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4 Mar, 2013

Qatar-Oman Joint Tourist Visa for 33 Countries

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 March 2013 (21 Rabee’ al-Thaani 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.


Malaysia Gears Up for Asia’s Premier Aerospace Expo

The Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (26–30 March 2013) is the premier destination for aerospace and maritime manufacturers targeting the Asia Pacific growth markets from the defence, enforcement, civil and commercial sectors. Held at the Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre, the exhibition combines the adjacent Langkawi International Airport and a neighbouring cruise jetty as part of its overall facilities. LIMA’s winning formula of targeted buyers, carefully crafted networking programmes and exceptional infrastructure have consistently yielded exceptional results. Over 90% of LIMA’s participants in 2011 returned a good to excellent rating for event organization. The 12th edition of the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition is set to be the biggest ever organised with 87% of available exhibition space taken up by both returning and new exhibitors. New companies account for 23% percent of LIMA’s growth with countries such as Australia, France, USA and Russia have increased their exhibition stand at LIMA’13. According to Mr Ahmad Dzuhri Wahab, Managing Director of HW LIMA Exhibitions, “We attribute the increase to the growing importance of the Asian market vis-a vis the current economic situation in Europe and the United States.” A number of key new programmes will be introduced at LIMA’13, foremost being the ASEAN Aviation Best Practices Awards, The LIMA ‘13 Shipbuiding and Shiprepair conference and the ASEAN Aviation Conference aimed at achieving balance between LIMA’s commercial and defence sectors which is now in favour of the latter. For further info: http://www.lima.com.my/

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 (Sunday Post Editor Paul Ruffini and Managing Editor Chiratas Nivatpumin) 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.


Qatar-Oman Joint Tourist Visa for 33 countries

The Peninsula – 28 February, 2013 – Tourists from several countries can soon visit Qatar and Oman on a single visa. Both countries recently signed an agreement to issue a common tourist visa for citizens of 33 countries on arrival at Doha International Airport, according an announcement on the Ministry of Interior (MoI) website http://english.mofa.gov.qa/visa.htm.

The visa holder can travel from Qatar to Oman without taking a separate visa, provided that he does not go to a third country during the visit. The visa is valid for one month and can be extended for another. “The State of Qatar has signed an agreement with the Sultanate of Oman to provide joint tourist visa,” the MoI website said yesterday.

“The beneficiary is permitted to travel freely between Qatar and Oman during the validity period of the visa provided that he shall not leave for a third country during the period. In that case he has to apply for a new visa again,” the website added.

The common tourist visa will be issued to citizens of Andorra, Austria, Britain, Canada, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, Monaco, New Zealand, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Vatican, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Lichtenstein, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, San Marino, South Korea, Sweden and United States.

The visa applicant should be a citizen of the 33 countries mentioned in the agreement and his passport needs to be valid for not less than 6 months. The visa will not be issued for a temporary passport holder. The applicant should have a return air ticket.

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OIC Seeks Fund To Promote Better Media Coverage of Muslim World

25/02/2013 – The Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, has called for the establishment of a fund to which member states, institutions and individuals would contribute in order to effectively commence the process of interaction with foreign media for the benefit of the Muslim world.

In his speech to the experts-level open-ended meeting on external media action and how to implement the proposal for a special media programme for Africa, held at the OIC General Secretariat, Jeddah on 25 – 26 February 2013, the Secretary General reiterated that it was necessary for member states to provide necessary financial and logistical capabilities to finance projects on direct interaction with external media.

The Secretary General also expressed the OIC’s deep concern about growing intolerance against Islam and Muslims in the West due to reports and literature being published and offensive films being disseminated targeting Islamic symbols and values in numerous and various mass media.

This, he said, leads to negative stereotyping, racial discrimination and targeting of Muslims in order to distort the image of the pure religion of Islam. He stated that these campaigns had become a serious threat to international security and peace, they imperil inter-communal harmony and hinder the development of a culture of understanding and tolerance, the dissemination of which we have always called amongst various peoples.

He added that in order to stop the consequences of this dangerous phenomenon, the 11th Islamic Summit held in Dakar in 2008 stressed in paragraph 180 of its Final Communiqué the need to increase institutional cooperation among member states to effectively counter Islamophobia.

The Summit called for a draft comprehensive strategy to combat the phenomenon. Paragraph 17 of Resolution No. 34/38 on Combating Islamophobia and Eliminating Hatred and Prejudice against Islam requested the Secretary General to engage constructively with all stakeholders, and influential public opinion makers, particularly in the West, with a view to combating Islamophobia by evolving a comprehensive strategy taking into account the removal of social and economic imbalances in the interest of creating an international environment conducive to interfaith and inter-civilizational harmony.”

He also said the OIC believes that the existence of a cross-border satellite information platform would enable it to reach Islamic and international public opinion through a unified and moderate Islamic voice capable of delivering its balanced message in accordance with the OIC Charter so as to defend various Islamic causes.

In his statement to the Expert Group Meeting on the establishment of an OIC satellite channel, held at the OIC headquarters in Jeddah on Saturday 23 February 2013, Ihsanoglu pointed out that the growing role of the media and satellite channels is no longer a secret and that the states of the Muslim world lack effective media tools, especially an all-embracing Islamic satellite that carry a clear message and educate the peoples of those states about the importance of joint Islamic action and the various sectors.

It is well-known, he added, that states usually own satellite channels through which they communicate with their peoples. However, those satellites do not enjoy considerable viewership in these countries. In most cases the viewership does not extend beyond the borders of those countries, even as broadcast are made with long-range satellite systems. Although there are some exceptions to these satellite channels in the Muslim world and they are limited in number.

The Secretary General reiterated that while the Muslim world lives today in the era of globalization, information technology and rapidly developing and modernizing communication, it has become more aware than ever of the compelling need and utmost importance of a television channel for the OIC that would broadcast on the satellite, concern itself with the issues of the Muslim world and defend its interest in demonstration of the principles of Islamic solidarity. He also noted the key role this satellite can play in projecting the true image of Islam especially in light of the wicked onslaught against Islam and its holy symbols.

Ihsanoglu recalled that all the resolutions adopted since the Islamic Conference of Information Ministers in Gabon have reiterated that it is very important for the OIC to have a satellite channel specialized in creating awareness about the OIC, its role and activities, member states and all that could help the states and their peoples. It would provide information about the states and their various activities and highlight the factors that unite the Ummah and strengthen the bonds of cooperation among them. This demand, he added, emanates in implementation of the vision outlined by the OIC Ten-Year Programme of Action in 2005.

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Amex Mideast makes Jordan Priority Tourist Destination

Amman – American Express Middle East announced details of its first “Experience Jordan” destination campaign, offering travellers to Jordan the opportunity to access to a wide range of airline, hotel stays, car rental, designer shopping, dining, leisure and wellbeing special offers, simply by using their American Express Cards.

Organised in association with the Jordan Tourism Board, “Experience Jordan” enables travellers to take advantage of exclusive offers and benefits which have been specially selected and developed by American Express Middle East. Launched this week, “Experience Jordan” aims to boost inbound travel to Jordan, helping turn it into a must-visit tourist destination.

Deepak Jain, VP Emerging Markets, American Express Middle East said: “This campaign emphasises the charm and appeal of Jordan as a holiday hotspot. Jordan is a land of stunning natural wonders, ancient architectural marvels, magnificent landscapes and thrilling adventure. The offers available through the “Experience Jordan” campaign will enable our Cardmembers to experience a world class holiday.”

Running until June 30, 2013, “Experience Jordan” encourages travellers to choose Jordan as their holiday destination, enabling them to benefit from various offers including an exclusive 10% off Economy and Business Class tickets with Royal Jordanian Airlines, 15% saving on room rates at 5 Star hotels such as Marriot Hotels & Resorts located in Amman, Petra and the Dead Sea and Kempinski Hotels & Resorts in Amman, Aqaba and the Dead Sea. The campaign also includes a unique offer with the Six Senses Spa at Evason Ma’in Hot Springs, where Cardmembers are invited to enjoy 15% off select spa packages.

Travellers can benefit from 20% off car rental from Hertz Jordan or choose from a selection of tour and adventure packages from Wild Jordan and Royal Aero Sports Club of Jordan. If shopping is more their scene, Cardmembers can avail savings of 10 – 15% with Daoud Tycoons and Jordan Jewel.

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Malaysia Airlines Continues Uptrend in Growth

28 February 2013, Subang – Malaysia Airlines today announced a Net Income After Tax (NIAT) of RM51 million for the fourth quarter ended 31 December 2012 against a Net Loss of RM1.3 billion in the previous corresponding quarter.

For the full year of 2012, Malaysia Airlines reported a Net Loss of Tax of RM433 million compared to a Net Loss of RM2.52 billion registered for the 12 months ended 31 December 2011.

Without the one-off provisions amounting to RM1.09 billion recorded in Quarter 4, 2011, NIAT for the fourth quarter 2012 registered an improvement of RM233 million. For the full year 2012, there was an improvement in the results of RM1.0 billion.

This is the second consecutive quarter of profit for the national airline following 6 consecutive quarters of losses. This is also the best result since the launch of the airline’s Business Plan at the end of 2011.

“The massive swing from a RM1.3 billion loss in the fourth quarter of 2011 to a profit of RM51 million achieved in the similar quarter of 2012 shows that our Business Plan is working. We continue to gain traction in multiple initiatives that focus on increasing revenue and managing costs. The results are very encouraging for our team who has worked hard throughout the year”, said Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, Malaysia Airlines Group CEO.

The operating profit of RM44 million and NIAT of RM51 million for the fourth quarter of 2012 compared favourably against an operating loss of RM1.32 billion and a Net Loss After Tax of RM1.28 billion y-o-y in 2011.

A key contributor to the continued positive trend in yearly financial performance at the operating level was the Route Rationalisation Programme which saw an overall 6% reduction in ASK (Available Seat Kilometre) over 2012. This was matched by a marginal 2% reduction in revenue to RM13.76 billion in 2012 and Seat Factor holding at 75 ppts. The reduced ASK also helped Malaysia Airlines register a corresponding 13% decrease in expenditure.

Fuel spending, which accounted for 38% of expenditure, fell 9% equivalent to RM518 million, to RM5.33 billion for the twelve months of 2012. The average price of fuel over the period continued to remain high at an average USD134 per barrel.

With fuel prices remaining high, Malaysia Airlines’ current fleet renewal programme becomes even more significant for operations. Over the course of 2012, Malaysia Airlines took delivery of 18 new fuel efficient aircraft (7 B738s, 7 A333s, 4 A380s). The fleet renewal programme began in 2010 and will see progressive deliveries until 2017.

For the twelve months ended 31 December 2012, the Group was able to make savings of RM1.8 billion on aircraft fleet-related expenses of maintenance, fuel costs, depreciation expenses and leasing costs.

Commenting on the recent quarter’s performance, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said, “The 4th quarter of 2012 is really a milestone for our team. There were signs of solid revenue recovery as seen in the improvement in Seat Factor and RASK (Revenue per ASK) – the highest registered in 8 quarters to-date. Yields were also maintained at a high level.”

The national airline had much to celebrate in 2012 – from its award wins at Skytrax for recognition as a 5-star airline, World’s Best Cabin Crew and Best Signature Airline Dish, to the arrival of the A380 super jumbo into its fleet starting from July, to improving productivity through ensuring the right mix of fleet for its network, amongst a long list of initiatives. On Time Performance (OTP) for 2012 averaged 87.3%, up from 84.6% in 2011.


On 1 February 2013, Malaysia Airlines becomes part of oneworld. Becoming part of the world’s premier global airline alliance strengthens the Malaysian national air carrier’s competitiveness, enabling it to offer customers an unrivalled alliance global network served by partners including some of the best and biggest airlines in the world.

More significantly, this membership strengthened Malaysia Airlines’ connectivity between many key business cities in Asia and other parts of the world providing increased opportunities for improved loads and yields on its services. Effective 14 February this year, Malaysia Airlines introduced an additional 10 kilograms free checked baggage allowance and reduced excess baggage charges for travel in all classes.

The national carrier is currently continuing its fleet renewal plan, essential to maintaining relevance in the competitive premium service market. This started in 2010 for 35 new B737-800 and in 2011 for 15 A330, in addition to the six A380s ordered earlier.

The more technologically efficient aircraft reduce the fuel bill (current Malaysia Airlines fuel spending is equivalent to 38% of monthly operating costs) and enable Malaysia Airlines to offer a heightened level of products and services to guests at better yields.

This year alone, the company is taking about one B737-800 every month, and that is 12 deliveries with the remaining 9 of the 35 to be received by next year. In addition, it will receive a total of 4 new A330s in 2013 with the last one by early next year to complete the 15 firm order. Last week the fifth A380 joined its fleet and the sixth one will be added by end of March this year, completing the A380 programme,


The first A380 aircraft entered service in July 2012 marking the start of the airline’s change. Customer response in all 3 classes (First, Business and Economy) to the 5-star product and service onboard the A380 service on the Kuala Lumpur-London route has been very encouraging. Average passenger load from July to October was 88%, with passengers commenting positively on the wider seats, quieter aircraft interior and overall more comfortable and enjoyable travel experience.

Effective 1 March 2013, the carrier commenced daily A380 services on the Kuala Lumpur-Paris route. Despite daily capacity increase of around 75% with the introduction of this aircraft, the flights for the first week are fully booked in each direction and booked load is averaging above 85% for March this year.

Customers can book their travel on Malaysia Airlines through all distribution channels, mainly www.malaysiaairlines.com, Malaysia Airlines 24 hours toll free number 1 300 88 3000, MHmobile app, MHBuddy in Malaysia Airlines Facebook, Malaysia Airlines ticket offices and appointed agents throughout Malaysia. Information about MASholidays packages are available at http://holiday.malaysiaairlines.com or at MASholidays telephone number +603-7863 4000 (during normal daily working hours only).

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Lahore Literary Festival: The City And The Book

“Don’t you just love seeing Lahore like this?” Mohsin Hamid asks the audience. The hall erupts. This is Hall One of the Lahore Alhamra on the Mall. The hall seats more than a thousand, and the aisles are packed. And everyone loves it, this Lahore-loving moment.

“I mean,” Hamid continues, once the crowd quiets down, “there are yellow balloons outside.” Everyone cheers again, not as loudly, but now with laughter. “I wish,” Hamid goes on, “there were yellow kites in the sky too.” The laughter turns to groans. Basant is sorely missed. But that missing, that craving for the celebration of Lahore’s cultural heritage, has given birth to this occasion: the Lahore Literary Festival.

It is, of course, not the first literary festival of Lahore, as many may think. The city is well known for multi-day mushairas and Urdu literature gatherings. But it is the first internationally recognised event to bring together globally known authors and journalists to generate discourse in the city on matters of national and global concern. Writers of Pakistani origin remained the main highlight of the event. There were panels on contemporary literature, modes of writing, and discussions with authors with newly released books, including Hamid and Nadeem Aslam.

Lahoris defied many stereotypes and expectations from them were proved unfairly low. They poured in, in groups and solo. They brought books to be signed. Panels started on time, for the most part. Audiences were treated to genuinely informative discussions, rather than the usual themes. Small organisational upsets, such as disappearing panellists, were handled well, covered up by quick quips, and then rendered insignificant.

The scale would have been just the necessary bit larger had Indian editor, Chiki Sarkar, received her visa on time and been able to attend. Silly things like troublesome microphones could have been avoided. In the age of Bluetooth, microphone problems should not exist.

The biggest complaint was the severe lack of representation by writers of Urdu and topics of relevance to Urdu literature. The panel topics specifically dedicated to Urdu literature discussions read ‘Future of Urdu Literature in the Punjab’ and ‘Narrative Forms in Urdu Fiction and Poetry’. The latter of these is so obviously vast it reads more like ‘Discuss Urdu Literature — All of It’. The impossibility of that within the 45 allotted minutes was a glaring mistake.

A related criticism was that the event catered to the eliterati, whose common language is a vernacular in the vein of Moni Mohsin’s Social Butterfly character who speaks neither Urdu nor English properly. Many writers embraced that criticism and said they had an international market for their language and their stories, so why shouldn’t they be celebrated as much as the purists. Others defied the criticism by displaying how adept they were at conversing in either language.

Secondary school and college students thronged the festival, as did an eclectic mix of professionals. The halls were packed for nearly all sessions, which crushed the notion that nobody reads anymore. There may have appeared to be a class-based representation bias among the attendees. But that is difficult to determine without a proper survey.

Hamid became the showstopper and took over the mantle of Lahore’s Writer. He has inherited it from Bapsi Sidhwa, the beloved and lover of Lahore, who was also there, still as sharp and witty, though frailer than when Lahore last saw her, three years ago. Students mobbed her at the end of her talk.

There is lots of room for improvement on this great start. Future iterations of the festival could do with enforced media-free zones, where authors and readers can interact without cameras from news stations and journalists plugging their dictaphones under the noses of the authors. In such an area, there can be sessions on craft for students of writing, and perhaps just informal conversation on matters other than writing, to give the authors a breather.

And here’s a subversive idea for panel discussions: how about taking audience questions first, to see what ideas and questions a given topic (say, ‘Globalisation of Pakistan’s literature’) generates among the audience, and then addressing those concerns through discussions between professional writers.

The purpose of literature festivals — to celebrate books, writers and readers, and give them a forum to interact — was more than adequately fulfilled this past weekend. Basant is not forgotten — it cannot be replaced, and it will continue to be missed. However, the Lahore Literary Festival is a welcome addition to the cultural calendar.

Further reading:





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Construction Of Lagos–Abidjan Corridor To Start End Of 2013

ACCRA, March. 3, (NNN-GNA) –The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has set the end of 2013 or early 2014 for construction works to begin on the Lagos-Abidjan highway which is expected to link its member states.

President John Dramani Mahama, briefing journalists on arrival at the KIA from the 42nd Summit of ECOWAS heads of state and governments held in La Cote d’Ivoire said the heads of states have decided on a meeting of infrastructure and roads and highways ministers in March 2013 to speed up the process.

It is expected that the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor will stimulate the free movement of goods, services and persons and also alleviate poverty, boost regional integration as well as improving the living conditions of West Africans.

The summit also discussed the situation in Mali and Guinea Bissau. The report of the peace and Security Council showed that rebels in Mali have been pushed out and government forces have recovered most of the sovereign territory of Mali. However, the situation has gone into an insurgency phase with some suicide attacks thus discussions focused on how to consolidate the gains made so far.

It also considered France’s intention to pull out of Mali, where members proposed that the pull-out be phased with the deployment of AFISMA, with the French forces pulling out as more AFISMA troops were deployed, especially since it had not yet reached full strength.

They tasked Force commanders to integrate extra troops deployed by Burundi into the operations and urged countries that pledged at the fundraising in Addis Ababa to redeem their pledges, including Ghana, which pledged million. The Fundraiser raised 0 million out of the total 0 million needed.

Mahama said the transition period in Guinea Bissau was also extended to December 31, 2013 due to some difficulties that were encountered. Fresh elections would be held and a new government formed by the December deadline.

Other events at the summit includes the re-election of President Wattara for a second term as Chairman of ECOWAS, appointment of Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni as head of the African, Carribean and Pacific group of states (ACP), serving the remaining two and half year term of Dr Ibn Chambas, who was recently appointed by the Secretary-General of the UN as the head of the AU-UN Hybrid operation in Darfur and also got the Commission to accept and endorse the nomination of Alan Kyeremanteng as the head of the World Trade Organization.

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Saffron Production Increases In Eastern Afghanistan

March 03, 2013 – Kabul (BNA) In recent years saffron production noticeably increased in western, eastern and northwestern part of Afghanistan and people have announced it as the best alternative to poppy cultivation.

Evaluating impacts of saffron production on financial incomes of the local people and effects on Norco control, Dr. Ghalib Kunar provincial agriculture directorate head said that initially the provincial administration had decided to cultivate saffron only on half acre land to check whether it gives beneficial outcomes or not and fortunately we harvest satisfactory crop and now intend to expand it around the province in order to support local formers back up their daily income and avoid cultivating opium.

Head of provincial agriculture directorate of Kunar added that that currently opium is cultivated only in remote regions of the province as local formers shoed great willingness over cultivation of saffron in neighboring districts of the province and emphasized that a company has pledged to provide financial assistance to us to enhance saffron cultivation and expand it on around six thousand acres land.

Meanwhile, local farmers have expressed joy over beneficial outcomes of saffron and have vowed not grow poppy after this.

Commenting on the topic, local, farmer Gul Noor Khan said that he had cultivated saffron on once acre land and achieved landmark benefit from it.

Talking on the saffron production, Obaidullah district agriculture head said that it’s really a milestone journey that local farmers in the province have given more interest in cultivations of saffron and I ask the concerned authorities to provide saffron seeds to the farmers to institutionalize the cultivation of the herb in the area.

At the meantime, farmers in the areas have expressed apprehension over lack of saffron sale markets and demand from officials of chamber of commerce and industries to seek sale markets to their agriculture products.

Local resident Mohammad Aman expressed hope that saffron cultivation culture is expanded around the country as it said to have beneficial impacts on economic development of the country and it also prevent cultivation of poppy in various regions.

This came after in its persistent triumphs, ministry of agriculture and livestock tried to expand saffron cultivation in the county to prevent overwhelming rate of poppy cultivation.

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UAE Firm secures $1.28 billion for rail project

Gulf Daily News – 27 February, 2013 – Etihad Rail, the state-backed firm building a $ 11 billion railway network in the UAE, said yesterday it secured $ 1.28bn of bank financing to build the first phase of the project. Gulf states are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on infrastructure projects, ranging from power, transport and housing.

Saudi Arabia alone has earmarked around $ 400bn to spend on infrastructure over a five year period. Phase one of the UAE rail network will extend 264 kilometres in the west of the country from Shah and Habshan near Abu Dhabi to Ruwais and transport shipments of granulated sulphur for export for the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

Upon completion, the UAE’s national railway network will span about 1,200km and form part of the planned Gulf-wide railway network. “The securing of this loan represents the beginning of a new era for the UAE in trade and travel through a transportation network that will connect all seven emirates with our GCC partners,” Etihad Rail chairman Nasser Al Sowaidi, said in the statement.

National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, HSBC Holdings and Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ arranged the five-year financing, Etihad Rail said. Construction of the first phase, one of three planned stages, is already underway after the awarding of a $ 900 million civil and track works contract was awarded in October 2011.

Etihad Rail received its first shipment of wagons in December last year and expects to receive the first shipment of locomotives this quarter.

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Dubai is key tourism destination: GCC chambers

Emirates 24/7 – 27 February, 2013 – Dubai has been in the forefront of regional efforts to develop its tourism sector and this has turned it into a major destination for tourists from the oil-rich Gulf and other countries, the GCC chambers of commerce and industry said on Wednesday.

Although the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries possess a tourism potential, most of their citizens still travel abroad for holidays, pumping nearly $ 27 billion a year, the federation of the GCC chambers of commerce and industry said.

In a report sent to Emirates 24/7, the Dammam-based Federation said GCC nations, which control over 40 per cent of the world’s proven oil wealth, need to devise a common strategy to expand local tourism by opening up their borders to each other, increasing flights by their national carriers and encouraging visits by citizens. It also called for what it described as a partnership between the public and private sectors.

The report showed the Arab region was the only area in the world that recorded negative growth in tourism revenue last year mainly because of the ongoing political unrest in the region, adding that the Arab tourism income contracted by about 14 per cent in 2012. In the Americas, the income swelled by around 5.7 per cent while it grew by 5.2 per cent in Europe, 4.3 per cent in the Pacific region and 2.2 per cent in Africa.

“Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC ) countries have the potential to achieve high growth in tourism if they utilize investments and attract foreign capital into this sector,” the Federation’s chairman Khalil Al khanji said in the report.

“They can do so by offering more incentives to local and foreign investors as was the case in the UAE and Bahrain, particularly Dubai, which has become a key tourism destination preferred by many GCC and foreign tourists.”

He said Saudi Arabia can develop what he described as “religious” tourism while Oman has many forts and other historic sites that enable it to attract a large number of tourists. Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain can also work on increasing the number of tourists.

“As for the UAE, this country has gone a long way in the development of its tourism sector, mainly Dubai….the UAE is set to become a global tourism centre.”

Khanji said plans by the GCC countries to invest nearly $ 18 billion on tourism projects by 2015 would give a strong push to the sector, which he described as a main pillar of economic diversification programmes in the six members.

“There are also reports that the six countries are allocating $ 380 billion for tourism and heritage projects until 2018…this is a major step in the right direction towards a strong tourism industry in the region,” he said.

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Pakistan sees $1b exports to UAE

Khaleej Times – 27 February, 2013 – Pakistani exporters can easily double their food exports to the UAE from $ 500 million to $ 1 billion as the Gulf country needs all kinds of foodstuff, from fresh vegetables to meat and frozen food, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UAE Jamil Ahmed Khan told Khaleej Times at Gulfood 2013.

Around 30 exhibitors are representing the country at the food exhibition. Of this number, 23 companies are participating under the banner of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan, which promotes trade and investment for the country.

“Last year, our exhibitors got reasonably good orders and that’s why we had reached to a level of almost $ 500 million exports to the UAE,” Khan said during his visit to Pakistan’s pavilion at the exhibition. “We feel that our exporters have much larger potential and that could take them from the current level of $ 500 million to $ 1 billion easily, because this country imports food items worth more than $ 5 billion,” he added.

Business Monitor International, or BMI, predicted that there will be a 5.3 per cent increase in food consumption this year in the UAE. However, total food consumption of the country is expected to increase at a compound annual rate of 6.2 per cent to reach a value of Dh37.5 billion in 2017, BMI added.

According to the estimates, Gulf countries import more than 250,000 tonnes of meat, with 100,000 tonnes of this being imported from Australia alone. So there is a large scope for Pakistan to increase exports to the UAE and other GCC nations, Khan said. “Our exporters can take the advantage of being one of the closest countries,” he added.

The ambassador said that Pakistan’s foodstuff exports to GCC countries already touched the level of $ 1 billion in 2012. He said there is tough competition in the market, so Pakistani exporters should update their machinery and packaging to make their products competitive. On-time delivery is also very important in addition to other things, he added. Among foodstuff, poultry products is one of the important import items to the UAE as the country is expected to import around 120,000 tonnes poultry products this year, compared to around 79,000 tonnes in 2008, he said.

More importantly, food security is one of the top agendas of GCC leaders and because of that, the demand for food items will continue to rise in the region, Khan added.

Another area of interest, he said, is in re-export. The UAE is the region’s top and most important market in terms of re-exports. “Whatever is imported in this country is re-exported about 65 per cent. I believe there would be potential for our people in this segment,” Khan added.

Talking about major export items to the UAE, he said that Pakistan exports rice, processed food, chicken, meat, oil, wheat flour, vegetables, fruits, frozen products, pickles, spices, juices and many others.

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Oman Ministry of Tourism to showcase new milestones

Gulf Today – 27 February, 2013 – The Sultanate of Oman’s Ministry of Tourism will conduct a presentation about Oman’s increasing focus on business tourism during its participation at the MICE Arabia Congress, taking place in Doha, Qatar from February 27 to 28, 2013.

Khalid Al Zadjali, Director of Tourism Events at the Oman Ministry of Tourism, will attend as an invited speaker to share key industry insights about Oman’s latest business tourism offerings during the invitationly, high-level congress. In particular focus is the Oman Conference and Exhibition Centre, scheduled for completion in 2016. The event brings together a select group of corporates and travel agents to discover new venues and source facilitators to host future MICE-related activities.

Khalid Al Zadjali said: “The Government of Oman has channelled massive investments to develop a truly world-class infrastructure that will position Oman as one of the leading MICE tourism destinations in the world. The Ministry’s vision is to provide a genuinely unique range of business tourism amenities with a distinctive local flavour, taking advantage of Oman’s rich cultural heritage and exquisite natural attractions.”

MICE Arabia Congress provides access to the GCC’s most affluent corporate buyers as it will gather executives and specialists who are involved in deciding and hosting corporate events.

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Sharjah airport traffic surges 13.37% in Jan

Khaleej Times – 28 February, 2013 – Passenger traffic at Sharjah International Airport jumped to 13.37 per cent with 707,085 passengers in January compared to 623,696 passengers in January 2012, which is for the first time in its history in any single month it exceeds this figure , according to the traffic report issued by Sharjah Airport Authority.

Sharjah International Airport recorded a total of 5,708 aircraft movements in January 2013, up three per cent compared to 5,537 in January 2012. It handled in January 2013 around 24,335 tonnes of cargo. The Sea-Air Cargo throughput registered 2,927 tonnes.

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Kuwait FM welcomes ‘historic flight’ by Iraqi Airways

Kuwait News Agency – 28 February, 2013 – Kuwait’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah on Wednesday hailed the “historic” flight of an Iraqi Airways plane that landed at Kuwait International Airport earlier today. This is the first such flight by the airline after 22-year hiatus; it represents a significant milestone in the bilateral ties between the two sisterly countries,” he said.

Sheikh Sabah made the remarks at a joint press conference here with visiting Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and Transport Minister Hadi Al-Amri. “The historic flight culminates strenuous efforts made by the two neighborly countries to strengthen the bilateral relations,” he pointed out.

After reaching a final agreement with the Iraqi side last November to settle the prolonged dispute between Kuwait Airways Corporation (KAC) and Iraqi Airways, the Kuwaiti government adopted a decree giving the green light to the deal. The decree was later approved by the National Assembly, thus completing the constitutional procedures, he reminded.

Sheikh Sabah added that he discussed with the Iraqi ministerial delegation a range of issues and the results of the talks will give a strong impetus to the bilateral ties. The two countries are set to reap the fruits of the joint efforts made over the last year thanks to the top-level exchange of visits.

Dealing with the issue of Mubarak Harbor development project, he said: “We took stock of the fact that the brothers in Iraq are developing Al-Faw Seaport. So we are keen that there will be no conflict of interests. The development of the two harbors drew praise from the international consultancy agencies,” he said, noting that the two countries are keen on cooperation in all domains.

It’s in Kuwait’s interest to help Iraq get rid of the sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, Sheikh Sabah said, adding that both sides continue working for settling the issue of the Kuwaiti detainees and missed in action dating back to early the 1990s.

On his part, Zebari said the flight of Iraqi Airways is of great significance as it meets the aspirations of the two peoples. “The current visit of the Iraqi delegation to Kuwait aims to send a message of amity and fraternity to the Kuwaiti people. We look forward to creating a bright and prosperous future for both peoples,” he added.

Al-Amri said the KAC-Iraqi Airways dossier was one of the most thorniest and most complicated disputes that hindered the development of the bilateral ties for two decades. “As we were able to iron out this issue, we turn over a new leaf in the history of the relationship and proceed to other issues such as the management of maritime navigation,” the minister of transport added.

Al-Amri expressed the desire of the Iraqi government to build even stronger relationship with Kuwait through cordial talks and constructive dialogue.

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Algeria to Develop Southern Areas

28 February 2013 – Magharebia – Algeria’s desert south already faced tough conditions before the conflict in neighbouring Mali created a whole new set of concerns. The Algerian government is trying to help people living in the country’s southern area. In addition to economic challenges, turmoil in the Sahel is deeply affecting the populations living in regions close to the border.

On the occasion of the nationalisation of hydrocarbon resources on February 24, Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal and several ministers visited the Tiguentourine gas complex, which recently reopened after an al-Qaeda siege in January.

Against the backdrop of growing public anger in the south, Sellal acknowledged “the existence of a small group who want to create divisions between the north and the south of the country”.

While the prime minister was speaking, thousands of unemployed young people in the town of Ouargla staged a march to demand jobs. Clashes broke out between law enforcement officers and demonstrators.

“The young people were demonstrating outside the offices of the National Employment Agency to protest against the institution, which is depriving them of jobs,” National Committee for Protection of the Rights of the Unemployed spokesman Tahar Belabes said.

Education, healthcare and local authority workers joined the strike. They demanded special bonuses and allowances to redress some of the major social inequalities between the north and the south.

The government responded by saying that it wanted to address people’s demands.

During his visit to Illizi province, Sellal said that his government was “working to ensure that the Saharan regions develop at the same pace as the northern regions”.

Yet, some were not swayed by the government’s assertions.

Illizi province senator Abbas Bouaamama criticised companies which prefer to recruit staff from the north of the country, rather than the south.

“Do drivers, security guards and cooks need university degrees? Why recruit a driver from elsewhere when hundreds of unemployed young people in Illizi have driving licences?” he asked during a meeting with Sellal and other visiting ministers. Unemployed 26-year-old Gmama H’mida understands why young people in the south are angry.

“The companies that generate the country’s wealth are coming here, but we don’t benefit from this at all. We are marginalised and we don’t have access to anything at all, unlike people from the north,” he said.

Still, the government is intent on easing the tensions. Several ministries are working together to help develop the southern regions. Sonatrach will soon open a training centre for young people in the region in an effort to boost employment, Energy Minister Youcef Yousfi announced on Sunday.

The Interior and Local Authorities Ministry also unveiled a raft of social housing projects intended to meet demand. Communications Minister Mohamed Said highlighted the government’s achievements in the communications sector. For instance, the Ouargla printing works made it possible to better distribute newspapers in Illizi and neighbouring regions, Said noted on Sunday.

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Gambia: President Jammeh Gives Funds to Bureng Cultural Festival

28 February 2013 – The Daily Observer – The president of the Republic has donated a cash amount of D50,000 to the organising committee of the Bureng Cultural Festival. The money is part of Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh’s contribution towards the successful hosting of the second edition of the Festival, slated for March 2nd 2013 in Bureng Village, Jarra East District of the Lower River Region (LRR).

The vice president and minister of Women’s Affairs, Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, on behalf of the Gambian leader, presented the money to the beneficiary during a brief presentation ceremony held at her office in State House. The Bureng Cultural Festival, which is an annual event, is designed among other things to promote and showcase The Gambia’s rich cultural diversity, thus promoting cultural tourism in the country.

Giving background detail of the gesture, the deputy permanent secretary at the Office of the President, Ismaila Sanyang, recalled that the organising committee of the Bureng Cultural Festival had earlier written to the Gambian leader, seeking for assistance to host the second edition of the cultural fiesta.

He noted that the organisation has been in existence for some time, adding that part of its activities is to showcase the country’s rich cultural heritage. “It’s on that basis that they wrote to the Gambian leader and he gave the approval that he will help them. Of course there were other developments that followed and eventually today we are here to grace the occasion,” he added.

Sanyang said he felt honoured to be associated with the event, while urging the community to ensure its sustenance so as to strengthen and showcase the country’s rich culture.

The National Assembly member for Jarra East, Hon. Bafai Saidykhan, on behalf the community of Bureng and his entire constituency, said that the festival, among other things, is meant to promote old African cultures. He on behalf of the committee thanked President Jammeh through VP Njie-Saidy for the move. “We appreciate this D50,000 donated to the Bureng Cultural Festival committee and I want to assure him (President Jammeh) that the money will be put to good use,” Hon. Saidykhan added.

Abdou Darboe, a member of the committee, on behalf of his colleagues, expressed similar sentiments. He also thanked the Gambian leader for the gesture. The director of Performing Arts at the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Sheikh Omar Jallow, disclosed that the Council has identified the Bureng Cultural Festival in its calendar as one of the programmes of festivals in The Gambia.

Jallow then urged the people of Bureng to ensure the sustenance of the festival, as it is part of the national calendar of events.

Presenting the money, VP Njie-Saidy on behalf of President Jammeh thanked the community of Bureng for coming up with such an initiative. She assured them that the Gambian leader has high regards for such ventures, citing the Kanilai International Cultural Festival and Roots Homecoming Festivals among a host of others.

“It’s a good initiative and it is good for the younger generation to know their cultural norms and values. Our cultural values are linked to our development,” she said.

VP Njie-Saidy also stressed the fact that no one is above his or her culture, no matter how educated that individual is, and called on people to promote the country’s culture for posterity. She then prayed that the event would be a continuous one, while appealing to good Samaritans to support such initiatives.

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Nigeria: MTN Pledges Support for Culture and Tourism

1 March 2013 – This Day – MTN Nigeria has pledged its support for initiatives directed at promoting and projecting the country’s cultural heritage, even as it threw its weight behind one of the biggest cultural festivals among Ndigbo, “Igu Aro,” recently at Nri, Anaocha LGA, Anambra State.

Samuel Arewa,the Regional Marketing Trade Manager, South East, MTN, while reiterating MTN’s commitment to enriching lives, stated that, MTN, through its KultureFest initiative, has been able to identify and get involved in cultural festivals, across the country.

“MTN prides itself as a caring brand that enables people, do more of what they love. Our Culture and Tradition are part of who we are; they play a significant role in our lives and so, we are very passionate about them. MTN recognises these facts and that is why, year -in year- out, we support different cultural festivals, across the country, through our KultureFest initiative,” he explained.

Outlining activities for the year, Eze Nri, Obidiegwu Onyesoh, drew attention to the gradual decline of culture and tradition. He maintained that the loss of values in the society is as a result of the decline in cultural values. Admonishing Ndigbo, the Eze Nri, stated that there is the need for the re-awakening of Igbo culture, especially, among the youths. In his pronouncement for the year, Onyesor declared bountiful harvest and abundance of farm yields.

The 2013 Igu-Aro festival witnessed a large turnout of sons and daughters of Igbo origin, from all works of life, including the former Vice President of Nigeria, Chief Alex Ekwueme. Nri is the ancestral homeland of Ndigbo and the citadel of Igbo culture and tradition

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Nigeria: Novel Stand for Nigeria at ITB Berlin

24 February 2013 – This Day – As one of the world’s biggest tourism fair, ITB Berlin, opens early next month in Germany’s capital Berlin, Nigeria through the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation has acquired a 60 Sq metre space on which its stand would be erected.

Nigeria alongside at least 149 other countries would participate in the yearly five-day exhibition, which is expected to bring thousands of buyers, sellers and visitors to the Messe Berlin Fair Ground.

The Nigerian head of delegation, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, who is also the Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation told newsmen in Abuja that his design for the Nigerian stand would as usual, be a departure from previous years.

“You recall we have never used the same design each year, it has been a new design for each year since 2007,” he said. According to the NTDC boss, the stand design was carefully done to reflect the traditional and cultural values of a typical Nigerian setting. At the Nigerian stand, travel agents, transportation providers mostly airlines and marine operators as well as hoteliers are expected to attend.

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Uganda: Ankole Museum Boosts Western Uganda Tourism

26 February 2013 – The Observer – Set in beautifully manicured grounds of what was once a palace of a legendary king in the 17th century, is the Igongo cultural centre. This centre is a hub of the rich Ankole-Kikiga heritage in a modern-day setting. Located in Biharwe, 12km to Mbarara town, the centre boasts of a museum, restaurant and a book and crafts centre, dealing mainly in historical literature for the region. A country hotel is yet to be opened later this year to make the centre a one-stop point.

Of all the above facilities, however, the main attraction is the museum (Eriijukiro) of South Western Uganda. I had to part with Shs 5,000 to get access to the museum. A gush of cool air welcomed me as I walked in with the Assistant Curator, Bosco Tabaro, who was ready to walk me through the history.

The Eriijukiro, a brainchild of James Tumusiime – he of Fountain Publishers – with its tag line “Obwengye Bugira Emizi”, (wisdom has its roots) was developed in collaboration with members of the Margaret Trowell school of Industrial and Fine art, Makerere University as was revealed by Tabaro during my visit.

Standing at the entrance, this particular quote on the wall at the extreme end of the museum caught my attention. “Otaine nte na rutookye toshwera.” This, Tabaro translated to me thus, “Without cows and banana plantation, no wife.”

He explained the old Kinyankore saying as one that attached wealth to real manhood, adding that in the past, no one could let their daughter get married to a man without a herd of cattle and a banana plantation, because such a man could not feed his family.

Historical items or their imitations are carefully kept under lock in glass cabins and historical literature and pictures hang on the wall. Several artifacts were logically displayed along with the necessary information.

The Eriijukiro is divided into sections that showcase ancient and modern history of the region and cultures of the people of the south western region. Skills such as the traditional iron smelting, local beer and ghee processing are clearly explained in writing with all the necessary equipment showcased and named.

There is a family and community section which clearly distinguishes the traditional Kiga homestead from the traditional Ankole homestead. The museum features a politics, leadership and military section that highlights how governments were run through the times.

Other areas include entertainment, fashion, traditional medicine, worship and divination and currency through the years. It provides a thoroughly entertaining stay, before visitors retire for the delicious nyama choma served in the cool gardens.

Igongo Cultural Centre was established in 2009 as a civil society initiative to study, preserve and promote the cultural and natural heritage of southwestern Uganda and its surrounding areas. The centre, one of eleven community museums across Uganda, is fast becoming a main tourist attraction in western Uganda.

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Cameroon Remains Ideal Tourist Destination

24 February 2013 – Cameroon Tribune – In spite of last week’s kidnap of French tourists in the Far North Region,Tourism and Leisure Minister on February 22, 2013 in Yaounde reassured the public of Cameroon’s safety.

The Minister of State, Minister of Tourism and Leisure, Bello Bouba Maïgari, accompanied by Communication Minister, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, on Friday February 22, 2013 in Yaounde underscored the fact that Cameroon remains an ideal tourist destination in Africa. Bello Bouba was speaking at a press conference organised to throw light on the abduction of seven French tourists in Dabanga, Far North Region on February 19, 2013.

It was disclosed that Cameroon, a land of hospitality, stability and peace is not a dangerous destination. This is justified by the influx of tourists to the country. In the last few months, the country has been host to a group of 154 young Spanish tourists and 42 German tourists.

The abduction of Moulin Fournier Tangui Patrick and family, the first of its kind in Cameroon, has impacted the sector and economy negatively. Minister Bello Bouba underlined that the breathtaking incident has dragged the name of the country, popularly referred to as “Africa in miniature” into the mud.

The Waza Park, the recreational area where the kidnapped tourists were coming from is still opened to tourists, but security has been stepped up. For efficiency and the better management of tourists, the Minister of State insisted that stakeholders in the tourism sector must collaborate with the administration.

He cautioned organisers of leisure trips, bus companies and tourist guides on one hand, and the central and decentralised services of the Ministry of Tourism and Leisure, on the other, to work in synergy. National tourism agencies, he said, will henceforth inform Regional, Divisional and Sub-divisional Delegates of Tourism and Leisure on imminent tourist trips and their itinerary. Individual tourists based in the country who regularly visit tourist sites are equally invited to notify competent services on their sojourn. Discrete measures have also been taken to secure tourists and hotels.

Quizzed on whether the incident was not as a result of security lapses, Bello Bouba Maïgari denied the allegation, emphasising on organised tourism. He explained that individuals wishing to undertake tourist trips should contact guides, tourism units and security forces at the local level on their itinerary for such trips to be well planned. There are tourists who however, prefer not to be escorted especially by security operatives, Bello Bouba said, but such tourists should take precautionary measures. He therefore recommended vigilance and cooperation to tourists.

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Tourism trips in Saudi Arabia may reach 83m by 2020

Arab News – 24 February, 2013 – Saudi Arabia has developed a general policy for the promotion of national tourism and the betterment of top traveling sites. Data of Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) indicate that tourism GDP has increased by 1.0 percent to SR 59 billion in 2011, even though the sector’s share decreased during the year relative to GDP.

According to the latest annual report from SAMA, the tourism sector created job opportunities for a large number of job seekers last year. The General Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (GCTA) estimated that the number of job opportunities created by tourism industry during 2011 stood at more than 600,000.

With respect to inbound tourism trips to Saudi Arabia, expenditure on accommodation came first with around SR 16.9 billion (or 37.2 percent of the total) in 2011, compared to SR 9.5 billion in 2010. GCTA also expects the total number of tourism trips in the Kingdom to reach 83 million by 2020, of which 62.4 million will be domestic and 20.6 million inbound trips, mainly from the GCC and neighboring Arab countries.

The commission expects tourism expenditure in Saudi Arabia to grow to SR 227.3 billion by 2020.

Engr. Ahmad Al Issa, director General of licensing in GCTA, told Asharq Al-Awsat that developing the accommodation sector is part of a drive to create tourism incentives.

He added that “GCTA will spare no effort in promoting this sector by bringing in competent investors in this industry, since whenever there is an increase in demand, there will be an increase in supply.”

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Govt committed to developing Mozambique’s logistics sector

MAPUTO, March 1 (NNN-AIM) — Mozambican Prime Minister Alberto Vaquina has that the government is committed to adopting policies to develop the rail and port sector in order to transform the country into a true logistical platform.

Speaking at the opening of the 7th Indian Ocean Ports and Logistics Conference in Beira in central Mozambique on Wednesday Vaquina outlined the various projects underway to increase the logistical capacity of the Mozambican rail and port systems.

In the southern system, not only is the capacity of Maputo Port being upgraded, but a new port complex will be built at Techobanine, in the southernmost district of Matutuine.

The Techobanine Port Complex, said Vaquina, “envisages the construction from scratch of a deep water port to handle very large ships, which will complement the port of Maputo, a railway line linking Techobanine to Botswana, via Chicualacuala (in the southern Mozambican province of Gaza) and Zimbabwe, and an industrial complex,” he said.

The new deep water port, he said, would be able to handle 100 million tonnes of cargo a year and become a strategic regional fuel reserve and would be ideal for exporting minerals from countries such as Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Vaquina said Techobanine port would be ready to begin operations in 2015. It will cost seven billion USD which the Mozambican and Botswanan governments are to mobilise

Vaquina also stressed the rail and port projects in central and northern Mozambique, aimed at solving the logistical problems involved in exporting minerals, particularly coal, and later natural gas.

Currently, exports from the Moatize coal basin depend on the Sena railway from Moatize to Beira. The line has been out of operation since Feb 10 because flooding washed away ballast and earthworks in Mutarara district, Tete province.

Several plans have been floated for new railways, and new ports, that will be required if the government is to fulfill its dream of exporting 50 million tonnes of coal a year by 2020.

The gas discoveries in the Rovuma Basin, off the coast of Cabo Delgado provinces, indicate reserves of at least 150 trillion cubic feet. Exporting the gas, in the shape of liquefied natural gas (LNG), will require a custom-built port on the northern coast of Cabo Delgado.

“We are aware that many challenges lie ahead in order to improve the logistical conditions in Mozambique”, said Vaquina. “However, we would like to assure you that we will work on each challenge with determination until we find the most adequate solution”.

Despite its name, the conference is bringing together senior figures from the rail and port sector of many parts of the world, and not just the Indian Ocean. Among the countries represented are South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, Nigeria, Kenya, Malaysia, Hong Kong, France, Britain and Germany.

The meeting is looking into the best paths for intermodal transport, and logistical solutions for the regional Development Corridors and international maritime flows.

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Int’l conference on Iranian civilization held in Italy

ROME, Feb 26 (NNN-IRNA) – An International Conference on “Iranian civilization: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” was held at the Sciences University of Rome Monday in the presence of cultural and political personalities, as well as Iranologists.

According to IRNA, the two-day conference was held in the presence of 30 prominent Iranian and Italian Iranologists at the Italian capital cityˈs Sapienza University.

The President of Sapienza University, Professor Luigi Ferretti, expressing delight for hosting the international cultural event, presented a report on Ornithologist and Iranologists studies in Italy.

He also emphasised the great significance of the Iranology branch research works in the greater Ornithologist studies, expressing hope that new connection ways among the Italian Orientology centres and Iran would be opened.

The Ambassador of Iran to Italy, Seyyed Mohammad-Ali Hosseini, too, at the two-day conference referred to Iran and Italy as the cradles of the most ancient human civilizations on earth, arguing, “Iran and Italy have always played noticeable roles as two cradles of culture and civilization in the Middle East and the Mediterranean regionsˈ blossoming cultures.

He added, “Naturally, the two Iranian and Italian nations with such historical backgrounds have had broad potentials for expansion of ties and interactions.”

Hosseini added, “Unfortunately, throughout the course of the past three decades and particularly during the past few years a well-planed, goal-oriented wave of Iran phobia and Shiˈa-phobia was launched in the west, whose dimensions affected the cultural activities related to Iran, too, and quite unfortunately, presentation of wrong and sometimes fully biased information on contemporary Iran. And in Italy, too, we see the effects of that wave.”

The two day conference was sponsored by the Cultural Attaché of the Iranian Embassy in Italy, and cosponsored by the Italian Cultural Heritage Ministry, Sapienza University, the International Studies on Middle East Organisation (ISMEO), The Bologna University, the Joseph Tocci Orientalist Arts National Museum and Naples University.

Iranian studies or Iranology is broader than and distinct from Persian studies, which is the study of the modern Persian language (known as ˈFarsiˈ or ˈParsiˈ to the natives) and literature specifically. The discipline of Iranian Studies focuses on broad trends in culture, history, language and other aspects of not only Persians, but also a variety of other contemporary and historical Iranic peoples, such as Baluchis, Kurds, Pashtuns, Ossetians, Scythians, Parthians, Sogdians, Bactrians, etc.

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Saudi Hospitality sector is booming with over SR 800 bn investment

Arab News – 27 February, 2013 – The hospitality sector in the Kingdom is booming with investments surpassing SR 800 billion. The implementation of an expansion strategy and the upgrade of the sector’s projects helped achieve this.

Another factor is a strong competition powered by an increased demand for high-quality services. The boom in the sector helped create many jobs for young Saudis.

The Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Hospitality Committee recently approved the launch of the Kingdom’s first “Best Restaurant and Coffee Shop Award” competition 2012 as part of the chamber’s role in developing and encouraging all activities of the sector of business.

Khaled bin Fahad Al-Harthi, chairman of the Hospitality Committee, said the industry is one of the most important in the world. It saw a massive growth as a result of increased international trade activities. This and the growth of the tourism industry and the improvement of hospitality services made the committee launch the contest to create more competition among restaurants and coffee shops and as an incentive for them to provide high-quality services.

“The Saudi tourism market is in need of 974,000 jobs in various fields. The JCCI’s hospitality committee has a big role to play in that regard. It recommended the establishment of a specialist institute in coordination with the Ministry of Labor and in cooperation with an international specialist institute. It also recommended filing a request with Minister of Labor Adel Fakeih regarding the current requirements of the sector and the issuance of restaurant guide. The committee plans to issue a guide in due course. Initially, we will print 100,000 copies containing the names and addresses of all restaurants in Jeddah. The committee plans to visit Jeddah’s Technical College to discuss a way of cooperation whereby graduates benefit the sector.”

The vision of the JCCI’s Hospitality Committee is to have a hospitality sector that introduces a distinguished service reflecting on tourism and influencing the national economy positively. This would be carried out through serving the sector in a way that meets the interests of restaurants and coffee shop investors and improves the industry in general at the same time.

Al-Harthi said the committee is determined to overcome any obstruction to the sector and constantly be in touch with restaurants and coffee shops to closely recognize their problems and discuss solutions, incentives and ways to improve the level of their productivity and services.

Adnan bin Hussien Mandura, secretary-general of the JCCI, said the award would not include sums of money but a shield and a certificate. He said that 300 establishments would enter the competition’s five categories: Luxurious, convenient, popular, and fast food restaurants and coffee shops. First, second and third place winners of each category would be honored on May 27 at the Sheikh Ismael Abu Dawood Hall at the JCCI.

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Bahrain hosts Arab tourism launch

MANAMA, Feb 25 (NNN-BNA) – A musical concert, celebrating the epic of world-renowned Arab explorer, alias Ibn Batutah – will be held this evening (Monday) at the Bahrain National Amphitheatre. The ceremony, which marks the birthday of Ibn Batutah, will be held under the auspices of the Prime Minister, Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa.

Arab ministers of tourism, representatives of the Arab and world tourism organisations, diplomats, prominent and cultural and economic figures will attend the event.

The Manama Capital of Arab Tourism 2013 and the Arab Tourism Day will be officially launched at the ceremony.

Culture Minister, Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa stressed the importance of the events which put Bahrain on the global tourism map. Prominent Egyptian actors Abdulrahman Abu Zahra and Ahmed Ezz will embody different stages in the life of Ibn Batuta. The concert brings together three singers, Hind from Bahrain, Amal Maher from Egypt in addition to Lebanese Ghada Shbeir.

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Iran, Egypt to sign letter of understanding on tourism

TEHRAN, Feb 26 (NNN-IRNA) – Iran’s Head of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organisation, Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh said on Monday that Iran and Egypt will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to promote tourism cooperation.

In a meeting with the head of Egyptˈs Interest Section in Tehran, Khaled Amareh, he welcomed Egyptian Tourism Minister Hisham Zazouˈs imminent visit to Tehran. The Egyptian minister of tourism is scheduled to arrive in Tehran later in the day.

Describing Iran and Egypt as two great nations, he said that mutual understanding will help promote cooperation in all fields. Iran and Egypt boast of ancient history and Zazouˈs Tehran visit will usher in a new era for bilateral ties, Malekzadeh said.

Amareh, for his part, appreciated Iranˈs cooperation to promote ties in the field of tourism. Egypt favours inking a tourism agreement with Iran, he said, noting that the country is ready to make its experience in the field available to Iran.

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Indonesia Forecasts Big Tourism Business Boom at ITB 2013

February 26 2013 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesia has targeted to reach 20-30 percent transaction increase in the Internationale Tourismus-Borse (ITB) based on the 2012 participation that accumulated US 2.32 million dollars in transactions.

The Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry’s Director General of Tourism Marketing Esthy Reko Astuty said during a press conference here on Tuesday, that the target was based on the increase in the number of Indonesian tourism industries which will join the ITB 2013, namely 90 participants.

“Those 90 tourism industries will be off to Germany to take part in the international tourism exhibition in Germany from March 5 to 10, 2013. While, compared to the 2012 participation, we just brought 60 tourism industries last year and accumulated US 2.32 million dollars or Rp2.14 trillion transactions during the event. Hence our prediction in 2013 it could increase 20-30 percent,” she said.

Astuty added the Indonesia Pavilion will be 410 meter square plus 66 meter square for the Indonesian spa wellness area where 90 tourism industries including tour operators, lodging (apartment, hotel and resort) and local provinces will participate in the event.

Indonesia who will set “Heart of Matters” as the main theme at the tourism pavilion in the ITB Berlin 2013, was announced as the ITB official partner country in 2012.

As the official partner country, it will receive several privileges, like the chance to host a courtesy opening gala dinner that will be sponsored by Accor Group, has a strategic booth location and advertisement placement, she explained.

Other than the transactional target during the event, Deputy Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Sapta Nirwandar said the naming of Indonesia as the official partner country of ITB Berlin 2013 has intangible investment.

“The tangible benefit can be predicted from last year data, meanwhile the intangible one is long term investment through the promotion,” he said.

According to Nirwandar, the efforts to be accepted as the official partner country since 2011, will be paid off through the tourism promotion during the international-scale event in which Indonesia could expand its world wide market. “Promotion is an effective long-term investment. We do hope the national tourism target with 8.6 million to 9 million visitors could be reached through this event,” he said.

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UAE Investors Eying Resort Business in Indonesia

Tue, February 26 2013 Jakarta (ANTARA) – Entrepreneurs from United Arab Emirates are eying investment in resort business in Indonesia, a press release received from the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy said here on Tuesday.

“Companies including Damac are interested to invest in resort construction in Indonesia,” Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said after her visit to UAE recently. Mari met with Foreign Trade Minister Sheikha Lubna Bint Khalid Al Qasimi. Both ministers discussed about Indonesia and UAE bilateral cooperation, recent global trade situation and Maris candidacy to become WTOs Secretary General.

In relation to World Trade Organization issue, Mari and Sheikha share similar view that trade sector plays an important role in enhancing global economic growth. “Multilateral trade system needs to be maintained. There should be progress in negotiating multilateral trade system,” Mari said.

Before leaving for UAE, Mari has also paid visit to several countries namely the United States, China, Belgium, Poland, France and Russia.

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First phase of Mataf expansion will complete before Ramadan

Makkah, Sunday, 12 Rabi Al-Thani 1434/23 February 2013 (IINA) – The first phase of the ongoing expansion of the Mataf (area for circumambulation around the Holy Kaaba) at the Haram Mosque will be completed before the forthcoming Ramadan. The first phase involves eastern side of the Mataf, parallel to Masa’a (the running area between Safa and Marwa), Okaz Arabic daily reported quoting sources at the company implementing the project. There will be three phases for Mataf expansion.

At present, there are more than 4000 workers engaged in implementing the expansion project. The company has plans to double the number of workers to 8000 so as to complete the first phase within the stipulated period of time. The company will stop the work for nearly four months when the Haram Mosque will witness huge flow of Umrah pilgrims during Ramadan and the Haj season.

Dr. Muhammad Al-Khozaim, deputy head of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, said that the capacity of the Mataf will increase from 50,000 pilgrims per hour to 130,000 pilgrims when the expansion completed. The expansion works are undergoing in a way not affecting the current Umrah season. The domes of the Ottoman-era hallway on eastern section of the holy mosque have been removed weeks ago to make way for the expansion work. The Mataf expansion is being undertaken as part of the largest ever expansion of the Haram Mosque, ordered by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.

Preliminary work for the expansion of the Mataf started on November 15 (Muharram 1, 1434) with the installation of huge cranes at the northeastern courtyard of the Haram Mosque. The expansion is being undertaken on the basis of a study prepared by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Institute for Haj and Umrah Studies. The study focuses on using the available space and potential of the mataf to the maximum while maintaining the architectural features of the Grand Mosque using advanced technology.

According to the study, the mataf will be separated from prayer areas and it will be linked to different floors of the mosque and facilitate entrance to and exit from the mataf. It will also take care of the crowding at the entrances to the mataf and nearby passages and will also give direct access from the mataf to the Masa’a. The Mataf on the second and third floors will have cable cars to carry aged and disabled pilgrims and there will be direct access to these floors from outside. The topmost floor of the mataf will have automated walkway revolving around the Kaaba.

The study said the original mataf is a circle with a diameter of 95 meters. Muhammad Idris, who prepared the study, said the first Saudi expansion of the facility was undertaken 60 years ago and then roof was not made for prayers. He said factors such as the change in the level of ground water and impact of salt on the foundation and the shaking caused by the rock blasts for the nearby projects are affecting the mosque building’s strength. The study said many efforts have been made to strengthen the pillars of the building. The new project will also take steps to make the building tremor proof.

Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, head of the Presidency, stressed earlier that extensive studies have been undertaken to make sure that the quantity and quality of the water flowing into the well of Zamzam is not affected, in addition to avoiding any errors that could lead to environmental changes in the basin of the Valley of Ibrahim, as well as the surrounding area and near the well of Zamzam.

Al-Sudais said during his inspection tour of the project that the measures taken by the Presidency toward the well of Zamzam coincide with the growing demand for water consumption of Zamzam. This goes hand in hand with the completion of the expansion project of the Grand Mosque and its surrounding squares.

Al-Sudais requested the contractor of the project to double efforts to ensure the speedy completion of the work on the first phase of the expansion before the advent of the holy month of Ramadan in early July.

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Hajjar: Umrah traffic to reach all-time high

Makkah, Monday, 14 Rabi Al-Thani 1434/25 February 2013 (IINA) – Minister of Haj Bandar Hajjar said on Sunday the number of Umrah visas issued by the ministry has reached 1.6 million since the beginning of the Umrah season on Dec. 15. This is at an average rate of 400,000 Umrah pilgrims a month.

Hajjar said during the holy month of Ramadan, Umrah pilgrims will reach record figures compared to last year, nearly 1 million. The number of Umrah pilgrims will reach an all-time peak of 6 million by the end of the season, he said. Hajjar praised the mataf (circumambulation area) expansion projects that will accommodate more Umrah pilgrims during the current season. He said all staff at the ministry and related authorities have been kept on alert in line with the directives of King Abdullah.

The main aim was to monitor services being provided to pilgrims arriving in Makkah to perform Umrah and visit the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, he said. Hajjar said he expects Umrah pilgrims this year to exceed last year’s figure by 500,000. The increase in the number of Umrah pilgrims every year is between 10 and 20 percent, he claimed. The minister said the organization of a meeting for representatives of Haj affairs offices of over 70 countries is part of directives to all government authorities to make early preparations for the Haj season this year.

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Islamic bond initiative launched in Dubai

Dubai, Wednesday, 16 Rabi Al-Thani 1434/27 February 2013 (IINA) – Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, today rang the opening bell on an initiative to transform Dubai into a global centre for Islamic bonds (sukuks).

The initiative, called Transforming Dubai into a Global Centre for Islamic Bonds, is the first executive plan following Sheikh Mohammad’s January 9 declaration to develop Dubai into a centre for Islamic finance. Launched on the floor of the Dubai Financial Market on Wednesday, the new initiative will create a centre for issuing, listing and trading sukuks. Part of the initiative’s aim is to encourage organizations to issue sukuks instead of bonds.

When Sheikh Mohammad originally announced the plan to develop Dubai into a centre for Islamic finance in January, it was to include Islamic finance instruments, Islamic insurance, Islamic contract arbitration, Islamic food industry and trade standards (Halal food), as well as Islamic quality-management standards.

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Credit card entry planned for Turkish museums

ISTANBUL – Anatolia News Agency – A project envisaging the use of credit cards as Museum Cards has been initiated with a collaboration between the Culture and Tourism Ministry and İş Bank. Culture and Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik said the card would enable holders to visit the same museum twice.

The project was announced yesterday at a press conference at Istanbul’s İş Bank Towers. “There has been a huge campaign on social sharing websites. People were able to enter a museum once a year, but people say it is not enough. Those who visit museums after work said they had very limited time. I am answering positively to this campaign and announce that people will have right to enter the same museum twice with the Museum Card from now on. People can easily finish their visit to a museum in this way. The Museum Card has become our identity card as the most important bridge and instrument that enables us (to access) hundreds of museums and ancient sites.”

Çelik also said teachers and students could enter museums unlimited times. İş Bank General Director Adnan Bali said that with the project, the bank’s credit cards would serve as Museum Cards for one month in a year. He said 6 million credit cards had turned into Museum Cards.

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Turkey again at top ten low-cost holiday places

ISTANBUL – Turkey has again been named among the world’s top 10 best-value holiday destinations in the annual Worldwide Holiday Costs Barometer 2013 report released by British retail post company The Post Office.

Turkey tops the list for the first time since 2008, having become even more affordable in the past five years because resort prices have fallen by a massive 16 percent on average over the last 12 months, the report said. The country now also features on the “best value” lists of many top travel bloggers.

The barometer compares in-resort prices for a shopping basket of eight items including drinks, sun cream and a meal for two.

The Post Office takes the southern Aegean resort town of Marmaris as the basis for setting the prices in Turkey and calculated the daily total spending of two adults to be 52.89 pounds.

Spain was crowned the cheapest European holiday destination, with the cost of eating out down 50 percent compared with five years ago, according to a survey. The country, however, shared first place overall with Sri Lanka. Two adults’ daily expenses were estimated to be 36.14 pounds in Costa Del Sol in Spain.

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Int’l Language Festival calls for giving priority to Bangla language

DHAKA, Feb 24, 2013 (BSS) – A daylong international language festival was held in the capital on Saturday with a call to give priority to Bangla language and inform the young students about its correct history.

There is no obstacle to know other language. But the priority will have to be given to Bangla language side by side with informing the young students about its correct history, speakers at the festival said.

Oxford International School (OIS), a leading English medium school in the country, and Better Bangla Foundation (BBF) jointly arranged the festival on the Gulshan campus of the OIS on the occasion of the Martyrs’ Day and the International Mother Language Day.

The speakers also mentioned that learning of more foreign languages could be a ladder to reach the peak of our development side by side with introduction of Bangla language in all spheres. They said Bangladesh’s labour market could be expanded further if the people of the country are taught more foreign languages.

The speakers also called for upholding the spirit of great Ekushey as they said Bangla has been recognized as an international language by upholding that spirit.

With Principal, Head of School of OIS GM Nizam Uddin in the chair, the function was also addressed by Iranian Ambassador in Dhaka Hossein Aminian Jousi, Egyptian Charge d’ Affaires Omar Shoeb, DCCI President and Daffodil Group Chairman Md Sabur Khan, OIS Chairman Md Shakhwat Hossain and Director Ayesha Hossian Shahnila.

At the function, Chairman of Better Bangla Foundation MasudA Khan was honoured for his outstanding contribution to language education. Later, the students of OIS performed a colorful cultural function that included chorus and solo songs, dances and recitation of poems.

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Afghanistan Fears Loss of its National Languages

March 03, Kabul (BNA) Chaired by Dr. Sayed Makhdoom Raheen Minister of Information and Culture a meeting was held yesterday for realization of the recent decision of Council of Ministers over preserving the national identity of national languages.

The meeting was also attended by representatives of academy of sciences, Kabul University lecturers, ministers of education and higher education, who discussed standardizing of national languages.

Dr. Raheen using of the national languages of the country has been disturbed and our media is in need of help from the intellectuals in this respect. He added that our two languages have their accepted accents and pronunciations having been specified in the past seventy years and these have to be preserved intact.

He added that two missions have been formed by the ministry of information and culture to address issues pertaining to the accents and pronunciations of the two official languages. He noted that aim is not creating limitations for the media but to assist them.

Two commissions have been formed one for Pashto and one for Dari languages which are led by Nabi Farahi and Mubarez Rashidi deputy ministers of the ministry. The two commission will words at the national languages and strive to strengthen the two officials languages and will reveal the result of their work to the media.

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Bangladesh PM urges for promoting local culture in making films

DHAKA, Feb 27, 2013 (BSS)- Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today urged all to encourage promotion and practice of indigenous culture and make good quality films to enlighten people against lack of knowledge, superstition and narrowness.

She said the government would continue its support to good quality films to encourage present generation to make life-oriented film to attract people of all ages and classes to cinema hall.

The Prime Minister said this while laying foundation stone of Bangladesh Film Archive Building at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar here today. “Good cinemas are the best weapon against obscene movies. We want to create our film market abroad,” she said.

The Prime Minister said film is a powerful medium to project national history, tradition, culture, philosophy and social life. “It’s a matter of great satisfaction that many popular movies are being produced in the country now where producers have shown their creativity, technical knowledge and beautifulness,” she added.

Sheikh Hasina urged the owners of the cinema halls to refurbish their halls with modern digital technology so that people feel encouraged to go there with families

The 12 storied building would be constructed on 1.86 acres of land at a cost of Taka 75 crore with Japanese Debt Cancellation Fund (JDCF). In the first phase, the building would be constructed up to seventh floor with facilities of film hospital, laboratory, museum, library, auditorium, projection hall, conference centre, film centre and store room. The construction work would be completed by June 2014.

The Prime Minister said the government has given final approval to Film and Television Institute Act- 2013 to give the film and television industries an institutional shape. The government has also taken decision to introduce certification system for release of movies instead of colonial film censor act.

She said tax has been waived for construction of new cineplex and supplementary tax on projection of film has also been waived.

Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh Film Archive was established for preservation of life-orientated and historic films. “The archive has taken praiseworthy steps for preservation of the celluloid documents of war of liberation and life and work of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the digital form,” she said adding this initiative would help projecting actual history of the nation before the next generation.

The new building would Immensely help preservation, exhibition and research of national history and films in more effective manner, she hoped.

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Maldives and Mauritius Air Agreement signed

February 27, 2013 – Sun.mv – Maldives has signed a bilateral agreement regarding air access with the Republic of Mauritius. The agreement will allow direct flights between the two countries. The agreement signing ceremony was held last Monday in Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius. Mauritian Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Xavier Luc Duval signed the agreement on behalf of their Government, while Defence Minister Colonel (Rtd) Mohamed Nazim signed the agreement of behalf of the Maldivian Government.

Maldives and Mauritius first held talks on bilateral air access during a visit by a delegation led by Mauritian Vice Prime Minister to the Maldives early this year. The talks during the visit also included discussions on how the two governments can aid in developing tourism, especially ways to increase their popularity of with Chinese and African tourists.

The agreement will allow companies Mauritius Air, Mega Global Air Services Maldives and Island Aviation to jointly conduct direct flights between Beijing and Mauritius, and Maldives and Mauritius.

The flights are forecasted to start July this year and seven flights have been planned to be conducted per week.

Mauritian Vice Prime Minister Xavier Luc Duval said that this is a historical agreement which brings the two sister islands closer and the he hopes that this is the first step in a collaboration between the two islands in the fields of environmental and marine management, as well as island development.

Defence Minister Nazim stated this agreement will prove additionally beneficial for tourism since around 80,000 Chinese tourists visit Maldives annually, and that it is additionally important as it strengthens the bilateral ties between our two countries, increases our connectivity and opens the door for commercial cooperation.

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Maldives: Maamigili Airport launched as an international airport

February 28, 2013 – Sun.mv – Maamigili Airport, operated by private company Villa Air, has been declared an international airport. The airport was launched as an international airport by President Dr Mohamed Waheed at a special ceremony held at Adh. Maamigili this afternoon.

Villa Air Chairman Gasim Ibrahim said that given the amount of resorts located in the region, priority will be given to private jets and flights coming into the country in the process of making the airport international.

Villa Air has accomplished a lot in the aviation industry lately, including its recent purchase of a 68-seat aircraft. The company has decided to purchase an additional aircraft of the same make this year. Villa Air currently operates to Maamigili, B. Dharavandhoo and S. Gan, and plans to start operation of seaplanes this year as well.

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Three new no-interest Islamic bonds To be Launched in Turkey

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News – The Turkish Capital Market Board (SPK) has prepared three new Islamic-compliant, non-interest financial instruments to supplement existing sukuks, the chairman of the board has told daily Zaman. The board is set to adapt the necessary regulations regarding the three non-interest financial instruments that are used in international markets, Vahdettin Ertaş, the incoming chairman of the SPK, announced.

Turkey has been trading only sukuk certificates indexed on rent certificates as a kind of Islamic banking vehicle since last August.

A sukuk is an Islamic bond that complies with shariah and its investment principles, which prohibit the charging or paying of interest. Turkey is a new player in the sukuk market.

After raising a substantial amount in lira-denominated sovereign sukuk issuances, the Undersecretariat of the Treasury began issuing dollar-denominated sukuks in September. The second issuance came as a success after the government diversified its sources of financing by tapping into the global Islamic bond market.

Participation banks in the country, which claim interest rate-free banking operations, welcomed the government’s sukuk move.The volume of the global sukuk market is estimated at around $100 billion.

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Emirates begin direct daily flights to Algiers

Dubai: March 1, 2013 – Emirates launched its daily non-stop service from Dubai to Algeria’s Houari Boumediene Airport on Friday. It is the Dubai-based airline’s 22nd gateway in Africa and the airline’s 130th international destination.

“The launch of our operations in Algiers will provide a wealth of new travel options for customers in Algeria, who will be able to fly non-stop to our industry leading hub in Dubai and conveniently connect to points across the Middle East, the Asian Subcontinent, the Far East and Australasia,” said Adel Al Redha, Executive Vice President Engineering and Operations.

Travellers to Algiers will fly on Airbus A330-200 aircraft, with a three class configuration. The new daily non-stop flight to Algiers will take Emirates SkyCargo’s weekly cargo capacity into and out of the country to more than 160 tonnes. Imports into Algiers include a wide range of manufactured goods, while the top exports include frozen fish, lobsters, oil and gas equipment and palm oil.

Starting on Friday, EK 757 will depart Dubai daily at 8.45am and arrive at Houari Boumediene Airport at 1.30pm. The return flight, EK 758, departs Algiers at 3.35pm and lands in Dubai at 12.55am the next day.

Algiers, the capital and largest city of Algeria, is located in the west side of a bay of the Mediterranean Sea. The city is home to numerous attractions, including the Great Mosque, the National Library, Martyrs Square, the Bardo Museum and multiple monuments and forts.

It is also home to a rich variety of architecture and a vibrant cultural scene with a diverse heritage of Phoenician, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and French influences. The country also boasts some of the world’s most spectacular coastlines as well as vast mountainous and desert landscapes.

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Yemen’s participation in Milan Tourism Fair positive

SANA’A, Feb.25 (Saba)- Tourism Minister Qasim Sallam has described Yemen’s participation in Milan exhibition for tourism recently concluded in the Italian city of Milano as positive and successful.

Tourism Minister –Head of Yemen’s delegation- told Saba upon his return to Sana’a on Monday that the participation aimed at affirming the presence of Yemen on the world tourism map despite what recounted by the various media about the security situation in Yemen.

He confirmed that the Yemeni pavilion in the exhibition contains promotional items, such as tourist films, books, brochures and maps as well as a presentation on Yemen’s handicrafts ,heritage ,civilization and picturesque tourist landscapes.

The accompanying delegation included a number of businessmen and representatives of the tourism and travel agencies.

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Saudi Travel Mart-2013 to Focus on travel agency issues

3/2/2013 – This year, the Saudi Supreme Commission for Tourism Activities will be dedicating one full day for discussion on issues related to travel agencies during the upcoming STTIM-2013 (Saudi Travel and Tourism Investment Market), in Riyadh, in which a number of subjects concerning travel agencies sector will be taken up for deliberation.

The STTIM-2013 Steering Committee in its third meeting held recently has adopted to devote three sessions for one full day on April 3, 2013 to discusses issues related to travel agencies in the Kingdom under the theme “New vision for travel agencies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”.

STTIM is an annual event organized by SCTA recurrently, and this year it will be held from 31st March to 4th April, at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center (RICEC) in Riyadh, under the theme “Tourism for all – Partnership for sustainable development”.

Travel agencies’ special sessions will be attended by officials and specialists from IATA in addition to representatives from the national travel agencies at the local level.

The three dedicated sessions will discuss major issues concerning travel agencies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, under the themes: “IATA’s new air transport program for raising the efficiency of distribution systems”, “training, and rehabilitation of travel agencies manpower”, and “role of IATA’s new regional offices in the Middle East and North Africa”.

The sessions on travel agencies will be held within the scientific program of STTIM-2013, which includes 7 sessions, 8 workshops and panel discussions

Noteworthy, SCTA is organizing STTIM this year, in its sixth version with the support and participation of a number of government and private agencies, both in terms of their participation in the activities of the Forum or through participation in its Steering Committee, which includes representatives from: The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, Ministry of Culture and Information, Ministry of Interior, National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development (NCWCD), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), King Saud University represented by the College of Tourism and Antiquities, the National Commission for Tourism, and the Advisory Committees for each of: accommodation, travel and tourism agencies, tour operators and tourist guides.

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Dhaka, Delhi to Upgrade Tourism Cooperation

DHAKA, Mar 3, 2013 (BSS) – Bangladesh and India today agreed to work together in new areas of health, telecom, renewable energy, fisheries and agriculture, foreign minister Dr Dipu Moni said here.

“Apart from hydropower and communications, Bangladesh and India would also extend each others cooperation in the new areas of health, telecom, renewable energy, fisheries and agriculture,” she said after meeting Indian President Pranab Mukherjee at his hotel suite here.

Dipu Moni said Dhaka has also focused on the importance of regional cooperation, alongside the bilateral programmes, while Pranab Mukherjee nodded to spearhead regionalism in South Asia.

Asked about any progress on two crucial bilateral issues that remained stalled due to Indian dilly dally, the foreign minister said President Pranab Mukehrjee assured Dhaka of ratifying Land Boundary Agreement 1974 and its protocol of 2011 in the upcoming Budget Session in Indian parliament.

“He (Pranab) also expressed the hope that the much expected Teesta Water Sharing Treaty would be signed soon, as the Indian Federal Government has been on continuous talks with States concerned,” she said, expressing her firm belief that the Indian President would use his good office to resolve long standing bilateral issues.

The foreign minister, however, denied any discussion on recent violence in Bangladesh with Pranab Mukherjee, but categorically stated that the present government would not allow any activities that would breach communal harmony. “Then attacks on religious minority by Jamaat-Shibir men are deplorable and completely unacceptable.”

Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, who made a separate call on with Indian President, said they have discussed a range of issues, including the construction of the Padma Bridge. He said Pranab Mukherjee has reassured India’s grant of $200 million for the proposed bridge, 50 million of which is already in Bangladesh and another $50 million will come next month.

Muhith said Bangladesh would construct the bridge with its own fund and Taka 3,000 crore would be allocated in the upcoming budget. Besides, he said, Taka 5,000 crore would be allocated each year for the project in future.

“It would not be a big deal to provide Taka 5,000 each year from our budget,” said a confident finance minister, who gave a number of options to provide the money from national exchequer. Bangladesh’s economy is growing with an eight percent export growth and a 16 percent remittance surge, he said.

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee arrived in Dhaka this afternoon on a three- day official visit. This is Pranab’s first trip to a foreign land since he has taken over his office as Indian President in July last year. Bangladesh will provide him with a national award for his supportive role during its war of independence in 1971.

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Israel bans Call To Prayer at Ibrahimi Mosque 44 times in Feb.

Ramallah, March 3 (Petra) — Israeli occupation forces have banned azan (the call for the daily Muslim Prayers) at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron 44 times in February, according to Palestinian religious affairs authorities.

Hebron Awqaf (religious endowment) Department director Zaid Al Jaabari said that Israeli authorities had stopped azan under the pretext it was a nuisance to Jewish settlers in the occupied part of the city where the mosque is located.

Jaabari deplored the recurring Israeli bans as “a racist assault” against Arab and Muslim holy sites in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, member of Fatah Revolutionary Council Dimitri Diliani Thursday said that Israel is constantly escalating its oppressive measures against the Palestinians of East Jerusalem, especially in Silwan and Issawiya.

He said that Israeli police regularly raid the homes of Palestinians, arrest children and teens and assault women and elderly. Diliani said that in Issawiya alone, about 170 Palestinians were arrested in January, while in Silwan the youngest detainee was six-year-old.

Diliani pointed out that the police deliberately wreak havoc on Palestinians’ homes and shoot rubber bullets inside, like what happened recently to one Palestinian whose daughter was injured as a result.

An Israeli police officer assaulted Sunday a number of Palestinian women inside Al-Aqsa Holy Mosque of Jerusalem, after desecrating a Holy Quran book by kicking it to the ground, in attempt to end their circle-reading session, one of the victimized women told WAFA.

She said that they gather every Sunday in the yards of the mosque to take a Quran reading class outdoors, and that they were near Al-Magharbeh gate– the closest to Jewish settlers and the most used by Israeli authorities to lead in settlers and touring groups– when an Israeli police officer came and asked them to move away from the area.

She added that they had moved away farther from the gate, but after they’ve started reading out loud the officer attacked the group after kicking a Holy Quran book to ground.

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Australian Travel Agents To Get Taste Of Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, Feb 28 (NNN-WAM) – Australia’s top 100 travel agents are due in Abu Dhabi next month on a mega familiarisation trip hosted by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) in conjunction with carriers Virgin Australia and Etihad Airways.

The group hails from retail travel agencies Australia-wide who are all top sellers of The Travel Corporation’s iconic travel brands, including Trafalgar Tours, Contiki Holidays, Insight Vacations and Creative Holidays, as well as Etihad Airways and Virgin Australia.

Due in the emirate for a three-day destination fact-finding trip from Mar 7, they will visit the capital’s stunning Corniche, its magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – just named one of the world’s most talked about attractions by TripAdvisor – the Mina Zayed date and fish markets, Heritage Village, Falcon Hospital and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, the world’s largest indoor theme park with the world’s fastest roller-coaster.

They will also head out into Abu Dhabi’s vast desert for a Sundowner Safari and dinner and be treated to a farewell dinner at the iconic Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi, the only hotel in the world straddling an F1 race track.

“Our aim is to more closely connect with these important influencers, convince them of our product so they can assist us in converting more Australian travellers into actual bookings for Abu Dhabi,” said Mubarak Al Nuaimi, Director Promotions & Overseas Offices, TCA Abu Dhabi.

“We see strong potential within Australia with our destination now, benefiting from 31 flights a week from the country linking Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Abu Dhabi International. The potential is both as a stopover for those travelling to Europe and beyond and increasingly as a stand-alone destination.

“Currently Australian guests in Abu Dhabi hotels average a stay of just over three nights – we want them to know there is now much more to see and do in the emirate so we can expand this length of stay.” Last year some 36,659 Australians stayed in Abu Dhabi’s hotels and hotel apartments – a five percent rise over 2011. They accounted for 118,289 room nights.

Etihad Airways currently operates 28 flights a week from Australia, with departures from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane with Virgin Australia operating three flights a week from Sydney.– NNN-WAM

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Iran, Egypt To Boost Tourism Contacts

TEHRAN, Feb 26 (NNN-IRNA) – Iran’s Head of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organisation, Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh said on Monday that Iran and Egypt will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to promote tourism cooperation.

In a meeting with the head of Egyptˈs Interest Section in Tehran, Khaled Amareh, he welcomed Egyptian Tourism Minister Hisham Zazouˈs imminent visit to Tehran.

The Egyptian minister of tourism is scheduled to arrive in Tehran later in the day. Describing Iran and Egypt as two great nations, he said that mutual understanding will help promote cooperation in all fields.

Iran and Egypt boast of ancient history and Zazouˈs Tehran visit will usher in a new era for bilateral ties, Malekzadeh said. Amareh, for his part, appreciated Iranˈs cooperation to promote ties in the field of tourism.

Egypt favours inking a tourism agreement with Iran, he said, noting that the country is ready to make its experience in the field available to Iran.– NNN-IRNA

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Air Arabia adds second Sri Lanka route

Sharjah, 2nd March 2013 (WAM) — Air Arabia, the first and largest low-cost carrier (LCC) in the Middle East and North Africa, announced that it has added its second destination in Sri Lanka with the launch of non-stop flights to Mattala.

The new route marks Air Arabia’s 84th destination worldwide. The inaugural flight G9508 will take off to Mattala on March 18, 2013. The low-cost pioneer will operate two weekly services between Sharjah and Mattala, to be increased to four times weekly starting May 19 2013.

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Nearly 100 exhibitors at 4th International Tourism Fair in Oran

ORAN (Algeria) (APS) 3 March 2013 – About one hundred national and foreign exhibitors will participate in the fourth International Tourism, Travel and Transport Fair, which will take place from April 4 to 7 at Mohamed Ben-Ahmed Convention Center of Oran (432 km west of Algiers).

In other news from Algeria:

Algeria will participate, through the National Office of Tourism (ONT), in the 47th International Tourism Exchange “ITB-Berlin” which will take place in Germany from March 6 to 10.

The maiden flight of Tassili Airlines (TAL) linking Algiers to Tamanrasset via Adrar was welcomed Saturday by local authorities and the company managers to “celebrate” the event.

A large audience of music lovers was captivated Saturday by the performance of the National Symphonic Orchestra, conducted on that evening by Japanese maestro Hikotaro Yazaki, at the Regional Theatre of Constantine (431-km east of Algiers).

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Turkish Delegation visits Afghanistan

Sunday, March 03, 2013 – Kabul (BNA) The visiting Turkish delegation headed by Tanar Yulduz the minister for energy and natural resources called on the second vice president Mohammad Karim Khalili and exchanged views on matters relating bilateral relations, press office of the Presidential Palace said.

Accompanied by the Turkish ambassador to Afghanistan, the Turkish minister expressed his country’s interest in different economic sectors in Afghanistan.

In his remarks, the vice president Khalili hoped the visit would open new chapter in relations between the two nations, saying Turkey keeping in mind its relations with the western countries and having democratic system has special place in the Islamic World and can be sample among the Muslim nations, Besides welcoming the government and private sectors of Turkey for investment in Afghanistan, the vice president Khalili also thanked Turkey for its contribution in stabilizing peace and security in the country.

According to another report, a number of professors of some educational centers called on Khalili and congratulated him over receiving honorary doctorate degree and medal on leadership and good governance from San-moon University of South Korea.

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KZHF distributes 5000 tons of aid to Myanmar Muslims

Burma, Mar 3rd, 2013 (WAM) — The Khalifa bin Zayed Humanitarian Foundation (KZHF) has distributed another 2600 tons of food aid to Myanmar Muslims, completing its 3rd and last phase of the urgent aid totaling to 5200 tons of relief items among 850,000 beneficiaries.

As per directives of President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the assistance was purchased from the local markets of Myanmar in cooperation and coordination with the Embassy of Kuwait to be shipped by sea to “Rakhine (Arakan)” for distribution among the affectees there.

The aid included basic food items in addition to the distribution of clothes among men, women and children in order to alleviate their sufferings, injustice and persecution they have suffered from.

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