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14 Jan, 2013

Nigerian Tourism Chief: Tourism Only Hope for Africa

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 14 January 2013 (02 Rabee’ al-Awwal 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 Bangkok Post

For 15 years (January 1997-July 2012), Imtiaz Muqbil penned a hard-hitting fortnightly column called “Soul-Searching” in the Bangkok Post. 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, and several others, by clicking here.




Malaysia’s tourism calendar for 2013 is packed with another fascinating year of exciting events and colourful celebrations as a run up to the Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) planned in 2014. Regardless of the month of visit, Malaysia promises visitors something special and unique to make their time here truly memorable and enjoyable! Kick off the year in January by joining in the grand celebration of the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 promotion campaign from 18 to 20 January at Bukit Jalil Stadium, Kuala Lumpur – it will be the biggest tourism carnival ever! It is also a great month to witness the Thaipusam Festival when a dazzling chariot procession pulls into the Batu Caves temple on 27 January after making a 15 kilometre, 12-hour journey from the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Elsewhere, Langkawi waters will host the Royal Langkawi International Regatta from 7 to 12 January, an exciting sailing and racing event you won’t want to miss. The Chinese New Year celebration on 10 February is a great time to catch a glimpse of the 15-day long festival celebrated with joyous reunion, fabulous food, colourful lion dances and ethnic tradition. Another tourism highlight is the Pasir Gudang World Kite Festival from 20 to 24 February in Johor which promises to fill up the sky with colourful and innovative kite designs from international participants. Also, catch some of the world’s leading women tennis players at the BMW Malaysian Open from 25 February to 3 March at the Royal Selangor Golf Club, Kuala Lumpur. Click here to download details of other events from March onwards

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


After Exhilarating Umrah, India’s Thespian Muslim Actor extends Makkah stay

12 January 2013, (Arab News) – Legendary Indian actor Muhammad Yousuf Khan — who attained world fame with his screen name Dilip Kumar — and his actress wife Saira Bano have been so touched and spiritually exhilarated by their journey to Makkah that they have extended their stay in the holy city by a couple of more days.

“Dilip Kumar performed Umrah along with a 21-member entourage three days ago … He was absolutely thrilled and spiritually charged,” said Faisal I. Farooqui, a close family friend and CEO of mouthshut.com.

Farooqui tweeted about the thespian’s visit to Makkah and Madinah and posted interesting pictures on Twitter account (@faisalMouthshut).

Talking to Arab News yesterday, Farooqui said one of the most poignant moments during the journey was when Dilip Kumar was performing the circumambulation of the Holy Kaaba. “He was full of energy and was reading aloud verses from the Holy Qur’an while performing the ‘tawaf.’ When we all heard him speak aloud, we started repeating the prayers after him,” said a very excited Farooqui. “Those were very touching moments, especially because Sahib is a man of few words.”

During the circumambulation, Dilip Kumar was in total awe. “He was involved in all aspects of the religious rituals … whether it was the donning of the ihram in Madinah, or performing the ‘tawaf’ or saee in Makkah, he was a picture of total submission to Almighty Allah. He was fully engrossed,” said Farooqui. “I have not seen him in a more composed and serene manner in such a long time.”

Farooqui said two people should find special mention while writing about Dilip Kumar’s journey to the holy land. “They are Saira Bano and her brother Sultan Ahmad. Without Saira Baji’s extraordinary energy and Sultan Bhai and his family’s support, the whole trip would not have been possible,” he said.

He said “Sahib and Saira Baji” were touched by the generosity extended by everyone during their stay in Madinah and Makkah. “All of them were gracious and polite. They understood the family’s concern for Sahib’s well-being and were very supportive. The people in Madinah … the people in Makkah … they were all very, very helpful.” Farooqui, whose family has been friendly with Dilip Kumar for the last 30 years, said the legendary actor and his entourage were to leave for Mumbai last evening. “But such has been the impact of the journey on them that they decided to extend their stay in the holy city,” he said. “No one feels like leaving Makkah.”

Indian Consul General Faiz Ahmad Kidwai met them at the Makkah Hilton on Thursday evening and said one could clearly see happiness on Dilip Kumar’s face. “He speaks very little, but one could easily read his radiant face; he seemed contented.”

During their conversation with the consul general, they expressed their interest of coming back to the Kingdom soon. “Dilip Kumar and Saira Bano intend to perform Haj this year. This is their intention and we all should pray for their dream to come true,” said Kidwai. “Saira Bano said they don’t feel like leaving Makkah and that is the reason why they have extended their stay.”

Kidwai kept his men in Makkah on standby for any possible help. “This is their private visit, but it was our duty to extend all help to this great symbol of our country,” he said.

Farooqui echoed the consul general’s sentiments. “Let us all pray that they come back to the holy land. We all are truly blessed to accompany them to Makkah and Madinah.” The entourage included eight of Dilip Kumar’s longtime support staff, including his personal doctor and a cook.

Born on Dec. 11, 1922, in Peshawar, Yousuf Khan joined the film industry in 1944. He is rightly considered as the Subcontinent’s first method actor and an inspiration for generations of filmstars.

Yousuf Khan has been an inspiration behind many generations of actors. His dialogue delivery, flawless Urdu and acting abilities have all endeared him to his fellow actors and fans. In his days, he was the king of Indian film industry and his dialogues in the film “Mughal-e-Azam” — a true love epic — was on the lips of every moviegoer and literature lover. In one of his famous observations, noted film director Mahesh Bhatt said: “Where would Indian cinema be without Dilip Kumar’s heart-wrenching performances in Mughal-e-Azam? The wells from where we drink water were dug by this giant called Dilip Kumar.”

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Malaysia Is Voted World’s Top 3 Retirement Haven

PUTRAJAYA, 8 JANUARY 2013: Making retirement plans soon and thinking of living overseas? Well, consider Malaysia as an exotic but highly affordable option. Malaysia has been recognised by InternationalLiving.com’s newly-released Annual Global Retirement Index 2013 as among the top ten places to retire to in the world.

Coming in at number three after Ecuador and Panama, Malaysia is the only Asian nation that made it into the top ten list besides Thailand (at number nine).

Minister of Tourism Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen said, “I am very proud that the world is recognising our country as an ideal place for retirement. However, there is still room for improvement to make Malaysia an even more comfortable place for retirees.”

One of the Ministry of Tourism’s efforts to promote Malaysia as a long-stay destination especially for retirees is its Malaysia My Second Home programme which has over 20,000 participants since 2002 to October 2012.

International Living is an online and print magazine that focuses on living in foreign destinations. In its yearly compilation of the world’s top retirement havens, it highlights several retirement destinations in the world, considering them across eight crucial categories: real estate, special retirement benefits, cost of living, ease of integration, entertainment and amenities, health care, retirement infrastructure and climate. It also gets feedback from expats living there for real-life details.

Malaysia scored full marks for entertainment and amenities, and secured high points for cost of living, ease of integration and healthcare facilities. An American couple interviewed said that their living costs in Malaysia were now a third to a quarter of what they were in the United States. For USD1,700 a month, another couple managed to rent a sea-view apartment with shared pool and gym, eat out five nights a week, and keep a small sailboat.

Malaysia was also noted for being an easy place to make friends and integrate as English is the unofficial first language. Many expatriates live in Kuala Lumpur and Penang and there are numerous organisations that provide assistance in getting settled and integrated.

Other attractive points about Malaysia, which was ranked 9th most-visited by United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) for three years in a row since 2009, were its year-round tropical weather and pristine beaches, islands and jungles. The report also stated that Malaysia offers some of the region’s most affordable and best street food, great restaurants, bars, shopping malls and movie theaters.

Mention was also made of Penang and Kuala Lumpur’s medical facilities – “Not only is the health care amazing but it’s among the world’s cheapest. And prescriptions here cost a fifth of what you pay at home.” The report also noted the ease of buying property in Malaysia — “something you can’t do elsewhere in Asia.”

To read the full report, visit http://internationalliving.com/

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Tourism Malaysia On Sales Mission To Woo More Indian Tourists

PUTRAJAYA, 9 JANUARY 2013: Tourism Malaysia, with cooperation from Malaysia Airlines, is organising a promotional Sales Mission to India in conjunction with the South Asia Travel and Tourism Exchange (SATTE 2013) from 7 – 18 January 2013. The programme covers four cities namely Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata and New Delhi. In New Delhi, the SATTE 2013 will be held from 16 – 18 January 2013.

The Director of International Promotions for South Asia/West Asia/Africa Division, Mr. Zulkifly Md. Said is leading the Malaysian delegation consisting of 17 tour agents, 21 hotel operators, six product owners, three state governments and Tourism Malaysia officials to promote Malaysia as a preferred tourist destination.

He is also accompanied by a 10-man cultural troupe from Istana Budaya to showcase Malaysia’s multi-cultural attractions such as traditional dances, batik painting, tea making demonstration and local delicacies. Other programmes scheduled throughout the duration of the sales mission are media interviews, business-to-business sessions, networking dinners and tourism product presentations.

India is a top ten market for Malaysia, with a total of 690,849 tourists recorded in 2010. In 2011, the number of tourists increased to 693,056. In 2012, from January to September, a total of 514,926 tourists from India have been recorded, showing a 2.6% growth compared to the same period last year (501,828).

This promotional effort is expected to increase the number of India tourists to Malaysia significantly, through promoting a greater awareness of Malaysia as an ideal holiday destination, as well as fostering greater cooperation between tour operators and members of the tourism fraternity. It is also a timely effort to create awareness for the “Visit Malaysia Year 2014.”

Some interesting figures regarding Malaysia’s tourism sector:

24.7 million — The number of tourists who visited Malaysia in 2011. Malaysia has been the 9th most-visited country in the world for three consecutive years (2009 – 2011) according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

USD19 billion — Malaysia’s tourism receipts in 2011, which is an increase of USD0.6 billion against the previous year. Tourism sector currently stands as the third largest foreign exchange earner for the country.

36 million and USD52.8 billion — Malaysia’s targets for tourist arrivals and tourist receipts, respectively, for the year 2020, for which all promotional efforts are now geared towards.

Awards — Recently, in a survey by global news network CNN, Malaysia was named the 4th Best Shopping Destination in the World after New York, London , Tokyo.

Malaysia also received the prestigious UNWTO ULYSSES AWARD 2012 for Innovation in Public Policy and Governance, for its innovative Malaysia Homestay Experience Programme.

Malaysia Airlines received the Skytrax Awards for:

The World’s 5-star Airline Award 2012

World’s Best Cabin Staff 2012

Best Airline Signature Dish 2012

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Dubai Now Plans to Become “Islamic Economic Capital”

Khaleej Times – 10 January, 2013 – Dubai has taken a giant leap towards diversification by putting into motion an ambitious plan to turn the emirate into the Islamic economy capital of the world. The plan is envisioned to grab a significant share of the Islamic finance market worth trillions of dollars. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on Wednesday announced a group of initiatives to set up a comprehensive platform of Islamic economy products and services aimed at integrating Islamic economy as part of the emirate’s overall economy.

Top government officials, senior bankers and Shariah specialists welcomed the initiatives and said it would further strengthen Dubai’s position as one of the top international financial hubs. Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, said: “I am optimistic about achieving the goal of Dubai becoming the world capital of Islamic economy. Dubai has sufficient experience, state-of-the-art infrastructure and possesses strategic geographical location in the heart of the Islamic world. It also has the will and determination, but has the most important of all: Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who leads Dubai with all wisdom, confidence and resolve for the future.”

Shaikh Mohammed later issued a decree assigning Shaikh Hamdan to oversee the development of the Islamic economy sector. Shaikh Mohammed said that with Islamic economic principles playing a growing significance in today’s global business environment, with its size reaching $ 2.3 trillion and a growing community of 1.6 billion Muslims, the new initiatives are expected to further promote investments in Dubai, especially from economies spanning the Middle East, Africa, South Asia and South-east Asia.

Among other initiatives announced by Shaikh Mohammed include the development of commercial standards for Islamic industries and guidelines for Halal food manufacturing. Dubai also seeks to develop Islamic quality standards for Halal food approval. This will encourage the food industry and promote linkages with global and regional businesses, as well as different business sectors, including transport, storage and handling.

The planned platform includes Islamic finance instruments, Islamic insurance, Islamic contracts’ arbitration, Islamic food industry and trade standards (Halal food), and Islamic quality management standards. “The new initiatives from His Highness will certainly lend tremendous support and confidence to the industry and encourage the stakeholders to comfortably rely on using Islamic banking, finance and insurance solutions to satiate their financing requirements to ensure the continuity in their growth and development,” Dr Hussain Hamed Hassan, chairman of the Shariah Board of Dubai Islamic Bank and managing director of Dar Al Shariah Legal and Financial Consultancy, told Khaleej Times.

Giyas Gokkent, group chief economist at National Bank of Abu Dhabi, said Dubai has in place basic ingredients to become the capital of Islamic finance. “Advisory, regulatory, legal structure and workforce are two pertinent ingredients, but there is a range of other factors which are also relevant to becoming a general financial centre — many of which Dubai already has,” Gokkent said. He said the Shariah–compliant banks roughly have a 15 per cent share in banking activity in the country as a whole.

Shaikh Mohammed said the new framework for promoting Islamic economy will further strengthen the open and integrated approach of Dubai in doing business. It is expected to lend further momentum to Dubai’s well-diversified economy, which is on an ambitious growth path fuelled by the robust performance of its core sectors including trade, retail, tourism, aviation, hospitality, financial services and logistics in 2012.

“Our cosmopolitan outlook to doing business continues to be our economy’s driving force. Adopting a modern and scientific framework for Islamic economies worldwide, here in Dubai, meets the demand from local, regional and international investors for a central hub to invest, grow and do business,” he added.

He said the government will not compromise on its principles of openness and commitment to a free market economy. “By strengthening Islamic economic principles as an integral part of our overall approach to growth and development, we are further supporting the entrepreneurial community, especially from the Arab world,” he added.

Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of Foreign Trade, praised the announcement and said the move would build on Dubai’s success based on a well-planned vision to push economic diversification drive forward and create new sectors that support the pace of developmental, economic and social progress.

Dubai Islamic Bank deputy chief executive officer Dr Adnan Chilwan said: “With an unrivalled level of expertise and experience, the UAE is uniquely positioned to service the ever-increasing worldwide demand for innovative, high-quality, Shariah-compliant products and services. Dubai Islamic Bank, which has been the pioneer of Islamic banking across the world, congratulates His Highness on this visionary initiative, and assures its commitment to help make Dubai into the global capital of Islamic economy.”

Afaq Khan, chief executive officer, Standard Chartered Saadiq, said: “The creation of the Islamic finance council will further strengthen Dubai’s position as an international financial hub. Islamic finance has grown significantly over the past few years and has played a key role in the development of the financial industry as a whole. As a leading international bank, Standard Chartered remains committed to Dubai and the UAE as we continue to provide world class Islamic Financial Services and expand our capabilities to leverage the growing needs of clients in the country and across the region.

Mohammed Wassim Khayata, group chief operating officer of Finance House, told Khaleej Times: “The addition of this sector, which is just a milestone in Dubai’s economy, emphasies the importance and durability of the economic infrastructure of the emirate.” Dr Qaiser Anis, managing director of consultancy firm Alliott Management Consulting, added: “The move will be a success like the free zones.” Due to its ideal geographical location and pro-business environment, he said the Halal food industry can help boost Dubai’s GDP substantially.”

Islamic finance, based on principles such as bans on interest and on pure monetary speculation, has grown rapidly around the world over the last several years, though it remains much smaller than conventional finance. Islamic banks now command a roughly 25% share of the banking market in the six countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council, according to an estimate by Ernst & Young.

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China To Fund US$600 mln for Biggest Dam In Cote D’ivoire

ABIDJAN, Jan 11 (NNN-XINHUA) — Cote d’Ivoire’s Prime Minister, Daniel Kablan Duncan, and the Chinese Ambassador to this West African nation, Zhang Guoqing, have signed a loan agreement for the construction of the Soubre hydro-electric dam in the country’s southwestern region.

Through its Export-Import Bank, China will disburse a loan of about 500 million USD for the completion of the project which is expected to cost a total of 600 million USD.

The dam will have a capacity to generate 270 megawatts (MW) electricity, making it Cote d’Ivoire’s biggest electricity generating plant.

“The project will be funded up to 85 per cent by China and the remaining 15 per cent will be mobilized by Cote d’Ivoire,” Kablan Duncan said at Wednesday’s loan agreement signing ceremony.

The Chinese ambassador said the loan given to Cote d’Ivoire by his country was the biggest to this country in the last 30 years. He urged all stakeholders to ensure that the Soubre Dam project was completed on time.

The launch of construction work on the dam is scheduled to take place next month.

After meeting on Tuesday with the Cote d’Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara, Daniel Kablan revealed that the government intended to construct a series of dams to reinforce Cote d’Ivoire’s electricity generation capacity. — NNN-XINHUA

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Nigerian Tourism Chief: Tourism only hope for Africa

10 January 2013 – Leadership – The director general of the Nigerian Tourism Development Council (NTDC), Chief Olusegun Runsewe, has offered scholarships to students to study tourism development overseas.

Speaking in his capacity as the chairman of the opening ceremony of the annual Ife Film Festival organised by the Department of Dramatic Arts of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Runsewe said the decision is hinged on the fact that the future of the country lies in tourism.

“Tourism is the only hope remaining for Africa and Nigeria inclusive. I am offering four outstanding students of this department, scholarships to attend any of the four best tourism schools in the world which are in Spain, United Kingdom, Germany and the UAE,” he said.

According to him, his decision to attend the opening session of the festival is based on the need to stimulate the interest of young. Nigerians in tourism, being the largest employer of labour globally, saying film making, an integral part of culture, is a veritable tool for attaining such goals.

While lauding the department and the school for churning out excellent graduates whom he said have distinguished themselves globally through their achievements, he also expressed happiness over the way students of the institution have been conducting themselves in and outside the school.

Earlier, the head of department, Professor Foluke Ogunleye said the purpose of putting the film school and the festival in place was to sustain the quality of productions from the department’s alumni. “The purpose of the film school is to project movies shot by Africans and in Africa. It is the third outing for the film school and it is our hope that the efforts will continue to expand.”

Ogunleye stated that the film festival will feature lectures, seminars and interactions between actors, producers, directors and students.

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South Indian Islamic Group to Launch Malayalam Media Channel

Jeddah, 26 Safar 1434/ 09 January 2013 (IINA) – India’s leading Islamic movement, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, spares no effort in presenting the true picture of Islam and removing misgivings about the divine religion and its followers among the one billion non-Muslims in the country, says one of its prominent leaders.

Sheikh Muhammad Karakkunnu, deputy ameer of Jamaat in the south Indian state of Kerala, said the organization has also been extending outstanding contributions in shaping the public opinion and highlighting the issues of the weaker and marginalized sections in the Indian society through its presence in both the print and electronic media. “In shouldering this great responsibility, we tap all the available resources and utilize highly advanced facilities brought about by the information technology, the latest of which is launching a channel in the regional language of Malayalam,” he said.

In an exclusive interview with the International Islamic News Agency (IINA), Sheikh Muhammad said that new channel namely ‘Media One’ will formally be launched on February 10. Media One, with a capital of more than $25 million (1.3 billion Indian rupees), will be a channel catering to not only Muslims but non-Muslims as well. Muslims make up around 200 million among the 1.22 billion population of India, which is the largest democracy and the second most populous country in the world. Indian Muslims are the world’s third largest, after Indonesia and Pakistan. “The courageous experiment, made by Jamaat nearly a quarter of a century ago to launch a newspaper for the general public, was a resounding success. “The newspaper in Malayalam, called Madhymam (which means medium), is now the third largest circulated daily in Kerala and the number one Malayalam daily read by hundreds of thousands of Indians from Kerala living abroad, especially in the GCC states, “ he said while noting that the new channel is coming from the Madhymam Broadcasting Corporation, owned by Jamaat.

According to Sheikh Muhammad, Jamaat is instrumental in realizing what he called an ‘Islamic renaissance’ in Kerala, thanks to its publications and Dawa work. Jamaat’s publications include Prabhodhanam (which means Dawa) weekly and Bodhanam monthly. “Prabhodanam, the largest circulated Islamic weekly in the state, has played a remarkable role in triggering an unprecedented religious awakening among the predominantly orthodox Muslim community. Prabodhanam was the only Islamic weekly in Malayalam when it started publishing six decades ago. For more than half a century, it continues its mission of presenting the true picture of Islam and making aware of the members of the Muslim Ummah to confront potential challenges in addition to spread the messages of tolerance and communal amity in the pluralist society,” he said adding that it also gave an opportunity for at least a section of non-Muslims to understand Islam in the true sense.

The Islamic Publishing House (IPH) is another stellar pillar of the Islamic activities being carried out by Jamaat. Referring to its activities, Sheikh Muhammad said: IPH, founded in 1945, has to its credit more than 600 books, dealing with various topics focusing on the comprehensiveness of Islam and presenting Islam as a complete code of life for the success of life in this world and hereafter. Tafheemul Qur’an, one of the widely read and authentic Qur’an translations and interpretations in the modern age, is the most important among them. The work, originally in Urdu, was the magnum opus of the internationally renowned Islamic scholar and thinker Maulana Sayyid Abul A’ala Maududi, the first recipient of the King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam. Maulana Maududi is the founder ofJamaat-e-Islami.

Sheikh Muhammad, who served as director of IPH for about 25 years, said that IPH published books on Qur’an, Uloomul Qur’an, Hadith, jurisprudence, Islamic history, Islamic economy, and science in Qur’an, in addition to translations of many Islamic best sellers in the modern time, the latest which is the translation of the autobiography of Tunisian Muslim leader Sheikh Rachid Ghannouchi. Sheikh Muhammad, a well-known writer and orator in Kerala, is the author of more than 70 books in Malayalam. “The Islamic Encyclopedia, being published by IPH, is also contributing substantially to the intellectual revolution being spearheaded by Jamaat. So far, 10 volumes of the encyclopedia have been published; each volume of which contains between 3000 and 5000 titles.

The Jamaat leader congratulated King Abdullah for his historic initiative for interfaith dialogue and outstanding contributions toward promoting world peace and peaceful coexistence of followers of various religions. Sheikh Muhammad is one of the prominent figures who strove to conduct interfaith dialogue forums and table talks with the objective of spreading the true nature of Islam as a religion of peace, tolerance and mercy to the mankind.

“We conducted dialogue forums in various parts of Kerala in which many religious leaders, scholars and intellectuals from the majority Hindu community as well as Christian priests participated. These conferences were a resounding success in promoting communal amity as well as in removing misunderstanding about Islam and other religions,” he said while noting that the late Kamala Surayya, the world renowned English poetess and Malayalam novelist and story writer from Kerala, had embraced Islam after understanding about Islam mainly from Jamaat’s publications.

Jamaat is also conducting several relief and welfare programs to alleviate the suffering of the weaker sections in the society, especially the poor and needy. Referring to these activities, P. Mujeeburahman, general secretary of Jamaat in Kerala, said that his organization is in the forefront of several relief works and humanitarian initiatives. “We are making great endeavors to alleviate the suffering of people afflicted with both natural and man-made disasters. The latest example of our relief works was dispatching humanitarian aid to the victims of communal riots in the northeastern state of Assam,” said Mujeeburahman, who was a member of the Jamaat delegation which visited the riot-stricken regions.

Jamaat’s relief works for the victims of Tsunami in the southern coastal areas and victims of aerial spraying of pesticide endosulfan in the northern district of Kasargode were remarkable. Mujeeburahman, a well-known orator and former president of Solidarity, the youth wing of Jamaat, said that Solidarity is in the forefront of other youth organizations in taking up common issues affecting the public, especially environmental issues, as well as in shouldering welfare programs like construction of houses for the poor. “Solidarity has become a role model for other youth organizations in the state in taking up public causes such as the struggle for drinking water and fight against denial of justice and deprivation of civil rights,” he added.

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Indonesia Joins Rush to Tap Growing Muslim Travel Market

JAKARTA, Indonesia Jan. 9 (NNN-Xinhua) — The Indonesian government plans to get more benefit from growing Muslim travelers worldwide as the country has a great potential of sharia (Islamic) tourism, local media reported on Tuesday. The archipelago country has the potential to offer sharia tourism as most of its population are Muslims.

Under the sharia tourism, the leisure complies with Islamic law, such as the provision of cuisine and beverages that contain no pork or alcohol, and the separation of men and women at tourist events and sites. To reach the goal, the government plans to promote the packages to Muslim travelers worldwide, particularly from the Middle East, Risky Handayani, director for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) at the tourism and creative economy ministry was quoted by the Jakarta Post as saying.

He said that the ministry would cooperate with travel agencies, hotels and restaurants in promoting the packages. According to a study, Muslim tourists globally represented a major niche market worth 126.1 billion U.S. dollars through 2011. The demand is expected to grow by 4.8 percent annually through 2020, compared to the global average of 3.8 percent.

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Tatarstan To Explore Halal Industry And Islamic Banking With Malaysia

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia Jan 8 (NNN-Bernama) -– The Republic of Tatarstan in the Russian Federation is keen to explore potential collaboration in various sectors with Malaysia, especially the halal industry and Islamic banking, Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said today.

He said Tatarstan, a semi-autonomous region within the Russian Federation and one of Russia’s biggest Muslim regions with about 18 million population, had great potential for the halal industry.

“We have discussed a variety of issues, and I think there’s great potential for Tatarstan and Malaysia to work together in trade and investment, especially in the halal industry, Islamic banking, tourism and higher education.

“Besides that, the republic is keen to work closely with Malaysia in oil and gas, infrastructure, energy and manufacturing of helicopters. They have urged us to look further into this,” he told reporters after receiving a courtesy call from Tatarstan President, Rustam Minnikhanov, at Wisma Putra, here, today.

Minnikhanov leads a delegation of 40 businessmen, and education and government officials for a three-day official visit to Malaysia, starting today. The visit will play an important role towards strengthening the trajectory of bilateral collaboration set during Minnikhanov’s last visit to Malaysia in 2010.

On higher education, Anifah said Tatarstan invited Malaysian students to study medicine in Kazan, the capital and largest city of the republic. “They are very advanced in medical studies and the president suggested that we send some of our medical students to Kazan,” he said.

Anifah said Tatarstan also hoped to have direct flights to Kuala Lumpur to boost the tourism sector for both countries.

Foreign investment from Malaysia into Tatarstan increased from US$741,100 to US$950,000 in 2011. The three quarters of 2012 saw US$568,000 investment into Tatarstan from Malaysia.

Last year, Tatarstan attracted US$420 million of foreign investment, of which US$334 million was foreign direct investment. The republic, with a population of 3.8 million, boasts nearly 1,300 companies with the participation of foreign capital, of which more than 600 are completely owned by foreign investors.

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Oman to hold 2nd International Horse, Camel and Heritage Exhibition

Muscat, Jan 12 (ONA)— The Royal Cavalry at the Royal Court Affairs (RCA) will take part in the 2nd International Horse, Camel and Heritage Exhibition due to be held at Oman International Exhibitions Centre during January 14th to 16th.

The Royal Cavalry will take part in the exhibition, organized by Visions for Exhibitions and Conferences and Asayel for Press and Publishing, by a number of activities, such as the exhibition’s pavilion, the camel’s shows and camel live painting competition.

The exhibition’s pavilion, designed with a new architectural style in line with the progress reached by the Sultanate, will include various pictures of activities and shows of the Royal Cavalry, in addition to others pictures for activities of the annual festivals for national camel races, which are organized by the Royal Camel Corps in different governorates of the Sultanate.

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EBRD, World Bank to survey businesses environment in Kyrgyzstan

Bishkek, January 11 / Kabar /. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the World Bank are launching the fifth round of the Business Environment and Enterprise Performance Survey (BEEPS) in the Kyrgyz Republic.

This is a joint initiative of the EBRD and the World Bank Group (the World Bank), and it will be conducted across 29 countries from central Europe to central Asia. The objective of the survey is to receive feedback from enterprises on the state of the private sector in each country by assessing the constraints to private sector growth and the business environment. In each country, the survey will be conducted through interviews with firms in the manufacturing and services sectors.

In this fifth round of BEEPS, the questionnaire is comparable with the World Bank’s Enterprise Survey Initiative, which is implemented around the globe using a standardized questionnaire adapted to the reality of each country. Comparisons on topics included in the questionnaire, such as the adoption of technology and innovation, competition, the qualification of the workforce, informality, access to financial services, infrastructure and the impact of government regulations, will thus for the first time be possible not only with the countries in Central Eastern Europe and Central Asia, but also with countries in other parts of the world.

In addition to gathering data to provide year-to-year, cross-country business environment measures, the survey will re-visit previously interviewed firms in order to compile a comprehensive, multi-year data set. This multi-year data set will allow researchers to track changes in the business environment, to measure the effect of these changes on firm performance over time and to make assessments on the effects of reforms on the business environment.

Local private market research companies contracted to carry out the data collection will begin interviews on randomly selected firms in the week of 10 December 2012 and will continue working during the months of November to April. Preliminary results of the survey are expected in mid-2013. These results together with additional information from other investigations constitute a source of policy recommendations to the government for the promotion of investment, productivity and economic growth.

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India’s Top Ten Chef Eyes Abu Dhabi For Signature Restaurant

Abu Dhabi, UAE. 12 January 2013: Chef Abhijit Saha – rated among India’s top ten chefs, has revealed Abu Dhabi could be the setting for his first signature restaurant outside of his home country.

Chef Saha, who owns and operates two critically acclaimed premium restaurants in Bangalore – ‘Caperberry’ and ‘Fava’ – and is Founding Director and Chef of bespoke catering outlet Avant Garde Hospitality, is an expert in regional Indian cuisine and classical and modern European cuisine.

“Here in India the profile of Abu Dhabi is currently very high with constant news about the investment being made into establishing the UAE capital as a premium luxury destination,” explained the Chef who’s also known for introducing molecular gastronomy technique into his traditional dishes.

“With the opening of so many beautiful hotels and visitor attractions, it is my belief that the UAE capital could be the ideal place for my first signature restaurant outside of India and I’ll be looking into opportunities as a priority while I’m there.”

Chef Saha will make his UAE capital debut during next month’s Gourmet Abu Dhabiculinary festival when he will be guest chef at the award-winning Ushna restaurant in Abu Dhabi’s Souk Qaryat Al Beri from February 11-14.

“I’m really looking forward to having the chance to rub shoulders with some of the world’s greatest chefs during Gourmet Abu Dhabi and take an in-depth look into the emirate’s flourishing hospitality industry that we hear so much about.”

Business, though, won’t be the only thing on Chef Saha’s agenda during his Gourmet Abu Dhabi stint – he’s excited about the chance to explore the city gastronomically.

“Whether it’s local street cuisine or fine dining, I really want the chance to soak up all the flavours for inspiration. Indian cuisine has been a strong influence on Emirati cuisine for many decades and I’d like to see if there are local elements and twists to recipes that I can perhaps take back to India with me to feature on my menus.”

A dedicated F1 aficiando, Chef Saha hopes to return to the UAE capital for the 2013 F1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. “In the meantime, I’ll settle for a spin on the rollercoasters at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi,” he said.

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Second global forum of intercultural dialogue due in Baku

08 January 2013 (AzerTag) – The second global forum of intercultural dialogue will be held in Baku from 29 May until 1 June 2013.

According to sources in the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan, the forum will be held under the slogan ‘How to build the future of the world’. Its first plenary session will be devoted to the same topic.

The work on preparations for the forum has been launched.

The first global forum of intercultural dialogue was held in Baku in April 2011. It involved representatives of 102 countries and over 10 international organizations.

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Kaliganj-Dhaka steamer service launched

DHAKA, Jan 12, 2013 (BSS) – Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan today said the government has pressed into service a new steamer to ferry a huge number of passengers from Dhaka to Kaliganj of Mehendiganj in Barisal.

“The BIWTC (Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation) has introduced the steamer service on Kaliganj-Dhaka-Kaliganj coastal route for safe and smooth journey of the passengers,” he said while inaugurating the new service at Kaliganj terminal in Barisal.

BIWTC chairman Mojibor Rahman and officials concerned were present at the function.

The vessel – MV Sela – having capacity of 401 passengers would leave Kaliganj for Dhaka at 8pm on Friday, Sunday and Tuesday, while it would leave Dhaka on Thursday, Saturday and Monday.

Shajahan said the passenger steamer would give a hassle- free service to Kaliganj bound passengers.

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India seeks to liberalise visa pact with Bangladesh

NEW DELHI, Jan 12, 2013 (BSS)- India and Bangladesh may sign a liberalised visa agreement and extradition treaty later this month when Indian Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde visits Dhaka for three-day home minister-level talks between the two countries, beginning on January 28.

The new visa agreement, called revised travel arrangements, will remove some restrictions on visit of each other’s businesspersons, senior citizens above 65 years of age and children below 12.

A recent report of Times of India said “Drafts of both revised travel arrangements and extradition treaty have been finalised. These are most likely to be signed by Shinde and his Bangladeshi counterpart Dr MK Alamgir during the January 28-30 talks” .

Introducing time-frame for issuing non-diplomatic visa, simplification of multiple-entry visa for businessperson, ‘visa- on-arrival’ for senior citizens and children, allowing additional entries for medical visa, issuing group visa to tourists and extending the duration of transit visa are some of areas which may see changes in the new agreement.

Though both countries have been working on signing the extradition treaty for long, the proposal of the new visa agreement got a push during the home secretary-level talks in Dhaka in October last year.

The extradition treaty between the two countries will end this legal hurdle, the report added.

Cross-border movement of criminals and terrorists, border firings, exchange of Indian and Bangladeshi prisoners who are languishing in each other’s jails after having completed their sentence, border management, circulation of fake Indian currency notes, illegal migration, human trafficking and narcotics smuggling are among the issues which will figure during the talks between Shinde and MK Alamgir.

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Week-long products expo begins in Chittagong Hill Tract Region

RANGAMATI, Jan 12 (BSS)-A week-long first ever exhibition of hill tract products produced by the hill entrepreneurs began here on Friday.

The first ever exhibition of hill products is being held here for its promotion and marketing.

Chairman of Chittagong Hill Tract Regional Council Jotirindra Bodipriya Larma alias Shanto Larma inaugurated the exhibition.

Governor of Bangladesh Bank addressed the inaugural function through teli conference. Deputy governor of Bangladesh Bank Abul Kashem, Chairman of Rangamati District council Nikhil Kumar Chakma and high officials of different commercial banks were present in the inaugural function.

The product of 101 woman entrepreneurs from Rangamati,Khagrachori, Bandarban and Dhaka took part in the exhibition with their products.

Different organizations including 23 banks opened their stall in the exhibition. Exhibition will conclude on January 18.

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Year-long activities to mark Madinah Culture Capital to begin Jan. 20

Madinah, 25 Safar 1434/ 08 January 2013 (IINA) – Madinah Governor Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Majed announced that the year-long celebrations to mark Madinah’s selection as the Islamic Culture Capital for the Arab region for 2013 will start on Jan. 20.

A host of activities and programs, including conferences, seminars, recreational activities and competitions, as well as wide variety of cultural programs and folk art shows highlighting the rich culture and civilization of Madinah city will be held as part of the celebrations, the governor said in a press conference held at his residence in Madinah on Sunday night.

A number of senior officials, including Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Abdulaziz Khoja, were present. Prince Abdul Aziz emphasized that the people of Madinah have an original and beautiful culture and heritage that would be showcased at the event. He noted that the celebrations coincide with the ongoing greatest ever expansion in the history of the Prophet’s Mosque, launched by King Abdullah last year. “Prominent figures from all parts of the world will take part in the event. There will be wide varieties of cultural activities and programs and they are open to women,” he said.

The governor stressed that King Abdullah is very keen to establish a giant cultural library in Madinah to serve the people, especially intellectuals around the world. There would be an excellent model library with all the advanced facilities instead of many libraries, he said while referring to the earlier plan to establish a big Haram library.

Prince Abdul Aziz urged the people of Madinah to actively participate and contribute to make the celebrations a success. He also highlighted the role of new media, especially the social networking sites, in promoting the celebrations. He has suggested preparing guide maps to help the visitors and pilgrims know about the venues of the events, including King Fahd Garden, special tent near Quba Mosque and Sultana suburb, and historical places in the city.

Dr. Khoja said that the ministry has developed a comprehensive media plan to promote all activities and events throughout the year, including programs to be broadcast on radio, Saudi Channel One, Cultural Channel, and Ekhbariyah Channel, in addition to the participation of newspapers. Dr. Khoja praised the idea of holding a conference of archaeologists in Madinah, describing it as excellent. “There will be a conference for writers also,” he added. The Madinah Cultural and Literary Club will dedicate its annual forum to the celebrations. “About 18 prominent men and women researchers will present papers at the forum with a theme of “Landmarks of Madinah.”

The Rabat-based Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), an affiliate of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), has chosen Madinah as the Islamic Culture Capital for the Arab region for 2013. Madinah has remained a symbol of Islamic culture for centuries. Madinah’s turn as the Culture Capital comes 10 years after the holy capital of Makkah was chosen as the Islamic Culture Capital in 2003

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Petra, the lost city of the Nabatean

The Jakarta Post, January 12 2013, – The word petra in ancient Greek refers to the rock. But in Ma’an, Jordan, Petra is known as the lost city of the Nabatean, the ancient peoples of North Arabia.

Possibly established as early as 312 BC, Petra was once a major trade city located on the slope of Mount Hor in a basin among the mountains, which formed part of the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Arabah), a large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba.

Enclosed by towering rocks and watered by a perennial stream, Petra not only possessed the advantages of a fortress, but controlled the main commercial routes that passed through it to Gaza in the west, to Bosra and Damascus in the north, to Aqaba and Leuce, to the Red Sea and across the desert to the Persian Gulf.

Evidence suggests that settlements existed in and around Petra in the 18th dynasty of Egypt (1550 – 1292 BC).

It is listed in Egyptian campaign accounts and the Amarna letters as Pel, Sela or Seir.

In 106 AD, when Cornelius Palma was governor of Syria, the part of Arabia under the role of Petra was absorbed into the Roman Empire as part of Arabia Patraea and became its capital.

It was around this time that the Petra Roman Road was built.

Petra declined rapidly under Roman rule, in large part from the revision of old sea-base routes. In 363, an earthquake destroyed many buildings and crippled the vital water management system.

The ruins of Petra were an object of curiosity in the Middle Ages and in 1812 Swiss traveler Johan Ludwig Burckhardt described it to the Western world once more.

In 2007, Petra was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and became the symbol of the Kingdom of Jordan.

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Indonesia sees “new era” for cruise tourism

2013-01-12, Jakarta Post – After the recent inauguration as a International Cruise Terminal, Benoa Port, which serves as both the embarkation and debarkation of cruise passengers, welcomes the new year as a new era for cruise ship tourism in Bali and Indonesia.

According to the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry, 306 cruise ships have confirmed stopovers for 2013, which is a remarkable 43 percent increase from last year.

Data from the Bali tourism agency showed that in 2010, 28,154 foreign tourists arrived in Bali through it’s seaports, this number increased by 11.34 percent to 31,346 people in 2011. In previous years, the number was around 5,000.

Those arriving through seaports were usually from the US, Europe, Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. The peak in arrivals was usually around April. Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said that the ministry estimated that it would welcome 119,000 cruise ship guests in 2013, with arrivals reaching 500,000 by 2016.

“This is indeed a new era — a revolutionary era — for cruise ship tourism in Indonesia,” said Ida Bagus Surakusuma, popularly known as “Lolec”, a senior businessperson in the cruise ship tourism industry in Bali.

Lolec said that the new status of Benoa as turnaround port and the development of other cruise destinations around Indonesia, would in the long run encourage more visitors to come to Bali. Benoa had been prepared as a turnaround port several years ago, through the initiatives of Sapta Nirwandar, deputy minister of tourism and creative economy.

In his view, the Benoa Port may also serve as alternative gate to enter Bali, besides Ngurah Rai International Airport, which becomes more crowded day by day.

Indonesia currently has around 40 ports that have the potential to be transform into international cruise terminals. The potential of the ports located in places such as Ambon; Belawan; Celukan Bawang; Jakarta; Karimunjawa; Komodo; Kumai; Lembar; Makassar; Pare Pare; Probolinggo; Sabang; Semarang; and Surabaya, lies in their unique geographical locations, which are rich with natural and cultural heritage.

Lolec acknowledged that the ports are lacking in facilities and services.

“Speaking of the ports’ quality and supporting facilities, honestly, we are still behind Malaysia, Singapore and other countries. However, we have the advantage of nature and culture. On every different island, the guests will be entertained differently,” he said.

PT Pelindo general manager at Benoa Port, Iwan Sabatini, said that his company continued to undertake improvement measures both in terms of facilities and also human resources.

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Indonesian Furniture exports up 6.96%

January 8 2013, Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesia`s furniture exports from January to September 2012 rose by 6.96 percent to US$1.4 billion, according to the Indonesian Furniture and Craft Industry Association (Asmindo). “2012 was a good year with exports of furniture up 6.96 percent despite economic crisis in the US and Europe,” its chairman, Ambar Tjahyono, said at a press conference here on Tuesday.

He said the US and Europe were the main markets of Indonesian furniture and crafts products. “In 2012 many buyers came from the US but due to unstable economic conditions there new markets need to be developed,” he said.

He said that ASEAN countries as well as China could also become potential markets for the products. “The Indonesian position now is different. We must have courage to compete with China by marketing our products there in addition to Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan,” he said.

Ambar said the Indonesian products have a very good quality and are liked by the international markets very much. Based on Asmindo data total exports until September in 2011 reached US$1.3 billion. He hoped it would reach US$1.8 billion by the end of 2012.

The value of furniture exports until September 2012 was recorded up 19.24 percent to US$737 million from US$618 million in the same period in 2011. Rattan furniture exports meanwhile increased 31.23 percent from US$120 million to US$157 million but bamboo furniture exports dropped 9.38 percent from US$7.8 million to US$7.1 million until September 2012.

Exports of metal and plastic products also rose respectively 37.93 percent and 55.82 percent while other products were down 23 percent.

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Indonesia’s Yogyakarta Plans For 66 New Hotels

YOGYAKARTA, Jan 7 (NNN-Bernama) – Yogyakarta plans to set up 66 new hotels this year, according to the Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI), Indonesia’s news agency ANTARA reported. The hotels will include 22 star rated properties and 44 non-star ones, said secretary of Yogyakarta branch of PHRI, Deddy Pranowo Eryono.

With the new hotels, Yogyakarta will have 10,000 additional hotel rooms, bringing to 28,000 the total number of rooms in the province.

Deddy said the plan to build more hotels is prompted by the growing demand for hotel accommodation in the area, which often hosts national and international meetings. “Yogyakarta is still attractive and offers potential business in tourism- related sectors mainly in hotel operations,” he said.

Yogyakarta is located in central Java and is one of the country’s major tourist destinations. Among its popular attractions are the Borobudur Buddhist temple and beach resort Parangtritis.

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Tourism contributes US$8.5 billion to Indonesia revenues

January 4 2013, Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The tourism sector became the fifth largest contributor to national revenues by generating US$8.5 billion last year. Citing Central Statistics Agency (BPS) data, Deputy Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Sapta Nirwandar said the tourism sector contributed US$9 million to national revenues in 2011, increasing from US$7.6 million in 2010.

“In terms of contribution to national revenues, tourism ranked right after oil and gas, coal, palm oil and manufactured rubber,” he noted. The tourism sector contributed Rp296.97 trillion to the gross domestic product (GDP) of Indonesia, constituting 4 percent of the national GDP.

Nirwandar noted that the sector employed 8.53 million people, accounting for 7.72 percent of the national workforce. “Total wages in the sector amounted to Rp96.57 trillion, up by Rp11.77 trillion from 2010,” he pointed out.

“Tourism’s contribution to indirect tax revenues in 2011 was Rp10.72 trillion, accounting for 3.85 percent of total tax revenues,” Nirwandar said, adding that revenues came from restaurant tax (2.28 percent), hotel (0.35 percent) and recreation and amusement (0.28 percent).

Earlier, Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Mari Elka Pangestu had stated that the tourism sector would continue to perform well in 2013. “According to official data, the tourism sector of Indonesia grew by 5 percent in 2012, which is higher than the global average of 3 to 4 percent,” she noted. “We achieved our 2012 target of having 8 million visitor arrivals. Therefore, we are optimistic that the numbers will continue to rise this year,” Pangestu added.

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Airport terminal boost for Dubai

Gulf Daily News – 10 January, 2013 – With the opening of a huge new airport terminal in Dubai this week, the emirate’s economic future became more closely intertwined with the world’s biggest passenger jet. Emirates, Dubai’s state-owned flagship airline, began flying from the world’s first airport terminal purpose-built to handle Airbus A380 superjumbos. The 528,000 sqm terminal cost over $ 3 billion to build and has 20 gates with double-decker bridges to move passengers on and off the twin-deck A380s.

It is a large, and some say risky, bet on the future of a single plane. But because of its size, the A380 has emerged as an important part of Dubai’s plans to keep its economy growing by developing its tourism and retail businesses. “Emirates’ strategy is for Dubai to become an aviation hub between Europe and Asia-Pacific,” said Zafar Khan, aerospace and defence analyst at investment bank Societe Generale in Britain. “With planes like the Airbus A380, airlines can shift large volumes of traffic. Of course, the trick is to fill up these planes.”

Emirates has been a key customer for the A380 since the plane began flying commercially in 2007. It is the largest single buyer of the superjumbo and now operates 31 of the planes, with a further 59 ordered and yet to be delivered.

Dubai has recovered from the corporate debt crisis and real estate crash which it suffered in 2009-2010 by becoming a magnet for travel and investment from the Middle East, India and Europe.

Dubai ruler Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, announced plans in November to build a tourism and retail complex that would include the world’s largest shopping mall and 100 new hotels. Key to those plans, he said, is boosting annual airport passenger traffic through Dubai above 90m in next six years. In addition to Dubai International Airport, the emirate aims by the end of this year to open its new Al Maktoum International airport for passenger traffic. That facility, which began cargo operations two years ago, is designed to cater to 160m passengers.

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Exhibition on religious tolerance opens in Italy

Oman Daily Observer – 09 January, 2013 – Activities of the Religious Tolerance in Oman Exhibition, in its 25th station, opens in Bologna, Italy today with the aim of familiarising with Islam and disseminating the culture of understanding and peaceful coexistence among nations. Dr Mohammed bin Said al Maamari, Scientific Adviser at the Office of the Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs and Supervisor General of Foreign Exhibitions said that the exhibition’s activities will be held in the University of Bologna.

He added that the exhibition’s activities will be held in Italian language. The exhibition will reflect the religious life in Oman and progress it witnessed under the Royal attention accorded by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. The opening ceremony will include a number of speeches including a speech of the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs, a speech for officials at the Bologna city and a speech for the University of Bologna, in addition to screening a documentary on the religious tolerance in Oman, which is prepared especially for the exhibition.

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Omani artist to hold exhibition in Kuwait

Oman Daily Observer – 07 January, 2013 – Well known, award-winning Omani artist, Moosa Omar, is set to showcase his artwork with a solo exhibition entitled “Dream Coat”, under the auspices of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Literature, at the Museum of Modern Art in Kuwait commencing on Monday, January 14. Omar is a mixed media artist whose works reflect elements and stories from daily life and mirror his traditional Omani roots. He uses symbols and motifs, colours and textures to produce his own distinct narrative.

He has held over 5 solo exhibitions In Oman, Bahrain and Egypt and has traveled and exhibited widely across the globe; participating in shows in several European countries, the USA and Mexico, Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, India, Algeria, Morocco, Taiwan, Lebanon, Australia, South Korea, Egypt, Japan, Jordan, Syria, Bangladesh, China and the Arabian Gulf.

His notable exhibitions include shows at: The White House, The Indira Ghandi National Centre for Arts in India, National Art Gallery Shilpakala Academy and Bangladesh National Museum in Bangladesh, Centre of Fine Art Berlin, National Centre for Performing Arts in China, ONSCO Beirut, UNESCO Paris and the Institute du Monde l’Arab in Paris, Palace of Culture in Algeria, Palace of Arts El Gezeira and Museum of Modern Egyptian Arts in Egypt, Korea International Library, The Olympic Museum in Switzwerland, the Olympic Museum in Australia, Museum of Modern Baghdad, Taipei Fine Art Museum, and here at Bait Al Zubair Museum and Bait Muzna Gallery.

Omar has also participated and led numerous workshops and is a member of the International Plastic Art Association (UNESCO), the Omani Society for Fine Arts, the Cultural Club and the Youth Studio, Oman. Among his honours are awards from Australia, Oman, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait.

His work is held in several important collections in Oman. Outside Oman his work is featured in the collections of the Qatar Museum for Contemporary Arabic Art, Cairo Museum of Contemporary Graphics, Bangladesh Shilpokala Academy, Bengal Foundation Gallery of Fine Arts, and ISESCO.

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Iran says agricultural exports booming

Tehran Times – 07 January, 2013 – Iran’s agricultural exports grew last year, with pistachio and saffron sales almost doubling, despite Western sanctions on trade with the country, the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Iran’s deputy agriculture minister as saying on Saturday. Between March 21 and December 20, Iran’s pistachio exports doubled to $ 587 million, making the nuts Iran’s biggest agricultural export by value. Exports of saffron rose 87 percent to $ 213 million, Fars reported.

“Export of farming products has increased 15 percent compared to the previous year, while the agricultural exports are still on the increase on a daily basis,” Far quoted Jahangir Pourhemmat as saying. “Over 95 percent of Iran’s needed products are produced inside the country which is highly important for the country’s political independence.”

Western sanctions on banks dealing with Iran, which are intended to force Iran to stop its nuclear enrichment program by preventing it from selling oil, have made it difficult for exporters of many other Iranian goods to get paid.

Despite tighter controls on trade with Iran in 2012 compared to 2011, Fars said exports of everything from tomatoes and potatoes to water melons, kiwi fruit and apples all grew significantly last year. It did not say how exporters of agricultural goods were paid for their goods, but Iran has struck several barter deals over the past year to secure goods it needs in exchange for products it cannot sell easily due to banking restrictions.

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Asia is purchasing nearly all of Iran’s oil

Tehran Times – 07 January, 2013 – Four Asian countries are now purchasing nearly all of Iran’s oil exports according a report this week from the Economist’s Intelligence Unit (EIU). “Almost all of Iran’s oil exports now go to China, South Korea, Japan and India,” the report said even as it noted a sharp decline in the amount of oil each country purchased from Iran during 2012. With many of Iran’s oil customers bowing to Western sanctions, Iran’s dependence on the four Asian countries has grown substantially. Tehran has become especially dependent on China, which has long been its primary trading partner. Still, China is now estimated to purchase roughly 50% of Iran’s total oil exports.

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Saudi Hotels CEO: We can gain from unique tourism industry

Arab News – 08 January, 2013 – Developing a unique tourism industry, rationalyzing resource consumption and diversifying national revenues are the three main concerns of Badr Al-Badr, CEO at Saudi Hotels & Resorts Co. The Kingdom should address the issue related to high economic dependence on oil and find solutions for water conservation, Al-Badr told Diana Al-Jassem of Arab News in an exclusive interview.

He emphasized that the Kingdom’s reliance on oil could be reduced by further developing national human resources and by training Saudi nationals to boost human resources. He stressed the need to strengthen the soft skills of youngsters adding that urgent solutions are needed to tackle the unemployment issue.

What, in your opinion, are changes that would have major impact on the lives of Saudis in the coming 20 years?

Our population is growing faster than the economy, resulting in a very large percentage of youngsters who might become unemployed. High resource consumption on other hand has a serious impact on the environment; leading to shortages in resources such as water and electricity. It seems to me that in the next 20 years, the new generation will be more challenged to maintain living conditions such as ours. If we don’t act now to overcome the difficulties and obstacles, our economy will not prosper, hence our life. If we look at the external factors, we find the leading powers are shifting from the West to the fast growing East, dominated by China and India. This will also change the face of world business. For example, in the past a person needed to learn English to work worldwide. In the next 20 years, other languages might be in demand. Perhaps in the next 20 years; we will have stronger trade with Eastern countries like China.

Finally, the impact of current wide scale scholarship program should have a positive impact in the two coming decades. It will take some time for the society to absorb the new graduates who also might push to evolve the norms of life and society. From a labor perspective and if the economy doesn’t grow substantially, the ongoing scholarship program will strain employment rates.

What do you think of the leadership roles of organizations in the Kingdom? What are the factors/reasons for their current state?

Leadership in local organizations of Saudi Arabia is dominated by a traditional style that focuses on relationships rather than performances. Yet we see exceptional leaders in both the public and private sectors who are very energetic and result oriented. They have become role models for our youth. With new leaders coming up, I am very optimistic that the whole leadership style will evolve. We also see more emphasis on leadership education, and training as well as leadership seminars, which indicates that there is a willingness to change and improve.

What are the most difficult decisions that need to be taken in the Kingdom in the coming 20 years?

The first difficult decision in my opinion is pursuing education reforms. Our education reforms should be directed toward producing employable human resources. We still have an imbalance. We have unemployment on one hand, and on the other employers are looking to fill vacant positions as they are unable to find qualified and trained Saudi nationals. Many of our youth lack practical training and so don’t possess soft skills like presentation or communication skills and team work. Our schools and universities still emphasize on theoretical knowledge. There is still a room to improve our students as many countries have done it. We need leadership to focus not only on the number of graduates but also on their capabilities.

The second difficult decision is on rationalization of resource consumption. Tough decisions need to be taken regarding domestic oil consumption, exports and use of water. Our country globally is ranked among the top in the use of water even when we have the least of it. The question is not of a decision, but a campaign to address everyone.

We need to be more competitive in the world economy. In the last eight years, Saudi Arabia has taken huge steps toward becoming much more competitive, but now it’s slowing down a bit. Reforms are not continuing as they should be. We have seen changes in some of the company laws and foreign investment laws, and some of these decisions are being reversed or debated.

One last decision needed is about our labor laws. I see the Ministry of labor taking isolated decisions that need to be integrated. I would argue that some of the steps taken would conflict with some others in the Saudi labor market. I still cannot read an overall human resource strategy for the Kingdom.

What goals would you set regarding the Kingdom’s development? And how would these goals be achievable through your current position?

The main goal of development in Saudi Arabia is to diversify the economy. For us working in the hospitality and tourism sector we care a lot about religious tourism, which could be easily expanded. We should promote the country as a tourist destination for leisure and sight-seeing in addition to religious tourism. In our company, we are participating in building the tourism infrastructure, hospitality, hotels, and resorts. We also help in creating job opportunities for young Saudis. We, as other organizations, face challenges in employing Saudis, but we accept these challenges because we know that there is no other way to succeed than to succeed with Saudi nationals. We provide programs to train Saudis, and provide internships to students to try to work and be exposed to the sector. It is one of our many programs that we do to attract Saudis. One of the main problems that we face with Saudi employees is that they take up a job and then after a few months leave. We need to address this problem jointly with the government. For that we are looking to partner with the government to address employment and Saudization issues.

Give me an example of the most creative project that you wish to establish in the Kingdom.

I wish to make the Farasan Island an attractive tourist destination. The island is suitable for tourism, but it is still lacking infrastructure including transportation. We hope we can partner with the government to focus on this island by developing it as a destination.

I would also want to reinvigorate tourism to archaeological areas, and increase the scope of religious tourism. This can be done successfully by reshaping the old ways of pilgrimage and providing places for basic services needed. Furthermore, I wish to make the tourism business attractive for Saudi youth. I notice that despite the availability of enormous opportunities in this sector, young Saudis and even specialized graduates leave this sector to work in other fields

What three words would you use to describe the Kingdom in the coming 20 years?

I would call the Kingdom in three terms — youth, energy and competition (in global ranking and influence.)

Regarding Kingdom’s officials, what characteristics do you think are important for such individuals? How would such characteristics contribute toward the Kingdom’s further development?

To be successful, they have to be adapting to deal with the prevailing circumstances on the one hand, but have an agenda for change on the other.

How can we all improve human rights in Saudi Arabia? What are your expectations regarding human rights practices in the coming 20 years?

Human rights in Saudi Arabia are based on Shariah, yet unfortunately there are many misapplications and in turn misconceptions about the situation of human rights in the Kingdom. From my point of view, I expect to see more attention paid to workers’ rights and building a healthier relationship between the worker and the employer in the coming 20 years.

What is the biggest challenge facing the Kingdom today?

As I said, I believe that the biggest challenge for Saudi Arabia is to maintain its strong economic growth and also diversify its sources of income. I also wish that the Kingdom works toward making tourism its second source of income. The government should make great efforts to promote the tourism sector and raise the proportion of its contribution to GDP. While focusing on tourism, we should also aim at capturing a portion of the spending of Saudis during their seasonal vacations abroad.

What are the most prominent economic activities in the Kingdom? What are the neglected sectors that need to be developed?

The Kingdom has an economy based on oil where it owns 25 percent of the oil reserves in the world. Therefore, it is natural that the petroleum sector accounts for high levels of budget revenues and export earnings and their contribution to GDP. The government encourages growth in the private sector to ease the Kingdom’s dependence on oil and increase employment opportunities for the ever growing population. These are the reasons for allowing the private sector and foreign investors to participate in power generation sectors and communications. Our emphasis is rightly on religious tourism, but we also need to encourage leisure and vacation tourism to attract visitors from the world over.

There is a huge demand for housing in the Kingdom because of rising young population. The government has also put emphasis on this sector as it allocated SR 250 billion in this budget for housing. Do you believe housing sector needs much attention from the government and private sector?

I believe that much attention is needed to address the housing problem. The most affected in terms of housing are the middle-class people. Such people are faced with difficulties in finding houses, or even suitable hotels and residential units. They also find most houses, hotels and tourist sites unaffordable. Our company is focusing addressing the needs of this middle-class.

There is a need to boost small and medium enterprises (SMEs) sector in the Kingdom as it creates various jobs. What role do you see for SMEs in the Kingdom’s economic development?

Tourism provides many opportunities for SMEs. Recently, we saw that the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) highlight areas of investment suitable for SMEs.

Education is always a priority for the Saudi government. What changes you envisage in the education system to fit Saudi youth in a knowledge-based economy?

Training is needed for Saudi graduates. Unfortunately, we see new graduates unable to hold jobs due to their inadequacy or weaknesses in several skills and training. We suggest the Ministry of Education should include on the job training as part of the syllabus in universities.

How do you see Saudi women’s contribution in labor, social and political arenas in the coming 20 years? And what’s required in order for Saudi women to materialize your future vision?

Women have always been important in our society but underrepresented in the economy. Change has come to society; realizing women’s contribution in the labor sector. With this new realization, there are new opportunities open for women. In our sector, we are proud to have a small but growing population of women. While planning for expansion, we do recognize that our industry has to serve all segments of society. Women need to be in leadership positions in our company. Right now, they are in very specific positions and the scope for them in the industry will be expanded in the coming years.

What measures and standards are yet to be (and must be) applied to Saudi media? What are your expectations in the next 20 years? What impact will social media have regarding change in the Kingdom?

The use of new media across the network has led to a decline in usage of traditional media. I believe that the focus has increased on the quality of the news rather than the quantity. The new media has given voice to all, especially to Saudi Arabia that suffered from a ‘controlled media.’

What are three or four mistakes repeated in the Kingdom during the past two decades? And how could we eliminate these mistakes in the course of the Kingdom’s further development?

General development plans must go in parallel with the budget. Such a step will definitely create a competitive economy compared with other countries and boost the development plans.

As that the youth generation makes up the majority of the Saudi population, what message would you want conveyed to them? And what else would you say to the rest of the population?

Young Saudis should be qualified for the labor market and ready to compete in business. They should prepare themselves to compete not only with the local market requirement but also in the international market.

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Saudi Shoura Council to draw up tourism program

Arab News – 07 January, 2013 – The Shoura Council yesterday approved the draft scheme for professional engineers and also agreed to work on a program to attract more foreign tourists by portraying the Kingdom’s places of touristic interest, archeological sites and monuments.

The council’s Sunday session, which was chaired by Deputy Speaker Muhammed Amin Jaafri, also suggested ways to improve the storage facility of food commodities of the Grain Silos and Flour Mills Organization.

The Shoura Council Assistant Speaker Fahd bin Mutad Al-Hamad explained that under the draft law, engineers will be allowed to practice in the Kingdom only if they get a business license from the Saudi Council of Engineers. He added that the Saudi Council of Engineers would give a license to those who have professional certificates either from the King Saud University (KSU) or any other recognized institutions.

Al-Hamad pointed out that in light of the major infrastructural developments that are going to take place throughout the Kingdom, the role of engineers and architects will become more significant to the private and public sectors.

The council also suggested having a proper storage facility for wheat, rice, sugar, barley, maize and soybean in the Grain Silos and Flour Mills Organization. The council agreed to form a committee under the supervision of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) with the help of other government organizations to boost the Kingdom’s tourism industry. Such a committee, he said, would also harness the other available potentials in rural areas to attract foreign tourists and to maintain a balance in the development process.

The SCTA, headed by Prince Sultan bin Salman, is the stimulating center for tourism that works in close partnership with various stakeholders to achieve the vision and mission of tourism in the Kingdom as a leading supporter in the creation of sustainable tourism development in accordance with Islamic principles and cultural and ecological realities of the Kingdom.

The Saudi Council of Ministers establish the Supreme Commission for Tourism (SCT). The resolution came to emphasize tourism activity as one of the productive sectors in catering to Saudi tourists within the country while at the same time increasing opportunities for investment, development of human resources and expansion and creation of new job opportunities for Saudi citizens.

Subsequently, in view of the importance of the Antiquities and Museums, another resolution by the Council of Ministers was issued to integrate the Antiquities and Museums sector into the Supreme Commission for Tourism. With this, the SCT became a body responsible for the implementation of their related tasks in addition to being responsible for tourism.

According to the resolution, the name ‘Supreme Commission for Tourism’ (SCT) was changed to ‘Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities’ (SCTA), with the confirmation that domestic tourism is a reality that requires the formation of a national authority responsible for its planning and development owing to the distinct components of tourism in the Kingdom.

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Iran sets target of $1b in furniture exports

Tehran Times – 08 January, 2013 – Iran has set a target of earning $ 1 billion in furniture exports over the next 3-5 years, IRNA quoted Trade Promotion Organization’s Deputy Director Kiyumars Fathollah Kermanshahi as saying. The issue of attaining one percent share in the global furniture trade is seriously pursued, he noted.

He put the current value of global furniture trade at around $ 270 billion. Unfortunately, Iran exported just $ 12 million worth of furniture last year, which was a tiny figure compared with the global trade, he added.

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Guyana Unveils New Strategies To Boost Tourism

GEORGETOWN (Guyana), Jan 8 (NNN-GINA) — Tourism as a sector has evolved over the years, aided by heightened interest and significant sums of money, as focus continues to propel Guyana with its vast, viable and unique eco-tourism potential into the international spotlight. Acting Minister of Tourism Irfaan Ali has outlined several plans aimed at boosting tourist arrivals and hotel occupancy within the first quarter of this year.

Several organisations have indicated their interest to feature Guyana in their films and written publications in 2013 as it is an important aspect of the tourism focus of ensuring that the Guyana brand gets out to the wider market, travelling market and to the most influential market potentials. “One of our strategies is to target films, documentaries and travel writers and have them come into Guyana to do a lot of PR (public relations) work for us.”

In the first quarter, the minister is hoping that Adventure Life which has a very expansive viewership visit Guyana. He also named Discovery channel and Raw TV coming as well, both of which had visited before. “Discovery channel and Raw TV are looking to do a second edition of Gold Rush in the Jungle in Guyana and that again will give us a lot of publicity”. Gold Rush is one of the most watched Friday night programmes reaching more than four million households.

Added to these interests, the History channel and the BBC would like to return to produce a number of features on Guyana. The BBC rated Guyana as one of the 60 destinations that must be visited.

Discussions have also begun with tourism sectors within the Caribbean Region to develop what is called a “joint marketing packaging” plan. Ali said that he has had talks with Grenada and Barbados. “We are seeing now a greater blend of travellers… The Caribbean itself loses a lot because of the attentiveness of the sun, sand and sea tourism. So, we are trying to offer our eco, adventure and nature based product as part of that package so that as a region we can target a larger group.”

During the course of this year, the Ministry and the GTA will continue to use the best technology to record and analyse tourist arrivals. Previously the authorities only recorded arrivals at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA). This year, however, arrivals at Lethem, Corentyne and Ogle would be recorded. “These three areas are not included in the arrival figures but it is very important that we capture that figure because a large percentage of those arrivals utilise our local services,” Ali said.

Also included in the first quarter plans is the annual celebration of Mashramani in February. The Ministry will be launching a visitors’ plan, targeting strategically Brazil. The Ministry is hoping that a band of 30 persons dedicated to Carnival carousing will come to Guyana. If the Brazilian band visits then tourist arrivals from that country are expected to be at approximately 400.

“We are already working with tour companies in the State of Roraima to promote and sell packages.” The Ministry also has interests in Suriname as well as it has a very popular band called “Uptake”. Should this delegation come to Guyana it is estimated that an additional 50 to 100 tourists will come with them. “We already have tour operators working in Suriname in making this possible.”

The Minister added that there has been some interest from Trinidad as well. A street fair will be held on Brickdam the night before Mash to start-off the celebrations. The ministry hopes to initiate discussions with WestJet, Air Canada, and JetBlue air carriers to stimulate and motivate interests in investing in the Guyana.

Meanwhile, the ministry has had a number of major new investments approved during the later portion of 2012 which will definitely embellish existing services to meet certain international expectations.

Collectively the 14 new investment interests that include establishment of hotels and entertainment complexes have a value of more than $25B and are from local businesses. These new investments will create employment for more than 800 persons.

Improving Services

Considerable emphasis will be placed on regularising the service providers in this sector, continuing what the ministry began in 2012. A special committee of both public and private sector representatives was formed to specifically consult service providers towards establishing standards. The ministry is determined to ensure that the service quality is improved across the board.

“We have 199 operators, guides, and properties registered so far, 87 hotels, 64 tour guides, 30 tour operators and 18 lodges and resorts. Our intentions are to ensure that these facilities would be held to certain standards and to have some waiting systems implementing sometime this year.”

Last year provided an excellent platform to propel the tourism sector and this has formed the base for its expansion in 2013. “In 2012 we campaigned under the slogan “Re-Discover Home” and because of the success of that campaign we will continue on that path. Last year’s theme will be retained but with an addendum. Thus, in 2013 tourism activities will be held under the theme “Re-Discover Home; celebrate your Life, celebrate your Home,” Minister Ali stated.

Re-discover Home is such a successful model that even Trinidad has started advertising extensively to their market. Ali added that the ministry plans to capitalise on this market because it has tremendous potential, especially around the Mashramani period in February.

Reflecting on 2012, Ali noted that there was an average of 17.2 percent increase in arrivals over that of the previous year. “At the end of November our arrivals was sitting around 161,000 compared to 137,000 around the same period in 2011.”

He posited that this increase came at a time when there were tremendous difficulties in the aviation capacity. Early in 2012 saw the exit of RedJet and by the end of the third quarter that of EZJet. The minister stated that, “our objective this year is to sustain arrivals, ensure that occupancy in the hotels grow and create local demand for art craft and food.”

The ministry will continue other training programmes and expand existing ones to include tutoring tourism staff, immigration and customs officers to speak the Portuguese and Spanish in an effort to bridge the current communication barrier.

While in 2013 investments in the sector will soar, the minister mentioned that it is hoped that the private sector also invests in keeping the city clean.

He said that through the urban development plan it is hoped that the private sector will adopt sections of the city. Steps will be taken to work along with the management of the city to clean the garbage.

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Morocco: Arab American Museum Hosts 8th Annual Film Fest

6 January 2013 – Moroccan American Center for Policy – Dearborn, Mich. — An annual festival of movies from the Middle East is screening films rarely seen in the United States. The Arab American National Museum in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn is hosting the 2013 festival that runs from Jan 24-26.

The schedule includes “1/2 Revolution,” a personal look at a group of friends living in Cairo during the first days of the Egyptian uprisings that were part of the Arab Spring. Other films include tales from Morocco, Pegase (Pegasus), Lebanon, Teta (Grandma), the West Bank and Gaza, Private Sun, Jordan, Here, and more.

Screening Schedule:

2013 Arab Film Festival

January 24-26, 2013

Arab American National Museum

13624 Michigan Ave., Dearborn MI 48126

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013

Teta (Grandma)

Dir: Merva Faddoul


Set in Byblos, an historic town in Lebanon with a prominent Maronite Christian community, a family’s life is turned upside down when their iconic Virgin Mary statue sheds tears. Stars Mimi Farah, Chantal Zailaa and Anna Maria Saad. Arabic w/ English subtitles.

An Official Selection of:

2011 Doha Tribeca Film Festival

2011 National Geographic All Roads

Film Festival

2011 Twin Cities Arab Film Festival


Habibi Rasak Kharban (Darling, Something’s Wrong with Your Head)

Dir: Susan Youssef


85 min.

Two students in the West Bank are forced to return home to Gaza, where their love defies tradition. To reach his lover, Qays grafittis poetry across town. It’s a modern re-telling of the famous ancient Sufi parable Majnun Layla. Arabic w/ English subtitles.

FIPRESCI Prize, Best Arab Feature Film, Best Actress, Best Editor, Dubai Int’l Film Festival

“The end will leave you breathless and wondering” – Huffington Post

7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25, 2013

Habibti (Darling)

Dir: Nour Wazzi

2010/United Kingdom

16 min.

Based on a short story by Academy Award nominee Ari Folman (Waltz with Bashir) and Lebanese director Nour Wazzi, Habibti follows Iman (Hiam Abbass, The Visitor, Lemon Tree), a conservative Arab woman who travels to London to visit her estranged daughter and is shocked to find her living with her boyfriend, a black artist. Arabic w/ English subtitles.


Teta, Alf Marra (Grandma, A Thousand Times)

Dir: Mahmoud Kaabour

2010/UAE , Qatar, Lebanon

50 min.

Teta Fatima is the 83-year-old matriarch of the Kaabour family and the sharp-witted queen bee of an old Beiruti quarter. With great intimacy, the film, by her grandson/director Mahmoud Kaabour, documents her larger-than-life character as she struggles to cope with the silence of her once-buzzing house and imagines what awaits her beyond death. Arabic w/ English subtitles.

Audience Award, Best Documentary, 2010 Doha Tribeca Film Festival

Best Film, 2011 London Int’l Documentary Film Festival

4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013

Private Sun

Dir: Rami Alayan


Mariam (Shadeen Saleem) is instructed by her doctor to sunbathe in order to reverse the vitamin D deficiency that is causing her bone illness. But with nosy neighbors, an overbearing sister-in-law and Israeli surveillance planes, private moments under the sun are precious and rare. Arabic w/ English subtitles.

REMI Special Jury Award, 2012 Worldfest-Houston Int’l Film Festival

Premio de Genero, 2012 FENACO-Peru


Pegase (Pegasus)

Dir: Mohamed Mouftakir


104 min.

A young woman (Majdoline Drissi), traumatized by her dictatorial father’s insistence she be raised as a boy, finds herself the unwitting patient of a psychiatrist intent on learning the truth behind the girl’s story. Reality turns into a haunted fever-dream of fear and denial in this visually striking psychological thriller. Moufkatir is considered a leading voice in the New Moroccan cinema wave; this is his first feature. Arabic w/ English subtitles.

Winner, Golden Stallion of Yennega Prize, 2011 Pan African Film Festival (FESPACO)

“…gripping and emotionally moving story which leaves much to be discovered underneath, to satisfy those who want to (and can) read into its underlying symbolism.”

Vanessa McMahon, FilmFestivals.com

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013

Dir: Reem Munir Katami


In a barbaric political regime, who is the real prisoner – the guard who reinforces the policies of the oppressor, or the one behind bars? This animated short examines the dialogue between an advocate for the right of civilians to demonstrate peacefully for basic human rights and the enforcer of laws. Arabic w/ English subtitles.


1/2 Revolution

Dir: Omar Shargawi, Karim El Hakim


72 min.

This is a personal story from the Arab Spring: a group of friends living in downtown Cairo struggle to stay together during the first chaotic days of the Egyptian Revolution. It’s the first film that considers the January 25 uprising an incomplete revolution. In English.

Official Competition, 2011 Dubai Int’l Film Festival

Official Selection, 2012 Sundance Film Festival

“Almost diary-like in its intimacy, 1/2 Revolution is a thrilling first-person action movie empowered by immediacy.” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire.co

Click here for more info on attending the 2013 Arab Film Festival.

All screenings take place in the 156-seat Auditorium on the Lower Level of the Arab American National Museum (AANM), 13624 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, Michigan.

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Nigeria: Kaduna Airport to Be Inaugurated Soon

11 January 2013 – This Day – The Kaduna Airport remodelling project would be completed in three months, according to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). The airport, which was among the first 11 airports scheduled for remodelling under the transformation agenda of the Federal Government, has undergone significant changes recently, the agency said.

At the last inspection by the General Manager, Corporate Communications of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Yakubu Dati, it was revealed the project had reached 80 per cent of completion.

“This is part of aviation master plan which includes the upgrade and development of dilapidated infrastructures, reformation of institutions, as well as the transformation of key airports into a network of domestic and international hubs,” Dati explained.

Meanwhile, operations at the airport has been shifted to the Hajj terminal, which was built under the administration of the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah and was inaugurated in December, 2011 pending the completion of construction at the airport.

Dati said on completion, the airport would form a major hub with the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, a development he noted would help to boost the economy of the state as well as increase the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

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Cane Weaving Biz Will Create Jobs in Nigeria – Weavers

11 January 2013 – Daily Trust – Lagos — As unemployment rate still high in Nigeria, cane weaving business has been proffered as a way out, especially if government encourages teaching of the craft in schools.

The business, according to an investigation by Daily Trust, requires only about N50,000 to start, and training for only one to three months’ to grasp the techniques.

Cane weaving business has been practiced for decades by the Deltans and in Lagos State.

Water cane is the major material skillfully weaved to make different beautiful designs of items that are beneficial to human life. These include baskets, furniture and a host of others.

While some people go for wood furniture, others prefer furniture from cane because the material is exquisite in nature.

Vice Chairman of the National Cane Weavers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Osoko Ohwoetiyi, said: “Our forefathers were doing this work and they taught us how to do it. When we finished secondary school, we decided to continue from where our fathers stopped as a business to cater for our families.”

As a beginner, if one wants to go into for furniture weaving, he can start with just N50,000, but if you want to go for all items in the designs, N500,000 will be more ideal, Mr. Osoko said.

We get the canes from Bayelsa, Rivers and Edo states and also from Epe in Lagos State, but the materials from Epe are the breaking ones. We also have willow cane. Of course we also use wood, nails and gas to get whatever shape we desire. For example, to make the coconut chair, we use gas to get the roundish.

A bunch of cane is bought for about N900 with which you make two baskets in order to make profitable.

We have different designs now courtesy of foreign catalogues, unlike when we started with only small flower baskets and garden chairs. We now make designs that can compete with foreign cane designs and even better than what the whites are doing. We are now producing yam baskets, baby cots, dining sets, flower stands, beds, chairs and tables as well as other numerous designs.

Nigerians accept cane work because we produce even for those who could not afford carpentry work. Cane work is very good, less expensive, natural, easy to maintain and very durable. With about N50.000 or less you have a complete set of living room chairs of cane work. So, many people patronise us.

Cane products can last for 10-15 years depending on how they are maintained.

We have been crying for help especially in the area of financing but none is in sight. The small scale assistance programme is not reasonable to me because, how can a micro finance bank give a N30,000 as loan for business to a group of people. To me the money is too small, if anybody gives me such amount, you are giving to buy foodstuff in my house.

What we want the government or financial authority to actually do for us is to give us a site where we can make a cane village.

Though this place is referred to as Cane Village, Mende Maryland, to me this is not a proper place because it is under bridge. So government should assist us by giving us a permanent site that we can develop to even become one of the tourist centre in Nigeria.

The business is very lucrative, one can make double his investment in one month. If you invest N500,000, in one month you can make double that amount.

Government should explore opportunities in this business. It should assist us so we can also talk of exportation because what we have is far better than what the Whites people produce from cane.

About 10 graduates are here doing this business with us because when they finished from higher institution there was no job, so they came and learnt this work and became good in it so they forget about white collar jobs because they are making money here. Some have even married, others with children.

Mende is our headquarters we have other branches and here we have about 200 members both men and women doing this cane weaving business. We choose this state because we know that Lagos is the centre of business in Nigeria while Abuja has much restrictions as the seat of power.

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Iraqis get glimpse of golden era in new exhibit

AFP, 3 Jan 2013 – Iraqis wistful for a golden age in politics, often labelled divided and cynical now, have been able to harken back to such a time through an exhibition on their inaugural parliament 87 years ago.

During the exhibition at the modern Council of Representatives building in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, visitors strolled past historical documents, newspapers, books and photographs. At the time of the National Assembly’s opening on December 28, 1925, it was only the second such parliament in the Middle East, after Egypt.

“We started collecting documents and photos three months ago and we went back to the Iraqi Documents Unit and the governorate of Baghdad to look up everything from this time period,” said Firas al-Jaberi, head of the parliamentary library.

This week’s exhibit focused on the opening session and the climate at the time, but also included documents and items from later years. Among them were two photographs of the first session, the only two pictures in the entire exhibition, which organisers attributed to losses suffered due to periodic fires and the near-constant conflicts that have plagued Iraq for upwards of 30 years.

They also said they attempted to obtain documents via the British embassy in Baghdad but were unsuccessful. Iraq only gained full independence from Britain in 1932, though the former colonial power still exercised major influence in the country in subsequent years.

The first parliament, which lasted three years, was made up of 88 representatives. The only available breakdown indicated 16 of them were Iraqi Kurds, and the house speaker was a Shiite cleric, Mohammed al-Sadr. None were women, who were barred from voting or running for seats.

As Iraq was still under British rule, its inaugural budget was tabulated in Indian rupees, the currency in use at the time, and comprised a 53.9 million rupee spending programme.

By contrast, the modern parliament has 325 representatives, a quarter of them women, and the draft 2013 budget proposed in October is set to be $115 billion. Among the items on display was the first issue of the official newspaper Al-Waqa Al-Iraqiya, published in 1922, and the inaugural issue of Al-Zawra, Iraq’s first independent newspaper which first came out in 1925.

Organisers also signed deals with various publishing houses in order to display publications illustrating Iraq in the 1920s. The period is regarded by many to be a golden era in Iraqi political life, especially when compared with the current period with little in the way of landmark legislation passed, and much discord.

“Unfortunately, the current political process is difficult because of the big gap between the people and them tearing themselves apart over sectarian issues which have been fed by Iraq’s neighbours in the region,” said Wael Abdul Latif, a former minister and lawmaker attending the exhibition. In some ways, the period following that initial parliament session in 1925 was among the most stable in Iraq’s modern history — its first constitution, for example, lasted until a military coup in 1958.

According to Abdul Latif, Iraq’s new constitution, passed after a US-led invasion ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003, has established a new, and permanent, order. “We hope that politicians here will… forget their disputes and go off and build their country,” he added, however, alluding to the many conflicts between Iraq’s political factions.

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Syrian art and female identity in Jeddah this month

Ahram Online, 5 Jan 2013 – Jeddah’s Athr Gallery, a vital element in the growth of the Saudi art scene in recent years, has opened its space for Syrian artists in an exhibition entitled From Syria With Love, opening 17 December 2012. Eight artists display sculptures and paintings in the show, demonstrating a diverse range of styles.

The exhibition is intended to provide a glimpse into the rich history of Syrian arts. Essential artists such as Muhammad Tulaimat and Abdullah Murad, who studied art in the West, are highlighted. Also featured is Syria’s celebrated sculptor Mustafa Ali, along with works by Monif Ajaj, Farouk Kondakji, Asaad Arabi, Ismail El Helou, Fadi Yazigi and “Malva” Omar Hamdi.

This collection reflects transformations that took place in the Syrian art scene, from Western influences in the early 1900s to a more indigenous visual language brought about by the younger generation.

With 36 artworks produced over the past two decades on show, the exhibition offers an artistic angle on the socio-political struggle in the country.

“As the country’s current, bitter power struggles continue, this important exhibition affords an understanding of the eloquence, passion and insight with which these artists engaged with their homeland,” reads the press release.

From Syria With Love runs until 10 January.

Starting 15 January, the Jeddah Athr Gallery will host a solo show for one of the female artists currently placing Saudi Arabia on the international art map, Manal Al-Dowayen.

Al-Dowayen recently exhibited at the newly launched Alaan Artspace in Riyadh in an edgy collective show. In Alaan Artspace’s Soft Power, Al-Dowayen challenged the taboo of speaking women’s names in public through setting up an installation entitled Esmi or “My Name,” in which the names of Saudi women are painted across every bead of larger than life sized rosaries, used by Muslims to count the times they give praise to God.

The installation is Al-Dowayen’s way to protest the cultural norms of silencing the names of women. The artist prompts reflection over female identity in contemporary Arab society.

The new project by Al-Dowayen, opening in an exhibition entitled A Journey of Belonging on 15 January in Jeddah, “gives unique and candid perspectives into the intense and idiosyncratic relationship that exists between a woman and her homeland, exploring feelings of alienation, belonging, and identity,” according to Athr Art.

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Najaf’s Khan Al-Shilan becomes a museum

AFP, 6 Jan 2013 – It served as an Ottoman headquarters, a prison, an ice factory and a mill before falling into neglect. Now Najaf’s historic and much loved Khan al-Shilan is getting a new lease on life — as a museum.

Local authorities in Najaf plan to turn the structure into a museum featuring antiquities and archaeological pieces, as well as statues of rebels and some of the actual weapons they used in a 1920 Iraqi uprising against the British, during which captured soldiers were held at Khan al-Shilan.

In addition to its long history, Khan al-Shilan is significant due to the remains of drawings and dates left by the captive British soldiers, which are still visible on its walls. According to Hassan al-Hakim, a history professor at Kufa University, Khan al-Shilan was originally intended to be a rest house for pilgrims visiting Najaf, which is home to the shrine of Imam Ali, one of the most revered figures in Shi’a Islam, and visited by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims each year.

But it was used as an Ottoman military headquarters before the defeat of the empire in World War I, and then as a local government administrative building. When the British occupied Iraq, they dispatched forces from Baghdad who took control of Najaf, and Khan al-Shilan.

But when Iraqis launched their 1920 uprising, Khan al-Shilan temporarily reverted to local control and was used as a prison to hold British troops captured in several battles. In 1933, the first electrical generator in the city was installed at Khan al-Shilan, providing power for the old city and the Imam Ali shrine, Hakim said.

Khan al-Shilan was later used as a site to grind wheat, and then as an ice factory, he said. It was rented out in the late 1990s and parts of it were destroyed, while others were used for rubbish disposal. Khan al-Shilan measures about 1,500 square metres (16,000 square feet) and features three cellars, as well as rooms arrayed around its courtyard. Its walls and entrance are decorated with Islamic designs.

Ahmed Kaabi, a 50-year-old who lives near Khan al-Shilan, said that “our memories are linked to it and we consider this place one of the symbols of Najaf.” The plan “to turn the Khan into a museum is a good project, despite the delay, because this place is very dear to us,” Kaabi said. After more than half a century of neglect, “this building tells a lot of the history of Najaf,” said Hamza al-Khalidi, the director of Khan al-Shilan. It is of “major importance with respect to the heritage of Najaf.”

Local authorities decided to turn Khan al-Shilan into a museum as part of the city’s role as the Arab world’s Islamic Capital of Culture for 2012. But when the problem-plagued culture capital project was scrapped, the Najaf Archaeological and Heritage Directorate took over, and Khan al-Shilan is still slated to become a museum in 2013.

Najaf, the centre of Shiite religious scholarship worldwide, holds archaeological sites dating from a number of different periods. But like many such sites in Iraq, not all are well cared-for, including the remains of the celebrated ancient Christian city of Hira, which lie neglected and mouldering a stone’s throw from the Najaf airport because funds for excavation have dried up. Khan al-Shilan has also suffered from a lack of attention.

It “was subjected to negligence since the departure of the British occupation until the last two years, in a way that affected the building and general structure,” said Mahdi al-Saigh, a member of the Popular Heritage Committee in Najaf.

He called for the “formation of a commission to take care of Najaf’s heritage, much of which has been lost.”

“We have a complete list of the heritage sites and houses in Najaf and the surrounding areas,” and request that the places be cared for, Saigh said.

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Lebanon to hold Al Bustan Festival in February

Ahram Online, 11 Jan 2013 – Lebanon’s Al Bustan Festival International Festival of Music and the Performing Arts is one of the major music and performing art festival taking place in the region. Themed “The World Needs Music,” this year marks the 20th edition of this festival.

The opening night set on Tuesday, 19 February will include works by Brahms and Elgar, with violin and cello soloists. Al Bustan Festival Orchestra – The Pan-European Philharmonia, will be conducted by Gianluca Marcianò.

The festival will include a rich programme with performances by international orchestras and conductors, small ensembles, choral works, operas, recitals, flamenco dance, etc. Most of the performances will take place in the Emile Bustani Auditorium in Beirut that takes almost 500 audience. The festival will continue until 27 March.

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Fiesta of the Patios at Cordova in May

6 Jan 2013 – Hurriyet – Among the criteria mentioned for the inclusion of the Fiesta of the Patios on the UNESCO List of Cultural Heritage, the committee highlighted the fact that, “celebrating social spaces that promote human contact and cultural exchange, the Fiesta of the Patios is a communal festive event that provides a sense of identity and continuity to the residents of Cordova, who recognize this expression as a significant component of their intangible cultural heritage.”

It is during May each year that the famed patios or courtyards of Cordova’s houses open their doors to host the fiesta. Located at the historical city centre, they become the scene of vivid and cheerful gatherings where people enjoy traditional dance, live music and tapas. They admire tasteful and elaborate arrangement of plants, vases and flowerpots around the patios and on their walls. However, beyond the Flamenco tunes and folk costumes, the Fiesta of the Patios carries interesting cultural baggage that is centuries-old with the unmistakable aroma of Al Andalus.

Cordova, once the capital of the Roman Province of Bética, passed into Arab hands in the early eighth century, eventually becoming the capital of the Umayyad Emirate founded by Abd al-Rahman I in AD 756. The city, situated on the River Guadalquivir (from the Arabic, al-Wadi al-Kabir) would quickly flourish, its Great Mosque (La Mezquita) later becoming the jewel of the Umayyad art; its houses would feature the typical central patio with a fountain and an abundance of plants. Both the hamams (public baths) and the patios that feature heavily in the Andalusi medina (city) are of Roman influence, and it comes as no surprise given the capacity of the Islamic Empire to integrate elements from other cultures into its fabric.

One only has to enter any of Cordova’s patios to immediately sense an Arab (specifically Maghrebi) presence. It was in patios like these in the same place that virtuoso musicians like the Iraqi master Ziryab would play their oud and exceptional poets like Ibn Zaydun would recite their poems. In patios like these, the Cordovan Princess Wallada Bint al-Mustakfi and others would host poets, musicians and dancers in their cultural salons… Nor is that all.

As Abd al-Rahman III proclaimed himself Caliph in 929 AD, the status of the city changed dramatically; it became the seat of a Caliphate. It rivaled Baghdad in knowledge and splendour, and later competed against Cairo in art and culture. The city boasted the world’s largest library in the tenth century, with over one million volumes, and the patios of Cordova became meeting places for book discussions and poetry recitals, a medieval predecessor of the modern tertulia tradition.

More than just beauty to marvel at, a Cordovan patio is the guarantee of an aesthetic experience in which all the senses engage: the smell of jasmines, the colours of the foliage and the mesmerising sound of the water. Add to this the complete transformation of these patios during the fiesta and you have the perfect recipe for a unique social and cultural phenomenon specific to Cordova.

The Flamenco performed during the fiesta reflect the Maghrebi spirit: the songs and odes bear a resemblance to the muwashahat of Al Andalus, and the guitar itself first appeared – according to some historians — as a development of the oud introduced to Al Andalus by the Arabs, and which originally had four strings before Ziryab added the fifth.

Apart from its historical value, the fiesta attracts scores of tourists who come to enjoy the festivities and visit the patios. Pedro Rubio is one bar owner in Cordova who sums it up nicely: “May means spring; it is when the flowers blossom and the city shows its many charms. People come, they like what they see, and no pleasant day in Andalusia is complete without a good wine and some quality tapas!”

Spain has the second largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites after Italy, Cordova’s Historic Centre being one of 44. When it comes to intangible heritage, and in addition to the Fiesta of the Patios of Cordova, other famous Spanish items on the List include Flamenco, the Human Towers (of Catalonia), and the Mediterranean Diet (shared with Greece, Italy and Morocco).

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Boat Racing Festival returns to Brunei

January 11, 2013 Borneo Bulletin Online – The boat racing festival will be held once again at the Dermaga Diraja BSB by Brunei River at the end of January, and will be organised by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The traditional Regatta includes competitions for categories such as row boats, speed boats, traditional water taxis, and jet skis. Former regatta champions of the 1970s and ‘80s, Haji Mohd Tahir bin Haji Mastan, Abdul Latif bin Kadir and Haji Mohd Rafee bin Haji Mohd Yusof will be present for the Regatta to show their support and to get the chance to relive the moments of their victory once again.

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First Japanese Woman to Scale Everest Visits Bangladesh

DHAKA, Jan 5, 2013 (BSS) – Junko Tabei, the first woman to conquer Mount Everest, has expedited Keokradong, one of the highest peaks of Bangladesh, last week as part of her plan to explore the highest peaks of different countries.

“I so far climbed up highest peaks of 60 countries and now Bangladesh is number 61 in my list,” said Junko, who reached Mount Everest in 1975 as the first women, in a reception at CIRDAP Auditorium here.

Junko Tabei, the 75-year-old four feet nine inches tall Japanese woman, who is now in Bangladesh for a twelve-day tour, climbed up the Keokradong on December 28.

During her visit to Bangladesh Tabei, who became the first woman to complete the Seven Summits in 1992, also visited the Sundarbans and walked across the Tiger Point from east to west. The Bangladesh Monitor, one of the leading travel publications, accorded the reception to Junko. Musa Ibrahim, the first Bangladeshi to climb the Mount Everest summit, Monitor editor Kazi Wahidul Alam and Executive Director of the Bengal Tours Ltd. Masud Hossain spoke on the occasion.

Tabei described her exciting story of reaching the Everest and said before her success, the Japanese society believed that mount expedition is the work of man only, woman are not capable of doing it. “After my success many women in Japan and other parts of the world has grown interests to do such kind of adventurous task,” she added.

She praised the natural beauty and the nature of people of Bangladesh and said, “After returning home, I will tell the Japanese tourists and Japanese media that Bangladesh is an exciting tourist destination.”

Born in Fukushima Prefecture in Japan, Tabei made her debut as a climber at the age of 10, climbing her first summit- Mount Nasu in Japan. Tabei has completed her bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Showa Women’s University and set up the Ladies Climbing Club in Japan. Having a master’s degree in Comparative Social Culture, she became the Chairperson of the Himalayan Adventure Trust of Japan.

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Istanbul, Antalya top in Turkish tourism list

ISTANBUL/ANTALYA- Anatolia News Agency – Despite ongoing efforts to diversify tourism in terms of both geography and content, Turkey’s two traditional tourist destinations, Istanbul and Antalya, still dominate the sector with some 80 percent of foreign visitors.

Istanbul hosted over nine million tourists last year, a 16 percent increase from the period between 2011 and 2012, and Antalya hosted over 10 million tourists, a 1.6 percent decrease. The two cities took almost 20 million of the roughly 25 million foreign tourists that visited Turkey.

German tourists comprised the highest share of total tourists both in Istanbul, with 1.7 million, and Antalya, with 2.6 million, followed by Russians and Americans.

The tourism ministry and sector organizations are struggling to broaden the country’s conventional, religious and health tourism appeal in a bid to cut risks and maintain sustainable revenues.

The all-inclusive system at hotels in Antalya is one of the main factors that brings foreign tourists to the city. However, the system decreases expenses for tourists, in turn lowering local tourism revenue.

The target of 2013 should be to raise tourism income along with tourist numbers, according to statements made by Zafer Alkaya, General Manager of Cornelia Diamond Golf Resort and Spa, during an Istanbul meeting yesterday.

“Turkey needs tourists who spend money. Average spending decreased by between 3 to 6 percent from 2011 to 2012. Despite Antalya being the most successful region with an all-inclusive system in the world, this causes expenses to decrease,” he said.

Tourists in Istanbul hail from a diverse background, including Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Iran, Holland, Iraq, Libya, Azerbaijan, Spain, Ukraine, Japan and Saudi Arabia. Visitors from Arab countries showed more interest in Istanbul last year than in 2011, and their numbers reached 1.3 million in a 54 percent increase in 2012.

Antalya also draws the attention of tourists from many countries, such as Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Spain, Japan, Latvia, Moldavia, Norway, Uzbekistan, Slovenia, Turkmenistan, Australia, Finland, Iran, Italy, Iceland, Turkish Cyprus, Canada, Kyrgyzstan, Poland, Slovenia, Syria and Greece. Kyrgyz tourist numbers increased the most last year, growing 19 percent.

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Uzbekistan to step up foreign-language training

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-01-07 TASHKENT – In an effort to better compete in the global economy, Uzbekistan has adopted a foreign-language training programme designed to teach English and other languages at an earlier age and to set proficiency standards. The plan also calls for providing incentives to teachers.

President Islam Karimov in December signed a resolution for the Uzbek foreign-language programme, calling for its implementation beginning in the 2013-14 academic year. English is the language that Uzbek officials most have in mind.

“The foreign-language syllabi used in Uzbekistan today were drawn up 40 to 50 years ago,” said Nigora Bukharova, an English teacher at the Tashkent State University of Economics. “The focus at the time was on Russian-language studies, with only two hours a week devoted to English, beginning from the fourth grade. … Clearly, those syllabi are obsolete.”

First-year undergraduates show extremely poor knowledge of English, and those coming from remote oblasts and districts often don’t know even the basics, she added.

Now, with the new programme Education Ministry official Bakhodur G. said he thinks the situation is bound to improve. Foreign-language classes will be introduced in various forms beginning this fall. In the first grade, students will be introduced to the foreign language through game formats; the foreign-language alphabet, reading and grammar will be introduced as part of the second-grade curriculum, he said.

Colleges and universities will teach several subjects in foreign languages, and beginning in academic year 2015-2016, foreign-language tests will be part of the entrance exams. Salaries for foreign-language instructors will increase 15% in the cities and 30% in the provinces, he added.

“Such changes are essential today,” Bakhodur G. said. “Of course, they will require teacher retraining, new textbooks and classroom retooling, so the new system will be introduced stage by stage.”

“I started learning English only after high school, as a university freshman,” businessman Zhavakhir Ulmasov, 30, of Andizhan said. “As I understand now, either our English teacher at school was undemanding, or there is a gap between the foreign-language curriculum in high schools and the one in universities.”

Without speaking at least one foreign language, one is unlikely to succeed in business, he added. Knowledge of foreign languages is essential for any scholar, too, Alisher Ibragimov, a researcher at the Tashkent Institute of Seismology, agreed.

“Conferences and seminars are traditionally held in English, and not knowing the language means secluding and limiting your scholarly research,” he said. “The scholarly literature is all in English.” In line with the new programme, special subjects, particularly in technical and international specialties, are to be taught in colleges and universities in foreign languages, which is “fully justified from the viewpoint of … economic globalisation trends,” Tashkent University of World Economy and Diplomacy instructor Nigora Faizibayeva said.

The situation in Tashkent and other large Uzbek cities differs from that in the remote provinces, where the schools lack teachers, methodological guides for faculty and state-of-the-art equipment for foreign-language classrooms, Yaira Mirkhashimova, principal of a Fergana high school, said.

“University graduates are in no hurry to return to their provincial hometowns and villages,” she said. “Teaching doesn’t guarantee decent wages, so young people prefer (higher-paid) jobs requiring knowledge of foreign languages.”

That’s why provincial teachers will be offered double the pay raises that their peers in larger cities are scheduled to receive, Bakhodur G. noted.

In line with a presidential decree, the Finance Ministry will pay for foreign-language textbooks and for teaching and learning aids for teachers and pupils of the high schools, specialised high schools and vocational schools.

The new programme’s implementation might encourage youth to start applying for teaching jobs, Mirkhashimova said.

“School faculties have aged notably in recent years, so attracting young teachers will be good for both the schools concerned and the educational system as a whole,” she said.

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