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25 Feb, 2013

Emirates Launches “Share a Smile” Global Ad Campaign

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 25 February 2013 (14 Rabee’ al-Thaani 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.


Malaysia Attracts Largest Incentive Group From Japan

A large incentive group of 2,300 from Japan’s upscale cosmetics production and distribution brand, POLA enjoyed their rewards trip in Malaysia in early February. The incentive programme, supported by the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) included 150 company officials and top sales staff from various parts of Japan. “Connections were made by Minister of Tourism Malaysia, Dato Seri Dr. Ng Yen Yen during her recent visit to Japan. Mr. Hiroki Yokoyama, the President of POLA was convinced by the Minister to implement its incentive programme in Malaysia, given that it is a country conducive for business events coupled with the availability of a myriad of interesting activities that is unique to the country,” explained Mr. Zulkelfli Hj Sharif, CEO of MyCEB. “The incentive tour is estimated to have generate RM 24 million in economic impact. It exceeded the number of participants in similar past large incentive groups from Japan such as SUBARU, the automobile manufacturing division of Japanese transportation conglomerate Fuji Heavy Industries and HOMER ION, a Japanese cosmetics company featuring its flagship brand, Moisteane, which had 700 top sales staff to Malaysia back in 2007.” Commented Dato’ Seri Dr. Ng Yen Yen, “We have put in place several programmes to attract incentive and business groups to Malaysia as part of a bigger economic agenda to make Malaysia a developed nation. Under the Economic Transformation Programme, business tourism has been identified as one of the focus points for the Ministry of Tourism.” MyCEB, as the conduit of business events in Malaysia, arranged for fast track immigration clearance and police escorts for smooth traffic. POLA host a grand scale award ceremony held tonight at the prestigious Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC).

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


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.


Emirates Launches “Share a Smile” Global Ad Campaign

DUBAI, 19 February 2013 – Emirates airlines today unveiled a new campaign showcasing the lighter side of language. Named “Share a Smile” the airline has created 29 videos in 14 languages featuring members of its cabin crew expressing quirky and unusual expressions and greetings from around the world.

The campaign was created by Emirates to help “globalistas” connect with each other through watching the videos and sharing them with their friends and family.

“Share a Smile” is the latest step in Emirates’ global brand campaign Hello Tomorrow, launch in April 2012 which aims to inspire people across the world to explore and connect with each other across cultures and borders.

Through the set of light-hearted 15 second animated videos designed to make people smile, Emirates’ multilingual crew explain the meaning behind popular local phrases like ‘Don’t make an elephant out of a fly’ (Russian), ‘You’re so pretty it made a bang’ (Cantonese) and ‘You’re the cat’s whiskers’ (English). There is also a compilation behind the scenes out-takes video showing the fun the crew had making the films.

“Emirates ‘Share a Smile’ has been created to showcase not only the breadth of linguistic skills amongst our international and multi-lingual crew, it is also intended to help build cultural understanding in a light-hearted way amongst travellers,” said Sir Maurice Flanagan, Executive Vice President Emirates Airline and Group.

“As we researched the phrases it became apparent that although many may sound unusual to non-native speakers when they first listen to them, when the translated meaning is given the sentiments resonate internationally. ‘Share a Smile’ is meant to do just that, encourage “globalistas” to learn about different cultures in an amusing way. The campaign is a celebration of how a kind word or phrase can connect friends and strangers alike across the world.”

The cabin crew who star in the videos were selected in recognition of their outstanding levels of service and native language ability. “Our cabin crew speak over 55 languages and on every flight we announce to our customers which ones are spoken on board that day. It is always an impressive list and something that is regularly commented on,” said Terry Daly, Divisional Senior Vice President Service Delivery, Emirates. “Showcasing many of these languages in the ‘Share a Smile’ campaign demonstrates that it is quite likely a member of cabin crew will speak the native language of our customers. This will help them feel even more welcome and helps us to deliver the highest level of customer service for which Emirates is renowned.”

The 29 videos in the campaign have been filmed in 14 languages: Arabic, Cantonese, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Turkish. They can all be viewed and shared online by visiting: www.emiratesshareasmile.com or Emirates’ You Tube channel, www.youtube.com/Emirates

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Qatar Airways launches flights to Cambodia

Saudi Gazette – 22 February, 2013 – Qatar Airways’ inaugural flight to Cambodia touched down in the capital Phnom Penh on Thursday to further extend the airline’s reach in Asia Pacific, the AMEinfo-com reported.

With the launch of daily scheduled services, Qatar Airways becomes the only Middle Eastern airline flying to the Southeast Asian nation — and destination number 125 served worldwide, it said.

Flight QR602 arrived to a traditional water salute followed by a grand airport ceremony featuring colorful Cambodian dancers.

Guests gathered at Phonm Penh International Airport in celebration of the new air link, connecting Cambodia with scores of destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, North America and South America.

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker was joined on the inaugural flight direct from the carrier’s Doha hub by Long Kem, Cambodia’s ambassador to Kuwait and responsible for Qatar, together with international media.

Al Baker said the latest route by the award-winning airline opened up a great new market for business and leisure travelers from around the world, while at the same time opening up air access from Cambodia to destinations worldwide.

“I take this opportunity to thank the Cambodian government and local airport authorities for their great support in helping us launch daily flights to this wonderful country,” he was quoted as saying.

“Though Cambodia is one of the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia, it has an air travel market that is highly underserved.

“Qatar Airways can seamlessly connect travelers from Cambodia via our Doha hub to diverse cities like Paris, London, Frankfurt, Zurich, Milan, Dubai, Cape Town, New York and Montreal.

The tourism industry, Cambodia’s second largest income source, received 3.6 million international tourists in 2012, a 24 percent increase on the year before. Cambodia is also home to a new industry following the recent discovery of oil and minerals, offering huge potential for overseas investors.

Al Baker said that the latest route launch marked yet another significant milestone for the airline which is relentlessly expanding its global network.

“Qatar Airways is spreading its reach in Asia and we are proud to say that our commitment to this diverse continent will continue,” he added.

“In just a month’s time, we will be adding Chengdu in China, which will join our family of destinations in Asia, a continent which now represents around 30 percent of Qatar Airways’ global network.

“Another significant milestone for Qatar Airways this year will be the introduction of Chicago as our fourth US gateway adding to daily operations to New York, Washington and Houston.

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Tourism Malaysia Wins Best Booth Award At Thai Travel Fair

BANGKOK, Thailand Feb 19 (NNN-Bernama) – The Thailand Office of Tourism Malaysia has won the Best Booth Display Award at the 12th Thai International Travel Fair, here.

The Thai Travel Agents Association Vice-President for Activity, Kriangphon Piyaekchai, presented the award to Tourism Malaysia Thailand Office Director Iskandar Mirza Mohd Yusof, recently.

The design of Tourism Malaysia’s booth was inspired by an Islamic architecture of a mosque with the red hibiscus and Malaysian floral emblem painting, according to a Tourism Malaysia statement.

The roof was shaped as a “songkok”, or Malay cap, with photos of popular destinations and tourism products in Malaysia such as Melaka, Penang, Sabah, shopping, theme parks and foods, making it the most outstanding one among other national tourism organizations.

In attracting Thais to visit Malaysia especially during the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 campaign and a glimpse of Malaysian culture, Tourism Malaysia had invited the Aswara percussion group to perform daily at the main stage during the four-day fair that started on Feb 14.

Tourism Malaysia also promoted Legoland Malaysia and Puteri Harbour Family Theme Park, both in Nusajaya.

More than 1,000 participants comprising national tourism organisations, airlines, travel agents, hotels and resorts participated in the annual event.

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Nigeria Tips Lagos As World Tourist Destination

(Leadership) 22 February 2013 – President Goodluck Jonathan, the former US President Mr. Bill Clinton and the Lagos state Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola on Thursday threw their weight behind efforts to make Lagos a world tourist destination.

The eminent personalities who spoke at the dedication of the 5,000,000 square metres reclaimed land of the Eko Atlantic City said the city when completed will bring people all over the world to study the technology and pattern used in building a city of such caliber. The reclaimed land was hitherto lost to the Atlantic Ocean in the last 100 years.

President Jonathan in an address said the feat is a landmark event which Nigeria must embrace. He disclosed plans by the federal government to set up the Nigeria Mortgage Finance Corporation (NMFC), with the World Bank providing a construction credit of $300 million.”

The corporation, Jonathan said, would help to provide finance for the housing and construction sector and would be private sector driven through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.

The president observed that the housing sector all over the world creates employment for its citizens, adding that it is in this regard that the federal government has accorded the housing and urban development sector priority attention.

“Its huge potentials have been the engine of growth and sustainable development. To this end, the enabling framework for kick starting the privatisation of this sector is now being put in place. As part of the overall transformation agenda, this administration is committed to harnessing the potentials, organising the construction sector as an important growth area for the economy”.

Jonathan also emphasised that the housing and construction sector are important component in the country’s Gross Domestic Product. retreat is the need for a viable mortgage institution.

Also speaking, Clinton said, “I want to thank the government and the developer for building this city. They have reclaimed five million square metres of the land initially lost to the sea. That marks the beginning of this amazing wall, they have kept their commitment and it will work to improve the economy of Nigeria.”

Speaking earlier, Fashola assured that the state government will ensure that the ambitious and visionary project which is private sector driven is delivered in accordance to agreements and specifications reached by the stakeholders.

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Lahore welcomes Pakistan’s first city buses

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-02-21 LAHORE – As Pakistan’s new Metro Bus System (MBS) nears its second week of service, Lahore commuters are breathing a sigh of relief as they realise how much easier and cost-efficient their daily travels have become. Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif formally launched the country’s first city-run bus service on February 10, and it opened to the public the next day.

Now, those living or working along the route have been freed from their routine of stitching together privately operated buses, mini-buses, taxis and motorised rickshaws to travel. “This is marvellous,” Zameer, an office clerk, told Central Asia Online February 19. “I’ve never seen anything like it. The stations are so clean; the buses are so fancy. … What used to cost me Rs. 55 (US 56 cents) on separate buses now requires a single Rs. 20 ticket (US 20 cents).”

“I used to change four buses and pay Rs. 70 (US 71 cents),” said another commuter, Rasheed, an office boy in Shahadra. “Now it’s a single ticket and a single bus. I save Rs. 50 (US 51 cents) each way.” “It’s very crowded right now, but it’s a great service,” said Sattar, as he looked for the right bus to take downtown. “It saves everyone time and money.”

Forty-five articulated buses, which can hold up to 150 passengers each, travel the 27km route, which has 27 bus stations. The route extends from Gaju matta, a southern township, to Shahadra town in the north, passing through central Lahore. Only MBS buses can use the fenced-off route, sparing their passengers from traffic congestion.

“We will bring this service to Karachi next, and onward to every big city in Pakistan,” Sharif said. The first phase took 11 months to complete. “The effort by the Punjab government is unmatched,” Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said. “To see this project to fruition in 11 months is an exemplary feat.”

In its next phase of development, the system will have additional routes and 115 buses. To date, the MBS has cost the provincial government Rs. 30 billion (US $300m).

The Turkish government and Al Buraq, a Turkish construction firm, provided construction and operational assistance after Istanbul offered to donate 100 old buses to Pakistan last year. The system includes electronic ticketing and modern terminals that can serve 112,000 passengers daily with a bus coming every three minutes.

So far, the reaction has been generally positive. “If you look at what it does for Lahore, you cannot help but commend the route and the project,” Tariq Mehmood, a former Pakistani Supreme Court justice, told Central Asia Online.

“It runs along the over-populated and over-congested areas and along the poorer localities,” he said. “It seeks to cater to the common person.”

News of the project spread throughout Pakistan, earning the admiration of Sindh Youth Minister Faisal Subzwari, who tweeted his congratulations to Sharif February 10, calling the MBS a “great initiative.”

Even the Punjab political opposition acknowledged the project’s value. “All in all, it is a good service and a good effort,” said Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Secretary-General Arif Alvi, noting, however, that he didn’t see it as a top priority for the country and that he would have preferred to see the money spent on education.

Meanwhile, Lahore residents seem to be enjoying the system. Passengers were seen riding buses simply for pleasure on opening week, and the sight of happy young faces on packed buses made Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz spokesman Mushahidullah Khan smile as he spent the better part of a weekend riding up and down the route.

“It’s not the politics that gives you a sense of achievement,” he said. “It’s seeing these projects come to fruition – seeing the difference they make in ordinary people’s lives – that keeps you going.”

Critics don’t understand the misery from which the MBS has freed its passengers, said Ali Akhtar, an independent researcher for various international projects.

The average MBS rider “previously used to load into vehicles that met no safety standard or specification, in seats that are way too small and cabins that get extremely stuffy,” he said. “The fact that (MBS) brings together those who use (those vehicles) and those who are driven around in cars should show that it is a success.”

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China to Fund Tk1,000 cr project to modernise Cox’s Bazar airport

DHAKA, Feb 20, 2013 (BSS) -Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh has taken initiatives to turn the Cox’s Bazar Airport into an international airport with the financial assistance of the Chinese government.

This was disclosed while Chinese ambassador to Bangladesh Li jun called on Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Faruk Khan at his Bangladesh Secretariat office here today.

A non binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed in this respect between the Civil Aviation Authority and Avic- International Project Engineering Company (APEC), a Chinese company, in October last year.

As per the MOU, the APEC would spend Taka 1,000 crore for modernizing the airport and the Chinese Exim Bank would finance the project.

Faruk Khan told the Chinese envoy that his government wants to start the Cox’s Bazar International Airport development work as soon as possible. In this respect, he said Economic Relations Division (ERD) has already sent a letter to the Chinese company to visit Bangladesh to complete the necessary formalities.

The minister stressed starting the construction work of the airport by March next and the Chinese envoy informed the minister that immediate step would be taken in this regard after communication with the concerned company.

Financial assistance for constructing the Padma bridge and the deep seaport also came up for discussion during the meeting.

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Qatar to open new Doha airport in April

Oman Tribune – 19 February, 2013 – Qatar will open on April 1 a new airport with a capacity to handle 30 million passengers, as the Gulf state vies to increase its share of transit air travel, an official said on Monday.

“The annual capacity of Hamad International Airport will be 30 million passengers when it opens on April 1,” the head of Qatar’s Civil Aviation Authority Abdul Aziz Al Nuaimi said.

He said the cost of building the new hub over nearly eight years has “exceeded $ 15 billion.”

Eleven foreign budget carriers will be the first airlines to use the new facility, while the emirate’s flag carrier, Qatar Airways, joining in the second quarter of 2013, he said.

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Qatar pursues big tourism investment in Southeast Asia

by Dr Arno Maierbrugger

Gulf Times – 17 February, 2013 – It is very clear that Qatar does not just need to diversify its domestic economy, it will also have to grow outside its own economy to make diversification sustainable. The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) has of course realised this fact and has funnelled state income earned through oil and gas exports in over 30 countries, into companies such as UK-based Sainsbury grocery chain, Harrods Group, Porsche, Barclays, stakes in Royal Dutch Shell and Miramax as well as in property around the globe.

One promising field of expansion abroad is tourism, and the QIA is now pursuing that through its Harrods hotel chain by investing $ 670mn into an integrated hospitality development project in Malaysia that will boast a seven-star hotel, serviced apartments, office building and retail space. The hotel will be the first of its kind in Asia and set the path for Harrods’ expansion to other major cities of the world. Kuala Lumpur won the bid for the hotel because of its ease in setting up and flexibility of operations, the QIA said. The project is planned to be fully completed in 2018.

At the end of last year, the QIA took a look at investment opportunities in tourism in the Philippines as part of a $ 1bn investment commitment to the nation that also includes energy and agriculture. A memorandum of understanding was signed in April 2012 on occasion of the first-ever visit of the HH Emir of Qatar to the Philippines.

Indeed, Qatar tourism to the Philippines could need a boost, just 3,771 Qataris visited the archipelago in 2012, according to official Philippine government data, as opposed to 30,040 from Saudi Arabia and 12,684 from the UAE in the same period.

A number of Qatari projects are currently also under preparation in Vietnam, including construction of tourist complexes. Qatari Diar Real Estate is undertaking various real estate development projects in joint ventures with local governments in Vietnam, including residential and commercial projects and hotels.

Qatar Airways resumed its direct flights from Doha to Yangon, Myanmar, in October 2012 not without a purpose: Besides from making Yangon the 10th gateway in Asean for the airline, its tourism arm is exploring the possibility of investing in a hotel project in the country’s business capital, according to Qatar Airways chief executive officer Akbar al-Baker.

As for Thailand, Qatar has expressed interest to increase the number of medical and leisure tourists to the Southeast Asian country. Qatar Airways on February 20 will launch a fourth daily Doha-Bangkok flight and is also looking to add more flights to Phuket and to open its own lounge at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport. The government of Thailand has, in turn, introduced a 90 days visa extension for Qataris for medical visits in Thailand.

Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, is also on Qatar’s tourism radar after Qatar Holding, the QIA’s investment arm, has established an Indonesian Fund worth $ 1bn in 2012 and a wholly-owned subsidiary, QH Indonesia, to scrutinise the country’s various investment opportunities.

*Writer Dr Arno Maierbrugger is Editor-in-Chief of www.investvine.com, a news portal owned by Inside Investor focusing on Southeast Asian economic topics as well as trade and investment relations between Asean and the GCC. The views expressed are his own.

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Uzbekistan highlights its cultural heritage

14 February 2013, (Uzbekistan News Agency) A national scientific and practical conference dedicated to the study of the life, work and the heritage of Alisher Navoi was held at the Institute of Language and Literature named after Alisher Navoi of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan.

The event, organized by the Union of Writers of Uzbekistan, was attended by scientists, poets, writers, scholars, journalists and general public.

Director of the Institute of Language and Literature named after Alisher Navoi N.Mahmudov, Navoi scholars S.Ganieva, I.Hakkulov, a national writer of Uzbekistan M. Ali and others noted that the invaluable heritage Alisher Navoi serves as key source in increasing the national spirit, fostering noble human qualities in the youth.

As a result of the years-long research at the Institute of Language and Literature collection of selected works of Alisher Navoi in twenty volumes has been published. On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the independence of our country the readers got another edition – the works of Navoi in ten volumes.

“Hamsa” and its prosaic exposition, the books “The Best couplets of Navoi”, “Creative World of Navoi”, published in recent years, also support a broad and comprehensive study of the heritage of the great poet.

During the conference the participants exchanged views on the scientific research on the study of the life and works of Alisher Navoi, new publications and objectives for the future.

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UAE pushes bid for visa exemption to Schengen countries

Abu Dhabi, 23 Feb. 2013 (WAM) – Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Butti Al Hamed, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that the UAE is making intensive diplomatic efforts with the European Union to exempt citizens of the state of the Schengen visa. The UAE has been working on this issue with the European Union for over a year, now.

“The UAE wishes to express its appreciation over the fact that its request to be included among the countries whose citizens do not require a visa to travel to the Schengen Area is currently under serious consideration by the European Union.

The UAE realises that this request is at the beginning of a complex internal debate and subject to internal EU-procedures.” Although a decision is pending, and will be pending for some time as the request is subject to scrutiny by various EU-institutions, the UAE is confident that a mutually beneficial outcome will be reached.

For the UAE, the main arguments that underpin its request are: – Visa-free access will further facilitate a trade relationship between the UAE and the Schengen Area that currently stands at over USD 40 billion (over USD 60 billion for the whole European Union); – Exempting the UAE would send a positive signal for greater cultural openness towards the Arab and Muslim worlds.

The UAE wishes to thank the vast number of EU- and Schengen states that have come out in support of its request and hopes that the request can still be officially heard, this year. It is hopeful that it can continue to count on this support, also at the later stages of the decision-making process. The UAE remains ready to work with all relevant EU-institutions and to fullfil all requirements necessary to obtain visa-free status, including full reciprocity of visa-freedom to all EU- and Schengen-states.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Butti Al Hamed, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the exemption of visa will facilitate the travel of citizens of the state to Schengen, “it will mutually benefit all parties and will strengthen relations of cooperation and friendship in various fields between the UAE and the Schengen countries.”

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Aqaba architecture biennale concludes

AMMAN Feb 23, 2013 Jordan Times — The “Aqaba Biennale for Mediterranean Architecture” concluded on Saturday in the port city of Aqaba, 330km south of the capital, with the participation of more than 1,400 prominent architects, economic figures and students from Jordan and 15 other countries, a statement from the organisers said.

Deputising for King Abdullah, Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority Chief Commissioner Kamel Mahadin inaugurated the three-day event, which featured a variety of activities, including workshops, round-table discussions, exhibitions displaying over 200 unique architectural designs from the region and interactive sessions.

During the inauguration ceremony, Mahadin said the Aqaba biennale was a form of dialogue among civilisations and a chance to promote the architectural beauty of Aqaba, in addition to its tourism and business facets.

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Jordan, Indonesia discuss economic ties

AMMAN, Petra, Feb 23, 2013 | — Issa Murad, deputy chairman of the Jordan Chamber of Commerce, and Indonesian Ambassador to Jordan Teguh Wardoyo discussed on Saturday means to boost commercial exchange between the two countries. The joint commercial exchange is still below expectations, Murad indicated, stressing the importance of boosting trade exchange and the need to activate agreements signed for this purpose. In 2011, the country’s exports to Indonesia were around $123 million while its imports totalled $213 million, according to Murad. Also on Saturday, Jordanian Businessmen Association (JBA) President Hamdi Tabbaa met with the Indonesian ambassador and discussed ways to strengthen business cooperation. The Kingdom mainly exports phosphate, aluminum, potash and olive oil to Indonesia while it imports fish, timber and spices from the southeast Asian country.

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Kuwaiti tourists spend National Day in Lebanon

Beirut, February 23, 2013, The Daily Star – Lebanon’s Tourism Ministry voiced optimism about the ailing sector after hundreds of Kuwaiti visitors arrived at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport Friday, ahead of a national day vacation in the Gulf Cooperation Council country.

“Lebanon reassures tourists that we will provide the best conditions for their stays,” Fadi Abboud said, adding that the arrival of seven fully booked flights from Kuwait underscored the return of strong tourism ties between the two countries.

A source at the airport said Kuwaiti tourists would keep arriving over the next few days ahead of the Kuwaiti National Day.

“More than 70 percent of the passengers were Kuwaiti nationals and the rest Lebanese citizens working in Kuwait,” the source told The Daily Star.

Several additional flights by Jazeera Airways, Kuwait Airways and Lebanon’s flag carrier Middle East Airlines are expected to arrive to Lebanon in the coming few days, the source added.

Some of the Kuwaiti nationals said they would spend the week in the mountains while others will book rooms in Beirut hotels.

The arrival of Kuwaiti tourists will likely give hope to the tourism sector, which has seen its worst season in years.

Travel warnings issued by several GCC countries, including Kuwait, saw the number of tourists fall considerably this year, prompting many restaurants to shut down and several hotels to lay off dozens of staff to cut losses.

The number of tourists to Lebanon declined 17.51 percent to1.36 million in 2012 compared to 2011. The decline stands at a whopping 37 percent, compared to 2010’s 2.17 million visitors.

Osta Bourjaily, head of the Bhamdoun municipality, a major destination for Kuwaiti tourists in Lebanon, said that Kuwaitis, particularly homeowners, had not stopped coming to Lebanon, despite GCC travel warnings.

“These are probably Kuwaitis who come back to Lebanon on a regular basis; they know the country by heart,” he added. But Bourjaily said the town of Bhamdoun had not seen any additional tourist activity over the past few days.

Mona Fares, head of the tourism development department at the ministry, said during a ceremony at the airport that a ministry-sponsored travel and shopping discounts campaign had helped shore up the sector.

Asked whether GCC countries would ease implementation of travel warnings issued last summer, Fares said Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had expressed readiness to allow their nationals to visit Lebanon.

Lebanon launched a broad media campaign to promote the country as a tourist destination as Prime Minister Najib Mikati held talks with GCC leaders to persuade them to drop their travel warnings.

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OIC event To Advance War on Intolerance

Jeddah, (OIC News) 20/02/2013, A Spokesman of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation today announced plan to convene the next event of the Istanbul Process geared towards combating discrimination & intolerance on religious grounds. Recalling that the Istanbul Process was jointly launched by Profess Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General, OIC and former US Secretary of State Mrs. Hillary Clinton for consensual implementation of the approach to combating discrimination and intolerance signified by the OIC sponsored UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18. The Process was furthered by subsequent events held in Washington in 2011 and Wilton Park, London in 2012. The Spokesman added that the event was likely to be held on the sidelines of the 23rd Session of UN Human Rights Council in June this year, with the exact dates to be announced in due course.

In response to a question drawing attention to some recent blogs alleging that OIC was seeking new international law to curb freedom of expression, the Spokesman rejected the contention of bloggers as “misquoted, out of context and motivated”. He reiterated the position that existing international law sufficed in terms of addressing the OIC’s concerns as indicated in the report of the Panel of Eminent Persons presented to the 12th Summit in Cairo. He further remarked that the June event could, inter alia, be expected to focus on criminalization of incitement to imminent violence – being one of the eight points at the heart of the resolution 16/18. He, however, emphasized that this should not be misinterpreted to create the impression that OIC was seeking new international law to curb or criminalize freedom of expression.

The Spokesman drew attention to the fact that the Istanbul Process was gathering increasing support and acceptance as the way forward towards concerted action by international community on combating discrimination and intolerance. He reiterated that OIC being the political voice of the Muslim World believed in consensus and not confrontation while according primacy to multilaterism in seeking solutions to issues in contemporary international relations.

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Muslim leaders laud the OIC Educational Exchange Programme

Jeddah, (OIC News) 20/02/2013 – The ‘OIC Educational Exchange Programme: Solidarity through Academia in the Muslim World’ is drawing increasing interest and participation from Member States and their public and private sector universities. A significant number of students from the OIC Member States are currently benefiting from the higher education scholarships offered under the Programme by high-ranking universities in various Member States and many more offers are in the pipeline.

Leaders of the OIC Member States who had gathered in Cairo for the 12th Islamic Summit Conference from 2 to 7 February 2013 expressed their appreciation for the Educational Exchange Programme launched by the OIC General Secretariat. The Final Communiqué of the Summit called upon all Member States to actively support and participate in the Programme.

“The OIC Educational Exchange Programme is based on the recognition of the central role of knowledge, higher education, research and science and technology in the advancement of the Muslim world,” said OIC Assistant Secretary General for Science and Technology, Ambassador Abdul Moiz Bokhari. “Accordingly, the OIC Secretary General Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu has particularly focused on the promotion of cooperation between the OIC countries in these fields.”

The Programme, which aims at developing greater cooperation and linkages in academia deals with the post-graduate, masters, doctoral, research levels and includes exchange of students, faculty members and researchers for short durations between interested institutions of higher education in the Member States. Various elements of the Programme include scholarships, faculty exchange, distance learning, research projects, and specialized courses meeting the specific requirements of Member States.

Amb. Bokhari pointed out that 18 universities from the OIC Member States are now included in the top 500 World University Rankings Supplement of the QS for 2012. These universities can pair up with other universities in the OIC Member States for exchange of experience and expertise.

Further details about the Educational Exchange Programme and currently available higher education scholarships as well as opportunities for faculty exchange are available at the OIC www.oic-oci.org.

“Member States should encourage their relevant institutions and media to widely publicize the opportunities available under the Programme for the benefit of their students, teaching staff and researchers,” stressed Amb. Bokhari. In addition to enriching the educational experience of the students as well as faculty and encouraging exchange of knowledge and ideas among them, Amb. Bokhari said that the Programme could play a positive role towards promoting solidarity and fostering understanding and tolerance among the Member States.

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Call For Expansion Of Iran-Italy Tourism Ties

ORUMIEH, W AZARBAIJAN PROVINCE, Iran, Feb 20 (NNN-IRNA) – Italian Member of World Tourism Federation and Economic Tourism Professor, Marcello Netariani, said on Wednesday that Italian federation is willing to cooperate with Iran on tourism.

Netariani said at the closing session of the 6th Tour Guide Session in Orumieh that Iran has abundant capacities in tourism.

He said that Iran has built up modern infrastructure for the purpose.

He said sharing experience between Iran and Italy can help develop their tourism industry.

Such meetings and festivals on tourism would serve to introduce tourism potentials and capacities on national and regional levels, ensuring sustainable development, and creating jobs and revenues, he added.

He said that he was pleased with his presence in Iran and west Azarbaijan province and that he was satisfied with meetings and talks with Iranian officials during his stay in Orumieh.– NNN-IRNA

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Eye Of The Emirates Received 115,000 Visitors

SHARJAH, 18 Feb (NNN-WAM) – More than 100,000 people visited the Etisalat-Eye of the Emirates, one of the most prominent landmarks in Sharjah and the highest Ferris wheel in the region, in 2012, according to Sultan Mohammed Shattaf, Manager of Al Qasba.

Last year saw a turnout of 115,000 visitors, compared to 100,887 visitors in 2011, Shattaf said.

Since being launched in 2005, the Etisalat-Eye of the Emirates has become an increasingly popular choice and a favourite destination for a lot of visitors and tourists, and now stands as one of the major attractions in Al Qasba – home to various local and international events and activities throughout the year.

The 60-metre-high wheel gives visitors a chance to view Sharjah, as well as parts of Dubai, from its 42 air-conditioned cabins.

“Last year we focused on organising a diverse range of carefully studied events, in order to offer our visitors the maximum enjoyment during their visits to Al Qasba. Not only can they experience unparalleled aerial views of Sharjah from the comfort of the Etisalat-Eye of the Emirates, but they can also visit the kids play areas, which have proven highly popular amongst families, as well as Al Qasba’s many other world-class facilities, such as restaurants, cafes, Maraya Art centre, and Masrah Al Qasba,” Sultan Shattaf said.

Al Qasba, Sharjah’s premier tourist, leisure, and cultural destination, was recently ranked 8th amongst the top 10 most authentic Arab brands. Spreading over 10,000 hectares, Al Qasba boasts a range of state-of-the-art facilities and tourism attractions, including the 300-capacity Al Qasba Theatre, which hosts Arabic and international films and plays, the Kids Fun Zone, a musical fountain, the Etisalat-Eye of the Emirates Ferris wheel, and the Maraya Art Centre, among many other attractions.– NNN-WAM

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Muscat International Book Fair From Feb 26 To March 8

MUSCAT, Feb 20 (NNN-ONA) – The 18th Muscat International Book Fair will be held at Oman International Exhibition Centre, under the patronage of Darwish bin Ismaiel al-Balushi, Minister Responsible for Financial Affairs, from Feb 26 to Mar 8.

Dr. Abdel Muneim bin Mansoor al-Hasani, Minister of Information and Chairman of the Fair’s Committee unveiled at a press conference held today at The Ministry of Heritage and Culture, details of the Fair, adding that more than 500 publishers from 26 Arab and foreign countries will participate in the Fair.

He also said that the number of official participation is 57, compared to 55 in the previous edition of the Fair, and the number of foreign publishers is 26, compared to 24, adding that the total number of titles listed on the website is 140,000 and these titles will be available on the website of the Fair starting from today.

The Minister said that the current edition of the Fair will provide new services like the online registration, as well as expansion of the mobile index by the iPad, the increase of the number of information centres in the Fair’s halls and an addition of 30 stalls to the already existing 800 stalls, in addition to providing the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) of the books.

The Fair will be open to the public daily from 10 am to 10 pm, except on Friday when the Fair will be open from 4 pm to 10 pm.

The Fair will be open only to students on Wednesday Feb 27th, Sunday and Tuesday Mar 3 and 5, from 3 pm to 10 pm.

The Fair will be open only to women and female students on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday Mar 2, 4 and 6 from 10 am to 3 pm.

He added that cultural programme of the Fair includes cultural, intellectual, literary and art activities, organised in coordination with the Fair’s Committee, the Sultan Qaboos University, the Literary Club, Literary Forum, the Omani Society for Authors and Writers, the Omani Society for Bookshops, and Beit al-Ghasham for Publication and Translation.– NNN-ONA

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Muscat Festival Of Omani Culture

MUSCAT, Oman Feb 14 (NNN-ALARAB) – The month long festival, featuring a celebration of Oman’s traditional arts, culture and heritage has always served as a grand cultural and touristic showpiece of Oman.

The capital city, with its lovely, cool and salubrious weather, is all set to wear a new look during the month-long festival, which is also the biggest cultural event in the Gulf with tourists from the region, as well as from different parts of the world planning their trips to coincide with it.

Apart from displaying the rich Omani culture and heritage, Sultan bin Hamdoon Al Harthi, chairman of Muscat Municipality, said, “This edition of Muscat Festival is focused on education, fun, and entertainment for youth. Showcasing both Omani and international culture and heritage, the festival will also witness some of the greatest cyclists from the Tour de France competing in the fourth edition of the gruelling six-day Tour of Oman race.”

Other highlights include a feast for the taste buds at the Oman Food Festival alongside the Festival of Lights, Architects of Air, Muscat Art Festival, Arabic concerts, plays and several entertainment activities that will appeal to the whole family.

In addition to the Al Naseem Gardens, among the new venues are Al Amerat Park and Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex. While the Tour of Oman will be held in different locations across the country. The Muscat Art Festival will be held at various venues, many of which are located in the capital.

Saif Al Rashidi, director-general of information and external relations for Muscat Municipality, noted, “Efforts have been made to include many new ideas.”

Events at Al Amerat Park will be held between Jan 30 and Feb 28. Although the park’s opening hours are from 4:00 pm to 11:00 pm on weekdays, it will remain open until midnight on weekends.

The Oman Heritage and Culture Village will be set up at the Al Amerat Park this year. Entertainment shows, pyrotechnics, fireworks, laser shows, carnivals, and an international circus will be part of the daily shows.

While the International Festival for Arts, Heritage, and Creativity will be held from Feb 1 – 23, the Muscat International Folklore Festival will be held from Feb 19 – 28. Entry to the park is free.

With an entrance fee of 200 baiza for adults and 100 baiza for children over the age of 12 years, the events at Al Naseem Gardens will be held between Jan 30 and Feb 28. The venue’s opening hours are the same as those of Al Amerat Park. The major highlight of the venue is the International Shopping Fair, which has attracted participants from numerous countries.

The Muscat International Folklore Festival will be held from Feb 19 – 28 between 6:30 pm and 9:30 pm.

Exhibitions, lectures, debates, workshops, and lots more will be presented between Feb 2 and 28.

Arabic calligraphy, Islamic art, architecture, photography, lectures, works by Salvador Dali, glassworks, workshops, art books, and the Ibex project will all be found at the Muscat Art Festival.-

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Morocco Receives US$140m Loan To Improve Solid Waste Services

WASHINGTON, Feb 19 (NNN-MAP) — The World Bank (WB) Board of Directors has approved a 130 million USD loan for Morocco to support the reform of the country’s solid waste sector, according to a Bank press statement here.

The Third Municipal Solid Waste Sector Development Policy Loan will also improve accountability through regular monitoring and ensure that waste management is environmentally safe, the statement added.

Under the project, for the first time in Morocco, citizen report cards will be introduced allowing people to provide direct feedback on quality and coverage of solid waste services in their cities. The programme will also increase transparency by giving citizens access to policy information and disclosure of contracts with private companies.

“Morocco is engaging in a promising and ambitious agenda to bring about practices aimed at preserving the environment and promoting sustainable development,” said Simon Gray, World Bank Director for the Maghreb Department.

He added: “The World Bank is mobilizing its expertise and financial support to help Morocco manage this important municipal challenge and ensure that citizens can speak up and provide their feedback on policy and quality of services provided.”

The programme, the third of its kind since 2009, will contribute to the sustainable transformation of solid waste sector by providing reliable services in a transparent way, said Jaafar Sadok Friaa, World Bank Lead Urban Specialist and the project’s team leader. “This timely support will help create up to 70,000 jobs over the next decade, particularly through the development of waste recycling activities,” he added.

The first and second programmes helped put in place the basic legal framework governing the sector, supported public-private partnerships, and improved the effectiveness of the Environmental Impact Assessment system.

They also contributed to an increased rate of professional solid waste collection, up from 44 per cent in 2008 to 76 per cent currently, and helped bring landfill control up to standard while rehabilitating open dumpsites, the press statement said.

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Bangladesh PM Inaugurates Tourist Spot Atop Keokaradang

BANDARBAN, Feb 23, 2013 (BSS)- First tourist spot of the country on the highest altitude has been inaugurated here today adding a new vista in the panoramic beauty of Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the tourist spot on the country’s highest mountain Keokaradang located at the altitude of 3172 ft in Ruma upazila here on Bangladesh and Myanmar border.

Eighteenth Engineering Battalion of Bangladesh Army constructed the tourism facilities under the supervision of 24 Infantry Division.

On the occasion, the Prime Minister unveiled a memorial plaque designed by artiste M Yakub Ali.

Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni, Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Faruk Khan, Minister for Primary and Mass Education Dr Afsarul Amin, State Minister for Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs Dipankar Talukder were present.

PM’s Advisor Major General (retd) Tareq Siddiqui, PM’s Principal Secretary Sheikh M Wahid Uz Zamman and Press Secretary Abul Kalam Azad were also present.

Earlier, the Prime Minister visited Sajek camp of Bangladesh Army in Rangamati. On her arrival at the camp, Army Chief General Iqbal Karim Bhuiyan and GOC of Chittagong Major General Sabbir Ahmed received the Prime Minister.

At Sajek, the Prime Minister visited Ruilui para and house of a local headman near Sajek Camp. She also enjoyed a cultural programme performed by tribal artistes.

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Political Disturbances A Key Roadblock To Bangladesh Tourism: Envoy

DHAKA, Feb 23, 2013 (BSS) – Political confrontation on the streets is the key obstacle to flourish the country’s tourism and hospitality industry as political violation tarnishes country’s image abroad, a foreign diplomat said here today.

“I don’t think on arrival visa is the main barrier to country’s growing tourism industry. Political violation on the streets is key roadblock to flourish the tourism industry of Bangladesh,” Svend Olling, Danish ambassador to Bangladesh, told a roundtable.

Speaking at the roundtable on ‘How to Turn Bangladesh into a Grand-tourism Country’, the ambassador said, “If you ask any foreign tourist, they will tell you better not to go to the country as it looks dangerous.”

Bangladesh Tourism Consultant Society (BTCS) arranged the roundtable in the conference room of Engineers Institution, Bangladesh (IEB).

President of Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) Kazi Akramuddin Ahmed spoke on the occasion as the chief guest while the Danish ambassador and Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Bangladesh Sarath K Weragoda addressed as special guests.

Among others, Sector Commander Lt Col (retd) Abu Osman Chowdhury and Professor of Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management Rashidul Hassan addressed the function.

Kazi Akramuddin said FBCCI will request the finance minister for increased allocation in the upcoming budget for the tourism sector.

Olling said safety of travelers is the important thing in the tourism industry no matter from where travelers come. And security of tourists is equally important, he said.

Disagreeing with some discussants, the envoy said on arrival visa is the major barrier to the growth of the potential industry rather there are many problems particularly shortage of food items is a vital one.

“Tourism sector would not be flourished unless all the roadblocks are addressed,” he said and recommended that the government take steps to introduce direct flight to Cox’s Bazar from Bangkok and India.

Sarath K Weragoda said tourism is a business. “You can earn huge foreign exchange from that business without investment,” he said.

Referring to the target set by Sri Lanka to welcome 2.5 million tourists by 2015, he said Bangladesh could also have such target to give the industry a fillip.

“Bangladesh and Sri Lanka could be the tourism hub in the world. We should work together to that end,” said the HC.

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India Muslim Conf Highlights Dialogue To Promote Global Peace

New Delhi, Thursday, 10 Rabi Al-Thani 1434/21 February 2013 (IINA) – A two-day International Conference on “India and the Muslim World in the 21st Century,” which concluded in New Delhi recently, has emphasized that resolution of religious and cultural conflicts through dialogue is the ideal way for promoting global peace.

The conference appreciated all efforts in this direction, especially the establishment of the International Centre for Dialogue in Vienna by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah. The New-Delhi based Institute of Objective Studies (IOS) organized the conference in cooperation with the government of Saudi Arabia. The conference adopted a 12-point resolution, which authorized IOS to constitute a committee to work on finding ways and means to foster meaningful cooperation and linkages of India with the Muslim world, according to a report carried by TwoCircles.net.

The resolution said that the government of India may be urged to do the needful in providing essential conditions for proper and genuine development and security to Muslims. The Sachar Committee recommendations must be implemented in letter and spirit as Muslims are an integral part of India as a nation and civilization. The resolution also stressed the need for enhancing cooperation between India, which hosts the third largest Muslim population in the world, and the Muslim world in the fields of culture and sports, education and research, financial sector in accordance with Islamic values, especially the Islamic banking and water resources. The conference also called for India and the Muslim world to work for creating peace and prosperity, and adopt the dialogue process as a methodology by governments and NGOs tackling issues.

The conference discussed various issues, including Islam’s role and relevance in India, economic and financial relations, Islamic banking and finance, scope for educational cooperation, and international and diplomatic relations. The need for Saudi Arabia to invest in India’s education, healthcare, low-cost housing, public transport social and infrastructure sectors was also another area of focus at the conference.

Several dignitaries from India as well as from outside the country, especially those from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, USA, Malaysia, and Indonesia attended the conference. Apart from the inaugural and valedictory functions, the conference had five business sessions on “Islam in India: Historical Context and Cultural Heritage”; “Economic and Financial Relations”; “Islamic Banking and Finance: Global Trends and India”; “Prospects for Educational Cooperation”; “Foreign Policy and Diplomatic Issues” & “India and Saudi Arabia: World Peace through Dialogue”.

India’s Minister for Minority Affairs K. Rahman Khan opened the conference. India’s Water Resources Minister Harish Chandra Singh Rawat was a guest speaker at the event. Abdul Rahman Ghannam M. AlGhannam, Undersecretary at the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, was the guest of honor at the inaugural session. In his speech, he applauded the role of India in fostering excellent relations with Arab world in general and Saudi Arabia in particular. In his presidential speech, IOS chairman Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam said that India as a country cannot grow if Muslims and other marginalized populations are left behind. He said the benefits of education, health, employment and enterprise were yet to reach around 100 million Muslims, who should also be seen as part of India’s growth story.

Later, chairing a business session on “Islamic Banking and Finance: Global Trends and India” & “Economic and Financial Relations,” Rahman Khan revealed that the Reserve Bank of India has taken a positive approach to the suggestion of an alternative banking system for Muslims, subject to certain laws being amended first. Khan informed that he had written a letter to the RBI Governor, invoking Art. 25 of the Constitution of India, saying that it was the duty of the State to facilitate every citizen to practice and follow his/her religion. He had stated in the letter that Muslims have not been given any option except interest-based banking which amounted to obstruction in practice of their religion as Islam forbids “Ribah” (interest). As such at present, about 60-70 per cent of the 200 million Muslims in India are excluded from the conventional banking system because of lack of Shariah-compliant financial instruments, he added. The RBI Governor wrote back to him accepting his view, but pointed out to the need for certain amendments to the laws concerned, he stated.

Khan said Islamic banking had been adopted by 75 countries, including the UK, and added that India could no longer afford to stay away from the $1.5-trillion Islamic financial market, which could even help address the country’s huge fiscal deficit. He, however, lamented that no concrete efforts have been made by the Muslim community in this regard. He said by just raising a demand would not help at all. He advised setting up an expert committee to draw up a framework of an alternative banking system, along with a strong legal system to back it.

In the business session entitled “India and Saudi Arabia: World Peace through Dialogue” Prof. M.M. Verma, president of Interfaith Foundation of India, said, in his paper, that both India and Saudi Arabia believe in world peace, harmony and brotherhood. They share a common vision of a united and interdependent world. Both the countries believe in peaceful coexistence and resolution of the various conflicts through mutual dialogue. He said Saudi Arabia emphasizes on the importance of dialogue in Islam, and the revealed messages for the good of mankind, human dignity and universal ethical values.

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Emirates To Launch Flights To Second Philippines Destination

DUBAI, U.A.E., 18th February 2013: Emirates airlines announced on Monday that from 1st October 2013 it will begin daily, non-stop flights to Clark International Airport, the airline’s second destination in the Philippines. Emirates has been operating flights to Manila, the capital of the Philippines, since 1990 and, due to the demand, has continued to increase its flight frequency on the route to its current triple daily, non-stop service.

Clark International Airport is located in the province of Pampanga in Central Luzon, which is 80 kilometres to the north of Manila. Its strategic location means it has a catchment area of 17 million people.

“There has always been a growing demand for Emirates’ services since we connected Manila with Dubai and our constantly expanding network on six continents. The launch of flights between Clark International Airport and Dubai will offer our passengers the flexibility of choosing from two destinations in the Philippines,” said Tim Clark, President Emirates Airline.

“I would like to extend Emirates’ thanks to the Government of the Philippines and the Civil Aviation and Clark Authority that have made the start of this service possible, we look forward to building on our relationship with the country and the enhancement of key tourism and trade links between the Philippines and the UAE, and beyond to our global network,” continued Mr Clark.

Operated by a two-class Boeing 777-300ER, EK338 will depart Dubai at 0400hrs and arrive at Clark International Airport at 1640hrs. The return flight, EK339 will depart at 1835hrs and arrive at Dubai International Airport at 2305hrs.

With the new daily flight to Clark International Airport, Emirates SkyCargo will be able to provide more than 160 tonnes of additional cargo hold capacity each way per week, further supporting Philippines exports of perishables, such as dairy products, fruit and vegetables, meat, seafood and electrical and electronic equipment, and its imports of textiles, apparel, plants, flowers and chemical products.

A government study estimated that there are 10 million Filipinos living outside the Philippines – about 10% of the country’s home population. The largest number of overseas Filipinos reside mainly in the United States. The region with the largest temporary overseas Filipino population is the Middle East with approximately 2.9 million Filipinos, with 680,000 living in the UAE.

Central Luzon is one of the leading growth regions in the Philippines and is host to the country’s premier economic zones – the Clark Freeport Zone and the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

The region is known for its rich coastline and for the emerging tourist attraction of Mount Pinatubo, an active stratovolcano that following a hike to its crater offers breath-taking views of the surrounding area.

Emirates Holidays, the airline’s tour operating arm, offers holidays to the Philippines, with packages that highlight attractions in the Capital city Manila; Cebu, the bustling capital of the eponymous island province along with Palawan, Boracay, Marinduque and Lagen Islands.

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Qatar Tourism announces Doha jewellery expo

Gulf Today – 22 February, 2013 – Qatar Tourism Authority announced the tenth anniversary of Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition, in a press conference held at the Doha Exhibition Centre (QTA premises).

The tenth Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition will cover nearly 15,000 square meters and is expecting to welcome up to 50,000 visitors, as 26 exhibitors with more than 500 jewelry and watch brands have already signed up for the high-profile event running from February 25 and March 3rd.

This reflects an impressive increase of 15% more than last year’s participation, when the exhibition attracted more than 30,000 visitors including those from neighbouring countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and the UAE.

This year and in addition to the regular local and regional exhibitors, some of the world’s most famous international brands joined like Christie’s from London and Matis Jewelry, who are aiming to establish a foothold in the jewelry industry in Qatar.

Speaking at a press conference in the Doha Exhibition Centre, Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) chairman Issa Al-Mohannadi said the high profile of exhibitors continued to attract interested and enthusiastic customers from around the region and the world, which has helped made the show one of the most successful in the Gulf and the industry.

“QTA is committed to promoting Qatar as a first-rate destination for business, industry conferences, cultural events, education, sports and leisure, providing world-class amenities and tourism services. This achievement reflects QTA’s mission and ability to hold successful large scale international and regional events in Qatar, whilst underlining QTA’s strategy to support a thriving industry with a global reach,” he said.

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1.4 million turnout at Arab Tourism Festival in Oman

Oman Daily Observer – 18 February, 2013 – Tourism Minister Ahmed bin Nasser al Mahrazi said 1.4 million people visited venues of activities marking “Muscat, the Arab Tourism Capital 2012”. The programme of celebrations started at a “below average” rate in the beginning of 2012, but gradually the activities continued to take shape and intensity that appealed to various segments of society.

The minister spoke about the Sultanate’s tourism strategy which, he said, will be completed by 2014. Earlier strategies were revised in co-operation with society institutions. The new strategy will be drafted in co-operation with an international house of expertise and in accordance with the tourism in the Sultanate.

Other officials criticised the Ministry of Tourism accusing it of weak exploitation of the programme “Muscat, Capital of Arab Tourism 2012”. They referred generally to a shortage in facilities which, they said, are abundant in some locations, but lacking in others.

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Tehran-Islamabad non-oil trade hits $718m in 10 months

Tehran Times – 18 February, 2013 – The value of non-oil trade between Iran and Pakistan hit $ 718 million in the first 10 months of the current Iranian calendar year (March 20, 2012-Janauary 19, 2013), ISNA reported. The amount showed 11.6 percent rise compared to the same period in the previous year. Iran’s and Pakistan’s shares of the bilateral trade were $ 533 million and $ 165 million, respectively.

According to Pakistani Senior Minister for Commerce, Makhdoom Amin Fahimtrade, trade between Iran and Pakistan peaked to $ 1.32 billion in 2008-2009 but subsequently declined to $ 1.16 billion in 2009-2010 and further to $ 734.94 million 2010-11.

Pakistan major items of exports of Iran include rice ($ 75.11 million), meat and meat preparations ($ 11.80 million), agricultural products ($ 6.96 million excluding rice and fruits, non value added textiles ($ 1.80 million).

Major items of import included petroleum products; however Pakistan’s imports from Iran have decreased from $ 653.06 million in 2009 to $ 36.61 million in 2011. Other products include organic chemical $ 75.60 million, plastics ($ 65.37 million), iron ores and concentrates ($ 38.17 million), and steel ($ 32.29 million).

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Saudi hospitality sector seen to reach $18.1 billion by 2016

Saudi Gazette – 19 February, 2013 – A rise in the number of pilgrims visiting the Kingdom for Haj and Umrah, are boosting domestic tourism growth, with Saudi residents making 22.5 million overnight trips per annum.

Tourism receipts for Hajj and Umrah currently account for around 3 percent of GDP and, according to tourism officials, the country gained a reported $ 16.5 billion from tourism in 2012, representing a 10 percent increase on the previous year.

The largest hospitality market in the GCC, Saudi Arabia also accounts for the bulk of international tourist arrivals, at 46 percent, Alpen Capital said in its GCC Hospitality Industry Report last October, representing a 50 percent year-on-year increase against 2011 figures

“The Kingdom is investing heavily in it’s infrastructure as expansion plans for the new $ 7 billion Jeddah airport project move ahead, with the airport projecting annual passenger volume of up to 80 million passengers within the next two decades,” said Mark Walsh, Portfolio Director, Reed Travel Exhibitions, organizer of Arabian Travel Market.

The Red Sea port of Jeddah is the gateway to Makkah and Medinah, a favored destination for domestic tourism in the summer, as well as a commercial trading hub for the west coast of Saudi Arabia.

In addition, Riyadh the capital city and seat of the government, is also experiencing increased demand from business travelers. Saudi government investment into key infrastructure projects including airport expansion, railways and roads, is pegged at around $ 80 billion between now and 2022, with investment into major tourism initiatives forecast to grow at a CAGR of 6.9 percent.

According to the Alpen report, tourist arrivals are expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.0 percent between 2012 and 2022, driven by strong growth across all sectors, with occupancies set to jump from 67.5 percent in 2011 to 74.2 percent by 2016 and a $ 30 increases in ADR to $ 258.4.

“In tandem demand for hotel rooms means that aggressive development and expansion plans for a number of major international hotel groups is also on the short-term agenda. InterContinental Hotels Group has said that Saudi Arabia is one of the markets representing the most opportunity for its Middle East business to grow in 2013, with two new properties set to open in Riyadh this year, and a total of eight hotels by 2018,” said Walsh.

Hotel room supply in the Kingdom is expected to increase at a CAGR of 1.5 percent between 2011 and 2016, increasing from 243,117 rooms in 2011 to 262,049 in 2016, with 69 properties currently in the planning or construction phase.

“The tourism sector is now the country’s second largest industry, with around 8 percent of total jobs, and industry growth presents a huge opportunity for job creation in the local market, with Takamul (an SCTA affiliate) organizing a number of job fairs around the country and working hand in hand with tourism companies to attract young Saudis looking to embark on a career in hospitality,” added Walsh.

Held under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai and set to celebrate its 20th anniversary, the show has grown to become the largest showcase of its kind in the region and one of the biggest in the world.

New to the 2013 event, ATM is launching the Digital and Technology Day focusing on online travel developments and showcasing headline speakers from across the industry. Taking place again this year is the New Frontiers Award, which was created to recognize outstanding contributions to tourism development in the face of overwhelming adversity.

Industry Careers Day will wrap up the week providing the opportunity for visitors looking to make a career move to meet with the exhibitors’ HR contacts looking for their next recruit.

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UAE funds $2.5 billion for Bahrain development

Gulf Daily News – 19 February, 2013 – The UAE has granted Bahrain $ 2.5 billion to help fund development projects. The money – to be disbursed over 10 years on an annual basis of $ 250 million – will pay for projects in housing, electricity, water, infrastructure and social services.

A memorandum of understanding in this regard was signed yesterday by Finance Minister Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa and acting director of the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development Mohammed Al Suwaidi.

The projects will be identified by the government in co-ordination with the Abu Dhabi fund.

The minister expressed gratitude to the UAE for supporting Bahrain’s development process and commended the programme as clear evidence of the economic progress made by the GCC and the strong bonds between its member states.

Mr Al Suwaidi said the grant would finance vital projects in the kingdom which enters a new phase of development as a vibrant centre for business, tourism and services. The grant is part of the GCC Marshall Plan, through which Bahrain will receive $ 10bn in aid from four countries over the next 10 years.

Meanwhile, Shaikh Ahmed said the Finance Ministry was also communicating with the Foreign Ministry over the final grant of $ 2.5bn from Qatar.

“We have finished signing three agreements with Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and UAE, and we are in direct contact with the foreign ministry to make arrangements regarding the fourth instalment with Qatar,” he said.

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Islamic funds’ growth focus of Bahrain conference

Gulf Daily News – 19 February, 2013 – The Islamic funds industry is now building a positive momentum as it shakes off a period of stagnation.

The challenge of further growing Islamic assets, which stands only at 0.5 per cent against that of conventional assets, will be discussed at the 9th Annual World Islamic Funds & Financial Markets Conference (WIFFMC 2013), to be held on May 27 and 28 at the Gulf Hotel.

Organised in strategic partnership with the Central Bank of Bahrain, WIFFMC has over the past nine years firmly established itself as the world’s largest gathering of Islamic investment leaders.

Leading players are implementing practical strategies to capture new growth horizons and tap into the highly positive global fundamentals which promise significant potential for Islamic investments.

More than 400 leaders in the global Islamic investments industry will attend the event to chart new growth horizons and forge winning business models fully in tune with the new economic realities of the Sharia-compliant investments market.

WIFFMC 2013 has a completely new, updated and interactive agenda, which encourages debate and active audience participation to facilitate rich substantive discussions on the issues that really matter.

The broader Islamic capital markets are undergoing a significant resurgence as the sukuk market receives a boost from exciting new cross-border issuances that indicate that confidence and demand are fast returning to the record levels of 2007, further supported by increasing interest from an expanding array of major corporate issuers.

In addition, recent advances in areas such as liquidity management, emergence of new international jurisdictions to the Islamic debt space, and innovations creating the next generation of Islamic financial products, will provide the framework for the industry to make the leap to a truly global level and further expand the footprint for Islamic funds and investments.

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China said to approve joining Iran high-speed rail project

Tehran Times – 19 February, 2013 – China’s State Copuncil approved plans to take part in the building of a high-speed railway line in Iran, two people familiar with the matter said.

The project will cost at least $1 billion and the companies participating haven’t yet been set, said the two people, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

China’s decision comes as the U.S., the European Union and their allies have tightened sanctions on Iran. China and Iran have maintained “normal business cooperation,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a briefing in Beijing today. China is the biggest buyer of Iranian crude oil.

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RAK Airways in expansion mode

Saudi Gazette – 20 February, 2013 – RAK Airways is the youngest flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates with a route network of 10 destinations and, although new on the GCC airline scene, it has the energy and facilities to become a very serious competitor. Last year (2012) was very successful year for RAK Airways with passenger numbers topping 300,000 across the airline’s network.

Salem Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Vice Chairman of RAK Airways, is very aware of his emirate’s history. “Go back in history and it’s clear that we are a trading hub, traditionally based around pearls, fishing and spices. We have always been involved in trade and our roots stretch back some 7000 years.”

It was no surprise, he thought, that the government of the emirate established an airport in 1976 that it was big enough to cope with aircraft and passenger numbers many could not have conceived of. “The government’s thinking was that without an adequate airport, we could neither promote the business aspect, the area or tourism,” observed Al Qasimi.

With its developed seaport facilities and its status as the world’s biggest producer of ceramic ware, business is very much in the thinking of the airline.

The government capitalized on the location of the emirate and its strengths – location and trading history – and the legacy of that foresight remains today in the airport infrastructure, for example. The Airbus A380 (the world’s largest airliner) landed and was tested there and the airport has the space for facilities and infrastructure needed to develop the fledgling airline.

Murabit Al Sawaf, president of RAK Airways and board member, said the airline was developing rapidly as were many in the Middle East. Despite the rapidity of growth, it was however in in clearly defined and planned phases.

“Growth of airlines in the Middle East has been tremendous – last year specifically it was 15 to 20 percent. Our growth is even more. Our expectations for the coming five years have been met after only three years,” he said.

“We currently don’t fly into Europe, but in the coming years and (in) the second phase of the expansion plan, we will be looking at destinations in Europe and Russia and so on.”

Al Qasimi augmented the observation, adding that RAK Airways was seeking to handle both tourism and business, but in their own niche-market style and, alongside scheduled flights, is developing charter flights from Europe and private business travelers.

This year expansion plans include a new route to Dammam, which will launch in April 2013, and adding a fourth by November 2013 and two more routes. The winter schedule for 2013 is on target to double the number of flights.

“For the expansion of the airline, RAK will be sticking with the Airbus 320 as it brings its fleet up to 10 units in the next few years,” said Al Qasimi. Already, a code-sharing agreement with Etihad has increased RAK Airways reach and an air-cab service every day connecting with Abu Dhabi makes them the only UAE airline to fly within the Emirates.

A railway connection with Dubai is coming soon and this year a new road RAK ring road, a highway crossing the emirate of RAK, will connect Oman to the UAE highway.

“We are an attractive carrier because we have very fast handling. Currently its 10 meters from the aircraft to the processing and then 10 meters to the car,” he said. Immigration controls have anticipated the development with an e-gate for UAE e-pass, speeding transit through passport control. To facilitate this further, customs, immigration and police are teamed to work together and process visitors rapidly.

“Incorporated into our business model is the will to make the flight experience special from A to Z, from booking and getting a visa through the personal care of every passenger on the flight to the arrival at the RAK formalities,” said Al Qasimi.

In parallel with expanding the fleet and the traffic movements, there are secure plans to expand the ground handling services, ramps, parking, duty free facilities and runways, although Al Qasimi ruled out the A380 as a visitor. “That,” he said, “is a whole different ball game!”

Al Qasimi sees RAK developing as a third hub, alongside Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

“For scheduled operations, we are talking about the region, rather than long haul – Iceland or Australia! Our focus is the region because we see great potential in the here. It is booming, in terms of business and tourism, both international and regional. Already we are seeing a million Saudi visitors in Dubai for the shopping festival – a big number – and we want to be part of it.”

As for tourism, RAK has plenty to offer in the way of environmental, marine, desert and archaeological tourism. Already there is a developed market for adventure tourism with mountain hiking, desert travel and a thriving beach-holiday segment.

The government has been building resorts high in the mountains in a climate that is 14 degrees cooler in the summer than on the coast, a sure-fire attraction. RAK Airways thrums with energy from the young and forward-looking management. There is a determination in the air to develop the emirate, and the airline sees itself as a main driver of that development – but retaining the personal touch as “people who fly real people.”

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nasair launches flight from Riyadh to Taif

Saudi Gazette – 20 February, 2013 – nasair, the Saudi national carrier, celebrated Feb. 18 the launch of its first flight from Riyadh to Taif, and it also celebrated the arrival of its first international flight at Taif International airport coming from Kuwait.

Chief Executive Officer François Bouteiller and senior officials arrived aboard the first flight coming from Riyadh. nasair CEO and the GM of Operation of domestic airports at GACA, the Director General of Taif airport and airport officials all shared cutting the tart prepared specially for this occasion. Afterwards, they received the passengers of the first flight coming back from Kuwait with gifts and flowers and wished them a pleasant stay in Taif. Similarly they bid farewell to those who were leaving on the first flight from Riyadh wishing them a safe and happy flight.

In a press conference at Taif Airport, Bouteiller said: “Taif strategic location with its continuous growth of travel demand encouraged nasair to expand its operation to this important part of the Kingdom. Launching the new destination of Taif – Riyadh and Taif – Kuwait is considered as a historic accomplishment in the successful journey of nasair. Since the inception of nasair 7 years ago, the company has achieved a remarkable growth in an exceptional period of time and in fact we could have never accomplished this triumph without the support of our loyal customers all over the years,” he added.

Bouteiller further said “launching and operating nasair new airlines – between Taif and Riyadh by four weekly flights, and also Taif – Kuwait by three weekly flights – are considered as the most important destinations launched throughout 2013.”

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Oman land transport association launched

Oman Daily Observer – 20 February, 2013 – Oman Land Transport Association, the first of its kind in the Sultanate, was launched at a ceremony held at Al Bustan Palace Hotel here yesterday. The association, announced last year, seeks to regulate land transport in the country. The new association will bring together all those working in land transportation and service providers, said Transport and Communications Minister Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Futaisi, who launched the society. Al Futaisi pointed out that the association will contributes to the Omani economy.

He hoped that all truck drivers and land transport service providers will gather under this association which will act as a communication link between this sector and the government. He pointed out that communication will be maintained directly with the land transport association, which will be provided with support to achieve its goals. He called upon youths to engage in this sector to eliminate illicit trade therein. A documentary on the objectives of the association and the available opportunities in the land transport sector was screened.

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Oman Tourist Arrivals Surge

Oman Daily Observer – 21 February, 2013 – With the onset of winter, the on-going Muscat Festival and the recently concluded Tour of Oman, the Sultanate has been witnessing a steady stream of visitors to its various iconic landmarks and other topographical attractions these days giving a major fillip to the national income.

Several vessels from countries like Germany, Italy and Sweden are calling at the Port Sultan Qaboos (PSQ) ferrying foreigners up and down the wonders of Muscat and elsewhere regularly.

The travel and tourism sector has been a major GDP contributor. The direct contribution of Travel and Tourism to GDP in 2011 was RO 768.9 million (3 per cent of GDP).

This was forecast to rise by 5.7 per cent to RO 812.4 million in 2012. This primarily reflects the economic activity generated by industries such as hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transportation services excluding commuter services.

The direct contribution of Travel and Tourism to GDP is expected to grow by 5.2 per cent per annum to RO1,342.6 million (3.5 per cent of GDP) by 2022.

The total contribution of Travel and Tourism to GDP (including wider effects from investment, the supply chain and induced income impacts) was RO 1,649.8 million in 2011 (6.5 per cent of GDP) and was expected to grow by 5.8 per cent to RO 1,744.9 million (6.6 per cent of GDP) in 2012. It is forecast to rise by 5.3 per cent per annum to RO 2,934.9 million by 2022 (7.5 per cent of GDP).

Nishad, a tour agent in Muscat said there has been a tremendous surge in the number of foreign visitors to Oman compared to similar period last year.

“The tourist inflow to the country is tremendous this year and what makes the total visitors different this time is the fact that they are from various countries ranging from Italy, Germany, France, Greece, and South Africa unlike last time where majority was from Germany”.

There have been remarkable attempts from the public and private sectors in wooing the tourists to the country. Through soft loans, incentives and the lifting of visa and trade restrictions, the government is luring various companies and consortia with interests in leisure travel, to invest in the country.

Older, well-heeled tourists from Europe, Great Britain and North America, in particular eco-tourists and travellers interested in cultural tourism are a prime market for Oman. Such travellers have the time and the money to travel to a long-haul destination.Those who want to bask in the sun and experience the 365 days’ sunshine prefer the country by all means.

Tapping on the booming market for tourism, the construction of new resorts and hotels are well under way, in anticipation of the growth that the government expects during the next decades.

Gerald Carless and his wife, visitors in their late 70’s who were onboard a ship, said they had found their ultimate destination for annual vacation.

“This is our first visit to the Sultanate of Oman and we really like the place. The people are very friendly and the customs and cultures are easily adaptable and the cost of living is not very high compared to many other countries where we visited year after year. You will see us year after year on Muttrah Corniche and at other places such as Nizwa and Sur,” the couple said with a smile.

The ambitious Muscat International and Salalah airports which are scheduled to be complete by 2014 are also expected to play a crucial role in catering to the increasing number of tourists to the country.

Upon completion, the Muscat International Airport will be able to accommodate 12 million annual passengers which can be raised to 24 million passengers annually, followed by 36 million in the final stage, the capacity will reach 48 million passengers a year, according to the airport sources.

Further, to give tourism a fillip, the Ministry of Tourism has set up traditional Omani tents at the Sultan Qaboos Port aiming at offering a first-hand experience of the time-tested Omani culture and traditions to the foreigners who visit the country by sea.

The opening of the cultural tents at the port coincides with the onset of tourism season when cruise vessels call at the Sultan Qaboos Port, which has been declared as the complete tourist port and the work to transform it is afoot.

Khalid al Zadjali, Director of Events, the Ministry of Tourism, said that the tents form part of the Sultanate’s ongoing campaign of tourism promotion and the tents evoked good response from the visitors. “These tents are part of the Sultanate’s efforts to project the country’s traditions and culture to the world. We have several facets of Omani culture on display and have already received encouraging response from the visitors”.

According to the latest statistics, the tourism sector in Oman is poised for further development in the coming years and the public and private sectors are all getting set to welcome the surging number of tourists.

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High-speed Rail Project To Spur Growth Across Malaysia

SINGAPORE, Feb 20 (NNN-Bernama) — The High-Speed Rail Link project between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur will boost growth and development across economic sectors for Malaysia in areas such as property, greater business opportunities, migration and long-term investment.

Sean Tan, General Manager, iProperty.com in Singapore said: “More than a third of Singaporeans surveyed in the recent iProperty Sentiment Report expressed an interest to invest in overseas property, with Malaysia cited as the top destination.

“With the high-speed rail connecting Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, we expect the appetite for property investments in Malaysia to further increase, driven by greater business opportunities, migration and long-term investment prospects.” he told Bernama.

Tan was asked to respond to the announcement Tuesday that both the Prime Ministers of Malaysia and Singapore have agreed to build a High-Speed Rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, which is expected to be completed by 2020.

With the new transport system, it is expected to take only 90 minutes to travel from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur and vice-versa. Meanwhile, National Instruments Managing Director for Asean Chandran Nair said: “The high-speed rail project is seen to boost business in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur across sectors.

“It will also reinforce the two nations’ effort to enable greater productivity and technology collaboration, he said.

NI recently announced the opening of its state-of-the-art research and development facility in Penang. The investment in this facility is around US$80 million. The plan will serve as an integrated global research and development, manufacturing, information technology and operations hub in Asia.

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Morocco, Kuwait sign US$250 mln finance deal

RABAT, Feb 22 (NNN-KUNA) — Morocco and Kuwait have signed a framework agreement worth USD 250 million annually for five years from 2012 to 2016. The agreement, which will be run by Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED), is primarily intended to bankroll development projects in Morocco.

The deal was signed Thursday by KFAED Director-General Abdulwahab Al-Bader and Moroccan Minister of Economy and Finance Nizar Baraka in the presence of several Moroccan ministers and Kuwaiti Ambassador in Rabat Shamlan Al-Rumi.

Commenting on the agreement, the KFAED chief told KUNA that the agreement is part of Kuwaiti’s contribution to a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) plan to the tune of USD 5 billion for supporting economic, social and human development projects in this North African country.

He said Kuwait’s financial aid to Morocco will be mainly used in funding basic investments such as infrastructure, motorways, ports, farming, irrigation and housing.

Hailing Kuwaiti-Moroccan cooperation, Al-Bader boasted that his fund had bankrolled over 37 development projects in Morocco in the vicinity of KD 388 million in line with a bilateral cooperation development agreement.

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Guyana tourism ministry launches its re-discover home mash band

GEORGETOWN, Feb 19 (NNN-GINA) — The Ministry of Tourism Industry and Commerce on Monday launched its Mash band under the theme “Re-discover home, celebrating our diversity” at the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA), at the National Exhibition Centre, Sophia. The band was created by designer Jermaine Broomes.

The ministry displayed some very colorful costumes for this year’s Mashramani Road March competition in the medium float category.

The costumes portray Guyana’s rich culture, flora and fauna and also promote Guyana as a tourism destination encouraging tourists, and the diaspora to return to Guyana and re-discover home.

Minister of Tourism Industry and Commerce Irfaan Ali stated that Guyana’s tourism product is very comprehensive because it is built around culture and ecotourism, and the rich architectural history of the country that is not normally showcased. “We have a very rich and diversified culture, we also have a very strong nature based product and a rich architectural history,” Minister Ali said.

He added that the main float itself encompasses the strength of the tourism based product, historic buildings and other aspects of culture, giving a holistic view of Guyana’s tourism product.

The Ministry has also been working on creating a brand around Mashramani. This year, they have been advertising the celebration in countries such as, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, and Canada, encouraging them to be a part of the celebration, and at the same time learning about other countries’ culture. Minister Ali said that the ministry will continue to use this model to promote other cultural celebrations during the year.

Meanwhile, the ministry’s street party “Masharama” which will be held on Feb 22 on Brickdam will see the blending of local artistes along with a 20- member Brazilian samba band, and a band from Suriname showcasing their talents. “We will have a fusion of our diversified culture, not only in Guyana, but our immediate neighbours, and this will build a strong product that can attract a lot of persons,” the minister said.

He also pointed out that the focus of the celebration is to create awareness while bringing an international flavour to what Guyana has to offer. This year’s Mashramani celebrations, starting Feb 23, will be held under the theme, “Reflecting Creativity, Embracing Diversity”.

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“Eye of the Emirates” attraction passes 115,000 visitors

SHARJAH, 18 Feb (NNN-WAM) – More than 100,000 people visited the Etisalat-Eye of the Emirates, one of the most prominent landmarks in Sharjah and the highest Ferris wheel in the region, in 2012, according to Sultan Mohammed Shattaf, Manager of Al Qasba. Last year saw a turnout of 115,000 visitors, compared to 100,887 visitors in 2011, Shattaf said.

Since being launched in 2005, the Etisalat-Eye of the Emirates has become an increasingly popular choice and a favourite destination for a lot of visitors and tourists, and now stands as one of the major attractions in Al Qasba – home to various local and international events and activities throughout the year.

The 60-metre-high wheel gives visitors a chance to view Sharjah, as well as parts of Dubai, from its 42 air-conditioned cabins. “Last year we focused on organising a diverse range of carefully studied events, in order to offer our visitors the maximum enjoyment during their visits to Al Qasba. Not only can they experience unparalleled aerial views of Sharjah from the comfort of the Etisalat-Eye of the Emirates, but they can also visit the kids play areas, which have proven highly popular amongst families, as well as Al Qasba’s many other world-class facilities, such as restaurants, cafes, Maraya Art centre, and Masrah Al Qasba,” Sultan Shattaf said.

Al Qasba, Sharjah’s premier tourist, leisure, and cultural destination, was recently ranked 8th amongst the top 10 most authentic Arab brands. Spreading over 10,000 hectares, Al Qasba boasts a range of state-of-the-art facilities and tourism attractions, including the 300-capacity Al Qasba Theatre, which hosts Arabic and international films and plays, the Kids Fun Zone, a musical fountain, the Etisalat-Eye of the Emirates Ferris wheel, and the Maraya Art Centre, among many other attractions.

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Call To Expand Iran – Italy Tourism Ties

ORUMIEH, W AZARBAIJAN PROVINCE, Iran, Feb 20 (NNN-IRNA) – Italian Member of World Tourism Federation and Economic Tourism Professor, Marcello Netariani, said on Wednesday that Italian federation is willing to cooperate with Iran on tourism.

Netariani said at the closing session of the 6th Tour Guide Session in Orumieh that Iran has abundant capacities in tourism.

He said that Iran has built up modern infrastructure for the purpose.

He said sharing experience between Iran and Italy can help develop their tourism industry.

Such meetings and festivals on tourism would serve to introduce tourism potentials and capacities on national and regional levels, ensuring sustainable development, and creating jobs and revenues, he added.

He said that he was pleased with his presence in Iran and west Azarbaijan province and that he was satisfied with meetings and talks with Iranian officials during his stay in Orumieh.

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Uganda Explores New Tourism Potentials

(East African Business Week) 18 February 2013 – Kampala — The tourism industry in partnership with the late Sir Samuel Baker, a British explorer who visited Uganda in the late 1870’s have started a campaign to explore for new tourism sites throughout the country.

Under the Great African Expedition, led by Mr. Julian Fisher, the family will also look for new tourism potentials in southern Sudan, Kenya, and Tanzania.

Uganda’s Tourism minister Maria Mutagamba lauded the Sir Samuel Baker family for retracting their father’s original footsteps at Kabwoya as he viewed the geographical location of Lake Albert.

Mutagamba stressed that Kabwoya is now a tourist attraction centre as they look forward to including it on itineraries for tourists coming to Uganda.

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Egypt Plans to Upgrade Tourism Portals

(Egypt State Information Service) 20 February 2013 – Egypt’s Communications and Information Ministry signed on Wednesday a cooperation protocol to develop the technological infrastructure of the Tourism Ministry to promote this vital sector, once a good source of Egypt’s national income. Prime Minister Hisham Qandil attended the signing ceremony.

The protocol aims at increasing the number of tourists to Egypt through developing the portals of the Tourism Ministry, the Tourism Promotion Authority and other tourism-related bodies so that they would be tourist-friendly. The protocol includes setting up websites of some tourist destinations in Egypt, honing human resources in the tourism domain and launching a channel featuring tourism-magnet areas in Egypt.

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Gambia: Bajana Congress Marathon Set for March 30

(The Point) 21 February 2013 – Volunteers of the Gambia Tourism, a charitable organisation, is set to organise a 10km run for male and 5km run for female athletes called the Bajana Congress Marathon set to take place on 30 March 2013 at Bajana Village, Foni Berefet, at 9.00am, according to Mbacke Njie, administrator of The Gambia Volunteer Tourism.

The 10km race will start from Kafuta Primary School while the 5km run will begin from Kafuta Forest and end at the Bajana Nursery School.

Njie said the organisation is formed to help schools and youths by organising fund-raising activities, such as the Bajana Congress Marathon, and providing a platform where some tourists/visitors can offer their services and resources to help the less fortunate.

Njie added that they will be giving out trophies and medals to the first three winners of each set (male and female athletes) and also issuing certificates to all their marathon participants.

“We are currently facilitating the participation of some Gambian Marathon athletes to take part in the Manchester marathon, taking place in the UK in May,” she stated.

Transportation will be available for athletes and supporters from Westfield Junction and Brikama Market at 8.00am and 8.30am respectively, added Njie.

The organisation was formed in 2009 and this event will be the first of its kind it is organising in Foni Berefet, Njie also pointed out, adding that they have so far donated school/study material to Bajana village nursery, Mandinaring Primary School among others.

“We are currently building a nursery school in Brikama Town (Marang Nursery School),” Njie noted, adding that proceeds from the sponsored marathon will be used to complete the Marang Nursery School and also to refurbish and repair the Bajana village nursery.

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Nigeria: Lagos Plans Holiday Market for Badagry

(Vanguard) 22 February 2013 – The Lagos State Government has concluded arrangements to construct a holiday market in Badagry, Mr Ashamu Fadipe, Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Tourism and Intergovernmental Relations, said.

Fadipe, who made the disclosure in Badagry, Lagos State during the week, explained that the holiday market, which would be constructed at the Badagry Marina, would have hotel resorts, and amusement parks, amongst others.

“The Lagos State Government plans to expand the Badagry Marina and the purpose is to build a holiday market where there will be hotel resorts, amusement park and other facilities,” he said. Fadipe also said that the state government had commenced the rehabilitation of historic sites in the town.

He said, “The state government has started the rehabilitation of a museum constructed at the Slave Market and it will be called Badagry Slave Museum.

“Also, the history of slave trade would be highlighted, particularly the one that has to do with the marketing of slaves around the world.

“We would highlight that of Badagry, Republic of Benin, Congo and others, including Brazil, USA, amongst others,” he said.

The permanent secretary said that the rehabilitation of the museum would start very soon. Fadipe revealed that the government would also beautify the slave route to make it more attractive.

“The contractors would start work on the slave route and the purpose of the rehabilitation is to make the route beautiful. Back in the days, the slave route was the path through which slaves were taken to the point of no return and the government is trying to make it more attractive,” he said.

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Young Afghan musicians to perform in Carnegie Hall

12 Feb 2013 (AP) – For these young people from Afghanistan, it’s the perfect trip to America. They get to scarf down New York pizza, go ice skating — and take the stage at Carnegie Hall. The Afghan Youth Orchestra, many of whose members are not far removed from eking out a living on the streets of Kabul, is on the New York leg of a U.S. tour that melds Western classics with traditional Afghan music.

About 50 players held a joint rehearsal Monday with 25 members of the Scarsdale High School orchestra, which meant that young musicians from a war-torn country where music was banned for several years by the Taliban were playing alongside those from one of New York’s toniest suburbs.

“This is all providing a model for the future of Afghanistan,” said William Harvey, the Afghan orchestra’s American conductor and arranger. “The recomposed music, taking the best from both worlds, and the cooperation between the Afghan kids and the Scarsdale kids, shows what has to happen for Afghanistan.”

Among the pieces rehearsed in advance of Tuesday night’s Carnegie program were adaptations of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and Ravel’s “Bolero,” both incorporating Afghan instruments and rhythms.

A handful of people in the Scarsdale auditorium got to hear familiar melodies perked up with such instruments as the sitar, dilruba and ghichak. Some of the Afghan musicians were barefoot. “I love the ‘Bolero,'” said Milad Yousofi, 18, a pianist from Kabul who, like the rest of the orchestra, attends the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, which was founded just three years ago.

Yousofi is hoping the orchestra’s U.S. visit — it played in Washington last week and is headed for Boston — will help him find a way to continue his musical education in America.

“I’m very excited and amazed that we are going to Carnegie Hall,” he said. “New York is my dream city. I want to come here as soon as possible. But then I want to go back to Afghanistan and teach.”

Hojat Hameed, 21, a violinist who also plays electric guitar in a rock band, said he became interested in music when he heard a Celine Dion recording.

“That made me want to become a musician,” he said. “I could feel I wanted to come home to music.”

Some of the Afghans may have been saved from desperate lives by the music school. “One of my violinists used to sell chewing gum on the street,” said Harvey, who spoke to the musicians in English and Dari, one of Afghanistan’s two main languages. “She had to. The Taliban had beaten her father paralyzed and he couldn’t work.” “The return of music to Afghanistan is a victory of the human spirit,” Harvey said.

Ahmad Sarmast, who founded the school, said hearing the orchestra play was “a touching experience.” He said, “The Taliban deprived children of their music. It was like genocide of music. Now this is an incredible way of showing pride in our people, our youth, our school, our country.”

He said the school, which is funded by the World Bank and others, is free and provides enough of a stipend to keep the musicians off the streets. And it accepts boys and girls, another reversal of Taliban orders.

Amedee Williams, who heads the Scarsdale music program, said he heard last year that the Afghan school was trying to raise funds for a tour. He contacted the school and suggested their orchestra members could save on New York hotels by staying with Scarsdale families. That turned out not to be necessary, but it forged a partnership that resulted in the Scarsdale orchestra joining the Afghans at Carnegie Hall.

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Indonesia, Germany cooperate in developing ratan industry

February 20 2013 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The National Rattan Innovation Center of the ministry of industry and Germany’s Innovationszentrun Lichtenfels have agreed to cooperate to develop rattan industry in the country.

“This is part of efforts to create new rattan product designs to make rattan industry to boom again,” deputy industry minister Alex Retraubun said here on Wednesday.

He said the cooperation was also expected to be able to boost development of downstream industries and transfer of knowledge in the field of innovation to make local products more competitive in the global market.

The director general of industrial zones’ development, Dedi Mulyadi, meanwhile said the agreement would be used as the basis for wider cooperation in the development of the two countries’ industries especially in rattan product innovation development.

Dedi said various kinds of cooperation to be carried out included technology development, design and marketing development, education and training, research cooperation, workshops, international seminars, business mediation, research and development and institutional cooperation.

“The government’s policy to stop raw rattan exports since early in 2012 to boost downstream rattan industrial development has given a positive impact to rattan industry development in Indonesia,” he said.

He admitted that at the initial stage the policy had hurt rattan collectors in regions who had lost livelihood because of it but in the long term he said he believed it would boost development of downstream industries.

He said the downstream industries could later create jobs in the regions or villages and therefore their development had been prioritized by the government.

According to data from the Surveyor Report exports of rattan products in January 1 to September 30, 2012 reached more than US$157 million.

Rattan furniture contributed US$118.53 million to the value while rattan weaving products US$39.25 million.

In 2011 total exports of rattan products were recorded at only US$100 million.

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Brunei Handicrafts exhibition to mark National Day

Borneo Bulletin Online – February 22, 2013 – To mark the 29th anniversary of the National Day, the Arts and Handicrafts Training Centre will hold an exhibition and promotion for four days starting on February 28 till March 3, 2013, at the foyer and car park of the Arts and Handicrafts Training Centre in Jln Residency in the capital.

On February 28, the exhibition is from 9am to 5pm, while on March 1, the exhibition is from 9am-11.30am and 2pm-5pm. On March 2 and 3, the exhibition is from 9am-5pm. It aims to give opportunities to the public to witness Brunei traditional handicrafts making, such as weaving, silverware, bronzeware, Malay dagger, crafting as well as Songkok making and weaving. Other side activities will also be carried out during the handicrafts making.

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Australian radio station broadcasts live from Brunei

Borneo Bulletin Online – February 22, 2013 – Brunei’s unique attractions, lifestyle and culture were part of a live radio broadcast from the Sultanate to Australia, with Melbourne radio and television personality Denis Walter transmitting his lunchtime programme from The Empire Hotel & Country Club starting recently.

According to a press statement, Denis, along with fellow presenter David Mann, broadcast Brunei to their listening audience of Radio 3AW – Melbourne’s number one news and talkback station.

The radio personalities are being hosted by Brunei Tourism, Royal Brunei Airlines and The Empire Hotel & Country Club as a marketing opportunity to increase awareness and visitation to Brunei.

Brunei Tourism’s Australian Manager, Ross Tutin, said this was an exciting opportunity for the tourism industry and people of Brunei to share their stories and love for the country.

“From these stories we hope to increase interest of holidaying in Brunei linked with Royal Brunei’s daily services to Brunei and their wider network,” says Tutin.

During the live broadcast on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week, Denis and David interviewed a number of Bruneians and provided interesting stories of their travels in the country.

David Mann will be on location in a number of places throughout Bandar Seri Begawan to capture the special and interesting places that most tourists don’t normally see when visiting Brunei. The show will also be streamed on the radio stations’ web site, along with special web only podcasts and photos of their adventures.

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Uzbekistan Looks To Promote Entrepreneurship

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-02-20 TASHKENT – Uzbekistan plans to hold trade exhibitions nationwide, especially in the countryside, beginning in March as part of an effort to support local entrepreneurs and domestic manufacturers.

The Cabinet of Ministers December 30 passed a resolution allowing such fairs. The resolution was put forth by the Ministry for Foreign Economic Relations, Investments and Trade, the Ministry of Economy and the republic’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The monthly events plan to feature Uzbek consumer goods, with the first fair planned for Tashkent. “It’s quite a good idea and it is well backed up by organisational measures,” independent economist Yelena Gadzhiyeva told Central Asia Online. Against a background of slowing economic growth, the idea of holding trade fairs is “topical” and “urgent,” she said.

Oyimkhon Pulatova, a mother of six from Zaamin District, Dzhizzak Oblast, welcomes the trade fairs. She tries to shop in Tashkent for clothes and other goods, she told Central Asia Online, but it takes money and time.

“Our district doesn’t have much choice, and we pay more than they do (in Tashkent),” she said. “We really need these fairs.”

In January, the government set up an organisational committee to get the ball rolling, cabinet spokesman Odilkhon D. told Central Asia Online. The committee is concerned not only with holding the trade fairs but also with promoting them to draw local entrepreneurs.

A discussion about which premises and pavilions to use and other matters is on-going, he said, but the exhibitions will be staged in adequately equipped trade pavilions convenient to the public.

Government funds will support the events, although officials most likely will charge participants still-undetermined fees, according to a statement from the Cabinet of Ministers. All expenses incurred by the entrepreneurs, though, may be offset against taxes.

“This will primarily be an opportunity to obtain an excellent trading site reaching a wide range of consumers at a nominal price,” Nortoy Yuldashev, a trader of dairy products, told Central Asia Online. He considers the exhibitions a good support mechanism for small- and medium-sized businesses.

The organisational committee will help to establish business relations among factories, middlemen and end consumers, Odilkhon said.

“To improve the efficiency of this work, the country is already creating a single updatable database for consumer items manufactured by Uzbek enterprises, giving our own producers and middlemen access to it,” he said.

The effort includes researching the domestic consumer product sector, identifying promising directions for further economic production and mastering the manufacturing of in-demand goods, she said. This research, she said, should become the foundation of new economic programmes for increasing manufacturing of new items.

Officials will pay particular attention to production of electronic appliances, garments, knitwear, haberdashery, leather footwear and furniture, she added.

One challenge Uzbekistan has faced in recent years is that its markets are “saturated with imported goods,” Gadzhiyeva said.

Mass-produced goods from abroad typically sell better than domestic products because of a price differential. Uzbekistan is working to boost the sale of domestic products by imposing higher customs duties on imports, making them more expensive, she said.

In conjunction with such efforts, “it is important to actively develop our own market for manufacturers,” she said, calling the idea of trade fairs “a promising development.”

Uzbek businesses will be able to use trade fairs as a way to showcase new products, she added. As Uzbek consumers become familiar with the models and names of various consumer goods, they will be able to make better choices about what to buy, Mukarram Azimova, chairwoman of the Faiz furniture-manufacturing company, told Central Asia Online.

“Our consumers will now have a choice, and they will most likely favour the local producer,” Azimova said. “After all, our goods are cheaper, which is not unimportant.”

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Islamic bond market to grow 30% in 2013

Kuwait City, Thursday, 10 Rabi Al-Thani 1434/21 February 2013 (IINA) – The Islamic bond (sukuk) market is expected to grow by around 30 percent this year, buoyed by sovereign sukuk that will continue to dominate, supported by emerging of new countries that issue sukuk, Kuwait Finance House (KFH) said in a recent report.

Sukuk issuance will grow this year by 20-30 percent after the momentum witnessed by the issuance process last year that was worth $131 billion, the report, compiled by the KFH-Research, showed. The share of the Middle East of issuance in 2012 increased; especially in Saudi Arabia and UAE, it said, noting that the returns on sukuk increased during the same year, compared to returns in 2011. Sukuk remain a major facet of the Islamic finance industry in 2013. The Islamic capital market now stands aflush with more than $230 billion in outstanding sukuk papers, having developed as a crucial platform for international liquidity and fund raising activities, it said.

Renewed struggles in Europe have hampered growth in advanced economies, leading to capital flows into emerging markets and alternative investments. Despite this, economic growth in 2012 is estimated to have remained subdued even in emerging economies on the back of lower global demand for goods and services. This sustained sentiment has kept investors in the bond markets in a year that has seen benchmark 10-year US Treasury yields lose 9.3 percent, it said. In 2012, a total of $131.2 billion worth of sukuk papers were recorded from the primary market, representing a y-o-y increase of 54.2 percent. The amount dwarfs that of previous years and even represents three times the size of the primary sukuk market pre the global financial crisis. Since 2008, total yearly issuances have grown at a compound annual growth rate of 67.4 percent.

Sovereign issuers led the market share in 2012 despite a record amount of corporate sukuk placed during the year. Total issuances from sovereign entities throughout 2012 reached $80.2 billion as compared to $58.9 billion in 2011, representing a 36.0 percent y-o-y increase. Despite the dominant market share of 61.1 percent, sovereign papers were overshadowed by significant growth in both corporate and government-related entities which grew by 92.4 percent and 103.0 percent to $36.5 billion and $14.5 billion, respectively, the report indicated.

By region, issuances from Central and East Asia continued their growth momentum, climbing by 60.1 percent y-o-y to $104.8 billion during 2012. This was led by Indonesia (+131.1 percent y-o-y, $6.0 billion) and Malaysia (+59.4 percent y-o-y, $97.1 billion). Meanwhile, issuances from the Middle East and North Africa also increased by 34.4 percent y-o-y to $26.3 billion, mainly led by the 278.2 percent y-o-y jump in issuances from Saudi Arabia to $10.5 billion and the 49.3 percent y-o-y increase in issuances from the UAE to $6.1 billion. Within the corporate sukuk market, $26.8 billion worth of papers or 73.5 percent of total issuances were issued in Malaysia, while $4.2 billion (11.5 percent) was issued in the UAE and $3.4 billion (9.3 percent) was issued in Saudi Arabia, the report added.

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IDB approves $451 million financing for development projects

Jeddah, Sunday, 06 Rabi Al-Thani 1434/17 February 2013 (IINA) – A meeting of the Board of Executive Directors of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group has approved $ 450.8 million towards financing new development projects in member countries as well as in Muslim communities in non-member countries.

The meeting, chaired by IDB President Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali, has approved the allocations. These included $ 125 million for construction of a section of Tirana-Korca Road Corridor in Albania, $ 120 million for SADARA Petrochemical project in Saudi Arabia and $ 100 million for SANIMAS community based sanitation project in 46 cities in Indonesia.Other major allocations are $ 36 million for efficient outdoor lighting for Tashkent City Project, Uzbekistan, $ 20 million for construction of Sukuta-Jambangelly Road Project, Gambia and $ 19.7 million for enhancing the learning environment at the Islamic University and the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) Phase II in Uganda as well as a $ 1 million as technical assistance grant for the activities of the African Legal Support Facility.

The Board also approved $ 2 million as grant for emergency relief to the displaced people in Syria and Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq to contribute to the provision of education and health services. Another $ 1.7 million was approved as special assistance grant under IDB Waqf Fund for educational, vocational and health projects in Muslim communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, UK, and the US. The meeting took note of an amount of $ 25 million approved by the IDB President for Education and Training for Employment Project, Egypt.

The meeting discussed the Bank’s draft annual report for the year 2012, the draft financial statements of the Bank and its specialized funds for the same year, as well other documents for the forthcoming annual meeting of the Board of Governors of the IDB Group scheduled to be held on 21-22 May, 2013 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

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British Muslims to establish first free Islamic school

London, Tuesday, 08 Rabi Al-Thani 1434/19 February 2013 (IINA) – Muslims in the north-western British city of Blackburn are awaiting the approval of plans to build the first free Islamic school in the country to serve both Muslim and non-Muslim students, Lancashire Telegraph newspaper reported.

“The planning application has been submitted following months of detailed design work on what has proven a very challenging but equally rewarding project,” Principal Jacquie Petriaho told the newspaper. Muslims have applied to the Darwen Council to build a free Islamic school in Blackburn in Lancashire County. The application includes moving the current Tauheedul Islam Boys School from its current site in Little Harwood to the former Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) building at Edinburgh House on Clarence Street. “The scheme submitted meets the schools aspirations, by providing well-ordered learning spaces and innovative working environments and has done this while respecting the qualities of the surrounding area,” said Petriaho, the former deputy head of Beardwood Humanities College.

The new school aims to provide a first-class education for its 700 pupils with the aim of getting many into Britain’s top universities. The school was temporarily located in the Tauheedul Islam Girls’ School, which was relocated to its new site in Beardwood Humanities College, Preston New Road. If approved, the multi-purpose school will open in September 2014. It will be the first free Islamic school in Britain. British Muslims are estimated at 2.5 million. There are 400,000 Muslim students in British schools, according to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). About 7,000 state schools in Britain are faith schools – roughly one in three of the total – educating 1.7 million pupils. Of the 590 faith-based secondary schools five are Jewish, two Muslim and one Sikh – the rest are Church of England, Roman Catholic and other Christian faiths.

The free Islamic school would offer huge opportunities for both Muslim and non-Muslim students in Blackburn. “The site is in an ideal location to serve our projected pupil intake and offers the opportunity to redevelop a site that has blighted the local community for a number of years,” Principal Petriaho, who is not a Muslim, said. “Tauheedul Boys’ School will continue to provide outstanding educational opportunities for many young people in Blackburn and our pupils and staff are excited about the opportunities the new building will create.” Pupils from the Islamic school have been playing a leading role in serving the vulnerable in Britain. Pupils from the Tauheedul Islam Boys’ High School (TIBHS) have succeeded in raising £4,600 for Crisis – the UK’s national charity for single homeless people. “Although our school only started a few months ago, our boys have demonstrated their commitment to community service and philanthropy,” Petriaho said. “Through our partnership work with Crisis, we aim to transform the lives of thousands of single homeless people in the UK.” The 2011 census found that the proportion of Muslims in Britain rose from 3.0 percent to 4.8 percent, becoming the fastest growing faith in the country.

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IDB to provide $296 million financing for Morocco

Jeddah, Wednesday, 09 Rabi Al-Thani 1434/20 February 2013 (IINA) – The Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) will provide financing worth $ 296 million to Morocco. Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali, president of IDB, signed three agreements in this regard with the Moroccan Minister of Economy and Finance Nizar Baraka during an official visit to Morocco earlier this month.

The IDB chief also met with Morocco’se Minister of Energy, Mines and Water; Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs as well as the governor of the Central Bank of Morocco. The first financing agreement worth $ 200 million is for power generation and it is expected to provide 170 extra megawatts of power to the Upper Sebou River region in the north of the country and meet the 42% rise in electricity demand by the year 2020. The project is part of Morocco’s comprehensive development program which also envisages increasing the volume of harnessing surface water for irrigation purposes and protecting the regions below the river at the time of seasonal floods.

The second agreement, costing $ 84.8 million, is for drinking water projects in eight regions in the country. It is expected to further increase public access to drinking water. According to the third agreement, IDB will contribute $ 11 million towards rural roads network and help eradicate poverty in those regions. The IDB Group since its inception has approved a total of $ 5.2 billion towards financings various projects in Morocco in the sectors of power generation, agriculture, education, health, transport, industry, mining, water supply and rural development as well as for trade operations.

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Cabinet decides to establish yacht marina in Male’ area

SunOnline – February 19, 2013 – The cabinet has today decided to establish a safari yacht marina in the Male’ area in order to provide safe port facilities to safari yachts. The President’s Office said that the Cabinet made this decision after discussing a paper presented by the Ministry of Transport and Communication.

The members of the cabinet noted that there are currently 140 safari yachts in the Maldives, with 5 new additions on average each year.

The Cabinet highlighted that tourism targeted for safari yachts was one of the main avenues for the inflow of foreign currency into the country and that they therefore believe that establishment of a yacht marina in the Maldives would have positive economic impacts. The cabinet decided to find an appropriate party for the project through a competitive bidding process.

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MVR 424 million contracts signed for Maldives road building

SunOnline – February 20, 2013 – An agreement worth MVR424 million has been signed between Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure and Maldives Road Development Corporation (MRDC) for the construction of roads in six islands.

The agreement was signed at a ceremony held at Bandos Island Resort this afternoon by Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muizzu on behalf of the ministry and Managing Director of MRDC Ibrahim Nazeem on behalf of MRDC.

The ceremony was attended by President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, Vice President Mohamed Waheed Deen, some ministers and island councillors.

The islands included in the road construction project are Haa Alif Dhidhdhoo, Haa Dhaalu Hanimaadhoo, Dhaalu Kudahuvadhoo, Thaa Vilufushi, Gaaf Alif Villingili and Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo.

Under the agreement, nine roads will be constructed in Vilufushi, fifteen in Villingili, 21 in Thinadhoo, thirteen in Kudahuvadhoo, 21 in Hanimaadhoo and fifteen in Dhidhdhoo.

Speaking at the ceremony, the president expressed hope that the road construction work in the six islands will be completed soon, and that projects in other islands can be initiated soon as well.

He said that four out of the six islands included in today’s agreement have proper sanitation and other facilities, and that efforts to establish sanitation facilities in Hanimaadhoo and Thinadhoo will commence in the near future.

The President said that the road construction projects will facilitate development in the islands, and called for the cooperation and support of island councils and citizens in the work.

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