to facilitate research in the field of traditional arts, will enable young Moroccans to have access to new technologies and modern management methods.

At the uinuaguration ceremony here Wedneday, Islamic Affairs Minister and chairman of the Hassan II Mosque Foundation of Casablanca, Ahmed Toufiq, made a presentation to the king on the mission and goals of the academy, as well as the future prospects for the apprentices.

The new facility, carried out in conformity with the royal instructions, will offer training for master craftsmen to acquire professional know-how and expertize in handicraft, art and production, Toufiq said, adding that the academy will also provide technical assistance and counseling. Built at a cost of 107 million dirhams (about 12.5 million USD), the academy is unique for its creativity and authenticity, he added.

The king later visited the academy’s workshops for wood carving, tiles, plastering, calligraphy, tanning, weaving and jewelry-making and the Hassan II Mosque’s museum, which includes a hall, areas for craft samples used in the mosque’s construction as terracotta tile work, and a screening area to show the different stages of the mosque’s construction.

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Malaysia Airlines Seeks to Boost Competitive Edge with oneworld Membership

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 30 (NNN-BERNAMA) — The entry into the one world alliance will help national carrier, Malaysia Airlines (MAS), regain some competitive edge to raise revenue yield going forward, together with its ongoing fleet renewal programme. Alliance Research said the competitive edge is through improved products offering, better service standards, access to premium customers, and an expansion of route networks and flight frequency.

“We believe joining the oneworld alliance is an opportunity for MAS to expand its global route network in a cost efficient manner,” Alliance Research said in a research note, Tuesday. It also said MAS had one of the lowest yields among full service carriers(FSCs) in the region and this negatively affected its financial performance. Thus, it added, raising revenue yield is the only way to turnaround the airline.

“While we expect MAS’ yield to improve from 21.7 sen in financial year 2012 to 25.8 sen in fiscal year 2014, its financial performance will continue to underwhelm in the near term, with the prospect of turning in a full-year profit only materialising in 2014. A key risk to its turnaround is the intensifying competition not only from other FSCs but from low cost carriers (LCCs) such as AirAsia amid rising industry capacity and dismal macroeconomic outlook,” it said.

On Monday, MAS announced that it will be joining one world with effect from Feb 1 next year, and start offering its passengers the full range of services and benefits under the alliance. MAS will add 14 destinations to expand oneworld’s global coverage to some 840 destinations in 156 countries. On the other hand, the two million members of the carrier’s Enrich loyalty programme will have their frequent flyer privileges extended (including earning and redeeming mileage awards and earning tier status points), whenever they flywith any oneworld member airline and 25 affiliated airlines.

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Egypt to announce terms for first high-speed train project

Ahram Online, 29 Oct 2012 – The Egyptian government has agreed to terms and conditions for the country’s first high-speed train project, to be formally announced to international and domestic engineering companies within days, state-run daily Al-Ahram reported Monday. The total cost of the project has yet to be set. Transportation Minister Mohamed Rashad El-Mateeny said the first phase of the planned train project would link Alexandria with 6 October City on the outskirts of Cairo. Al-Meteeny added that the project would help Egypt’s struggling tourist industry and help meet the rapid rise of passenger numbers, especially those traveling to and from Upper Egypt.

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Egypt to set up industrial zones in Algeria, Ethiopia

Ahram Online, 29 Oct 2012 – Egypt plans to establish two industrial zones in Algeria and Ethiopia in an effort to boost economic ties with African countries, Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS) reported last week. On his recent two-day visit to Algeria, Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil said his government hoped to see increased investment in the North African nation, adding that the planned industrial zone would assist in the production of construction materials. According to the SIS, Qandil also unveiled plans to build some 2.5 million residential units in Algeria before the end of 2014, stressing that Egyptian construction companies would contribute heavily to the project.

Meanwhile, the Ethiopian government has announced plans to grant Egypt one million square meters of land on which to establish an industrial zone with a view towards boosting trade and investment between Egypt and the states of the Nile Basin. Hatem Saleh, Egyptian minister of industry and foreign trade, said on Wednesday that the Ethiopian banking sector would finance between 50 and 70 per cent of Egyptian investment projects in the country.

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Egypt to auction land for tourist developments

Reuters, Thursday 1 Nov 2012 – Egypt will auction sites covering 28 million square metres of land for tourist developments in the next 14 months to expand the vital industry, its tourism minister said. Hisham Zaazou is tasked with reviving a sector that accounted for 10 per cent of economic activity before the revolt that ousted President Hosni Mubarak last year drove away investors and tourists. Tourists are returning to Egypt but do not yet match the levels of 2010, before the uprising, when 14.5 million people visited, earning the country $12.5 billion.

Speaking late on Tuesday, Zaazou told Reuters that Egypt could match those levels in 2013. By 2020 the country targets an ambitious 30 million tourists, prompting the government’s plans for selling new plots. “I will start auctioning (the land) maybe next month and before the end of 2013 all of the 28 million sq metres will have been put on offer,” Zaazou said, adding that the offer has already been met with interest from European and Gulf investors. Some of the sites to be auctioned would be sold, others would be for lease. Sites due to come up for auction will include Red Sea resorts such as Ain Sokhna and Marsa Allam.

“Investors will be putting their money in areas that already have customers, not in a barren desert,” said Zaazou, who was appointed in August. He worked with private tourism firms, including in the United States, before moving to the ministry. Zaazou said he was studying incentive programmes to lure investors, including a plan for the state to pay social security payments for employees of firms investing within a set period. He also said he was working with the civil aviation and transport ministries to improve access to tourist areas, including plans to improve the quality of overnight trains from Cairo to popular destinations of Luxor and Aswsan in the south.

Zaazou said Turkish Airlines had launched direct flights from Istanbul to Red Sea resorts such as Sharm El-Sheikh, helping to lure more Turkish and European visitors, and said he wanted to improve connections to the Far East and South America. Echoing earlier comments, he said Egypt – now governed by an Islamist president – wanted to draw in tourists holding conservative Islamic values but not at the expense of others from the West or elsewhere, who might be discouraged by any move to ban alcohol or impose other Islamic restrictions.

He said drawing in Islamic-minded tourists “will not detract from mainstream tourism nor will it be an alternative to it. I wish that people can co-exist … like in Turkey and in Dubai,” he said.

As an example, he said some Arab investors were building a five-star hotel in Cairo that would not allow alcohol, smoking, loud music or gender-mixed swimming pools. It would also focus on spa and health services to cater to customers who want an Islamic tourism package or others seeking a health resort. The biggest present challenge to tourism, he said, was local and international media conveying what he said was an exaggerated image of lax security. Pictures of protests and sometimes violence in Cairo’s Tahrir Square have deterred some.

“The image that is being conveyed about Egypt is an image confined to 1 square kilometre of the country, so to speak, namely Tahrir square,” Zaazou said. “This is a challenge. When tourism to Cairo is affected, this in turn affects the rest of cultural tourism such as Luxor and Aswan,” he said, adding that if protests till year-end remained peaceful in the square, this would revive tourists’ confidence in Egypt.

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Iraq opens biggest trade fair in 20 years

AFP, 1 Nov 2012 – Iraq opened on Thursday its biggest trade fair in more than 20 years, the latest step in Baghdad’s efforts to rebuild an economy battered by decades of conflict and sanctions and combat unemployment. More than 1,500 companies from Iraq and 21 other countries are taking part in the Baghdad International Fair, which was opened by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and is due to run until November 10.

“This is the new Iraq,” Maliki said in a speech at the fair, held in the Mansur neighbourhood of west Baghdad. “I hope all the companies here take advantage of this opportunity.” He added: “The state we are talking about is in the construction stage, and it needs all types of construction.”

According to Bassem Saddam Sultan, the deputy chief of the fair’s organising committee, the overall attendance was the highest in more than 20 years. The fair was opened under heavy security, with journalists having to pass through multiple searches before being allowed in, in a city that still sees regular violent attacks, despite improved security compared to the worst of Iraq’s bloodshed in 2006 and 2007.

Iraq’s state-dominated economy is heavily dependent on exports of crude oil, but while the energy sector accounts for around two-thirds of gross domestic product, it only accounts for one percent of employment. As a result, unemployment is often cited as a complaint by Iraqis. Baghdad has looked to invite foreign companies to rebuild critical infrastructure, which is crumbling as a result of decades of under investment, as well as to work in several key sectors such as transport, housing and agriculture.

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Marine tourism in Halbar, North Maluku, gaining popularity

October 27 2012 Ternate (ANTARA News) – Marine tourism in West Halmahera (Halbar) district, North Maluku, is increasingly attractive to both domestic and foreign tourists, according to local government official Syarif Ali. Speaking to the media, Syarif said domestic and foreign tourists are increasingly attracted to the undersea panoramic views at the Gulf of Jailolo.

“The Gulf of Jailolo offers a variety of spectacular coral reefs and marine flora and fauna species found no where else in the world,” Syarif noted. He did not mention the number of tourists visiting Halbar per month, but said some were coming from Hong Kong, Australia, and the United States.

According to Syarif, tourists spent more than two days in Halbar because, besides enjoying diving at Jailolo Bay, they also visited various tourism attractions such as historical sites and forest to view birds. Syarif noted that the local government continues to promote Jailolo, a small island in North Maluku, as a primary tourism attraction on the international stage. “The government continues to improve infrastructures at the tourism attractions to make them even more inviting,” he noted.

In its effort to preserve marine tourism in Halbar, the local government has tried to rehabilitate the damaged coral reef area and have banned the use of coral rocks for building materials. “Also, the Halbar government stages the annual Jailolo Bay Festival every month in May to promote marine tourism,” Syarif said.

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Domestic tourists to Raja Ampat increases

October 29 2012 Denpasar, Bali (ANTARA News) – The number of domestic tourists visiting Raja Ampat in West Papua, has increased for the past two years. “The number of domestic tourists continued to increase during the last two years in addition to an increasing number of foreign tourists,” Head of Raja Ampat Education and Tourism Service Yusdi Lamatenggo said here on Monday during the promotion of West Papua tourist destinations.

He stated the increasing number of visitors was probably caused by improving access to Raja Ampat from several regions across the country. “Now there is a lot of flight services either direct or indirect daily from several big cities in the country, such as Jakarta and Denpasar,” he said.

Lamatenggo said fares are now also more affordable because many airline companies have opened flight services there except Garuda Indonesia. Moreover, he added, a lot of young executives who love diving have come to Raja Ampat which is one of the best diving spots in country. “They came from several big cities in country, such as Jakarta, Surabaya and Manado,” he said. Based on the data of Raja Ampat Education and Tourism Service, the number of domestic tourists has increased. In 2011, as many as 1,489 tourists visited Raja Ampat, increasing from 790 tourists in 2010.

Meanwhile, foreign tourists still dominate the tourists there, especially from European countries, such as England, the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. The number of foreign visitors reached 61,789 in 2011. “Visitors need not worry about accommodation because there are seven resort areas, 11 motels and 36 residents’ houses as homestays,” he said.

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Seven tourist resorts in Indonesia offered for development

Mon, October 29 2012 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Indonesian government has offered seven tourist resorts in several provinces to domestic or foreign investors for development. “We are inviting both domestic and foreign investors to manage several potential tourist resorts in Indonesia,” the director general of tourist destinations development, Firmansyah Rahim, said here on Monday.

The tourist resorts offered are Mandalika in West Nusa Tenggara, Tanjung Lesung in Banten, West Java, Lagoy Bay in the Riau Islands province, Belitung in the Bangka-Belitung province, Sari Ater in West Java, Sentul Nirwana Resort in Bogor, West Java, and Mekaki Bay in East Nusa Tenggara. Firmansyah said exploitation of the seven tourist resorts so far has not yet been optimal due to various factors.

“I think they have not developed well because their exploitation has not been optimal as coordination and synergy among parties concerned has not yet been fully running well,” he said. In view of that he hoped investors would come to develop the resorts with good management. He said the government has provided facilities to investors in the tourism sector.

“Tourist resorts have been included as special economic zones according to Law Number 39 of 2009,” he said. To attract investors he said the government has also put tourist resort business into Government Regulation Number 52 of 2011 with regard to income tax facility for investment in certain businesses or areas for tourism business. He said the government would also increase incentives for investment in the tourism sector. “We have also set up annual Indonesia Tourism Investment Day to allure domestic as well as foreign investors to invest in the sector,” he said.

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Egyptian artists tackle question of ‘Identity’ in Hamburg exhibition

Ahram Online, 31 Oct 2012 – ART-NAH gallery in Hamburg, Germany, is currently featuring the works of three prominent young Egyptian artists Shayma Kamel (b.1980) Hany Rashed (b.1975) and Ali Abdel-Mohsen (b.1984) in an exhibition entitled Identity, which tackles the questions of the self and how it is shaped by family, national ,culture, religion and language. Complemented by the works of German artists Gabriela Goronzy, Thomas Kleine and Ilka Vogler, the project presents Kamel’s collage on fabric, Rashed’s paintings and Abdel-Mohsen’s mixed media drawings. The intercultural exhibition aims to answer the question “Who am I?” from different cultural perspectives. One of the questions raised is whether identity is a process of a lifetime of learning, interaction and communication? Or is it possible to step beyond these boundaries and free yourself from them? The search for identity is expressed through various artistic mediums in the collection of works and was previously exhibited at Mashrabia Gallery of Contemporary Art in downtown Cairo early this year.

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Cairo Opera House to host Arab Music Festival in November

Ahram Online, 1 Nov 2012 – The 21st annual Arab Music Festival will kick off on 8 November at the Cairo Opera House and will continue for eight days. The festival will feature an Arabic-language operetta, Asheq El-Nagham (‘Melody Lover’), which reflects on the life of Egyptian musician Riad Sumbati (1906-1981). Sumbati wrote music for legendary Egyptian singer Um Kalthum. Among the participants in this year’s festival will be Fouad Zabadi and Asmaa Lmnawar (Morocco); Safwan Bahlawan and Hussein El-Sheikh (Syria); Sana Moussa (Palestine); and Rami Yasoub (Lebanon). Egyptian musicians will include Mohammed El-Helw, Afaf Radi, Amal Maher, May Farouk, Reham Abdul Hakim and Murad Karam. A more detailed programme for the festival will be provided soon.

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Kazakhstan Begins to Dismantle Barriers for disabled

Centralasiaonline.com 2012-10-30 ALMATY – Kazakhstan has begun implementing its National Action Plan for 2012-2018 to protect the rights of and improve the quality of life of the disabled. The programme, which the Ministry of Labor and Social Security created together with NGOs and the UNDP, aims to help 500,000 Kazakhs. “This program is unprecedented in Kazakhstan, and it was created to solve all the problems that the disabled experience – from the modernisation of apartments to employment and social integration,” explained Kaini Manabayeva, director of the Social Assistance Department at the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. “The implementation of this plan will thus be an important step in the country’s transition to inclusive development.”

The budget for the seven-year National Plan is estimated at 150 billion KZT (US $1 billion), but this figure could increase, according to the ministry. Officials are implementing the first phase (2012-2013) of the National Plan. One of the first tasks is to inventory buildings, housing and transport infrastructure to assess accessibility. The results will determine how much work awaits and how much money to budget. To develop the optimal framework for providing disabled access to buildings and transport facilities, starting in 2014, workers will begin building infrastructure access for the disabled in the pilot regions – East Kazakhstan Oblast, Astana, and Almaty. The work will begin in 2015 in other regions.

NGOs hope that these measures will allow wheelchair users to move more freely around the city. “Kazakhstan’s cities are currently not suited to those with limited mobility,” said Kairat Imanaliyev, head of NAMYS, the Association for the Disabled with Higher Education. “The building ramp regulations have not changed, but they previously were not strictly enforced, and traffic lights with spoken announcements do not exist even where the (blind) need them the most – near akimats (city halls), clinics and rehabilitation centres. The action plan should get to the root of this problem.”

Railway stations will be among the first buildings to gain disabled access. In early October, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, together with NGO representatives, discussed new standards of customer service on passenger trains and at train stations. As a result, officials decided to make the stations and platforms accessible to wheelchair users over the next two years. In addition, by year’s end, workers will equip 90% of all passenger trains with wheelchairs so that the disabled can move through the cars. “The first phase of the plan also includes modernising the apartments of the disabled,” Manabayeva said. “The doorways will be widened, doorsteps will be removed, and bathrooms and toilets will be refitted.”

Kazakhstan started to address the problems facing the disabled more seriously as a result of its signing in 2008 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, according to observers. Work is under way on revising more than 30 laws to bring them in line with the convention’s requirements.

By revising its laws to take into account the rights of the disabled and by implementing the National Plan, Kazakhstan will be able to ratify the convention in the next two years. Any law or regulation regarding the disabled should be subject to a series of consultations with and a review by the disabled, according to the requirements of the National Plan.

“Right now our government is trying to bring itself in line with the informal motto of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ‘Nothing about us without us,’” said Manabayeva.

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Bangladesh hosts Photography exhibit on Islamic culture

DHAKA, Nov 1, 2012 (BSS) – Photography exhibition on Islamic culture and heritage which began on October 20 drew huge response from both local and foreign visitors. The exhibition began at Ahsan Manzil Museum and will continue till November 20 aiming to project Islamic culture and heritage of Bangladesh. The exhibition is open for all from 9am to 4pm every day except Thursdays.

A total of 64 photographs on Islamic heritage and culture are being displayed at the exhibition, Deputy Keeper of Ahsan Manjil Museum Dr Md Alamgir said. Around 5,000 visitors visited the exhibition during Eid holidays and 2,000 people visited on other days, he added. The Ministry of Cultural Affairs and the National Museum are jointly organizing the exhibition as Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) declared Dhaka as capital of Islamic Culture-2012.

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Royal Brunei Airlines Undergoes Rebranding

Borneo Bulletin Online – Royal Brunei Airlines (RB) has taken a redefining step to turnaround its strategies by revealing its new livery and logo last night at an auspicious launching ceremony held at Hangar 1, Brunei International Airport. The new livery and logo was revealed on an Airbus A320, which was painted by RB’s own in-house engineering team. Some 700 people turned out for the historic event among them was the Minister of Communications, Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdullah bin Dato Paduka Haji Bakar as the guest of honour, as well as RB’s Chairman and Board of Directors, staff and other invited guests.

The Airbus A320 was towed into Hangar 1, as hundreds of guest pulled out their cameras and hand phones to capture in what could be the most strategic decision made by the national carrier. As soon as the aircraft came to a halt, some of the country’s national icons climbed down the flight of stairs. Among the first to come out was Brunei’s pioneer pilot, Captain Khalidkhan Hj Asmakhan.

Also included in the list were two of Brunei’s Olympians, Maziah Mahusin, Brunei’s first female Olympian who represented the Sultanate at the London Summer Olympics in the 400m run, Ak Hafiy Tajuddin Pg Rositi who represented Brunei at the London Summer Olympics in the 400m run, the Under-21 football team who were the champions of the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy in March 2012, and the Kilimanjaro all-female team who raised the Brunei Flag at the highest peak of Mount Kilimanjaro in 2001.

Prior to the launch, Royal Brunei Airlines released teasers of its redefinition of travel in the local media, both print and online, and the “Smile Squad” who triggered public curiosity over the past two weeks. The Smile Squad was spotted in different parts of the country, spreading genuine smiles and cheer to the public.

Mr Dermot Mannion, Deputy Chairman of RB, said, “Over the next year, we will be redefining the Royal Brunei Airlines flying experience, starting with our classic styled new livery and logo. This redefinition is not merely an ad campaign, but rather a long term commitment to our passengers to create a family-like, peaceful and tranquil atmosphere with high class customer service.”

The new livery and logo is the first step on RB’s rebranding journey. Over the next year, the national carrier will be rolling out a new website experience (including new social media experience), new uniforms and new lounge and ticket office environments. The completion of the rebranding process will be timed to coincide with the entry into service of the 787 Boeing Dreamliners on September 1, 2013, making RB the first airline in Southeast Asia to take delivery of this ultra modern aircraft, he added.

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Competition helps promote mastery of Jawi calligraphy

Borneo Bulletin Online – The Department of Co-Curriculum Education, Ministry of Education through the Skills and Entrepreneurship Section yesterday held a prize presentation ceremony for the Jawi Calligraphy Writing Competition that was held for the first time this year for primary school, secondary school, college and pre-university students. The prize presentation ceremony was held at the new Perpindahan Kampong Lambak Kanan Jalan 10 Primary School. Present as guest of honour at the event was Pg Hjh Sarah binti Pg Hj Kamaluddin, Acting Director General of Education at the Ministry of Education.

The ceremony began with the recitation of Surah Al-Fatihah, followed by a welcoming speech from the chairman of the event, Awg Roslin bin Suhailee, Acting Deputy Director of Co-Curriculum Education, Ministry of Education who took the opportunity to congratulate all the winners in the competition. In his welcoming remarks, Awg Roslin also highlighted the importance of Jawi calligraphy as a form of writing in Bahasa Melayu since Islam was established in the Sultanate.

The event then continued with a speech from Pg Hjh Sarah, the guest of honour, in which she stressed upon the prolongation of the competition to be carried out annually so that it will motivate and encourage students to master the technique of writing Jawi calligraphy. She also highlighted that the Jawi calligraphy is part of the culture of the archipelago that should be appreciated and upheld.

“It is advisable that schools and colleges should organise several workshops for teachers in regards to Jawi calligraphy with the support from Co-Curriculum Department of Education as part of their staff development. From this, it is hoped that Jawi calligraphy will be reinforced among teachers in Brunei,” she added.

The guest of honour then presented prizes to 224 recipients from schools all over Brunei. The objective of the ceremony was to uphold Jawi script as a platform of education to enhance the skills and talent among students in Brunei. It was also aimed at creating awareness among the students about the importance of Jawi script as well as to increase the national spirit and love for their own country by preserving the Jawi script as part of the Malay cultural heritage.

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Photos of Holy Lands compiled in new book

ISTANBUL – Anatolia News Agency – Old photos of the holy lands Mecca, Medina and Taif have been collected in a book titled “Medeniyet Yadigarları, Mekke-i Mükerreme, Medine-i Münevvere ve Taif” (Relics of Civilization, Holy Mecca, Enlightened Medina and Taif). The book, written by Anees Bashir Chaudry, explains the history of three cities with photos taken between 1967 and 1984. In the book’s introduction the writer states that his aim was to shed light on old artifacts and provide a source for researchers, while giving information about older architectural styles and enabling the next generations to establish a connection between the old and the new.

The book starts with Mecca, explaining its geographical location, neighborhoods, minarets and more. It explains that the city has been protected thanks to Ajyad, Hindi and La’l fortresses. There are 110 photos from Mecca in the book and it says most of the places photographed do not exist today. Chaudry says Medina has more than 90 names and includes 95 photos along with his writings on the streets of the city. The book shows the train station, which was built by the Ottoman sultan Abdulhamid II, and the mosque next to it known as Mescid-i Amberriye. The third part of the book is about Taif and includes 20 photos of the city.

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Bosnia Elects First Hijab-Wearing Mayor

(Islam Online) CAIRO – A Bosnian hijab-clad Muslim woman has been elected as mayor of Visoko municipality in central Bosnia, making history as the first veiled European mayor. “It’s a victory of tolerance,” Amra Babic, a wartime widow, told Springfield News-Leader on Monday, October 29. The 43 year-old economist has been elected as Bosnia’s first hijab-wearing mayor, and possibly the only one in Europe.

She was a bank auditor and served as the regional finance minister before running for mayor. She decided to wear her headscarf after her husband was killed while fighting in the Bosnian army in the war-scarred Balkan nation. For Babic, religion and hard work helped her overcome her husband’s death, raise their three boys alone and pursue a career. Viewing her hijab as ‘a human right’, she sees her electoral triumph as a proof that observance of Muslim tradition is compatible with Western democratic values. “I am the East and I am the West,” she declared.

“I am proud to be a Muslim and to be a European. I come from a country where religions and cultures live next to each other. All that together is my identity,” she added. Bosnia, a small country on the Balkan Peninsula, is home to three ethnic “constituent peoples”: mainly Muslim Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. Out of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s nearly 4 million population, some 40 percent are Muslims, 31 percent Orthodox Christians and 10 percent Catholics.

Praising her as a successful economist and local politician, 45,000 people in Visoko municipality hope Babic would play an active role in Bosnia’s emergence from the ashes. “We are proud to have elected her,” says Muris Karavdic, 38, a local small business owner. “It doesn’t matter whether she covers her head or not. She is smart and knows finances.”

A decade after aggressive Balkan war, Bosnia is still trying to rise from its ashes. Bosnia fell into civil war in 1992 that left 200,000 people dead and displaced millions as Serb forces launched ethnic cleansing campaign against Bosnian Muslims. During the 43-month war, which claimed some 200,000 lives, nearly two million people fled their homes, half a million of them are still listed as refugees.

In the final months of the three-year war, Serb forces, led by General Ratko Mladic, overran Srebrenica, killing some 8,000 Muslim men and boys. Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military chief Ratko Mladic, the two people considered most responsible for the massacre, are both facing trial for genocide before the UN war crimes court in The Hague over Srebrenica.The other main protagonists of the war have all died or have been convicted of war crimes.

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GCC governments embark on $15 billion railway project

Dubai, 16 Dhul Hijja 1433/ 01 November 2012 (IINA) – The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) governments are embarking on plans to restore Hejaz Railway, the long-distance rail transport in the region and extend it across the Arabian Peninsula.

The Gulf states are expected to prepare a detailed engineering design for the $15 billion joint line by end-2013 or mid-2014, an official at the GCC’s Secretariat General said. “Hopefully by the beginning of 2018, the railway will start operating,” said Ibrahim Al-Sabti, director of the transportation department at the Riyadh-based secretariat. Currently, the only major rail systems operating in the GCC are a 60-year-old freight and passenger link between Riyadh and the port of Dammam in Saudi Arabia, and Dubai’s metro. But that is set to change dramatically as growing populations and countries’ desire to diversify their economies away from oil exports cause them to pour money into railway construction.

Saudi Arabia is building a 2,750 kilometer line from Riyadh to its northern border with Jordan, aiming to complete it in 2014. About 2,260 km of additional lines are planned in Saudi Arabia, including metro systems and high-speed train projects. In the UAE, Etihad Rail has started building a link that is to transport granulated sulphur from desert gas fields to the southern port of Ruwais after it is finished in 2014. The national networks are to be connected to a joint GCC line that would run from Kuwait along the Gulf coast to Muscat in Oman.

Official figures suggest around $100 billion may be spent by the end of this decade laying over 6,000 km of track for both national lines and a route linking all the states in the Gulf Cooperation Council. Trade within the GCC and its re-exports to other countries are expected to get a boost. Intra-GCC trade rose from $19.8 billion in 2003 to $65.4 billion in 2010, still only a tiny fraction of last year’s total GCC trade value of $1.3 trillion. Ports in the GCC are making plans to expand partly on the assumption that they will be connected to the railway. One of them is the port of Salalah in the far south of Oman, near the border with Yemen.

In 2009, a GCC feasibility study forecast the joint GCC rail line would open in 2016, carrying 29 million tons of freight out of 61 million transported by all means in the region. Annual passenger traffic was projected at 4 million people in 2016-2020, with passenger revenue of $240 million in 2016 rising to $600 million in 2045.

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Saudi Arabia to fund $100 million Kabul Islamic center

Kabul, 16 Dhul Hijja 1433/ 01 November 2012 (IINA) – Saudi Arabia will build a massive Islamic center complete with a university and a mosque in Afghanistan, an Afghan minister said, describing the project as “grand and unique.” Estimated to cost up to $100 million, the center on a hilltop in central Kabul will house up to 5,000 students, Dayi-Ul Haq Abed, the acting Haj and religious affairs minister told AFP. It will be named after Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, the minister added. “The agreement was signed last week in Jeddah. The construction will start next year, in a couple of months or so,” Abed said. The mosque, similar to the Faisal Mosque in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad that was also built by Saudi Arabia in 1980s, will hold 15,000 worshippers at a time. The minister said the center would be jointly run by the Saudi and Afghan ministries of religious affairs. Other universities in Afghanistan are run by the Higher Education Ministry.

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Plan to construct tunnel connecting Holy sites in Saudi Arabia

Makkah, 16 Dhul Hijja 1433/ 01 November 2012 (IINA) – Makkah Mayor Dr. Osama Al-Bar announced that an underground tunnel connecting Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah will be constructed soon exclusively for ambulance vans as well as for supply, service and cleaning vehicles. Experts at the Authority for the Development of Makkah and Holy Sites are giving final touches to the project to implement it within a few months, he said. Mayor said that the Jamarat station of Mashair Railway would be part of the Makkah Metro network, adding that the SR 62 billion metro project would be implemented in the beginning of next year. Al-Bar said that the metro network would cover 182 km when the four lines are completed in 10 years. The first stage is due to be ready in three years and will cover 122 km, he said. Speaking about the tunnel project, he said that it is part of a plan for the comprehensive development of the holy sites. ‘Higher authorities have already approved the tunnel project, adding that it would facilitate quick movement of service vehicles without any obstructions.’ He said the cleaners and environment health protection teams would remain in Mina for the next two days.

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