Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

22 Apr, 2013

Afghanistan Seeks Revival of its Famous Saffron

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 22 April 2013 (11 Jumaada al-Thaani 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.


World Islamic Tourism Mart to be held in Kuala Lumpur

The World Islamic Tourism Mart (WITM) and Malaysia International Tourism Exchange (WITM-MITE) 2013 jointly organised by the Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (MATTA) and My Events Sdn Bhd, with the support of the Ministry of Tourism, Tourism Malaysia, MyCeB and Islamic Tourism Centre, amongst others, will be held at the Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur from 6-9 June 2013. WITM-MITE 2013 comprises of: B2B Travel Exchange for Buyers and Sellers to network and expand their market potential, and International Conference, Date: 6-7 June 2013; and Consumer Travel Fair Date: 8-9 June 2013. MATTA is encouraging its Members to participate in WITM-MITE 2013 by taking up booths as SELLERS/EXHIBITORS in the Business-to-Business Travel Exchange and Consumer Travel Fair as well as to attend the international conference featuring world renowned speakers. Top Management from numerous countries will be at WITM-MITE 2013 as Buyers seeking opportunities to expand their business with Malaysian Inbound tourism players. For further information, please click here: http://www.witm-mite2013.com/

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.


“Weighing the Causes And Costs Of Global Wars And Conflict” 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 this column Weighing the causes and costs of global wars and conflict, and several others, by clicking here.

Examples of some columns:

Globalisation Will Make Religion Even More Relevant

Treating the Symptoms and Not the Cause Is a Recipe for Death

Acts of God Show the Wrath of God

Those Who Send Others to Die for a Lie Are all Cut from the Same Cloth



Plan Ahead: Malaysia’s Tourism Highlights – June 2013

PUTRAJAYA, 17 April 2013: It’s a busy month of June! Local and foreign tourists will be thrilled as every single day of the month is filled with exciting events from all over the nation! Here are some highlights in June 2013:


First held in 1982, the Kelantan International Kite Festival 2013 returns for its 31st edition! International kite fliers from Thailand, Brunei, China and many other countries will gather and show off their skills against each other.

Highlights of the event include kite-making contest, beach soccer competitions and silat demonstrations. As a unique tourism product of the state, the event aims to draw more local and foreign tourists to visit Kelantan.

Organiser: Kelantan Tourism Information Center (TIC)

Date: 29 May – 1 June 2013

Venue: Pantai Geting beach, Tumpat, Kelantan

Contact: +6 09 748 5534

Savour the King of Fruits, Durian!

Stuff yourself with the legendary ‘musang king’, ‘red prawn’ and other exotic varieties of durian during the month of June and July! The Penang Durian Fiesta 2013 is a fair entirely dedicated to the most notorious fruit, durian!

Popular durian-related activities such as ‘count the spikes’, ‘guess the durian species’ and also ‘best durian snapshot’ competitions will be held for all durian lovers during the festival. Come and taste the King of Fruits, only here in Penang!

Organiser: Penang Times Square

Date: 16 June – 7 July 2013

Venue: Penang Times Square, Pulau Pinang

Contact: +6 04 210 9020

Melaka International River Festival 2013

Inspired by the San Antonio River Festival in USA, Melaka International River Festival 2013 is back for the whole month of June! The festival aims to promote Melaka in general, particularly the Melaka River and monorail that travels from Spice Garden to Dataran Hang Tuah.

Among the highlights include water sports fiesta, dragon boat competitions and decorative floats parade. With more than 100 events prepared, this well-known state tourism product is expected to draw not less than 800,000 tourists this year.

Organiser: Melaka River and Beach Development Corporation

Date: 25 May – 30 June 2013

Venue: Melaka

Website: http://duha-group.net/SungaiV3/Masjid/Masjid/index.php


The biggest cycling event in East Coast is back! The century ride is also known as Kuantan 160 since 100 miles (a century) is equal to approximately 160 km.

The event aims to create awareness of cycling among the community and promote Pahang as an ideal cycling destination in Malaysia. The event is expected to attract no less than 800 riders from more than 10 countries in the world.

Organiser: Ministry of Tourism Malaysia Pahang

Date: 2 June 2013

Venue: Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA), Kuantan, Pahang

Website: http://www.kuantan160.asia/


Borneo Bird Festival is here to celebrate the beauty of wild birds in Malaysian Borneo! Spread over 3 days, the event offers a great opportunity for visitors to see up to 570 bird species!

Highlights of the event include bird photography competition, Borneo bird race and guided bird watching walk. The event aims to create public awareness of different bird species in Borneo as well as highlight the importance of conservation and ecotourism.

It is a fun filled festival! Be sure to not miss it!

Organiser: Sabah Tourism Board

Date: 7 – 9 June 2013

Venue: Rainforest Discovery Center (RDC), Sepilok, Sandakan, Sabah

Website: www.borneobirdfestival.com


The jazz musical extravaganza in Kota Kinabalu is back with a line-up of local and international artists! The Kota Kinabalu Jazz Festival 2013 is now a signature event of Sabah which represents many different facets of jazz music.

As a key component of Kota Kinabalu Arts Festival, the event aims to promote jazz as a popular genre and gives local talents the opportunity to gain international exposure.

Organiser: SPArKS and Rotary Club Kota Kinabalu

Venue: Sutera Harbour Marina, Golf and Country Club’s Tennis Arena, Sabah

Date: 14 – 15 June 2013

Website: www.kkjazzfest.com

“Paddles ready, take it away!”

Organised in conjunction with the Duan Wu festival, Sabah Dragon Boat Race 2013 has evolved throughout the years to become one of the main sporting events in Sabah!

This exciting race has attracted many local and international teams as far as Hong Kong, China and Japan. Also, look out for the most popular Dragon Boat delicacy – rice dumplings filled with water chestnuts and minced meat!

Organiser: Sabah Tourism Board and Sri Pelancongan Sabah

Date: 15 – 16 June 2013

Venue: Likas Bay, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Website: www.sabahdragonboat.my


Enjoy a bit of culture in Sabah as dance troupes from around the world gather as cultural ambassadors for the annual Sabah International Folklore Festival 2013!

The event aims to promote culture tourism and provide a platform for participating countries to share their unique cultures through folk song and dance performances. Watch and be entertained by this east meets west musical extravaganza!

Organiser: Sabah Cultural Board

Date: 23 June – 28 June 2013

Venue: National Department For Culture and Arts, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (TBC)

Website: http://www.sabah.gov.my/lks/v2/index.php?q=siff-main


The 1Malaysia International Tourism Night Floral Parade is here again to promote the tourism attractions of Malaysia as well as international tourist destinations!

Witness a procession of beautifully lighted and decorated boats that cruise across the Putrajaya Lake every night. Main activities of the event include night floral boats photography contest, fireworks display, and also cultural group performances.

Organiser: Ministry of Tourism Malaysia

Date: 22 – 30 June 2013

Venue: Putrajaya Lake, Presint 2, Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur

Contact: +6 03 8891 7000


Popularly known as Floria Putrajaya, the Putrajaya Flower and Garden Festival 2013 is here to showcase the best of the landscape and horticulture industry; from commercial landscape products to garden design and flower displays!

Local and international exhibitors from as far as United Kingdom and South Africa are invited to create exceptional displays and presentations in a garden setting environment. Highlights of the event include showcase gardens, floral pavilion, and the night floral parade. Admission is free!

Organiser: Putrajaya Corporation

Date: 22 – 30 June 2013

Venue: Waterfront Precint 2, Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur

Website: http://www.ppj.gov.my/putrajayafloria/


Enjoy a totally different outdoor musical experience at Kudat, the Northern-most tip of Borneo with a panoramic view of the sunset, white sandy beaches and the brilliant azure colour of the ocean!

Sunset Music Festival 2013 features a line-up of local and foreign musicians performing classical favourites, contemporary tunes and evergreen local hits that will get the crowd to their feet! Experience it at one of Sabah’s most breath-taking locations!

Organiser: Sabah Tourism Board and Sri Pelancongan Sabah

Date: 28 – 29 June 2013

Venue: Tanjung Simpang Mengayau, Kudat, Sabah

Website: http://www.sunsetmusicfest.my/


This year’s Rainforest World Music Festival 2013 will gather music enthusiasts once again at the Sarawak Cultural Village with music by renowned world and indigenous musicians!

With a line-up of 18 bands playing a diverse range of world music genres, the festival features seven different acts per night over three nights. For the afternoon session, there will be programmes such as informative workshops, ethno-musical lectures and jamming sessions. It’s a smashing time in the heart of the Borneo Jungle!

Organiser: Sarawak Tourism Board (STB)

Date: 28 – 30 June 2013

Venue: Sarawak Cultural Village, Kuching, Sarawak

Time: 10 a.m – 12 a.m

Website: http://rwmf.net/


Looking for comfortable and reliable homestays in Malaysia? Come and visit the Kedah Cuti-Cuti Homestay Carnival 2013!

Visitors will have the opportunity to obtain the latest homestay information and packages from all over Malaysia at this homestay travel fair. Besides, there will be local cultural performances and stalls selling tasty delicacies and snacks from every state.

Organiser: Ministry of Tourism Malaysia Kedah

Date: 28 – 30 June 2013

Venue: Laman Padi, Pulau Langkawi, Kedah

Contact: +6 04 735 1030


Shopaholic alert! One of the three major shopping seasons in the country is back with mega shopping excitement, dining options, endless entertainment and fun-filled activities!

Within this two-month shopping period, shoppers get the advantage to enjoy irresistible offers and great discounts from luxury brands to affordable items all put together by malls and retail stores throughout Malaysia! Shop, eat and celebrate!

Organiser: Ministry of Tourism Malaysia

Date: 29 June – 1 Sept 2013

Venue: Nationwide

Contact: 03 – 2614 8691


Think you can differentiate the birds from their chirps and tweets? Come join us at the Pahang International Bird Race 2013 to sight, identify and record the most number of bird species!

Over 250 species of birds from as far as Northern Siberia and the islands north of Japan can be located in the cool highlands of Fraser’s Hill. The race aims to preserve nature and simultaneously promote the highlands of Pahang as a top class bird watching destination.

Organiser: Fraser’s Hill Development Corporation

Date: 29 – 30 June 2013

Venue: Fraser’s Hill, Raub, Pahang

Contact; +6 09 516 1007

Website: www.pkbf.org.my

A point to consider: All information is correct at time of publication. Visitors are advised to contact the event organiser for the latest updates.

In 2014, Malaysia will celebrate its fourth VISIT MALAYSIA YEAR (VMY) with the theme “Celebrating 1Malaysia Truly Asia”. The VMY 2014 promotional campaign has started this year with a series of year-long special events and activities leading to VMY 2014. It will contribute to the Government’s target to receive 36 million tourist arrivals and RM168 billion in receipts by 2020, as outlined in the Malaysia Tourism Transformation Plan (MTTP) 2020.

Back to top

Afghanistan Seeks Revival of its Famous Saffron

22-April 2013 – Kabul (BNA) With having better quality, the Saffron of Afghanistan occupied first position in world markets. The spokesman of ministry of agriculture and irrigation Majidullah Qarar says that the recent activities of this ministry in connection with providing and export of saffron is important and effective.

Qarar stated that this year, about 200 farmers are under training. These farmers in their turn train other peasants. He said that a trader of saffron wanted to export independently 1500 Kgs saffron to Europe. This is a great success. Qarar stated that holding of 11 exhibitions in Afghanistan and few others in aboard provided good opportunities for marketing of saffron of Afghanistan. Evaluation effective the establishment of saffron dealers` association by ministry of agriculture and irrigation in 14 provinces of the country and providing loans for peasants, Qarar said that now, the great quantity of Afghan saffron is exported to Italy, Australia, Canada and China.

The experts in economic affairs say that with increment in production of saffron the government also should make efforts for its marketing and provide necessary facilities for investors and merchants of this product. Easy plantation and production, less need to water and compatibility with geographical environment especially in western part of Afghanistan and the interests of farmer for its expansion are the factors behind the increment of this expensive plant in Afghanistan. An expert in economic affairs, Sayed Masoud says that non activity for marketing, the involvement of dealers and non-observance of suitable package and sanitation cause the low price of this plant. He said that wheat should also be replaced by saffron, because it needs less water.

Masoud continued that now, saffron planted more in Balkh and Herat and enjoys from high quality. Most countries of the world selected Afghan saffron. This causes the pouring of foreign currencies to Afghanistan. Some saffron growers are worry about shortage of qualified bulb of saffron and low level trained peasants towards expansion of saffron plantation, but the in charges of ministry of agriculture and irrigation spoke about having programs in this respect. One of citizens Gul Mir in regard with plantation of saffron said that if more attention be paid in plantation of saffron no doubt, Afghanistan would occupy first position. He added that being nonstandard of providing saffron; non-standardized package and market problem are the factors behind reduction of price of saffron. The in charges of ministry of agriculture believe.

As we see this plant expanded from one province to 18 provinces, If the ministries of agriculture and commerce focus more attention comparing before in this respect, it is possible that its production to be reached to thousands Kgs. No doubt, the government of Afghanistan specially the ministry of agriculture provides good grounds, but these efforts are insufficient, but this plant be offered to international markets in a good standard. This is in a time that increment of saffron from 500kgs in 2007 to 3000 Kgs in current year and its expansion from one province to 18 provinces, involvement of 12000 farmers to saffron cultivation and distribution of 180 sets machines for drying of saffron are the achievements earned by ministry of agriculture in connection with production of saffron in Afghanistan during recent years.

Back to top

Iran-US cultural, tourism ties should replace sanctions, US businessman

New York, April 22, IRNA – The US businessman Marshall P. Cloyd said the policy of bolstering cultural and tourism relations should replace US sanctions.

Cloyd who is active in a campaign to confront sanctions against Iran and establishment of political and economic relations with the Islamic Republic also said the history of US sanctions against other countries prove that such policies have been of opposite outcome. The chairman of the international company of Intermarine Incorporated in an exclusive interview with IRNA regretted that the US government is not learning lessons from the past.

He called for promotion of Tehran-Washington cultural and social relations and said the Persian language, poetry and music could be used as a huge capacity to develop and improve ties between the two nations. He believed the visit of the Iranian wrestling team to the US could help improve mutual understanding and familiarity.

Cloyd condemned the opening of the terrorist Mujahedeen-e Khalq Organization (MKO) office in Washington.

Back to top

Turkish President accepts UNWTO/WTTC Open Letter to Promote Travel & Tourism

Ankara / Madrid – 18 Apr 13 – The President of Turkey, Abdullah Gül, underscored the contribution tourism can make to peace and mutual understanding when presented the UNWTO / World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Open Letter on Travel and Tourism. By accepting the Open Letter, President Gül adds his voice to those world leaders which rally support for tourism as a key for growth and fairer development (Ankara, Turkey 28 March 2013).

Meeting UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, in Ankara, President Gül emphasised tourism’s contribution to “global peace, interaction between cultures and to the efforts to overcome biases”. Other topics addressed during the meeting included the importance of visa facilitation in stimulating tourism growth and the most recent trends in the tourism sector in the world and in Europe with President Gül stressing that “borders must be open to travel”.

“Turkey has placed tourism firmly as a priority in the development of the country and the wellbeing of its people”, said Mr. Rifai. “The number of tourists visiting Turkey soared from less than 10 million in 2000 to nearly 35 million in 2012. This impressive growth is the result of a strong commitment to the sector and an adequate national tourism policy which includes issues such as visa facilitation for key emerging markets such as Russia”

In 2012, 34.9 million international tourists visited Turkey, generating more than US$ 25.7 billion in exports and making it the 6th most visited country in the world. Tourism is one of the leading economic activities of Turkey, accounting for 16% of all exports.

UNWTO and WTTC are jointly presenting heads of state and government around the world an Open Letter which calls on them to acknowledge tourism’s key role in delivering more sustained and balanced growth and to prioritize the sector higher in national policies in order to maximize its potential. The Open Letter outlines Travel & Tourism’s value as one of the world’s largest generators of jobs, a powerful driver of socio-economic growth and development and a key player in the transformation to the Green Economy.

To date, 48 heads of state and government have received the Open Letter from UNWTO and WTTC. Click here to read the Open Letter: http://dtxtq4w60xqpw.cloudfront.net/sites/all/files/pdf/open_letter_en.pdf

Back to top

Palestinians hold first marathon in West Bank

BETHLEHEM, April 21 (Xinhua) — About 1,000 Palestinian and foreign runners participated Sunday in the first West Bank marathon that highlights Israeli restrictions in the Palestinian territories.

The race starting point was in front of the Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus. The athletes will run four times around the holy city and in several points the race track goes along the concrete barrier Israel has been building in the West Bank since 2002.

The organizers say the that “Rights to Movement” marathon is an attempt to demonstrate the sufferings caused by the barrier and the Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank.

Jebrel Al-Rajoob of the Palestinian Olympic Committee said that the participation of runners from 30 countries and regions “proves that the Palestinian people enjoy global solidarity.”

“This is a message to the Israelis to stop imposing facts on the ground unilaterally and that the Palestinian people have their right in an independent state,” Al-Rajoob told Xinhua. Before starting to run, the competitors made a minute of silence to remember the victims of Boston marathon attacks.

Meanwhile, Al-Rajoob slammed Israel for banning 26 athletes in the Gaza Strip from traveling to the West Bank to join the race. “This is an evidence of the Israeli hatred toward sport and humanity.”

The participants came from Europe and the United States. The organizers also say that Israel prevented Arab runners from Libya and the United Arab Emirates from entering the West Bank.

Back to top

Hot air balloon flights resume in Luxor

Ahram Online, 21 Apr 2013 – Six hot air balloons took to the sky on Sunday morning carrying tourists from England, Australia, Arab countries and Egypt, as well as local governor Ezzat Saad. The president of the Egyptian Federation of Hot Air Balloon Companies said the Civil Aviation Authority would oversee all balloon flights rather than the Egyptian Airport Authority.

The change was made after workers refused to supervise flights on Wednesday – when they were scheduled to resume – in protest at the four-day detention of Taher Mahmoud Taher, the head of the balloon flight centre in Luxor from which all flights take off. In March, state news agency MENA quoted Civil Aviation Minister Wael El-Maadawy as saying the company responsible for the accident – SkyTours – would not resume ballooning activities until investigations were concluded.

An exploding gas cannister killed people from the UK, France, Belgium, Hungary, Japan, Hong Kong and Egypt on a balloon flight in Luxor on 26 February.

Back to top

Over three million Umrah visas issued this year

Jeddah, 08 Jamad Al-Thani 1434/18 April 2013 (IINA) – The number of Umrah visas issued this season has reached 3.1 million while the number of Umrah pilgrims who traveled to Makkah and Madinah so far crossed 2.6 million, Minister of Haj Bandar Hajjar said yesterday. Hajjar said the Umrah sector was receiving a lot of attention and improving the quantity and quality of services provided to pilgrims, such as their arrival procedures and services from arrival to departure.

In a statement on the ministry’s participation in the 16th “Be a Preacher” (Kun Da’iyan) exhibition that is being organized in Arar by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance, he said the Ministry of Haj has received praise from Northern Borders Emir Prince Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Bin Musaed for its contribution in making the exhibition a success.

Hajjar further said the ministry’s pavilion in the exhibition reflected the noble deeds of the Kingdom’s government since the era of the late King Abdul Aziz until the era of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah. Hajjar valued Prince Abdullah’s support to the exhibition and the great attention the ministry’s six pavilions received from the visitors.

Back to top

Pakistan’s medical schools – where the women rule

April 21, 2013 – KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — In a lecture hall of one of Pakistan’s most prestigious medical schools, a handful of male students sits in the far top corner, clearly outnumbered by the rows and rows of female students listening intently to the doctor lecturing about insulin.

In a country better known for honor killings of women and low literacy rates for girls, Pakistan’s medical schools are a reflection of how women’s roles are evolving. Women now make up the vast majority of students studying medicine, a gradual change that’s come about after a quota favoring male admittance into medical school was lifted in 1991.

The trend is a step forward for women in Pakistan, a largely conservative Muslim country. But there remain obstacles. Many women graduates don’t go on to work as doctors, largely because of pressure from family and society to get married and stop working — so much so that there are now concerns over the impact on the country’s health care system.

At Dow Medical College in the southern port city of Karachi, the female students said they are adamant they will work. Standing in the school’s courtyard as fellow students — almost all of them women — gathered between classes, Ayesha Sultan described why she wants to become a doctor.

“I wanted to serve humanity, and I believe that I was born for this,” said Sultan, who is in her first year. “The women here are really striving hard to get a position, especially in this country where women’s discrimination is to the zenith, so I think that’s why you find a lot of women here.”

For years, a government-imposed quota mandated that 80 percent of the seats at medical schools went to men and 20 percent to women. Then the Supreme Court ruled that the quota was unconstitutional and that admission should be based solely on merit.

Now about 80 to 85 percent of Pakistan’s medical students are women, said Dr. Mirza Ali Azhar, the secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association. Statistics gathered by The Associated Press show that at medical schools in some deeply conservative areas of the country such as Baluchistan in the southwest and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in the northwest, men still outnumber women. But in Punjab and Sindh provinces, which turn out the vast bulk of medical students, the women dominate. At Dow, it is currently about 70 percent women to 30 percent men.

In comparison, about 47 percent of medical students in the U.S. are women, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. There are a number of different reasons why men don’t make the cut, say students, faculty and medical officials. Medical school takes too long and is too difficult. Boys have more freedom to leave the house than girls, so they have more distractions. Boys want a career path in business or IT that will make them more money and faster, in part because they need to earn money to raise families.

“In our society, girls are working harder. They are just more concentrated on their studies,” said Azhar. Boys also see how hard doctors have to work even after they get their degree. “They do not like to work hard as a matter of fact.”

Ammara Khan is fully prepared for the years that it will take to fulfill her dream of becoming a neurosurgeon. She decided she wanted to pursue neurosurgery after watching an operation while volunteering at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi. “It’s like an adrenaline rush, and I knew I wanted to be that and nothing else,” she said. Still, medical officials and students acknowledge many women don’t go on to practice medicine.

At Dow, for example, just about all the male graduates work as doctors, but only an estimated half the women do, says Dr. Umar Farooq, the school’s pro-vice chancellor. Nationwide figures on how many women graduates forgo actual practice don’t exist, but despite years of increased women’s enrollment, the gender breakdown of doctors remains lopsided. Of the 132,988 doctors registered with the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, 58,789 are women. The number of female specialists is even smaller: 7,524 out of 28,686.

The pressure on women to get married, have kids and stay home to raise them is powerful. The prestige of a medical degree gives a woman a boost in marriage prospects, so many parents push their daughters to enroll, many students and faculty said. Prospective in-laws like the idea of having a doctor in the family and want their sons to have an educated wife to ensure the grandchildren are educated as well.

But that doesn’t mean they want the woman to actually use her degree and take away from child-raising time. “They want a doctor label but they don’t want it to go anywhere. They don’t think you’re a real person who might want to specialize or work on it,” said Beenish Ehsan, a student at Dow.

Her own family supports her completing the initial five years of medical college. But when she started talking about further studies for a specialization, they worried it would take away from her future family life.

“They’re like, ‘No, but you’ll take care of the house, won’t you?'” Ehsan said. “You have to convince them,” she said, adding that too many women don’t push back against their families. “Sometimes girls give up too soon, I feel.”

There are also cultural impediments. Women who do work often don’t want to do so in rural areas far from their families or don’t want night shifts, given the country’s deteriorating law and order. Some male patients only want to be treated by men because they don’t want women touching them or because they perceive the men to be smarter and more qualified.

During the 2010 floods that devastated Pakistan, Dow wanted to send medical students to Sindh province to treat victims but were hindered by the school’s overwhelmingly female enrollment, admissions director Rana Qamar Masood said. The boys could go on their own for long stretches. The girls were also lobbying heavily to go, but the school decided to send them in teams on buses with chaperones out of concern for their safety. They would return home each evening, thus limiting how far they could travel.

“We are responsible for these girls. How can we send them out to these hard-hit areas?” she said. “These are the ground realities in our society.”

Amid concerns over the number of the doctors in the future, proposals are being touted to rebalance the student body. Masood said she would support some sort of gender bias in admissions to bring in more male students. The PMA has floated the idea of building a number of medical schools just for boys. Already there are five medical schools for women.

Back to top

Malaysian Airlines To Start Daily A380 Flights To Hong Kong

KUALA LUMPUR, April 19 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia Airlines (MAS) will commence daily Airbus A380 services on the Kuala Lumpur-Hong Kong route from May 1, 2013. In a statement, MAS said the 494-seater super jumbo will be replacing one of the current Boeing B737-800 double daily services on this route.

“Flight MH72 from Kuala Lumpur will now depart at 9.15am and arrive in Hong Kong at 1.05pm, while MH73 from Hong Kong leaves at 2.45pm and arrives in Kuala Lumpur at 6.25pm,” it said here. Hong Kong will be the national carrier’s third A380 destination after London and Paris.

In conjunction with the introduction, MAS said the preferred premium airline will be offering attractive Economy Class fares from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong on the A380 from now until May 20, 2013, for travel from May 1 until Nov 30, 2013.

It said with super deals from only RM380 one-way and RM760 return all-inclusive, customers can now experience refined travel on Malaysia Airlines’ A380 Economy Class which comprises a total of 420 seats. “With the A380 replacing the B737-800, Malaysia Airlines is also introducing First Class travel on this route.

“The super jumbo has eight First Class seats on the main deck, which converts into a full flat bed of 87 inches in length and a width of 40 inches, making it the widest seats amongst other airlines,” it said.

Meanwhile, MAS said its travel arm MASholidays is offering family-fun vacation packages for 4Days/3Nights Hong Kong Free and Easy with City Tour from RM1416, 4Days/3Nights Hong Kong Disneyland Tour with City Tour from RM1800 and 4Days/3Nights Hong Kong Ocean Park Tour with City Tour from RM1776.

It said these packages include all-inclusive return Economy Class air ticket, hotel accommodation at selected three- to four-star hotels on a twin-sharing basis, tours and transfers (where applicable and as specified in the itinerary) and entry passes to Hong Kong Disneyland or Ocean Park.

“Book your travel on Malaysia Airlines through all distribution channels mainly www.malaysiaairlines.com, Malaysia Airlines 24-hour toll-free number 1-300-88-3000, Malaysia Airlines ticket offices and appointed agents throughout Malaysia,” it said.

For more information and booking on MASholidays packages, log on to http://holiday.malaysiaairlines.com or call 03-7863 4000.

Back to top

Oman’s historical and cultural exhibition opens

Oman Daily Observer – 18 April, 2013 – Under the auspices of Dr Hamad bin Salim al Rawahi, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) Chief Executive Officer, and in the presence of Salim bin Mohammed al Mahruqi, Under-Secretary of Heritage Affairs, the Ministry of Heritage and Culture — in collaboration with Nawras and Muscat Grand Mall — inaugurated an exhibition yesterday entitled ‘Oman History in Images: The Making of Civilisation Through the Ages’.

The exhibition tells the story of Oman’s historical and cultural evolvement over the years and coincides with the annual commemoration of World Heritage Day to celebrate the heritage and cultural diversity in countries around the world.

Hassan bin Mohammed al Lawati, Director-General of Archaeology and Museums — Ministry of Heritage and Culture said, “This exhibition is part of the ministry’s efforts to introduce a large number of archaeological sites spread across the Sultanate. As we continue to invest our efforts in the discovery and care of these sites, such projects will add more cognitive balance to archaeological and historical heritage nationwide.

The exhibition is a great opportunity for visitors to learn and experience some of the rarest finds in the history of the country.” The exhibition will be open to the public from April 17 to May 17, and will showcase vivid imagery from across the country charting the stages of its history.

Beginning with the first presence of mankind in Dhofar about 150,000 years ago and focusing on the Magan civilisation period in the early Bronze Age (2700-2000 BC), there are also visuals of tribal gatherings during the early Iron Age (1300-300 BC) up to the modern stage of history and civilisation achievements in Oman with a focus on human efforts to adapt to complex environments in the country.

The exhibition displays a diverse range of environmental scenarios from mountains and oases to deserts and seas, which have transformed Oman from a barren land where wealth was scarce to the prosperous civilisation it is today with its contrasting environments.

On the occasion, Nawras CEO, Ross Cormack said, “We are committed to enriching the lives of people in Oman and it is our great pleasure to support and shed light on the richness and wealth of the Sultanate’s history and the growth of its civilisation. “We are delighted to partner with the Ministry of Heritage & Culture to bring history to life through these incredible visuals which reflect the beliefs, customs and knowledge of such a diverse community.”

Nawras Chief Strategy Officer, Shaikh Abdulla al Rawahy, added, “Our fruitful national heritage is testament to the unique journey Oman has taken over the years. Through this creative installation, we can all experience and appreciate the efforts made in preserving these memories for future generations. Nawras will continue to play a vital role is conserving our rich culture and educating people on where we were and where we are today.”

Since its inception in 1976, the Ministry of Heritage and Culture continues to contribute to a number of sectors and events related to the cultural heritage of the Sultanate of Oman, in order to preserve and enhance the Omani identity and establish a sense of pride and belonging.

Back to top

Kuwait to host Developing Creativity Conference

Kuwait News Agency – 20 April, 2013 – Kuwait will host on Sunday Developing Creativity conference, with participation of local and international experts, to discuss the issue globally and in the Arab world at individual and organizational levels. Head of Board of Directors for Gulf Innovation Company Tariq Al-Suwaidan said in a statement on Saturday the conference deals with the concept of innovation in the Arab world, considering importance of this science in developing performance of organizations and making a quantum leap in decision-making.

Al-Suwaidan said developing creativity combines all dimensions of developing this science and converging with aspirations of individuals and organizations and innovative ideas that combine theory and practice, thus paving the way for actual shift from a traditional economy to a knowledge-based economy.

Adding, he said creativity on both individual and organizational levels is gaining great importance in developing the human being as an individual, as well as organizations and companies, yet in order for this equation to be complete, two more factors must be added as how to learn and use creativity.

For his part, General Manager of the company Ahmed Sharbaji said the conference would open horizons to build a new science in developing creativity in the near future. The conference of the creative industry, which will last for three days, will be attended by most important creative makers globally and regionally, led by Dr. John Kao, Dr. Saad Al-Barrak and Dr. Tariq Al-Habib.

Back to top

Prime Bank to Start Accepting JCB Cards in Bangladesh

Dhaka and Tokyo, Apr 18, 2013 – (JCN Newswire) – Prime Bank Limited (Prime Bank), a major commercial bank in Bangladesh starts JCB merchant acquiring operations in Bangladesh based on a license agreement with JCB International Co., Ltd. (JCBI), the international subsidiary of JCB, the only global payment brand based in Japan. Prime Bank’s merchants are to gradually start accepting JCB cards from April 18.

Prime Bank is one of the major players in merchant acquiring market in Bangladesh and it has strong merchant network especially in the travel and entertainment industries, such as hotels and restaurants.

Prior to this arrangement, JCB cards were accepted at limited locations in Bangladesh. The partnership with Prime Bank will significantly increase the number of JCB merchants, which will improve the card acceptance situation for JCB cardmembers visiting the country.

Mr. Hiroshi Terada, EVP, Head of Sales and Marketing Asia Pacific said, “the market of Bangladesh is very important for JCB because more and more international corporations from Japan, China and Korea, where JCBI has strong cardmember base, are entering into the market, as the economy of the country has been recording high growth in recent years. Also, we are aggressively aiming to expand its business in the South Asian region and we are expecting that an increasing number of JCB cardmembers in the region to visit Bangladesh, which makes the acquiring business in the country very important for JCBI.”

Furthermore, together with the economic growth, the huge population base in Bangladesh gives a promising potential to the card issuing business in the country. Prime Bank and JCBI are now preparing to launch JCB card issuance which is scheduled to start in the late 2013.

Prime Bank Limited is one of the major commercial banks in Bangladesh whose headquarter is located at 119-120, Motijheel C/A, Dhaka-1000. Since inception in 1995, the bank has been constantly focusing on understanding the anticipation of customer needs in the financial and banking sectors. The bank has more than 100 branches nationwide and covers wide fields of financial and banking business.

JCB is a major global payment brand and a leading credit card issuer and acquirer in Japan. For more information, visit: www.jcbcorporate.com/english.

Back to top

Sharjah Islamic University to open in 2014

Sharjah, WAM, April 18, 2013: A new Arab Islamic university, called Sharjah Islamic University (Arabic name: Jameaat Al Qasimia), will be set up in Sharjah University City in 2014, as per an Emiri Decree issued yesterday by Dr. Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.

The Decree was issued by Shaikh Sultan as he chaired the second preparatory meeting for Sharjah the Capital for Islamic culture celebrations. The construction of the university will be completed in 2014 to coincide with the Sharjah Islamic capital celebrations. The university’s headquarters shall be based in Sharjah. The university may have other branches and offices inside and outside the country. The decree comes into effect from the date of its issuance and is to be published in the official gazette.

Shaikh Sultan said that the new university will built over an area of 1 million square metres, increasing Sharjah University City’s total size to 15 square kilometres. As per the decree, the university will be a non-profitable entity that serves as a corporate body enjoying financial and administrative independence.

The site will include colleges for majors, such as media, Islamic finance, Arabic studies, economics, Sharia law, engineering, and Islamic architecture. Shaikh Sultan announced that he will provide the University with 120,500 books on Islamic studies, as well as other English books.

During the meeting, he ordered setting up a committee that will be responsible for organising Sharjah the Capital of Islamic Culture celebrations. The committee will be chaired by Shaikh Sultan Bin Ahmad Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Corporation and Sharjah Media Centre.

Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad tasked Shaikh Sultan Bin Ahmad with supervising all activities related to the celebrations, as well as setting up other committees that will serve under the umbrella of the organising committee and help it achieve its objectives.

Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad urged members of the organising committee to exert all efforts to present Sharjah as a role model for future Capitals of Islamic Culture. He also listened to suggestions for the celebrations that were presented by committee members.

Back to top

AirAsia, Malindo Air Report Heavy Flight Bookings For Malaysian General Elections

KUALA LUMPUR, April 19 (NNN-Bernama) — Budget carriers AirAsia and Malindo Air have reported a rush in the booking of flight tickets during the period of the 13th General Election, the nomination for which is Saturday and polling 15 days later on May 5.

AirAsia chief executive officer for Malaysian operations Aireen Omar said the response had been good since the airline launched its “Fly Home to Vote” campaign last week on its domestic and international routes.

“However, we are not able to disclose the total number of tickets booked because AirAsia is still receiving bookings from people who want to return to their constituencies to vote,” she said. AirAsia had issued a statement on domestic flight offers, with a one-way starting fare of RM29 from Kuala Lumpur to destinations such as Johor Baharu, Penang, Alor Setar, Kuala Terengganu and Langkawi.

The special fare was also valid for flights operating out of other AsiaAsia hubs in the country. Malindo Air public relations and communications manager Suresh Vanan said 95 per cent of the airline’s tickets for tomorrow had been booked.

The newly launched airline is now operating flights between Kuala Lumpur and Kuching and Kota Kinabalu. It proposes to fly to the rest of the country as well as China, India and Indonesia.

The airline, a joint venture between National Aerospace and Defence Industries Sdn Bhd (Nadi) and Indonesia’s PT Lion Group, has introduced special fares starting from RM78 for flights from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching and from RM108, from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu. Suresh said tickets were still available for immediate travel, between now and July 31.

Back to top

Air Arabia breaks passenger-number record

Khaleej Times – 21 April, 2013 – Air Arabia on Saturday said it broke its passenger-number record in the first quarter of 2013 as it posted a 17.5 per cent growth compared to the first quarter of 2012. The first and largest low-cost carrier in the Middle East and North Africa reported that it carried 1.4 million passengers in the quarter ending March 31, 2013.

“Air Arabia continues to witness significant growth in passenger numbers, and this demonstrates the popularity of the airline’s value for money and excellent service,” Air Arabia group chief executive officer Adel Ali said in a statement. “Air Arabia will continue to set the standard for the low-cost travel segment, offering great fares to an ever growing range of destinations,” he added.

The significant growth in passenger numbers is a testimony to the airline’s growing network and its appealing value-for-money product. In the first quarter, the airline has launched flights from its primary hub in Sharjah to Sialkot in Pakistan, Baghdad in Iraq and Mattala in Sri Lanka. The airline also increased frequencies to many exiting routes.

Last month, the low-cost carrier announced the increase in frequency of flights to Salalah from Sharjah. Effective May 8, the airline will offer three flights per week, an addition of one flight to the existing schedule, making it easier and more convenient for passengers to visit this tourist destination in Oman.

In May, the budget airline will also open its eighth destination in Saudi Arabia. Last month, Air Arabia announced the launch of non-stop services to Abha in the kingdom. Beginning May 22, the carrier will offer three weekly flights to Abha.

Air Arabia currently serves 85 global routes from its hubs in the UAE, Morocco and Egypt. It took delivery of two brand-new sharklet-equipped Airbus A320 aircraft, which is part of an order of 44 aeroplanes placed in 2007. The delivery will be completed by 2016, and will more than double the size of Air Arabia’s fleet.

Back to top

Indonesia’s Erau festival prepared to lure tourists

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, April 20 2013 – Hoping to attract more local and foreign tourists, this year’s Erau International Folklore and Art Festival will invite representatives from 12 foreign countries to take part in the event, which will be held in Kutai Kartanegara, East Kalimantan.

Kutai Kartanegara Regent Rita Widyasari said that the organizer had teamed up with UNESCO’s International Council of Organizations of Folklore Festivals and Folk Arts (CIOFF) to hold the annual event in Tenggarong, the regency’s capital, from June 30 through July 7.

“This year, we will cooperate with CIOFF so there will be a total of 250 representatives from 12 countries that will take part in the festival,” she said during the festival preview at the Erasmus Huis in Central Jakarta on Thursday. She said that the representatives would come from Togo, Thailand, Taiwan, Egypt, Belgium, Canada, The Czech Republic, Greece, France, India, Russia, and South Korea.

Besides featuring traditional Erau ceremonies as a main event, the festival will also feature world-class art exhibitions, traditional sports competitions, traditional markets and various street performances. Sri Wahyuni, the agency’s head, said that the administration expected that the festival would prompt more tourists to the regency to see the cultural richness of the region.

“We are optimistic that we will see more tourists come. With the participation of foreign representatives, we hope they can spread information about the festival so more tourists can come,” she said. Although the agency had no records of festival visitor numbers in previous years, Sri said that the festival had been successful enough in attracting people.

“The city of Tenggarong is quite empty, but during the festival, it is usually crowded with people coming from other cities to watch it,” she said. Apart from tourists, she added, royal family members from other sultanates also attended the ceremonies.

Other than in Jakarta, the Kutai Kartanegara regency administration has been promoting the festival in Bali and will take part in an event in Yogyakarta next month to attract more local tourists to the festival. Erau is derived from the Kutai local dialect Eroh. The ritual is a glorious, merry communal celebration, conducted by the sultanate in conjunction with a particular event.

According to Kutai’s culture and tourism agency, the Kutai Kartanegara sultanate conducts three separate Erau ceremonies. First, the Erau Tepong Tawar is conducted by the court for a particular purpose, where the sultan’s actions are not bound by a protocol known as Tuhing, or the prohibition against stepping on the ground during the ceremony.

Second is the Erau Pelas Tahun that is conducted by the court for the community with the aim of banishing all disruptions and disturbance of life within the sultanate. The third is the Erau Beredar di Kutai. The ritual is carried out by royal family members and relatives on the occasion of coronations, inauguration, accessions and all matters related to the monarch in the kingdom.

The Erau ceremony itself has been around since the 16th century, but since the end of the sultanate era in 1960s, when Kutai Kartanegara changed into the Kutai Kartanegara Special Region and now Kutai Kartanegara regency, the Erau celebration was not observed

In 1970, under then regent Achmad Dahlan, the ceremony was revived and has since been celebrated during the regency’s anniversary every September. “It was not a complete ritual because there wasn’t any sultan during that period of time,” Sri said.

When the Kutai Kartanegara sultanate was revived in 2002, the Erau celebration became a complete ritual again, just as it was in the past. Sri said that in 2009, the administration moved the annual festival from September to around June and July, in line with the holiday season in the country.

Back to top

Etihad’s flagship one-stop travel mall debuts in Dubai

Khaleej Times – 19 April, 2013 – Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, unveiled the new Etihad Travel Mall, its flagship one-stop travel retail and check-in facility, in Dubai on Thursday.

Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman and CEO of Emirates airline and Group, officially opened Etihad Travel Mall during a ceremony hosted by James Hogan, president and CEO of Etihad Airways.

The Etihad Travel Mall offers everything guests need to plan, book and travel with the airline under one roof. Guests are able to purchase a ticket, check-in for a flight, drop off baggage and board an Etihad Express luxury coach bound for Abu Dhabi International Airport. After checking in at the Etihad Travel Mall, guests may proceed to immigration and security on arrival at the airport.

The check-in and transport facilities replace the airline’s previous facilities at Chelsea Tower on Sheikh Zayed Road. The airline will continue to offer Etihad Express luxury coach service from its existing location at Dubai Marina Mall. Three of the airline’s subsidiaries have facilities within the new mall including Etihad Holidays, Hala Abu Dhabi and Hala Travel Management (HTM).

“Etihad Airways is set on a trajectory to go farther and to also become the world’s best travel company. We will continue to look at ways in which we can offer a more seamless, enjoyable experience for our guests and ultimately transform the expectations of air travellers. This new facility is a demonstration of our commitment to our guests within our home market, offering a more comprehensive service with a complete one-stop location for all of their travel needs,” said Hogan.

Also opening soon at the Etihad Travel Mall will be a variety of retail shops, including Relay, a newspaper, magazine, book and convenience store; Hertz, the leading rental car service and Preferred Partner of Etihad Airways; Arab Link, a money transfer and currency exchange service by Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank; jones the grocer, the gourmet food emporium and café.

Back to top

UAE eyes Saudi Arabia as key tourism growth market

Saudi Gazette – 19 April, 2013 – Ras Al-Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (TDA) will attend the Riyadh Travel Fair (RTF) for the first time this year, saying the fair scheduled on April 23-26 reflects the Emirate’s growing focus on Saudi Arabia as a key growth market. Ras Al-Khaimah, which aims to achieve global brand recognition, has extended an invitation to the public, particularly travelers, to join the fair and explore the Emirates as a high-quality worldwide destination.

Ras Al-Khaimah Tourism Development Authority was established in May 2011 as a government entity to develop and promote the Emirates’ tourism facilities and potential as an affordable luxury tourist destination for both local and international tourists. “The Authority has a government mandate to license, regulate and monitor the Emirate’s hospitality industry,” it said in a statement, adding that its goals include welcoming 1.2 million visitors in 2013, compared to 600,000 visitors in 2010.

Because of the expected rising number of tourists this year, the Emirates will increase its “hotel-room inventory” to 10,000 rooms by year 2016 from 3,000 rooms in 2012. “Ras Al-Khaimah TDA is ideally placed to provide insights into future and current tourism projects and trends,” the Authority said.

It will be joined on their stand at the Riyadh Travel Fair by the Waldorf Astoria Ras-Al Khaimah, which opens in 2013, the Bin Majid Hotels and Resorts, the Banyan Tree Al-Wadi & Banyan Tree Ras Al-Khaimah Beach as well as the RAI Airport.

The opening of Waldort Asoria Ras-Al Khaimah this year, marks the entry of “this luxury Hilton Worldwide brand in the United Arab Emirates, the Authority said.

Khalid Motik, director of Ras Al-Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, will attend the fair. He has more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry in which he has worked in international hotel brands, including Hyatt Regency, Rotana Hotels, Suites & Resorts and Hilton Worldwide covering UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Kuwait. Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority will occupy Stand Stand Number C102 at the Riyadh Travel Fair at the Four Seasons Hotel Kingdom Tower, Riyadh.

Back to top

Etihad Airways to start direct flights to Sana’a

Saudi Gazette – 17 April, 2013 – Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, will launch direct flights to Sana’a, Yemen’s political and commercial capital on Sept.1, 2013. Sana’a will be the airline’s eighth destination on the Arabian Peninsula beyond Abu Dhabi, joining Bahrain, Dammam, Doha, Jeddah, Kuwait, Muscat and Riyadh. Flights to Sana’a will operate four times a week.

James Hogan, Etihad Airways President and Chief Executive Officer, said: “The launch of direct services to Sana’a is consistent with our strategy of adding depth and scale to our network and targeting areas of growth in emerging markets. The ancestral, cultural and business ties between the two countries are significant, and we believe the new service will further facilitate Yemen’s economic development in the months and years ahead.”

More than 90,000 Yemini nationals live in the UAE, and the country is Yemen’s largest regional trading partner with annual trade valued at over $ 2 billion, of which $ 1.6 billion is made up of UAE exports. Overall, the UAE accounts for almost 20 percent of Yemen’s total imports.

The new Sana’a route announcement follows the launch of a number of new services in 2013 from Etihad Airways’ Abu Dhabi hub to cities such as Washington D.C. (April 1), Amsterdam (May 15), S?o Paulo (June 1) and Ho Chi Minh City (October 1). The route will be operated by a two-class Airbus A320 aircraft with 16 seats in Pearl Business Class and 120 seats in Coral Economy Class. The new Sana’a schedule is designed to provide seamless connections over Etihad Airways’ Abu Dhabi hub to key European, North American, GCC, and Middle East destinations.

Back to top

Qatar’s travel market set to grow to $7.7bn by 2014

Gulf Times – 17 April, 2013 – Backed by the government’s focus on investing in tourism development, Qatar’s travel market is expected to grow steadily to $ 7.7bn by 2014 from $ 5.4bn last year, a new research released by global travel market research firm PhoCusWright has revealed.

The online travel market in Qatar will see a “significant” boost, rising from $ 944mn in 2012 to an estimated $ 1.6bn in 2014, accounting for about 10% of the Middle Eastern online market. Gross bookings made by online travel agencies are expected to rise from $ 342mn in 2012 to $ 548mn in 2014, said the report, co-sponsored by Amadeus, a leading technology partner and transaction processor for the global travel and tourism industry.

“The figures are indicative of the strong growth potential of the overall travel and tourism sector in Qatar. Undoubtedly, the sector will see further advancement on the back of ambitious development plans by the government to transform Qatar’s travel industry,” said Wafiq al-Wahidi, general manager, Amadeus Qatar.

Heavy investments are being allocated to transportation, travel accommodation, infrastructure and other tourism related sectors, he said, adding further, the FIFA 2022 World Cup is set to boost Qatar’s travel industry, which is channelling billion of dollars into significant infrastructure developments that will support demand in the run-up to the event.

A comprehensive assessment of the travel and tourism industry in the Middle East, the research particularly focuses on the growth and potential of the online travel segment across markets including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt. While Internet penetration in Qatar stands at 82%, mobile penetration is among the highest in the world at 182% and smart phone penetration at 75%, the report said online shopping is “still considerably low”.

“However, it will grow steadily, driven by government initiatives, retailer investment and, most importantly, a savvy, young population open to trying new technologies,” it added.

With Qatar Airways dominating the market and in close competition with regional rivals Emirates and Etihad, PhoCusWright anticipates that gross bookings made by the airline sector in Qatar will increase from $ 4.6bn in 2012 to $ 6.8bn in 2014.

With Qatar having the smallest lodging infrastructure in the region, the gross bookings made in the travel sector dipped from $ 808mn in 2011 to $ 749mn in 2012. However, it is projected that bookings will increase to $ 878mn in 2014, according to the research.

Further, with online shopping across the Arab world booming, growing numbers of car rental entities in Qatar are expected to turn to the Internet for domestic and worldwide bookings and several car rental firms in the country have launched new websites along with simplified versions for mobile phone users, the research said.

As a result, gross bookings made in the car rental space are seeing a steady increase and are expected to touch $ 50.7mn in 2014, it said.

Back to top

India to develop Iran port for access to Afghanistan

Tehran Times – 17 April, 2013 – With Pakistan continuing to deny India transit access to Afghanistan, New Delhi is trying to complete as early as possible the formalities for entering into an agreement with Iran for the development of the Chabahar Port which will provide it a vital link to transport its goods to the war-ravaged nation.

The Union Cabinet is expected to shortly approve a proposal to invest about $ 100 million for the development of the south-eastern Iranian port city of Chabahar to sustain India’s presence in Afghanistan and through it to Central Asia. The Chinese presence at Pakistan’s Gwadar Port has accentuated the need for India to move fast on the Chabahar project, keeping in mind its geo-strategic interests in the region after the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in 2014.

Iran, it is learnt, is also keen on attracting Indian investment in the Chabahar project since port infrastructure is one of the areas which does not attract U.S. sanctions against the Islamic republic. Iranian Ambassador to India Gholamreza Ansari recently met Opposition leaders like BJP president Rajnath Singh and CPM general secretary Prakash Karat to discuss the Chabahar project.

Pakistan had signed a trade and transit agreement with Afghanistan in 2010, allowing Kabul to transport goods to Pakistani ports and also to the Indian border. But India cannot utilise that arrangement for transporting its cargo to Afghanistan since Pakistan continues to be vehemently opposed to any Indian role in the war-torn country.

The Chabahar project has been hanging fire for a few years now because of different reasons. First, it was India’s vote against Iran at IAEA that had strained relations between the two countries and then US sanctions against the Islamic republic had made it difficult for New Delhi to enhance its commercial engagement with Tehran.

Chabahar Port will provide India a vital link to transport goods to Afghanistan. The Port will help sustain India’s presence in Afghanistan and through it to Central Asia. The Chinese presence at Pakistan’s Gwadar Port has accentuated the need for India to move fast on this project. It will help India safeguard its geo-strategic interests in the region after the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in 2014.

Back to top

Mediterranean resorts eye GCC tourists

Saudi Gazette – 18 April, 2013 – Growth in exhibitors from Turkey, Morocco and Egypt as industry looks to expand GCC tourism receipts to offset potential declines from austerity-hit eurozone. The ongoing effects of the eurozone crisis has prompted popular Mediterranean destinations to target growth opportunities in the GCC markets at Arabian Travel Market (ATM) which reports a sell-out show ahead of next month’s 20th anniversary event.

The latest statistics from ATM organizer, Reed Travel Exhibitions, revealed that demand from new exhibitors at ATM, which takes place at the Dubai World Trade Centre on May 6-9, 2013, has pushed show floor space to a record of over 22,000 square meters, a 6 percent increase over last year. In addition there are 27 more exhibition stands than last year, up 7 percent and an impressive 98 new companies covering over 2,160 sqm that will be exhibiting.

Geographically two of the best performing regions were Europe and North Africa. Each region has grown by 20 percent and 36 percent respectively to cover almost 4,000 sqm combined, or 18 percent of the total exhibition space available, as hotels and resorts on the Mediterranean coast in particular, look for a larger share of the GCC outbound market.

“Exhibitor demand from countries on the Mediterranean coast, have been particularly strong this year as the tourism industries in Turkey, Morocco and Egypt turn their attention to the outbound GCC market,” said Mark Walsh, Portfolio Director, Reed Travel Exhibitions.

“GCC travelers with their high disposable income levels are naturally a key target market for Mediterranean destinations, but with traditional Western European source markets facing tough economic challenges, which could cause tourism receipts to decline, the relevance of the GCC markets becomes even more pronounced,” he added.

According to the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism office in Dubai, the number of tourists travelling to Turkey from the GCC region has increased significantly in the past few years, with over 370 percent growth from the UAE, 331 percent for Kuwait and almost 600 percent from Qatar for the period to August 2012 versus 2011.

Back to top

Indonesia Trains Palestinians In Microfinance Management

JAKARTA, Indonesia April 17 (NNN-Bernama) — Indonesia has provided training to Palestinians in microfinance management of small-and-medium scale enterprises (SMEs), Indonesia’s Antara reported, quoting an official of the Foreign Affairs Ministry as saying in a statement.

“The training is a form of Indonesian support to Palestine. Indonesia is also consistently supporting Palestine to become an independent and sovereign state,” the ministry’s Director of Technical Cooperation Siti Nugraha Mauludiah said here on Wednesday. She, however, said that the training of microfinance management cannot be held in Palestine territory because of the difficulties in obtaining an entry permit from Israel.

“Initially, the training was to be held in Ramallah but it was changed to Amman, Jordan, due to technical problems,” she added. The training, held on April 12-15, was participated by 30 Palestinians consisting employees of the Palestinian finance ministry, Central Bank and the Palestinian SMEs from Gaza and the West Bank.

The programme was a part of the framework of the New Asian African Strategic Partnership (NAASP). Indonesia was optimistic that it would be able to realise its commitment to train 1,000 Palestinians during the 2008-2013 period. Antara reported that Indonesia had facilitated 101 activities for the 2012 period, which were participated by 842 Palestinians.

Indonesia has allocated US$1.5 million (RM4.54 million) in 2013 to finance various activities to improve Palestine’s capacity building in the fields, such as SMEs, democracy, good governance, agriculture, education, women’s empowerment and construction. In February 2014, Indonesia will also be hosting the Conference on Cooperation among East Asian Countries for Palestinian Development (CEAPAD) II.

Back to top

Jordan, Palestine Sign Agriculture MoU

AMMAN, April 19 (NNN-Petra) — The Jordan Valley Farmers Union (JVFU) and the Palestinian Farmers Union (PFU) signed on Thursday a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to continue their cooperation and find solutions to the agricultural problems facing Jordanian and Palestinian farmers. The agreement, which was signed by President of JVFU Adnan Khaddam and President of PFU Ibrahim Duaij in the presence of Jordanian Agriculture Minister Hazim Nasser and his Palestinian counterpart Walid Assaf, aims at developing the agricultural sector in both countries for their common interest.

Nasser said the Agriculture Ministry was ready to put its capabilities at the service of the Palestinian side by supporting projects and sending Jordanian cadres to train Palestinians in agricultural practices.

The Palestinian minister voiced his appreciation for Jordan’s efforts to support the Palestinian agricultural sector, noting that all agricultural deals signed between the two sides had been implemented.

The President of JVFU said both sides agreed to intensify their efforts to address common agricultural, environmental and water problems, through cooperation with the Jordanian and Palestinian agricultural ministries.

Back to top

Bazaar for handmade items inspires Saudi female entrepreneurs

Arab News – 15 April, 2013 – A bazaar was held by Saudi female entrepreneurs at the Mall of Arabia to provide an opportunity for citizens to display handmade items and to identify market trends. The bazaar, entitled, “Show Me Where the Market Is?” was organized by Arabian Centers Limited Company as part of its corporate social responsibility program to help empower Saudi entrepreneurs.

Muna AbuSulayman, the organizer of the event, told Arab News that the initiatives were taken to help lower Saudi unemployment, encourage CSR and empower and assist creativity, productivity and entrepreneurship in the Kingdom. “Almost 30 entrepreneurs participated in a three-month period of activity. The second phase of the program will begin in June. The initiatives were not limited to monetary gain but include training for marketing, skills development and self-confidence,” said AbuSulayman.

The participants marketed different items, including food, accessories, prayer rugs, home decoration products and homemade beauty products. Some entrepreneurs even promoted websites.

The Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry also announced the 2nd National Families Exhibition and Forum, with the cooperation of the Jeddah Center for Social Responsibility with the slogan “Made in Saudi Arabia” under the patronage of Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, governor of Makkah, in May 2013. The exhibition and forum will be held with the participation of a number of officials, businessmen and professionals from the public and private sectors to discuss the strategic importance of the concept of productive families as an essential pillar of the Saudi economy.

Ahmed Al-Hamdan, the director of Jeddah Center for Social Responsibility who is also responsible for the productive families support program, said the aim of the forum is to highlight the strategic importance of the concept of productive families as an essential pillar of Saudi economy and to help them benefit from their experiences to develop a uniform national model, create more opportunities and undertake further initiatives for the future of productive families, which in turn, would contribute to the achievement of sustainable national development.

The forum will be a platform for discussing programs for leading Saudi companies to support efforts within a practical framework, developing national and institutional recommendations with a standardized methodology to support the efforts of productive families.

“We are all producers; we have to take initiatives to help our products and create a ‘made-in-Saudi Arabia’ market,” said Hamdan. Topics to be discussed include “The role of the public sector in strategic plans to support productive families” and “The strategies of open markets and partnerships for productive families and the national economy.”

The forum will also discuss classification and quality control to create competitive products and goods in the local markets, management configurations for productive families in provinces and small and medium communities and supporting the private sector in incubating productive families.

Back to top

Air Arabia launches new flights to Abha

Saudi Gazette – 16 April, 2013 – Air Arabia, the first and largest low-cost carrier (LCC) in the Middle East and North Africa, launched its non-stop services to Abha, from its primary hub in Sharjah. The new service from the carrier’s primary hub in Sharjah marks Air Arabia’s eighth destination in the Kingdom and 85th worldwide. Beginning May 22, 2013, Air Arabia will offer three weekly flights to Abha, making it easier and convenient for passengers to travel between the two cities.

Operating on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, Air Arabia’s Abha service will depart from Sharjah International Airport at 12.50 and arrive Abha International Airport at 14:40. Return flights will depart from Abha on the same days at 15:20 and arrive in Sharjah at 19.10. “The new service to Abha is a testament to Air Arabia’s commitment in offering greater connectivity and value-for-money services for our customer base in the Kingdom,” said, Adel Ali, Group Chief Executive Officer, Air Arabia. “Since launching operations to the Kingdom in 2004, Air Arabia has been determined to using its infrastructure to organically grow its operations into many cities across the Kingdom.”

Offering 88 weekly non-stop flights to Saudi Arabia from Sharjah, and its Alexandria hub in Egypt, Air Arabia continues to strengthen its intra-regional Arab network offering customers a wider choice for affordable air travel. In addition to Abha, Air Arabia operates non-stop flights the Riyadh, Jeddah, Madinah, Dammam, Qassim, Yanbu, and Taif Abha is a popular tourist destination due to natural attractions such as its seasonal weather and fertile mountains.

Back to top

Egypt Signs Tourism Agreement With Iraq’s Kurdistan

17 April 2013 – Aswat Masriya – Egypt’s Minister of Tourism, Hisham Zaazou, has signed with his counterpart in Iraq’s Kurdistan an agreement to enhance tourism cooperation. A senior Egyptian delegation chaired by the tourism minister returned from a trip to Baghdad earlier this week after talks about cooperation, reported the Middle East News Agency.

In the first official Egyptian visit to Kurdistan, Zaazou invited his counterpart to visit Egypt to discuss the matter further. Egypt discussed several conventions that aim at canceling the entry-visa and increasing flight connections between Iraq and Egypt in order to boost tourism.

Back to top

Fort Bullen Museum to Bolster Gambia’s Tourism Attractions

18 April 2013 – The Daily Observer – The newly commissioned museum at Fort Bullen that stands at the entrance of the historical coastal settlement of Barra in the North Bank Region is expected to add to The Gambia’s tourism attractions, given the Fort’s crucial role in the abolition of the slave trade during the colonial period.

Financed by the British High Commission in The Gambia through the National Centre for Arts and Culture, the commissioning was graced by scores of dignitaries including High Commissioner David Morley, the ministers of Tourism and Culture, Works, Construction and Infrastructure, and Youth and Sports, Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie, Francis Litti Mboge and Alieu K. Jammeh respectively, as well as the governor of the region, Lamin Queen Jammeh.

The British High Commission supported the National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) to develop a museum at the site, to tell the history of the Fort and the important role it and the UK Royal Navy played in abolishing slavery in West Africa. It is hoped the Fort Bullen Museum will boost tourism in the North Bank, and will at the same time impact on the socio-economic development of the area. Fort Bullen was built by the British in the early 1800’s to eradicate slavery in West Africa. Between 1808 and 1870, according to the British High Commissioner, the Royal Navy seized an estimated 1,635 ships and freed over 150,000 African slaves.

“‘I was delighted to be able to open this fascinating and informative museum which I hope will give both Gambian visitors and tourists the facts concerning the eradication of slavery in West Africa. The museum has some wonderful pieces from the local region and I would encourage all visitors to The Gambia to make a visit. I congratulate the NCAC on all their hard work and dedication, which have resulted in a tremendous museum for the people of the North Bank Region,” stated High Commissioner David Morley.

Back to top

Selling Turkey As a Tourist Destination in Nigeria

14 April 2013 – This Day – Turkey and Nigeria have over the past few years consciously made efforts to forge stronger bilateral ties. This is evident in the numerous trade expos organized by the Turkish Ministry of Economy, the Nigerian Ministry of Trade and Investment and other bodies. One of such events was held late last month at the Convention Centre of the Eko Hotel and Suites.

One of the outfits selling a service was VEFA Tourism and Travels. They were offering tours of Turkey. What is the selling point? A touch of holiness and history at the same time in the Turkish cities of Istanbul, Ephesus, Antakya, Capadocia and Tarsus.

Istanbul is the most famous of these cities and it’s increasingly becoming a favourite destination for tourists. Seven million tourists visited in 2010 when it was named the European Capital of Culture, making the city the 10th most popular destination in the world. Istanbul’s biggest merit remains its historic centre. The city itself is divided into European and Asian parts and is partially listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ephesus too has a claim to fame. It was the city where the Christian evangelist Saint Paul wrote his famous Epistles. The city is also home to the House of the Virgin Mary and the relics of Roman Library of Celsus.

Tarsus is sold as the focal point of many civilizations including the Roman Empire, when Tarsus was the capital of the province of Cilicia, the scene of the first meeting between Mark Antony and Cleopatra, and the birthplace of Paul the Apostle.

The other cities too had unique reasons why they are tourist attractions and the way these cities were being sold by the Turks at the Lagos Expo made it seem like the only place to go for those who have a thing for “holiness and history”.

Back to top

Islands in Maldives Raa atoll will be allocated for resort development

April 13, 2013 – President Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has said that the government will soon decide on islands in Raa atoll that will be developed for tourist resorts.

Speaking to the people of Raa Rasgetheemu yesterday, President Waheed noted that Raa atoll has an exceptionally attractive island formation and that it is wrong for a small group of parties to still hold on to the most beautiful islands in the atoll. He said that some changes will be seen in this regard and thus, the most beautiful islands will be opened for resort development, the president pledged.

He noted that a large portion of the youth population works in the tourist industry, and noted that the taxes collected from the tourism industry are assigned for a number of government sectors, and said that a large portion of the funds gained by the government are spent towards granting different provisions for the people.

President noted that a group of people from within the country have recently called for the boycott of Maldives tourism. Condemning these actions, he said that it would tarnish the good name of the Maldivian people and result in the decrease of tourist arrivals in the Maldives.

Continuing on this note, the president said that the petition calling for the boycott of Maldives tourism that has been circulating worldwide holds false allegations of human rights abuse and the neglect of on part of the state to the children of the country. He called on the people to be mindful of such false information, saying that the boycott of Maldives tourism would adversely affect its people. He said that the government is working to counter causes and its affects of this petition.

Highlighting the work carried out by the government towards this end, President Waheed said that Maldives is currently participating in a number of tourism fairs across the globe to promote the beauty of the country and better inform the world about the peace and stability that the country currently enjoys. He said that he hopes for the number of tourist arrivals to increase year.

Concluding his speech, the president stressed on the bonds of unity that must be fostered within the community. He called upon the parents to teach their children to value cohesiveness and unity, and to see that their children grow up to be friendly and peaceful people who have a special place in their hearts for their families. Unity and stability is vital for a healthy family, the president said, and bid the people to focus on the ways to resolve matters while dealing with conflicts that occur within families.

Back to top

Bangladesh tourism minister launches ‘micro light’ aircraft flights

DHAKA, April 18, 2013 (BSS) – As part of adventure tourism, the country for the first time introduced tourism aircraft called ‘micro light’ today, giving a boost to the tourism and hospitality industry. The micro light, first of its kind in the country, is the flying of lightweight 1 or 2 seater fixed-wing aircraft with parachute.

Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Lt Col (retd) Faruk Khan inaugurated the flight at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) Air Vice Marshal Mahmud Hossain, owner of the micro light Major Maaz and the CAAB high officials were present on the occasion.

“It’s like a parachute aircraft. We plan to introduce the aircraft in Cox’s Bazar soon,” Faruk Khan told reporters after the inauguration of the aircraft. He said it requires more trial runs before flying on commercial basis for safety reason. Mahmud Hossain said the CAAB will give approval of such tourism aircraft in a week or two.

Major Maaz, who had successfully jumped a record of 300 times, said cost of each unit of the aircraft would be Taka 15 lakh and one liter oil requires for one hour journey. The micro light will be able to fly as high as 2,000 feet, he added. Four concerned persons have already received training in this field in Malaysia, he said adding that initially two such aircraft will be put in place and the number will be raised in the coming days in phases.

Back to top

Bangladesh-Bhutan-India hold first meet on connectivity and transit

DHAKA, April 19, 2013 (BSS)- Bangladesh-Bhutan-India today exchanged views on various aspects related to connectivity and transit, including potential benefits in the sub-regional context in the first trilateral meeting on connectivity and transit. A draft Terms of Reference (ToR) proposed by the Bangladesh side for the Working Group was discussed among the parties in the meeting held in Dhaka, said a handout.

The Bangladesh delegation was led by Mashfee Binte Shams, Director General (South Asia), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Bhutanese delegation by Dasho Bap Kesang, Ambassador of Bhutan in Bangladesh and the Indian delegation by Mr. Virendra Kumar, Director (Works), Ministry of Railways.

The delegations noted that this trilateral meeting on connectivity and transit was the first initiative of its kind and would pave the way for future comprehensive cooperation in the sub-regional context. The meeting was considered a significant step forward towards materialising the understanding reached among the highest political leadership with regard to concerted efforts for the attainment of common aspiration of economic development and prosperity of the region for mutual benefit.

It was agreed that road, rail and waterways were building blocks to an interdependent and mutually beneficial relationship. The delegations agreed to continue discussions in this regard at the next meeting of the Working Group with a view to finalising the ToR and a framework for facilitating sub-regional connectivity and transit.

Back to top

8th Bangladesh Games opens with dazzling ceremony

DHAKA, April 20, 2013 (BSS)- The 8th Bangladesh Games, the biggest domestic sports extravaganza of the country, began today (Saturday) through a dazzling opening ceremony at the country’s premier sports venue Bangabandhu National Stadium (BNS). Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina formally inaugurated the nine- day extravaganza by putting signature on a digital board at the BNS here this evening.

Fireworks, a thematic cultural show, the lighting of the torch and athlete march past were just some of the ways in which the opening ceremony of the 8th Bangladesh Games panned out at BNS. Some 12,570 general spectators got the opportunity to enjoy the gala opening ceremony at the 25,570-seat capacity at BNS free of ticket. The gate of the stadium was opened for the spectators at 4 pm.

The estimated Taka eight crore gala opening ceremony had two eye- catching sections of lighting the torch and a thematic cultural show that included numerous aspects like rural life in Bangladesh, the liberation war, sporting effect on the society. Shankar Shawjal led the thematic cultural show with the participation of 600 artists, music and laser lights.

The other dazzling section was lighting of the torch by noted former national hockey player Jummon Lusai. Lusai lit the torch by standing in the middle of the BNS and aiming through a laser. After the lighting of the torch, it turned into a fountain of light with the help of the laser for a few minutes. On her arrival at the stadium, the Prime Minster was received by State Minister for Youth and Sports M Ahad Ali Sarkar and a contingent drawn from Army, including Army Chief General Iqbal Karim Bhuiyan.

Earlier, two tiny tots presented bouquets to the Prime Minister. After the arrival of Sheikh Hasina, noted singer Rezwana Chowdhury Banna along with singers of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra and 100 singers from Surer Dhara performed the national anthem. Then 100 participating teams joined the march-past and exit after taking oath.

Games mascot “Squirrel” the symbol of agility and speed went round of the stadium. At one stage, the mascot stood for some time in front of the Prime Minister, who later welcomed the “Squirrel” waving her hand. Over four and half hours gala opening ceremony concluded with massive fireworks.

In the 8th Bangladesh Games a total of 6,855 athletes from 31 disciplines will fight for 2,243 medals (gold-699, silver- 699 and bronze-845) in 356 events.

Back to top

W. Nusa Tenggara govt to turn Lombok int`l airport into City Airport

April 15 2013 Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara (ANTARA News) – The provincial government of West Nusa Tenggara has planned to turn the Lombok International Airport (LIA) into a “City Airport”, which is an airport offering integrated services, an official said. West Nusa Tenggara`s Head of Communication and Information Service Ridwan Syah said here on Monday investment would be needed to realize the plan which will be completed with various facilities such as a shopping center, a hotel and other airport services.

“PT Angkasa Pura has invited investors to build the facilities in the LIA area measuring 551 hectares to become the second largest airport in Indonesia, after Soekarno-Hatta Airport,” he said. According to Syah, to support the development of the city airport, the government has been building some supporting infrastructure like asphalt roads and tourist resorts in the southern area of the airport.

Meanwhile, the runway would be extended from 2,750 meters to 3,000 meters, he said adding the government would put its funds in the project through the national budget 2013. “Relating to this plan, we will rely on the Ministry of Transportation to realize it under the national budget 2013. The plan was the instruction of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to Minister of Transportation E E Mangindaan,” he said.

He added the economic sector has been growing around the area since LIA was operated in October 1, 2011. “The direct impact is an increase in tourist visits to Praya, Central Lombok District to meet the one million tourist visits target set for the Visit Lombok, Sumbawa (VLS) 2012`s campaign,” he said.

Back to top

ISESCO to hold symposium on dialogue in India

Rabat, Tuesday, 06 Jamad Al-Thani 1434/16 April 2013 (IINA) – The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), in cooperation with the Islamic Fiqh Academy of India and the Delhi University, will hold an academic symposium on Religious and Methodological Rules of Dialogue among Followers of Religions, in New Delhi on April 22-24.

The symposium aims at addressing the issue of dialogue among followers of religions in the light the purposes of the Islamic Shariah, and presenting the religious underlying aspects of dialogue ethics. The symposium will also seek to urge scholars and religious sciences students to adopt the principle of Ijtihad in the jurisprudence and ethics of dialogue, classify religious rules as a way to prove the vitality of the Sharia and its ability to resolve disputes, and present the Sharia as a guiding line for Muslims, according to an ISESCO statement.

During this event, 30 academic research papers will be presented by a host of Indian scholars. Also, participants will discuss the following topics: roots and bases of the jurisprudence of dialogue; the jurisprudence of dialogue in the light of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah; dialogue in the Islamic jurisprudence; the religious basics of mutual understanding and rapprochement with followers of religions, the religious and methodological rules of dialogue; Revealed religions in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah; the religious rules to establish communication with followers of religions; dialogue to highlight common values of coexistence among followers of religions; and methods of dialogue with followers of Indian religions in the light of the Sharia.

ISESCO will be represented in this symposium by Dr Abdelilah Benarafa, Expert in cultural diversity and policies at the Culture and Communication Directorate.

Back to top

Africa’s largest solar plant launched in Mauritania

Nouakchott, Saturday, 10 Jamad Al-Thani 1434/20 April 2013 (IINA) – Masdar, the clean energy company and creator of the eponymous “green city” on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, launched Thursday a $32 million solar plant in Mauritania. The Sheikh Zayed Solar Power Plant, located in the capital, Nouakchott, will generate 15 megawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV) power and, according to Masdar, is now the largest PV plant in all of Africa. It will, in fact, deliver 10% of the country’s current electricity load.

Mauritania is a country that is one of the world’s highest carbon emitters per capita. Masdar kicked off the Mauritania project as part of its commitment to the UN’s “Year of Sustainable Energy for All.” As announced last year by UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon, Sustainable Energy for All aimed to expand modern energy sources to those who could least afford it; double energy efficiency worldwide; and double the amount of clean electricity and power within the globe’s total energy portfolio. The results may not have been as impressive as the goals, but arguably the UAE, Abu Dhabi and Masdar kept their end of the deal.

Mauritania’s energy grid is currently marred by energy shortages and both expensive and dirty diesel generators. Masdar claims the new solar energy plant, with its 30,000 solar panels in Nouakchott, will displace over 21,000 tons of carbon emissions annually and will provide up to 10 percent of the country’s total energy needs. Should this new plant prove to be an important anchor of Mauritania’s energy potential, more hope is on the horizon: Masdar claims the country’s wind potential is four times than its current energy demands.

Back to top

Turkish Museum to be home to Karun Treasures

April/19/2013 – UŞAK – Anatolia News Agency – A new archaeology museum, which is under construction in the western province of Uşak, will have a special display area for world famous Karun Treasures. The Uşak Archaeology Museum, which is being constructed next to the Uşak Train Station, will include three floors on a 2,450 square-meter area. The architect of the museum, Metin Keskin, said the project “reflected the features of contemporary architecture.”

“There are also plans to reorganize the region where the museum is being constructed as a ‘Uşak Cultural Site,’ and the museum is the first leg of this project,” Keskin said. He said that various structures such as a railway museum, carpet museum and cultural center would also be realized in the region in the future, and stressed that the new museum would be protected by smart security systems.

“The museum is being constructed in parallel with the situation of the area and the railway. The existence of registered and unregistered structures in the area was the main factors in the planning, which also foresees the evaluation of railway buildings in the archeopark. Accordingly, the north half of the area, where railway buildings are located, has been planned as an open display area and the café will be in this area. The three-storey building will have depots and ateliers in the basement floor and exhibition areas. The management department in the basement floor has been planned separately from the exhibition areas and the seminar hall. There will be a venue for information, books and gift products in the entrance of the museum,” Keskin stated.

He added that there are nearly 45,000 works of art at the Uşak Archaeology Museum, most of which are in good condition for exhibition. He said they would prepare a special exhibition hall in the museum for the priceless 451-piece Karun Treasures, belonging to the Lydian king Krezus. Most parts of the treasure are small pieces of great historical significance, said Keskin, adding that they would be exhibited in a large area with special lighting system for each one.

Keskin also emphasized that the new museum enabled visitors with disabilities to reach all areas easily, and that a different place had been formed for children’s education. As for the security systems of the museum, he said it would be fully covered. “The museum will be equipped with special security systems. It will have full protection against all inside and outside threats. Fire extinction systems will be determined according to the artworks,” Keskin said.

Uşak Governor Mehmet Ufuk Erden said the Karun Treasures represented the brand of the city and that the museum, which will be finished in 2014, was very important for the local area. “With the establishment of the new museum the treasures will be displayed in a more appropriate environment,” Erden said.

Back to top

More investment planned in Turkish cruise tourism

April/20/2013 – İZMİR – Anatolia News Agency – Cruise tourism in Turkey has shown remarkable growth this year according to new figures, amid promises by Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım to implement more investments to boost the sector.

The number of passengers that came to Turkey with cruise ships rose by an impressive 108 percent in the first quarter of the year compared to the same period a year earlier, while the number of cruise ships visiting Turkey showed a 76.1 percent increase, according to official data. A total of 37 cruise ships with 58,329 tourists on board visited Turkey in the first quarter.

The country is eager to raise its share of the global cruise industry by developing its ports. Yıldırım said that while more than 2 million passengers came to Turkey’s ports with 685 cruise ships last year – a four-fold increase over a decade earlier – the numbers were still insufficient.

The ports of Kuşadası, Istanbul, Marmaris, Fethiye, İzmir, Alanya, Antalya, Dikili, Samsun, Çanakkale and Trabzon are open to cruise tourism, he said, adding that they would renovate and enlarge six current ports in Trabzon, Kuşadası, Samsun, İzmir, Antalya and Mersin to accommodate cruise ships. He noted that they would also build a cruise port that would have the capacity to host 2 million passengers a year in İzmir, which is one of the fastest growing cruise ports in the world.

MSC Cruises Turkey General Manager Necla Tuncel said last week that Turkey possessed a great potential for cruise tourism thanks to its regional advantages but that its ports were failing to accommodate a rising number of ships because they were not designed for cruise ships. “The ports are insufficient as they weren’t built with cruise tourism in mind. Vessels using Greek and Croatian ports might stop by Turkey as well, but in order to be able to take a share from this tourism, the ports need an urgent overhaul,” she said.

Turkey takes the fourth biggest share of the world cruise tourism market, which is valued at $8 billion, said Ekrem Demirtaş, head of the İzmir Chamber of Commerce, adding that the top three countries were Spain, Italy and Greece. Cruise tourism has grown above the world average in Turkey in recent years. The number of tourists visiting Turkey with cruise ships has increased every year since 2004, except for 2009 due to the global economic crisis.

Back to top

Istanbul chosen as the best travel destination in Europe

April/05/2013 – ISTANBUL – Hurriyet – Istanbul is the best place to travel in Europe, according to European globetrotters. Turkey’s biggest metropolis has been voted the European Best Destination in a poll organized online by European Consumers Choice, one of the continent’s leading NGO’s giving voice to consumers’ opinions. The award was created in 2010 to allow European travelers to vote on their favorite European destination from a choice of 20 iconic cities. Portuguese capital Lisbon took second place while Vienna, Austria’s imperial city, completed the podium.

The award has also been hailed by Istanbul’s 2020 Olympic Games bid leader Hasan Arat. “This prestigious award for Istanbul confirms the city’s rapidly growing popularity for foreign visitors. People want to come to Istanbul, and we love to host them here. These figures show us that people from all over the world want Istanbul to ‘Bridge Together’ in 2020,” Arat said.

Istanbul has attracted 838,000 foreign tourists in the first quarter of 2013, a decade record for the city. German tourists topped the list of visitors to Istanbul, accounting for 10 percent of the total number of tourists to the city, followed by Russians with six percent, according Istanbul’s Culture and Tourism Directorate.

Dh150 million Dubai Safari to showcase wildlife in natural setting

Back to top

New Dubai landmark worth Dh150m expected to be completed by the end of 2014

Dubai, April 20, 2013, Gulf News: You might be forgiven for thinking that you have entered into foreign waters as you make your way through wadis filled with flamingos and animals running through greenery – this is the new Dubai Zoo.

Known as Dubai Safari, the Dh150 million park project is right on track and senior officials at Dubai Municipality have confirmed that the new Dubai landmark has completed its first phase of construction and, as scheduled, will be completed by the end of 2014.

The municipality has been carrying out excavation work since September 2012 and has been levelling the ground, as well as setting up the areas for internal and external roads. The Dubai Safari project covers 120 hectares that will consist of a zoo, safari and butterfly park, botanical garden, resort, and golf course, in addition to educational and veterinary facilities.

At 29 hectares, the zoo, which is located in Al Warqa area along Al Aweer Road opposite Dragon Mart, will replace the existing 1.5 hectare zoo in Jumeirah. It is expected to feature more than 1,000 animals and birds.

“Within two weeks, we will start carrying out the works for the infrastructure and work on the water feature package. The schedule is going according to plan and will be completed by the end of next year,” said Hussain Nassir Lootah, Director General of Dubai Municipality.

There will initially be 1,600 parking spaces over two designated areas and further down the line, the municipality intends to expand it to 3,600 parking spaces across 9.4 hectares.

“The first phase took time to complete because it used to be a landfill, so we had to clean and level the site. One of the other main challenges was designing the zoo because we had to keep in consideration the summer heat as it can get very hot between the months of May and September,” he said.

Lootah explained that some of the animals need to be kept in a controlled environment, and these buildings would use simple, water-cooled greenhouse technology. The buildings are envisioned to be large structures equipped with an artificial mud pathway with dense vegetation, which would reduce the temperatures for visitors moving between exhibits.

With the advice of a municipal zoologist and international specialists, Dubai Municipality was also able to choose what kind of animals would be chosen to live at Dubai Safari. For the animals’ consideration, the safari park will be closed at night so that they can rest peacefully.

The Safari will be divided into four different sections — African, Asian and Arabian Villages and an open safari — for animals coming from different geographical locations, with architecture and landscaping to match.

“Dubai Safari is a green project, which means that we have made it as sustainable as possible. Water will be the main element of the project, as a wadi and a waterfall will be built, and some of the villages will have boating activities,” he said.

Lootah pointed out that the municipality has taken power consumption into consideration and will incorporate various methods of energy conservation and energy- efficient designs, including solar power, water recycling, waste disposal and recycling. “Various types of transport, which will run using solar energy, will be available to take visitors from one place to the other, and there will be a rubber wheeled tram and monorail capsules,” he added.

Back to top

Expo 2013 displaying Iran’s export capabilities

Tehran, April 22, IRNA – Holding the first exhibition of Iran’s export capabilities is a new move in line with reducing imports and increasing non-oil exports, a senior Iranian trade official said.

‘Iran’s exports capabilities is being held for the first time in the country and it is regarded a serious step in exports promotion and marketing,’ Deputy Head of Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization Kioumars Fatollah Kermanshahi said on Sunday.

He noted that a total of 370 superior Iranian exporters in the format of 200 companies and 400 merchants from more than 40 countries will take part in the Iran Expo 2013 next week. A 90-member trade delegation from Iraq, 60-member delegation from Afghanistan, 25-member delegation from India, 14-member delegation from Italy, 12-member Lebanese delegation and 12-member delegation from Egypt are going to visit Iran Expo 2013 which starts work on April 27.

Back to top

OIC Intensifies Action to Address Unemployment and Social Security

Jeddah, 15/04/2013 – Issues bearing reducing unemployment, development of human resources and enhancing social protection would feature prominently in the cooperation agenda of OIC. Deliberations on the contemporary challenges of OIC Member States and modalities for consolidating intra-OIC actions would engage the attention of the 2nd OIC Conference of Labour Ministers holding in Baku, Republic of Azerbaijan, from 25-26 April 2013.

Under the theme: Decent Work for Sustainable Welfare, the 2nd Ministerial Conference is taking place after a first Ministerial Meeting held in Istanbul, Turkey, on 10 September 2011. Ministers from OIC Member States and representatives of relevant OIC institutions, relevant regional and international organizations would be participating in the Conference.

The Conference would be addressed by Secretary General of the OIC Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu focusing on the various aspects of OIC collaboration in the domain of labour and social protection. Presentations of issues on the Conference agenda would dwell on strategies for collaboration on occupational safety and health, reducing unemployment and increasing human capital resources. Other issues include the welfare of foreign migrant labour and labour market information strategy.

The Conference is expected to consider a Programme of Action on integrated support for SMEs enhancing best practices to address the challenges of informal employment, particularly the incorporation of non-registered workers into formal employment, and strengthening and promoting the cooperation among the member states in the field of education and vocational training.

In order to fasttrack the implementation of the various decisions of the Conference and to consolidate joint OIC action on critical labour issues, the Conference will also consider the adoption of a Framework document. This programmed execution of OIC decisions falls within the context of the recent reforms introduced under the OIC Ten Year Programme of Action.

Back to top

Tourism: Tunisia mobilizes en masse

AfricaManager – A major operation to promote Tunisian tourism will be launched from May 15, 2013 in France, as part of preparations for the summer tourist season.

Through this new initiative, Tunisia seeks to win back the French tourist market. Several attempts have already been made but did not yield the expected results.

The aggressive competition from rival countries, such as Turkey, Egypt and Morocco has greatly reduced the chances of Tunisia.

It is in this context that tourism professionals launched in early 2013, many campaigns that will highlight products with high added value such as cultural tourism, Saharan tourism and wellness tourism with particular emphasis on the promotion of alternative tourism.

It is worth noting that the advertising campaigns of Tunisia are still low compared with other neighboring countries. Therefore, it is essential to organize trips for French in Tunisia and to take urgent and appropriate measures to fill gaps even in the short term.

According to tourism professionals, to be able to attract French tourists, the sector needs better visibility. Marketing, advertising and communication activities will play a key role in this phase. The visibility of communication campaigns in the French media should also be enhanced.

The success of this campaign depends on four factors: the establishment of security, the effort to be deployed by municipalities and local communities in general to ensure the cleanliness of beaches and sites, the level of commitment of professionals to improve the quality of tourism services and finally, promoting Tunisia as a confirmed tourist destination.

According to the latest figures released by the Ministry of Tourism, a million and half French had visited Tunisia in 2010 out of a total of 7 million tourists. Tunisian tourism has not yet achieved its expected recovery, especially since a decrease in the number of tourists in Tunisia was recorded (-20% compared to 2012 and 40% compared to 2010), during the first quarter of 2013.

It is a worrying situation for Tunisian tourism professionals. To this end, hoteliers and TO will be asked to concoct personalized high-end offers and combinations in cultural, ecological, sports, health and wellness tourism.

It should be noted that the tourism sector has been hard hit by the impact of the political crisis facing the country since the assassination of Chokri Belaid.

French tourists want to come to Tunisia this summer. The challenge is to develop a good strategy so that tourists would come absolutely en masse during the summer season.

Back to top

Tunisia: Entrepreneur’s directory-guide to be launched soon

Dynamic Market Investor, the first directory-guide of business leaders in Tunisia will be launched by Dynamic Business company next April 22, according to a statement. This platform is designed for domestic and international investors, business managers and all other stakeholders in the business circle.

It lists different sectors, including bodies and entities supporting support investment, business law, tax and accounting, banking and insurance, financial services, consulting firms, ICT and IT development companies, business spaces and services … etc..

Freely available online, this site allows users to easily and freely find services tailored to their needs, allowing fast and efficient survey aimed to collect information necessary for decision making. This guide book is a genuine business catalyst and facilitator of professional exchanges.

Each subscriber accesses a dynamic web showcase with a detailed presentation of its products / services, its officers, its references and its contact details.

Dynamic Business is a company of corporate and financial communications, a new concept which arrives in Tunisia. It is founded by Adel Djait and Nawel Allani.

Back to top

Turkish company builds Iraq’s biggest energy power plant

4/20/2013, Turkishpress.com – Iraq’s biggest energy power plant, built by Turkey’s Calik Holding, has been inaugurated on Friday. The new energy power plant “Al Hayrat” was built in Karbala, and its inauguration ceremony was attended by Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Affairs Husayn Ibrahim Salih al-Shahristani. Minister al-Shahristani thanked Calik Energy for completing the power plant successfully on time.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), the CEO of Calik Holding, Ahmet Calik, said that the new power plant in Karbala was highly important for the production of electricity in Iraq and they were pleased to complete such a project successfully. “Al Hayrat energy power plant has a strength of 250 megawatts. It will serve the Iraqi people for decades to come,” Calik said.

All power plants we built in Iraq will produce 2,000 megawatts of electricity, Calik also said.

Back to top

Turkish Jewish Museum welcomes Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco visited Istanbul’s Quincentennial Turkish Jewish Museum during his trip to Istanbul. Eco met with the founder of the museum, Naim Guleryuz, and Eco’s wife, Renate Ramge, also accompanied them.

Eco was interested in the honor corner, which displays Turkish passports that Turkish diplomats used to rescue Jewish academics from concentration camps in Europe. The Jewish academics are commemorated with a display in the museum.

Another interesting object for Eco was a book that was published in Istanbul in 1512, “Complete Works of an Epic: Midrash Tehillim.” The work was found in Germany and put in the museum. After the museum visit, Eco said education made people read. Noting that education is something that develops and evolves over time, Eco said it was different now compared with 70 years ago.

“Today young people are experiencing huge amnesia,” said Eco, adding that they did not know history. “During my time they told people to tell the recent history. Today it is the opposite.” “In the academic papers that are published in the States we see that the references are from (the last) 10 years and not older. This means we are only dealing with the sayings of the last 10 years.”

Over the last 20 years he has explained his thoughts on the clash of civilizations, Eco said, adding that this discussion came to the scene with the “end of history.” This approach was not right, according to Eco. The discussions of the conflicts of the Islamic and Western civilizations have normalized the conflict between Western and Eastern civilizations,” Eco said.

The fundamentalists in both worlds have done this, he added and said Turkey was the best example of bringing the civilizations together and living together. Eco came to Istanbul to attend a seminar titled “A Dialogue on Facts, Fiction, History.”

Back to top

New book by ISESCO Chief Hails the Eloquence of Arabic

Rabat 18/04/2013 – Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), has recently published a book featuring two essays – one about Arabic in the present day and the other titled (Revisiting the Problems of the Arabic Language). (The Current Status of Arabic), appearing in a single trilingual edition offering the Arabic original and the English and French translations, is the author’s third book on the same topic, after two others titled “Future of the Arabic Language” in 2004 and “Arabic Language and Globalization” in 2008.

As noted in the author’s preface to the book, “Language is the quintessence of a nation and the eloquent symbol of its identity, representative of its specificity and the embodiment of its intellectual and civilizational components. The Arabic language represents the essence of the Arab and Islamic Ummah’s identity, and a fundamental component of the cultural and civilizational edifice erected by this Ummah over its time-honoured history. To neglect this essence is thus tantamount to neglecting one of the most crucial components of the Islamic Ummah after its religion, Islam, the eternal religion of which the Book was revealed by Allah (SWT) in the clear and eloquent Arabic tongue and whose honourable Prophet and Messenger, Mohamed Ibn Abdullah, was chosen by Allah from the community that mastered the best this language which Allah honoured above all other languages. Arabic has always been and will continue to be the language of eloquence and rhetoric and the ever flowing delectable source. To safeguard this treasure is to safeguard our identity, defend our edifice, and perpetuate the ability to under-stand the valuable civilizational legacy transferred from gene-ration to generation and enriched by each and every one of these generations in all walks of life.”

Dr Altwaijri said, “We have learnt from cultural and civilizational history that the thriving of a language carries in it the seeds of intellectual prosperity and of progress in sciences, arts and literature, that in the power of a language lies the power of the nation speaking it, and that a language gains its power from the linguistic creativity of its people and from their excellence in all areas of public life. Similarly, the weakness of a language translates into the weakness of its speakers, a weakness that sneaks into the limbs of society and into all fields of life, resulting in a state of regression that could signal cultural and civilizational demise and bring life’s wheel to a halt.”

He explained in his preface that the Arabic language suffered the same fate as many other languages, regressing and weakening for many centuries. However, he underlined, a new lease of life was given to it in the last third of the 19th century with a reinvigorated interest in writing in Arabic after lengthy centuries of lethargy. He went on, “New press houses were created, newspapers and magazines were started and many Arabic works were published in different cultural disciplines. With the dawn of the 20th century, Arabic dictionaries appeared and the first attempts at encyclopaedias were made, then schools and after them universities were built.

At a later stage, language academies were established, focusing on updating the Arabic language and developing it to meet the needs created by the development of Arab societies, in addition to the growing interest shown in Arabic outside the Arab world first by Muslim communities attached by virtue of their religion to the language of the Quran, and then by orientalist circles and research institutes and universities that ran Arabic language and Islamic heritage departments, irrespective of the reasons that fuelled the latter’s interest. Thus, the Arabic language market prospered and grew steadily just as it expanded far and wide.”

In the preface, Dr Altwaijri argued that “with this renewed interest in Arabic, thriving literary, cultural and scientific production in Arabic, the spread of Arabic-speaking schooling, press and media in and outside the Islamic world and increases in the numbers of non-Arab learners of this language worldwide, Arabic recovered a considerable degree of its status and worth within Arab and Islamic societies in general, to finally be adopted as one of the six official languages of the United Nations Organization.”

He hailed as a world class achievement and triumph the decision by UNESCO in October 2012 to declare the 18th of every December as the World Arabic Language Day, emphasizing that “such achievement only amplifies our responsibility in preserving the power and dynamism of our language and enhancing its ability to keep pace with modern developments, in asserting its standing and reinforcing its presence not only within the Islamic world but on also internationally.” It is our responsibility to develop the Arabic language at all levels so that it can reclaim the vital and significant role it played in enriching the Islamic civilization which in turn has served as one of the key sources that fuelled the advancement of contemporary human civilization, Dr Altwaijri added.

Back to top

ISESCO to support sixth Palestinian Youth Cultural Forum, Ramallah

Rabat 18/04/2013 – The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) has provided financial support to the Palestinian Youth Cultural Forum to convene at sixth session in Ramallah from 19 through 25 April.

A host of Palestinian refugees and secretaries of Arab national commissions for education, culture and science will gather to discuss ways to promote the cultural scene in Palestine amid Israeli occupation and connect the Palestinian youth to the Arab, Islamic and world culture. The objective is also to sensitize Palestinian young people to the significant role of Palestinian educational and cultural institutions operating under tight Israeli restrictions.

Further, a special symposium will be held alongside the forum to examine the role of UNESCO, ISESCO and ALECSO in bolstering educational, scientific and cultural institutions in Palestine.

Sustained support is provided by ISESCO to the Palestinian Youth Cultural Forum since it was first established in 2007.

Back to top

Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan Discuss Railway Project

Sunday April 21, 2013 p- Kabul (BNA) The first meeting of working group on railway line among Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan “ATT” held in Turkmenistan Republic yesterday. Dr. Mohammad Fazel Saifi Afghan ambassador to Ashqabad, Turkmenistan told the BNA that on the basis of an understanding agreement reached among the leaders of three countries in Nauruz of current year in Ashqabad, yesterday the first meeting of the working group of three countries consisting of specialists of the three countries was held who discussed the regular activities pertaining to the project.

At this meeting it was decided that the three countries prepare the draft of the agreement for construction of the railway line among the three countries in two weeks’ time and present it to the coming meeting of this working group.

The meeting also decided on the financing sources and a regular program with the schedule of working group meetings in every two months and the leading group every three month in the capitals of these countries.

He added that this project is important in the region in which Afghanistan has the main role and annually millions of US dollars net income with immense jobs will be provided for the youth of Afghanistan.

Meanwhile the project perspective that of course has its immense enemies in this region is not only important for Afghanistan economically but from political viewpoints the project has its significance for Afghanistan and the regional countries.

Back to top

Focus On Historic Background of Ancient Ghanza City

Saturday, April 20, 2013 – Kabul (BNA) Geographically Afghanistan a landlocked country with sky touching mountain peaks is located in the heart of Asia with a five thousand year history. This land is famous throughout the world in terms of hospitality and conserving huge potentials of cultural monuments and historic heritages.

In the past, the country used to be an important trade and transit gateway to the silk rout and this strategic location was attracting thousands of foreign tourists and international visitors annually, because in that epoch of time, the ancient city of Balkh, Bamian, Kapisa, Ghazni, Nangarhar, Kabul, Herat and Kandahar were the center of culture civilization and hub of economic and trade relations between regional and ultra-regional civilizations.

Considering historic background of the country, the UNESCO and the Organization of Islamic conference (OIC) during its sixth annual cultural ministers conference held in the Libyan capital Tripoli in 2007 announced the ancient city of Ghani as the capital of Islamic culture and civilization for the year 2013 and the oppressed people of this land feel pride and honor to see part of their motherland being announced as center of arts and culture.

The ancient city of Ghazni besides maintaining huge reserves of cultural and historic heritage has been the center of intellectualism, literatures, science, knowledge and poetry in the past and major academic profiles were nourished in its shoulder including Abu Raihan Al-Beroni, Sanayee Ghaznavi and Sultan Mahmood Ghaznavi, so the city has also great significant to the international community and cultural institutions o the world in terms of culture and history. In the past, various scholars from the Islamic world were visiting the historic city of Ghazni to meet great academic profiles of the time same as Sanayee, Alberoni, Khawja Abdullah Ansari, Avicenna and rest of the intellectuals.

Ali Hejwery is considered as of the central figures in the Sufism school that later migrated towards India and lived in Lahore city and currently his followers known him as Data Ganj Bakhsh because of his firm faith and knowledge and Muslims from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan travel to Lahore to participate in special festivals held in honor of him. During his life time, Hejwery beside his intellectualistic activities also wrote a book entitled as (Kashful Mahjoob) and later this writings become a great asset in school of Sufism during the fourth and fifth centuries.

In historic view point, the ancient city of Ghazni has passed three historic periods including Buddhism period and later Islamic civilizations and these civilization contributed much in cultural dimensions of this city. During the Islamic period, several historic and beautiful buildings, forts and minaret were established according to the Islamic architecture and the city of braves due to emergence great profiles same as Sultan Mahmood which has great reputation in the geography of this region. The Ghaznavid Dynasty is the considered as the peak of greatness of history and civilization of this region and today each Afghan feel pride and honor because of the historic assets and cultural heritages existed in this city. So, the great Afghan nation interpret nomination of Ghazni as the capital of Islamic culture and civilization as Dawn of peace and Prosperity and warmly welcome international endeavor selecting Ghazni as center of Islamic arts and culture.

Back to top