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8 Apr, 2013

Mehreen Faruqi Set to be Australia’s First Muslim Woman MP

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 08 April 2013 (27 Jumaada al-Awwal 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




Some of Malaysia’s most colourful festivals will be taking place in May to welcome local and international tourists to immerse in truly unique and memorable experiences. These include the Malaysia Water Festival Langkawi 2013, Sabah Fest 2013 – A Cultural Extravaganza, Sarawak World Harvest Festival 2013, Borneo International Marathon 2013, Borneo Jazz Festival 2013, Colours Of 1Malaysia 2013, International Beauty Expo 2013, Putrajaya Youth Festival 2013 and The Tadau Kaamatan Harvest Festival 2013. For full details of all the festivals, pls click here.

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



Mehreen Faruqi Set to be Australia’s first Muslim woman MP

Canberra, 27 Jamad Al-Awwal 1434/08 April 2013 (IINA) – Australia will have its first Muslim woman MP, the Greens party in News South Wales (NSW) said yesterday.

Academic Mehreen Faruqi, of Pakistani origin, will replace NSW upper house MP Cate Faehrmann in the new parliament later this year. “As the first Greens MP in NSW from a migrant background, I’m also excited about building stronger relationships between the Greens and migrant communities,” Dr. Faruqi said in a statement. She said she looks forward to tackling issues concerning gender equality and same-sex marriage, among other topics.

Dr. Faruqi was preselected by the Greens in a postal ballot from among a field of seven women-only candidates, in another first for the party. “Mehreen’s Pakistani heritage not only breaks new ground for the Greens but it breaks new grounds for politics in NSW, and indeed the whole country,” Ms. Faehrmann said in a statement on Sunday, according to local media reports.

The party said Dr. Faruqi has been the first Muslim woman appointed to any parliament in Australia, the party said. In recent years, Muslim women in Western politics have been making the news. In 2012, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg appointed a Muslim woman as part of his government during a Cabinet reshufle this week. Hadia Tajik, 29, also of Pakistani descent, was appointed as Norway’s minister of culture.

In 2009, a young Muslim veiled woman joined the Christian Democratic Party in Brussels to become the first and only veiled Muslim in a Christian political party. Mahinur Ozdemir, of Turkish background, had said she found some of her ideals in the Christian Democratic Party’s platform. “I believe in the values of humanity and respect of religious beliefs of people, and I find the Christian Democratic Party provides such a platform,” Ozdemir told Al Arabiya in May 2009, while taking a break from handing out pamphlets for her candidacy to pedestrians in the market.

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Brunei to hold first Boat and Holiday Expo

Bandar Seri Begawan, April 07, 2013 – Borneo Bulletin – THE first Brunei Darussalam Boat and Holiday Expo will be held on June 28 to 30 to raise awareness on the maritime and boating industry whilst urging more locals to spend their holidays in the Sultanate. The event, organised by the BSB Municipal Department with support of the Tourism Development Department and Marine Department, promises an array of exciting activities on the waterway of the Brunei River as well as the Dermaga Diraja Bandar Seri Begawan.

A press conference on the event was held yesterday at the BSB Municipal Department chaired by Pg Junaidi Pg Hj Bakar, the Head of the BSB Municipal Project Planning and Management along with Awang Mohammad Vol Hj Momin, General Manager of Sakam Enterprise.

Awang Mohammad Vol said, “Brunei Darussalam has never organised a boat show in the past and given our history as traditional seafarers in the Water Village centuries ago, much is to be revealed about our heritage. New technologies used by local boat producers may also be showcased during the expo.”

The Tourism Development Department will showcase various ‘Kenali Negara Kitani’ (KNK) destinations to encourage locals to spend their holidays in the country. Given the vast potentials of the industry, the expo may pave the way in creating a better future for the Sultanate including the boating/maritime and tourism industries.

“The event will also create awareness on the conservation of the rich marine and wildlife in Brunei through the understanding gained during the expo,” said Pg Junaidi Pg Hj Bakar. The venue, Dermaga Diraja Bandar Seri Begawan, is the appropriate place to host the inaugural event due to its reputation as the traditional gateway of Brunei.

Various activities will be organised during the three-day event including a Jetski Stunt Show by Medhy Menad, a specialist who has performed scores of stunts in Hollywood and extreme sports. The event will also assist the Brunei Darussalam AIDS Council by providing charity boxes to raise funds.

A street show will be organised at Jalan McArthur such as street parkour, food fair, street entertainment, morning aerobics and school performances among others. Those wishing to participate in the expo can contact Adison Marketing Services, the Marketing Partner of the event.

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Turkish-made Prayer Beads Worth $70m Displayed in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, April 3, 2013 (Gulf News): If you thought a Merc in solid white gold or a diamond-studded abaya defined the height of luxury, think again. A $60,000 (about Dh220,386) string of exquisite prayer beads made of black gold is making heads turn in Abu Dhabi. The beads are among 400 rare and expensive prayer beads dating back to the Ottoman era.

On display at the Emirates Palace Hotel, the $70 million collection is owned by Turkish businessman Berat Serdar Neziroglu. “My father had around 500 roasaries in his personal collection. I have 5,000 now, all hand-made by artisans from Turkey,” Neziroglu told XPRESS.

Among the pieces on display is a string of $40,000 prayer beads in ivory with portraits of 36 Ottoman rulers finely carved on one side and their signatures and period on the throne engraved on the other. An antique piece in pure amber and claimed to be more than 300 years old costs $30,000 (Dh110,192).

Priced between $1,000 and $60,000, the prayer beads are made of precious metals and stones including gold, silver, diamonds, ruby and emerald. There are also rosaries made of exotic things like whale’s neck bone, whale’s tooth, hippopotamus tooth and turtle’s shell.

The owners’ son Serkan who runs a tespih (rosary) shop in Ankara, said the making of some of the rosaries takes up to four months. “We are hoping to attract the rich and famous in the UAE through this first-ever exhibition of tespih. Our clientele include rulers and super rich from different parts of the Middle East and Europe,” Serkan said on the sidelines of the exhibition.

The exhibition opened on March 31 and will continue until June 30.

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Sky’s the limit for Emirati women in aviation sector

Khaleej Times – 06 April, 2013 – When Eng Mariam Al Balooshi started working as the environment studies manager at the General Civil Aviation Authority, few would have thought that her career in the traditionally male-centric aviation industry will take off and that she will one day represent the UAE in international civil aviation industry forums and a strong voice on environmental issues.

But she is not the only one that has inspired Emirati women to seek careers in traditionally male-dominated sectors. Capt Aysha Al Hamili was the UAE’s first woman pilot and has been the UAE’s Permanent Representative on the International Civil Aviation Organisation since October 2009.

Both the talented and energetic Al Balooshi and Al Hamili have gone on to accomplish their dreams in aviation industry, a field where there are still relatively few women but many fast career growth opportunities. “The sky is the limit for women in building their careers in the aviation industry in the UAE. There is a general shortage of Emirati women for engineering and other highly technical fields, especially in the aviation industry,” said Al Balooshi, who is now the first UAE specialist in aviation environment, the chair of the regional aviation environment committee for Arab Civil Aviation Commission.

“We need to create more awareness and support initiatives to bring more Emirati women in the aviation industry’s non-administrative segments. We need more women in leadership roles,” she said.

In the past decade, more Emirati women have followed their lead in pursuing careers in the UAE’s aviation industry. Salma Al Baloushi became the first Emirati woman to fly a plane solo for Etihad Airways; Dr Nabila Al Awadhi got the distinction of being the first Emirati aviation medicine physician; Nawal Al Suwaidi became the first Emirati woman cabin crew; and Noufa Al Afeefi broke the gender barriers to become the first Emirati woman air traffic controller.

The UAE aviation industry accounts for 28 per cent (Dh145 billion) of the Arab world’s second-biggest economy, yet there is hardly a handful of Emirati women who are employed in critical segments of the aviation industry like engineering, air traffic control, aircraft maintenance, avionics and aeromedicine.

Al Balooshi, who sits on the Advisory Board of the Global Airports Leaders’ Forum taking place in Dubai next month, stated that the women today can find wide ranging opportunities in all segments of aviation. “Let’s challenge the status quo and the false assumptions. Let’s reach out and invite women to join the challenging and rewarding world of aviation not as an accessory but as a desired partner. Emirati women need more initial encouragement from the family and the society and also needs to think about themselves and their role in this exciting industry.”

To that end, the 13th Airport Show, which will take place in Dubai from May 6 to 8, will host an initiative that aims to encourage Emirati women to pursue highly-rewarding aviation careers.

“Women in Aviation” is an inspiring photography exhibition that travels around the world, highlighting the role and contribution of women in the global aviation and aiming to inspire more women to overcome boundaries and set out to fulfill their goals.

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Bahrain key market for Saudi Arabian Airlines

Saudi Gazette – 04 April, 2013 – Bahrain is a high growth market for Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) as air traffic between the two kingdoms continues to surge, the Saudi national carrier’s top official said.

“Saudia operates daily flights to Bahrain, occupies 65 percent of the market and operates 50 to 60 percent of flights between Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries,” the airline’s director general Khaled Al Molhem told the Gulf Daily News, Trade Arabia’s sister publication, on the sidelines of the opening of a new office in Bahrain.

“The airline is committed to meet the rising demand of passengers traveling between the two countries by increasing scheduled flights and operating additional flights, especially during the Haj season and for Umrah,” Al Molhem said.

The opening of the new office in Bahrain was part of the airline’s regional expansion plan, he added. Saudia carried 24 million passengers last year, 2.85 million or 13.3 percent more than in 2011. The airline operated a record 171,341 flights during the year, 8 percent more than the 158,449 flights in 2011.

“We expect the growth to continue this year as well and estimate that 26 million passengers would have flown Saudia by end of 2013,” Al Molhem said.

To cater to the growing traffic volumes, the carrier is in the process of beefing up its fleet by purchasing 90 new aircraft, 62 of which have already been inducted last year and so far this year.

“Our carrying capacity got a boost after we received new Airbus SAS aircraft (A320, A321, and A330) and Boeing’s wide body 777-300ER jets last year, allowing us to increase the number of seats and flight frequencies,” he said. “This year alone we will receive 12 new aircraft.”

The airline plans to start flights to Toronto and Los Angeles shortly.

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New Dubai airport seeks to be the world’s busiest

Saudi Gazette – 05 April, 2013 – Flights from the new Dubai airport will start in October with aviation officials saying that the goal is to make it the world’s busiest airport, News.com.au said on Thursday.

Dubai World Central, about 60 kilometers southwest of the city’s current airport, covers a vast stretch of desert and is envisioned to become the main hub for air travel in Dubai in coming decades, it said, adding that operations have “ramped up slowly” since 2010.

Airport authorities said scheduled passenger flights are to begin on October 27 with Nasair, which flies to various cities in Saudi Arabia, and Wizz Air, a budget airline with connections in Europe.

Dubai International Airport handled more than 56.7 million passengers last year and is now the world’s second-busiest after London’s Heathrow, the news agency said.

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UAE students design car to travel 1,000 kms on 1-litre

Saudi Gazette – 05 April, 2013 – A team of engineering students in the United Arab Emirates have designed a car that could potentially travel up to 1,000 kilometers on just one liter of fuel, an online report said on Thursday. The lightweight vehicle — named Eco-Dubai 1 — is in its final stage of construction and will begin testing in the next two weeks, said the report posted by the IANS news agency.

It said the car is a product of almost two years of work by the students at the Higher Colleges of Technology Dubai Men’s College. The car is half-meter wide, two meters long, half- meter high and weighs about 25 kg.

The report, which did not carry any photo, said the car will “enter a race in July against similarly designed cars from around the world, including four other vehicles produced in the UAE.”

It quoted Ahmad Khamis Al Suwaidi, one of the students behind the car, as saying: “Petrol is not going to last forever. One day we’re going to run out. So in terms of developing a local eco-car industry, it starts with us. We’re the future of the UAE in this.”

The students will put their creation to the test at Shell’s Eco-Marathon to be held July 4-7 in Kuala Lumpur, the report said, adding that the competition is based on designing a car that can travel the farthest on just one liter of fuel. Students are allowed to use electricity, solar or hybrid technologies in making their cars.

It said that students from France’s Polytech Nantes University, have designed a car that traveled almost 4,900 kilometers, the longest-distance traveled by a car.

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FCCI prepares for “Made in UAE” exhibition

Gulf Today – 05 April, 2013 – The ‘Made in UAE’ exhibition reflects the booming national industries and will give a shot in the arm to the industrial sector through promoting and marketing national products to keep pace with the comprehensive boom supported by the wise leadership, according to Mohammed Thani Al Rumaithi, President of the Federation of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FCCI) and Chairman of the Board of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ADCCI).

Al Rumaithi made his remarks at a meeting with officials from ADCCI and FCCI to discuss preparations for the trade show which will be held at Expo Centre Sharjah between 9th-12th December. A marketing and promotion strategy for the exhibition was drawn up at the meeting which took place at ADCCI complex.

The meeting also discussed preparations for a conference on industries, and for setting up a pavilion for SMEs and producing families on the sidelines of the event.

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Omani Women to showcase handicrafts

Oman Daily Observer – 05 April, 2013 – Women from across the country would gather at the Al Bahja Hall at Jungle Restaurant in Qurum to showcase some of the finest handicraft products and the latest trends in fashion today.

Organised as part of the Women’s Shopping Festival at 12 pm onwards, the event will have some of the hand-picked unique vendors from the latest trends of fashion, jewellery, health and beauty care, according to the organisers.

Organised by Axis Events, a division of Axis Group of Companies, the day will also include shopping from a range of multi-cultural stalls and participation from traditional Omani, American, European, Indo-Pak, Philippines and African lifestyles. One can also get complimentary consultation on beauty care products and healthcare, education and training.

Free kids play area for all the ladies to drop their children and enjoy the Shopping experiences. “The event is going to be one of its kinds in Muscat and will showcase all the finest selections for a completely satisfied and fun-filled shopping experience”, organisers Biya, Bini and Gokul said.

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Saudi Tourism’s job creation potential highlighted

Arab News – 05 April, 2013 – Prince Saud bin Khaled Al-Faisal, deputy governor of the General Authority for Investment, has said that for every million dollars spent on tourism, 50 jobs are created.

Prince Saud made his observation on Wednesday at a forum entitled “Tourism Investment Facts” as part of the 6th Saudi Travel and Tourism Investment Market (STTIM) being organized by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) that concluded yesterday.

He said the contribution of tourism to global GDP was estimated at $ 6.3 trillion (9.1 percent) in 2011, surpassing the mining, automotive and chemicals sectors. He added that its contribution to job creation is a key player compared to other sectors and that spending or investment in the sector have had a much bigger impact than most other sectors.

“A total of 98 million new jobs were created during 2011, six times the manufacturing sector, mining, telecommunications, automobile and chemicals,” he elaborated.

Major reforms have also been implemented on the investment front in the Kingdom, including the abolition of minimum capital in limited liability companies and an 80 percent reduction in the cost of establishing limited liability companies. This is in addition to determining a fee of SR 500 for a summary contract to set up a limited liability company.

Hamad Ismael, assistant vice president for tourism investment, said the Kingdom’s natural and cultural environments are very promising for tourism investment.

The SCTA has provided and continues to provide a range of incentives, including technical support methods for investors in the tourism sector, by identifying key areas for the development of tourism, in addition to drafting development-based plans for market studies, tourism, licensing and the classification of facilities and activities that meet quality performance criteria. This will enable them to obtain technical and financial support from stakeholders and nominate a technical support representative.

He continued: “This also includes incentive and financial support through providing a variety of sources for funding through agreements signed by the SCTA with a number of banks and financial institutions. Should these six agreements be reached, a total of 195 tourism projects will be funded at a value of approximately SR 196 million, as well as programs and initiatives that would help investors acquire the necessary support for feasibility study preparation.”

He said the authority has also worked to stimulate tourism investment to provide infrastructure to tourist sites. According to him, “giant, economic tourism investment” can only be launched with the support of the state, stressing that all indications point to the Kingdom having the key ingredients for a competitive tourist destination in the region.

Abdullah Fawzan, an economist, said a clever investor would monitor consumer behavior prior to embarking upon such a project. He believes that “a Saudi tourist travels to international destinations, becoming an expert in the quality of tourist services and expecting the same quality here.

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Abu Dhabi tourism off to Latin America

Khaleej Times – 06 April, 2013 – Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry is heading to Sao Paulo for the inaugural World Travel Market Latin America as it looks to build awareness of the destination ahead of Etihad Airways’ June launch of non-stop flights from Brazil’s second largest city to Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Together with a 20-strong stakeholder delegation, the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, or TCA Abu Dhabi, is mounting a destination pavilion at the show, which runs at the TransAmerica Expocenter from April 23-25.

“Etihad’s Sao Paulo-Abu Dhabi service opens the destination up to one of the most important segments on the world tourism stage,” said Mubarak Al Nuaimi, director of Promotions and Overseas Offices at TCA Abu Dhabi. “Driven by a strong currency and a desire to shop abroad, Brazilians continue to explore international destinations.

“The sheer size of the potential is telling — some 5.4 million Brazilians travelled abroad in 2011, recording a two per cent growth from the previous year. Our job will be to entice some of this business to Abu Dhabi, whether point-to-point visitation or to persuade some of those travelling with Etihad on to other destinations — particularly Australia — which has strong Brazilian visitation, to stop-over in the our destination to explore our expanding offering.”

Etihad Airways will join a number of Abu Dhabi’s leading hospitality providers in the pavilion. Other sharers include Emirates Palace, St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, Anantara Hotels & Resorts, which operates three five-star properties in the emirate — the Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa, the Desert Islands Resort & Spa and the Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort & Spa.

“Put these together and you have a microcosm of the destination — a place of diversity of geography with beachfronts, cityscapes and desertscapes — and a place of choice for budgets and styles,” said Al Nuaimi. “We are optimistic of making a stir in Sao Paulo believing we have the right product mix for the high-end Brazilian traveller.”

The number of Brazilians staying in Abu Dhabi’s hotels is on the increase. In 2012 some 3,605 Brazilians stayed in the emirate’s hotels and hotel apartments delivering 14,627 guest nights and an average-length-of-stay of just over four nights.

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Iran Expands Trade With Pakistan

CHABAHAR, Iran, Apr 2 (NNN-IRNA) – Deputy Head of the Trade Promotion Organisation of Iran (TPOI) for Marketing Affairs, Reza Towfiqi Zavareh, stressed on expansion of trade relations with regional countries, including Pakistan, by boosting the role of free trade zones.

Addressing local officials in Chabahar city on Monday, he noted that Chabahar Free Trade Zone is one of the most strategic free trade zones, which can have a great effect on expansion of trade among regional countries and in particular between Iran and Pakistan.

Pointing to the recent talks between Iranian and Pakistani officials about the development of trade exchanges between the two countries, Towfiqi Zavareh noted that the province of Sistan and Baluchistan has a major role in this regard.

Iran and Pakistan have always had very close and intimate relations throughout history. The two countries exchange delegations on a regular basis and their leaders are resolved to further accelerate expansion of ties and cooperation.

Recently, the Supreme Leaderˈs Advisor for International Affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati underlined that Iran and Pakistan are willing and resolved to further develop and consolidate their bilateral relations regardless of the enemiesˈ opposition.

Iran and Pakistan have also officially inaugurated the construction phase of a gas pipeline project which is due to take Iranˈs rich gas reserves to the energy-hungry South Asian nation.

The project kicked off in a ceremony attended by Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, at the two countriesˈ shared border region in Iranˈs South-eastern city of Chabahar.

The 2,700-kilometre long pipeline is to supply gas for Pakistan and India, which are suffering a lack of energy sources, but India has evaded talks. In 2011, Iran and Pakistan declared they would finalise the agreement bilaterally, if India continued to be absent in the meeting.

According to the project proposal, the pipeline will begin from Iranˈs Assalouyeh Energy Zone in the south and stretch over 1,100 km through Iran. In Pakistan, it will pass through Baluchistan and Sindh, but officials now say the route may be changed if China agrees to the project.

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Malaysian Projects Growth in Exports To Egypt

CAIRO, April 2 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia’s exports to Egypt are expected to increase by 10 per cent this year on strong demand for palm oil in the republic, said Malaysia’s Ambassador to Egypt, Dr Mohd Fakhrudin Abdul Mukti. He said the exports of Malaysian palm oil were expected to improve following the Egyptian government’s recently-announced subsidies for palm oil in tandem with the high demand.

“We expect our exports to increase with the major contributor to come from palm oil industry,” he told Bernama at the Malaysian Technology Development Corp dinner. In 2012, Malaysia’s exports to Egypt amounted to RM4 billion while Egypt’s imports to Malaysia during that period totalled about RM300 million.

Dr Mohd Fakhrudin said palm oil contributed about 80 per cent to the total amount of Malaysian exports to Egypt, followed by furniture industry, electronic products and car parts.

“In order to balance the trade between the two nations, Malaysian companies can boost the import of cotton from Egypt which has been described as one of the best in the world,” he said. On Proton Holdings Bhd’s plan to team up with an Egyptian company, Dr Mohd Fakhrudin said discussions were still on-going to identify a suitable candidate.

“So far nothing has been confirmed on the potential joint-venture to assembly and sell cars here,” he said. He said negotiations between Petrolium Nasional Bhd (Petronas) and Egypt Petroleum Co (EPC) to venture into the oil and gas industry in Africa were also on-going. “We will monitor both potential collaborations closely,” he said.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak had on Jan 23, 2013 said that EPC was keen to collaborate with Petronas to venture into the oil and gas industry in Africa after the meeting with Egyptian Prime Minister Dr Hesham Mohamed Qandil here.

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Mozambican Government Approves Plan To Revitalise Cashew Industry

MAPUTO, April 5 (NNN-AIM) — The Mozambican government has approved a plan to revitalise the country’s cashew industry which envisages the processing of cashews to rise from the current 30,000 tonnes to 100,000 tonnes a year.

The Council of Ministers (Cabinet) this week adopted the plan which spells out ways to increase the production and processing of cashew nuts, says Deputy Minister of Agriculture Antonio Limbau, who adds that the government hopes that within the next decade the country will be able to process 100,000 tonnes of cashew per year.

Limbau told journalists here that cashew production could increase to 182,000 tonnes. In 2011 Mozambique produced only 112,000 tonnes.

“This plan follows on from the first master plan for cashew and is part of the operational programme of the Strategic Plan for the Development of the Agricultural Sector,” said Limbau, who explained that the first plan resulted in an increase in the number of trees sprayed against fungus infestations, research into new varieties and an increase in processing capacity. “We currently process 30,000 tonnes of cashew nuts, so we are still the largest processor in Africa,” he said.

Under the new plan, Mozambique will plant 4.6 million seedlings over the next ten years. The number of trees sprayed will increase to five million to increase the average yield to 12 kg per tree.

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Oman Air plans budget airline

Arab News – 01 April, 2013 – Oman Air plans to launch a budget airline to handle regional and domestic flights as a measure to expand its business, Chairman Darwish Ismail Al-Balushi said. “We are working hard on a feasibility study for the low-cost airline and expect to get government approval soon after,” Al-Balushi said.

Oman Air said its revenues jumped 21 percent to 347 million rials ($ 901 million) in 2012 on the back of rising traffic through the country’s main airport. The carrierís operating loss narrowed 11 percent to 97.5 million rials last year. “The loss is mainly attributed to the purchase of new aircraft because we have recently increased our destinations,” said Al-Balushi, who is also the minister of finance.

Oman Air added two aircraft last year to increase its fleet to 28, and the company plans to buy more in the near future, Al-Balushi said. It currently operates 15 Boeing 737s, seven A300s, four Embraer planes and two ATRs.

Passenger traffic through Muscat International Airport surged 16.5 percent to 7.55 million people last year, while cargo climbed 14.7 percent to 113,269 tons, according to the airport operator.

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Flydubai to start Direct flights to Osh, Dushanbe

Khaleej Times – 01 April, 2013 – Flydubai, Dubai’s innovative low-cost airline, has announced operations to two new destinations in the CIS region: Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan and Osh in Kyrgyzstan. Flights to both cities will operate twice a week, with Osh beginning on April 24 and Dushanbe one week later on April 30.

Flydubai’s CEO, Ghaith Al Ghaith, said: “With the addition of these two new routes we now have a network of 20 destinations across the CIS, which is a tremendous achievement. We marked our entry to the Kyrgyz market back in February 2012 with flights to the capital, Bishkek, and through adding Osh and Dushanbe we are able to link even more underserved destinations to our ever growing network.”

The past 12 months have seen overall air traffic between Dubai and Bishkek grow by 157 per cent. Flights to Osh will operate twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Flight FZ761 is scheduled to depart Dubai Terminal 2 at 2215hrs, arriving in Osh at 0400hrs local time. The return flight, FZ762, leaves Osh on Thursdays and Sundays at 0530hrs, landing in Dubai at 0735hrs local time.

Flights to Dushanbe will operate twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays. Flight FZ777 is scheduled to depart Dubai Terminal 2 at 2205hrs, arriving at Dushanbe airport at 0230hrs local time. The return flight, FZ778, leaves Dushanbe on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 0450hrs, landing in Dubai at 0730hrs local time.

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Dubai cruise tourism sees promising future

Khaleej Times – 01 April, 2013 – Dubai’s cruise tourism industry is growing rapidly and it has a promising future in years to come, a senior official of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) said.

“The cruise tourism sector in the region is strong and its continued growth remains extremely promising, bringing with it huge economic and development opportunities,” Hamad bin Mejren, executive director of business tourism at DTCM, said on the sidelines of a conference at Cruise Shipping Miami.

He said hundreds of jobs will be created in the industry in years to come and Dubai is proud to be taking the lead in ensuring the sustained development of this lucrative sector. “The Emirates once again proved its ability to steal the show and draw the attention of the world through its presence in Cruise Shipping Miami.”

Cruise Shipping Miami is the industry’s largest and most significant professional showcase held on March 11-14, 2013 at the Miami Beach Convention Centre, in the USA. This was the 13th year that DTCM has participated in the event, which featured more than 900 exhibiting companies from 123 countries and attracted well over 11,000 attendees.

Dubai is the home port for five international cruise liner operators, namely TUI Cruises, MSC, RCCL, Costa Cruises, and AIDA, which operate regular weekly itineraries from Dubai and used to take Dubai as a hub for their winter operations.

In 2011, the emirate hosted 396,554 cruise tourists, a number which increased to 407,825 in 2012. In order to cater to the increasing demand, the overall port facility has been expanded and cruises currently operates from three facilities, spanning over 20,000 square metres, on a pier stretching 1,900 metres, at which up to six cruise ships can be accommodated at one time. Further expansion is anticipated by 2014 and projections place the number of cruise ships expected to call on Dubai at 120 annually by 2015, carrying 450,000 passengers. There are expansion plans to Dubai’s cruise ship facilities in collaboration with Dubai Ports World.

Speaking on the occasion, Helal Saeed Al Marri, director-general of Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), said: “DTCM has made excellent use of the opportunities afforded by this premier event to increase its exposure in the international cruise arena, as Cruise Shipping Miami is well known to attract the broadest range of industry players within the calendar of the world’s major cruise conferences”.

“The department has also strived to fully utilise the opportunity to meet with influential cruise line executives, expert conference speakers, and executives from CLIA and FCCA cruise associations in order to promote Dubai’s burgeoning cruise industry,” he added.

Representatives from Dubai Cruise Tourism met with top executives from TUI Cruises, MSC, RCCL, Costa Cruises and many more cruise line operators to promote Dubai as a destination of choice for cruise tourism and to convince these operators to take Dubai as a hub for their cruise operations in the region.

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6th Tourism, Travel Forum Held In Riyadh

Arab News – 01 April, 2013 – Riyadh Gov. Prince Khaled bin Bandar inaugurated last night the Sixth Saudi Forum on Travel and Tourism Investment at Riyadh International Exhibition and Conference Centre in the presence of Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) and a number of senior Saudi officials and businessmen.

The five-day hospitality event is organized by SCTA yearly to highlight local tourism potential and the promising investment in the sector.

The event will address private sector as key players in upgrading services and offering various programs for Saudi tourists that would open the way for the growth of supply of services and programs and contribute to the reduction of prices. The exhibition will occupy an area of more than 11,000 square meters, an increase of 20 percent from last year. More than 160 companies and travel tourism destination companies are participating.

“Some major decisions by the government will be announced during the event that would support investments in this sector for streamlining the services and infrastructure facilities,” Prince Sultan said. He added: “This year we expect some crucial decisions from the leadership and will announce these decisions at the upcoming event.”

The minister of planning and economy addressed the opening ceremony. STCA will organize a number of tours for the participants and visitors including daily visit to a number of cultural and historical sites in Riyadh.

There will be four workshops on various issues in tourism-integrated experience. In addition, there will be eight workshops on tourism day investments. According to STCA website, the commission has awarded 14 licenses for tourist services and facilities over the past month to reach a total number of tourism licenses at 6,869 since 2009.

General Department of Licenses and Quality also said that there are a total of 209 tour operators working through 263 offices. In addition, SCTA awarded five licenses to travel agencies, bringing the number of travel agencies licensed to 410.

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Key GCC Islamic banking assets rise to $445bn

Gulf Daily News – 02 April, 2013 – Islamic banking assets with commercial banks in the GCC reached $ 445 billion at the end of last year, up from $ 390bn in 2011, according to recent estimates by Ernst & Young’s Global Islamic Banking Centre. Reports indicate that in 2012, the Islamic banking industry in the GCC registered a 14 per cent year-on-year growth, which represents a slight deceleration in the average growth rate over the past five years of 19pc.

Reports also indicate that profitability now looks to be stabilising in major Islamic banking markets though Islamic banks have experienced a mixed recovery across markets.

With the global Islamic banking assets with commercial banks now surpassing the $ 1.5 trillion mark and estimates projecting the industry to hit $ 2trn by 2015, the global Islamic finance industry is undoubtedly one of the fastest growing components of the global financial system. The Islamic banking industry is growing 50pc faster than overall banking sector in several core markets, according to Ernst & Young World Islamic Banking Competitiveness Report.

The report was launched last December at the 19th Annual World Islamic Banking Conference in Bahrain. Given the current market conditions and the increasing demand for Islamic finance not only in the traditional markets of Middle East and Southeast Asia, but globally, the time is now perfect for the Islamic finance industry to further leverage its inherent strengths of being linked to real economic activities and play a key role in putting in place a holistic Islamic economic ecosystem.

It is against this background that the third Annual Middle East Islamic Finance and Investment Conference (MEIFIC 2013) will be held at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Dubai on April 17. Co-located with the eighth Annual World Takaful Conference and held under the theme “Building the Islamic Economy: Strengthening Islamic Finance’s Links to the Real Economy”, MEIFIC 2013 is set to gather more than 250 regional and international Islamic finance leaders in a powerful dynamic platform.

A key highlight will be the high profile keynote debate that will focus discussions on boosting growth and the value of Islamic finance by strengthening linkages to the real economy and mainstreaming products.

The session, chaired by Thomson Reuters global head for Islamic capital markets Dr Sayd Farook, and featuring Dubai government’s economic adviser Harun Kapetanovic, Mashreq Al Islami chief executive Moinuddin Malim, ADCB Islamic Banking head of Islamic Banking Amr Al Menhali, and QIB-UK head of asset management Anouar Adham, will assess new growth opportunities for Islamic finance and will analyse how institutions can scale-up to better meet the needs of the real economy.

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nasair sponsors 6th Saudi Travel Investment Market

Saudi Gazette – 03 April, 2013 – nasair, the Saudi national carrier, sponsored the 6th Saudi Travel and Tourism Investment Market (STTIM) which was inaugurated last Sunday in Riyadh under the patronage of the Governor of Riyadh Province Prince Khalid Bin Bandar Bin Abdul Aziz and in the presence of Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, President of Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquity (SCTA), and Prince Turki bin Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, Deputy Governor of Riyadh Province.

Simultaneously, nasair sponsored the 10th Taif Rose Festival, which was inaugurated in Taif last Sunday by the Governor of Makkah Province Prince Khalid Al Faisal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud and in the presence of the Governor of Taif Fahad Bin Moammer.

Chief Executive Officer of NAS Holding Group Sulaiman bin Abdullah Al-Hamdan said: “We are thrilled to be a part of STTIM as it is a great platform to share information and exchange experiences with local and international tourism experts as well as visitors from around the region regarding our new services while promoting our core value of providing smart choices for our customers who are desiring to travel to and from Saudi Arabia.” He added “through the strategic partnership in the both events, nasair aims to promote and support the strategy of travel and tourism events in Saudi Arabia.”

On the same occasion, Chief Executive Officer of nasair Captain François Bouteiller ensured the importance of the both sponsorship to nasair as the national carrier of Saudi Arabia because the both events symbolize the travel and tourism in the Kingdom, especially that nasair considers that supporting the Saudi travel and tourism market is part of the company’s mission and responsibilities toward the community .

Moreover, nasair’s initiative to be the gold sponsor of Taif Rose Festival, represents an extension of the major plans taken by the company to increase the number of domestic and international flights to and from Taif, as well as encouraging the tourism in the city.

Turki Al Jawini, nasair Deputy Chief Commercial Officer, said: “Taif is a highly strategic destination with high travel demand which led nasair to launch earlier this year flights to new destinations such as Riyadh and Kuwait, to start with.”

STTIM is an important event organized every year by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquity (SCTA) to promote and encourage the Saudi tourism and other related services and opportunities, while the Taif Rose Festival is being organized every year to celebrate the beginning of the flower-harvest season of Taif’s flowers which become very reputable all over the world as Saudi Arabia is exporting Taif’s Roses to a lot of countries.

Therefore, the festival is aiming at boosting tourism in the significant city by offering a unique visual and olfactory experience to both Saudi nationals and expatriates.

“nasair is the perfect strategic partner for the Taif Rose Festival which is visited by people coming from all over Saudi Arabia and from many other countries. nasair covers most of the domestic routes along with many international routes and thus offers a number of travel options for the visitors”, Al Jawini added.

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Export Dubai’s expertise in Islamic finance

Khaleej Times – 03 April, 2013 – A recent Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry study has called for exporting Dubai’s expertise in Islamic financial services to untapped markets outside the GCC including Turkey, the Levant and South-east Asia where the large Muslim population provides a good base for growth, especially in light of the sector’s expected strong growth in the coming years.

The study points out that Dubai banks are potentially well-positioned to harness organic growth in these markets where Islamic products can appeal to the predominantly Muslim indigenous population. However, to compete with conventional international institutions, Dubai’s Islamic finance sector must scale and breach the critical mass required to make products feasible. For example, takaful contracts that imitate life-insurance rely on long-term Islamic bonds, which in turn rely on viable secondary markets and wide-scale adoption.

Nonetheless, Dubai and the UAE has developed a world-class banking sector and it is expected that the demand for both Islamic retail and wholesale banking products will remain strong as awareness of ethical and Shariah-compliant investment grows along with the region’s young population and rising incomes, the study says.

In terms of the product spectrum, sukuk that are debt-issuing instruments are likely to continue to experience strong growth throughout 2013 on the back of pent-up demand for yield. In the medium to longer term, as markets mature, the takaful and conventional banking segments are likely to stage a revival.

Streamlined regulations for the sector can lead to more confidence for borrowers and these will come into being over the long-term. Over time, the need for more cost-effective financing will put pressure on Islamic banks to perform better, the study says.

It predicts, according to industry sources, Islamic finance globally to reach $ 2 trillion by 2015, up from an estimated $ 1 trillion in 2010 while pointing at Dubai’s viability as an Islamic finance hub due to the emirate’s strategic positioning as a regional financial hub, with an increasing number of infrastructure projects in the region which are now being financed through Shariah-compliant arrangements.

It further points out that together, Islamic assets account for over a fifth of all banking assets in the country. The sector caters toward a growing demand for Shariah-compliant and ethically conscious market in Dubai and the UAE which is expected to grow as both the population and income of residents continue to increase.

Islamic finance products typically comprise of broad offerings such as commercial banking, sukuk (bonds), takaful (insurance) and fund management.

The study states that both the population, deemed young by global standards, and rising incomes in the region have fuelled growth of Shariah-compliant conventional banking services further in recent years. The Islamic financial services growth has come from predominantly Muslim participants who are often interested in Shariah-compliant products. Since the financial crisis, non-Muslims have participated more significantly, it says.

Also, consumers have been drawn in by several social and economic benefits to using Islamic finance products.

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Joint investment firm to boost Saudi-Sudan links

Arab News – 04 April, 2013 – The forthcoming Saudi-Sudan Business Forum will be marked by the establishment of a joint investment company. The forum is scheduled to take place in the capital for two days from April 13. The Council of Saudi Chambers (CSC) is hosting the forum. The CSC, in cooperation with the Sudanese Businessmen and Employers Federation, is making arrangements to host the event.

In addition to the participation of local businessmen, 70 representatives from the public and private sectors in Sudan will participate in the forum. Minister of Agriculture Fahd Belghonaim and Sudanese Minister of Investment Mustafa Osman Ismail will attend the opening ceremony as special guests.

Abdul Salam Mohammed Khair Khazi, director general of the Sudanese Businessmen and Employers Federation, said in a statement that the proposed company would be established in Sudan with joint capital from the two countries. It will harness Sudan’s resources in agriculture and livestock in line with the foreign economic policy of King Abdullah. Moreover, it will also explore the possibilities of marketing Saudi poultry in Sudan.

Khazi said the two parties hope to draw a road map for future economic activities between the Kingdom and Sudan, whereby investment opportunities will be identified for the mutual benefit of both countries.

The forum comes as part of the efforts to strengthen economic relations between Saudi Arabia and Sudan, CSC Secretary General Khalid Al-Otaibi said, adding that the forum was one of the recommendations issued by the Saudi-Sudanese joint committee in its last session.

“The forum aims to explore potential investment opportunities in Sudan and discuss current and expected partnerships between the business sectors in both the countries, in addition to seeking solutions to the challenges faced by some Saudi investors in Sudan,” he said.

Al-Otaibi noted that the forum represents one of the mechanisms that both parties rely on to advance trade and investment cooperation between the two countries in the coming years. He commended the efforts of the joint business council led by Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Saleh Kamel on the Saudi side in developing and consolidating these relations further.

“During the forum, investment opportunities in Sudan will be discussed in various sessions, in addition to general policies governing the sector as well as the experience of Saudi investors in Sudan. In addition, workshops, exhibitions and meetings between Saudi and Sudanese businessmen will be held alongside the sessions to further discuss available enterprises in Sudan.

The trade volume between Saudi Arabia and Sudan was estimated at SR 3.42 billion in 2011. Livestock including sheep, goat, cattle and camels constitute the Kingdom’s most important imports from Sudan, while the most important goods exported from the Kingdom to Sudan include petrochemicals, plastics and papers.

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New Dubai airport: nasair, Wizz launching service

Arab News – 04 April, 2013 – Dubai’s second airport, Dubai World Central, which is 40 km away from the city, will open its passenger terminal on Oct. 27 with two budget airlines.

Saudi Arabia’s first low-cost carrier nasair and Budapest-based Wizz Air will be the launching airlines. Dubai World Central will gradually take all passenger traffic from Dubai International, which is running out of space.

“We welcome our launch airlines Wizz Air and nasair. We look forward to announcing additional airlines and services in the months to come,” Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said yesterday.

Dubai World Central started its cargo operation on June 27, 2010 and had quickly established itself as an emerging cargo airport in the region with 36 airlines handling 219,092 ton air freight on 16,317 aircraft movements during 2012.

“A new era in Dubai’s already proud aviation story is set to begin. The introduction of passenger services from Dubai World Central is the first step in the long term development of the airport and will provide an attractive alternative to travelers,” Griffiths added.

The nasair official said that they had plans to operate over 50 flights per week between Dubai and a number of destinations in Saudi Arabia. “From October, our travelers will have the opportunity to enjoy same-day travel between Dubai World Central and all major Saudi cities due to our convenient and seamless flight timings. At the same time, we will maintain our long-standing flights from Dubai International,” said nasair CEO Captain Francois Bouteiller.

“The new services from Dubai World Central would stimulate a further increase in the number of destinations between the new airport and other destinations in nasair’s network as well as encourage leisure traffic between Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” Bouteiller added.

Wizz Air, which provides low-cost air transport across 30 countries with 16 bases across Europe, will provide nonstop services linking Dubai World Central to Central and Eastern Europe. Wizz Air has a fleet of 40 Airbus A320 aircraft operating over 1,500 weekly flights to 93 destinations.

“This is a significant milestone for us with our 10 year European success story now crossing borders far beyond Europe, sharing the benefit of efficient airline operations and low fares with many more international customers,” said Jozsef Varadi, CEO of Wizz Air.

However, major airlines, including Emirates, have not indicated any plans to move to the new facility. Sources close to the aviation industry told Arab News that some other key airlines from Asia have plans to operate from Dubai World Center and discussions are on.

Dubai World Central’s passenger terminal building was completed in 2012. Upon completion, Dubai World Central will become the world’s largest passenger and cargo hub with five parallel runways and an ultimate capacity of 160 million passengers and 12 million ton cargo per annum.

Currently, a number of airlines operate cargo flights to Frankfurt-Hahn, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Bahrain, Kandahar, Chennai, Doha, Jeddah, Lagos, N’Djamena, Riyadh, etc., from Dubai World Central.

Designed for the future, the facility proposes to handle all next-generation aircraft, including the Airbus A380 super-jumbo. Up to four aircraft will be able to land simultaneously, 24 hours a day, minimizing in-air queuing. The facility has a total of 100,000 parking slots for staff and customers.

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Tunisia More Determined Than Ever To Bring Back Tourists

2 April 2013 – Maghrebia – Tunis — Tunisian salafists on Sunday (March 31st) night torched a brand-new tourist facility in the coastal town of Hergla. The arson attack on the beach development is a ‘huge loss for the region” the project director told Jawhara FM. Hergla residents also protested the destruction of the new site.

The incident comes amidst Tunisia’s new efforts to boost its tourism sector, which dropped off after the revolution and never fully rebounded. To improve the economy and add jobs, Tunisia is now more determined than ever to bring the visitors back.

Tunisia is preparing to kick off a promotion campaign this month for the tourist season under the slogan “Live in Tunisia Freely”. The campaign invites foreign tourists to visit the post-revolution Tunisia. It also reassures them about the security situation in the country.

“The campaign will highlight the richness of the Tunisian tourist product, especially the cultural inventory, and will also draw attention to the importance of health tourism and treatment with sea water,” Tunisian National Tourism Board (ONTT) Director Habib Ammar said.

The tourism sector is one of the country’s largest employers, with 350,000 people. Its revenues cover 60% of Tunisia’s trade deficit and represent 6.5% of the country’s gross domestic product.

Political and security instability in Tunisia in the first months of this year is casting a shadow on the industry. ONTT statistics released last month show a 20% decline in foreign visitors, compared to 2010.

Sector officials attributed this decline to the spread of violence and precarious security situation in the country, including the US embassy attack on September 15th, 2012 and the assassination of opposition figure Chokri Belaid last February.

Under these circumstances, professionals stressed the need to rescue the industry by helping consolidate its position on the international level and putting an end to political and security tensions.

“All politicians and government officials must draw a clear roadmap for the future of this country and must also distance themselves from violence and conflicts in order to restore the trust of tourists and dispel their fears,” Mohamed Bouriga, owner of a travel agency in Tunis, said.

“The return of tourists and recovery of the sector will require a minimum of political and social stability and security before starting any promotion campaigns,” Roukaya Dhouib, a salesperson said.

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Tourist Arrivals in Aceh up 32% in February

Tue, April 2 2013 Banda Aceh (ANTARA News) – A total of 1,106 foreign tourists visited Aceh province in February 2013, jumping 32 percent from 832 a month earlier, a spokesman said. “The increase in the number of tourist arrivals in Aceh was among others influenced by a number of events held in that month,” head of the Aceh provincial statistics office Hermanto said here on Tuesday.

He said 726 of the 1,106 tourists came from Malaysia, making it the largest source of tourist arrivals in the province. The number of tourists from Australia was 43, France 40, Britain 38, the United States 32, Germany 31, China 30, Canada 19, Thailand 17, and Finland 13, he said.

Meanwhile, the number of tourists from other countries was 147. The tourist arrivals in February brought the number of foreigners visiting Aceh in the first two months of 2013 to 1,938, down 13 percent from the same period last year.

He said the increase in the number of tourist arrivals in Indonesia`s westernmost province would be able to have a positive impact on the economic growth.

He suggested that both the provincial and district/municipal governments in Aceh step up promotion and improve a number of sectors in order to attract more foreign tourists.

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Haram Mosque columns, calligraphy to be moved to museum

Makkah, Monday, 20 Jamad Al-Awwal 1434/01 April 2013 (IINA) – A committee has been formed to list the columns and calligraphy of the Makkah Haram Mosque prior to their delivery to the Museum of the Two Holy Mosques, said Muhsen Al-Sullami, director general of the museum.

Al-Sullami could not come up with an exact number for the engravings and columns. However, he said that the committee has been listing and enumerating the objects for three months. “The museum will be expanded in the next phase, and this will increase the number of objects shown and the number of visitors to the museum,” he said. “The museum receives around 28,000 visitors every month. Ninety percent of the visits are conducted within an approved schedule in order to help visitors, who come from various nationalities and speak different languages, explain the objects to them,” he said.

“A number of the columns show engravings in Arabic calligraphy from the Abbasid and Ottoman era,” said Professor Sa’d Al-Joudi, who teaches modern Islamic history. “The writings include the names of the companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and they are considered important milestones in the life of the prophet and his companions.” Professor Al-Joudi said that there are many valuable and priceless holdings in the library division of the museum. “There are rare manuscripts of the Holy Qur’an, in addition to many other rare manuscripts,” he said. “The collection includes a set of wooden-based columns, together with the crown, which go back to the time of Ibn Zubayr (around the year 684 CE),” he said.

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Saudi Arabia to provide $2.9 million for Palestine education

Riyadh, Tuesday, 21 Jamad Al-Awwal 1434/02 April 2013 (IINA) – The Saudi Committee for the Relief of Palestinian People and UNESCO recently concluded an agreement under which the Saudi donation of $2.9 million will support the right to education of Palestinian university students, particularly those from the most disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds and living in marginalized areas.

The project seeks to provide needy university students with access to essential course materials and equipment such as key course texts, reference books, and computer and internet facilities.

In partnership with the Health, Development, Information and Policy Institute (HDIP), a Palestinian NGO, the project will establish or support libraries that contain vital course materials for students in 12 districts in the West Bank and Gaza Strip: Tulkarem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin, Nablus, Qalqiliya, Jerusalem, Jericho, Salfit, Gaza, Khan Younis. In a message for the occasion, the Assistant Director-General for Strategic Planning, Hans d’Orville, praised Saudi Arabia’s generosity and strong commitment to UNESCO’s activities, and expressed his thanks, on behalf of the Director-General, Irina Bokova, to Prince Muhammad bin Naif, Minister of Interior and Director-General of the Saudi Committee, for his continuous and generous support to UNESCO’s activities in favor of education in Palestine.

Ziad Aldrees, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to UNESCO, expressed his thanks to the Director-General Irina Bokova for her continuous support for projects with Saudi Arabia and stressed that Saudi Arabia is proud to sign this agreement to support needy Palestinians. The cooperation between UNESCO and the Saudi Committee for the Relief of Palestinian People (an entity under the Saudi Ministry of Interior) started in 2005 when the late Crown Prince and Interior Minister Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz provided a contribution of $15 million to support higher education in Palestine.

It was the beginning of a fruitful cooperation with UNESCO, which has subsequently expanded over the years, ensuring the very positive impact of UNESCO’s efforts to assist Palestinian students and education institutions. In total, since 2005, the Saudi Committee would have provided a contribution of around $19 million including this new agreement.

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Greek mosque opens for prayer for first time in 90 years

Athens, Thursday, 23 Jamad Al-Awwal 1434/04 April 2013 (IINA) – A 111 year-old mosque in Thessaloniki, Greece, opened its doors to Muslim worshippers for the first time in 90 years on Saturday, according to Hürriyet Daily News.

Kerin Uras, Turkey’s ambassador to Greece, said that reopening the mosque is “a positive step in the right direction. We’re expecting the rest to come. I hope Athens will also be a place where Muslims can pray.” Tuğrul Biltekin, Turkey’s Thessaloniki consul general, said “I am so happy about this historical development. I hope mosques in Thessaloniki and other locations in the region will be open to Muslims during holy days.” The Mosque was constructed by Vitaliano Poselli, an Italian architect, in 1902. However, it was closed for prayer in 1923. Between 1925 to 1963 the mosque was used as an archaeology museum and was later used as the Thessaloniki Municipality’s exhibition hall.

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Islamic traditions of China showcased at Janadriyah Festival

Riyadh, Thursday, 23 Jamad Al-Awwal 1434/04 April 2013 (IINA) – Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, Minister of State and Member of the Cabinet and Commander of the National Guard yesterday opened the pavilion of China, the guest of honor at the 28th Janadriyah Heritage and Culture Festival, in the presence of Chinese Minister of Culture Cai Woo and Ambassador Li Chengwen.

Prince Miteb, accompanied by Abdul Mohsen Al-Tuwaijri, assistant deputy commander of the National Guard, watched folk dances presented by Chinese troupes. He also toured the pavilion that showcased ancient Chinese civilization, marvelous handicrafts and calligraphy, and well known Islamic dishes and sweets in addition to a map of the 7,000-km Silk Road. The pavilion highlighted the history of Islam and Muslims in China by displaying old calligraphic writings including a Qur’an copy, Qur’an printed on wood and a golden Qur’an. “I feel honored to open the Chinese pavilion that reflects the strong Saudi-Chinese relations,” Prince Miteb said.

He said the festival’s opening ceremony and the operetta have been postponed because of the death of Prince Badar Bin Abdul Aziz, former deputy commander of the National Guard. The 39th grand camel race organized by the National Guard started Wednesday marking the launch of the Festival at Janadriyah. Over 900 competitors are participating in the four-day race which carries prizes exceeding SR1 million.

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Bangladesh Folk festival to promote tourism

DHAKA, April 1, 2013 (BSS) – Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) will hold daylong “Bangladesh Folk Festival” in the capital on Friday to portray the country’s rich tradition and heritage to the local and foreign spectators to promote tourism.

This was revealed today at a press conference organized by the BTB at Jatiya Press Club here where Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BTB Akhtaruz Zaman Khan Kabir highlighted objectives and various features of the festival to be held at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC).

Bangladesh Tourism Board as the country’s National Tourism Organization (NTO),Kabir said, wants to present various exciting tourists destinations and the country’s rich heritage before the foreign nationals working in different foreign missions and international bodies in the country.

“We would like to say to the foreign nationals that we not only have exciting tourist destinations but also history, tradition, costume and culture,” he said.

After attending the festival, the BTB chief hoped that the foreign missions representatives here would convey a message to their respective countries that Bangladesh is an attractive destination for the tourists. The folk festival would offer puppet show, baul song, pitha (cake) making, bioscope, traditional dressers, handicrafts, mehendi (hena), indigenous activities and traditional foods for the visitors.

Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister M Faruk Khan will inaugurate the festival while civil aviation and tourism secretary Khurshed Alam Chowdhury will be present as the special guest.

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ADB $10m Loan to design Dhaka-Chittagong expressway

DHAKA, April 3, 2013 (BSS) – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will provide US$ 10 million to Bangladesh as loan aimed at designing a new expressway between Dhaka and Chittagong to boost trade and ease congestion in the existing highway by linking the two cities.

The Government of Bangladesh and ADB today signed an agreement in this regard. Saifuddin Ahmed, Joint Secretary of Economic Relations Division (ERD) and Stefan Ekelund, Deputy Country Director and Officer-in-Charge of ADB’s Bangladesh Resident Mission, inked the agreement on behalf of their respective sides at a ceremony at NEC-II in Sher- e-Bangla Nagar.

The expressway will be the first project in the country’s transport sector to be developed under a public- private partnership. Stefan Ekelund said once completed, the expressway will provide an immense boost to the country’s trade and industry sector.

The expressway will link the two major metropolitan cities in Bangladesh. Dhaka, located in the center of the country, is the main commercial and administrative center of the country, while Chittagong, situated in the south, is the primary seaport, accounting for 90 percent of imports and exports. About a quarter of the country’s population lives in the Dhaka-Chittagong corridor.

The new expressway will provide an alternative to the existing 250-kilometer Dhaka-Chittagong highway which like other major road networks in the country, has become congested. The country’s roads carry more than 70 percent of passengers and 60 percent of freight, and this is expected to rise 6.4 percent annually till 2015.

The Dhaka-Chittagong Expressway will also be part of the Asian Highway network of 141,000 kilometers of roads through Asia and linking Asia with Europe. The expressway will be part of government efforts to tap the private sector to finance costly infrastructure.

Under its Sixth Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), the country aims to triple investments in infrastructure from 2 percent to 6 percent of gross domestic product through private sources of funds. The design should be completed and approved by the Government in 2015.

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Bangladesh to join Setouchi Int’l Art Triennale in Japan

DHAKA, April 3, 2013 (BSS)- Cultural Affairs Minister Abul Kalam Azad today said that the government has decided to participate the ‘Setouchi International Art Triennale-2013’ in Japan for strengthening bilateral relations and focus the cultural heritage of Bangladesh.

“A 100-member Bangladesh delegation will join Setouchi International Art Triennale-2013 in Japan to be held in July,” he said while briefing journalists on the international art festival at the conference room of the ministry.

Bangladesh will participate to the Paintings, Crafts and other segments of the event, he said adding that the theme of the team is, ‘Message from the river to the Sea-Sonar Bangla to Arunavo Shadow”.

The cultural affairs minister said that Japan is a trusted friend of Bangladesh and last 40 years it has been supporting in many ways for the development of our country.

Japanese Ambassador in Dhaka Shiro Sadoshima, Cultural Secretary Suraiya Begum, Additional Secretary to the Ministry Md Shafiqul Islam, Principal Information Officer (PIO) Md Aminul Islam, First Secretary to the Japanese Embassy Takayuki Kawakami and Second Secretary Ryoji Tsuge, were present, among others, at the press conference.

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Tourist arrivals in Indonesia up 14.5 pct in February

Mon, April 1 2013 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – More than 678.4 thousand tourists visited Indonesia in February 2013, up 14.5 percent from 592.5 thousand in the same period last year, according to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS). Compared to January 2013, the number of tourist arrivals in February 2013 represented a 10.43 percent increase, BPS chief Suryamin said here on Monday.

He said the number of tourist arrivals via Adi Sucipto in Yogyakarta rose 35.45 percent, followed by Lombok international airport in Mataram 33.79 percent, Minangkabau international airport in Padang 30.40 percent, Husein Sastranegara airport in Bandung 27.04 percent, Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta 26.79 percent, Juanda airport in Surabaya 17.89 percent, Sultan Syarif Kasim II airport in Pekanbaru 12.28 percent, Soekarno Hatta international airport in Banten province 9.67 percent and Batam 4.8 percent.

“The number of tourist arrivals particularly via the nine entry points has always increased every February since 2007. This is the result of Chinese new year holidays,” he said.

Meanwhile, the number of tourist arrivals via seven other entry points fell in February 2013, with Adi Sumarmo airport in Solo recording the highest shortfall of 29.67 percent and Sepinggan airport in Balikpapan recording the lowest drop of 0.3 percent, he said. He said the room occupancy rate of star-rated hotels in 23 out of 33 Indonesian provinces in February averaged 49.18 percent, down 1.64 point compared to 50.82 percent in the same month last year.

Compared to January 2013, the room occupancy rate in February 2013 rose 2.67 percent, he said. Most of tourist arrivals in February came from Malaysia, Singapore, China, Australia and Japan.

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Muslim Fashion Expo held in Jakarta

April 1 2013 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Muslim wear and accessory exhibition dubbed “Muslim Fashion Expo 2013” will be organized in SME Tower, here, April 3 to 7 and targets Rp5 billion in transactions. The Cooperatives and Small-and-Medium Scale Enterprise (SME) Ministry will facilitate the fifth Muslim wear fashion expo, Neddy Rafinaldi Halim, the deputy minister in charge of marketing and business networking, said here on Monday.

The expo is expected to attract at least 8,000 visitors. Last year, the Muslim wear fashion event recorded Rp7.6 billion in sale transactions, exceeding the target of Rp5 billion.

This year, despite the Rp5 billion-target, the deputy minister hoped that the transactions during the five-day expo would reach around Rp8 billion. Muslim dresses and accessories produced by around 150 cooperatives and small and medium scale industries will be offered during the expo.

Indonesias Muslim wear is more competitive and attractive than similar products made in other countries, he said. "Muslim fashion in Indonesia has its own specific characteristics that other countries dont have,” he added.

The expo will display and offer Muslim dresses, embroideries, batik and woven clothes, as well as accessories such as necklaces, bracelets, rings, and brooches. The expo will also be highlighted with fashion shows, musical performances, and beauty class from Wardah Cosmetics.

Fashion is Indonesias creative economic product that has shown a growing trend. According to data of the Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS), the countrys fashion product exports surged 12.4 percent with the United States, Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany and Australia as the main destinations.

During January-November 2012, the value of the fashion product exports reached US$12.79 billion, an increase of 0.5 percent from that in the same period last year. The fashion industrial sector has created 3.8 million jobs in 2012, and its contribution to the nation`s cross domestic product rose Rp128 trillion to Rp164 trillion, or up 28.13 percent during the 2010-2012 period.

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UK film festival celebrates Arab female filmmakers

Ahram Online, Wednesday 3 Apr 2013 – Hailed as an advocate for women filmmakers from across the globe, the annual Birds Eye View Film Festival will this year spotlight female Arab directors. The festival will take place from 3-10 April in cultural venues across London.

A diverse line-up made up of short films, documentary, and features produced by female filmmakers from across the Arab world. A programme of events, music performances and Q&As with directors will be held in parallel to the film screenings.

Palestinian film ‘Lamma Shoftak’ (When I Saw You) by Annemarie Jacir will be screened on Wednesday, the opening night, followed by a Q&A session with the director. Set in 1967 Jordan, the film tells the story of a free-spirited boy named Tarek, who escapes a Palestinian refugee camp and joins a group of freedom fighters.

A film by Egyptian director Hala Lotfy, who was awarded the prize for best director at the Abu Dhabi film festival, will make its UK debut on 6 April. ‘Coming Forth By Day,’ which was screened at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year, is a haunting tale of a single woman in her thirties nursing her ill father, faced with the temptation to escape to a life of her own.

Another Egyptian film, ‘In the Shadow of a Man’ by Hanan Abdalla, named best documentary director at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival, will be screened on 5 April, followed by a Q&A with the director. This film zooms in on the lives and struggles of four Egyptian women in the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution.

Other films scheduled to be screened during this Arab women filmmakers saga include ‘El-Gusto,’ directed by the Algerian Safinez Bousbia, ‘Habibi Rasak Kharban’ (Darling Something’s Wrong With Your Head), a story of forbidden love set in Gaza, directed by Susan Youssef, one of the Arab world’s foremost contemporary directors, among others.

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Christie’s London announces Islamic Art Week auction

Ahram Online, Tuesday 2 Apr 2013 – Dubbed “Islamic Splendors,” Christie’s of London will feature five sales from 22 – 26 April with a few hundred lots of Islamic and Indian art pieces. The sale will include exquisite craftsmanship, works of art on paper dating back to the 9th century, Oriental rugs and carpets, among dozens of other lots.

22 April will witness the sale of the first part of the Saeed Motamed collection, which consists of over 600 art pieces. The second part of this collection will go on sale on 7 October.

“Saeed Motamed (1925-2013) started collecting art in 1953 and continued to do so until the late 1980s and early 1990s. The collection displays the depth and breadth of his knowledge of the artistic traditions of Iran, and the rest of the Islamic World,” states Christie’s official press release.

Comprising of over 200 lots Christie’s will present a collection of Oriental rugs and carpets on 23 April. The sale is generated from a number of private collectors, including items from Geroge F. Farrow (1916-2001), one of the world’s leading collectors of fine silk carpets.

A private collection donated to benefit the University of Oxford will take place on 25 April. The proceeds of the collection, which consists of 56 lots, will be used to “support curatorship at the Bodleian Libraries as well as a post in Sasanian Studies.”

Christie’s sale of Art of the Islamic & Indian Worlds on 25 April will focus on the craftsmanship of works of art produced between the 9th and early 20th centuries. The collection will include over 200 lots of items from arts from India, the Ottoman era, as well as a number of highlights Egypt’s 10th century Fatimid era.

The last day of the Islamic Art Week will present art works from property from the Bequest of Adrienne Minassian, to benefit Brown University in the Arts of Islam. Several lots from this collection portraying interiors will also be presented during Christie’s sale in New York on 18 and 19 June.

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World Islamic Tourism Mart, UFTAA Congress to be held in Kuala Lumpur

The World Islamic Tourism Mart (WITM) and Malaysia International Tourism Exchange (WITM-MITE( 2013 jointly organised by MATTA and My Events Sdn Bhd, with the support of the Ministry of Tourism, Tourism Malaysia, MyCeB and Islamic Tourism Centre, just to name a few, will be held at the Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur from 6-9 June 2013.

WITM-MITE 2013 comprises of:

i) B2B Travel Exchange for Buyers and Sellers to network and expand their market potential. Date: 6-7 June 2013, Venue: Tun Razak Halls 4 & 3, PWTC

ii) Consumer Travel Fair Date: 8-9 June 2013, Venue: Tun Razak Halls 4 & 3, PWTC

iii) Conference, Date: 6-7 June 2013Venue: Tun Hussein Onn & Tun Dr. Ismail Halls, PWTC

MATTA is encouraging MATTA 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. A number of countries will be showcasing their products and services under their respective country pavilions.

To sign up, please download the attached forms or call Ms Shaidah at 03- 9222 1155 or email to shaidah@matta.org.my or visit our website at witm-mite2013.com.

SELLER REGISTRATION FORM  http://www.witm-mite2013.com/Hall.aspx

BUYER REGISTRATION FORM  http://www.witm-mite2013.com/VisitorRegistration.aspx

CONFERENCE REGISTRATION FORM  http://www.callmercury.com/cmu/users/00000553/WITM-MITE-2013-1-April-2013/Conference-WITM-MITE-2013.pdf

UFTAA congress to be held in Kuala Lumpur

The UFTAA Congress is to be held between 17 – 21 April 2013 at the Hotel Istana, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. To be held under the theme ‘remodelling the Travel & Tourism e-Now!’, the four-day event which will comprise of a one-and-a-half day Global Travel & Tourism Conference, a half-day UFTAA General Assembly and a one-day Excursion Tour to the State of Selangor.

MATTA (Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents http://www.matta.org.my) has been given the honor by UFTAA to host this auspicious event to showcase Malaysia to the key players in the Travel and Tourism Industry from different parts of the world. The international forum organized in conjunction with the UFTAA Congress is aimed at addressing the current challenges faced by the global travel and tourism industry players.

Tourism is a two-way traffic, and the Conference will provide a platform for the travel trade players to network and develop strategies to bring the world closer through travel and tourism. There will be great speakers on board for this Conference, so start booking NOW. Registration form and information on the event is available at www.uftaacongress.matta.org.my or get in touch with the MATTA Secretariat.


Contact Persons: Ms. Subashini & Ms. Maziah

Tel: (603) 9222 1155

Fax: (603) 9222 1835

E-mail: uftaacongress2013@matta.org.my

Website: www.uftaacongress.matta.org.my

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Borneo Jazz 2013 All Set for 10-11 May

KUCHING, Monday – Sarawak Tourism Board has announced the full line-up for the 8th edition of Borneo Jazz that is set to take place at Parkcity Everly Hotel in Miri, Sarawak from 10-11 May this year. This year’s festival will be the most diverse in term of musical genres that would cater to all types of jazz fans.

Dubbed to be among the prestigious Jazz Festival in Malaysia and set to draw bigger number of festivalgoers this year, the festival will see for the first time, the energetic spicy groovy funk group from Germany, Mo’Blow who are described by Berliner Zeitung as “one of the hottest live bands”. The other international act confirmed is Hazmat Modine from the East-Coast of USA. Their song “Bahamut” will be used on the Fox television show “So You Think You Can Dance?.

The other international acts confirmed for the Borneo Jazz this year include, the energetic and toe-tapping music by Jump4Joy from Sweden that is popular energy entertainment group with a strong New Orleans flavor. A capella jazz group from Canada, The Nylons well known for their slick performance and most heralded vocal groups in the world with seven gold and platinum records. Represented by members from Singapore, Hong Kong, Philippines and Thailand, The Asian Jazz All Stars Power Quarter is the big names of the Asian jazz circle, which consists of the most innovative and exciting drummers to emerge in the Asian jazz scene. Scott Martin Latin Soul Band from West-Coast of USA has performed all over the world with many artists but best known for his successful tenure winning a Grammy. Last but not least, the ethno jazz musician and artist from Australia, Lisa Young Quartet the winner of “Best Australian Jazz Vocal Album 2007” and was re-nominated in 2012.

As the Borneo Jazz name suggest, the organizer wish that the Borneo element to be presented by the local talent on this international platform. Deserved to be on stage will be the West Jazz Band from Sarawak who will play the fusion jazz and everything from Swing to Latin to electrifying funk jazz music.

Sarawak Tourism Board will also continue with its internship and volunteer programme, which was first initiated in 2011. “In this program we will provide a unique learning experience for international volunteers and interns whilst at the same time being exposed to the product experiences of Sarawak’s culture, nature and adventure on the island of Borneo” says Dato’ Rashid Khan, Chief Executive Office of Sarawak Tourism Board.

The Board will also collaborate with the academia as part of an industry advisory platform in enhancing the quality of graduates that is relevant to the need of the industry and to undertake this initiative as part of the Corporate Social Responsibility program. The aim is to have majority of the students participating in this program from outside Sarawak. This is another step towards bringing the festival to the international stage. STB will also invite school bands to perform at the venue to expose them to such an international event.

The Board is also collaborating with the private sector to design packages to attract visitors not only from neighbouring Brunei and Singapore but also from the region and overseas. With these travel packages, visitors would be able to attend the festival and at the same time they can travel to various places of interest within Miri and its surrounding.

Apart from the main shows on 10-11 May, the event will consist of Previews on the 7 & 8 May in Kuala Lumpur. There will also be fringe events comprising of Craft Bazaar that offered to local craftsmen and artisans as a venue to display the local handicrafts and arts for sale.

Since the past few editions of Borneo Jazz, the Board has sought to lessen the carbon footprint of the festival by following green initiatives during the festival. This year, the Board will continue organizing a tree planting ceremony that will be held at Curtin University Sarawak campus in Miri.

Borneo Jazz has grown steadily since its first edition in 2005, going from 3,000 spectators eight years ago to over 8,000 last year. This growth is a reflection of the successful plan and promotion by the Board over these years. In a whole, it is also a sign of growing appeal of jazz enthusiast around the region.

Organiser is expecting an influx of 9,000 fans from both local and international for this year’s two-days festival. This will thus augur well for the local business community and also contribute to a significant number of visitor’s arrivals into Sarawak as a whole. The festival will also have stalls selling a wide variety of local and fusion food and beverages as well as stalls selling festival memorabilia at the venue.

Tickets for the main shows are priced at RM63 for adults and RM33 for children aged 3-12 and RM103 for a 2-day pass for adults and RM53 for children. All tickets available on Internet purchase only at www.jazzborneo.com or www.ticketcharge.com.my. For enquiries, contact STB Leisure & Property at leisure@sarawaktourism.com (email) or +6 082-239171 (office hours only, 8:00AM – 5:00PM)

Borneo Jazz 2013 is organized by Sarawak Tourism Board, supported by the Ministry of Tourism Malaysia and Ministry of Tourism Sarawak and endorsed by Tourism Malaysia.

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Morocco takes part in Lisbon Travel Fair

Fez, April 8, 2013 – Morocco takes part in “Mundo Abreu” Travel Fair which opened on Saturday in Lisbon, Portugal with the participation of over 260 exhibitors representing more than 85 countries and promising to cater to everyone’s vacation tastes. On a stand of 100 m2 constructed by the Moroccan National Office of Tourism (ONMT), visitors can find the necessary information on the richness and diversity of tourist potentialities of the different regions of the Kingdom. Read more:

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Tunisia: Tunisair doubles its flights to Manchester

Monday, 08 April 2013 Africa manager — National flag carrier Tunisair continues to position itself on the British market. It will double its flights to Manchester from Tunis. The flights will now be operated on Wednesdays (in Airbus A.320 with departure at 16:10 and returns at 20:15) and Saturdays (in Airbus A.319 with departure at 16:10 and returns at 20:15). In addition, Tunisair will now operate two weekly flights from Sfax to Benghazi, Libya (TU 1346/1347, departure at 6:50 am and return at 11:05 Tuesdays and Thursdays) and three to Tripoli (TU 1340 and TU 1341 Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays), operated by a Boeing 737.

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Indonesia main source of growth in Asia: Mari

Beijing April 8 2013 (ANTARA News) – Indonesia could serve as a main source of positive economic growth in Asia during the crisis or during the global economic slow-down, Tourism and Creative Economy Mari Elka Pangestu said.

“Indonesia, with its average economic growth of six percent, is relatively strong against economic crisis. It serves as one of the economic growth centers in Asia,” Mari said in the Boao Forum for Asia in Boao, Hainan, China.

She told ANTARA on Sunday night that Asia now contributed 50 percent to the world economic growth. “And as a country which is relatively strong against crisis, Indonesia is one of the important economic growth sources in Asia.”

“The problem is how Indonesia can maintain its positive economic growth amid world economic weakening and uncertain conditions,” the Indonesian minister said. She said that Indonesia should focus its investment on the education and health sectors.

“This is important for improving Indonesia’s human resources quality. Indonesia should have creative and innovative human resources to maintain its positive economic growth and to serve as a main source of regional economic strength,” she said.

Besides, Indonesia should also be able to master technology and develop its adequate infrastructure to maintain the positive growth of its economy and its position as a source of regional economic growth.

Asia recorded an average economic growth at 5.8 percent in 2012, slightly declining from its economic growth in 2011 which stood at 5.9 percent. The Asian economic growth now is supported by the economic growth in East Asian and the Pacific countries, as well as in ASEAN region like Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

During the Boao Forum, Mari also met with International Monetary Fund Chairperson Christine Lagarde to discuss world economic development and her nomination as director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“We talked about the world economic development and I also introduced myself as a candidate for the WTO chairmanship,” Mari said. Mari is one of the women’s candidate for the WTO leadership. “Besides paying a courtesy call, I also asked for suggestions and learned from Christine, a woman who is leading the global financial organization,” she said.

In the Boao Forum for Asia 2013, Mari also promoted her nomination for the WTO director general post. Besides meeting with the IMF leader, Mari also held a meeting with G20 representative for Russia Sherpa, US Under Secretary Robert Hormats and the foreign ministers of Australia and Zambia.

“They appreciated my nomination as the WTO director general. Most of them already knew my track records,” Mari said.

Nine candidates are bidding to replace Pascal Lamy, the current director general, whose term expires on August 31. The new WTO leader is due to be chosen by the end of May. A decision on the next director general is due by May 31, 2013 and the new director general will take office on September 1, 2013.

Apart from Mari Elka Pangestu, there are eight other candidates for the WTO director general post. They are Tim Groser, New Zealand’s Minister of Trade; Anabel Gonzalez, the Minister of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica; Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s former WTO Ambassador; Alan Kyerematen, a former Minister of Trade and Industry from Ghana; Roberto Carvalho de Azevedo, Brazil’s current ambassador to the WTO; Herminio Blanco, Mexico’s former Minister of Trade and Industry who was his country’s chief negotiator for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); South Korea’s Trade Minister, Taeho Bark; and Ahmad Thougan Hindawi, a former Industry and Trade Minister of Jordan.(*)

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Taoyuan Int’l Airport has first Muslim friendly restaurant

Taipei, April 8 2013, (ANTARA News/CNA) The first halal restaurant at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport has opened for business to provide better service to passengers using the nation’s major gateway, according to the airport’s state-run operator. The restaurant at Terminal One serves Thai and Indian food prepared in accordance with the shari’a, the code of law based on the Koran, said Taoyuan International Airport Corporation.

It has been certified to be Muslim friendly by Taiwan’s Chinese Muslim Association (CMA), becoming the 15th restaurant in Taiwan to receive the certification, said the corporation. In order to be certified, a restaurant has to meet strict conditions in the selection of foodstuff, cooking and table serving as well as having a dedicated kitchen and tableware.

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Istanbul to host 2nd Conference on Mediation

4/6/2013 turkishpress.com – The Second Istanbul Conference on Mediation under the auspices of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will be held on April 11-12, 2013. The first conference under the theme of “Enhancing Peace Through Mediation” took part in Istanbul on February 24-25, 2012.

This year’s motto is “Keys to Effective Mediation” and the conference will focus on the efforts to find peaceful solution to conflict zones. The processes in the Middle East, Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria, also the efforts for peaceful solutions in Sudan and the Philippines will be evaluated in five different panel discussions.

In the final session of the conference, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Finland’s Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja and the president of the United Nations General Assembly Vuk Jeremic will deliver speeches.

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Turkish air transport figures projected to hit record in 2013

4/6/2013 turkishpress.com – Turkish Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim said that aviation transportation in Turkey would reach a record high level in 2013. The number of air passengers, which had been 36 million in 2002, reached 131 million in the end of 2012, Yildirim told AA on Saturday.

A total of 22.7 million people travelled via airway in the first quarter of 2012, and this figure rose 17.1 percent to 26.7 million in the first quarter of 2013, he said. Noting that air traffic also rose, Yildirim said that the number of planes at airports increased 7.7 percent to 294,058 in the first quarter of 2013 when compared to the first quarter of 2012.

Earlier in the day, General Directorate of State Airports Authority (DHMI) stated that the number of planes which landed in and took off airports in Turkey increased 7.5 percent to 51,309 in domestic lines, and increased 10.7 percent to 33,237 in international lines in March 2013 when compared to March 2012.

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Pakistani Senate Chairman bids to promote trade, tourism with Thailand

ISLAMABAD Apr 05 (APP): Chairman Senate Nayyer Hussain Bokhari has emphasized to bolster trade and tourism and people to people contact to strengthen existing bilateral ties. Talking to Thai ambassador Marwin T Attanawin, the Chairman said, Pakistan gives great importance to its relations with Thailand and wants to further promoting parliamentary as well as people to people contacts, trade and economic ties, tourism and culturalrelations. The Thai ambassador called on the Chairman Senate at Parliament house on Friday.

He reiterated that Thailand is an important East Asian country and Pakistan has high regards for Thai leadership. The upcoming visit of a delegation of Thai Parliament will prove fruitful and provide an opportunity to witness ongoing electoral process in Pakistan.

The Chairman told the Ambassador that the delegation will have an opportunity not only to have interaction with Senators and Speaker National Assembly Fehmida Mirza and other important people as well as will be able to visit Taxila city which is center of Gandhara civilization and Budhist relics and other historical places in Pakistan.

Thai ambassador expressed gratitude for the invitation to Thai Chairman Senate and his delegation that is likely to visit Pakistan by the end of this month. This visit will further cement bilateral ties.

He told the Chairman that last year Thai Princess visited Pakistan and at the beginning of this year our Deputy Prime minister also visited Pakistan and this shows constantly increasing engagements between the two countries at various levels.

The Chairman said large number of Pakistani tourists visits Thailand but very few Thai people come to Pakistan. He told the Ambassador that religious tourism can be of much interest to Thai people as Pakistan has lots of Budhists relics and sites to visit. They can also visit our Northern Areas for mountaineering.

Thai ambassador said that his people were very much interested to visit Budhists sites in Pakistan and this tourist and cultural exchange and people to people contacts can be taken up through diplomatic channels which both sides will definitely support.

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Beijing to host Kazakh Film Week

BEIJING-BOAO. April 4. KAZINFORM- Beijing is expected to host the Kazakh Film Week from 17 to 22 April. This initiative is to promote the modern Kazakh cinematography among Chinese filmgoers, as Kazakh Ambassador to China Nurlan Yermekbayev told Xinhua agency.

“I would like to praise the cultural and humanitarian cooperation between our countries. In line with the agreements reached in June 2012 between the heads of the states, the preparations for the Days of Kazakhstani Culture in China set to take place in November 2013 are in full swing. The Days of Chinese Culture in Kazakhstan are believed to be held in 2014,” he informed.

According to our diplomat, Kazakhstan and China interact within the framework of the international cultural organizations, for instance, UNESCO.

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World Turkic Forum held in Istanbul

ISTANBUL. April 6. KAZINFORM – From 3 to April 5 this year in Istanbul there was II World Turkic Forum titled “Turkic Diaspora and the Turkic world”, organized by “TASAM” Center for Strategic Studies of Turkey. The forum was attended by Minister of State Administration of Kosovo M.Yagdzhilar, Secretary General of the Turkic Council H.Akyndzhy, Secretary General of TURKSOY D.Kaseinov, Secretary General of TurkPA R.Hasanov, governor of the province of Eskisehir K.Kochdemir, governor of the province of Edirne H.Duruer and and large public and political figures, representatives of culture, academia of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, and several European countries.

Kazakhstan was well represented at the Forum, which was attended by Senators of the Parliament of Kazakhstan G. Esim and S.Ensegenov, Majilis deputy K.Burhanov, Kazakh Ambassador to Turkey Zh.Tuymebaev, Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to UNESCO O.Suleimenov, a poet, academic figures and the Kazakh diaspora.

In his opening remarks the Chairman of the Center for Strategic Studies “TASAM” Sensoy Suleiman stressed the importance of integration of the Turkic states in political, economic and cultural spheres.

In his opening speech, Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Turkey Zh.Tuymebaev stressed that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev is the author of a number of initiatives to Turkic integration, including the Turkic Council, the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic-speaking countries (TurkPA), Turkic Academy and the Council of Elders. In particular, in 2006, the Head of State expressed the idea of TurkPA to form a mechanism of inter-parliamentary relations between the Turkic countries. At hte same time Zh.Tuymebaev said about activities of the Turkic Academy, whose headquarters are located in the capital of Kazakhstan Astana.

Senators Esim, Ensegenov and Majilis deputy Burhanov in their speeches highlighted the main provisions of the Message of President Nursultan Nazarbayev “Kazakhstan-2050 ” Strategy: a new policy of the established state” in the prism of Turkic integration. They focused on the common roots of the Turkic languages, and noted the importance of uniform alphabets of Turkic countries.

Within the framework of the event there were plenary and breakout sessions on “Vision of the Turkic world and Turkic Council”, “Turkic Diaspora” and “Perspectives of the Turkic states in the 30-year anniversary of independence” with the participation of prominent public and political figures of the Turkic states. At one of the meetings the honoured guest O.Suleimenov emphasized the importance of deep knowledge of the history of the Turkic peoples, as well as informed about the ongoing work within the framework of UNESCO for its unification.

Speeches of the Kazakh participants met positive reaction on the Turkish side, which has shown keen interest in the achievements of Kazakhstan and foreign policy initiatives of President Nursultan Nazarbayev on the approximation of Turkic states.

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‘West Europe-West China’ Link revives the Silk Road – Kazakh President

ASTANA. April 7. KAZINFORM Today Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has attended the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference in Hainan, Kazinform refers to the press service of Akorda. The event brought together ten heads of states, heads of governments, international organizations’ leaders, representatives of business, scientific and public circles of foreign countries. Total participation in the event, which is one of the largest communication platforms of the world, is about 1,800 delegates, while the total number of participants exceeded three thousand.

In his speech, President Nursultan Nazarbayev said that the increasing relevance of the Forum was enhanced by the special value, which the Asian continent has acquired today.

“First, production potential had been focused here. Then the center of economic activity, which sets the tone for the world markets, has been moved there. I am convinced that the next step will be the establishment of Asia as a key source of ideas and models of development. It will form the international agenda, not only in economics but also in many other areas. Building trust among Asian countries is the key to meaningful progress in addressing global challenges,” the Kazakh President said.

The President noted that the country was open to investment in the downstream processing of oil and gas resources, fertilizer production, logistics, and other industries.

“The modern transport infrastructure is being created. Creating the main transport corridor called “Western Europe – Western China” we are reviving the “Silk Road”. It will be launched in 2015. The capital of Kazakhstan, Astana, has been chosen the venue of the “EXPO-2017” International Expo under the theme “Energy for the future.” A new policy “Kazakhstan-2050″ has been initiated. This long-term strategy aims at innovative economic and social principles at the heart of the state and society. We intend to cooperate with all countries,” the President of Kazakhstan noted.

Nursultan Nazarbayev said that the sixth Astana Economic Forum would be held in Astana in a month. The World Anti-Crisis Conference under the support of the UN will also take place there.

“I am confident that the results of the twelfth session of the Boao Forum will help to decision-making in this conference. They will form the basis for long-term solutions for the security, stability and prosperity of our region and the world,” the President said.

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Foundation Stone Lai for Innovation Complex Muscat

Muscat, Apr 7 (ONA)—-The Research Council (TRC) celebrated at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) Staff Club the laying the foundation stone for the Innovation Complex Muscat Project, under the patronage of Sayyid Shihab bin Tariq al-Said, Adviser to the Sultan, Chairman of TRC.

Sayyid Shihab bin Tariq al-Said, said that on the directives of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said The Research Council, since its inception, has been firmly backing up innovation and the development of the skills of researchers through the creation of research institutions, such as Innovation Complex Muscat.

He added that the most important thing we have before talking about the cost spent on scientific research is to prepare qualified human resources to begin working in this complex and live up to the types and areas of research, interact with regional and global institutions and thus Oman puts a mark in the world of innovation and research.

He also said that we’re laying the foundation stone for the construction of Innovation Complex Muscat which will be a pioneering and key step in this area and we will start the actual work in the complex and we are going to attract cadres from various higher education establishments, universities and centres. The Advisor made an inspection tour of the project’s site.

Meanwhile, Abdul Baqi bin Ali al-Khabouri, Director of Scientific Precincts at the TRC gave an audio presentation on the project.

The project is located in the Wilayat of A’Seeb near the SQU campus on land of 280,000 squre meter and the constructions will take ten years, in three stages, to finish. It is expected that the first stage will be ready in the first half of 2015. The project will provide many employment opportunities for Omani youth ranging from (2000) and 3000) jobs after the completion of all facilities and the official inauguration.

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Doha Theater Festival Inaugurated

Doha, April 07 (QNA) – The Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage Dr. Hamad bin Abdul Aziz Al Kuwari inaugurated Sunday the Doha Theater Festival, at the Doha National Theater. The six-day festival will stage 11 plays throughout, in addition to panel discussions that will be given at the Qatar National Theater and Katara.

The Minister told reporters today that 2013 will be theater year, as Doha will host a number of plays and theater festivals such as the Arab theater festival, adding that the Culture Ministry had promised, ever since Doha was selected the capital of culture in 2010, that the city would keep that title every year.

He also praised the theatrical movement in Qatar; in the past two years Qatar established a number of theaters such as the ones in Katara, Souq Wakif and Al Rayyan theater among others. Before that Qatar National Theater was the only stage in city, said HE the Minister noting that The state plans to build two new theaters.

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