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4 Feb, 2013

Malaysia Airlines Joins oneworld, Offers DoubleBonus Mileage Until 15 April

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 04 February 2013 (23 Rabee’ al-Awwal 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



Malaysia was recognized as the most charming Asian island destination by China’s New Voyage Magazine at its annual awards ceremony held in Beijing on 15 January 2013. The win is seen as a boost to Malaysia’s tourism plans for 2013 as it prepares to receive tourists this year, designated as a promotion year for the Visit Malaysia Year campaign in 2014. Malaysia’s many islands and beaches have long been a favourite destination for many. Langkawi is known for its natural attractions such as forests and 500 million-year-old rock formations which earned it the status of World Geopark by UNESCO in 2007. Penang island, meanwhile, is a melting pot of cultures, beautiful architecture, rich history and delicious food, and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pangkor Laut Island is known for its truly luxurious “one island, one resort” concept. The east coast of Malaysia also boasts of jewels such as Perhentian, Redang, Gemia and Sibu islands. Equally captivating are the islands and beaches in Sabah and Sarawak, with Sipadan Island leading the pack for the world-class diving experience it offers. Mabul and Mataking islands are also gaining popularity as diving destinations in Sabah, while the five islands within Tunku Abdul Ramman Marine Park offer visitors an island experience close to the city. Nominations for the New Voyage Magazine awards for Best Outbound Travel Destinations were received throughout 2012 for voting by its readers, media, travelers and tourism industry players. Besides Malaysia, AirAsia also emerged the top winner for favourite airline.

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.

Musical Fusion Highlights ‘Islamic Spirituality From Morocco to Oman’

26 January 2013 – Times of Oman – Dedicated to fostering spirituality in several musical genres, ranging from traditional to contemporary, the Royal Opera House Muscat will present an exploration of the power of Islamic spiritual music on Sunday, Jan. 27, in an evening celebrating the Islamic spirit.

The programme has been designed as a fusion of four Arab nations’ religious songs, with their respective musical styles under one roof. Overriding differences in religions, languages and ethnicities, ‘Islamic Spirituality from Morocco to Oman’ will take place at the Royal House Muscat on Sunday.

The musical show promises to take the audience on a journey through spiritual cultures, leading to harmony and peace. Accompanied by the Egyptian Amir Abdul Mageed Orchestra, internationally renowned singers from four Arab countries will spread the essence of Islamic spirituality through religious songs.

The event will commence with a performance by Fityat Al Madeeh Al Muhammadi ‘Mohammed Eulogising Young men for Inshad’ troupe from Oman, whose style combines authenticity with modernity and varies from soliloquies (Mawal) to choral Nasheed.

Since it was founded, the troupe has endeavoured to preserve their ancestors’ legacy and poetry that praises the Almighty God, Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) and the pious, to the accompaniment of mellifluous melodies that have a tranquilising effect.

Soloists at the performance will also include: Abdelsalam Al Hasani of Morocco, Al Moutassim bi-Ilah Al Asali of Syria, and Sheikh Abdul Halim Mashhur of Egypt. The audiences will enjoy varied representations of multicultural Islam, translated into mystical songs. The audience will be mesmerised by Al Hasani’s style of Inshad, which has been lauded by the younger generation for its diverse styles.

Al Hasani begins with the traditional Islamic heritage and Sufi poems, and recently employed music in the art of Inshad. The audience will also be enchanted with Al Asali’s performance, which is derived from authentic Damascene customs, traditions and heritage. What’s more, Mashhur will captivate the attendees with his soul-stirring recital.

When Mashhur completed his studies, he became a member of the Religious Inshad Troupe at the Egyptian Ministry of Culture. Later, he was appointed the soloist singer of the Troupe and excelled in recitals. He was taught at that time by the Great Sheikhs Mohammed Al Fayyumi and Abdel Salam Bayyumi.

Commenting on this event, Prof. Dr. Issam El-Mallah, Adviser to the Board of Directors for Programming and Events, said, “The enchanting and soothing recitals at the ‘Islamic Spirituality from Morocco to Oman’ event will take the audience on a fascinating journey leading to an inner peace. The show welcomes all audiences attracted to spiritual Islamic songs, regardless of religion, age, and background.

Performers from four different nations will bring soul, mind and body in harmony with each other. In addition, the show will feature the Egyptian Maestro Amir Abdul Mageed, who is a national expert at the academy of arts in Cairo, as he is teaching mass playing and the art of improvisation and the instrument Qanoon.

Mageed has his own orchestra comprising renowned Arab musicians. All these attributes will make the show one of a kind.

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Afghan film makes strong bid for Oscar Award

2013-01-30 – centralasiaonline.com – KABUL – Come Oscar night, Afghans will pin their national pride on “Buzkashi Boys,” the first locally made film to be nominated for an Academy Award, and whose cast, crew and production team have a strong Afghan presence.

Afghans and participants in the nation’s film industry hope that the attention given to the short Dari-language feature film will spur the re-birth of Afghan cinema, after the curtain came down on it under the years of Taliban rule, and help it to gain popularity against the cross-currents of a Bollywood- and B film-dominated industry.

“I want to say that this film gave me the chance to be proud of my country,” Kabul film-goer Azim Mubareez told Central Asia Online after attending a local premiere. “Here in Afghanistan, we do not often get the chance to rejoice in our country’s victories and achievements – but when we do, I begin to believe that all will be well in our country.”

A decade ago, another film about Afghanistan, “Osama,” gained international acclaim. It won the 2003 Golden Globe for the Best Foreign Language Film but failed to receive a nomination for cinema’s most coveted award.

Earlier this month, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that “Buzkashi Boys” would be one of five films vying for Oscar gold in the Short Film (Live Action) category at the 85th Academy Awards ceremony February 24.

“Buzkashi Boys” tells the story of two Kabul boys who dream of being the best at playing the national sport of buzkashi, where horseback riders compete on the field for a goat’s carcass. One of the boys, Ahmad (played by Jawandmard Paiz), is an orphan. His friend Rafi (Fawad Mohammadi) is a blacksmith’s son, whose father wants him to follow in the family tradition by becoming a blacksmith.

“We hoped to show the real Afghanistan, not the one shown in the media,” said Sam French, the film’s director. “We decided to tell the story of the two boys with their great dream, and put over the idea that even in a country ravaged by war, people are united by their hopes for a better life.”

“Dreams unite us all,” he added. The film, which was shot in Afghanistan, came out of the Afghan Film Project, a nonprofit that, according to its website, strives to create Afghan-made films and give ordinary Afghans a voice through cinematic collaborations between Afghan and foreign film-makers.

“Buzkashi Boys” also served as a film school for aspiring Afghan film-makers who gained valuable experience by working on the project, Ariel Nasr, the film’s Afghan-Canadian producer, told Central Asia Online.

“This film … is not simply a film project but also a complete school for 12 young Afghan film directors,” he said. “They were brought in for the filming and learned lessons from various trainers. Now they will use this experience on the Afghan media market – in the writing, direction and production of their own films for local television.”

Shooting the film on location in Afghanistan proved to be a great challenge, Nasr said. “There were difficulties at every turn,” he explained. “But after all these tribulations, we produced a world-class drama filmed in Afghanistan. And, most important of all, we discovered that Afghanistan is full of young film-makers who want to continue to work in spite of a lack of funds and equipment. We hope that this film will draw the attention of the international community to the Afghan film industry, which is full of talent and hopes.”

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Malaysia Airlines Joins oneworld, Offers DoubleBonus Mileage Until 15 April

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 (Bernama) — Malaysia Airlines’ will become the oneworld Southeast Asia hub through its participation into the oneworld global alliance. Group Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said MAS, which serves more than 60 destinations in almost 30 countries, would substantially expand the alliance’s network in the region.

“MAS connects new 16 destinations including Brunei to the oneworld map. More significantly, it would strengthen the alliance’s connectivity between many key business cities in Asia and other parts of the world,” he told reporters after announcing MAS’ participation into the oneworld alliance.

By joining the alliance, MAS would be able to fly its passengers to oneworld’s global coverage to 842 destinations in 156 countries. Oneworld members consists of 12 global airlines with Qatar Airways and Sri Lankan Airlines expected to join the alliance soon.

Ahmad Jauhari also said MAS’ participation into the oneworld alliance would give positive impact to the group amid strengthening its competitiveness. “The immediate impact include increasing our passenger numbers through passengers exchange.

“Our two million Enrich members would get the benefits from this alliance,” he added. Enrich Platinum cardholders will have Emerald status in the oneworld programme, Enrich Gold will be equivalent to oneworld Sapphire while Enrich Silver will be oneworld Ruby.

Enrich members will also be able to redeem their mileage rewards for flights not only to the 60 destinations served by MAS but to all 850 destinations served by oneworld member airlines.

Besides MAS’ enrich members, a special double miles offer is also offered to all oneworld member airlines’ frequent flyer programmes cardholders, to mark the addition of the Malaysian flag carrier to the alliance.

Members of MAS’ Enrich loyalty scheme will receive double Enrich award miles when flying between Feb 15 and April 15, 2013 on oneworld partners. Similarly, the 125 million members if existing oneworld airlines’ loyalty programmes will receive double mileage awards when flying on MAS between the said period.

Malaysia Airlines’ addition expands oneworld’s global coverage to 842 destinations in 156 countries, served by some 9,000 departures a day operated by a combined fleet of some 2,500 aircraft, carrying nearly 340 million passengers a year, with annual revenues of US$ 110 billion.

“Malaysia Airlines, like Finnair, is a very established and respected airline with a great history of quality, and they’re joining oneworld for the same reason we did,” said Finnair CEO, Mika Vehviläinen. “When we pull together and pool our considerable talents and resources, we all become stronger and able to deliver more services, benefits and value to our customers than we could by going it alone. I’m very pleased to extend a warm welcome to our friends and colleagues from Malaysia Airlines.”

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Dhaka Travel Mart 2013 begins March 14 in the Bangladesh Capital

Dhaka, January 23; An International trade fair, the Dhaka Travel Mart 2013, begins in the Bangladesh Capital Dhaka from March 14, 2013. The 3-day annual travel fair, considered to be the first and the biggest travel extravaganza in the country, is being held since the 2002. It is being participated by large number of travel related service providers from home and abroad. Participants in this B to C fair include among others NTOs, Tour Operators, Hotel – Motel – Resorts, Leisure / Amusement Parks, Cruise Operators, Airlines, Credit Card, Car Rental Companies, Educational institutions and various other tourism related service providers.

Tourism in Bangladesh has achieved significant growth in the recent years and it is projected to grow further in the coming years. Domestic tourism has grown at the rate of 30% while outbound tourism has registered a growth of 20% during the last year. The rate of incoming tourists has also registered a significant growth in the recent years.

Against this background, the Dhaka Travel Mart – 2013 would provide an excellent opportunity to all the participants to set up their business networks and reach out to the consumers directly. Interested participants may visit www.dhakatravelmart.net for more information or contact dtm@triunegroup.net

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Qatar Airways Launches New Apps for BlackBerry, iPhone and Android

Qatar Airways has launched a new mobile application for BlackBerry, Android, iPhone handsets, and introduced a new mobile website. Travellers can now search for, and book flights, check their flight status and follow travel alerts.

In addition, members of the airline’s Privilege Card frequent flyer programme can fast track their booking by logging in with their membership number.

Customers can download the application from Qatar Airways website and follow the links to the iPhone, BlackBerry or from the Android smartphone app store.

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer, Akbar Al Baker, said, “We are continually looking for ways to bring new and exciting services to our customers. Mobility is high on the list of our customers to have access to important travel and flight information when and where they want it, so we have now given them a new service that meets that demand. As our customers’ needs evolve, so will the services and products that we offer.”

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Najaf is third Iraqi destination for Qatar Airways

Arab News – 30 January, 2013 – Qatar Airways has introduced its latest gateway in Iraq with the launch of scheduled flights to the central city of Najaf.

Following its move into Iraq six months ago with the start of flights to both the capital Baghdad and Erbil, the Doha-based airline has inaugurated new services to its third city in the country.

On the back of passenger demand to Iraq, Qatar Airways viewed expansion as being vital, fueled by the country’s reconstruction drive.

The arrival of Qatar Airways’ flight QR 742 at Al Najaf International Airport was welcomed by a traditional water salute followed by a reception presided by local officials.

Fathi Al-Shehab, Qatar Airways Senior Vice President GCC, Levant, Iran and Indian subcontinent, led an official delegation on the flight from the airline’s head office in Doha.

With three Iraqi routes now in its stable, Qatar Airways takes its frequency across Baghdad, Erbil and Najaf up 50 percent to 12 services each week.

Najaf, to be operated four-times-a-week, becomes destination number 124 in the airline’s global network spanning cities across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and South America.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker said: “With our new Najaf services, we are giving the people of Iraq more choice and greater travel options to fly around the world after years of restricted access to air services. Similarly, with all the reconstruction efforts well underway in Iraq, there is a need for flights to bring in construction workers.”

Addressing guests gathered at Al-Najaf International Airport, Fathi Al-Shehab said: “On behalf of Qatar Airways, I would like to thank the government of Iraq, local authorities and airport officials for supporting Qatar Airways’ expansion with the addition of an integral route to our international network.”

The Doha-Najaf route is being operated by a state-of-the-art Airbus A320 featuring 144 seats in a two-class configuration of 12 seats in Business Class and 132 in Economy.

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Work Under Way on Master Plan to Manage all Maldives airports

February 2, 2013 – Sun.mv Online – President Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has said that the Transport Ministry is currently working on a master plan to manage all the airports operated in the Maldives.

Speaking at the function to open Hanimaadhoo Airport for international flights, the president said that even though the Hanimaadhoo Airport is being made an international along with the temporary changes, the government’s aim is for all projects to be planned in advance, and that the Transport Ministry is in the process of putting together a master plan to manage all the airports in the Maldives.

“I believe that everything should be properly planned in advance, to achieve specific objectives. The Ministry of Transport and Communications is currently working on putting together a master plan to develop the airports in the Maldives. When the master plan is assembled, it will specify the islands for which the airports will be developed. Choosing the islands will be based on the population of that particular region, along with possibility for tourism to be developed in that area,” President Waheed said.

He said that it will prove to be great ease for the people of the area when international flights start operating in Hanimaadhoo, and that it will facilitate for the improvement of the region’s economy along with opportunities for the expansion of tourism. He also said that he was happy to received good news that a large international investment is soon to commence in the region in relation to the airport becoming international.

The President said that the current government has proven itself to the people that it can undertake and conclude projects that will benefit them. He thanked the Indian High Commissioner D. M. Mulay and other parties that had worked towards making the airport open for international flights.

Speaking at the ceremony, Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives D. M. Mulay said there are plans to open an Indian consulate on the island in order to facilitate visas to those who travel from Hanimaadhoo to India. He also praised the Chairman of Island Aviation Bandhu Ibrahim Saleem, saying that it would only take 20 people of Saleem’s calibre to make the country’s economy soar in the sky.

The ceremony also saw the signing of the letters of intent with Island Aviation, to award the company with the management of Laamu Kadhdhoo Airport, and also with Villa Air to award the company with the management of Gaafu Dhaal Kaadedhdhoo Airport. During the ceremony, the president has said that it is being considered extend the permit to Maamiligili Airport to allow it to service international flights in the future.

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Visit Malaysia Year 2014 Publicised At ASEAN Tourism Forum

VIENTIANE, 22 JAN 2013: Tourism Minister Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen strongly promoted the Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014 and its comprehensive promotional activities during the 32nd ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) in Vientiane, Laos.

The week-long ATF, which started on 18 Jan, offers Malaysia a strong marketing platform to market and create awareness of VMY to its ASEAN counterparts.

Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Abdul Razak launched the VMY 2014 promotional carnival on 19 Jan at the Bukit Jalil Stadium. The three-day fun-filled tourism carnival was a prelude to a series of year-long special events and activities leading to Visit Malaysia Year 2014, with the theme “Celebrating 1Malaysia Truly Asia”.

VMY 2014 also coincides with the 33rd ASEAN Tourism Forum which Malaysia will host next year from 16 to 23 January in Sarawak. Both events are expected to significantly boost arrivals of ASEAN visitors to Malaysia.

As in previous years, the ATF 2013 sees the participation of a strong Malaysian delegation comprising 52 hoteliers, travel agents, theme park operators and state tourism boards (Sarawak Tourism Board, Sabah Tourism Board and Tourism Selangor), who will woo over 400 international buyers.

The three-day TRAVEX (Travel Exchange) at the Lao International Trade Exhibition and Convention Center (ITECC), which started today, is expected to have buyers congregating at Tourism Malaysia’s booth and engaging with representatives of Malaysian businesses and tourism organisations.

“This year’s ATF is very special to us as it will witness the handing over of the baton to Malaysia – the 2014 host – which also coincides with our celebration of Visit Malaysia Year. I will take the opportunity to highlight VMY 2014 and its promotional campaign to my ASEAN friends and the international media; and share with them the many exciting and unique tourism events that have been lined-up,” said Dr. Ng.

On 20 and 21 January, several high-level Ministerial meetings took place at the Don Chan Palace Hotel. These included meeting of the ASEAN Tourism Ministers, meeting of the ASEAN Tourism Ministers with China, Japan and Korea; and meeting of the ASEAN Tourism Ministers with India.

The meetings culminated with the ASEAN Tourism Ministers Press Conference where a joint-media statement was issued.

Dr. Ng’s schedule in Vientiane is hectic with a series of press interviews, media briefing, press conference and courtesy calls.

During the ASEAN NTOs Media Briefing on 22 Jan, the Tourism Minister shared with the international media, Malaysia’s tourism achievements, latest developments, and tourism offerings in 2013. Titled, Malaysia’s Tourism Success Stories, the presentation vividly described the success of the country in attracting a significant amount of tourists every year and making it the world’s ninth most-visited country for three consecutive years (2009 – 2011).

A string of accolades and international recognitions showered on Malaysia by the global tourism fraternity over the past couple of months bear testimony to the outstanding achievements of the country’s tourism industry.

The Tourism Minister credited the success to the Government’s strong commitment, as well as strategic and focused policies in making Malaysia the world’s top tourist destination, along with strong support from industry players and Malaysians in general.

“We have certainly come a long way in being recognised as the fourth best shopping city in the world and the second best in Asia Pacific, as well as the 10th friendliest nation and third among the top retirement havens in the world.

Throughout the VMY promotional campaign, we will strive even harder to improve our position internationally by getting the nation ready to be the host for VMY, introducing new innovative tourism products and resolving any issues encountered by tourists,” added Dr. Ng.

Tourism Malaysia also hosted a ‘Malaysia Gala Night Dinner’ for buyers, media and invited guests on 22 January at the Don Chan Palace Hotel. Aptly themed, Malaysia Open House, A Celebration Of ASEAN Unity, the dinner was a prelude to Sarawak as host venue of the 2014 ATF where guests were treated to an array of cultural performances and traditional music.

The closing and handing over ceremony of the ATF 2014 flag to Malaysia took place on 24 January at the Lao ITECC.

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Ahlibank launches five Islamic banking branches

Oman Daily Observer – 30 January, 2013 – Upon the Royal Directives of His Majesty allowing Islamic banking in the Sultanate, ahlibank, one of the leading banks in the Sultanate, has been working vigorously during the last year to introduce its Islamic Banking window to the nation.

Al Hilal Islamic Banking services launched five branches simultaneously yesterday and a sixth branch planned in Salalah within the next month.

The branches are in Samayil, Bahla, Rustaq, Saham and Muscat.

Al Hilal Islamic Banking Services is ready to provide Islamic banking products and services built on the tenants of truth and transparency in banking with the windows operations being fully segregated from the banks conventional activities.

Commenting on the launch, Hamdan bin Ali bin Nasser al Hinai, chairman of ahlibank said: “Islamic finance, by its very nature, is a financial system that highlights the importance of aligning the objectives of businesses with the needs of the community to ensure that the overall well-being of society is not forgotten when pursuing investment opportunities.”

“Our goal since the start was to launch Al Hilal Islamic Banking Services as a means to meet the needs of all customers in terms of truth, transparency and being fully sharia compliant through an advanced sharia compliant system supervised by the prominent Islamic finance experts who are members of the Sharia Supervisory Board (SSB) of the bank. This comes within the steady efforts made by the bank to ensure full transparency in all transactions.”

On his part, Abdul Aziz al Balushi, CEO Ahlibank said: “Our focus during the first year will be to present the true identity and build a bridge of trust and confidence with customers. This will undoubtedly give us the required momentum and thrust to win the customers’ confidence. Our services, products and dealing are built on the tenants of truth and transparency and are in accordance with Islamic Sharia principles to insure that we as an organisation are committed to providing the best products that the market has to offer”.

Shaikh Aflah bin Ahmed bin Hamad al Khalili, member of the Sharia Supervisory Board of Al Hilal Islamic Banking Services said: “The main aim behind the establishment of a Sharia Supervisory Board is to ensure that all the products are sharia compliant. The board includes a number of prominent experts from inside and outside the Sultanate”.

“The products on offer will contribute to the efforts made by the Sultanate’s government to enhance the role played by Islamic banking in achieving sustainable development as well as more progress and prosperity for the Omani people”, he added.

The work of the Sharia Supervisory Board will be independent as it has the power to audit all contracts and transactions, give opinion and guidance. The bank’s management shall strictly follow the guidelines outlined by the Board to ensure that all the transactions are sharia compliant.

Abdullah al Jabri, DGM and Head of al Hilal Islamic Banking Services said: “We have been gearing up for the last year to insure a smooth start to our Islamic banking services. Through the five branches launched today and the sixth in the coming month, al Hilal Islamic Banking Services will strive to provide customers with high quality leading Islamic banking services. Our products are designed to highlight both the social and economic side of Islamic banking. The branches are ready to provide all of our products which include retail and commercial products from the very start.” he furthered.

Commenting on the products that will be on offer for customers, Al Jabri said: One of the unique and salient characteristics of Islamic banking is the integration of ethical and moral values with the banking operations. The ethical and moral consideration of Islamic banks cannot be detached and their behaviour should be consistent with the moral and ethical standards laid down by the Islamic Sharia. We have made this characteristic a central pillar in all our products and services and our aim is to provide a service, which showcases truth and transparency in banking and meet the needs of our customers.

“We are optimistic that Al Hilal Islamic Banking Services will not only be up to the expectations of our customers but will also ensure the optimum level of transparency and truth in the Islamic banking transactions. We will remain committed to ensuring transparency and truth and meet the needs of customers and achieve the government vision towards developing the Islamic banking service sector in the Sultanate”, he concluded.

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Saudi Tourism sector jumps over 4%

Arab News – 30 January, 2013 – Saudi stocks showed narrow fluctuations yesterday, almost a repeat of previous couple of days’ flat performance which turned slightly positive and the day ended in green.

The Tadawul All-Share Index (TASI) dug in at 7,027.81 points yesterday. The index started a sideways walk along the break even line earlier yesterday but it took a sharp uplift just before the closing bell, gaining more than six points. The trading range narrowed further to 21.2 points as compared to 24.6 points of previous day.

Only Med cap among the market cap indices moved downward slightly.

Sectoral indices performed in a mixed fashion, with eight sectors accumulating an aggregate of 461 points and seven sectors trimming 95 points collectively. Hotel & Tourism sector made the biggest jump, reflecting an increment of 345 points or 4.14 percent to 8,672.39 points. Multi-Investment was another significant gainer, rising by 1.51 percent.

The market breadth was almost balanced with 63 issues witnessing advances against 66 issues recording declines.

Tourism Enterprises Co. (Shams) turned in a splendid performance among all Saudi stocks, jumping 9.95 percent to SR 48.6. Saudi Indian Co. for Cooperative Insurance and Saudi Integrated Telecom-munication (Almutakamela) followed it, advancing more than five percent yesterday. Almutakamela also dominated the trading activity by liquidating more than 14.8 million shares, which equates 7.4 percent of overall market volume.

Furthermore, Kingdom Holding and Etihad Etisalat Co. (Mobily) showed the best performance among heavyweight stocks, advancing 1.55 percent and 1.35 percent respectively.

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Saudi Aramco to finance 250 women-run projects

Arab News – 30 January, 2013 – Bena’a Productive Families Center (Jana) in the Eastern Region and the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco) have signed a partnership deal to develop skills amongst women to own and run small-scale projects in different parts of the Kingdom.

According to the deal, Saudi Aramco will fund 250 projects to be launched and run by women during the next six months. Part of the program will be dedicated to train productive families and prepare women both economically and socially to realize production sustainability for their projects, according to local media.

The deal was signed by CEO of Jana Mahmoud Al-Shami and director general of Public Affairs at Saudi Aramco Isam Tuwfiq for their respective parties.

Meanwhile, a Saudi Aramco official said his company would continue supporting such projects within the framework of its social responsibility. The company will also train the families and put its expertise at the disposal of those families during the upcoming stages, he said.

For his part, Jana Chief termed the deal a success for both parties to realize their common objectives in the promotion of productive families and the creation of professional jobs for women in all parts of the Kingdom.

Jana plans to create 9,500 jobs for women next year in eight cities including Khobar, Dammam, Ihsaa, Qasim, Hail, Jazan, Arar and Jouf where the program will enable women to master their own productive tools and possess the ability to develop them economically and socially through Jana branches kingdom-wide, he said.

Jana Chief said the rate of repaid loans received by the beneficiaries has so far reached 99 percent, which is higher than expected compared to similar projects inside or outside the Kingdom. This is a clear indicator of the success of such projects and at the same time demonstrates Jana’s efficiency in collecting loan installments from thousands of customers throughout the Kingdom.

It is to be recalled that Gezira Bank has signed a similar deal with Jana for the provision of an interest-free loan of SR 2.5 million to support productive families in different parts of the Kingdom.

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Turkish city of Bursa to be linked to Makkah, Madinah

Saudi Gazette – 30 January, 2013 – A joined agreement will be signed soon between the Turkish city of Bursa and the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, Governor of Bursa Province Shahabettin Harput told a delegation of journalists representing Saudi newspapers who visited the city last week in a familiarization trip organized by the governorate, in collaboration with the Turkish consulate in Jeddah and Turkish airlines.

“Our efforts to make this twinning a reality stems from the profound respect and strong yearn of Turkey, generally and Bursa, in particular, to those two holy cities, and our aspiration to have links with them in various fields, ” he said.

The governor added that Bursa will be this year, 2013, the capital of Arab and Muslim tourism, according a the decision made last year by the member states of Jeddah based Arab Tourism Organization, an affiliate of League of Arab States.

He added that Bursa, once was the first capital of the Ottoman Caliphate for decades, is the fourth largest city in Turkey.

“Though, it is the largest single economic and industrial contributor to the Turkish economy, especially in the fields of tourism and industry. It almost provides the nation with more than half of its production and national income,” he said.

“Bursa contribution to the national economy of Turkey includes manufactures 60 percent of the vehicle, 70 percent of textile and ready-made clothes, 70 percent of battled water, in addition to being a center for silk production. It exports annually products worth $ 30 billion out of the total Turkey exports of $ 155 billion,” he added.

Because of this high status in the Turkish economy, Governor Harput said it is a pleasure to invite Arab brothers, especially the Saudis, to invest in his province, particularly in the fields it has competitive edge like tourism, mineral waters, and textiles.

Also, because its high reserve of mineral waters and the increasing demand by the elderly from Western European countries who are paid from their governments to receiving mineral water therapy abroad for 20 days, Governor Harput pointed out that his province is in its way to be transformed into a world class center for mineral water therapy.

“To achieve this, a special village resort will be established and the number of beds in mineral water therapeutic services facilities will be increased to 17,000 beds. We hope that Saudis will follow the Europeans in benefiting from these facilities, instead of going to other far-away destination for such services,” he said.

“To promote tourism and direct flow of passengers to the airport of the city of Bursa, without a need to pass by Istanbul airport, we will intensify our effort to collect the required capital for the establishment of a private airline,” he said.

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Health tourism sector in Dubai generated $1.6b last year

Gulf Today – 30 January, 2013 – The health tourism sector in Dubai has generated $ 1.6 billion in 2012, and this figure is expected to increase significantly in 2013. Tourist arrivals are projected to increase annually by 7.2 per cent through to 2015, which will see an increase in visitors seeking medical treatment to Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC), says a top healthcare official.

Market researcher Euromonitor had revealed that the UAE’s medical tourism market is set to grow by 7 per cent in 2013. It was estimated at $ 1.6 billion last year.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Arab Health 2013 Congress and Exhibition, CEO of the Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) Marwan Abedin indicated that the cluster of health facilities have recorded significant growth in medical tourism over the last three years and it’s currently estimated at 15 per cent of the DHCC’s patients are medical tourists.

He elaborated that global revenue from medical tourism is estimated to be $ 30 billion and Dubai, as an emerging destination for healthcare and tourism, is taking an increasing share of this. Despite only being 41 years old, the healthcare system in the Emirate has evolved at an unprecedented rate.

According to him, all relevant stakeholders including immigration, the aviation industry, the hospitality sector, public and private hospitals have to come together to position Dubai as a medical tourism destination and to streamline the process of bringing patients to Dubai.

“Medical tourism is a growth engine and can contribute to the GDP of the overall country in due course of time. Dubai has excellent healthcare facilities and healthcare is a sector which has been witnessing significant growth and development over the last few years,” Abedin noted.

The DHCC also has announced on Tuesday that it will establish more world-class medical education and research programmes within the Emirate to enhance the region’s talent pool with medical education on top priority for its progress, strategic plans and aspirations for the year 2013.

“The DHCC is focusing on providing educational platforms for knowledge sharing within the healthcare freezone, highlighting its dedication to education and the emphasis placed on academia and research,” Abedin said.

DHCC’s education division – the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Academic Medical Centre (MBRM-AMC) will continue to develop its medical education portfolio to further enhance its position as an internationally recognised medical education hub.

The MBRM-AMC promotes academic and tertiary healthcare, education, research and community service of the highest quality across the UAE and the region.

Abedin said that the DHCC has therefore put education at the forefront of our plans for 2013 and has committed to supporting high quality institutions in efforts to build a specialised medical talent pool in the region.

“Through a combination of leading expertise of medical institutions and pre eminent healthcare providers, the DHCC consistently achieves high patient satisfaction levels across 90 specialties,” Abedin said.

DHCC received 500,000 patients last year and it’s expected to increase by 15 per cent this year. The first integrated healthcare freezone is home to over 3,700 licenced healthcare professionals and over 120 internationally acclaimed medical centres, offering 90 specialties across 13 clusters.

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New hotels give boost to EP tourism industry in Saudi Arabia

Arab News – 31 January, 2013 – The Eastern Province has seen a dramatic rise in the number of hotels and furnished apartments in the last two years.

From just about 45 three-star, four-star and five-star hotels in 2005, the region now has nearly 85 hotels. Sixteen hotels are under construction and are due for completion in the next two years, according to latest tourism data released.

Two years ago, there were only 340 furnished apartments. Now the province boasts of nearly 640 such plush housing units.

The major tourist attractions in the Eastern Province are located in Al-Hasa, Dammam and Alkhobar and An-Nariya.

“Once upon a time there were only three major hotels in Dammam and Alkhobar,” said Hammad Al-Motairi, a hotel industry and tourism expert. “One was the Al-Gosaibi Hotel in Alkhobar and the other two were the iconic Le Meridien Alkhobar and The Dammam Sheraton.”

In the last two years, the region has witnessed a surge in the tourism industry and some of the most prestigious hotel chains started rushing in to cash in on the boom.

Among the top hotel names that added prestige to the region were Movenpick, Novotel, Sofitel, Holiday Inn, Intercontinental, Park Inn, Crown Plaza and Coral.

“All these chains are here and they are doing good business,” said Waleed A. Batarfi, a hotel industry watcher. “A number of hotels are under construction and they are big names such as Kempinski and Rotana.”

According to newspaper columnist Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, the increased traffic from Riyadh has resulted in the mushrooming of hotels. “But I still feel that Jubail needs more hotels in view of the massive projects that are taking place there,” he told Arab News.

Al-Mulhim, who has spent a big part of his life in Alkhobar and Al-Hasa, said, “The Al-Gosaibi Hotel in Alkhobar and the Intercontinental in Al-Hasa changed the culture of hospitality industry; they were the pioneers and then other followed suit.”

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), headed by Prince Sultan bin Salman, is being widely credited for creating an awareness about establishing a robust tourist infrastructure in the region.

“The series of conferences, seminars and roundtable discussions and the number of tourism awards that were instituted to acknowledge good hotels provided the real thrust toward making this region an ideal place for tourism,” said Thamer Al-Shehri, a travel and tourism consultant. He feels that the awarding of licenses to Qatar Airways and Gulf Air to operate domestic flights will lead to the doubling of tourist traffic in the next two years.

“Better air connectivity means more tourist arrivals, and more tourists means more business and more business means more money in the region, all this has raised the share of the Eastern Province,” said Al-Shehri.

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UAE, Kosovo to expand trade, investment

Khaleej Times – 31 January, 2013 – The UAE is interested in expanding its trade and economic cooperation with Kosovo and exploring potential investment opportunities for the benefit of business communities in both countries, Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, UAE Minister of Foreign Trade, said on Wednesday.

At a meeting with visiting First Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo Behgjet Pacolli, Shaikha Lubna stressed the importance of increasing trade exchange between the UAE and Kosovo and other East European countries which are experiencing rapid economic growth.

She spoke about the UAE’s prominent international trade standing, being classified as the world’s 20th biggest exporter and 25th largest importer.

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Muscat Festival 2013 begins amid wide fanfare

Oman Daily Observer – 31 January, 2013 – The 13th edition of the annual event Muscat Festival 2013 kicked off yesterday amid wide fanfare with participation of 60 countries.

Running until February 28, this year’s festival sees diversified activities which will take place at the Al Amerat and Al Naseem and Riyam public parks as well as the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Bausher.

The Al Amerat Public Park will see the sparkling shows, laser shows, heritage village, Assala programme, international festival for arts and creativity and world circus.

Entertainment shows, trade fairs, cartoon shows, musical performances, magic shows, traditional Omani arts and firework displays will be conducted at the Naseem Park while, for the first time, the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex will see several activities such as the Omani culinary festival and Muscat International Festival for Folk Heritage which will be held in co-operation with Unesco.

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Arab Health unveils innovative projects

Gulf Today – 31 January, 2013 The 38th edition of Arab Health Congress and Exhibition has witnessed unveiling of an array of state-of-the-art projects focusing on medical innovation to – leverage the potential of the Middle East region’s healthcare market, which has a reputation of being a world leader in the delivery of healthcare.

Capitalising on the huge networking potential of Arab Health conference to establish strategic alliances and in line with the value of the region’s healthcare industry generating revenues of up to $ 80 billion annually, these healthcare providers commit that they aim to complement the growing focus by making the latest and most advanced technologies and ensure the highest standards in medical care. More over, healthcare remains a top priority of the region’s governments and this is clearly reflected by the increasing healthcare expenditure in the region.

Dr Ramadan Ibrahim, Director of Health Regulation at the Dubai Health Authority, said the authority constantly encourage private healthcare players to bring worldwide trends and innovations in the medical field and highlight Dubai in the global medical tourism map.

The Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) has announced innovative solutions for a more effective health care via its health facilities, available in various cities of Abu Dhabi.

The organisation exhibits comprehensive health care solutions that will enhance the level of confidence, clinical competence, and comfort of patients in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, said SEHA’s Corporate Marketing and Communications Manager Salama Al-Mazrouei.

Mediclinic Middle East, the UAE’s largest private healthcare clinic, announced that it will increase its presence at Dubai Healthcare City premises by building a Dhs200 million expansion to the existing Mediclinic City Hospital on a plot adjacent to its current location.

“The 200,000 sqft expansion project in the integrated healthcare free zone will house an advanced oncology unit, bringing the standard of healthcare available in the UAE to a whole new level,” said Dr Tarek Fathey, Director of Mediclinic Hospital.

“The planned oncology unit, with the very latest diagnostic and therapeutic modalities will fill a huge gap in services currently available to residents of the UAE and the region as a whole. The project, to be built in association with Switzerland’s Hirslanden, is expected to be completed by early 2015, and all those involved in the unit will travel to Switzerland for extensive training,” he explained.

India’s pioneer integrated healthcare organisation Trivitron Healthcare’s strategic global growth plan reinforces its foray into the ME market by converting an existing joint venture with the UAE’s ETA Star Healthcare, into a wholly-owned subsidiary in Dubai.

MD and Founder of Trivitron Dr GSK Velu said the partnership will focus on the region with Trivitron’s indigenously manufactured innovative products in critical care and operating room solutions, lab diagnostics and imaging solutions.

Abu Dhabi-based premier private healthcare provider Burjeel Hospitals Group and the region’s foremost orthopaedic and joint replacement surgeon Dr Samih Tarabichi have signed an agreement in regard to opening of Burjeel Hospital for Special Surgery and Tarabichi’s Centre of Joint Surgery, a highly specialised orthopaedics hospital in Dubai in March 2013.

“The 35-bed hospital on the Sheikh Zayed Road will be fitted with three operating theatres designed to perform 2,500 orthopaedics procedures annually,” said Dr Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, Managing Director of Burjeel Hospitals Group.

“The hospital also offers knowledge-sharing partnership confirmed with HELIOS ENDO-Klinik Hamburg,” said Dr Tarabichi, Medical Director of the Hospital.

Saudi German Hospitals Group (SGH) – Dubai will construct a one-of-a-kind medical tower that will accommodate 215 leased clinics, six specialised medical centres and an expansive educational centre.

Dr Reem Osman, CEO of SGH-Dubai, said, “We will invest in advanced healthcare technologies to further strengthen our competitive advantage in the region,”

Ras Al Khaimah-based Arabian Healthcare Group (AHG) announced that it will set up a chain of premium speciality centres across the UAE. Raza Siddiqui, CEO of AHG, said two diabetes centres, one in Dubai and another RAK; a specialised eye care centre, in association with India’s LV Prasad Eye Institute; and a comprehensive rehabilitation centre will be opened by end of 2013 in the first phase under the group’s flagship facility RAK Hospital.”

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Kuwait airport in ambitious development phase

Kuwait Times – 30 January, 2013 – The Ministry of Public Works is executing a mega venture to expand Kuwait International Airport to enhance its capacity to serve 25 million passengers per year by 2024, up from the current 8 million passengers. First phase of the project includes establishment of more gateways and apron plots to accommodate more than 50 aircraft, with a future plan to build up to 100 aprons and a huge parking lot, with surrounding greenery. According to the plan, details of which were made available by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, passengers are to walk towards the main building and their designated terminals through shaded, pleasing greenery-roofed paths.

The path provides full view of a large green and naturally-lit space which brings a feeling of calm and tranquility. The pathways serve the added purpose of reducing foot traffic within the building. The planned expanded airport will be able to serve giant aircraft, including 280-As. Kuwait International Airport is planned to significantly increase capacity and establish a new regional air hub in the Gulf. The project’s strategic aims will be matched by a state-of-the-art terminal building, which will provide the highest levels of comfort for passengers and will set a new environmental benchmark for airport buildings. The overall design is rooted in a sense of place, responsive to the climate of one of the hottest inhabited environments on earth, and is inspired by local forms and materials.

The terminal has a trefoil plan, comprising three symmetrical wings of departure gates. Each facade spans 1.2 km and all extend from a dramatic 25- meter-high central space. The terminal balances the enclosure of this vast area with a design that is highly legible at a human scale; for simplicity and ease of use, there are few level changes. To future aid orientation, the building is planned under a single roof canopy, punctuated by glazed openings that filter daylight, while deflecting direct solar radiation. The canopy extends to shade a generous entrance plaza and is supported by tapering concrete columns. The fluid, organic forms of columns draw inspiration from the contrast between the solidity of the stone and movement of Kuwait’s traditional dhow sailing boats.

The project targets Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold. It aims to be the first passenger terminal in the world to attain this level of environmental accreditation. The concrete structure provides thermal mass and the roof incorporates a large expanse of photovoltaic panels to harvest solar energy. The site has flexible master plan, with the terminal strategically located to anticipate and enable future expansion. The airport will initially accommodate 13 million passengers per year, with the flexibility to increase to 25 million passengers and to accommodate 50 million passengers with future development. The design plan has stand flexibility to accommodate between 30-51 contact stands in the first phase. This is in addition to sufficient landside area to allow parking, GTC, and high-end landside facilities such as offices and DGCA headquarters and hotels.

The 60m span roof canopy minimized walking distance below 600m from center to end points of a terminal. Site area is a landside area of approximately 150 ha and an airside area of approximately 360 ha. The total building footprint is 140,000 meters square, and building height is up to 39 meters. The planned terminal building comes in four levels above ground, and one underground.

The concrete shell roof structure consists of 78 perimeter and 12 internal structural bays. A typical bay comes in 45m glass facade protected by canopy. The concrete structure provides thermal mass and the roof incorporates a large expanse of photovoltaic panels to harvest solar energy. As for check in and baggage handling, the plan comes with 120 Check in desks for 13 million passengers per year (MAP), 180 Check in desks for 25 MAP, and a 13 MAP baggage handling system will be able to handle a peak of 2,930 bags per hour, and a 25 MAP baggage handling system will be able to handle a peak of 5,390 bags per hour. The integrated baggage system incorporates screening, dynamic storage, and sorting. As for access to the airport, the new terminal will have a new landside access sequence from the south as a new road connects from the King Faisal Motorway 51 and the 7th Ring Road. There are also plans to establish a metro linking the airport to Kuwait City Centre.

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Dubai airport overtakes Hong Kong

Gulf Today – 29 January, 2013 – Following its busiest month and year on record, Dubai International has taken over as the world’s third ranked airport for international passenger numbers, vaulting ahead of Hong Kong International Airport in the global rankings.

According to the annual traffic report issued on Monday by Dubai Airports, passenger traffic surged 13.2 per cent to 57,684,550 in 2012, up from 50,977,960 passengers recorded during 2011. The 2012 passenger traffic also exceeded Dubai Airports’ forecast at the start of the year of 56.5-million by more than 1 million passengers.

The year-end numbers were bolstered by a record 5,320,961 passengers in December 2012, 13.4 per cent higher than the 4,690,726 passengers recorded in December 2011 and the second month in Dubai International’s 52 year history that passenger traffic has exceeded 5 million passengers. Aircraft movements for 2012 reached 344,245 movements, up 5.5 per cent from the 326,318 movements recorded in 2011.

Regionally, South America was the fastest expanding market in terms of percentage growth in 2012 (+99.4 per cent) due to the introduction of Emirates flights to Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. The Russia & CIS region followed in second place (+36.9 per cent), Australasia (+21.9 per cent) in third spot and GCC fourth (+19.4 per cent). New Emirates flights to Washington, Dallas Fort Worth and Seattle during the year saw North American passenger traffic grow 18.6 per cent, making it the fifth fastest growing region.

India remained Dubai International’s single biggest country destination in terms of passenger numbers. The passenger traffic between Dubai and India continued to show robust growth during the past year, with total passenger traffic rising 7.4 per cent year on year to 7.34 million passengers in 2012. Traffic was bolstered by the introduction of Spicejet which added new flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Kochi and Ahmedabad to Dubai. Air India Express, Indigo and Emirates also added new flights and destinations during the year.

Freight volumes rebounded towards the end of last year, helping total volumes for 2012 rise 3.9 per cent to 2,279,624 tonnes from 2,194,264 tonnes recorded in 2011. In December, cargo volumes climbed 6.5 per cent from 189,593 tonnes in December 2011 to 201,949 tonnes in December 2012.

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Abu Dhabi records rise in hotel guests

Gulf Today – 29 January, 2013 – Abu Dhabi last year received 2,388,023 hotel guests in its 136 hotels and hotel apartments – a 13 per cent rise on its 2011 performance and achieving its set target of 2.3 million guests..

The figures, revealed by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), show a 12 per cent year-on-year rise in guest nights to 6,996,724 and Hotel revenues for the period were also up — this time by 6 per cent — to Dhs4.6 billion ($ 1.261 billion).

“This is a very satisfactory performance and gives us an excellent platform on which to now build for our 2013 target of 2.5 million guests,” said Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman, TCA Abu Dhabi.

“Growth was recorded across all key markets with the strongest coming from Africa, the GCC, Middle East and Asia. With the recent opening of our latest power draw, Yas Waterworld, major new resorts opening shortly, our new on-the-ground representation in India and enhanced air access via Etihad’s new 2013 services from Washington DC and Sao Paolo, we anticipate continued improved performance going forward,” he added.

During 2012 there was strong growth in the number of guests coming from Africa – which was up by a third on 2011 and was primarily influenced by arrivals from the Seychelles, which now has enhanced air access to the emirate via Etihad and air Seychelles, and also from South Africa.

Improved GCC arrivals was mainly influenced by an upturn in guest numbers from Saudi Arabia, which rose 16 per cent year-on-year, from Oman, which turned in a 29 per cent increase and Qatar which delivered 24 per cent more guests.

Greater uptake from China, the Philippines and India largely accounted for the enhanced performance from Asia, which rose 28 per cent year-on-year. During 2012, hotel occupancy was 65 per cent, a slight decrease of 5 per cent year-on-year with room revenue rising by 1 per cent and the average room rate dipping by 8 per cent to Dhs452.90 ($ 123.30).

TCA Abu Dhabi says room rate decline is reflective of supply-and-demand fundamentals in a market which has seen a 16 per cent increase in the number of rooms available.

Food ‘&’ beverage revenues continued to hold their own outperforming 2011 by 12 per cent and amounting to Dhs1.8 billion ($ 491 million). Domestic tourism remained buoyant throughout the year accounting for some 888,241 guests — an 8 per cent rise on 2011.

During 2012 the UK remained Abu Dhabi’s largest international source market delivering 140,393 hotel guests — a slight 1 per cent rise on the previous year. India became the destination’s second largest international source market with 138,768 hotel guests — a rise of 28 per cent on 2011, with Germany taking third place with 96,802 guests representing a 42 per cent increase on the comparative period.

Major gains also came from Italy, which delivered 22 per cent more guests last year than in 2011 reflective on the new AlItalia services between Rome and Abu Dhabi and Russia, which saw a 40 per cent rise in guests.

“Air connectivity is a crucial element in achieving our deliverables and we look forward to the launch of Etihad’s planned daily service from Washington DC to Abu Dhabi this March to open up more opportunity from the US market,” added Sheikh Sultan.

Guests from the US and Canada are proving to be Abu Dhabi’s longest stayers with an average stay of 5.47 and 5.58 nights respectively.

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Kuwait partakes in Turkish tourism fair

Kuwait News Agency – 27 January, 2013 – For the purpose of boosting tourism cooperation between Kuwait and Turkey, the State of Kuwait’s tourism sector in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry participated for the third consecutive time on Saturday, in the 17th Eastern Mediterranean International Travel and Tourism Exhibition (EMITT), held here on January 24-27.

Kuwait is keen and places a great deal of interest in participating in promising markets in the region, especially with Turkey in the tourism field, Director of Public Relations in the Commerce and Industry Ministry Khaled Al-Abdulhadi told KUNA.

The official added that the ministry was always keen on participating in exhibitions and international conferences in Turkey, namely EMITT exhibition in Istanbul, the country’s commercial capital and a mecca for international tourism movement.

With a total attendance of 128,000 people from 70 countries, out of which 57,000 were tourism professionals and 71,000 visitors.

The EMITT Exhibition is open to tourism professionals during the first two days and open to the public during the last two.

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Iran’s biggest car factory projected

Tehran Times – 27 January, 2013 – The largest car manufacturing factory in Iran, with a projected annual output of 5 million cars, is projected to be established, ISNA reported. The factory’s output will be higher than the total outputs of the two current main carmakers, namely Iran Khodro and Saipa.

The new factory will produce the first national Iranian car, which will hit the market by March 2015 at an estimated price of 10-12 thousand dollars.

Iran’s vehicle manufacturers are faced with both rising production costs and lacking some details as to how to manufacture cars after the giant international auto companies left Iran because of sanctions aimed to curb the country’s disputed nuclear program.

These include Italian Fiat, German General Motors and its French partner PSA Peugeot Citroen, South Korean Hyundai and the Japanese Toyota Motor Corporation, etc. Iran’s major car producer Iran Khodro which had been a partner of France’s Peugeot since 1989, had to close some production units.

Iranian car manufacturers produced 72,845 vehicles in the 9th month of the current Iranian calendar year (November 21-December 21). The amount shows 1.5 percent increase compared to its preceding month’s figure of 71,732 vehicles, IRNA reported.

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Oman’s $1bn Medical City set for 2016 launch

Oman Daily Observer – 28 January, 2013 – The promoters of the $ 1 billion International Medical City project in Salalah plan to bring the prestigious healthcare infrastructure and medical tourism venture into operation in 2016, according to a high-level executive of the flagship development.

Dr Naeema Aziz, Project Director, said the integrated development, which will house the region’s first purpose-built transplantation and rehabilitation centre, as well as Oman’s first advanced tertiary care hospital and diagnostics centre, promises to transform the country’s healthcare landscape.

“The International Medical City will open a new chapter in Oman’s healthcare development,” said Dr Aziz. “It will establish the Sultanate as a regional hub for transplant based medical tourism, encompassing kidney, liver and pancreas transplantation and rehabilitation services. Besides easing the government’s burden in providing tertiary healthcare services, this prestigious venture will also contribute to economic development in Salalah, and create employment for Omanis,” she added in a presentation at the Oman Construction Summit yesterday.

Development of the unique project is expected to begin in earnest this year on an 870,000 sq metre waterfront stretch overlooking the Arabian Sea. The plot has been allocated by the Ministry of Tourism, underscoring strong governmental backing for the scheme. The Ministry of Health is also supporting the development as a strategic partner, she said.

The International Medical City project is being spearheaded by the Dammam (Saudi Arabia) based Apex Medical Group, which is a wholly subsidiary of Al Joaib Investment Group, a major Saudi firms with interests primarily focused on the oilfield contracting services. Apex Medical is currently weighing partnership offers from Omani, as well as GCC investors, said Dr Aziz.

Given the size and ambitious nature of the venture, the International Medical City will be implemented in three phases, according to the project director. The first phase will centre on the construction of a 530-bed multispecialty tertiary care hospital supported by three proposed centres of excellence in transplantation services, rehabilitative care, and diagnostic services.

Envisioned in Phase 2 is a healthcare resort complete with 4-star medical hotel. Residential quarters for faculty and staff, serviced apartments for clients, and commercial components will also be added in this phase. The third phase will focus on the development of a medical education complex featuring dedicated medical and nursing colleges, and an R&D centre.

Importantly, the reputed American global hospital brand, Methodist International, has been roped in as the strategic partner in the project. The Texas-based brand will be responsible for hospital programme management and the secondment of senior executive staff to manage the Medical City.

Drawing a timeline for the implementation of the project, Dr Aziz said the development of infrastructure would commence this year, alongside the engineering design of the healthcare components and serviced apartments. Actual construction of the healthcare cluster, as well as the serviced apartments, is targeted for completion in 2015. The Medical City will be formally inaugurated in 2016, she added.

Bank Muscat has been appointed as Financial Advisors for the project. The pre-concept master plan was undertaken by Atkins. Korea’s Asan Medical Centre has been named the Strategic Partner for the training of staff in transplantation care.

Significantly, the International Medical City will create an estimated 1,000 jobs during Phase 1 of the project, rising to around 3,000 when all three phases are operational, Dr Aziz added. The Oman Construction Summit 2013, organised by Global Exhibitions and Conferences in partnership with IQPC, formally opens today.

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Bahrain to spend US$2.5 bln on infrastructure projects

MANAMA, Jan 29 (NNN-KUNA) – Bahraini Minister of Works Essam Khalaf said on Monday that Bahrain plans to spend about one billion Bahraini dinars (USD 2.5 billion) on infrastructure projects over the next 10 years.

Khalaf said in a speech during the opening of the 14th Conference of the Projects Management Institute – Bay Branch here that the projects aimed at developing sanitation networks, building schools, health centres, sports and social development projects.

He explained that a number of these projects will be funded under the USD 10 billion GCC support programme, adding that these projects are consistent with the vision of the Kingdom, which aims to raise its position regionally and internationally and improve the standard of living for its citizens.

He said the Kingdom seeks to implement numerous projects related to infrastructure development which will help it achieve better returns on investment in the shortest period of time and in line with its economic vision for the year 2030.

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Malaysian Pinewood movie studios to attract international projects

JOHOR BAHARU, Jan 29 (NNN-Bernama) – Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios (PIMS) is projected to attract international production projects with a total budget of RM3.8 billion by 2020.

PIMS chief executive officer Michael Lake said the budget would include spending on some 9,500 full-time and freelance film workers over the period, use of studio space, film production equipment, logistics, food and beverages, lodging, purchase of construction and office supplies and other services.

“About RM1.9 billion will be spent in the local economy, including for local wages,” he said in a press briefing on PIMS’ development here today. Sprawled on a 20-hectare site in the flagship development area of Iskandar Malaysia, in the southern state of Johor neighbouring Singapore PIMS is scheduled for completion in May and will bring to the Asia Pacific region a world-class state-of-the-art film and television studio production facility.

It will offer international film and television producers one of the largest film and television production facilities in the region. “To support the first phase of PIMS development, a total of 1,500 talents are required by end of this year,” Lake said.

To procure the required talents, Iskandar Region Development Authority (IRDA) chief executive Datuk Ismail Ibrahim announced the commencement of Iskandar Malaysia Creative Industry Talent Development programme.

“The first seven ‘Train the Trainers’ course under the development programmes will start in March and are designed as intensive eight to 12 week courses to provide skills and knowledge needed by Malaysian film industry professionals, trainers and workers to seamlessly integrate with large scale international film production companies,” said Ismail.

The programme targets to get about 1,300 people by end of this year to widen and strengthen the professional and technical skills base for the film industry, especially to support PIMS. He said the courses would be conducted by international experts with extensive experience in their respective fields and would allow trainees to gain knowledge on international best practices in film production.

The seven courses to be offered are training in hair design and grooming, make-up, wardrobe management, production accounting, set construction, grip and electrical department. Ismail said that 17 more courses would be announced in due course.

Application for the courses is now open and will close on February 12. Those interested can log on to www.iskandarmalaysia.com for further information.

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Islamic economics has solution to Muslim world’s economic problems

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Jan 29 (NNN-Bernama) — Islamic economics has the solution to the economic problems of Muslim communities globally, says Second Finance Minister Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah. He said theories developed in Islamic economics must be linked to practical policies in providing solutions to real life situations.

“Islamic economics places socio-economic justice as its primary objective. The principles of justice, fairness and equity are fundamental in Islamic economics,” he said. Speaking at the Second International Conference on Islamic Economics here today, Ahmad Husni said of the current 48 least developed countries worldwide, 21 are Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) members.

He said the economic and social development of these least-developed countries, represents a major challenge for themselves, their development artners as well as the Muslim community as a whole. “The recent financial and economic crisis in the Eurozone and fears of a fiscal cliff in the United States, posed an additional threat to both the OIC and non-OIC countries alike.

“It is incumbent upon us to assist our OIC brothers, if not with treasure, at least with knowledge, to build their capacity to move up the economic development chain,” he added.

On a number of injustices inherent in the global economy and financial architecture management, Ahmad Husni said Muslims should be able to influence it, but such an ambition would be too lofty at this point.

“However, this does not mean we are prevented from instituting change within our own domestic economies, to ensure there is equitable distribution of resources, including economic opportunity, capital and access to self-improvement skills and education.

“We must also ensure that the concept of socio-economic justice applies to all that resides within our domain as practised by Prophet Muhammad in Madinah more than a thousand years ago,” he added.

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World Bank: 10m rural Uzbekst to benefit from economic opportunities

WASHINGTON, Jan 31 (NNN-WORLD BANK) — Rural communities of over 10 million people in eight regions of Uzbekistan will benefit from the US$12.699 million Global Environment Facility (GEF) grant financing for the Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change Mitigation Project approved by the World Bank.

This is complementary financing to the US$120.66 million International Development Association (IDA) credit for the ongoing second phase of Uzbekistan’s Rural Enterprise Support Project.

The Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change Mitigation Project will promote the introduction of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies of relevance to agribusinesses and farms, and strengthen capacity for improving degraded irrigated land and water conservation in Andijan, Bukhara, Jizzak, Kashkadarya, Samarkand, Syrdarya, Tashkent, and Fergana regions.

According to Uzbekistan’s Second National Communication on Climate Change (2010), intensive warming has been observed over the entire country. With further acute water scarcity predicted for extremely warm and dry years, flows in the Syr Darya and Amu Darya Rivers Basins might decrease.

The activities envisaged under the new GEF grant would contribute to mitigating and adapting to water scarcity, land degradation, and increased greenhouse gas emission risks.

“The Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change Mitigation Project responds to the country’s commitment to further reform agricultural sector and raise its importance on the economic agenda,” said Takuya Kamata, World Bank’s Country Manager for Uzbekistan.

“The project will help rural communities in Uzbekistan to adopt, transfer, and replicate sustainable agriculture and land management practices aimed at restoring and improving irrigated land, while increasing economic opportunities for the rural population and improving environmental conditions.”

The project components include: Promoting Renewable Energy Technologies (GEF US$9.0 million), Promoting Technologies and Practices to Mitigate Irrigated Land Degradation (GEF US$1.09 million) and Providing Advisory Services and Project Management (GEF US$2.60 million)

Uzbekistan joined the World Bank in 1992. The World Bank’s mission in Uzbekistan is to improve people’s livelihoods through being a partner in economic reforms, supporting the modernization of the country’s social sectors and infrastructure, and sharing its knowledge and experience with the Government and the people of Uzbekistan.

Total current World Bank commitments to Uzbekistan amount to US$894.5 million.

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UNESCO to help Mali restore cultural heritag

PARIS, Jan 31 (NNN-UNNS) — The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Wednesday announced it will help rebuild and safeguard Mali’s cultural heritage, which has been the target of attacks during the current crisis.

“This heritage is an integral part of the dignity and identity of its people,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, “and it is our responsibility to restore it.”

According to media reports, Islamist extremists set fire to a library in the city of Timbuktu containing thousands of historic manuscripts, many of them dating back to the 13th to 16th centuries. The manuscripts deal with subjects ranging from religious studies to mathematics, medicine, astronomy, music, literature, poetry, architecture and women’s and children’s rights.

The latest attacks on the West African country’s cultural heritage follow the destruction of at least three mausoleums last month.

“I am deeply distressed by the wanton destruction of Mali’s heritage that the world has witnessed in recent months,” Bokova said. “UNESCO will spare no effort in working with the people of Mali to recover what is rightfully theirs. We will help them rebuild the mausoleums of Timbuktu and the tomb of Askia in Gao.”

She stressed that UNESCO would mobilize the expertise and resources to help the Malian people safeguard and preserve the ancient manuscripts that “testify to the region’s glorious past as a major centre of Islamic learning.”

UNESCO will send a team of experts to Mali to assess the damage and determine the most urgent tasks as soon as security conditions allow it, Bokova said. A special working group will also be established to draw up an action plan to guide reconstruction activities in the medium and long term.

She also called on the leaders of Mali’s neighbouring countries, institutional partners including the International Police (Interpol), and all those involved with the art market, to mobilize against all attempts to smuggle manuscripts or other cultural artifacts out of the country.

“These treasures are extremely valuable and vulnerable. We must act quickly,” she said, adding that UNESCO will boost efforts to accelerate the digitization of both private and public collections.

Fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebels broke out in northern Mali last January, after which radical Islamists seized control of the area. The renewed clashes in the north, as well as the proliferation of armed groups in the region, drought and political instability in the wake of a military coup d’état in March have uprooted hundreds of thousands of civilian

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Japan Keen To Attract Malaysian Tourists

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 27 (NNN-BERNAMA) — The Japanese tourism industry is keen to attract Muslim tourists and Malaysia is one of the countries with the largest potential, said Japanese Ambassador to Malaysia Shigeru Nakamura.

He said Japan had seen a steady growth of visitor arrivals from Malaysia, especially following the implementation in September last year of the multiple entry visa for Malaysians travelling to Japan.

“From January to November last year, Malaysian arrivals in Japan totalled about 113,100, an increase of 16.5 per cent from the corresponding period in the previous year.

“Promotion of tourism between Japan and Malaysia will contribute and enhance people-to-people relations,” he told Bernama.

Nakamura said the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) will be hosting a technical visit to Japan from Jan 29 to Feb 3.

He said that in conjunction with the visit, the Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) would sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Matta in Yokohama on Jan 30.

The MoU is to promote cooperation and exchange of ideas on inbound tourism between Malaysia and Japan. “I hope this MoU will provide additional momentum to the Malaysia and Japan tourism collaboration to further promote the Japanese tourism industry,” said Nakamura.

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World Bank approves $500 million loan for Tunisia

TUNIS,Jan 25 (NNN-AGENCIES) — The World Bank has approved a $500 million loan to Tunisia to support its 2013 budget and help its economy after the first Arab Spring uprising that toppled its former ruler, a minister said on Thursday.

Two years after the revolution that ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, increasing numbers of Tunisians are staging street protests to demand jobs and economic development.

The new loan follows another of the same amount last November to support economic recovery by providing funds to improve the business and financial sectors and reform social services.

“The World Bank approved a loan of $500 million to support Tunisia’s budget in 2013,” Riadh Bettaib, minister of investment and international cooperation, said.

Tunisia, whose uprising sparked political changes across North Africa, said in November it is seeking a $2.5 billion loan from the IMF, and Fund officials said last Friday discussions were under way to establish what was needed.

Tunisia’s Islamist-led government has sought to revive the economy hit by a decline in trade with Europe and by policy disputes between secularists and hardline Salafi Islamists. Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank, said on Wednesday in Tunis he was optimistic about the future of Tunisia though it needed painful reforms to revive its economy.

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Mozambique gets WB loan to develop climate-resilient economy

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 (NNN-AGENCIES) — The World Bank has approved US$87 million to support Mozambique’s efforts to develop a climate change-resilient economy and scale-up high impact nutrition interventions benefiting over one million Mozambicans.

The grant financing package from the International Development Association, (IDA)*, the Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries provides US$50 million for climate change, and US$37 million for community-based nutrition (CBN) services.

“Despite remarkable economic gains over the past two decades, the Mozambican economy remains vulnerable to climate-related risks and high rates of chronic malnutrition,”said Laurence C. Clarke, World Bank Country Director for Mozambique.

“These funds will support critically-needed policies and programs designed to achieve climate resiliency, better manage disasters, and reduce chronic malnutrition targeting poorer segments of Mozambican society.”

Most of the country’s large cities are located along Mozambique’s coastline which is one of Africa’s longest. Climatic shocks such as drought, floods and coastal erosion are common, and over the past 30 years, nearly 14 percent of Mozambique’s population has been affected by extreme weather events.

The climate change development policy operation, the first of its type in Sub-Saharan Africa, supports policy reforms that can make long-term growth and development plans more resilient to climate change.

The funds will help the Mozambique Government implement its national climate change strategy across national, provincial, and local levels, and encourage climate resilient planning and development within the country’s key economic sectors such as agriculture, energy, health, nutrition, and transport among others.

“Studies show that climate change-related disasters hit the poorest and most vulnerable citizens hardest,” said Anna Bjerde, Acting World Bank Director for Sustainable Development in the Africa Region.

“In Mozambique, floods have washed out roads and homes, and drought and pests have decimated food crops. Today’s funding will support government actions to create a firm foundation for long-term climate resilient growth and help enhance quality of life for the poorest in Mozambique.”

Over 44 percent of pre-school children in Mozambique suffer from chronic malnutrition, one of the highest rates in Sub-Saharan Africa. The health services delivery project will support nutrition-enhancing activities for up to one million people living in 28 districts in Cabo Delgado, Nampula and Niassa provinces.

The targeted beneficiaries are pregnant women, lactating mothers, adolescent girls, infants and young children, part of the Mozambican government’s push to check chronic malnutrition affecting poor Mozambicans.

“In both climate change and chronic malnutrition, Mozambique will need to strengthen its policies and capacity to really address these pressing development challenges,”said Giovanni Ruta and Ziauddin Hyder, World Bank Task Team Leaders for the climate and nutrition, respectively.

“We will work closely with the government and communities to make sure these projects genuinely make a positive difference in the lives of the poorest Mozambicans.”

The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing loans (called “credits”) and grants for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 81 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change for 2.5 billion people living on less than $2 a day.

Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 108 countries. Annual commitments have increased steadily and averaged about $15 billion over the last three years, with about 50 percent of commitments going to Africa.

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Iran, Afghanistan ready to boost trade transactions

KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan 26 (NNN-IRNA) — An Afghan official announced here on Saturday that Tehran-Kabul trade transactions will further boost in near future.

Speaking to IRNA, Afghanistan Commerce Ministry spokesman Wahidullah Ghazi Khail said Kabul is interested in fostering all-out ties with Tehran.

He said Iran-Afghanistan trade transactions currently worth two billion dollars, underlining the need for removing the existing obstacles in the way of promotion of bilateral trade exchanges.

Kabul has been determined to implement its agreements inked by the two sides, he said, adding that his country is a good trade partner for all countries, including the Islamic Republic.

He also urged the Iranian investors to make investment in various economic projects in his country.

Ghazi Khail reiterated that the ground is prepared for Iranian investors and businessmen to make investment in Afghanistan.

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Iran President: An Islamic Bank Can Improve World Economy

TEHRAN, Jan 27 (NNN-IRNA) — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Saturday that establishing an Islamic bank rendering standard services is one way to improve world economy. Ahmadinejad made the remarks in a meeting with President of Islamic Development Bank Ahmad Mohamed Ali in Tehran.

Islamic banks can bring just development, eradicate poverty and solve problems facing the world, he said. Rules and regulations of the Islamic bank have roots in Islamic teachings, he said.

The current international banking system tries to transfer money from the poor to the capitalists, he said. The US central bank is now printing money without any financial support which means they are pick pocketing the poor in favor of special individuals, said President Ahmadinejad.

Establishment of Islamic banks with circulation of Islamic money can help improve the current world economy, he said. “We believe that Islamic Development Bank with its rich and valuable experiences can play a more active role in the world markets,” he said.

The President of the Islamic Development Bank, for his part said that Iran is now regarded as one of the biggest supporters of the bank.

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Morocco Looks to Revive Tourism Trade

Maghrebia – 24 January 2013, Casablanca – Morocco is hoping 2013 will be a year of economic recovery for the tourism sector but experts are cautioning the rebound will not be as easy as once thought.

“Tourism in Morocco is crucial to the country’s economy, as it represents about 7.1% of the gross domestic product,” financial analyst Moussa El Mouritani explained. The analyst told Magharebia that reviving the sector this year would be difficult: “The European market represents over 50% of the tourism in Morocco; however that market is still unstable and the economy is having a hard time getting back to its normal pace and normal progression.”

Moroccan Tourism Minister Lahcen Haddad has pointed out that efforts have been made on many levels to find ways to minimise the impact of the weak economy, particularly in Europe.

Haddad said that the Moroccan government plans to develop and finalise pragmatic methods that would allow several projects to come to life. That would require raising a total of 38 billion dirhams for developing 36,000 additional beds and eventually lead to the creation of over 10,000 jobs.

The point here, Haddad said, was to invest with people involved in important projects such as the convention centre and the amusement park in Marrakech, the Tama Ouanza resort in Agadir as well as the myriad of resorts in Fez and the Biladi clubs in Martil and Benslimane.

Also on the 2013 agenda, the introduction of medical tourism and sustainable tourism classes. Tour operators are dissatisfied and feel that the field “is not living up to expectations”.

For Abdelali Mouktadir, who works in sales at a Marrakech hotel resort, the bad economy makes them less competitive.

Another Marrakech hotel operator said that the government should focus efforts mainly in the aviation sector and should work harder on making Morocco a tourist destination. The country’s potential is not being correctly showcased, Casablanca restaurant manager Driss Belloufi said.

The National Tourism Federation (FNT) wants to reinforce logistics so that the country’s vision for domestic tourism gets some kind of support. The tourism minister also looks to further reinforce training through the establishment of several partnerships with various international institutes.

He also asked field professionals to help out and determine their exact needs in terms of expertise and human resources. On a financial level, Industry and Trade Minister Abdelkader Amara noted that tourism related investments come mainly from domestic sources (64%), while only 36% come from abroad, primarily the US and Saudi Arabia.

“Next year we will have investments in the area of 20 to 30 billion dirhams,” he said. According to the latest data of the High Commission for Planning (HCP), tourism represents more than 7 per cent of the gross domestic product and is one of the top five job generating fields in Morocco.

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Gambian Comedians to Stage Comedy Show

25 January 2013 – Daily Observer – The Association of Gambian Comedians in partnership with the management of Alliance Française Gambienne is organising a grand comedic talent show this Friday 25th January 2013, at the Alliance Francaise along Kairaba Avenue, reports reaching What’s On indicates.

In the build up to the event, scores of finest Gambian comedians such as Samba Yorro Pulo, Manding Morry, among a host of others, are currently preparing for the much anticipated event. The show, according to reports, is designed to showcase, promote and bring to the fore the country’s unhidden talent in their quest to stardom. Remember it is a night to remember for the rest of your lives, as the stars will be in action to give out their best of creative talents. So make it a date.

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Nigeria: FG Using Tourism to Attract Investments, Says Ojukwu

1 February 2013 – This Day – The Nigerian Ambassador to Spain, Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu, has said that the tourism sector is one of the major areas that the President Goodluck Jonathan government is using to attract investments and boost the country’s economy.

Ojukwu, who disclosed during her visit to the Nigerian stand at the ongoing FITUR Madrid, a tourism trade fair, after attending the opening ceremony of the tourism trade fair, commended the Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mr. Segun Runsewe, for keying into the President’s transformation agenda, especially in the area of ecotourism.

Fitur prides as one of the biggest trade fair in the world with over 150 nations participating and attended by over 100,000 people.

It is a platform where participating nations showcase their products and discuss with potential investors which in turn could improve their different economies.

Ojukwu said the Jonathan administration would continue to partner tourism-related organisations and institutions as they have emerged as a veritable platform capable of alleviating poverty and improving the economic status of the country.

According to her, “Having gone round the fair, I want to state that the Nigerian stand is impressive and eye-catching. With a big logo proclaiming Nigeria with an inscription ‘Tourism is Life’, and painted in our national colours, it is obvious that this concept will endear exhibitors and tourists to our stand.”

The inscription encapsulates the essence of tourism indeed because tourism is life.

“Nigeria is proud to showcase her rich cultural heritage and with Runsewe, the message is clear which is making Nigeria a preferred destination for tourism. This administration has taken a lot of steps to facilitate investment because the nation has a lot to offer especially with focus on ecotourism. We wish to expand the frontiers of tourism and enlarge our business coast to improve our economy,” Ojukwu said.

Runsewe thanked the Ambassador for commending the initiatives of the corporation in making possible a beautiful outing that has afforded the country opportunity to showcase its potential and artifacts to the world.

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Nigeria: Fadama Projects Benefit 8,000 Farmers

31 January 2013 – Vanguard – Osogbo — NO fewer than 8,000 farmers in 20 of the 30 Local Government Areas of Osun state have benefited from the third national Fadama Development projects. Similarly10 persons living with HIV/AIDS in the state have been empowered through the Fadama 111 project supported by the World Bank and the three tiers of government.

The Project Coordinator, Mr. Adebowale Adediji, at a briefing in Osogbo yesterday, said other disadvantaged people including widows and handicapped individuals had been empowered through the project.

He said the disadvantaged people were provided with computer systems, motorcycles and other equipment to facilitate their operations in the rural areas.

Adediji, who explained that the project was a partnership between the World Bank, Federal and the state governments, noted that the project had empowered artisans and other professionals in the state since it commenced in March, 2009.

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SR1 million Saudi aid for Swedish Muslim school

Stockholm, 19 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/ 31 January 2013 (IINA) – Saudi Arabia granted SR1 million in financial assistance to expand Al-Salam School in the Swedish city of Orebro.

Dr. Abdurahman bin Muhammad Al-Jodai, ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Sweden and Iceland, handed a check worth SR1 million to Sheikh Hussein Al-Dawudi, deputy secretary general of the Scandinavia’s Al-Rislama Endowment, during a reception hosted to Sheikh Hussein at the embassy in Stockholm.

The school complex includes KG, preparatory, elementary and intermediate sections for learning the Holy Qur’an, and Arabic and Swedish languages.

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Kyrgyzstan, Tajikstan strengthen cross-border ties

2013-02-01 – centralasiaonline.com – KHUJAND – Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan share a 970km border, but its fuzzily defined lines long have fueled tensions between the two Central Asian nations. Now, in a bid to foster peace along their common frontier, the two countries are opening border check-points to one another’s citizens and engaging in a vibrant cross-border trade.

The mutual granting of permits, which allow Kyrgyz and Tajiks to visit each other’s country for two months without having to notify local police of their arrival, figures among the peaceful measures that Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have undertaken lately to improve bilateral relations and to help promote regional stability. At the same time, they are trying to finish defining their border, large parts of which remain disputed 20 years after the Soviet collapse, officials from both countries say. The countries have fully agreed on only 519km of the frontier.

“It is encouraging to see that the two neighbouring states have managed to build truly neighbourly and trusting relations and to establish mutually beneficial co-operation in a wide variety of fields,” Urmat Saraliyev, Kyrgyz ambassador to Tajikistan, told Central Asia Online.

“At the present time, Kyrgyz-Tajik co-operation is entering a new phase, the distinguishing feature of which is pragmatism and constructiveness,” he added, noting that January marked the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Bilateral trade has swelled in recent years, growing by 50% since 2009 to a total of US $37.5m (178m TJS or 1.8 billion KGS) in 2012, according to the Tajik Ministry of Economic Development and Trade.

The increasing cross-border commerce is bringing with it the by-product of improved prospects for regional security, said Khodjimat Umarov, a Tajik economist.

“The trade between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan is not great, but the important thing is that it is growing from year to year,” he said. “This is possible only with goodwill for co-operation, which is a factor for stability in Central Asia.”

In describing how commerce is picking up across the border, Umarov told of how hundreds of small-scale “shuttle” traders come into Kyrgyzstan every week to search for low-priced manufactured goods that they can re-sell in Tajikistan. Meanwhile, farmers from Batken Oblast, Kyrgyzstan, cross over to Sughd Oblast, Tajikistan, to sell their excess produce at the local market, he said.

Economists and entrepreneurs on both sides of the border welcome the efforts to ease restrictions on the movement of people, goods and services. The 60-day travel permit was long overdue, said Bakir Kasymov, a Kyrgyz wholesaler. It’ll help him strengthen ties with his Tajik partners, he predicted.

“We are neighbouring countries, we trade with each other and many people have relatives on the other side of the border, so it’s a very important decision,” Kasymov said.

“Many traders are finding great opportunities and fewer obstacles,” Izzat Usmanov, a Kyrgyz analyst of his country’s markets, said. “The border trade is livening up. This will surely be helpful in settling border disputes.”

The neighbouring countries, meanwhile, are working to come to terms on how their territorial lines should appear on maps, according to officials on both sides of the border.

“Kyrgyzstan is an important partner for us, and local conflicts should not cast a shadow over our relations,” Djumaboy Sanginov, deputy chairman of the Sughd Oblast executive branch of government, told Central Asia Online, adding that an Inter-governmental Commission on Border Delimitation and Demarcation is dealing with this matter and is close to preparing documents for signing.

In Leilek District, Batken Oblast, Kyrgyzstan, Leilek District Akim Tileberdi Aripov told Central Asia Online in a phone interview that hard and painstaking work is being done to settle the status of disputed lands in specific border zones.

“Compared with previous sessions, this one is distinguished by its constructiveness and business-like nature,” Aripov said, referring to the latest round of bilateral talks. “Agreement has virtually been reached on most of the disputed sectors. There remain lands located along certain inhabited settlements, in particular the Kyrgyz villages Aksai, Yakkaruk and Yakkaterak and the Tajik villages Chorkukh, Surkh and Vorukh.”

“Determining the status of these lands could put an end to the territorial disputes and conflicts that hinder stability in the border zone,” he added.

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MVR54 million road project inaugurated in Maldives

February 1, 2013 – Sun.mv Online – President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has inaugurated a road construction project worth MVR54 million in Kulhudhuffushi.

Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muizzu told Sun Online today that roads measuring 5.8 kilometres will be constructed in Kulhudhuffushi under the agreement signed today between Housing Ministry and Maldives Road Development Corporation.

He said that according to the agreement, the work must be completed within six to eight months. Muizzu said that the agreement also includes the construction of a ‘maternity waiting home’ at the harbour of the island, and that this project will be launched by the president today. He said that this project, worth MVR9 million, will be completed by the end of November 2013.

He said that funds from the state budget will be used for the road construction project, while MVR7 million received from foreign groups and state funds will be used to construct the maternity waiting home.

“When that building is completed, things will become easier for people who come to Kulhudhuffushi to obtain services. Right now we see that people who come with children don’t have a place for their children,” he said. Muizzu said at today’s ceremony that tarring of main roads in Kulhudhuffushi will also be completed before the end of the year.

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Talks to boost Azerbaijan, Iraq relations

02 February 2013 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijan`s State Migration Service (SMS) Chief Firudin Nabiyev met Iraqi ambassador Heydar Shiya Gubeyshi Al-Barrak.

Nabiyev spoke of bilateral relations between the two counties, updated on the activity of the organization he supervises, gave detailed information on the latest economic achievements and political stability of Azerbaijan, noting just these factors attract the foreigners, as a result of which the number of people without citizenship come to the country.

Ambassador Heydar Shiya Gubeyshi Al-Barrak thanked the State Migration Service Chief for detailed information, adding that the number of Azerbaijanis wishing to invest in Iraq’s economy has notably increased. The Ambassador with great pleasure recalled the soviet times when Iraqi students studied in Baku.

The Migration Service Chief said there were many Iraq students who study at the medical institutions of Azerbaijan, as his country needs high medical professionals.

The sides had comprehensive discussions on the prospects of cooperation between the relevant structures of the two countries.

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Azerbaijani artist’s works exhibited in US

02 February 2013 – TODAY.AZ – An exhibition of paintings by Azerbaijani artist Vugar Muradov has been demonstrated at the international Incognito exhibition in the U.S. State of Florida.

Being one of the eminent fine art masters in Azerbaijan, Vugar is in constant search for synthesis of East and West traditions, of national originality.

Preserving philosophical world view basis and poetry of Eastern classical art along with outlook of contemporary man distinguishes her paintings.

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Mugham conference starts in Baku

29 January 2013 – TODAY.AZ – A conference entitled “The role of musical instruments in Azerbaijani mugham and in the related traditional genres of East” has today started in the Union of Azerbaijan Composers on the eve of the 3rd International Mugham Symposium.

Chairwoman of the Union of Azerbaijan Composers, Professor Firangiz Alizade spoke of the importance of the annual mugham festival held in Azerbaijan.

She said that the festival encompasses the tasks, such as gathering up-to-date information about the current state of the interrelated forms of the art of music, achieving development of historic ties among different contemporary ethnic/regional cultures, creating an opportunity for the cooperation of activities among the musicians who promote traditional music.

“The contest is open to both vocal and instrumental soloists with an upper age limit of 35 years. Required documents must be submitted no later than February 15, 2013,” she added.

“The World of Mugham” International Music Festival of 2013 co-organized by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, the Friends of Azerbaijani Culture Foundation, the Azerbaijan Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Ministry of Education, the Composers Union and the National Conservatory will be held on March 11-19.

The conference featured discussions on Azerbaijani mugham and the related traditional genres of East music in different music instruments.

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