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17 Dec, 2012

To Cut Greenhouse Gases, Indonesia Plans 25 Trash Banks by 2014

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

Watch Islamic Travel Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil’s landmark TEDx lecture on “Peace through Tourism” on YouTube — the first travel industry journalist in Bangkok invited to speak at this prestigious forum. CLICK HERE.


“Home-Grown Terrorism: One Swamp The U.S. Cannot Drain” and other columns gagged by the “Newspaper You Can Trust”

For 15 years (January 1997-July 2012), Imtiaz Muqbil penned a hard-hitting fortnightly column called “Soul-Searching” in a Bangkok-based English-language newspaper. In July 2012, two editors of the so-called “newspaper you can trust” censored and muzzled it, with no explanation. In defiance against that unprecedented action, and at the behest of many upset readers, a selection of the nearly 400 columns are reproduced here, with more to be added regularly. Read the censored column, which has proven to be highly accurate in the light of recent tragedies, and several others, by clicking here.




A Tourism Malaysia print advertisement recently won a silver award under the Print & Packaging category at this year’s 42nd annual Creativity International Awards. Created by FilmPOINT for Tourism Malaysia, the advertisement is part of the “Best Time of Your Life” advertising campaign to promote Malaysia as an attractive, safe and value-for-money destination for international tourists. The advertisement appeared in several international publications. Established in 1970, the Creativity International Awards is one of the most prestigious and longest running independent international advertising and graphic design competitions. The creative concept of the “Best Time of Your Life” campaign was based on “Time” as a powerful device to create urgency to experience Malaysia’s diverse tourism offerings. By using a mnemonic technique, the print ad was visualised by the split screen ad treatment to show the various activities that can be experienced in Malaysia. The treatment gives a sense of two diverse worlds for the time of one in Malaysia! Therefore, the ‘Time’ idea draws the reader into a realm of “What I can do…” through a surprising contrast of two worlds or a seamless continuation of the same world. Among the tourist attractions highlighted in the advertisement were Malaysia’s culture, heritage, nature and adventure, islands and beaches, homestay, underwater, spa and golf. In July, the “Best Time of Your Life” television commercial, also produced by FilmPOINT for Tourism Malaysia, received the Best TV Commercial award at the Profima Awards, held at Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

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


Iran to Host Islamic Arts & Handicrafts Congress in May 2013

The Research Center for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA), Istanbul and the Organisation for Culture and Islamic Relations, Islamic Republic of Iran, are jointly organising the “Tehran International Congress on the Features, Characteristics and Cultural and Economic Contribution of Arts and Handicrafts accompanied by an Exhibition of Albums, Catalogues and Books Published in the Field of Arts and Handicrafts”. The event will take place in Tehran on Sunday 5 May-Thursday 9 May 2013.

The congress aims among others, to: explore the means that can be provided for an optimal use of this sector of activity in the cultural and tourism areas and that can generate benefits for the tourism sector when it is linked with arts, heritage and handicrafts, the latter to be studied in its actual state and its development perspectives.

The congress will also underline the need to preserve the authenticity of these traditional skills and to promote them by available means.

Participants in the congress will include professionals and experts working in the field, institutions dealing with the development of handicrafts, all from within and outside the Muslim world.

The congress program will include an exhibition of albums, catalogues, books, documentary films, posters, photographs and brochures produced in the fields of arts and handicrafts. In this regard, each participating country will be invited to display its publications.

This Congress is the first of its kind and addresses themes relating to economy, culture, heritage and tourism, and gathers experts and specialists in the field of Crafts in addition to artisans, architects and designers to study the issue of employing handicrafts in architectural projects in the Islamic world, the characteristics, advantages and economic contributions that these industries may bring if they are properly exploited in modern architectural projects.

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Penang Waterfront Convention Centre To Redefine Perception of City

Penang, 14 December 2012 – The much awaited convention centre earmarked at THE LIGHT’s commercial precinct is set to make waves soon. Designed to compete amongst the best venues in the Asia-Pacific region, The Penang Waterfront Convention Centre (PWCC) is poised to be the latest alternative to renown convention venues in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong.

The centrepiece of the convention centre is a 10,000 square meter column-free multi-purpose hall that can be subdivided or used as a single space for exhibitions, conventions, corporate events, and private functions. In a matter of minutes, it can be entirely converted to a 9000-seat arena for world-class concerts that can be held in Penang for the first time.

Sustainability and functionality have been the main drivers of the design and the space can be arranged in an infinite number of configurations and moods. Separate entries and multiple lobbies will ensure that simultaneous events can be conducted with absolute privacy. From the outside, the facade of the building appears as a shimmering curtain: reflecting and refracting light from the sky and the sea to produce a dazzling pattern that constantly changes as one moves around the building. From the inside, the kaleidoscopic pattern of the external walls filters light from the sun and captures views of the sea as a series of vignettes that are never the same from one location to the next.

Suntec Penang (a subsidiary of Suntec International) was handpicked to be involved in the designing, marketing and operation of PWCC. “We are confident that this partnership will bring strong commercial value to the surrounding economic network based on Suntec Penang’s client-focused, business driven approach and understanding of global industry trends to deliver strong growth, world-class service quality and operational excellence to PWCC. IJM Land is proud to have Suntec Penang aboard in transforming Penang into an international city,” Dato’ Soam Heng Choon states. “IJM Land constantly scales new challenges to add value to our developments and being the first developer in the region to incorporate a convention centre, retail malls, hotels and a business district on a 152-acre waterfront development with Green Building Index certification is no mean feat!”

Commented Arun Madhok, CEO of Suntec International, “With the right mix of convention and exhibition activities, Penang has enormous potential to become one of the MICE hubs of Malaysia. We are confident that with Suntec Penang’s market knowledge, experience and expertise, together with our partner IJM Land, PWCC will become the focal point for business delegates both regionally and internationally as well as creating a synergistic relationship with its upcoming surrounding businesses such as retail shops, F&B outlets and world-class hotels.”

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Palestine, EU Finalize Joint 5-Year Action Plan

RAMALLAH, December 15, 2012 (WAFA) – The Palestinian Authority (PA) and the European Union (EU) finalized last week their joint action plan for the next five years, the first in the region to be completed within the framework of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP), according to a statement.

The Jerusalem office of the European Union said in the statement that the Palestinian and European committees concluded in a meeting held in Ramallah on Wednesday a new action plan that will guide their future bilateral relations.

The EU representative to the Palestinian Authority, John Gatt-Rutter, praised the work of the committee saying that the PA was the first partner in the ENP with whom the EU have concluded a new action plan.

“During the past year we have had in-depth policy dialogue across a wide variety of sectors,” he said, describing the topics covered in the committee meeting demonstrate “that our bilateral partnership with the Palestinian Authority is both ambitious and comprehensive.”

He said the PA has demonstrated its ability to be a full partner for the EU within the Neighborhood Policy. “The real challenge will thus be to move ahead with our mutual commitments despite the difficult political and financial situation that the PA is in,” he said. “The hard work must and will continue in the spirit of trust and openness, which guided all our discussions today.”

The joint committee reviewed progress in bilateral relations over the past year and discussed plans afoot following the conclusions of negotiation of the new Joint Action Plan, which will guide the EU – PA relations for the next five years, said the EU press release.

Around 30 officials from PA ministries and the European Union convened to exchange their views on all key political, economic and development sectors. The meeting was the eighth time representatives from the two sides have met as part of this high-level policy meeting. It was also the first time the joint committee has taken stock of the work done during the year on the committee’s expanded group of six separate policy dialogue forums on issues ranging from human rights to trade.

The Palestinian side was headed by Mazen Jadallah, advisor to Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Institutions Performance Affairs, and Christian Berger, director for North Africa and Middle East in the European External Action Service, represented the European side.

“The successful holding of this Joint Committee and the increased PA ownership of the ENP process is testament to the strengthened institutional capacity of the PA,” said the EU statement. “The EU has been instrumental in supporting the Palestinians in their state-building efforts. These efforts will continue following the Palestinian enhanced non-member observer state status at the United Nations.”

The joint committee is currently the highest level body bringing together officials from the EU and the PA. It takes place on an annual basis in Brussels and Ramallah in the context of the ENP and the EU – PA Joint Action Plan. The EU – PLO joint committee reviews the work done by a total of six policy dialogue forums, known as subcommittees, which cover human rights, good governance, rule of law, trade, internal market, agriculture, education, culture, social affairs, energy and water issues.

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To Cut Greenhouse Gases, Indonesia Plans 25 Trash Banks by 2014

December 15 2012, Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The trash bank program is considered an effective concept to overcome trash problems in Indonesia and create a cleaner, healthier, and more comfortable environment. The program, initiated by the Ministry of Environment, was begun in 2012 in various regions across the country.

The presence of the trash bank is part of the Ministry of Environment`s target to develop at least 25 trash banks in each of 250 cities across Indonesia by 2014. In February 2012, the Pekanbaru branch of Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) in Riau province disbursed Rp70 million for partnership and environmental management credits to develop trash banks in the city.

“The total credit of Rp70 million for trash bank development in Pekanbaru has an interest of 6 percent per year, or much lower than the commercial credit,” BNI Pekanbaru spokesman Jimmy Rusma said. According to Jimmy Rusma, a trash bank business in Pekanbaru is environmentally sustainable and aided in the local community`s economic empowerment.

“We fully support the presence of a trash bank in Pekanbaru, Riau because it has economic value that has to be developed as part of a national program,” Jimmy said. He noted that with the presence of the trash bank, a trash collector could earn some Rp6 million per month.

Due to a lucrative additional income from trash management, all people were invited to actively manage the trash problem properly in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, Riau provincial Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) chairman Muhammad Herawan has said the presence of a trash bank in Pekanbaru was expected to assist in industrial growth.

“We are optimistic that following the implementation of a trash bank program in Pekanbaru by the Ministry of Environment, it will stimulate local creative industrial growth,” Herawan said. He said the presence of a trash bank would help improve the local residents’ economy because those who have the capability to collect trash and sort it, according to type, and sell it to the bank would have an additional income.

“Besides, creative business players at present have a profound interest in economic issues related to environment, and therefore many of them will probably involve themselves in the trash bank program,” he said. Herawan also pointed out that trash, with proper sorting and management, had good economic value in the development of individuals’ incomes.

According to Bremen, Germany-based Overseas Research and Development Association (BORDA), more than 22.5 million tons of garbage are generated in Indonesia every year, and by 2020 Indonesians are expected to throw away 53.7 million tons of waste. BORDA, a close observer of local government capacity in solid waste management, sees basic problems in Indonesian cities, such as a lack of logistics and equipment to haul garbage out of neighborhoods.

But the trash bank development program is expected to reduce this problem. The trash bank is an innovative solution for the public, especially house-makers and children, who familiarize themselves with garbage sorting by equating it with money or other valuables that can be saved.

In Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, the Environment Ministry`s official, Masnellyarti Hilman, authorized the operation of trash banks in 30 locations in November 2012. Further, local environment office spokesman Hamdi said there were already 30 trash banks in Banjarmasin that result in incomes of Rp30 million per month.

He noted that the presence of more trash banks in many regions across the country would provide a double impact. So far, the North Sulawesi provincial city of Manado, over the past four months, has had 34 trash banks with 950 customers, Manado Mayor Vicky Lumentut said in November.

Lumentut noted that those trash banks in the city were expected to improve local individuals` incomes, reduce unemployment, and support environmental cleanliness. “With the presence of trash banks in Manado, we hope less and less garbage will be thrown into the final disposal site,” Lumentut said, adding that all sub-districts would have trash banks next year.

Therefore, he called on all people in the city to support the trash bank program by becoming trash bank customers.

Meanwhile, Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya also said in Manado that the money earned from trash banks across the country has reached Rp3.2 billion during the past two years. The minister noted that one person could produce 2 kg of garbage per day, and if he or she managed it properly, it could turn into a source of income.

According to Balthasar Kambuaya, garbage should be sorted because it becomes a source of income when managed properly. Kambuaya noted that trash banks held great potential for both city and provincial governments and, therefore, all cities and districts in every province should have them.

Further, the environment minister added that he has increased the number of trash banks from 471 units in January to reach 585 units in September 2012. Additionally, the amount of garbage managed at the trash banks has increased from 755.6 tons per month to 1,366.9 tons per month, an increase of 81 percent.

In Yogyakarta, a trash bank was initiated by Bambang Suwerda, who said its existence could change the social status of scavengers who roamed the garbage heaps to collect inorganic waste.

Bambang noted that scavengers who brave the heat to comb through mountains of trash for anything salable contributed to solving the nation’s waste problem. The trash bank, as part of efforts to overcome problems in Indonesia, is also able to empower the people`s economy at a grassroots level.

Trash is a widespread problem in Indonesia, as people either burn their garbage in front of their homes or simply throw it into rivers. But the Ministry of Environment has launched the trash bank development program in a bid to raise the incomes of people and reduce the trash problem.

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Thai Government Launches Leadership Academy for Muslim Women

Bangkok, (Thai News Agency) – On December 11, 2012, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra presided over a launching ceremony of the program “Leadership Academy for Muslim Women” for women in the 14 Southern provinces at Santimaitri Building, the Government House. Participants included Social Development and Human Security Minister Santi Prompat, Interior Minister Jarupong Ruangsuwan, Mr. Luc Stevens, United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Thailand, Governors of the 14 Southern provinces, religious leaders, and representatives of Muslim women from the South, totaling 500 persons.

Minister Santi reported to PM Yingluck that the program is a collaboration of multiple agencies/sectors and is aimed at empowering Muslim women in the 14 Southern provinces to learn and enhance their ability and capacity.

Ministry of Social Development and Human Security through the Office of Women’s Affairs and Family Development in collaboration with UNDP have discussed with religious leaders and academicians to come up with a program on Muslim women’s empowerment in the 14 Southern provinces.

In her opening speech, PM Yingluck stated that the Program is intended to empower Muslim women and prepare them in economic, social, and political development. The issue of gender equality is very important especially in creating opportunities for women to be able to participate in decision and policy making. This Program would complement the Government’s policy of empowering women to become a stronger power of Thai society.

According to PM Yingluck, policy on women is considered one of the Government’s urgent agenda. In addition to the UNDP collaboration on this Program, the Government has set up a Thai Women Empowerment Fund in collaboration with concerned ministries such as Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Ministry of Interior, and Office of the Prime Minister’s. The Government intends to promote gender equality, enhance women’s capacity from birth to death, and create network of women associations in all levels which will be in line with capacity development of the country as a whole.

Muslim women sisters from the 14 Southern provinces are part of the scheme, and the Program that is launched today is another stepping stone to push forward Muslim women’s empowerment and capacity building along the Islamic way to enable them to fully participate in their communities and societies.

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Moroccan King Inaugurates Casablanca’s First Tramway Line

CASABLANCA, Dec 13 (NNN-MAP) — Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has inaugurated the first tramway line in Casablanca, an infrastructure project that attests to his commitment to enable the kingdom’s economic capital to rank among the world’s major cities.

A major component of the Casablanca urban development programme, the first tramway line is the fruit of a French-Moroccan partnership and is expected to contribute to solving the transportation problem in the city, by complementing its bus and taxi services.

The project — a 31-kilometre line which links the main neighbourhoods of the city, and includes 48 stops — will also help in preserving the environment by reducing pollution and noise, and supporting the economic development of the region as a whole by creating direct and indirect jobs.

This mode of environmentally-friendly transportation, which required an investment of 5.9 billion dirhams (about 694 million USD), is but the first phase of a comprehensive clean transport network and of a major project to improve mobility in Casablanca.

King Mohammed VI, accompanied by French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, rode on the inaugural trip Wednesday between United Nations Square and the Mohammed V Square.

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Over 25 ministers to attend “Made in Sharjah” exhibition

Khaleej Times – 08 December, 2012 – Industry ministers from more than 25 countries are expected to attend the opening session of the third edition of the Made in Sharjah exhibition, running from December 17 to 21 at Expo Centre Sharjah.

“We have invited industry ministers and senior diplomats from countries across the globe for the mega event, which will feature 300 local industrial establishments,” said Lalu Samuel, chairman of the Industries Group affiliated to the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the main organiser. “One of the key objectives of the show is to enhance consumer confidence in local products. The show will also serve as meeting point for local and regional business communities to explore new partnership avenues and boost existing ties.”

The Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry will host a group of industry experts from around the world who are invited to participate in the sessions of the Sharjah International Industrial Conference. A first-of-its-kind conference in the region, the event will highlight the advantages enjoyed by industrial ventures in Sharjah.

According to Hussain Al Mahmoudi, director-general of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, there has been an increase in the number of showrooms demanded by local industrial establishments wishing to participate in the third edition.

The Chamber recently organised at its headquarters a coordination meeting with representatives of major companies and industrial enterprises to exchange ideas and views on the ongoing preparations for show and conference. Aside from Al Mahmoudi and Samuel, it was attended by Mohammed Ahmed Amin, assistant director-general for Economic and International Affairs; Ibrahim Rashid Al Jarwan, director of economic affairs; and Raied Bukhatir, representative of the Sharjah Airport Free Zone.

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Persian carpets to boost Iran’s handicraft exports

Tehran Times – 08 December, 2012 – Iran’s handicraft exports to other nations is likely to post a robust year-on-year rise this year to reach US$ 1.5 billion by close of the current Iranian calendar year, Director-General of the Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization (CHTHO) for Trade Ahmad Balan has said.

Mr. Balan further said that if the forecasts turn out to be positive, it would demonstrate a 300 percent year-on-year rise in the country’s handicraft exports, which mainly target Asian and East European countries, FARS News Agency reported.

With their unique designs and high-quality, Persian carpets occupy a special place in the extensive list of Iranian handicraft items, and are highly popular. Iran exported hand woven carpets worth over US$ 560 million during last Iranian year that ended on March 19, 2012.

Noting that Iran is a major exporter of hand-woven carpets, Mr. Mojtaba Feizollahi, Deputy of Iran’s National Carpet Center, said the country exports its carpets to over 50 countries, including Japan, Italy and Germany. Recognized as one of the most unique expressions of the Persian culture, the carpet-weaving art finds its root in ancient Persia.

European nations, particularly, Italy and Germany, South and Central Africa, China, Brazil and the U.S. are some of the key export destinations for Iranian Persian carpets. Around 1.2 million weavers in Iran engage in the carpet making art to cater to domestic and international markets. Around 80 percent of the five million square meters of carpets produced in the country each year are shipped to foreign countries.

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DSF 2013 campaign Promotion Launched in Kuwait

Kuwait Times – 09 December, 2012 – The Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment (DEPE), an agency under the Department of Economic Development (DED) and organizers of the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF), held a press conference in Kuwait on December 5, to announce the unique offers that Dubai will present visitors during the 18th edition of the DSF, which will take place over 32 days from January 3 to February 3, 2013, under the slogan “Dubai at its best”.

The Dubai delegation comprised members of the city’s travel sector such as Emirates Airline, as well as official bodies such as the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) and the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (DNRD).

Records show 226,328 Kuwaiti visitors came to Dubai in the first 9 months of 2012 – an increase of 5% compared to the corresponding period in 2011. Meanwhile, figures released for DSF 2011 show 3.98 million people visited Dubai during the month-long event, spending a total of Dh15.1 billion in 32 days.

Ibrahim Saleh, Festivals Coordinator General, DEPE, said: “The GCC has been and remains a core market for DSF not only due to geographical proximity but also for the fact that we share the same values and cultural backgrounds. The festival’s marketing slogan ‘Dubai at its Best’ signifies the best of everything that the vibrant emirate stands for, especially during DSF, when it offers unparalleled and unforgettable experiences to visitors and residents alike.” He said after Dubai was crowned for the second consecutive year the “World Festival and Event City” by The International Festivals and Events Association (IFEA), DEPE is keener to provide the best services to tourists and visitors.

The UAE has witnessed great development in the past few years, he added, which Dubai and the DEPE are keen to keep up with by offering the highest international standards at events hosted by Dubai. Saleh added that Dubai is happy to extend a warm welcome to visitors of all age groups and nationalities for DSF 2013, which has lots of surprises and promotions to offer.

Addressing the Kuwaiti media, he said: “Dubai is truly at its best (during DSF) – all family members and visitors will have an opportunity to win prizes, enjoy the shopping promotions and celebrate this huge and unique festival. This joy is truly encapsulated in the slogan ‘Dubai at its best’.” He also said that DSF 2013 will have a new and gala opening, which will offer a preview about how big and unique the festival is and what it will offer its visitors – from events, activities and promotions to carnivals, fireworks and much more.

The festival will also hold raffle draws for gold as well as luxury cars (Nissan, Infiniti and Ferrari), and will feature unique plays and concerts by top international and Arab artists. “What is also unique about DSF 2013 is that we will be concentrating on celebrations in the main streets of Dubai such as Al Riqqa, Al Seef, The Walk (JBR), Downtown Dubai, Promenade Festival City and the Heritage and Diving Village among others,” Saleh said. “There will be something special about all these celebrations to reflect the UAE’s heritage, culture, fashion, music and other aspects of its day-to-day life.”

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Bahrain to host key UN forum

Gulf Daily News – 10 December, 2012 – Bahrain will be the first country in the Middle East to host the upcoming United Nations Public Service Awards and Forum next year. The event – scheduled to be held from June 24 to 27 – highlights the efforts taken by the kingdom to attract elite decision-makers and professionals on regional and international levels.

The decision to host the event comes after the eGovernment Authority presented recommendations on eGovernment services indexes to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) last week during a special meeting in New York. The UNDESA accepted most of Bahrain’s recommendations to improve eGovernment services and ordered member countries to explore its implementation.

eGovernment Authority chief executive officer Mohammed Al Qaed said the recommendations were gathered during the Bahrain’s Global eGovernment Experts Workshop. “Experts confirmed the importance of developing and expanding the UN eGovernment indicators in order to ensure that evaluation and measurement of the developing countries is accurately performed,” said Mr Al Qaed.

“During the workshop, experts stressed the significance of developing and expanding the scope of the UN eGovernment indexes,” he said. “It will more accurately determine the level of each country, assessed in accordance with the most comprehensive set of indicators that are aligned with the nature of each state.”

He said the indexes were the first initiative of its kind – established to benefit the 193 member states and will undoubtedly contribute to the United Nations’ 2014 future survey.

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Morocco seeks Kuwait market for its traditional products

Kuwait News Agency – 10 December, 2012 – Moroccan Ambassador to Kuwait Dr. Yahya Banani asserted that Moroccan and Kuwaiti traditional products inspired both countries to make a major role in bilateral trade abroad, and benefit from geographical location of Kuwait as a gate for Moroccan traditional products to Asia, while Morocco plays as a gate for Kuwaiti traditional products to Europe.

Dr. Banani added, in a statement to KUNA on the sideline of a Moroccan economic delegation’s visit to Kuwait, that the visit of Moroccan Minister of Traditional Industry, along with representatives of traditional Moroccan production factories, seeks development of trade exchange. Furthermore, the Moroccan Ambassador indicated that bilateral meetings were vital for the exchange of experiences, expertise, and install strong partnerships in the field of handicraft and local-made products.

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Qatar Airways plans major expansion in Poland

Arab News – 10 December, 2012 – Qatar Airways has spoken of its long-term commitment to its newest market of Poland with its recent route launch to the capital Warsaw and opening of a new European Customer Contact Centre in the city of Wroclaw early next year. The Doha-based airline rounded off a busy 2012 year of expansion on Dec. 5 with its 12th and final route launch of the year when it began operating nonstop scheduled flights from Qatar to Warsaw Frederic Chopin Airport.

Becoming Qatar Airways’ 32nd European gateway, the addition of Warsaw takes the airline’s global network to 122 destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and South America. The new multi-lingual Customer Contact Centre will handle all the airline’s European customer inquiries from key European markets by phone, fax and email. It will initially serve Poland, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Austria, with more countries to be added.

The fit-out and all technical installations necessary for the office located in the new Epsilon Building will be completed soon for a planned February 2013 opening. The management team of the new Qatar Airways Customer Contact Centre in Wroclaw has been recruited and is in the process of hiring staff, specifically seeking applicants with excellent customer service skills and fluency in European languages.

Speaking at a press conference in Warsaw, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar-Al Baker said: “With the launch of our new flights to Warsaw and opening of our new customer contact centre in Wroclaw early next year, Qatar Airways is extremely delighted to support the local economy and give the people of Poland an exciting opportunity to travel with us and work us, initially creating over 100 new jobs.

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Islamic banking assets to cross $ 1.8 trillion

The Peninsula – 11 December, 2012 – Global Islamic banking assets held by commercial banks are set to cross $ 1.8 trillion in 2013, up from the $ 1.3 trillion of assets held in 2011 according to Ernst & Young’s World Islamic Banking Competitiveness Report 2013. This forecast is significantly higher than some of the earlier industry estimates.

Globally, the Islamic banking industry continues to record robust growth, with the top 20 Islamic banks registering a growth of 16 percent in the last three years and Saudi Arabia emerging as the largest market for Islamic assets. Top 20 Islamic banks hold over 50 percent of global Islamic banking assets

Ashar Nazim, Partner, Global Islamic Banking Center of Excellence at Ernst & Young, said: “The top 20 Islamic banks hold 57 percent of the total global Islamic banking assets and are concentrated in the seven core markets for Islamic banking which include: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Malaysia and Turkey.”

According to the report, in 2011, the Islamic banking industry in Saudi Arabia, with an estimated $ 207bn of Islamic assets, was ranked first. Malaysia, ranked second with total assets of $ 106bn in 2011 and UAE ranked third with total assets of $ 75bn. Egypt has been actively investigating issuing sovereign Sukuks as well as the development of new regulatory framework for Islamic banks, as several banks in Egypt are expected to launch Shari’a compliant products. Iraq is contemplating Islamic banking legislation while Libya prepares to implement its Islamic banking framework.

A number of both established and new banks are considering introducing Islamic banking operations in these markets — highlighting the continued growth and development of Islamic banking throughout the Mena region.

Gordon Bennie, Partner, Mena Financial Services Leader at Ernst & Young, said: “Ten of the world’s 25 Rapid Growth Markets (RGMs) have large Muslim populations and present significant growth prospects for Islamic banking. The fast growth economies now form almost half of the global GDP and remain the main contributors to overall global growth. The outlook for Islamic banking in these markets is bright.”

Despite the projected asset growth and the introduction of new Islamic initiatives in a number of countries, the profitability of Islamic banking continues to lag behind that of conventional banking in the same markets. Over the period 2008-2011, the leading ROE for Islamic banking was only 11.6 percent, against 15.3 percent for conventional banking. Islamic banks continue to face a number of issues affecting the profitability of the industry. These include sub-scale operations, a very basic risk culture, incomplete market segmentation, limited engagement with clients, and an absence of technologically oriented value propositions.

These issues have prompted several institutions to initiate wide-ranging transformation programs that we believe will see the industry take the next step in its evolution from being a niche market to a profitable, service-orientated industry attracting customers for product innovation and value-added services. With the successful implementation of these transformation agendas over the next two to three years, Islamic banks are aiming to close the performance gap that currently exists with the overall banking industry.

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BankDhofar ready to launch Islamic Banking Services

Oman Daily Observer – 13 December, 2012 – BankDhofar is ready to launch ‘Maisarah’ Islamic Banking Services subject to the Central Bank of Oman (CBO) approval. ‘Maisarah’, meaning ease or comfort, will be a fully serviced Islamic window which will enable customers to access Sharia’a compliant products and services through its highly skilled Islamic banking division which was established at the start of the year.

An extensive feasibility study into Islamic banking was conducted by BankDhofar as a direct response to the Royal Decree issued by Sultan Qaboos bin Said in order to ensure that the bank offers its customers a best in class Islamic banking experience. The study focussed on what customers required to become confident with Islamic banking and the market expectations. To meet these requirements and to facilitate the smooth operation, Maisarah has invested in industry leading core banking system and technology. It has also put an extensive training and development plan in place for the staff of its Islamic banking division to enable them to deal with all Sharia’a compliant transactions with ease. Already awareness training programmes for the staff members in all regions have been conducted successfully.

Tony Mahoney, CEO, BankDhofar said “There is a lot of interest in Islamic banking in Oman and we have put the processes in place within our bank to ensure we are ready to offer the best Sharia’a compliant products and services. Our staff members have been trained to allow them to work in this sector effectively and professionally. Our systems were also upgraded and tested to ensure that a smooth transition to Islamic banking can be made as soon as CBO approval is in place.”

Earlier this year BankDhofar’s shareholders approved the final plans for establishing the Islamic banking window activities in compliance with Sharia’a provisions, and in accordance with the banking law and rules and regulations of the Central Bank of Oman at an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM). The all Omani Sharia’a Board is also in place which consists of some of the leading Sharia’a scholars from the country.

The logo of Maisarah was inspired from the architectural features of one of the prominent mosques of Oman and has been presented in the unique BankDhofar green which gels very well with Oman’s green landscape.

As Oman awaits the final guidelines for Islamic banking regulations from the CBO, Maisarah is completing its final readiness to serve the customers and help the community meet its individual and business needs with an array of Sharia’a compliant products.

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Islamic Women ‘are playing major economic role’

Gulf Daily News – 13 December, 2012 – Islamic countries are witnessing a paradigm shift in understanding the role of women with more platforms being provided to stimulate their economic participation. Women have transitioned from being entrepreneurs to leading corporate and state financial institutions.

That was the message from representatives of chambers of commerce, government and private sectors of Islamic countries. Over 75 women from 37 countries convened at the Sixth Forum for Businesswomen in Islamic Countries, at the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Sanabis yesterday.

“Over the last two decades, there has been a paradigm shift in the role of women and marked improvement of their status in Islamic countries,” said Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture assistant secretary-general Attiya Ali on the sidelines. “Men have begun to acknowledge and respect that women can make valuable economic contribution.”

People in Islamic countries have also begun to accept the idea of women going out to work, she added. “The collective evolvement of society has enabled greater empowerment of women,” said Ms Ali. “The economic role opens up political avenues for women in the Muslim world. We are seeing a change in mindsets as Islamic countries are opening up platforms for greater economic participation from women,” she said. “Women are not just starting businesses but they’re heading corporate sectors or running state banks, such as in Malaysia, which has a female state bank head.”

Challenges and difficulties facing women in Islamic countries will be the highlight of the three-day conference, which is developed as a platform for women to work and invest together.

Entrepreneurship is ingrained in Islamic culture, said United Nations Industrial Development Organisation Bahrain director Dr Hashim Hussein. “Entrepreneurship among women is derived from our culture and religion,” he said. “Given the tools to unleash their potential, they perform even better than men.”

Strategies implemented by the Supreme Council for Women will be shared with delegates. “Recommendations from the forum will be presented to the Islamic Development Bank to enable better access to finance for women from macro to small and medium firms,” he added.

Enabling women to adopt media and technology will also be highlighted at the forum. “Technology is a gateway for women to run their businesses,” said Bahrain Businesswomen’s Society president Ahlam Janahi. “We need to help develop the economy directly as entrepreneurs, we create jobs.”

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Standard Chartered Bank launches Islamic platform

Gulf Daily News – 13 December, 2012 – Standard Chartered Bank has announced the launch of an Islamic version of its award-winning online banking platform, Straight2Bank. The enhanced platform expands client access to the bank’s Islamic products by providing its growing Islamic customer base with a secure online portal that is Sharia-compliant.

The existing Straight2Bank platform was enhanced to meet the needs of the bank’s Islamic clients, presenting a convenient, branchless access channel to cash management, trade, securities services and reporting.

The introduction of a Sharia-compliant Straight2Bank will improve operating efficiency for Islamic clients by enabling them to manage their cash and trade portfolios with the bank electronically and instantaneously. “We have observed growing client demand for Sharia-compliant banking services across our key markets,” said Standard Chartered Saadiq chief executive Afaq Khan.

Straight2Bank will be available to customers across all segments, including small and medium enterprises, in Bahrain, the UAE, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Malaysia.

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Iran plans to boost annual exports to Iraq to $ 12b

Tehran Times – 13 December, 2012 – Annual exports from Iran to Iraq is projected to reach $ 12 billion in the current Iranian calendar year, which ends on March 20, IRNA quoted Iranian Ambassador to Iraq Hassan Danaeefar as saying. The figure stood at around $ 11 billion last year, he noted.

In August, the Chairman of the Economic Development Committee of Iran and Iraq, Ali Saeedlou, said the Iran-Iraq trade could reach the $ 25 billion mark in the next two years, IRNA reported. “The Islamic Republic of Iran is working in the energy sectors in Iraq, as well as engaging in other projects regarding petroleum products, oil and gas issues,” Saeedlou said.

He noted that Iranian companies are engaged in major economic activities in Iraq, such as road building and construction, adding that Iran is interested in development of Iraq’s private sector and mutual cooperation. In April, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that there was no barrier to the development of political, economic and cultural relations between Iran and its western neighbor.

Ahmadinejad said Iran and Iraq should use all capacities to develop bilateral relations, solve regional issues in favor of their nations, and establish peace and justice.

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Mozambique’s 2013 Economic And Social Plan Targets 8.4% Economic Growth

MAPUTO, Dec 13 (NNN-AIM) — The Mozambican government’s key economic targets for 2013 include an economic growth rate of 8.4 per cent, and a growth in exports of 14 per cent to 3.56 billion USD, says Prime Minister Alberto Vaquina.

Introducing the government’s Economic and Social Plan for 2013 in the Assembly of the Republic here Wednesday, Vaquina predicted continuing high growth and low inflation. The average 12 monthly inflation figure over the year should not exceed 7.5 per cent, he said.

The government plans to add 281 million USD to Mozambique’s net international reserves, bringing the total reserves to 2.72 billion USD, enough to cover 4.8 months imports of goods and services. Vaquina said the government intended “to continue creating jobs and a climate favourable to private investment and to the development of the national business class, in a context of protecting and preserving the environment”.

The government, he added, wanted Mozambique to continue being “a competitive destination for public and private foreign investment, while the domestic environment encourages the investment of household and individual savings in productive or business activities”.

For agriculture, the priority was food production to guarantee food security. “We shall also continue activities to promote household and industrial agro-processing in order to reduce post-harvest losses, and add more value to the efforts of producers,” the Prime Minister stressed.

As for Mozambique’s boom in mining and hydrocarbons, Vaquina promised to improve mining legislation so as to ensure that the State and local communities gained more benefits from this activity. Measures would also be taken to ensure that the extractive industry became an opportunity for consolidating and strengthening small and medium local companies, and the Mozambican business class.

In terms of social and human development, he said: “We shall continue to promote decent housing, education, health, sanitation and water supply, activities that will be expressed in improvements in the quality of life of communities, households and individuals.”

In education, the government wanted to ensure that all children had the opportunity to finish primary education, Vaquina stressed. That meant continuing to build new classrooms, and acquiring school desks so that the country could gradually reduce the number of pupils “who study seated on the floor”.

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Tehran Museum Restoring Royal Robe

TEHRAN, Dec 11 (NNN-MNA) — A luxurious robe of Tajolmoluk Pahlavi, the queen consort of Reza Shah and mother of Iran’s last monarch Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, is currently being restored by a team of experts at Tehran’s Sadabad Cultural Historical Complex. The robe is keep at Sadabad’s Art and People Museum.

“In addition to the value of the materials used in the gown, it also has historical value, because it was lavishly tailored during the reign of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the queen wore it at certain official ceremonies,” Sadabad Preservation and Restoration Unit Director Masumeh Nemati said in a press release on Monday.

“After several decades, this cloth sustained minor physical and biological damage, and its silver embroidery had darkened as a result of oxidation,” she added. The artifact was first dusted without using a chemical solution and the tears created over time in the cloth were sewn up, she stated.

She said that the robe will be put on a mannequin, which will soon be showcased at Sadabad’s Art and People Museum. The gown is made of navy-blue velvet decorated with silver threads, pearls, precious stones and ermine leather pieces.

Nimtaj Ayromlou (1896–1982), who then was given the nickname of Tajolmoluk (crown of kings), was the first queen of Iran to play a public role, and to have an official position. She played an important role in the abolition of the veil in Iran during the reign of her husband.

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Nusajaya Aims to be Largest Integrated Urban Development Hub In SE Asia

JOHOR BAHARU, Dec 7 (NNN-Bernama) — Nusajaya has passed the tipping point on course to become the largest fully integrated urban development hub in Southeast Asia, its master developer, UEM Land Bhd, said. Its Managing Director Wan Abdullah Wan Ibrahim said with the completion of its first phase, which started six years ago, Nusajaya’s vision is truly taking shape.

“Nusajaya is gathering an irresistable momentum. The second phase will drive Nusajaya towards its full potential. On completion, Nusajaya is expected to become a hub for government services, tourism, leisure, education, healthcare, wellness, creativity, business, industry, commerce, finance, property and infrastructure.

“By the time it reaches maturity in 2025, Nusajaya is expected to support a population of 500,000,” he told a press conference.

Signature developments in Nusajaya include Puteri Harbour, Southern Industrial and Logistics Clusters (SiLCs), Nusajaya Residences, Afiat Healthpark, EduCity, Medini and Kota Iskandar. Puteri Harbour is a premier waterfront and marina precinct featuring the first Hello Kitty Town outside Japan, Traders and Somerset Hotels and the Puteri Harbour International Ferry Terminal, which will become the third link to neighbouring Singapore.

SiLC is a 526.09 hectare clean and green managed industrial park which has successfully attracted global companies to relocate to the area.

Meanwhile, Nusajaya Residences is a distinctive residential development and has received strong sales this year. Among residential areas being developed are East Ledang, Ledang Heights, Nusa Idaman, Puteri Harbour and Horizon Hills.

Afiat Healthpark is an 81-bed Columbia Asia Hospital and is poised to benefit from increasing regional demand for quality healthcare. EduCity is a 123.42 hectare education hub comprising top universities — Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia and the soon-to-open University of Southampton Malaysia. By 2018, the student population in EduCity is expected to reach 12,000.

Medini is the lifestyle epicentre of Nusajaya and home to Asia’s first Legoland theme park, the Mall of Medini and England’s famous Pinewood Studios,which will be completed next year.

Kota Iskandar is Johor’s new administrative centre, with around 2,000 civil servants. It will eventually house about 5,000 civil servants and 76 state and federal government departments.

UEM Land Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of UEM Land Holdings Bhd, is the master developer of Nusajaya, one of the five key flagship zones in Iskandar Malaysia.

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Iraq’s Thi Qar Province Invites Kuwaiti Investors

KUWAIT, Dec 11 (NNN-KUNA) — Taleb Al-Hassan, Governor of Iraq’s Thi Qar Province, has called on Kuwaiti investors to contribute to Iraq’s development projects which he described as the biggest in the Middle East. Al-Hassan, meeting with representatives of Kuwait’s private sector, said there were many international companies already involved in the development projects in Iraq.

Thi Qar Mayor Qusai Al-Abadi, meanwhile, gave an illustration about the province, which is the fourth largest in terms of population in Iraq. Al-Abadi said, “Thi Qar has four oil fields with combined production of 80,000 barrels per day (bpd), with output expected to surge to 800,000 bpd by the end of next year.”

He said there are many opportunities in the housing sector, as the province is in need of 200,000 housing units. Thi Qar needs the development of its industrial sector to produce food and construction materials, noted Al-Abadi.

Second Vice-Chairman of the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry Abdulwahab Al-Wazzan highlighted the importance of commercial and economic partnership between Kuwait and Iraq. Al-Wazzan said Iraq is a lucrative market for Kuwaiti investors.

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ADB To Assist Member Nations In Implementing Islamic Finance Standards

MANILA, Dec 11 (NNN-ADB) — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will help grow access to Islamic finance in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Pakistan with a $750,000 technical assistance (TA) grant to help implement prudential standards developed by the Islamic Finances Services Board (IFSB).

“Islamic finance can provide access to the unbanked and promote financial stability through development of an alternative asset class. This can help diversify the finance sector in developing Asia,” said Sani Ismail, Financial Sector Economist at ADB.

Islamic finance refers to financial transactions that are consistent with sharia (Islamic law), resting on principles such as the materiality of transactions and mutual risk sharing. It includes banking, takaful (Islamic insurance) and sukuk (Islamic financial certificate.)

Interest in Islamic finance has grown steadily, despite the downturn in the global financial crisis, with estimates that Islamic banking assets globally will reach $1.1 trillion in 2012.

In response to requests for assistance from the governments of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Pakistan, the TA grant will be used, amongst others, to develop an e-module platform to build capacities of officials in those countries on prudential standards developed by IFSB.

Bank Negara Malaysia has agreed to share their experience in implementing standards to assist their regional peers.

An action plan will also be drawn up to develop Islamic capital markets in participating developing countries. The plan will focus on harmonizing disclosure requirements of Islamic capital markets products; developing Islamic collective investment schemes; and recommending tax treatment of Islamic capital market products.

ADB and IFSB have successfully implemented two regional technical assistance grants. However, this is the first technical assistance provided to support Islamic finance following the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between ADB and the IFSB.

This TA grant is funded by the Government of Luxembourg’s Financial Sector Development Partnership Fund and the Republic of Korea e-Asia and Knowledge Partnership Fund, both to be administered by ADB.

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Gambian Tourism Has Huge Potential to Increase Gov’t Revenue

By Yunus S Saliu

12 December 2012 – The Daily Observer – The deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture has said that tourism has huge potentials to increase government revenue, reduce poverty and create employment opportunities, hence it is currently recognised to be a major economic and social activity in most countries.

Cordu L. Jabang made this remark Tuesday at the official opening of a five-day training programme on customer services, marketing and public relations, for stakeholders in the tourism sector. The training, which is organised by Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard), is being held at the Dunes Resort in Kotu.

The training amongst other things seeks to primarily address very critical variables in the hospitality industry, including quality and consistency of service in the industry, which is an ongoing concern for the tourism sector.

Jabang said the hospitality industry is undergoing a very dynamic transformation and certain trends have gradually been entrenched at the global level and these include, but are not limited to, acceleration of technological innovations which no doubt revolutionises the day-to-day running of business in the tourism industry; the new tourists are getting more demanding and the explosion in communication technology and the impact of the role of the internet in tourism.

“Therefore, the ability to succeed and the future performance of tourism and related activities will depend largely upon the skills set, qualities and knowledge that managers will be able to bring their business in confronting and addressing these challenges,” Jabang added.

The MoTC DPS further stated that the future of tourism is bright, but in an increasingly globalised and competitive world, it is incumbent on tourism destinations such as The Gambia to embrace innovation and design more robust strategies. “This is with a view to mainstreaming quality in our operations and exceed the expectations of our myriad of guests in the various hospitality establishments,” she added.

She highlighted the importance of the training, saying it will help to appreciate and adapt to change, particularly in fast moving areas such as quality in tourism “as this is very critical in our efforts to transform The Gambia into a much sought after destination that is not only unique, but capable of providing rewarding experiences and trendy service”.

Benjamin A Roberts, the director general of the Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard), welcomed the participants and acknowledged their partners. He informed the gathering that in order to have a sustainable training programme, GTBoard has signed a five-year deal with their partners for the service of the tourism industry.

He explained that the idea is to have training with the expectation that people benefit from this and future training, and will become experts that could help facilitate subsequent trainings, which would boost the service delivery of staff of all the hotels. The GTBoard boss added that one of the best ways to achieve the aims of the industry is through training, which participants have to take advantage of, and ensure that knowledge, skills and experience gathered from the PUM experts should be put into practice.

Lai Mboge, the chairman of the Gambia Hotel Association (GHA), said the training is a fundamental platform especially for those that are willing to continue with their careers, irrespective of educational background or position in a job.”Training is a market that is expanding as new innovations, technologies and sales and marketing approach originates on daily bases and they are all customer service,” he added.

He pointed out that the heart and the secret of hoteliers is patient, flexibility and customer satisfaction, which are first priorities.He finally urged the participants to be fully involved in the training and share the knowledge gained with their colleagues in their respectful hotels.

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Gambia’s Mama Africa Museum and Art Centre

By Njie Baldeh

7 December 2012 – The Point – Mama Africa Women’s Museum and Art Centre is one of the country’s historic sites in terms of promoting tourism and culture as well as putting The Gambia on the world map. The centre, located in the village of Batokunku in Kombo South, is another attraction for tourists and indeed other visitors to the country.

Speaking in an interview with Entertainment recently at her museum, Isha Fofana, proprietress of the centre, said Mama Africa is in The Gambia to promote the African culture to the outside world. Culture, she said, contributes a lot to tourism development, adding that one cannot talk about tourism without culture. “Tourism should be together with culture which is also an art,” she said.

“This is very important because tourists want to come to Africa to see the culture. Some tourists want to see the beaches, about which I think those days are already over, because a lot of countries have tourist attractions nowadays and they are in Europe.”

Madam Isha Fofana further told this reporter that the one of the ways The Gambia could attract more tourists is to develop rich culture because “tourists want to share our culture as well as to learn something about our culture”.

The Gambian international artist added that her plan is to build a lot of tourist attractions when she is able to get the space. “I would definitely like to organize a festival in this country but there is a lot of festivals coming to this country such as the Kanilai Festival, which is very rich in culture,” she said.

Ms Fofana says some times they organise artistes to come and play the kora and talk about the Gambian culture, which is promoting the museum.

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Libya Embraces Amazigh Culture

By Essam Mohamed

6 December 2012 – Magharebia – Tripoli — After decades of restrictions, Libyans can now recognise and celebrate their diversity. The Libyan Amazigh stronghold of Jadu held a cultural festival in November to celebrate the richness and beauty of its culture, as well as the country’s diversity.

The event, which ran November 7th through November 9th in the Nafusa mountain town, made it clear that for the Amazighi community, today’s Libya is a very different place. During the Moamer Kadhafi regime, Amazigh cultural events and the Tamazight language were banned. In Amazigh towns, only Arabic could be used in schools and government offices.

“We support and encourage such educational and constructive activities,” National Congress leader Mohamed Magarief said at the festival. “They have a strong and effective role in strengthening social peace and in linking various cultures and integrating them within Libya.”

“Amazigh are our people, our loved ones and the possessors of a deeply rooted history I am proud of them as well as all Libyans,” he added. “No one should refuse them the right to express their own culture within the framework of a unified nation. Diversity is a source of wealth and enriches our lives with beauty. We should not consider it a source of discord, difference and conflict.”

Tariq Alrowaymidh, the brain behind the festival, said that most attendees were from non-Amazigh areas. “These people are eager to learn about this culture. This is also evidence of Libyans’ openness,” he said. “This festival will give Libyans the opportunity to discover their diverse and multiple cultures. It is evidence of the richness of this nation and not a defect or a shortcoming,” Alrowaymidh added.

Jadu is home to a historical museum on the history of Amazigh culture and daily life. During the festival, a number of seminars and workshops highlighting Amazigh culture were held. In addition, activities included exhibitions, graphic art, fashion shows, and music.

“It is wonderful to see Amazigh culture exhibited in Libya. We hope that there will be also interest in Jebel Nafusa and its population,” Jadu resident Miloud Alawi said. “We also hope that work will continue to disseminate Amazigh culture because it is part of Libya’s culture.”

“This festival reflects Amazigh culture and arts. It presents a symbiotic image of Amazigh culture through theatre, art, music and even eating traditions. Experiences like these are increasing and strengthening national cohesion,” Rahibat resident Abdullah Ahamasi said of the festival.

Abdul Munim al-Mansouri from the Amazigh of the coastal city of Zuwara said, “There were some differences in the Tamazight accent due to lack of mixing between the Amazigh people, but we understand each other. The festival was great and very successful. It explained to Libyans and others the Amazigh culture and we wish the festival more success until it becomes an international event,” Yafran resident Radwan Ammar remarked.

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Mozambique Local Airline to Launch New Service

7 December 2012 – Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique – Maputo — The Mozambican air operator Kaya Airlines has announced that it is to commence flights to Inhaca Island, Machangulo and Zongoene. Inhaca is a tourist resort and an important biodiversity centre in Maputo Bay. Machangulo is on a peninsula that is the nearest part of the mainland to Inhaca, while Zongoene is a resort near the mouth of the Limpopo river in Gaza province.

The inaugural flight will take place on 8 December, according to the company’s chief executive officer Faustino Cruz. Cruz explained that the flights to Inhaca are the result of requests from the local population, and are not expected to be financially viable.

Cruz also revealed that the company is in the process of acquiring five more aircraft: an 8-seater corporate jet; three 50-seater jets and a 75-seater jet. These should all be available within the next four months. Kaya used to be called Transairways, but changed its name when it was purchased by the company Tiko.

Meanwhile, British Airways on Friday announced that its southern African partner, Comair, will fly from OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg to Maputo as from May next year. Comair will fly into Maputo every day, with two flights on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

According to British Airways’ Shaun Pozyn, “In addition to the large volumes of business travellers we anticipate will make use of our new service, Mozambique is fast becoming known as a world-class tourist destination”.

This is Comair’s second attempt to fly the Johannesburg-Maputo route. In late 2011, Comair flew to Maputo from the second Johannesburg airport, Lanseria, on an experimental basis for about six months. But Comair suspended these flights in January 2012. The Comair CEO blamed the suspension on high airport taxes, and the low prices charged for the flights.

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First African-Modelled Monopoly Game Launched in Nigeria

12 December 2012 – This Day – The City of Lagos Edition of Monopoly, the brain child of Bestman Games and the first of its kind in Africa, was yesterday launched at the City Hall in Lagos to avid monopoly players and lovers. The City of Lagos Edition of Monopoly game which portrays the strength of the mega city, also enhances the profile of the state in particular and Nigeria in general.

Partnered by the Lagos State Government, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank, THISDAY Newspaper and others, the game was created with localised popular landmarks of the city. Some of the landmarks are the popular Oshodi, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Kirikiri Prison, City Hall, Makoko and Banana Island instead of the coveted area Mayfair seen in the UK version of the board game.

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola said it would sharpen the skills as well as instill early financial discipline and responsibility on the younger generation. He said: “While we were growing up, the monopoly game kept us indoors. It helped instill in us values on how to manage our finances at an early age and I hope those useful lessons would impact more on the next generation.

“The monopoly game is also a useful tool for bringing parents and children together. Parenthood is a greater challenge than building roads and bridges. For me, it is the challenge of building infrastructure of the mind of the next generation that is of paramount importance.”

For the Chairman, Bestman Games, Mr. Odein Ajumogobia, the choice of Lagos as the first ever African monopoly version is not misplaced as the state has been an icon of good governance. He said: “This Lagos version of the monopoly presents the iconic landmark of the megacity and it would go a long way in financial literacy as well as create bonding time for families.”

According to the Chief Executive Officer of Bestman Games, Mrs. Nimi Akinkugbe, the uniqueness of the board games was that it captured familiar streets and landmarks in the state. She also noted that it would serve as powerful tool for financial literacy for children to relate to as well as instill great sense of ethical values for the players.

She said, “I hope the game would go a long way to enhance the profile of this mega city as well as promote financial literacy, strong ethical values and integrity by rewarding and penalising positive and negative actions respectively.”

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Nigeria Aviation Sector Generates 60,000 Jobs in 12 Months

12 December 2012 – Leadership – The Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku, on Wednesday said that the aviation sector had created no fewer than 60,000 jobs in the last 12 months. Maku said this while briefing State House Correspondents about the outcome of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan, at the State House, Abuja.

He said that most part of the council meeting was devoted to review of the progress made in the last 12 months by Ministries of Aviation and that of Telecommunication Technology, respectively. Maku said that in a power-point presentation by the Minister of Aviation, Ms Stella Oduah, the council was shown the progress made in the reconstruction of the local terminals of 11 airports across the country.

He added that the sector witnessed significant improvement in the installation of safety standard equipment, comparable to those in developed countries of the world. He said that Oduah had also proposed the expansion of six new international airports in 2013, while the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, would be made regional hubs of aviation in West Africa.

Maku said the plan to have a national carrier that would be private sector-driven was ongoing and special cargo terminals would be constructed in some states to promote the agriculture sector.

The Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs Omobola Johnson, also made a power-point presentation to the council on the ministry’s achievements in less than 18 months of its establishment. Johnson said the ministry had shown commitment to the development of the broad-band technology to expand Internet and telephone services.

She said the ministry had developed programmes of access to computer by children, capacity building for civil servants in the field of technology as well as local content development. She noted that the ministry contributed 5.7 per cent to the country’s GDP and enhanced job creation for youths.

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Nigeria: Aero Wins Best Airline Award

14 December 2012 – This Day – Aero has won the “Best West African Airline of the Year 2012” Award at the West African Tourism and Hospitality Awards (WATHAWARDS) held recently in Lagos, Nigeria.

In the words of the President of the Awards group, Adedayo Adesugba: “The West African Tourism and Hospitality award is formed to recognise organisations and individuals in the Tourism & Hospitality Industry, and as a platform for acknowledging and rewarding creativity among all the participants and operators within the West African region. We recognise the role Aero has been playing in ensuring that the travelling needs in the ECOWAS region are constantly met.”

Commenting on the award, the Managing Director of Aero, Mr. Obaro Ibru, said: “We are delighted to have won the West African Airline of the year award. We will, however, not relent in our efforts but we will continually look at new and exciting ways of meeting and even exceeding the flying expectations of Nigerians.”

Aero has grown to be one of the most reputable regional carriers in West Africa operating over 50 flights with a fleet of modern 737s and Bombardier Dash 8. The airline operates flights to major domestic destinations including Accra, Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Warri, Owerri, Uyo, Benin, Enugu and Kano, with plans to open more routes within Nigeria.

Aero also offers reliable helicopter service solutions which cover the oil and gas industry, ad-hoc spot charters, search and rescue, aerial photography and medical evacuations. We have the capacity, skills and experience to deliver personalized services to suit our customers’ operational needs.

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Tourist arrivals to Egypt on the rise in October

Ahram Online, 9 Dec 2012 – Egypt received almost 1.2 million tourists in November, 8 per cent more than the 1.1 million it received the previous year, but still almost 400,000 less than October 2010 – before the revolution began. Tourism rates, although slowly recovering, are still below normal, the governmental statistical agency, the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) reported on Sunday.

The tourists came mainly from Eastern Europe, followed Western Europe and the Middle East, spending an average total of 13.2 million nights in the country, a significant 19.7 per cent increase from October of last year, almost reaching its pre-revolution rate, 13.3 million nights in October 2010.

Egypt welcomed 221,000 tourists from Arab countries in October 2012, a momentous 40.5 per cent increase over October last year, close, but still below the 330,000 Arab tourists it received in 2010, noted the CAPMAS report. Arab tourists spent 4 million nights in Egypt during the month of October, compared to 2.9 million last year and 3.2 million nights the year preceding the revolution, surprisingly lower than the current month’s rates.

The average number of nights spent by Arab tourists in Egypt stood at 12.6 in October this year, compared to 11.1 nights last year and 11.5 in October 2010. The Egyptian ministry of tourism expects to receive more than 12 million tourists by the end of 2012, an almost 23 per cent increase over 2011, despite fears of growing political uncertainties and negative repercussions on overall tourist influx.

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Iran launches own ‘YouTube’ website

AFP, 10 Dec 2012 – The website (http://www.mehr.ir) called ‘Mehr’, meaning affection in Farsi, aims to attract Persian-speaking users and also promote Iranian culture, according to its About Us page. “From now on, people can upload their short films on the website and access (IRIB) produced material,” said IRIB deputy chief Lotfollah Siahkali.

A Facebook page dedicated to Mehr is providing links to some of its content, including music clips produced in Iran. Iran has consistently censored YouTube since mid-2009, in the wake of the disputed elections that returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.

It has also been trying to stop its population accessing a number of foreign websites authorities see as undermining the Islamic regime, including popular social networking sites Facebook and Twitter, as well as the online pages of many Western media outlets, blogs, and pornographic hubs.

The United States accuses Iran of seeking to implement an “electronic curtain” to cut its citizens off from the world. It has imposed sanctions on the regime involved in the censorship. The announcement came amid first steps by the Islamic republic to establish a walled-off national intranet separate from the worldwide Internet.

Iran is working on rolling out its national intranet that it says will be clean of un-Islamic content. Authorities claim the “National Internet” would not cut access to the Internet. Many web users in Iran — half of whose 75-million strong population is connected — are used to getting around the censorship through the use of software known as a Virtual Private Network (VPN), whose sale is illegal in Iran.

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Brunei’s Tutong to have night market

Borneo Bulletin Online – Residents of Tutong District will soon have a new night market building located in the centre of Tutong town following the laying of foundation ceremony officiated by Dato Paduka Badaruddin bin Haji Awang Othman, the Minister of Home Affairs.

The new night market building, which will be ready by March next year, is one of the projects of the Tutong Municipal Board and built at a cost of B$388,800. The project is the newest addition and development of infrastructure in Tutong Town and the construction is in line with supporting the strategic objective of the Tutong Municipal Board.

The facilities of the new night market building include stalls for 14 vendors complete with all amenities. The night market will also have 20 tables and 80 chairs on the ground and top floors. There will also be waterproof umbrellas for the public to utilise.

According to Hj Ali bin Matyassin, Acting Chairman of the Tutong Municipal Board, who outlined the objective of the new night market building, “It is hoped that the new night market would increase the local economy especially encouraging the development of SMEs as well as Malay entrepreneurship.

“Also, the new night market building is to raise the overall standard of commercial premises by providing high quality facilities and more comfortable environment for both entrepreneurs and visitors to the market. Before construction, this area was the old fish market building in town used as night market since a few years ago.”

The budget for the project comes from the allocation of recreational and sports facilities for financial year 2012/2013 for the Tutong Municipal Department.

Explaining the location of the new night market, Hj Ali bin Matyassin said, “The location is strategic and is the centre of commercial and administration of Tutong Town. It’s located near the waterfront and along the Tutong River full of natural fauna and flora. Therefore with its location at the town area, the design of the building will attract the attention of the public as it will incorporate the beauty of its surrounding. It will be an iconic building in Tutong town.”

The ground floor and upper floor of the building, he said, can also be used as a venue for members of the public to watch activities hosted in the Tutong River like speed boat competition, remote control boat and others that are hosted in Tutong River annually.

He also disclosed that the overall budget for recreational and sports facilities for the Tutong Municipal Board for financial year 2012/2013 is B$822,900.

The budget, he said, will help to implement projects and raise the standard of assets of the department like building recreational shelters, games park for four-wheel-drive vehicles and drift cars, sepak takraw court as well as upgrading works for public facilities including Pasarneka Complex and Tamu Tutong.

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Nine mega events set to promote Indonesian tourism

Sat, December 8 2012 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Nine events have been set to promote Indonesian tourism in 2013, both at home and abroad, according to deputy minister for Tourism and Creative Economy Sapta Nirwandar. “We have prepared nine mega events to promote Indonesian tourism next year,” Nirwandar said here on Saturday.

He noted that of those events, three will be conducted abroad, and one of these events will focus on Indonesia being a “country partner” during the world’s largest tourism exchange in Berlin, Germany from March 6-10, 2013. “Two other events to be conducted abroad are Cruise Shipping Miami in the United States in March 2013 and International Meeting Exhibition in Frankfurt, Germany, in May, 2013,” he noted.

While the six tourism events at home will include Musi Triboatton II in Palembang, South Sumatra, in November 2013; Semarang Marathon in Central Java in June 2013; Pilgrim Tourism in Surabaya, East Java, in June 2013; Tour de Singkarak V in West Sumatra in June; Sabang International Regatta II in Sabang, Aceh, in September 2013; and Festival Timoresia II in Ambon, Maluku in October 2013.

Nirwandar said funding for these nine events will be provided by Marketing Directorate General of the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy.

The cost is expected to be some Rp 607,700 billion for tourism promotion programs, improvement of Indonesia’s image, and market and information development on Indonesia. The state budget has allocated Rp2,052 trillion for the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy in 2013.

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Luwak coffee promoted in global market through foreign tourists

Sun, December 9 2012 Agam, W Sumatra (ANTARA News) – Organic luwak coffee produced by businessmen in Agam District, West Sumatra province has attracted consumers in the global market. “By promoting the organic luwak coffee to foreign tourists who come to see raflessia flower here, this coffee has indirectly been promoted to the global market, including Asia, Europe, US and Australia,” organic luwak coffee businessman Umul Khairi said here on Sunday.

He said that the organic coffee named “Rafflesia Luwak Coffee” is produced by wild civets which are believed to be able to produce more enzyme than grounded civets.

“Moreover, we use wild civets to maintain the ecosystem as well as the civet population in the wildlife,” he said. “To keep the originality of the coffee, I only buy coffee beans from farmers whom I really know. We processed arabica coffee since this kind of coffee is suitable for West Sumatra climate.

Khairil stated he only processed 40 kilograms of organic coffee beans per month. Meanwhile, the production of coffee powder only reach about 10-15 kilograms per month. “Since the processing is quite difficult, the price of luwak coffee reached Rp200,000 per kilogram.” Kjairil said. He added that the organic luwak coffee is mostly ordered by domestic and foreign tourists who had visited the raflessia flower park.

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Jakarta Monorail to operate in 2015

Tue, December 11 2012 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Jakarta`s first monorail transportation system is expected to be operational in 2015, with ticket prices set at Rp9,000, according to PT Jakarta Monorail (JM) spokesman Bovananto. He said here on Tuesday that JM had held an exposition on the project at the City Hall last week, where his team had proposed a ticket price of Rp9000 for the monorail transportation system.

“The ticket price covers the 30km monorail routes, comprising the 14.5-kilometre-long Green Lane (Kuningan, Dukuh Atas, Pejompongan, Senayan, Gatot Subroto, SCBD) and the 15.5-kilometre-long Blue Lane (Kampung Malayu, Tebet, Casablanca, Tanang Abang, Mall Taman Aggrek Mall),” Bovananto noted.

“The ticket price was set after taking into account the average commuter’s financial capability, along with other expenses involving feeder buses and other modes of transportation,” he said. Bovananto stated that the PT Monorails new consortium consisted of90 percent new investors and 10 percent old ones`. The monorail transportation system is an old project the implementation of which was interrupted for several years.

“The new investors in the consortium are national private companies. Thirty percent of the project`s financing will be borne by the consortium and the remaining 70 percent will be taken care of by the banking sector,” he noted.

Bovananto said the construction of the Jakarta monorail project would require a total investment of Rp6.9 trillion. “Some Rp2.3 trillion will be funded by the consortium and the rest Rp4.6 trillion will be borrowed from banks,” he explained. Therefore, Bovananto added, the project would be financed entirely by the private sector.

He said the Green Lane phase of the project was expected to be completed in 2015 while the Blue Lane would be ready in 2016. “One of the latest members of the consortium is PT Adhi Karya, which was also a member of the old consortium,” Bovananto pointed out.

“However, PT JM and PT Adhi Karya still have some differences over the construction of the alignment routes. PT JM wants to continue with the previous project design, while PT Adhi Karya wants news alignment routes,” he stated.

It was reported earlier that the Jakarta government would revive the monorail project, which was stalled several years ago. The pillars of the monorail system have already been installed in some areas of the city. They pillars would be used for the construction of three monorail tracks, which will serve as many routes: Tanah Abang-Palmerah-Mega Kuningan-Senayan; Cawang Atas-Senen-Ancol; and Cawang Atas-Grogol-National Monument.

Meanwhile, Adhi Karya president director Kiswodarmawan said his company would form a consortium with state-owned companies and regional government-owned companies to implement the project in two phases.

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Kazakhstan works on green economic strategy

Centralasiaonline.com, 2012-12-12, ASTANA – Inspired by the Rio+20 summit in June, Kazakhstan is determined to develop a strategy for a greener economy before the end of next summer. The country began drafting the strategy at the end of October and hopes to complete it late next summer, Environmental Protection Minister Nurlan Kapparov told Central Asia Online, adding that the government now is selecting consultants to work out the details.

“The proposed green economic strategy will embrace virtually all the key sectors of the economy,” he said, referring to gas supply, waste recycling, transport infrastructure and operation, urban planning, agriculture, water resources, education, and dissemination of information.

“All those will be defined as separate elements of the future strategy,” Kapparov explained. “We’ll have seven or eight consultants overseeing the process. A general consultant has begun working already, and now we’re busy selecting unit consultants.”

The entire shift to a green economy would take place before 2030, after the needed investments are made, he said. Mels Yeleusizov, leader of the Tabigat environmental group, welcomed the Kazakhstani government’s new initiative, indicating that he considered it to be “sound”.

“All of it can be done; the main thing is that officials have to want to do it,” he said. “If we in this country come to realise the importance of the environmental situation, we’ll have a green economy as other countries do.”

A green economy will boost national agriculture, Gani Kaliyev, leader of the Auyl (Village) Social Democratic Party and an academician in agricultural science, told Central Asia Online. “We have unique potential and pre-conditions for green economy development,” he said, referring to Kazakhstan’s ample solar and wind-energy resources. “All we need is to make appropriate allocations.”

“We must work in that direction to succeed,” he said. “Otherwise, we will remain a mere source of raw materials.”

Serikbolsyn Abdildin, an agrarian economist and former minister of agriculture, however, remains sceptical that the plan will be fully implemented. “The projects, initiatives and declarations by the current regime are very attractive; they are to a certain degree well thought-out and look appealing to ordinary people,” he said, adding, however, that they often remain only on paper.

Kapparov insisted, however, that the government will see to the initiative’s implementation, stressing that having a green economy is of “urgent importance to Kazakhstan”. Officials in Astana are already busy developing the green economy initiative and explaining it to NGOs and business, he added.

In line with government plans, within 17 years, Kazakhstan should have much cleaner air, ecologically pure bread and meat, and pollution-free industry, he said.

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Turkmenistan could increase tourism 10-fold

Centralasiaonline.com 2012-12-07 ASHGABAT – Hoping to boost their country’s lagging tourism industry, some Turkmen officials are examining ways to make the country more tourist friendly and to bring in more foreign income. “Foreign tourists know nothing about our country,” Turkmen State Committee for Tourism specialist Dzhakhan Atakhallyyeva told Central Asia Online on the sidelines of a November 7 international conference on education, sport and tourism.

Many specialists from about 30 European and Asian countries who met in Ashgabat suggested that tourism was an underdeveloped asset in Turkmenistan and that boosting it could significantly supplement income.

“Turkmenistan has a rich historical past, and much that is of interest for tourists in the present, which in the future could very well compete with Turkey,” said Yıldırım Çelik, a businessman from Antalya, Turkey, who attended the conference.

“We do have something worth showing to foreigners,” Rovshen Mamedalyyev of the Mary State Historical and Local Museum, told Central Asia Online, citing historical attractions that are on the UNESCO World Heritage List and Avaza, a Caspian Sea resort. However, many point out that Turkmenistan’s tourism industry suffers from underdevelopment, representing less than 1% of the country’s GDP, a figure that has remained unchanged for years, according to statistics.

The construction of the Avaza National Tourist Zone began about five years ago as an initiative of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. The government has invested about US $1.4 billion (4 billion TMT) building Avaza, and about the same is budgeted for its later stages.

Fashionable hotels with swimming pools, sandy beaches, an artificial navigable river, fountains with sound-and-light shows, restaurants and bars, avenues, squares and leisure parks have appeared in a place that five years ago contained only dirty streets and a few guesthouses.

However, Avaza’s sun-bathing season is much shorter than that of Egyptian, Turkish and Thai beaches, sceptics contend, which puts it at a disadvantage. “In my view, it would be much more profitable for everyone if the allocations for the tourism industry were used to create tourism facilities in those parts of Turkmenistan where foreign tourists could find things they couldn’t see in any other country,” Atakhallyyeva told Central Asia Online.

She cited many potential tourist hotspots, like the underground Lake Kovata; the ruins of Merv, Kunyaurgench and Dekhistan; the fiery crater in Darvaza called “The Gates of Hell”; and Dinosaur Plateau in Koytendag.

Turkmenistan also has a weak marketing campaign for its tourism industry. “Much to our regret, we don’t advertise enough abroad,” Atakhallyyeva said. “So, foreign tourists know nothing about our country, about its amazing nature, or the ancient traditions and customs of the Turkmen people.”

Euronews TV often airs ads about exotic destinations in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and other countries of the region, according to 45-year-old Ashgabat resident Cherkez Niyazmukhammedov.

“But we never see anything of the sort about Turkmenistan,” he said. “And (it) doesn’t say a word about the famous Avaza. This, of course, is an oversight by the leaders of our State Tourism Committee.”

More needs to be done to publicise Turkmen destinations, agreed Kakageldi Batyrov, a spokesman for Marysyyakhat, a state travel agency. However, advertising is no cure-all, he added. “Unfortunately, all eight state tourist enterprises and about 20 private tourist firms suffer under the yoke of various state instructions and official decrees,” Batyrov explained, adding that “a breach of these instructions can be classed as a crime.”

Turkmenistan needs to remove hindrances for those who want to visit and allow them to enjoy themselves once they show up, analysts and tourists agree. The country has become more open to visitors since 2007, but obtaining a visa can still be difficult.

In 2011, only 8,697 foreign tourists, of whom about half were citizens of a neighbouring country, visited Turkmenistan, according to the State Tourism Committee. That figure is far below the country’s capacity for absorbing foreign tourists, Batyrov said. “It should be at least 10 times as high,” he said.

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Bangladesh to introduce ‘Tourist Police’

DHAKA, Dec 11, 2012 (BSS) – The government will introduce ‘Tourist Police’ in the tourism sector to ensure security of both local and foreign tourists in the country’s all tourist spots, Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Lt Col (retd) Faruk Khan said here today. “We’ve suggested the home ministry to form a 200-member unit of police initially for Cox’s Bazar, the busiest tourist destination of the county” Faruk Khan told BSS.

Referring to the second Jatiya Parjatan Parishad (National Tourism Council (NTC) meeting held today, the minister also a member of NTC said the issue of raising ‘Tourist Police’ was discussed in detail during the meeting considering security concern of the tourists.

The tourism minister said there is a common perception that the country is not getting the desired number of foreign tourists due to lack of security. “Considering the mater, we have decided to introduce specialized police force for the safety of tourists,” he said.

Ministers as the NTC members including Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith and Home Minister Dr MK Alamgir attended the meeting. Secretaries of different ministries also joined it. Faruk Khan said Home Minister Dr MK Alamgir floated an idea of forming a 1200-member police unit to deal with security concerns in the tourism industry. “But I suggested that a 200- member police unit could be formed initially for Cox’s Bazar,” he said.

The Tourism Minister said many proposals came up for discussion during the meeting. “We decided to cut duty on importing various tourist products at least by 5-10 per cent to help develop the private sector in the tourism sector. I hope this will be effective from next month,” he said.

Besides, he said, they discussed the raising of Taka 1,000 crore fund for the rapid development of tourism sector. The government will soon start building infrastructures at Cox’s Bazar, St Martin and Maheshkhali islands, Kuakata and other major tourist spots to turn Bangladesh into one of the top 10 tourist destinations in Asia, he said.

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Bursa’s hamams transformed into art venues

BURSA – Anatolia News Agency – Bursa’s hamams are being transformed into culture venues. They have a very important place in the northwestern province of Bursa’s heritage. Restoration projects are ongoing in four different Bursa hamams, while another three hamams are preparing to be turned into cultural centers.

Bursa’s famous hamams are being adapted into museums, art venues and culture centers. The hamams, which have been damaged over time, are currently being restored with the support of the municipality, and will eventually host concerts, photography and painting exhibitions, discussions, panels and other cultural activities. The restoration projects are ongoing in four different Bursa hamams, while another three hamams are preparing to be turned into cultural centers.

The historic Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi once said, “Bursa is a city of water,” in reference to the city’s historic hamam culture. Today, locals still call these hamams Roman baths and they are among the most ancient buildings of the city. The keramet hot springs, Çekirge hot springs, Armutlu hot springs, Oylat hot springs, Gemlik hot springs and Çelik Palas thermal baths are among the most famous locations. The city is currently eyeing these historic establishments as something more than simply bathing facilities but cultural venues, as hamams are economically important and also reflect the region’s heritage.

The first Ottoman hamams were built inside the hisar (fort) and belonged to Orhan Bey, the second leader of the Ottoman Empire, and his brother Alaaddin Bey. Known today as Aynalı Hamam, it is one of the most famous hamams of Orhan Bey’s era.

Sultan Murat Hüdavendigar’s Nalıncılar Hamam and several other hamams built in Sultan Yıldırım Bayezit’s social complex are transforming to art venues. The two-domed hamam of Byzantine Emperor Justinian, as well as Sultan Çelebi Mehmet and Murat II’s hamams, are also famous local attractions. An additional two domes were added to Justinian’s hamam in 1511 by Murad Hüdavendigar.

Yeni Kaplica, built in 1555, is another spectacular facility. Mineral water bubbles up from below the extensive baths and flows into a larger central pool from a lion’s head spout fixed to the wall. The building’s architecture has remained unchanged since its establishment by the Vizer Kara Mustafa (Black Mustafa). The large, multi-roomed building has a wonderful sense of space and proportion and was modeled after Roman baths rather than a traditional hamam, as pools (still, non-flowing water) are not permitted under Islam.

The plethora of hamams throughout the city illustrates how important hamam culture was during the Ottoman Empire. After the building of the hamam complexes, hamam culture in Bursa began to increase in popularity, eventually becoming part of the city’s identity. During the 1800s, the importance of water – and thus hamams – increased. A total of 27 hamams were established in the city center and when taking into account the villages in the city, Bursa has more than 100 of the baths.

Hamam restoration projects began in 2004 with Ördekli Hamam, which was funded partially with private money and partially by the municipality and government. After four years, Ördekli boasted a new identity with restored rooms and an environment conducive to hosting art and cultural events.

The Ördekli Hamam restoration cost 3.5 million Turkish Liras. Since 2004, the restoration of the Kayıhan Hamam has cost 3 million liras, while the Muradiye Hamam, the Mahkeme Hamam and the İncirli Hamam have cost 1.5 million liras each, the Emir Sultan Hamam and Muallimzade Hamam 1 million liras each, and 200,000 liras have been spent on the Hamamlıkızık Hamam.

There are still hamams that are waiting to be restored although the project development has been completed. Among them is the Mudanya Hamam, costing a total of 1.5 million liras.

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Oman Air And Qatar Airways Agree Muscat-Doha Codeshare

Oman Air and Qatar Airways have announced a codeshare agreement, allowing Oman Air’s customers to book flights from any of the 42 departure points within its network to Doha, the capital of Qatar.

The codeshare agreement is effective immediately and customers can now book flights through local outlets or by visiting www.omanair.com.

Announcing the codeshare, Wayne Pearce, Chief Executive Officer of Oman Air, said: “We are delighted to be joining with Qatar Airways to offer even greater choice, value and convenience for our customers. This codeshare will make travel within the Gulf region easier, effectively extending Oman Air’s network.

“Both Oman Air and Qatar Airways offer customers extremely high standards of comfort and service, so I am pleased that we are now offering this great opportunity and am sure that it will prove to be an outstanding success.”

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said: “Qatar Airways is pleased to partner with Oman Air to provide passengers with extensive choice and flexibility when planning their travel schedules. “Qatar Airways is focused on delivering its signature five-star service to its passengers, as well as an extensive network of destinations to choose from, which is further enhanced with this new partnership,” said Al Baker.

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Private sector expected to boost tourism in Berau, Malaysia

December 15 2012 Berau (ANTARA News) – Greater participation by the private sector, rather than only government initiatives, is expected to increase development of the tourism sector in Berau, East Kalimantan, according to a tourism official.

“The private sector plays an important role in boosting tourism in developing countries, including Indonesia, and particularly in Berau,” Berau Tourism and Culture Service Head Rohaini said here on Saturday. “Berau has a lack of transportation, particularly land transportation which needs to be supported by the private sector,” she said.

Rohaini urged the public to look towards neighbouring countries, whose tourism efforts are mostly supported by the private sector. “The role of the private sector has significantly contributed to improve the economy in Singapore, Malaysia and other neighbouring countries, including in the tourism sector in Indonesia,” she added.

Before the Derawan Festival in 2013, Rohaini said that the service is working to increase access to transportation, human resources and supporting infrastructures, such as hotels and homestay. “We have built homestay in Tanjung Batu, so we only need to fix it, since I think the local residents are ready to become part of the tourism community,” she added.

To increase preparation, the service has conducted training for local people to welcome foreign tourists, according to Rohaini. “We will also call on the businessmen from travel agents and private investors to provide donations to meet the needs of transportation during Derawan Festival 2013, although there have been no significant contributions from the private sectors,” she added.

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Malaysia’s Legoland To Restrict Entries During Peak Periods For Quality Experience

SINGAPORE, Dec 16 (Bernama) — Legoland Malaysia will restrict the number of entries to Asia’s first Legoland Park when the need arises during peak periods to ensure all guests enjoy a quality experience at the park. In a statement, Legoland said the park has been enjoying a successful opening since Sept 15, 2012.

“We are grateful for the tremendous public support and this has contributed to a very busy period especially during holidays. On Saturday, due to the high traffic we temporarily limited the number of new entries from 12pm to 2pm,” it said.

It said although Legoland has a large capacity, it remains a priority that everyone at the Park can fully appreciate the unique and interactive LEGOLAND experience.

“We value all our guests and the quality of their experience at the Park is important to us. As we are fully committed to ensuring our guests have an enjoyable time with their families and friends we might implement this measure from time to time on a per need basis,” it said.

Legoland said school holidays and weekends are the busiest times for LEGOLAND Parks worldwide. “We would like to remind guests that arriving early during this time is the best way to enjoy the full day of family fun that LEGOLAND Malaysia has to offer,” the statement said.

Guests are also encouraged to visit on week days. The Park is open until 8pm every day during December.

For Annual Pass holders, Legoland said it would strongly recommend guests to come during off-peak days and hours to maximise their time at the Park. Most pass holders at the other Parks usually avoid the busiest times/days knowing that they can come on any day of the year.

Visitors who have pre-purchased day tickets either online or via tour packages will be admitted to the Park. Legoland encourages guests facing any difficulties with their entry to approach staff at the counter for further information or assistance.

To assist guests in planning their visits, LEGOLAND also provides information on its website (www.legoland.my) and Facebook page. The same channels were used to give advance notice on Saturday. Legoland Malaysia offers more than 40 rides, shows and attractions.

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OIC Secretary General Opens Halal Food Expo in Sharjah

11/12/2012 (OIC News) – The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, addressed on 11 December 2012 a message to the Middle East International Exhibition and Conference on Halal Food held from 10 to 12 December 2012 in Sharjah, the United Arab Emirates.

Ihsanoglu said that the specialized character of the trade fair is extremely important in that it showcases various halal food products available in our member states. He stressed that intra-OIC trade cannot be promoted unless all information and data are available about our countries’ capabilities, resources and potentials. This trade fair complements the various OIC activities of standardizing and mainstreaming of halal food in the framework of intra-OIC trade. In addition, this event is a suitable opportunity for all stakeholders to chart the right path to develop this vital sector.

The Secretary General stated that, after the various OIC expert meetings which culminated in the drafting of the OIC Halal Food Standards, the entry into force in 2010 of the Statute of the Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries (SMIIC) gave great impetus to halal food activities. SMIIC is an effective forum for mobilizing capacities to enhance the volume and quality of trade exchange among OIC member states. This, in turn, will contribute to the poverty alleviation efforts, resource utilization and capacity building. In 2011, the Institute adopted OIC standards and rules for halal food.

The Secretary General stressed that the conference will achieve the target of increasing the private sector’s participation in the halal food industry and enhancing intra-OIC trade.

Trade promotion activities have increased steadily with the organization of OIC Trade Fairs and specialized expos. The Islamic Centre for the Development of Trade (ICDT) has, since 1986, ensured that the biennial OIC trade fairs continued to hold, thereby showcasing the diversity and quality of products from OIC Member States with a view to ensuring international patronage. In the same vein, these fairs have succeeded in bringing together OIC producers and consumers alike.

He noted that Sharjah hosted the 13th OIC Trade Fair on 24-29 April 2011, for the second time in less than a decade. Similarly, the Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (ICCIA) organised the 14th Private Sector Meeting in Sharjah in April 2011. “These unprecedented actions confirm the prominent role of Sharjah in the OIC trade promotion programmes and activities. Thanks to these multiplied actions, intra-OIC trade has increased progressively from 14% in 2004 to 17.71% in 2011.”

In monetary terms intra-OIC Trade increased from US$205 billion in 2004 to US$687.74 billion in 2011. Consequently, with the recent entry into force of the OIC Trade Preferential System (TPS-OIC), its protocol and the Rules of Origin, the way is paved for the active participation of the Private Sector in increasing trade exchanges within OIC.

He added, “In the aftermath of the various meetings of OIC experts which resulted in the elaboration of the OIC Halal food standards, the entry into force of the Statute of Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries (SMIIC), in 2010 has generated strong impetus for the Halal food activities. The SMIIC is considered as a useful platform for mobilizing potentials for further increasing the volume and quality of trade exchanges between OIC countries, which in turn should contribute to efforts about poverty alleviation, resource utilization and capacity building.

“Moreover, in line with its mandate for preparing standards, SMIIC adopted OIC Halal Food Standards and Guidelines in 2011. As it sets out to achieve the laudable task of consolidating its activities, SMIIC possesses considerable potentials to contribute to the various on-going efforts and programmes at the OIC Level to boost competitiveness, remove trade impediments, increase trade exchanges and stimulate economic growth among the Member States.”

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Uzbeks expand tax breaks for foreign investment

2012-12-11 – (Central Asia Online) TASHKENT – Effective December 14, Uzbekistan is expanding the number of industries in which it is providing incentives for foreign investors, Norma.uz reported December 10.

Under a joint resolution of the Economy and Finance ministries and of the State Tax Committee, the number of such industries will grow from 8 to 20, to include packing-material manufacturing, alternative-energy power station construction, petrochemicals and others.

The government will allow enterprises operating in all cities and villages outside Tashkent city and Tashkent Oblast to enjoy the tax breaks. Previously, they had to be situated only in specifically designated oblasts with high unemployment. It also made companies in which 33% of the charter capital was foreign eligible for the tax breaks, whereas formerly they had to be at least 50% foreign-financed.

Companies receiving the tax breaks must re-invest at least 50% of the profit they earned from their tax reductions, according to the resolution.

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Pakistan, Turkey agree on early implementation of joint projects

ANKARA, Dec 12 (APP): Pakistan and Turkey Tuesday agreed on early implementation of the joint projects, encouraging private sector of the two countries and creating facilitative trade mechanisms and opportunities for the businessmen to fully utilize the true trade potential and further deepen bilateral commercial and investment ties. President Asif Ali Zardari stressed for translating the excellent political relations between the two countries into a strong and long term economic bond to the mutual benefit of the people of the two countries.

President Zardari said this during his separate bilateral meetings with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the 7th Trilateral Summit of Afghanistan-Pakistan and Turkey, a statement from the President House said.

President Zardari stressed the need for early finalization of Pakistan-Turkey Preferential Trade Agreement, which he said would help boost trade ties and achieving the mutually agreed trade target of $ 2 billion. He termed the recent suggestion from the Turkish side to include mutual concessions within the ambit of the PTA as a forward step and expressed the hope that next round of PTA discussions would be held soon after the exchange of revised request list covering major textile products being affected by the Turkish safeguard duties and extra tariffs.

The President invited Turkish investment and joint ventures in key sectors such as infrastructure, housing, engineering, energy, agriculture, telecommunications and mining and said that it was encouraging that private sectors of the two countries are collaborating in the energy, construction, food processing and rubber industries.

He also welcomed Turkish investment in hydro-power generation and alternative energy. The President expressed the hope that Gul Train Project would revolutionize cargo and transit facilities between the two countries and urged for early finalization of border crossing formalities, harmonizing customs procedures and generating cargo by larger involvement of the private sector.

The President thanked Turkish Prime Minister for his participation in the D-8 Summit held last month in Islamabad and expressed confidence that summit with its distinct trade promotion focus would further energize economic and commercial ties within the D-8 family.

The summit, he said would go a long way in confronting common challenges faced by the D-8 community, especially achieving food security, mitigating the impact of natural disasters and countering all forms of extremism which undermine economic progress and negatively affect the livelihood of our peoples.

The President appreciated the Turkish leadership for hosting the trilateral Summit of Afghanistan-Pakistan and Turkey for the seventh time and said that Turkey is a trusted friend of both Afghanistan and Pakistan, adding that all the three countries share the objective of peace and stability in Afghanistan and in the wider region. President Asif Ali Zardari said that held under the theme of ‘connectivity,’ the 7th trilateral summit meeting would help in further strengthening economic and commercial cooperation while improving the existing and developing new rail and road links.

The President hailed Turkey’s contributions and constructive role in Afghanistan both under the ambit of the trilateral mechanism as well as the Istanbul process and urged Pakistan and Turkey for further intensifying cooperation, both bilaterally as well as under the trilateral mechanism to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process.

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Saudi Tourism Taps British, Japanese Universities For Antiquities Excavation

Riyadh, Safar 3, 1434, Dec 16, 2012, SPA – Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) signed last week, during the 2nd National Architectural Heritage Forum held in the Eastern Region, two cooperation agreements with the British University of Oxford and Japanese Kanazawa University to excavate antiquities in a number of archaeological sites dating back to the stone ages in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The agreement with the University of Oxford provides for archaeological excavations at two sites in old stone ages sites to be added to other three sites in which the University has been excavating according to scientific cooperation agreement signed between the Commission and the University in 2010.

The second agreement with the Japanese University provides for conducting archaeological survey of stone ages sites in the regions of Jouf and Tabuk with the participation of the Commission’s researchers.

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Tunisia’s first sports TV channel to be launched early 2013

Xinhua, December 16, 2012 – Tunisia’s first sports television channel, dubbed “T Sport,” will be launched on Jan. 14, 2013, the channel’s promoter announced Saturday. Hichem Bouajila said during a press conference the channel will begin by airing 12 hours of live programs and 12 hours of pre- recorded sports programs. Bouajila added his team will include 40 full-time sports journalists and 30 technicians. “The lack of specialized sports programs in Tunisia led me to start the project,” Bouajila said.

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3rd Arab Social Media Forum meets in Amman

Amman, Dec.15(Petra)– The 3rd Arab Social Media Forum (ASMF) started its sessions in Amman on Saturday with the aim of discussing the importance of social media vehicles and their direct effect on various aspects of life nowadays..

The 3rd ASMF which was inaugurated by Information Minister Samih Maaytah will also tackle the impact of social media on communications & marketing, business development for SMEs, and NGOs in addition to individual applications by community members Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Forums & Blogs will be the main highlights of discussions to be covered in addition to appropriate approaches to dealing with social media in addition to building a successful social media strategy for public relations..

The 3rd Arab Social Media Forum is supported by Ministry of ICT in Jordan & sponsored by: Yahoo! Maktoob and a number of local and foreign companies. A number of key international, regional & local figures and specialists in social media are participating in the event. The 1st & 2nd events of the forum were held in Jordan & Saudi Arabia 2010 & 2011 and concluded with great success.

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