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3 Dec, 2012

Paris Institute Exhibit Marks “25 Years of Arab Creativity”

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 03 December 2012 (19 Muharram 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



The Ministry of Tourism, Malaysia’s Homestay Experience Programme won the UNWTO Ulysses Award for Innovation in Public Policy and Governance at the UNWTO Awards Ceremony held in Istanbul, Turkey on 15 Nov. The award was received by the Ministry’s Deputy Secretary General Mr. Rashidi Hasbullah. Launched in 1995, the homestay programme has become increasingly popular among local and foreign tourists. They can live with a local family in a kampung (village) house and learn about close-knit family relationships, enjoy sumptuous home-cooked food and discover the simple lifestyle in the country. The programme also contributes to the socio-economic development of the local people and the country. Up until August 2012, a total of 3,424 homestay operators from 159 villages have been trained and licensed by the Ministry of Tourism. From January to August this year, a total of 213,266 tourists participated in this programme, including 41,670 foreigners. Last year, the homestay programme attracted 254,981 participants of whom 59,657 were foreigners. The total homestay programme revenue for 2011 is RM15.74 million, an increase of 26.8% compared to 2010. For more information on homestay programme, please visit http://www.go2homestay.com.

The UNWTO Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism is a worldwide event highlighting knowledge innovation and its application in all five UNWTO regions (the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific, Africa and the Middle East). The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the UNWTO Knowledge Network confer the UNWTO Ulysses Prize and Awards annually to highlight and showcase Innovation and Application of Knowledge in Tourism.

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


Paris Institute Marks “25 Years of Arab Creativity”

PARIS, Alahram Online – Founded in the early 1980s by France and a group of 18 Arab states wanting to promote Arab culture and civilisation in Europe, the Institut du monde arabe, or Arab World Institute, moved into its present building next to the Seine in central Paris in 1987. Since then, this landmark building, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, has become widely known for its exhibitions, cultural events, publications and other activities.

This year marks 25 years since the Institut moved into its premises next to the sprawling university campus of the Université de Paris VI and VII-Jussieu. To celebrate this event, it has organised a series of anniversary events, among them musical performances and film screenings. However, the most important of the events is undoubtedly the major exhibition of contemporary Arab art, entitled “25 years of Arab creativity,” that has taken over both the main building’s temporary exhibition spaces and the temporary “Mobile Art” structure, designed by the Iraqi-born UK architect Zaha Hadid, that rests in the square in front of the Institut.

The exhibition, overseen by guest curator Ehab Ellabban, also curator of the 2008 and 2010 Cairo Biennales, includes the work of several dozen artists from across the Arab world, all of whom were asked to submit recent work to the Institut’s 25th anniversary show. The aim is to provide a kind of synoptic overview of contemporary artistic creation from the Arab world, introducing French and European audiences to the work of major figures from recent years and allowing them to pick out leading trends.

The exhibition also underlines the Institut’s role as a major international venue not only for the promotion and display of contemporary Arab art, but also as a place where Arab artists keen to work internationally can exhibit their work, helping them up the ladder to European and wider recognition and their work into international collections and museums.

Interviewed by the French magazine artabsolument, Ellabban explained that in taking on the curatorial work behind the show, he had had in mind four main themes, the work submitted relating to one or more of these. The political changes underway across the Arab world had been one of these themes, he said, but so had the wider socio-economic circumstances of the contemporary Arab world and work exhibiting more formalist, and less sociological, research into artistic methods and materials. Finally, there were works that were marked by processes of globalisation, moving away from local Arab culture and Arab national concerns and onto the international stage.

Click here to read the rest.

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Islamic Culture Organisation adopts three-year action plan

Rabat, 17 Muharram 1434/ 01 December 2012 (IINA) – The 33rd session of the Executive Council of the Rabat-based Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), which concluded in Riyadh on Thursday, adopted the draft action plan for 2013-2015.

In a communique adopted at the end of the session, the Council called for promoting programs on dialogue of culture and religious tolerance while focusing on the conflict spots in the Muslim world. The council decided to convene the 34th session in Baghdad in October 2013.

The Council called for giving greater focus on staff training programs, particularly in technical and vocational education, and supporting concerned institutions while giving special care to girls, women and categories with special needs as well as benefiting from the opportunities offered by globalization in spreading Islam’s universal values. It also called for giving further care to the integration of educational systems through conducting regional field studies to achieve the ‘Education for All’ goal by 2015, according to an ISESCO statement.

In addition to dedicating more programmes aimed at empowering Muslim women, effectively involving them in socio-economic and political development and promoting production culture and development-oriented projects among women, the Council stressed the need for devoting further attention to programs on management of water resources and supply of fresh water to most needy countries, particularly within the framework of ISESCO’s Strategy for Management of Water Resources in the Islamic World.

It also emphasized extending further support to the institutions of Arabic teaching to non-Arabic speakers in the member states and among Muslims outside the Islamic world, and called for benefiting from youth promising potential in redressing the image of Islam and Muslims. Equal emphasis was put on the need to develop national scientific research policies to identify the needs and enhance the member states’ scientific and technological base through establishing centres of excellence in research and independent bodies to spread successful experiences.

Also, the Council called for setting up businesses for marketing research findings, establishing research parks to carry out major multi-disciplinary scientific projects in the member states, and setting up an institution for fostering scientific cooperation at the international level. It urged to increase the budget allocated to scientific research to at least 1% of member states’ GDP and of waqf funds’ profits and offering incentives to private businesses to allocate a major part of their budgets to the promotion of scientific research, in addition to developing a new vision to counter smear campaigns against Islam and Muslims through moving from their moral to the legal rejection and incriminating the instigators of such campaigns.

The Council adopted report of the director general on ISESCO’s activities for the year 2011. It also stressed the necessity to continue efforts to develop Arabic curricula and teaching to non-Arabic speakers, with increased emphasis on the activities geared to the youth, children and women. The Council endorsed the director general’s report for the years 2009-2011 on the programs and activities dedicated to Palestine, especially Jerusalem.

It also welcomed the announcement about the work visit to be made by director general to the Palestinian territories to take stock of the needs of Palestinian educational, scientific and cultural institutions and to dedicate activities in response to requirements. It also commended the technical documented report drawn up by ISESCO on the illegality of the excavations conducted by the Israeli occupation authorities in the precinct of Al-Aqsa Mosque. The meeting also adopted the director general’s report for the years of 2007-2009 and progress report for the years of 2010-2012.

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Central Asian Countries Seek to Remove Hindrances to Trade, Transport Integration

Bangkok, 27 November 2012 (UN ESCAP Strategic Communications and Advocacy Section) – A regional economic cooperation forum of Central Asia and Afghanistan meet this week to discuss how integration experiences of other Asia-Pacific subregions can help promote sustainable and inclusive growth among its members amidst the current global economic uncertainty.

Government and business leaders from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, together with intergovernmental organizations and financial institutions working in Central Asia, are attending the 27-28 November event convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) to discuss ways to harness regional integration to drive the post-2015 global development agenda in these countries.

Opening the Forum, Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Under-Secretary-General of the UN and Executive Secretary of ESCAP said: “This meeting will review what I call both the building blocks and the stumbling blocks of regional economic integration across Asia, especially in terms of regional organizations – and will identify good practices and lessons learned that can be adapted to meet the challenges of Central Asia.

“Regional economic integration has become ever more important in our quest to find new drivers of regional growth, in support of shared and sustained prosperity. National, and even bilateral approaches, alone are no longer sufficient to address these challenges. Regional solutions, through regional cooperation, can be the way for us to forge more sustainable economic growth, close development gaps, and help lift tens of millions of people still in poverty. ESCAP’s work in support of SPECA focuses on trade, transport, water and energy – key areas which are central to any subregional and regional integration in Central Asia.” Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of UNECE, Sven Alkalaj declared: “The lack of functioning regional organizations and institutions in Central Asia has negative consequences for these economies. SPECA offers neutral UN expertise in the very areas where regional economic cooperation provides the greatest added value such as trade, transport and border crossing.

“Supported by the two UN Regional Commissions, SPECA offers a framework for providing a subregional perspective to the broader discussions on the post 2015 Development Agenda. I am convinced SPECA can play a key role in the practical follow-up to and implementation of the Rio+20 outcomes, in particular those related to the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty reduction.”

The 2012 SPECA (United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia) Economic Forum with the theme “Strengthening Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration in Central Asia by Sharing the Asian Experience” aims to learn from the successes and challenges of regional economic integration in similar blocs, particularly the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS).

SPECA addresses key economic and environmental cooperation issues among its members, directly influencing sustainable development, stability and security in the region. Following the June 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), SPECA is facilitating stronger regional cooperation aimed at balancing the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development as pledged by world leaders at the Conference.

As part of the Programme’s role in supporting reconstruction and stabilization efforts in Afghanistan, the SPECA Bangkok Forum was preceded by a side event on 26 November titled “Review of Work in the SPECA Framework in Support of Implementation of the Decisions of the Fifth Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan”. The Forum will conclude with the 7th session of the SPECA Governing Council, the top policymaking body of the forum which was set up 13 years ago to speed up integration of the then new Central Asian countries into the world economy.

Background The strategic importance of Central Asia makes it a unique region, and this is highlighted by the significant role it plays in the energy security of Europe and Asia, its connective potential as a transport hub between two continents, and its active role in the fight against such global security challenges as terrorism, religious extremism and drug trafficking.

The region also faces unique challenges. All of the member countries are landlocked, with divergent economic development, and a rapid growth gap between the income levels of energy-exporting and non-energy exporting States.

In turn, Central Asian States face the urgent task of diversifying their economies, moving away from their present status as energy and commodity exporters. Strengthening regional cooperation is a key precondition for the rapid, balanced and sustained economic development of all the countries of the region. Only through close regional cooperation can they fully capitalize on their strategic advantages and fight jointly and effectively the challenges that can potentially destabilize the region.

ESCAP Subregional Office for North and Central Asia The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s (ESCAP) Subregional Office for North and Central Asia (ESCAP-NCA) is one of four subregional offices across Asia and the Pacific. It provides targeted and in-depth technical assistance, capacity building, cutting-edge data, and policy advice to our member States, supporting their efforts to address the priority issues of this subregion. It also serves as a joint office for the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA), in partnership with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

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Cairo to Host 2013 Summit of Incentive Travel Executives

Site members in Egypt will host the Site Executive Summit 2013 on 11 February in their home capital of Cairo. The Summit is a one-day educational forum focused on the motivational events and incentive travel marketplace and stands as an excellent opportunity for professionals in the region to learn from and network with global industry leaders. Professionals from event agencies, corporate planners, tourist authorities, DMCs, hotels and transportation companies are encouraged to attend.

The tourism industry in Egypt has been greatly affected by ongoing political events that have brought about a dramatic change and media attention. Through this Summit, Site hopes to not only provide education to professionals from Egypt and nearby countries but also bring a positive focus back to a region that has an amazing heritage, people and tourism products and diverse creative opportunities. With new leadership in the tourism sectors of government and a MICE landscape that is ever changing, holding the Site Executive Summit in this destination promises to deliver conversations like no other Summit before.

“As Site President for 2013, I am pleased that we are holding the Site Executive Summit in Africa,” shared David Sand, CEO, Uwin Iwin Group, South Africa, Kenya and India. “The event will shine a positive light on Egypt, and demonstrate to the world that Egypt is thriving. The impact the Summit has had on other destinations has been phenomenal.”

The goodwill and business opportunities the Summit can offer Egypt has earned the event the support of its host country. “It is my pleasure to extend the invitation of the Egyptian government to host the Site Executive Summit 2013 in Cairo,” said H.E. Hisham Zaazou, the Egyptian Minister of Tourism. “I would like to invite all delegates to enjoy the splendor of Egypt, ‘The Land Of The Pharaohs’. We at the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and myself will spare no effort to ensure that the Site Summit 2013 will be the most memorable and enjoyable event for all delegates.”

The Site International Board of Directors will anchor the Summit’s education sessions with industry leaders and Site members from Egypt sharing the regional viewpoint. The Summit is designed to be an interactive forum, and attendee participation is critical to the conversation. Some of the topics that will be covered during the event include:

(+) The global market of incentive travel today

(+) Trends and perspectives on buyer purchasing and sourcing

(+) A look at technology and social media and how they are impacting motivational events

(+) How destinations and their partners can remain competitive in an expanding world market

(+) Benchmarking against extraordinary motivational experiences being offered by other destinations, with a look at the 2012 Crystal Award-winning programs

The Summit will be held at the Cairo Marriott Hotel & Omar Khayyam Casino, located in the Zamalek district on Gezira Island, situated on the Nile River. The central section of the hotel was once the Gezirah Palace built for the Khedive Isma’l Pashas in 1869. Today it stands as one of the largest and most modern hotels and tallest buildings in Cairo. The day will be capped off with a Gala Dinner at the Mena House Oberoi, one of the most unique hotels in Cairo, with its own rich and colorful history. Surrounded by 40 acres of verdant green gardens, the palatial hotel is located in the shadows of the Great Pyramids of Giza in Cairo.

Site would like to thank the official Summit partners: ETAA – the Egyptian Travel Agents Association, the Cairo Marriott Hotel & Casino and all Site Egypt Chapter members who are passionate about incentive travel to Egypt and Africa. Egypt Air will serve as the Official Air Partner and is offering 50% off the lowest available rate from an Air Egypt hub.

The Chair of the Site Executive Summit is Adel Zaki, President of Ittatours. For more information and to register for the Summit, visit the Site Global website. Questions about the Summit should be directed to Executive Summit Committee Member Karim ElMinabawy, at karimm@emeco.com.

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Gambia’s Open Mic Festival On December 28

30 November 2012 – Gambia’s biggest music festival which is called the ‘Open Mic Festival’ this year is scheduled to take place at the Independence Stadium December 28th. According to the organisers at their Press Conference at the Africell radio Wednesday afternoon said, this year’s festival is sponsored by Youki, black Lynx and Africell.

According to the organisers, the open Mic festival continues to provide the biggest live audience platforms for recording and performing artists in the Gambia. They said it is largely responsible for giving urban Gambian music its greatest gift and hope that careers can be built and livelihoods earned by pursuing one’s passion for the art of music. The organisers of the show told music journalists that this has enhanced the spirit of competition and has encouraged artists to work even harder in order to be more visible.

Officials said this is the 5th year in a row they have staged successful open Mic Festivals and they are proud to say that over 200,000 Gambians go to see open mic including important dignitaries.

Abdul Karim Faye who is commonly called Wagan said around 2007, the music industry was a little dormant and that’s why they came together to see how they can give Gambian music some life. He said so many artists have passed through the open mic and that the show plays a very important role in their music careers. He thanks the media for always supporting the open mic and was quick to say that it is a national event and everybody should contribute their quota.

Wagan said every year they have problems with the kind of artists they would put in the show to perform because now Gambia has so many good artists. He said they cannot all perform one night and highlighted some of the criteria’s they look for in an artist to perform at the open mic. Wagan Faye said the first criteria is that the artist has to pass through the monthly open Mic Festivals, the artist has to be visible and popular, the artist has to do lot of performances in the past, the artist need to get popular music that many Gambians know about and the artist needs to be relevant.

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Five Gambian Artistes to Perform in UK

30 November 2012 – In what is seen as a great bolster in the promotion of urban Gambian music and artistes in general, five Gambian artists are currently preparing for what could be best described as their first ever musical concert in the United Kingdom.

The stars namely- Gibou Bala Gaye alias Gee, Madi Kanuteh also known as Jali Madi ,Trobul Smallz Suso, Slam G alias The City Boys and Nana Mboob are expected to performed alongside the leading Senegalese mbalax diva-Vivian Chedid Ndoure on Saturday December 25th at the Coliseum Suites Hall in London, UK, according to reports reaching What’s On.

The history or ground breaking event will also avail the Gambian sensations the opportunity to not only thrill their fans in the Diaspora but as well promote the real urban Gambian music. As household names in the country’s entertainment scene, this development is welcomed by music enthusiasts describing it as a move in the right direction taking into account, is another way of motivating our very best stars.

Brought courtesy of Saul Sounds Joluv Arts Entertainment in collabo with Global Properties, a Gambia based property developer, is also supported by Waka, anchorman of talk Senegambia and Jarjefateh Freight Company. It will mark another turning point in a move to promote urban Gambian music internationally.

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Form Consortium Of Malaysian Firms In Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH, Dec 3 (NNN-Bernama) — The Malaysian Business Council (MBC) in Saudi Arabia has proposed the setting up of a consortium to ease the entry of Malaysian companies into the kingdom.

Vice Chairman Dr Azmi Omar said based on the council’s observations, Malaysian companies can do well here with their good reputation.

“We discussed with Matrade how to go about bringing Malaysian companies here. This is a proposal, and we hope the government will look into it,” he told Bernama after presenting MBC’s plans and progress to Chief Secretary to the Government Dr Ali Hamsa, who is on a four-day working visit to Saudi Arabia.

Azmi said Saudi Arabia is now going into a lot of infrastructure projects with no funding problems.

“They are into development of education, the oil and gas sector and so on, so there are a lot of business opportunities here,” he said.

MBC, set up in 2009, has five executive committee members and 15 counsellors in financial services, property development, construction, trading and other services.

Azmi said MBC could facilitate Malaysians’ business dealings in the kingdom, which offers different challenges from those in other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

He said MBC will work closely with Matrade and the Jeddah Consul-General, including by having monthly meetings.

“Before this we didn’t have such a council and many companies from Malaysia come on their own, whereas Korean and Chinese companies come here as part of a consortium created by their respective government.

“If Malaysian businesses come here as part of a consortium under the government’s umbrella, their opportunities would be better,” he added.

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Musician Stevie Wonder Cancels Pro-Israel Performance

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 1, 2012 (WAFA) – World famous musician and civil rights leader Stevie Wonder has cancelled a planned performance for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Annual Fundraiser Gala following a growing outcry from individuals, human rights organizations, and public figures from around the world, a press release by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation said on Friday.

In conjunction with letters and phone calls from Israelis, Palestinians, other artists and public figures, three international petitions had garnered more than 10,000 signatures, including an open letter by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation that garnered more than 4,000 signatures in less than 24 hours directly preceding the announcement.

A statement issued by Wonder read in part: “With a heart that has always cried out for world unity, I will not be performing at the FIDF Gala on December 6th… As a Messenger of Peace, I am and have always been against war, any war, anywhere.” Wonder’s representatives said that the United Nations had also recommended cancellation in light of his official designation as a UN “Messenger of Peace.”

Symbolically, the announcement came on November 29, the annual UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, marking 65 years since the UN voted to partition Palestine leading to the exile and dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Wonder’s performance had been set to take place one week later in Los Angeles.

Bassem Nasir, a Palestinian writer, said: “As a longtime fan, I am delighted that the inspiration I have long received from Stevie has been reaffirmed. More importantly, as a Palestinian, I am grateful that he had the courage to stand against the injustices done to my people. I hope more artists do the same and boycott Israel.”

Cindy and Craig Corrie — the parents of American peace activist Rachel Corrie who was killed in 2003 by an Israeli soldier driving a U.S.-made Caterpillar bulldozer as she was protecting a Palestinian family’s home from demolition in Gaza — commended the decision.

The Deputy National Director and Director of Development for FIDF, Pinhas Zoaretz, was the commanding officer of the Israeli military’s Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade when Rachel was killed. “We are heartened by reports that Stevie Wonder has decided not to perform for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces,” said the Corries. “The death, destruction, confiscation of land, and suppression of basic human rights executed by the Israeli military do not merit the support of those who yearn for justice, peace, and security for all in the region.”

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Air Navigation Service Providers Conference kicks off in Amman

Amman, Dec. 3 (Petra)–The 3rd Middle East ANSP, Airspace User & Stakeholder Engagement (MEAUSE) Conference kicked off in Amman on Monday. The event is organized by the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO) and Jordan’s Civil Aviation Regulatory Commission (CARC) with the support of International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Airports Council International (ACI).

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CARC Mohammad Amin Al-Quran highlighted in opening remarks the importance of such a meeting which would provide an opportunity to exchanger views and expertise in the civil aviation field.

He said that such conferences and workshops would enrich participants’ knowledge and help them to acheive their goals. With a working level focus, the CANSO MEAUSE conference brings all stakeholders together – Regulators, ANSPs, Airports, Military & Civil Airspace Users and Suppliers – to join their Middle East Colleagues to discuss progress on agreed activities, to share experiences and views, to exchange best practice, to evaluate emerging issues and to jointly take the next step towards successful regional stakeholder collaboration.

The CANSO Middle East Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSP), Airspace Users & Stakeholder Engagement (MEAUSE) Initiative was founded with the aim of establishing a mechanism for stakeholder consultation to better align visions and future plans and exchange of best practices.

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Mozambique: Agro-business Investment Projects Approved

28 November 2012 – Maputo — The Fund for the Pro-Savana Development Initiative has approved its first package of financing for companies operating in the agro-business value chain in the Nacala Corridor in northern Mozambique.

Pro-Savana is a triangular development programme between the Mozambican Ministry of Agriculture, the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) aimed at the agricultural and rural development of areas along the Nacala Corridor (which runs from the port of Nacala across Nampula and Niassa provinces to landlocked Malawi).

The fund was launched in September by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Mozambican investment company Gapi, with the support of JICA. According to a Gapi press release, the first package, budgeted at 11.5 million meticais (about 383,000 US dollars), will benefit five companies whose investments will have a direct impact on the access of small producers to new markets and technologies.

The companies concerned are Lozane Farms of Alto-Molocue (in Zambezia province), IKURU, the Orwera Seed Company, Matharia Empreendimentos and Santos Agricola, which are all active in various parts of Nampula. The projects of these companies that have now been approved must be implemented within three years.

The loans granted to these companies by Gapi carry a maximum interest rate of ten per cent, with no other commissions – a much lower rate than could be obtained from any Mozambican commercial bank.

“The projects now approved, apart from benefitting the companies themselves, will induce direct gains for around 2,000 small producers with whom the companies will establish contractual obligations for mutual provision and exchange of goods and services”, said the Gapi release.

In general, the five companies propose to produce improved seeds, and various cash crops include soya, beans, vegetables, sesame, groundnuts and sorghum.

The Fund was subscribed in September in Nampula, and its objective is to test models of investment and financing for small agro-business companies in the Nacala Corridor. The initial contributions to the fund were 22 million meticais, and it will shortly be open to receiving further contributions.

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Cracking Some Hard (Cashew)Nuts in Burkina Faso

27 November 2012 – Eight West African cashew producer organisations met in Burkina Faso to discuss their challenges and experiences within the Fairtrade market. The nuts and oilseeds standards, under which cashew nuts fall, are relatively new within the Fairtrade product range and most of the producers are still adapting to the particularities of the Fairtrade market.

A much-discussed topic during the meeting was the producer-trader relationship. ‘Some traders are not respecting contracts,’ says Issaka Sommande of Association TON in Burkina Faso. ‘They send their agents directly to individual members, offering them higher prices and thus undermining the cooperatives.’ The participants agreed better access to up-to-date market information would strengthen their position. The small-scale farmers also believe that instead of exporting their harvest they would benefit from processing cashew nuts within their own organisations, but more capacity building will be needed to make this dream a reality.

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Australia to boost trade ties with Saudi Arabia

Saudi Gazette – 28 November, 2012 – Australia’s strong trade and investment relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is expected to be further boosted with the arrival of a high level business delegation this week. The Australia Gulf Council (AGC), a not-for-profit organization that aims to further strengthen the multilateral relationship between Australia and the Gulf states, will arrive in the Kingdom this Friday (Nov. 30) for a five-day visit focused on building greater trade ties in key sectors. The delegation of 12 business leaders from some of Australia’s top companies will then visit Abu Dhabi in the UAE.

Leading the business mission will be Mark Vaile AO, Deputy Prime Minister of Australia (2005-2007) and former Minister for Trade (1999-2006), Anna Bligh, former Queensland Premier (2007-2012) and Ahmed Fahour, the Australian Special Envoy to the Organization of The Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Australia’s two-way merchandise trade with Saudi Arabia has risen to AU$ 2,152 million, with major exports in 2011-12 including passenger motor vehicles (AU$ 569 million), barley (AU$ 299 million), wheat (AU$ 100 million) and meat (excl. beef) (AU$ 84 million). Major Australian imports from the Kingdom in 2011-12 included fertilizers (excl. crude) (AU$ 149 million) and crude petroleum (AU$ 148 million).

Australian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Neil Hawkins, welcomes the visit, saying: “The AGC’s mission will have the opportunity to appreciate the sheer scale of significant business opportunities available to Australian companies in Saudi Arabia, which is the largest economy in the Gulf. As other Australian companies operating in Saudi Arabia have found, personal contacts are an essential ingredient of doing business in this region so a visit such as this is very important.”

It is the third time the AGC has been in the region and this week’s visit follows other successful delegations which have been in the region strengthening trade and bilateral relations since 2010. “Our goal is to continue to develop stronger and sustained linkages across the business and government communities in Australia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” said Jonathan Herps, Chief Executive Officer of the AGC.

“Over the past two years we have worked hard to nurture mutually beneficial relationships between the Gulf States and Australia through our corporate partners and other commercial, government, non-government and diplomatic stakeholders. Our mission is to build on this further with the GCC countries and facilitate increased two-way trade and investment in these key markets for Australia.”

The AGC works closely with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) and Austrade who will help the travelling delegation to explore economic and political partnerships and areas for further collaboration across business and government entities. Sectors represented on the business mission by chief and senior executives include automotive, agriculture, construction and engineering, education, financial services, food and beverage, transport, telecommunications and tourism.

“Once again it is going to be a packed program that will include senior-level government to business and business to business engagement,” said Herps. “We are all looking forward to building on the successes and opportunities of the previous missions and creating new partnerships that will continue to grow our connections with this region.”

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National Bank of Pakistan asked to establish branches in Iran

Tehran Times – 29 November, 2012 – Iran Business Council Chairman Tariq Sayeed has underscored the need to further strengthening of economic and political relations between both the brotherly countries of Pakistan and Iran, and said that increase in bilateral trade can further promote regional trade. He hoped that mega joint investment projects, like Iran-Pakistan (IP) Gas Pipeline, would pave the way for further exploiting joint venture opportunities.

This was stated by him in a reception hosted in honour of Consul General of Iran, Abbas Ali Abdollahi to bid farewell upon completion of his assignment in Pakistan. Consul General of Iran, Abbas Ali Abdollahi expressed his profound gratitude to the leadership of FPCCI particularly Tariq Sayeed for hosting reception in his honour and said that he did his best to bring closer two countries and its people. He added that Pakistan and Iran posses a rich common culture which can be exploited for increase in business relations for creation of employment opportunities.

The Consul General of Iran hoped that Pakistan Iran Gas Pipeline will go a long way in promotion of new investment opportunities and increase in mutual trade volume between Pakistan and Iran as the present volume of trade does not reflect the true trade potential. He disclosed that Iran has already laid 1200 Kilometer pipeline from Bunder Abbas to Balochistan Border; however, Pakistan has yet to implement the project in its area.

He said that Iran Bank Milli and National Bank of Pakistan should establish their branches in Iran and Pakistan respectively. He offered to supply cheaper electricity to power ridden Pakistan, and also proposed that Pakistani investors and exporters should hold exhibition at Zahidan, Iran and other parts of the Iran, for which Iranian government would extend full support and cooperation.

Traders underscored the need to remove the non-tariff barriers and reduction in tariff rates and explore and exploit huge trading potential between the two bordering neighbour countries and for availability of investment opportunities, formation of Pak-Iran Joint Chamber, excess to Pak-Iran Market, introduction of Banking Channel and arrangements for currency swap, initiation of Barter Trade. They said that both the countries should frequently exchange trade delegations and hold single country exhibition between both the countries with the view to enhance regional trade from the existing volume.

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Air Arabia expands services to Karachi

Gulf Today – 29 November, 2012 – Air Arabia, the first and largest low-cost carrier in the Middle East and North Africa, announced on Wednesday the expansion of services to Karachi in Pakistan. The four weekly flights from Sharjah to Karachi are now increased to daily flights, making it easier and more convenient for passengers travelling between both cities. “We are extremely pleased to announce the expansion of services to Karachi in Pakistan,” said Adel Ali, Group CEO, Air Arabia. “Since launching operations to Pakistan, it has always been a market of focus for us, and the launch of additional services is a result of increasing customer demand from the market.”

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Malaysia Among Top Spending Countries In Visa’s 2011 Cce Index

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 28 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia has been ranked 10th among the Asia Pacific’s top spending countries for 2011 in Visa’s annual global Commercial Consumption Expenditure (CCE) Index.

Malaysia also recorded a total of US$404 billion (RM1.2 trillion) in commercial spending for the year reviewed, an increase of 24 per cent from 2010. “There is a significant increase in Malaysia’s estimated growth in commercial spending for 2011, with a 20 per cent increase year-on-year, surpassing many of the Asia Pacific countries,” said Visa Country Manager for Malaysia, Stuart Tomlinson.

According to the index, the Asia Pacific reported the largest share of global CCE spend, followed by Europe, the United States, Central/Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, and Canada. The top five Asia Pacific markets in size of total spend were China (US$12.3 trillion), Japan (US$11.7 trillion), India (US$3.9 trillion), South Korea (US$2.8 trillion) and Australia (US$2 trillion).

In the 2011 index, the Asia Pacific’s spending share surpassed that of Europe for the second consecutive year. Visa, a global payments technology company, estimates global commercial spending to have reached US$109.1 trillion (RM333.6 trillion) in 2011, representing a 12 per cent growth from the $97.4 trillion (RM297.8 trillion) in 2010. This is the first time the spending has surpassed US$100 trillion (RM305.8 trillion) since Visa created the CCE in 2004.

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Guyana Records 17.7% Increase In Tourism Arrivals

GEORGETOWN (Guyana), Nov 25 (NNN-GINA) — Guyana will likely by year-end achieve a record-breaking 20 percent increase in tourist arrivals over last year’s figure, as up to October there was already an increase of 17.7 % over the corresponding period, according to Director, Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) Indranauth Haralsingh.

“We are very happy to report that we have had record arrivals so far for the year … we have had 148,628 visitors compared with 126,313 up to the end of October,” said the GTA director at a press conference here.

Haralsingh also said that Guyana is again leading the 34-member Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) grouping in terms of percentage increase in arrivals, having done this in 2010.

He said that the country has been experiencing record-breaking months all year and that all the months up to October except for May have been the best ever since the GTA started capturing and recording visitor arrivals since 1995.

The majority of these tourists are from the United States, which has contributed 57 percent of the visitors to the country, Haralsingh said. The Caribbean accounted for 21 percent, Canada 14 percent, Europe 5 percent, South Central America 2 percent and the rest of the world 1 percent.

The GTA director is attributing the tourist arrivals to a number of tourism strategies being employed to promote Guyana as a popular tourist destination by the authority, the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce and the private sector and other stakeholders. “We attribute this increase in arrivals, to the re-discover home initiative where we are proactively and aggressively encouraging Guyanese living abroad to come back home to spend time in Guyana for their vacation or leisure, to retire to invest or to volunteer and the response has been terrific so far,” he said.

“It is also attributable to marketing strategies of both the government of Guyana, the Guyana Tourism Authority, the Ministry of Tourism and the private sector also to the growing popularity of Guyana as a prime destination for wildlife and for eco-tourism, for business as well,” he continued.

He also cited other contributing factors including the improvement in airlift, lower airfares, new direct routes from Miami, Canada, New York and Trinidad and Tobago to Guyana, successful hosting of tourism events, concerts, celebrity entertainers who have been in Guyana throughout the year, the expanded sales distribution network world-wide of destination Guyana and more Guyanese discovering the positive development in the country. With the tourism package being offered during the Christmas holiday, this coupled with the Christmas concerts, the extended four-day Main Street Lime and the nostalgia for the unique Guyanese Christmas, Haralsingh said that GTA is anticipating a record December.

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Kuala Lumpur Fourth Best Shopping City

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 28 (NNN-NST) — MALAYSIA bagged another global award when its capital was ranked the fourth best shopping city in the world in a survey by CNN Travel. The survey saw Kuala Lumpur beat Paris, Hong Kong and Dubai. The top three cities are New York, Tokyo and London.

Tourism Minister Dr Ng Yen Yen said: “We have arrived at the point where we are on a par with major cities and we will continue to pursue this effort by moving up the ladder.” She said this at a press conference on the 1Malaysia Year-End Sale, here, Tuesday.

The survey was based on four categories: ease of getting around, value, variety and experience. It was measured on a scale from one to 10. Kuala Lumpur scored 30 points and was the only city that obtained a full 10 points under the value category. It provided a high quality shopping experience at affordable prices, said CNN Travel.

Dr Ng said: “Our next step is to upgrade our infrastructure and transport services to attract high-end tourists. “We should also look at producing more Malaysian theatre events similar to the ones in New York and London.”

She acknowledged that the private sector played a crucial role in making KL an important shopping destination. The ministry is looking at tweaking certain areas such as public transport and bettering the tourism experience.

“Based on the survey, we acquired six points for experience and getting around with ease. We’re going to work hard to improve that figure and I believe we are on the right track.” Earlier this month, the city was crowned the second best shopping destination in Asia-Pacific by Globe Shopper Index, a survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit based in Switzerland.

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Oman’s air passenger traffic up

Oman Daily Observer – 24 November, 2012 – The total passenger traffic, including transit and transfer passengers, through Muscat International Airport has increased by 17 per cent to 6,266,484 passengers up to October 2012 compared to 5,345,386 passengers for the same period of 2011.

The number of arrivals increased by 18 per cent to 3,183,225 passengers up compared to 2,706,432 passengers. The number of departing passengers has also increased by 17 per cent to 3,013,408 passengers up to October this year compared to 2,576,403 passengers for the same period of the year 2011.

The increase in arrival and departure, traffic into Muscat International Airport is attributed to the launch of new flights by the Ethiopian Airlines and the United Airways of Bangladesh, as well as to the increase of the number of flights by some airlines, such as Oman Air, Qatar Airways, Fly Dubai, Sri Lankan Airlines, Turkish Airlines and Biman Bangladesh Airlines.

In terms of air cargo traffic at Muscat International airport, Aviation Statistics indicate an increase in the total unloaded and loaded rose by 15 per cent, with total shipment of 94,000 tonnes compared to 82.347 tonnes in the same period in 2011.

Salalah Airport has an increase by 23 per cent in the total number of arriving and departing passengers to 524,815 passengers till October 2012 compared to 426,235 passengers for the same period of 2011.

As for the movement of Air Cargo at Salalah Airport, freight traffic has recorded a 1 per cent decline in

total unloaded and loaded freight, bringing the shipment to 1,106 tonnes till October 2012 compared to 1,123 tonnes in the same period in 2011.

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Oman boost to tourism

Oman Daily Observer – 25 November, 2012 – Musstir, the Hospitality and Property Development Company of MB Group in Oman, and its 50 per cent joint venture partner, Omran, announced yesterday that, further to a full tender process involving major contracting companies, Carillion Alawi LLC was successfully awarded as Main Contractor for the prestigious Al Baleed Hotel Resort and Spa in Salalah.

Part of the profit will be used to support the museum of the land of frankincense in Al Baleed Archaeological Park Museum. The project is one of the first Public Private Partnership (PPP) of its kind in Oman, laying ground for a new promising type of collaboration between the Public and Private Sectors in the future. The Al Baleed Resort will become a key attraction of Unesco World Heritage Site of Al Baleed, the cradle of culture and trade in the Governorate of Dhofar. The resort is a further step in enriching the city of Salalah.

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Oman, Pakistan ink MoU to boost aviation ties

Muscat – Oman Tribune – 26 November, 2012 – Aviation authorities from the Sultanate and Pakistan signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to regularise air transport services between the two countries. The MoU allows national carriers of the two countries to operate any number of flights between the Sultanate and the Pakistani city of Gwadar, besides opening of skies between the two countries to operate any number of cargo flights through intermediate points and points beyond the two countries.

The agreement was signed on the Public Authority for Civil Aviation (Paca) premises after two days of talks, by Eng. Salim Bin Nasser Al Oufi, CEO of Paca, and Major General Raja Muhammad Arif Nazir, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Defence and member of the Board of Directors of the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA). They discussed operating flights between Pakistani cities and upcoming airports of Duqm, Sohar and Ras Al Hadd in the Sultanate.

It was also agreed that national carriers will operate weekly flights (2,600 seats) between the Sultanate and Karachi Airport. There will be 16 weekly flights to cities such as Lahore, Peshawar, Sialkot and Multan in north Pakistan and seven weekly flights each to Islamabad and Turbat, Oufi said in a statement. The Sultanate’s delegation included officials of the Air Transport Department at Paca and Oman Air.

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Dubai to have ‘new’ city and world’s biggest mall

Arab News – 25 November, 2012 – Dubai will have a most modern city with a park bigger than London’s Hyde Park and a massive Mall of the World that would be capable of receiving 80 million visitors a year.

The new muti-mega-development, which was announced yesterday by the ruler of Dubai, may be the largest in the country’s history. “The current facilities available in Dubai need to be scaled up in line with the future ambitions for the city. Therefore we have to start work immediately on the third phase of development that is aligned to our Vision till 2030 and boost the UAE economy to enable it to enter a new era in which it will become the capital of entrepreneurship, arts, culture, and family tourism for over 2 billion people,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, said while announcing the establishment of the new city – Mohammed bin Rashid City (MBR City) that focuses on family tourism and entrepreneurship.

The new city will be located between Emirates Road, Al Khail Road and Sheikh Zayed Road, and will include Mohammed bin Rashid Gardens Project. It will be connected to Downtown Dubai and Business Bay through a crossing that will be named the Cultural Crossing, which will include art galleries and create the largest area for arts in the region. The MBR city will feature a huge park which will be 30 percent bigger than London’s Hyde Park. It will be surrounded by the largest mall in the world called Mall of the World, and include space for over 100 hotels and accommodation facilities.

Mall of the World will be connected to a family entertainment center, which will be developed in collaboration with Universal Studios International. This center will be the largest in the region and is expected to attract 6 million visitors each year. The first component focuses on family tourism, and will include a park that is equipped to receive 35 million visitors and the largest family center for leisure and entertainment in the Middle East, Africa, the Indian subcontinent and region. This center will be set up in collaboration with Universal Studios and include over 100 hotel facilities to meet the needs of visitors from the region.

The second component, focusing on retail, will feature the largest shopping mall in the world. The third component will include the largest area for art galleries in MENA. The fourth one will see the development of a unique area that will provide an integrated environment for entrepreneurship and innovation in the region.

Sheikh Mohammed highlighted that the current accelerated growth rates require Dubai to start immediate preparations for the future, because within just six years the number of passengers passing through Dubai airport will cross the 90 million mark. “Our development initiatives concerning infrastructure in all sectors should be aligned with this growth rate and we have the determination to reach our objectives and be the first in the region to achieve them,” Sheikh Mohammed said. The tourism sector in Dubai is growing by 13 percent annually; with growth in hotel revenue exceeding 22 percent to reach more than AED 16 billion. The hotel occupancy rate was 82 percent in the year 2011, which was the highest globally, and the number of visitors to Dubai Mall reached 62 million in 2012, with 25 percent growth in retail sales in 2011.

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Boubyan Bank forecasts Islamic banking boom

Khaleej Times – 25 November, 2012 – Islamic banking is growing at more than double the pace of conventional banking in Kuwait and strong demand is expected throughout the Arab region, the chairman of Boubyan Bank said. Credit volumes at Islamic banks in Kuwait reached KD11.1 billion ($ 39.3 billion) in the first nine months of 2012, up 13.2 per cent on last year, Boubyan chairman and managing director Adel Abdul Wahab Al Majed told the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit. That compares with 5.6 per cent credit growth to KD18.6 billion at conventional banks, Majed said.

The hunger for Shariah-complaint banking in Kuwait means that Boubyan is not interested in overseas expansion quite yet, in contrast to more-established rival Kuwait Finance House. “Innovation or presence outside, it is only a matter of time (for) the likes of us and others,” Al Majed said. “Right now, we are busy because the slice of Islamic pie in Kuwait is big.”

However, in 2014 the bank will set out a new five-year strategy, which will include the possibility of an international presence. This year’s Arab Spring uprisings are expected to boost Shariah-compliant banking in the Middle East and North Africa because of the new Islamic governments it created, Al Majed said.

The Boubyan chairman was previously an executive at National Bank of Kuwait, or NBK, which in July raised its stake in Boubyan to just over 58 per cent from 47 per cent in a deal valued at about KD122 million.

Boubyan clean-up

Al Majed moved to Boubyan as part of an executive team charged with the task of shoring up the struggling bank at a time when NBK held a minority stake in it. During the financial crisis of 2009, Boubyan reported a net annual loss of KD51.7 million. This background has made the bank cautious about expansion.

Since 2009, earnings have grown and the bank reported an KD8 million net profit in 2011. “We expect this year to be in the same positive trend,” Al Majed said. In the first nine months of this year the bank posted net profit of KD7.6 million.

Boubyan’s total bad-debt provisions since 2008 were KD26 million at September 30 this year. Al Majed said he believed that these had peaked for the Kuwaiti banking sector as a whole, with the process continuing at a slower pace.

However, the Gulf Arab state is not completely immune to developments in global markets, Al Majed said, and lower profit growth has become the new norm. “Given the whole turmoil all over the world, I don’t think anybody here wakes up in the morning with a smile on his face. You see what is happening in Europe, the US and China.”

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Malaysia’s AirAsiaX Records 40% Passenger Growth In Q3

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Nov 27 (NNN-Bernama)– AirAsia X has recorded strong growth in the third quarter of 2012 (Q312), carrying 0.64 million passengers, representing a growth of 40.7 per cent over the same quarter in 2011. In terms of passenger traffic, the long haul subsidiary of AirAsia – with 12 destinations globally – achieved 3.9 billion Available-Seat-Kms(ASKs) and 3.2 billion Revenue-Passenger-Kms (RPKs) for Q312, resulting in a load factor of 83 per cent.

“It was an increase of 3.3 percentage points (PPT) over the same quarter in 2011, registering then a passenger load factor of 80 per cent,” AirAsia said in a statement. Meanwhile, for the first nine months of 2012, AirAsia X carried 1.91million passengers, reflecting an increase of 1.7 per cent from the same period of 2011.

Although RPKs and ASKs had contracted by 2.8 per cent and 5.3 per cent, respectively in comparison with 2011, it recorded a higher load factor of 84per cent, an increase of 4.5 PPT over the same period of 2011. “Cargo operations also continued to be strong. AirAsia X carried 7,251tonnes of freight in the third quarter and 19,714 tonnes for the first nine months of 2012, registering growth of 13 per cent over the first nine months of 2011 for its continuing routes,” it added.

AirAsia X Chief Executive Officer Azran Osman-Rani said in the statement that AirAsia X will continue to focus on increasing capacity in its identified core markets including Australia, China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan. “We are set to grow our fleet with an additional 24 A330-300 aircraft between 2013 and 2017, which will see AirAsia X expand further in the long-haul segment across the Asia Pacific.

“Our move to KLIA 2 next year will also provide us the right infrastructure and enhanced ground facilities needed to support our growing network and feeder traffic for better connectivity within the AirAsia Group,” he added.

AirAsia was named the World’s Best Low Cost Airline in the annual World Airline Survey by Skytrax for four consecutive years from 2009.

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Karzai Calls For Investment In Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan Nov. 27 (NNN-Xinhua)– Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday called on national and international investors to invest in the country. “Any country, any company and anyone is welcomed if invest in Afghanistan to help take this country towards more progress,” President Karzai said in conference here to encourage investment in Afghanistan.

He also said that China has already began investment in Afghanistan and the government would also welcome Iran, Pakistan and India if do so. Allaying the concerns over the withdrawal of NATO-led forces from Afghanistan in 2014, the Afghan leader pointed out that the security situation in the country is improving by each passing day and “there is no need to worry”.

About strategic cooperation with U.S., the Afghan president stated that Afghanistan wants to ensure its national interests in any pact, saying Afghanistan wants U.S. to support and equip its national security forces, to build its canals and irrigation systems and to launch development projects. The president later inaugurated an industrial exhibition which put on display the national industrial products.

Briefing the audience, Wafiullah Iftikhar, director of Afghan Investment Support Agency (AISA), a government-backed body to encourage investment, said that 553 million U.S. dollars had been invested in Afghanistan so far in 2012, showing 20 percent increase against last year. Presently around 3,000 small and medium plants, according to officials, are operating in the country which producing light items such as biscuits, macaroni, tissue papers, medicines, soaps, washing liquid, drinking water, juice, soft drinks, etc.

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Sudan Finalises Preparations To Host Arab Mineral Resources Conference

KHARTOUM, Nov 26 (NNN-SUNA) — Sudan’s Ministry of Minerals has finalized preparations to convene the 12th Arab Conference for Mineral Resources to be held here from Tuesday to Thursday this week, says the Minister, Kamal Abdul-Latif. He told a media conference here Sunday that the conference was being organized by the Ministry in collaboration with the Arab Industrial Development and Mining Organization and with the expected participation of more than 150 delegates from the organization, Arab ministers concerned with mineral resources and companies operating in the mining sector.

He added that the conference would provide a good opportunity to publicise Sudan’s mineral potential, besides conducting dialogues over the future of the mining industry and investment opportunities in Sudan. The minister expected the participation of a considerable number of Arab ministers, representatives of the private sector, the walis (governors) of the states and ministers and officials in charge of mining in states. He said that of some 20 companies would take part in an exhibition to be held at the venue in conjunction with the conference.

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Brunei sees positive growth in agriculture & agrifood production

Borneo Bulletin Online – Statistics last year revealed that the gross production of agriculture and Agrifood have shown a positive growth of B$240.96 million in terms of market value, compared to the $228.43 million in 2010 – an increase of $12.53 million or 5.5 per cent – the poultry industry being the main contributor, valued at $94.06 million.

At present, there are a total of 5,129 agriculture and agrifood entrepreneurs throughout the nation. Of the total, 591 entrepreneurs are engaged in the poultry industry, 4,325 in the plantation industry and 213 in agrifood processes.

The Brunei-Muara District was the largest contributor to agricultural and agrifood production last year with a total of $141.75 million, or 58.83 per cent of national production.

These were highlighted during a presentation on the achievement of agriculture and agrifood industry at a get-together session of senior officials from the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood. Some 200 people comprised of agricultural entrepreneurs attended the get-together at the Pengkalan Batu Community Hall. Attending the event were Acting Senior Special Duties Officer Dyg Fuziah Hj Hamdan, section heads and senior officers from the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood.

The get-together session, which serves as a continuation of similar activities that have been conducted in the Tutong and Belait Districts, began with welcoming remarks from the Acting Director of Agriculture and Agrifood. The session ended with a Q&A session.

The presentation was meant to provide exposure and knowledge to attendees on agricultural development in the country, which covers the poultry, crops and agrifood sectors. The department hopes that, with activities such as these, farmers and agriculturists will be further encouraged.

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Live broadcast of Egypt touristic sites worldwide to promote industry

Dalia Farouk, Monday 26 Nov 2012 – Egyptian officials plan to create a live, round-the-clock video broadcast of the country’s main tourist areas in a project called ‘Egypt Now’, to help persuade tourists to visit the country, Egypt’s Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou said on Sunday. Once a flourishing industry, tourism in Egypt has been struggling since a popular uprising in 2011 forced former president Hosni Mubarak to step down. Ongoing instability drove tourist agents worldwide to remove Egypt from their destination lists.

“The ‘Egypt Now’ live broadcast will be show on the large screens in major squares in countries across the world,” Zaazou told Ahram Online.

The online broadcast is expected to start by the beginning of 2013. “The media has summarised the whole country as the single square kilometre that is Tahrir Square,” Zaazou explained. “The rest of the country is safe and ready to receive visitors from all over the world.”

Zaazou predicted on Sunday that a total of 11.6 million tourists would visit Egypt by the end of 2012, a 16 per cent increase over 2011, which saw some 10 million tourists. These levels are still well below 2010 when the industry peaked at 14 million tourists. The protests following President Morsi’s recent Constitutional Declaration, and ongoing instability and violence in Sinai, have helped portray an uncertain image of Egypt to potential visitors.

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Luxor governor announces revival of tourist flow

MENA, Monday 26 Nov 2012 – Tourist flow in the governorate of Luxor is slowly coming back to normal rates, said Luxor Governor Ezzat Saad during a press conference held on Monday. There are indicators that prove the crisis on Egypt’s tourism industry that Luxor has been witnessing since the January 2011 uprising is coming to an end, added Saad.

The governor announced that while the tourism sector is being revived in Luxor, political and economic stability are of utmost importance to overcome low tourist rates. The governorate of Luxor in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism are planning to organise an international event to celebrate the completion of the 5th stage of the “Kabash road” renovation project as well as other international events, such as the “Luxor African Film Festival” set for March 2013.

These events will likely boost tourist flows and attract a wide array of international figures and renowned archaeologists, according to Saad. The governor’s statements follow the Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou’s expectations of a likely increase in tourists visiting Egypt by the end of 2012. Zaazou announced on Sunday that he foresees a 20 per cent increase, reaching an average number of almost 11.6 million tourists by the end of year.

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Jakarta to have Betawi Culture Village ready by 2015: Governor

November 22 2012 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Jakarta administration has set itself a target of completing the Setu Babakan Betawi Culture Village project in Jagakarsa, South Jakarta, by 2015. “The Betawi Culture Village project began in 2008 and the construction work is ongoing. We have reviewed the progress and hope the village will be ready by 2015,” Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo (Jokowi) said during a visit to Setu Babakan here on Wednesday.

The governor instructed DKI Jakarta’s Tourism and Culture Office head, Arie Budiman, to continue developing the village. “We hope the budget will be approved soon by the board and the construction work can continue,”Jokowi stated.

The culture village will feature some Betawi traditional buildings and houses. “Moreover, there will be exhibitions of Betawi traditional arts every day. And everything here will represent the identity and characteristics of Betawi culture,” he noted. The administration will allocate Rp291 billion to the development of the culture village.

The village, situated in Srengseng Sawah, Jagakarsa, has been established in an effort to preserve the Betawi cultural heritage. Despite rapid modernisation in the nation’s capital, Betawi culture – including traditional music such as Qasidah, Marawis, Keroncong, Lenong and Gambang Kromong, and traditional dance forms such as Ondel-ondel (large puppet) and Topeng – is expected to be preserved in the culture village.

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Gembiraloka zoo to have penguin attraction by 2013

Tue, November 27 2012 Yogyakarta (ANTARA News) – The Gembiraloka Zoo of Yogyakarta has set itself a target of completing a penguin attraction by 2013. The penguin attraction was aimed to attract more visitors to the Yogyakarta landmark, which is visited by around 700-800 people everyday, Spokesperson of Gembiraloka Zoo Gunardi said here, Monday.

“We have been developing the penguin pool since October and it is scheduled to finish in May 2013,” Gunardi said. The attraction would be part of the bird park which has been developed since last October. The zoo management would import penguins from Malaysia and Singapore.

“Seven candidates of penguin keepers of Gembiraloka Zoo have been sent to Singapore to learn penguin nurturing methods,” Gunardi said. The penguin attraction venue would be built on a conditioned atmosphere using air conditioners (AC). “It would resemble the natural habitat of penguin in South Pole,” Gunardi said.

The fence of the penguin pool would be replaced by glass to provide better visibility for zoo visitors. The zoo management would provide better access for disabled visitors such as free wheelchairs and tracks for the disabled. The management also has a target of 1.3 million visitors at the year end as there have been 1.2 million visitors in January-October period.

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Gunung Kidul promotes and develops tourist spots

November 29 2012 Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta (ANTARA News) – The Gunung Kidul local government in Yogyakarta is making efforts to promote and develop the district`s tourist spots under the framework of its tourism investment development mission, according to regional development planning board spokesman Syarief Armunanto.

“The tourism investment development mission will focus on natural tourism, village tourism, cultural tourism, and special-interest tourism,” he said here on Thursday. “The local government will step up efforts to provide improved infrastructure facilities at tourist attractions in the district.”

He noted that Gunung Kidul had many natural tourist attractions, such as the Ngrancah waterfall in Ngleri village, along with the pristine beaches of Gesing, Ngrenehan, Ngobaran, Baron, Krakal, Sunduk, Watu Lawang, Drini, and Sepanjang.

“In 2013, we are going to build and renovate various supporting infrastructure facilities such as souvenir shops and restaurants,” Syarief said, adding that the district had many interesting tourism villages as well. Some of the popular tourism villages of Gunung Kidul are Putat, Nglanggeran, Bendung, Ngeposari, Beji, Bleberan, Umbulrejo, and Kemadang.

“In a bid to develop these tourism villages, officials from the Gunung Kidul Culture and Tourism office will provide English and tourism management training lessons to the villagers,” Syarief explained. The district also has numerous cultural tourism sites in Gunung Gambar and Wonokobaran.

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Institute of the Arab World opens new branch in France

Ahram Online, Sunday 25 Nov 2012 – A new branch of the Institute of the Arab World opened last week in Tourcoing near Lille, northern France. It is the first branch of the institution that has its headquarters in Paris.

The new centre is housed in an 800 square metre venue and includes spaces for exhibitions, meetings and Arabic language classes. According to Michel François Delanno, mayor of Tourcoing, the historical city has a significant Arab population and takes a strong interest in the region.

An opening exhibition titled Qantara (bridge) focuses on exchanges between nations from both sides of the Mediterranean. Since its opening in 1987, the Institute of the Arab World in Paris has served as a dynamic institution aiming to contribute to the knowledge of Arab cultures. Over 25 Arab countries are associated with the institute and contribute to its activities through musical concerts, exhibitions, symposiums and Arabic language courses.

Opening the institute’s new branch is one of several actions taken by France in recent months to help build bridges between French and Arab/Islamic cultures. On 22 September, a new Islamic Arts wing was opened at the Louvre Museum in Paris. The collection includes over 3000 art works from the Islamic World.

The Louvre is planing an affiliate branch in Abu Dhabi. Construction will begin in 2013.

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Abu Dhabi to begin building Louvre early next year

Reuters, 22 Nov 2012 – The emirate’s tourism arm, which is also building a branch of New York’s Guggenheim museum in the Gulf Arab emirate, confirmed construction will begin in the first quarter of 2013. Both museums were originally scheduled to open between 2013 and 2014 but were delayed due to a government review of projects.

The museums and New York University are among institutions that plan to set up branches on Saadiyat Island, a $27 billion cultural project in Abu Dhabi, where they will be housed alongside a golf course and high-end housing developments. “The contractor will move (in on the Louvre project) very soon. Construction will start in the first quarter of 2013,” Nabil al-Kendi, Tourism Development & Investment Company’s chief development officer said on Monday at an MEED conference.

The development of Saadiyat Island is one of the largest cultural projects in the Middle East but last year more than 130 artists said they would boycott the Guggenheim museum there over what they said was exploitation of foreign workers.

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Libyan artists exhibit in Arab British Centre, London

Ahram Online, Saturday 24 Nov 2012 – The Libyan highlights the work of eight contemporary Libyan artists aged 24 – 67 until 30 November. Curated by Noon Art and supported by the British Council, the exhibition consists of sculptures, painings, photography, installations and short film screenings, inviting the viewer to explore the artistic trends in Libya and get a feel for the Libyan lifestyle and culture.

Noon Arts calls the exhibition “colourful and exotic” and that it challenges many “preconceptions regarding a lack of creativity coming from this newly-liberated and emerging free democracy.” Exhibiting artists are painters Najla Shawket Fitouri, Muktar Alshrief and Yousef Fetis; artists Mohammed Albadri and Mohammad Bin Lamin; installation artist and sculptor Hadia Gana; photographer Faten Baaba; photographer and filmmaker Naziha Arebi.

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Malaysia Airlines’ new A380 could boost tourism to Brunei

Borneo Bulletin Online – Brunei is an important market for Malaysia Airlines (MAS) despite its small size. For Bruneians, UK is the favourite destination to travel to compared to other European countries. The Brunei market is primarily driven by corporate businesses especially in the oil and gas sector such as Shell. But it is not one of the biggest MAS destinations in Asia.

This was stated by the Regional Senior Vice President of Malaysia Airlines for UK and Europe (Commercial), Huib Gorter, to the Borneo Bulletin representative, who is among the nine journalists (besides Malaysia and the Philippines) invited for the inaugural flight of Airbus A380 Double Daily to London starting from November 24. “For any destinations, we always include Brunei in our pricing when we advertise. But we are not promoting an Airbus A380 trip to Brunei; instead, we are promoting a trip to Kuala Lumpur, and through the airline network, we can reach Brunei. But the reasonable air fare price would attract Bruneians,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Sales Manager for Malaysia Airlines for UK (Southern Region), Anton Grossmann said, “We don’t have any specific promotion with regards to Airbus 380 for the Brunei market. But we could add Brunei as part of the value-side trip for British visitors, just like to other Malaysian states for a minimal fee of; for instance, 50 pounds after the tourists have visited Kuala Lumpur. We can work with Royal Brunei and Brunei Tourism on this matter.

Huib Gorter added that the pristine forest, diving sites in Borneo are plus factors for British tourists. The Malaysia Airlines Office in Bandar Seri Begawan said that through the code-sharing agreement between Malaysia Airlines and Royal Brunei, travellers can utilise the daily service provided by Airbus 380; to and from London.

Speaking to journalists in his office in London, the Malaysian High Commissioner to London, UK, Dato’ Sri Zakaria Sulong said that Malaysia, along with other Asean countries are boosting businesses through the UK-Asean Business Council set up in November last year. Business volume between UK and the Asean countires is bigger as compared to China and India.

Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board’s Deputy Director for UK and Ireland, Sharon Ho told the Bulletin that there is a joint effort to promote Islamic tour packages to British and European tourists highlighted during the recent annual London World Travel Mart on November 7. It is where Islamic places of interest in the sultanate including the Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Mosque in the capital, Jame’ ‘Asr Hassanil Bolkiah in Kiarong and Darul Ifta gallery at the State Mufti’s Office, are being promoted.

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Call to sustainably develop Brunei’s culture and heritage industry

Borneo Bulletin Online – Brunei Darussalam has always been known as one of the countries in the Malay world which are richly endowed with cultural heritage and traditions. These cultural heritage and traditions forms an important part of our identity, and to an extent, the economy of our modern community.

Traditional art and craft products differ greatly from mass produced goods in that they bring richness and charm to the consumer’s lifestyle. It is imperative, therefore that these traditions be continued and passed on to our future generations as one of the cultural treasures of Brunei Darussalam.

The importance of passing down the richness of Brunei’s traditional arts and crafts to future generations was highlighted by Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Hamid bin Hj Mohd Jaafar, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, yesterday at the contract signing ceremony between the ministry and the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, UK. The contract enables them to conduct a survey of Brunei Darussalam’s ‘Key Cultural Resources’ and to provide recommendations for the development of Brunei Darussalam’s creative industries in the ‘Traditional Arts and Heritage’ sector.

In Brunei Darussalam, he said, “the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports recognises the great importance of preserving our culture and heritage for the next generation. Through our cultural policy and several other initiatives such as the establishment of cultural and heritage institutions as well as legislations and convention, it is indeed fortunate that we are able to still witness and enjoy some of the uniqueness inherited from the past”.

In reference to traditional arts and crafts, the permanent secretary said, “Brunei Darussalam is still renowned for its boat making, silver smithing, bronze tooling, cloth weaving as well as mat and basket weaving. Brunei Darussalam also possesses natural capital by virtue of its rich tropical rainforests, as well as relics and other various artistic heritage which include Malay weaponry, wood carvings, traditional games, traditional musical instruments, Silat (the traditional art of self-defence) and decorative items for women.

“The collections of traditional arts and crafts, as well as historical relics, ornaments and natural capital hold many untapped potential.”

Dato Hj Hamid added, “I believe that through innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship, they can be used as a basis and inspiration to produce creative products or services with real prospects for sustainable growth.”

The seven-day survey visit project is a follow-up to the national policy forum on creative industries held last May, which has identified traditional arts and crafts as one of the potential sectors to be developed. It will also complement the recommended sectoral action plan on traditional arts and crafts, and in particular will assist the ministry to formulate detailed and implementable capacity building and development programmes for the next five years to create a more sustainable and competitive creative industry in traditional arts and heritage sector.

The guest of honour who witnessed the signing was Datin Paduka Hjh Adina binti Othman, the Deputy Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports.

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Bangladeshi computer whiz kid listed in Ripley’s book

DHAKA, Nov 26, 2012 (BSS) – Wasik Farhan Roopkotha, a Bangladeshi computer whiz kid who earlier hogged the headlines of the international media, has been placed in this year’s Ripley’s annual cartoon book as the world’s youngest computer programmer.

The cartoon book of the UK-based globally-acclaimed TV show, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, was published on Sunday (November 25). The authorities of Ripley’s Believe It or Not have informed his parents that the Ripley’s would include Roopkotha in their new annual record book, which would hit bookshops worldwide next year.

According to the Ripley’s, those who have been placed in Ripley’s cartoon books are usually included in its annual record book which publishes bizarre events and items so strange and unusual that readers might question the claims. The parents of Roopkotha, who turns seven in January next, expressed delight over their son’s inclusion in Ripley’s cartoon book. “We are thrilled and very happy to see him in the Ripley’s cartoon book..we have been waiting this for so long. Countless thanks to God,” said Roopkotha’s proud mother, Cynthia Farheen Risha.

Earlier, BBC News, The New York Herald Tribune, California Observer, Estate News, Children Post and many international websites ran stories on Roopkotha recognizing him as the youngest computer programmer on earth.

The story of Roopkotha, Bangla for ‘fairytale’, has overshadowed even (a) fairytale. At this tender age of six, when most of the children play games with toys, Roopkatha develops his own computer system (with windows) and runs tags and code of computer programming like an expert. The born genius, a resident of Gulshan in the capital Dhaka, unbelievably started computing when he was hardly seven months old, and learned writing on computer at the age of only two, said Risha.

“Every day, the wonder boy spends more than 12 hours on computer and knows how to change the games’ characters by using emulator. He has also an excellent command over computer programming language (C & C++),” she said. At the beginning, his parents tried to refrain him from playing on computer as they though that spending much time on computer may damage his eyes.

“But our efforts went in futile as the boy made a hullabaloo and stopped taking food protesting our move. At last, we were compelled to allow him to play on computer, and now he spends 12- 13 hours on computer every day,” Risha said. She said her son’s curiosity about computer had started a couple of days after his birth. He would look at computer monitor with eyes unblinking and refrained from eating until the computer was switched on.

She said Roopkotha never took IT lessons and learned everything without taking anybody’s help.

Risha said he has already played more than 700 games and completed many complicated games like Sonic-knuckles(all sonic series), Prince of Persia, Terminator 3, Hercules, Air Conflicts, Age of Mythology, lock on, azangara, Metal Gear Solid, Mig-29 fulcrum, Mario Forever(all Mario series), Super Mario64 Nintendo 64, Need for Speed series, The bugs life, legend of Zelda, Star Defender, Red dead redemption, lock on flaming cliffs, Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun, Flight simulator lll, Eve online, Modern Warfare 2, FPS mechanics, Age of Empires 3, Rise of Legends, Castle vania – legacy of darkness act.

He knows operating system setup and troubleshooting. And more than 5,000 English words are in his store and with the words, he can make sentences. Typing is a very simple matter to him as the boy can type words with his tiny fingers as swift as an efficient typist without having a look at the keyboard.

The computer wizard can perfectly manage games project tools and synchronize any project with other projects. He can also use different complex codes and run them easily. Roopkotha businessman father Wasim Farhan and mother Risha hope that their son would become a great programmer in future and introduce a new episode in the cyber world.

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Africa: ‘Mo Ibrahim Foundation Dakar Forum, a Success’

By Daily Observer, 29 November 2012 – The recent Mo Ibrahim Foundation Dakar Forum that focused on the theme, ‘African youth; fulfilling the potential’, as well as the media, has been described as a success by Gambian participants to the high level convergence that brought together leaders and people from all walks of life.

The theme for the forum particularly impressed the participants, in that Africa is the only continent with a significantly growing youth population, and that in less than three generations, 41% of the world’s youth will be Africans; with the continent’s labour force projected to be larger than China by 2035.

As a result, questions such as how do we ensure that Africa benefits from this imminent demographic dividend? How do we ensure that African youth will compete at the global level not only due to sheer numbers? What is the future that we are creating for our most precious resource? Were the ones tackled by panelists at the Forum.

One Gambian who took part in the proceedings of the forum was Oko Drammeh, an international music producer, promoter, song writer, and columnist. He described the high-level convergence as meaningful and important to the continent. “My presence in Dakar was to extend the activity to The Gambia because of the significance of the theme of the conference. The conference was inaugurated by the Senegalese Tourism minister, Youssou Ndour, with a reception and music performances by Angelique Kidjo from Benin, Baba Maal among others,” Drammeh disclosed.

The occasion, he said,was also graced by Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu; former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo; and former President Chissano of Mozambique. “I had the courtesy to meet Mr. Mo Ibrahim and discussed youth participation in Africa’s sustainable opportunities for young people,” he told the Daily Observer.

Drammeh further informed that he also took part in another conference which was moderated by Mo Ibrahim, in which the Senegalese president, Macky Sall, was the guest speaker. He said Sall faced the African press on matters affecting African media, journalists and leadership. “I am hoping that one day this conference will come to The Gambia and highlight our country’s efforts in embracing Africanunity, peace and responsible journalism,” he concluded.

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Tunisia: World Bank Supports Tunisia Reform

Maghrebia, 28 November 2012 – The World Bank has approved a $500 million loan to Tunisia to support economic growth and job creation. “The reforms which this financing supports will help Tunisia improve employment opportunities while ensuring better social services and more transparent government,” World Bank official Inger Andersen said in a statement. “These are the key demands of citizens across Tunisia.”

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Algeria: Algiers Modern Dance Festival Sends Message of Hope

23 November 2012 Algiers — Dancers from Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas on Thursday (November 22nd) wrapped up a week of performances in Algiers that highlighted tolerance and acceptance of others. Held under the banner “Freedom Movements”, the 4th International Festival of Contemporary Dance was a dual celebration of Algeria’s independence anniversary and the Arab Spring.

The arts event “confirms the trend of openness to the world, a changing world, a world that celebrates life, hence the presence this year of troops from four continents, Africa”, Festival Commissioner Mébarka Kaddouri said. Performers from 19 countries offered six days of memorable shows with an underlying message of peace and unity.

Inspired by on-going events in northern Mali, a six-member troupe from Bamako sent a strong message of hope for the future. The “Mali Debout Danse” company put on a show, “Our Independence”, that reflected the distress and anguish felt by many in Mali and other African countries. But it also revealed their dreams and aspirations, Malian dancer and choreographer Alou Cissé told Magharebia.

“It was very important for us to be in Algiers and paint a different picture of Mali,” Cissé said. “Despite what’s happening in the north, dance troupes must continue being creative. That’s the message we want to send out,” he said. Their show received an enthusiastic response from the large audience.

Algiers resident Malik Lebib, who was among the crowd watching the Malian dancers, voiced surprise that they had even made the trip. “There is talk of Mali being on the brink of war, with Islamists determined to introduce Sharia law. So you wouldn’t expect choreographers to come here freely, engaging in dance. It’s a message of tolerance and hope which makes me believe that a brighter future is possible,” he said.

Dancers of the “Brotha From Another Motha” troupe from Tunisia were also determined to use their art to send a message. Led by choreographer and dancer Seïf Eddine Manai, they put on a performance designed to highlight the hopes and sorrows of their country’s youth in the wake of the revolution.

Manai said he had encountered many difficulties at the start of his career in Tunisia, “due to people’s prejudices”. Algerian Sabrina Mili described a similar situation in her country: “Being a dancer and choreographer in Algeria is a daily struggle, a way of resisting social taboos, fundamentalism and backward thinking.”

There is cause for optimism, however. According to Mili, attitudes are gradually changing. “When I see people of all ages in the audience applauding, I tell myself yes, you are allowed to hope,” Mili said.

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Senegal Villages Aspire to Self-Sufficiency in Rice

12 November 2012 Dakar — The residents of five villages in the Boyard Valley, in southwestern Senegal, are freeing themselves from “the tyranny of imported rice” by stepping up local production of this important staple food. “Agricultural production has been intensified here for several years now, thanks to the revival of rice farming,” Marie Sagne told IPS proudly.

Farmers in Sagne’s home village, Boyard Ndiodiome, had stopped growing rice altogether, as soil fertility was compromised by rising salinity. They were able to begin planting rice again thanks to work carried out by the Project to Support Local Small-Scale Irrigation (PAPIL), financed by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB).

PAPIL built an anti-salt dam in the village, restoring the productivity of many of the fields which had fallen into disuse. Since 2006, PAPIL has also been providing local farmers with quality seeds, fertiliser and technical training, in collaboration with its partners, the National Agency for Rural and Agricultural Advice (ANCAR) and the Regional Office for Rural Development (DRDR) in Fatick, the regional capital.

Working together, these agencies have thoroughly modernised farming techniques in the valley. For example, the random planting of rice seedlings has been abandoned in favour of planting them in orderly rows. Farmers have also learned how to construct dikes to retain water for their fields.

“Producers have taken the new techniques on board and we are supporting them,” explained Jean-Paul Bampouky, head of DRDR in Fatick.

PAPIL also established the Mbin Jam Inter-village Committee for the Management of the Boyard Valley – Mbin Jam means “the home of well-being” in Sereer, a local language. This committee, led by Ibrahima Faye, includes 420 rice farmers from across the five villages – Boyard Ndiodiome, Boyard Tock, Sing Boyard, Ndiagamba and Dack. Eighty percent of its members are women.

Each member of Mbin Jam contributes 5,000 CFA francs per year (equivalent to ten dollars), which entitles them to seed and fertiliser for their fields. The total area planted with rice in the valley rose swiftly, from 10 hectares in 2006 to around 25 hectares in 2007.

“In 2004, we were harvesting a bit less than 500 kilos of rice from each hectare planted with rice. Thanks to the technical training from our partners, we were at 3.5 tonnes per hectare by 2006, and four tonnes per hectare in 2008,” Faye told IPS.

“For several years now, some households here have not had to eat rice imported from overseas or grown elsewhere in Senegal as the local harvest meets all their needs.”

Mbin Jam member Maï Niakh is proud of this achievement. “We eat local rice for 12 months of the year,” she said. But Faye said not all of the group’s members have been quite so successful. “Other farmers were unable to grow enough to meet their household needs, though when we managed to get rid of wild rice (a perennial relative which competes with the rice planted by farmers), we boosted productivity enormously.”

And, he added, in 2011 a lack of water prevented the crop from ripening properly, and the 23 hectares planted by Mbin Jam’s members produced only around 250 kilos per hectare.

The 140 tonne crop from the previous year, harvested from 35 hectares, is a more typical yield. But as the rice reached maturity in mid-October, Faye feared the average yield in 2012 would be affected by the group’s renewed struggles to control wild rice and insect pests.

Mamadou Camara, head of PAPIL’s regional office in Fatick, was more confident. “Our forecast for 2012 is (a yield of) between four and six tonnes per hectare in the Boyard Ndiodiome valley,” he said.

“(Local) self-sufficiency in rice has nearly been achieved,” Camara added. “Our major rehabilitation projects for 2013 will consolidate this by permitting the planting of up to 200 additional hectares.”

Mbin Jam is eagerly awaiting the building of ten kilometres of rural roads in the valley, the construction of a warehouse for storage and processing, and the purchase of a tractor by PAPIL in 2013.

In light of strong results, AfDB, which funded PAPIL from 2006-2010, decided to extend its support for the programme through 2013, said Camara. The Islamic Development Bank will continue to finance the project until 2015.

“What we’re still lacking is agricultural equipment,” said Dack farmer Mame Mor Ndiaye. “When we get a tractor, we’ll produce not just enough rice to eat, but also a surplus to sell.”

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Tunisia: Senegalese Movie ‘La Pirogue’ Wins Golden Tanit At 2012 Carthage Film Festival

Tunis Afrique Presse, 25 November 2012 Tunis — Senegalese movie “La Pirogue” (the Pirogue) directed by Moussa Touré earned the Golden Tanit at the 2012 Carthage Film Festival, the jury announced Saturday evening at the closing ceremony of the festival. The Silver Tanit was awarded to “Mort a Vendre” (death for sale) directed by Moroccan Faouzi Ben Said while the Bronze Tanit went to feature film “Sortir du jour” (Going Forth by Day) directed by Egyptian Hela Lotfi.

Special Jury Prize: “Aujourd’hui-Tey” directed by Alain Gomis (Senegal).

Best Screenplay: “The Professor” directed by Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud (Tunisia).

Best Actress: Ciaomara Morais for her performance in the movie “All is Well” directed by Pocas Pascoal (Angola).

Best Actor: Ali Souleiman for his performance in the movie “Tomorrow Friday” directed by Yahia al Abdallah (Jordan).

Audience Award: “La pirogue” directed by Moussa Touré (Senegal).

For short films, the Golden Tanit was awarded to Morocco’s “Courte Vie” (Short Life) directed by Adil al Fadhili.

The Silver Tanit went to “Jostling of April 9, 1938” directed by Tunisian Tarak Khalladi and Saswan Saya and the Bronze Tanit was awarded to “Layza” directed by Marie Clementine Jambo from Rwanda.

For documentaries, the Golden Tanit was awarded to Senegal’s “Président Dia” (President Dia) directed by Osmane William Nbye.

The Silver Tanit was giving to Namir Abdelmasseeh’s “la vierge, les coptes et moi” (The virgin, the Copts and Me), Egypte.

The Bronze Tanit went to Lebanon’s “Tout ça et plus” (It’s All in Lebanon) directed by Wissem Charaf

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Morocco: Moroccan Cultural Centre Organises Mauritanian Art Exhibition

Maghrebia, 5 November 2012 – The Moroccan cultural centre (CCMA) of Nouakchott is organising an exhibition called “The Mauritanian woman and plastic art”, Journal Tahalil reported. The two-week event opens on Monday (November 5th). In addition to featuring the works of Mauritanian artists, the centre is planning two more cultural events in November, including a conference on Mauritanian contemporary poetry.

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Ancient Turkish bazaar to serve tourism

DENİZLİ – Anatolia News Agency – An ancient closed bazaar the city of Tripoli, located in the Aegean province of Denizli’s Buldan district, will be completely unearthed and restored for commercial activity. According to Denizli Governor Abdülkadir Demir, Tripoli was one of the three most important cities in the 2nd century B.C. along with Hierapolis and Laodicea, and a center for trade, textiles and agriculture.

He said that various universities had carried out short-term excavations in the ancient city over the last 15 years, but added that these were insufficient. Currently, the Pamukkale University Archaeology Department is continuing to excavate the area. The project began over five months ago and has progressed quickly, with a target completion date of the end of 2013.

“A closed and open bazaar was found and streets were completely unearthed in this period. Work will not stop during winter. Some 336,000 Turkish Liras have so far been allocated by the Culture and Tourism Ministry and Special Provincial Directorate (for the project) but we won’t accept any limitation for the allocation because we need to revive these cities within a very short time,” the governor said.

The closed bazaar area in the ancient city, which has been able to maintain its structural integrity and has prevented erosion by being underground, will be fully unearthed next year.

“We hope that the closed bazaar area will become a very important tourism attraction. We will organize this area for tourists by the end of 2013. People can establish shops there. This is very important work, according to information provided by scientists, the structures were very lucky to remain underground because of erosion. They seem like they were recently constructed. I believe that this place will become one of the most important tourism centers in the region.”

The deputy head of the excavation team, Associate Professor Bahadır Durman, said that the ancient city of Tripoli was completely filled with soil erosion. “We found strong structures 3.5 to 4 meters deep and one of them was the closed bazaar. We will have completely unearthed this place next year when the excavation is done. Most parts of the closed bazaar area still remain strong. There are similar structures in the area but they are damaged and there is no such strong bazaar structure. The closed bazaar area is in Tripoli only. There are also other public buildings and examples of civic architecture as well as open bazaar areas, baths, a theater and a very big stadium.”

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Turkish architect proposes flag-shaped island

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – Well-known Turkish architect Metin Hepgüler has proposed a $2.4 billion project to build an artificial island inspired by Turkey’s national flag, daily Hürriyet has reported.

Hepgüler hopes to build an artificial island in the shape of the crescent moon and five-point star seen on the Turkish flag.

The architect prepared the project proposal after three years of work. His application to the concerned ministries for permission comes after his purchase of patent rights for the project. If permitted, the island will be built along the coast of the western province of İzmir or by the Marmara Sea.

The island can be built in 45 months, said Hepgüler, adding that there will be more than a thousand villas, residencies, hotels, leisure centers and a heliport. Foreign investors are highly interested in Hepgüler’s project, Hürriyet has reported. Hepgüler expects Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to declare the start of the project in 2013.

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Turkish Airlines to Start Flights to Maldives

2012-11-26 (Visit Maldives) – Turkish Airlines has launched direct flights from Turkey to Maldives today. The first flight landed in Maldives today at 7:00am. It was confirmed that Turkish flag carrier will fly nonstop, 5-day-a-week from Istanbul’s Atatürk International Airport to the Male’s Ibrahim Nasir International Airport. Flights leave Istanbul at 8:25pm and arrive at 7:10am. On the return they leave Male at 9am and arrive at 230 pm. The Airbus A330 will serve Male’ five times weekly, connecting the Maldives to the airline’s hub at Istanbul Ataturk airport.

In the ceremony to celebrate the launching of Turkish airline to Maldives, the Minister for Economic Development Honourable Ahmed Mohamed said that the launching of the airline would benefit Maldives tourism in helping to reach the target of attracting one million tourists for this year.

Established in 1933 with a fleet of only five airplanes, Star Alliance member, Turkish Airlines is today a four star airline with a fleet of 184 aircraft (passenger and cargo) flying to 195 cities around worldwide. One of the fastest growing airline companies, Turkish Airlines has received several “Passengers Choice Awards” from the consumer ranking group, Skytrax. Based on 2011 results, Turkish Airlines has been chosen as the winner in 3 categories, “Best Airline Europe”, “Best Premium Economy Seats” for its Comfort Class seats and “Best Airline Southern Europe”. It has also received awards for its catering and holds a coveted 4-star designation, putting the airline in a small group of top quality carriers. Turkish Airlines was also given the Skytrax designation of “World’s Best Economy Class On-board Catering” in 2010, and Skyscanner’s “Best On-board Food 2011″.

Maldives attracted 3404 tourist from Turkey by the end of September 2012. MMPRC predicts that the total number of tourist from Turkey and CIS countries will increase due to starting of Turkish airline.

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Turkey’s largest promotional portal under construction

ANKARA – Anatolia News Agency – The Turkish Tourism and Publicity Platform is in the process of creating the largest web portal for tourism promotion in Turkey. When finished within the year, the site will provide information on all events related to the country

Turkey’s universities, hotels, shopping malls, restaurants, tourist and travel agencies, national palaces, museums and ancient sites will all come together under one roof in a new web platform to feature the best of Turkish tourism. The Turkish Tourism and Publicity Platform (TUTAP) has been working on a website to provide information about all such places along with photographs and introductory films.

TUTAP Chairman Fikret Yıldız said the platform had declared 2013 as a promotional year in Turkey and that they would begin a promotional mobilization. “The goal is to lighten the burden on the shoulders of the state to promote the country,” he said.

Yıldız said that with the slogan “The shortest way to promote Turkey,” they had prepared the website www.turkiyetanitma.com. Once finished, it will be the largest promotional portal in Turkey.

He said that the website would provide information on every kind of event both domestically and abroad relating to Turkey, including fields such as faith, health and golf tourism. He said that in order to create an accurate and trustworthy portal, they obtained information from governors’ offices, district headquarters, culture and tourism directorates, municipalities and some civil society organizations. “We must get to the true sources. We are preparing the portal with completely true information provided by official institutions and not hearsay,” he said.

Yıldız said work was continuing on the portal but they estimate that it will be completed for all provinces within a year. “What we do is to make it easier to reach information. You can already find information about anything on the Internet but it is disorganized. If you want to know about a place, it will be enough to enter the TUTAP website. You will get information about this place and at the same you will be able to see the characteristics, cultural structure and tourism of this place on the website. We will present Turkey’s largest promotional portal to Internet users,” Yıldız said.

Yıldız said that the biggest source of income in tourism was faith tourism, but Turkey’s promotion abroad was insufficient in this area, adding that some four million tourists visit Turkey for faith tourism annually.

“The most important share is money spent by these tourists. So far we have completed faith tourism work in six regions but there are 324 regions that have problems like transportation and accommodation. If these problems are overcome, we can host 50 million faith tourists a year. We are confident that we will get the biggest income from this field,” he said.

Yıldız said that they were focusing on the tourism potential of the capital, Ankara, which should be increased, adding that they have formed a new system for Ankara’s promotion where people can access a variety of information through the websites ankaraturizmi.com and ankaramiz.net.

“We will do the same for Istanbul and Diyarbakır,” he said.

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