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1 Apr, 2013

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre Honours Four Tour Companies

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 01 April 2013 (20 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: http://corporate.tourism.gov.my/mediacentre.asp?page=news_desk&news_id=794

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


Please click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.


Kazakhstan economy reduces dependence on US$

28.03.2013 Kazinform – For the first time in the history of Kazakhstan the dollarization of the national economy is on its lowest level. The National Bank has reported that the level of deposits in tenge exceeded 70%.

Grigory Marchenko, Chairman, National Bank Of Kazakhstan: – “Talking about figures in a long run, we can see that at present the level of dollarization of the national economy is the lowest in its whole history. The share of the tenge deposits is estimated at 70.7%. The amount of purchase of the foreign currency in exchange points dropped a lot.”

Experts noted that positive events at the Kazakhstan banking sector are formed amid problems in three economic centers of the world such as the USA, the EU, and Japan. The chairman of the National Bank of Kazakhstan suggested that the volatility at markets will decrease in September, after elections in Germany.

Said Mr Marchenko: – “Currently, we are witnessing the volatility at the market and we have to work in an uncertain situation. However, despite these problems prices for raw material remain quite high. Although prices for oil, metals, and grains are decreasing, they were quite high in 2011, 2012, and the first months of 2013. This situation promotes the growth of the Kazakh economy.”

Moreover, the chairman of the National Bank noted that Kazakhstan financiers continue lending to the economy but terms of allocating of loans remain strict, banks are carefully checking the financial state of affairs of a borrower and their credit history.

He added: “Last year deposits of the population have grown by 23%. At present the interest rates are the lowest for the whole history of independent Kazakhstan. At the end of 2012 the interest rate for corporate clients was 10.3% and the interest rate for loans in foreign currency was 8.7%. In January the interest rate for loans in foreign currency dropped to 8.4%. In Kazakhstan interest rates are lower than in Russian by 150-200 points of reference.”

In the near future the National Bank of Kazakhstan will continue reforming approaches to constant mechanisms of providing or withdrawal of liquidity, as well as transactions at the opened market. This work stipulates the introduction of new instruments of the monetary policy and improvement of existing ones. Experts are sure that this activity will result in the decrease of the importance of the currency channel at the banking sector. Moreover, new mechanism of the regulator will promote the decrease in dollarization of the economy.

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Iranian researchers develop successful drug therapy for brain tumors

TEHRAN, March 30 (MNA) – Pharmaceutical researchers in Universities of Tehran and Zanjan, using nano Jell technology, have successfully managed to optimize the drug therapy of brain tumors, thereby improving drug penetration methotrexate into central nervous system (CNS).

The research also aims to design a new drug formulation based on nano jell technology for anti-cancer drug, methotrexate, to allow for targeted drug delivery with lower doses and therefore more effectiveness and fewer side effects to the brain.

Dr. Amir Azadi, PhD student of specialized pharmaceutics, in School of Pharmacy, Tehran University of Medical Sciences in this regard said: “the overall objective of this study was to optimize the drug therapy for brain tumors, thereby improving penetration of methotrexate drug into the central nervous system. Towards this goal, we researched the properties of hydro-gel and nanoparticles and usefulness of nanomaterials to accomplish our findings.”

The results of the research by Dr. Amir Azadi and his colleagues from Universities of Tehran and Zanjan have been published in Journal of Polymers and Carbohydrate (Volume 90, No. 1, September 1, 2012).

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Palestine, Jordan King Sign Agreement To Defend Jerusalem and Holy Sites

AMMAN, March 31, 2013 (WAFA) – President Mahmoud Abbas and the king of Jordan, Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, Sunday signed an agreement on the defense of Jerusalem and the holy sites. Abbas arrived in Jordan on Sunday to meet with King Abdullah to hold a session of talks regarding the latest developments.

Minister of Waqf and Religious Affairs Mahmoud Habbash, who also attended the signing of the agreement, told WAFA that this agreement is for the coordination and corporation in the protection and care of al-Aqsa mosque and all the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.

He said that this agreement stresses the historical Jordanian role in protecting the holy sites in Jerusalem as well as stresses the Palestinian sovereignty of the Palestinian Territory, including east Jerusalem, the capital of the state of Palestine.

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Istanbul plans strong bid to host 2020 Summer Olympics

Chairman of the Istanbul 2020 Bid Committee, Hasan Arat on Sunday said that their first day with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission in Istanbul was “very fruitful”. Istanbul is a candidate to host the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics.

Speaking at a press conference, Hasan Arat underlined that they shared their visions on the olympic games with the IOC Evaluation Commission in a meeting which was also attended by Turkish President Abdullah Gul. “Our first day with the IOC Evaluation Commission was very fruitful. This morning we shared our vision concerning the olympic games. By visiting the facilities in the afternoon, we showed that we have a strong and assertive plan. Turkish Minister of Youth and Sports, Istanbul Governor, Istanbul Mayor and representatives of some of Turkey’s biggest corporations attended the meeting. The inauguration of the meeting was conducted by Turkish President Abdullah Gul. President Gul emphasized that both Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan and he were behind the olympics. President Gul assured the IOC Evaluation Commission that all the promises made would be fulfilled,” Arat indicated.

“Turkey was a candidate to host the olympics four times in the past as a developing country. This time though Turkey applied to host the olympic games as a developed country,” Arat noted. “We are ready to host the 2020 olympics and paralympics with technical excellence,” Arat said.

Hasan Arat pointed out that Istanbul’s slogan for its candidacy would be announced by Turkish Minister of Youth and Sports Suat Kilic on Monday.

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The First Egyptian to Climb Mt Everest

Gehad Hussein meets the first Egyptian to climb Mount Everest, someone who really knows what it’s like to be on top of the world

AlAhram Online – Flashback: 17 May 2007, 09:49am. Location: 8,848 metres above sea-level on the peak of Mount Everest. Subject: former asthmatic and the first Egyptian and the youngest Arab ever to be there. His biggest wish: to get back down.

With only 3,000 successful attempts to climb Mount Everest out of the 11,000 made annually, Everest is one of the hardest mountains in the world to climb. The lack of oxygen, the sudden storms and the instant avalanches have caused over 220 deaths since 1922. Accepting these challenges and still being determined to climb Mount Everest is a brave gesture, as well as being a somewhat extreme one, especially when one comes from a country like Egypt.

Climbing is not really considered to be a professional sport in Egypt. People attempt to climb mountains in Sinai all the time, but there are close to zero safety measures and there is no real school or institute to teach the basic techniques of safe climbing.

In the early 1900s, tourists used to attempt to climb the Great Pyramids at Giza with no equipment or precautions, but after several accidents and fatalities, such actions were prohibited. So how does someone from a “non-climbing” environment become the youngest-ever Arab on Mount Everest?

The story started 12 years ago, when the Egyptian in question, Omar Samra, was 16 years old and had already decided he would one day reach the top of Mount Everest. This was quite an unusual goal for someone who had been asthmatic at the age of 11 and had absolutely no connection even to rock-climbing, let alone mountain-climbing. But 12 years later, Samra nevertheless stood on the mountain top waving the Egyptian flag.

Samra was diagnosed with asthma when he was young, and his doctor suggested he do a lot of sport in order to try to get rid of it. Starting the next morning, Samra went out jogging, determined to beat the affliction. Two months later he was cured. After that, the mountain came into the picture.

“When I climbed my first mountain in Switzerland 18 years ago during a camp, I felt as if I had been there before. Everything seemed so familiar, and at the same time it seemed to be on another planet. That is when I knew what I wanted to do,” Samra said, who is today aged 34.

At the time, no one took him seriously. People only started to worry about his slightly surreal ambition five to six years later after he had graduated from the Faculty of Economics at the American University in Cairo and had started working. “Why on earth is he still thinking about that stupid mountain,” they would ask.

That stupid mountain became an even bigger issue when Samra quit his first banking job in London and Hong Kong after two and a half years and decided to travel the world. From then on, his life took to the fast adventure lane and Everest was his first destination.

“My dad was not thrilled at all, and in the end he told me that he did not approve of what I was doing and that time would show that I was on the wrong track. But I believe in the transformative power of travel if it is done in the right way, and this is what made me quit my career in banking in order to focus on adventure trips and mountain climbing,” Samra said.

He succeeded. For 65 days, he put himself to the test and then harvested what he had prepared for over the past 12 years. But when he finally reached the peak of Everest, it struck him: now he had to climb back down.

After reaching the bottom, Samra descended into a void. What was he to do now? The dream he had been chasing for almost half his life was now fulfilled, and he was left with no more ambitions to look forward to. It seemed as if the picture of Mount Everest that had hung in all his rooms across different countries since he was a boy had now faded away and become just another entry in the family photo album. That was just too boring.

The next step was to open a travel agency that offered adventure trips, probably one of the first of its kind in Egypt, and to teach people in the region how to climb. Samra himself learnt climbing by trial and error, and now he was determined to help others.

Most of the business came from Cairo at first, but due to the situation after the 25 January Revolution most of the company’s business now comes from the Gulf. From an economic standpoint, Egyptians have had less stable incomes and less urge to travel since the revolution, but business has grown nonetheless, Samra says.

Forty-five per cent of Samra’s customers are female, which does not really surprise him. “The main reason why people go on our trips is not only for the physical perspective they bring, but also for the life-changing experience. On our last expedition to Nepal, there was a mother with her 11-year-old son. She dragged him along because she thought he was too spoilt, and she used the experience as a way to ground him. She wanted him to appreciate nature and to see how people could be happy while living a basic life with little or no luxury. At the end of the trip, she said that she had learnt much more than he had.”

Most of the company’s trips are overseas, not because there are no mountains in Egypt, but because of regulations and other issues. “The government does not permit any large-scale expeditions at the moment,” Samra explains. “Sinai is closed in terms of getting permits due to the security situation and the ever-changing regulative framework. Commercial trips cannot really be followed through right now, and the trips that do take place depend on individual efforts.”

However, for someone who had climbed Mount Everest and broken several personal barriers while challenging his own comfort zone, opening a travel agency was not enough. Samra is currently taking on the seven highest mountains in the world. He has already completed six of them, and now he is left with the “stubborn” Mount Aconcagua in South America, which can only be climbed at a certain time of the year due to climatic conditions.

To prevent falling into another void, Samra already has his next plan ready: walking to the North and South Poles in a combo called the Adventure Grand Slam. “Only 25 people in the world have done it, and I want Egypt to be represented,” he said. The journey goes over shifting ice, and each trip takes about a month to complete.

Does he ever have second thoughts? “There was a point when I asked myself whether I should stop or not. On Mount Everest, we found the dead body of a climber who was 30 minutes ahead of us. An avalanche had struck him and killed him instantly. At that moment, I had to rethink what the hell I was doing and whether it was worth it or not.”

What got him through was the absolute conviction of the rightness of what he was doing. “Every time you go somewhere where nobody else has been or you break a barrier, you learn something new that you can pass on to others and they will then turn it into something bigger,” Samra said.

“It was my mother’s perseverance throughout her life and the troubles that she faced that inspired me and attracted me to climbing,” he added. Samra has two mentally challenged sisters, and for them he has also founded a Right to Climb Organisation. “Climbing is a personal human endeavour, and it’s about challenging oneself, because you can’t really challenge a mountain,” he said.

Because Samra believes in the power of sharing stories, he is now writing his memoirs. After climbing Mount Everest, he does not feel he has to prove anything to himself anymore, but he does feel that sharing the story of someone who had physical difficulties and was still able to climb some of the highest mountains in the world will help to motivate and inspire people, regardless of their dreams.

The book is intended to begin with Samra’s round-the-world trip and then to guide the reader through all the major climbs he has undertaken. “For me, this is about the experiences that have shaped my life, putting them in a nutshell in order to present them to my kids one day,” he said.

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Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre honours four tourism companies

Abu Dhabi, Mar 30th, 2013 (WAM)–The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre (SZGMC) has recently held a ceremony to honor four tourist companies from different emirates, for their commitment to following the visitor services procedures of the mosque. Companies included; Karma Tourism, Emirates Oasis Tourism, Gulf Circle Tours and World of Travel.

Yousif Al Obaidli, the Director of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center welcomed the selected companies and thanked them for their commitment in adhering to the procedures for visitor services which have been set by the SZGMC. The procedures were established to enhance the visitor experience and enable guests to best view the beautiful architecture and experience ambience of the mosque.

Al Obaidli said; “The SZGMC regularly recognises tourism companies committed to the visitor services procedures”. He explained that dedicated companies would be recognized for their efforts in serving and educating tourists by offering them additional facilities inside the mosque such as exclusive access to certain areas and paths of the mosque.

He added: “We are keen to encourage communication with representatives of tourism operators and tourist guides who are working in the country, to achieve the optimum quality standards for the mosque’s visitors, and to ensure that their expectations are met.” The SZGMC organised a workshop by last October, entitled “Visitor Services Development”, and it was attended by almost 150 representatives from tourism companies and tourist guides from across the UAE, in order to familiarise them with the online booking and operational procedures to visit the mosque which started on October 21, 2012.

Since its launch, there has been great support and engagement from the tourism industry with a compliance of approximately 95 per cent, according to a survey conducted by the SZGMC recently.

The attending tourism companies thanked Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center for its generosity and the administration’s efforts to facilitate procedures for tourists of various nationalities. These efforts have contributed to attracting millions of visitors annually, and ensuring that the mosque is one of the whole world’s leading tourism destinations.

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Palestinians seek Arab support for their own museum

Dubai, 18 Jamad Al-Awwal 1434/30 March 2013 (IINA) – The Palestinian Museum, which is scheduled to open in Birzeit, Palestine by the end of 2014, is seeking several levels of support across the Arab world, including the UAE, organizers said.

The museum will be located 14km north of Ramallah and is dedicated to the exploration and understanding of the culture, history and society of Palestine and its people. The museum is a project of the Welfare Association – an independent not-for-profit organization providing development and humanitarian assistance to Palestinians since 1983 — and is set to bring together an innovative mix of exhibitions, research, and education program, according to a report in Gulf News.

Jack Persekian, director and head curator of the Palestinian Museum said earlier this month that it was good to spread news of the new museum in Dubai “as there is a large number of people from the art scene here, as well as a large number of journalists, and that is a great audience as we would like to start spreading news about the Palestinian Museum and garnering support for it.”

He said that they are looking for support on many levels, including creating awareness and publicity for the museum, building networks of people that will connect Palestine to the rest of the world. Persekian said that they also want to communicate their ideas, programs as well as get “financial and tangible support that we will need to set up this project and run it. The museum has already a very generous board from the Welfare Association who secured the money to build the actual museum in Birzeit in its first phase and start covering the running cost for the staff and program.” However, he said, as it is a big project they will eventually need to set up an endowment fund that can secure the museum’s continuity and expansion.

He said that they have already started working on the opening exhibition. The museum, he said, will not be limited to artwork and it will also focus on Palestinian culture and history in general. The museum will not open with a permanent collection, Persekian said, as they have just started building it and that it will take a few years. “We are not going to be displaying (the permanent collection) until we reach the phase of the construction, which will add more exhibition space to present our permanent collection.”

Persekian said that in the meantime, they will have thematic exhibitions that will rotate on a biannual basis, and that they want to organize these exhibitions in Palestine and then have them tour other countries where they will have partners. Construction of the museum will be done in two phases. Phase one will consist of a built area of 3000 square meters, and will include a climate-controlled gallery space, an amphitheatre, cafeteria with outdoor seating, classrooms, storage, gift shop and staff offices. Phase two, which will be completed within 10 years and will expand the museum space to 9,000 square meters to include more gallery space for temporary and permanent exhibitions, an auditorium, additional classrooms, and a library.

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EU Contributes Euro 148m To Palestine

BRUSSELS, Mar 28 (NNN-WAFA) РThe European union contributed €148 million to the Palestinian Authority in the second part of its 2013 assistance package for Palestine, said a press release by the European commission.

It says that this contribution, which is funded by the European neighbourhood and partnership instrument, will ensure that critical support to the PA in the area of health, education and social services to the Palestinian people is not interrupted.

Euro 108 million will be allocated to the PEGASE mechanism (an instrument to channel EU and international assistance as a contribution to the building of the Palestinian State), which supports the Palestinian National Development Plan by helping the PA to finance its budget deficit and implement its reform agenda; meet its obligations towards civil employees, pensioners and most vulnerable citizens, and maintain the functioning of the administration and the provision of essential public services to the population.

It further allocates a second tranche of Euro40 million to UNRWA’s 2013 regular budget (General Fund), in order to support the education, health, relief and social services programmes which UNRWA is responsible for providing for Palestine refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

High Representative and Vice-President Catherine Ashton said, “The Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in Brussels on Mar 19 confirmed that addressing the fiscal crisis of the Palestinian Authority requires concerted action by the PA, Israel and the donor community.”

“With this contribution, the European Union delivers on its promise to sustain the PA’s viability and its ability to ensure essential services for the Palestinian people without interruption. We will continue to support the Palestinian people, including through UNRWA, and urge other donors to do the same,” she added.

EU commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Stefan F√ºle, commented, “Despite commendable efforts of budget consolidation, the fiscal problem of the Palestinian Authority is progressively worsening and has been extremely difficult since the end of last year. The EU is aware of these constraints and taking steps to alleviate the problem.”

He added, “These new funds are vital for ensuring that there is no interruption in the provision of basic services, such as health, education, social protection, as well as in the relief to the Palestinian people in Palestine and to the Palestinian refugees abroad.”

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Massive Sculpture Made From 40,000 Shoelaces Displayed At Malaysia Int’l Shoe Festival

KUALA LUMPUR, 28 March – A three-metre high shoe-shaped sculpture made from 40,000 pieces of shoelaces displayed at the fourth Malaysia International Shoe Festival 2013 (MISF 2013) has succeed to get into the Malaysia Book of Records as the largest sculpture made from shoelaces!

The design project involving 17 design students from The One Academy, Bandar Sunway, Petaling Jaya, tookabout a month to complete. The design comprises Malaysian-themed cultural and tourism features, while the tree on top of the shoe signifies the robust growth of the shoemaking industry in Malaysia.

“Through the strong support from the Malaysian Footwear Manufacturers Association (MFMA), business stakeholders and tourists, Malaysia is fast becoming The Shoe Capital of Asia,” said the Minister of Tourism, Dato’ Sri Dr Ng Yen Yen.

“Malaysia’s burgeoning footwear exports fetched US$200mil (RM621mil) from markets such as Brazil, the United Kingdom, Mexico and ASEAN countries. This certainly adds prestige to the MISF,” she added.

MISF 2013 was launched by Dato’ Sri Dr Ng Yen Yen together with Malaysia’s Tourism Ambassador and world-famous shoe designer, Professor Dato’ Dr. Jimmy Choo. Also present was Mr Tony Ting, President of the Malaysian Footwear Manufacturers Association (MFMA).

The MFMA conferred upon Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen Yen, the MISF Award of Excellence for her contribution to the Malaysian shoe industry. It is MFMA’s highest award of distinction.

The highlight of the four-day event will be an exhibition by Dato’ Jimmy Choo entitled, Mahkota Capsule Couture Collection which pays tribute to the use of local ethnic fabrics such as Pua Kumbu, Pua Sungkit, Dastar, Tohlian, Kelingkan, Telepok, Tekat and Songket. To further enhance the concept of the collection, a gallery in a shape of a giant crown has been designed to showcase the capsule couture collection.

MISF is supported by the Ministry of Tourism and organised by the Malaysian Footwear Manufacturers Association (MFMA) in conjunction with the Malaysia GP Sale. Over 65,000 local and international shoe enthusiasts and visitors are expected to throng the festival.

Themed ‘1Malaysia – Walking in Unity, Sole of the Nation’, MISF 2013 features over 150 local and international brands including Fiorucci, Snowfly, Larrie, Verns, Geox, Good Arch, Alfio Rado, Ecco and Timberland.

Other exciting activities during the festival include the Shoe Fashion Show, Wellness Corner, Young Designer Corner, Malaysia Footwear Design Competition, and the Kids Shoe Colouring Contest. A designer pavillion will showcase shoes from 10 famous local fashion designers and 11 international shoe designers from Hong Kong, Indonesia and Thailand.

For the first time, Hyundai-Sime Darby Motors Sdn Bhd is taking part by sponsoring a brand new Hyundai i10 worth RM56, 000 to the winner of the Shop & Win contest. The contest is open to any visitor who spends RM300 and above at the festival or spends RM 200 and posts a photo of the MISF 2013 on the festival’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/misfshoe.

The Malaysia International Shoe Festival was initiated as part of developing Malaysia as a luxury tourism shopping destination. Over the past three years, MIS recorded sales of RM5 million in 2010, RM5.6 million in 2011 and RM6.8 million in 2012. The festival not only highlighted Malaysia’s shoe manufacturers but also enhanced Malaysia’s image as a shopping destination in the region.

MISF is a platform for trade and networking opportunities for trade buyers and visitors from over 40 countries, including the Middle East, France, U.S.A., Australia, U.K., China, Taiwan, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Germany, Iran, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Philippines and Vietnam .

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Malaysian Batik, Cuisine Go Bollywood

NEW DELHI, March 25 (Bernama) — Malaysian batik and cuisine have gone Bollywood!

Showcased in Mumbai to further promote the country’s heritage, the one-day event was organised by the Ladies Association of the Malaysian Foreign Ministry.

“It is my fervent hope that this gathering will enable our international friends to know more about Malaysia, especially its rich cultural heritage, being a multi-racial and multi-ethnic country,” association chairman Siti Hazura Mohd Ghaus told Bernama today.

During the event, she said participants had the opportunity to see ketupat weaving and roti jala demonstrations by association members. Malaysian cuisines, such as Nasi Himpit, was also served, she added.

“Various types of batik were also exhibited, namely batik sarong, hand-drawn batik baju kurung Pahang and hand-drawn batik shirt and scarf,” said Siti Hazura.

She said, among the participants were the spouses of consuls-general from China, Argentina, Russia, as well as friends from India, Sri Lanka, Korea, France and Indonesia.

The Russian consul-general’s wife, Alina Novikova, was all praise for the event. “The event was very well-organised and interesting, especially the ketupat weaving and roti jala demonstrations,” she noted.

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Malaysian Airlines Connects To Another Five Cities In America

KUALA LUMPUR, March 25 (Bernama) — Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is offering seamless one-stop air connectivity between Kuala Lumpur and several American cities through a code-sharing arrangement with American Airlines, one of its partner airlines in the oneworld alliance.

The national carrier said the code-sharing, effective today, will enable customers in Malaysia and the United States to book direct with them and take advantage of the 136 weekly connection options between Kuala Lumpur and Chicago, Dallas, New York, Miami and Raleigh through any one of its three European stations, namely London, Paris and Frankfurt.

MAS said all code-sharing services between Europe and the United States will be marketed as Malaysia Airlines flights, thus simplifying ticketing to one document issued by the national carrier.

Commenting on the arrangement, MAS Group Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said this provides an excellent opportunity to expand its US network without having to mount its own flights to the various cities there.

It also gives the US customers more options to choose from to travel to Malaysia and is also expected to greatly contribute towards increased tourist arrivals into Malaysia, he said in a statement.

MAS suspended flights to New York some years back as part of its route rationalisation but has now reactivated the route through the code-sharing which allows a total of 15 weekly connection options to that city via its twice daily A380 flights to London and daily A380 flights to Paris.

The return from New York to Kuala Lumpur is also now possible through 21 weekly connections to the national carrier’s A380 flights from London and Paris.

Likewise, customers from Malaysia can now travel on MAS’ A380 services to London and Paris as well as the B777 services to Frankfurt to connect the 19 weekly services to Dallas.

Return travel from Dallas to Kuala Lumpur is possible through 14 weekly connections to Malaysia Airlines’ flights from London, Paris and Frankfurt.

Access from Malaysia to the idyllic holiday destination of Miami in Florida is now possible through either a transit in London or Paris which provide 14 weekly flights to the US city.

There are also 12 weekly air travel options from Miami to connect Malaysia Airlines A380 flights from both London and Paris to Kuala Lumpur.

As for Chicago, it can now be reached through MAS’ A380 flights from Kuala Lumpur to London and Paris using 16 weekly connections between the two European cities and the US city in each direction.

Raleigh-Durham in North Carolina, US, is yet another city that will be connected with Kuala Lumpur through this code sharing, through twice weekly services from the UK capital and for the return travel on any one of the daily flights to London and continue their journey with Malaysia Airlines to Kuala Lumpur.

This code-sharing cooperation is part of the strategy of Malaysia’s national carrier to develop commercial cooperation with oneworld alliance members.

It is also part of the national carrier’s initiative towards enhancing air connectivity with key priority markets overseas for increased tourist arrivals into Malaysia as required by the government’s Economic Transformation Programme.

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Bollywood Producer Among Film Players To Make Movie In Sarawak

KUCHING, March 29 (Bernama) — The inaugural Asean International Film Festival and Awards (AIFFA 2013) has already had an impact on Sarawak when four memorandums of understanding on the shooting of films and location shooting venues in the state were sealed today.

One of the MOUs with the State Tourism Ministry involved a Bollywood company, Jeet Global, which will undertake the task of bringing in six film producers from India to explore potential location shooting venues in the state.

One more deal saw Singapore-based production houses, Kelvin Sng Production and Stardust Pictures, combining to produce a film entitled “Dayak Brothers”, while Malaysian film companies, Tarantella Pictures Sdn Bhd and Unique Twins Sdn Bhd, will produce movies named “Bujang Senang” and “Rentap”, respectively.

Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg witnessed the signing by the ministry’s permanent secretary, Datuk Ik Pahon Joyik, and the respective representatives of the film companies.

The ceremony was part of the programme for the AIFFA 2013 Film Exhibition and Seminar at a leading hotel here.

Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Abang Johari said Sarawak could ride on the popularity of the films to be produced in the state should the works become world hits.

He said the decision by the film producers to choose the state for location shooting would also provide business and employment opportunities for Sarawakians.

In his speech opening the exhibition and seminar, Abang Johari said Sarawak was “a natural studio” for any kind of movies or documentaries that could stir, impact and shape society.

The natural environment that Sarawak had successfully preserved was something that the state could offer to the world’s filming industry, he said.

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USAID helps promote carpet exports from Central Asia

26.03.2013 – The USAID Regional Cooperation Project has assembled carpet producers from Central Asia in Almaty in order to exchange their experience. Moreover, participants of the special workshop familiarised themselves with marketing methods and product promoting on international markets.

The US Oriental Rug Importers Association and the US Ministry of Commerce reported the growth of the demand for wool carpets embellished with traditional patterns of Central and Western Asia. This is the region which gave birth to the art of carpet weaving. The official statistics showed that in 2012 the total import of wool handmade carpets exceeded 600 million US dollars.

Viktor Prodedovich, Head, USAID Regional Economic Cooperation Project:- We are aimed at promoting our producers because Kazakhstan people have ancient carpet weaving traditions and the production of felt here is unique and at the same time interesting. I am sure that this art will appeal to the participants who are involved in the traditional manufacture of silk and wool carpets.

Aigul Zhanserikova, Director, Aigul Line Company:- All carpet weavers from Central Asia and Afghanistan have assembled here to exchange their experience, learn something new and exchange contact information. We also have plans to organise a workshop for producers. Some countries have the experience of exporting their products and we are going to show what carpets appeal to the markets of Europe and the US, what they should look like as well as other secrets of exports.

The event also involved representatives of state-run companies who support local producers. Carpet weaving is a work done from home and according to the law government agencies can only support enterprises which comply with strict standards. The workshop is expected to bring fruitful results.

Said Saule Akhmetova, Advisor, Kaznex Invest:- The USAID Regional Economic Cooperation Project is very important because with the help from this project our institution is able to provide assistance to Kazakhstan enterprises. Such donor projects provide assistance to producers of the whole region.

Under the support of the USAID project Central Asian hand-made carpet manufacturers have created a group of export partnership to further trade and increase export of carpets.

Matlyuba Uldzhabayeva, Chairperson, Tajik Association Of SMEs said: – This project assists in the development of trade, which can be the trademark of the region. The project of the development of carpet weaving will embrace all artisans. It is a very important project for Central Asia. We need to create a chain of producers in order to popularise our goods on the foreign market beyond Central Asia.

According to Aigul Zhanserikova, Director, Aigul Line Company, A network group is planned to be set up. It will be exporting hand-made carpets to the EU and the USA.

In 2012 the sales volume of hand-made carpets exceeded 2 billion US dollars and the USA became the largest importer of this produce, leaving behind Germany. Such countries as Iran, India, China, Nepal, Pakistan and Turkey are the main distributors of carpets. The increasing demand for carpets with Persian ornaments has become the recent trend in the developed countries. Artisans of Central Asia have been using one and the same ornaments for hundreds of years.

Aigul Zhanserikova, Director, Aigul Line Company, said: – At present, there are a few enterprises that are exporting carpets abroad. However, we hope to receive considerable support due to this project, establish trade and economic cooperation and receive subsidies.

The average price of a hand-made carpet equals about 20-40 US dollars. Nomadic carpets cost twice this amount because the manufacturing of felt is a laborious process that requires particular skills. The process involves such stages as the processing of wool, the layout of a mat, the injection of hot water, ramming and finally obtaining the end product. Durable, warm and soft felt carpets were widely used in everyday life of nomads in ancient times. Now they are used to adorn the homes of people who have learned to appreciate the tradition, manual labour and environmental friendliness.

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Egypt, Iran resume flights after three decades

Saudi Gazette – 31 March, 2013 – A commercial airliner left Egypt for Iran on Saturday in what was the first direct passenger flight between the two countries in more than three decades, Egyptian airport officials said.

Cairo-Tehran relations have warmed since the June election of President Mohamed Morsi. Diplomatic relations were frozen after Egypt signed its 1979 peace treaty with Israel and Iran underwent its revolution. Cairo airport officials say a private Air Memphis flight departed for Tehran carrying eight Iranians, including two diplomats.

Egypt’s tourism minister visited Tehran last month to sign an agreement promoting tourism between the countries. Egypt’s Foreign and Civil Aviation Ministries, however, have set regulations restricting the number and movement of Iranian tourists in Egypt.

Ali Al-Ashri, an Egyptian foreign ministry official, said Iranian tourists would only be allowed to visit certain sites, such as the ancient cities of Luxor and resort areas like Sharm El-Sheikh. Cairo was not on the list of places they would be allowed to visit.

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African Tourism Ministers to Address Negative Images

25 March 2013 – East African Business Week – Arusha — Ugandan tourism minister Maria Mutagamba has said that East African Community (EAC) partner states ministers responsible for tourism have agreed to fully address the negative image portrayed and the negative travel advisories about the region.

“With regard to safety and security in the region and taking note of the recent terrorist attacks in parts of the community, ministers responsible for tourism in East Africa have agreed that partner states should fully address the negative image portrayed and subsequent negative travel advisories issued,” she told participants who attended the EAC joint event at the Internationale Tourism-Böurse Berlin (ITB) in Berlin, Germany.

“We are employing a positive outlook on the regional approach taken to combat these challenges about the East African tourism destinations, tourism and trade associations should ensure continuous dialogue with all Commonwealth member countries and to advice Commonwealth member countries to notify the EAC secretariat before publishing any travel warnings,” she reiterated.

The campaign against the negative travel advisories and portrayal will be among the several projects that the East African Community has lined up to increase tourism earnings from $7 billion to $16 billion annually by 2020.

However, according to the EAC Principal Tourism Officer Shedrack Mashauri, the plan also includes doubling the number of tourists from 5 million to 10 million annually while the planned investments are expected to reach $3.95 billion by 2020, up from the current $1.65 billion.

He told the media in Arusha, Tanzania recently that the projects include the introduction of a single tourist visa, a single EAC passport, classification of hotels, increased marketing spend and training of personnel in the hospitality industry.

Mashauri explained that while Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania hope to record increased tourist numbers, Kenya is projecting stagnated revenues following cases of insecurity in the country, especially in Coast Province.

Tourist numbers from the traditional markets of Europe, one of the EAC’s most lucrative tourism markets, dropped in 2012 due to financial woes in their home countries.

In 2011, Kenya’s tourism industry netted Ksh98 billion ($1.2 billion), a 32 per cent rise from the previous years.

In 2012, Tanzania invested $23 million while Kenya and Rwanda invested $20 million and $5 million respectively in marketing. Uganda’ spent $700,000 on tourism marketing.

Minister Mutagamba explained that as the East African region operationalizes the Common Market Protocol to better facilitate the free movement of people, skills, goods and services, the protocol marks a milestone that will enhance the hospitality and travel industry.

EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Productive and Social Sectors, Jessica Eriyo highlighted some key milestones and developments in the Tourism and Wildlife sectors in the last few years.

“These achievements are for you to grasp the opportunities and tasks that lie ahead of us which are being explored and implemented in order to sustainably utilize our resources as a region,” she said.

Among the wonders East Africa is home to include Mount Kilimanjaro the highest mountain in Africa with 5895 metres above sea level and the largest free standing mountain in the world, the Serengeti Migration, the longest and largest overland migration in the world.

The Serengeti spans over 18,640 square miles, the Nile River is the longest river in the world stretching 4,132 miles (6,650 km) which traverses across a number of countries has its source in the region and the region boasts the largest unbroken caldera in the world, the Ngorongoro Crater.

It measures 12 miles across, this Garden of Eden is home to over 30,000 animals including the rare black rhino.

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Oman to hold Its First Medical Tourism Conference

Muscat, Mar 31 (ONA)—-The First International Conference and Exhibition for Medical Tourism, organized by World National Exhibition (WNE), in coordination with the Ministry of Health, will be held on April 8th at Oman International Exhibition Centre and lasts for three days under the auspices of Dr. Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Saeedi, Minister of Health.

Salim bin Mohammed Aidid, CEO of WNE disclosed this in a press conference held at the International Amwaj Hotel today in which he also said that there will be a two-day Conference where famous specialists and physicians will talk about the concept of medical tourism and new medical projects and what services and facilities the participating hospitals and centres provide.

He added that the exhibition, in which specialists, doctors, consultants and professionals representing various Arab, Asian States and foreign countries take part, will give the opportunity for visitors to see the latest services, specialities and future projects provided by these hospitals and health centres, the exchange of ideas and providing consultancy services and new disciplines and build a bridge of cooperation between the relevant parties and to meet with customers and seekers of the best tourist destinations for hospitalization under one roof.

He noted that there will be more 50 hospitals and health centres will take part in the exhibition coming from Iran, Thailand, Malaysia, Germany, UAE, Saudi Arabia and India, in addition to some hospitals from the Sultanate.

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Tunisia: New Tourism Minister targets 7 million tourists

The newly appointed Minister of Tourism, Jamel Gamra, Monday, told Express FM, he is vested with an “express mission” in an area that needs a fast action of recovery.

He added that his first priority will be to create the conditions for success for the next tourist season and concentrate on tourists-generating markets with immediate returns.

Among them, he cited Tunisian expatriates who are invited to return en masse at home and spend foreign currency in it, near markets (Algeria, Libya …) and the Russian market for the promotion of which a budget of 2 million Euros will be allocated.

“The goal is to host 7 million tourists in 2013,” he said before adding that “interest will be taken in traditional markets and door to door action will be taken to this end.”

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

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Strong Q1 promises good year for Sharjah tourism

Khaleej Times – 31 March, 2013 – Strong first-quarter performance promises a positive year for Sharjah’s tourism, a top official of Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, or SCTDA, said.

Speaking at the Sharjah pavilion on the sidelines of the Gulf Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition, or GIBTM 2013, that concluded in Abu Dhabi, Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, director-general of the SCTDA, said that the first quarter of the year for Sharjah’s tourism sector has been very healthy and robust with the hotel industry in the emirate reporting near-full occupancy rates and maintaining the growth of the last year.

“The first quarter of the year has been eventful for Sharjah’s tourism sector with the emirate attracting a significant number of international visitors,” Al Midfa said.

Sharjah made a bold push for its business tourism sector and the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions, or Mice, industry as it wrapped up the successful seventh edition of GIBTM 2013 with the emirate evoking considerable interest of major business tourism players, exhibitors, investors and international media.

GIBTM Abu Dhabi this year attracted more than 2,400 participants and 300 exhibitors from 36 countries that include business tourism destinations, industry leaders and investors who met and brainstormed to explore new opportunities and trends in the business tourism sector and exchanged ideas and experiences. The three-day exhibition held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre received more than 30,000 visitors.

The spotlight remained firmly on business tourism with senior officials from the SCTDA and other Sharjah government bodies making a successful presentation on the Mice industry and investment opportunities in the emirate and the efforts and initiatives being employed to boost and develop this niche tourism market in Sharjah.

Al Midfa said the emirate has had a busy calendar in the first quarter, hosting several international festivals and events such as the Sharjah Light Festival and the Sharjah Government Communication Forum, both held in February, and the Sharjah Biennial, which opened on March 13.

Underscoring the opportunities and potential of business tourism in Sharjah and the region at large, Al Midfa said: “The business tourism sector holds great promise and has the potential to contribute to the emirate’s and nation’s economy. This sector has already witnessed remarkable growth in recent years. And the future looks even brighter. GIBTM 2013 Abu Dhabi presented an ideal opportunity to explore the potential of this niche market for Sharjah and the Middle East.”

He urged all players of the tourism sector to make the most of Sharjah’s business tourism infrastructure and world-class facilities such as the Expo Centre Sharjah, the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the recently opened top-notch Al Jawahar Reception and Convention Centre that can accommodate 3,000 participants.

“The significant economic growth rate of Sharjah and the UAE in recent years and the expanding tourism market, especially business tourism sector, calls for greater efforts by everyone concerned to tap this exclusive market in a region that regularly witnesses numerous international business events and meetings,” emphasised Al Midfa.

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Medical, wellness center to be launched on Saadiyat Island

Saudi Gazette – 31 March, 2013 – A landmark medical treatment center that could turn the UAE into a key curative tourism destination will be launched on Saadiyat Island on May 14, according to its operators.

DNA Integrative Medicine and Wellness Center will be based at St Regis Resort on the island which has been undergoing major development to turn it into one of the most attractive business and tourism centers in the region.

The US DNA Health Corp is setting up the center which will provide various medical services including recreation as well as treatment of senility and chronic diseases.

“Abu Dhabi represents a key aspect of our strategy…we share many values and we aim to contribute to efforts to turn the emirate into a major recuperation and treatment destination for tourists,” said Dr Nasim Ashraf, DNA Health Corp Chairman and CEO.

“We look forward to building bridges of cooperation with tour operators in the UAE and other countries, mainly India, Russia, China and South Korea…these countries are considered key tourist exporters to the UAE,” he added.

He said German tour operators had already included DNA’s medical products in their promotion brochures for 2013-2014, adding that Germany already is one of the largest tourist providers to Abu Dhabi and other UAE emirates.

“We believe that market is ready to accept our package which involves treatment, relaxation and recuperation as well as Golf games, free tickets to Monte Carlo beach club and stay in our partnership hotels and resorts.”

He said Saadiyat was picked as an ideal venue for the DNA center given its beautiful nature, pure water and clean sandy beaches stretching over nine km.

He said a team of medical experts and scientists would manage the center, adding that it presents a “new concept for curative tourism and alternative medicine in the region.”

He said the team includes experienced personnel trained in the United States and that Dr Kristy Higgs, an international expert in functional and integrative medicine, has been appointed as senior consultant at the center, noting that Dr Kristy has been assistant manager at the US Institute for Functional Medicine.

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Dubai cruise industry booming at a rapid pace

Gulf Today – 30 March, 2013 – Cruise tourism continues to emerge as the strongest growth area in Dubai’s hospitality sector, with increased popularity expected throughout this year.

Dubai’s cruise industry has seen a rapid rise since it was launched in 2009 by Italy’s Costa Crociere, disclosed Helal Saeed Al Marri, the Director General of Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) on Thursday.

Al Marri was speaking during hosted the 65th anniversary celebration of its premium partner Costa Cruises from Italy. Costa Cruises, is the leading cruise line in Europe with a fleet of 14 cruise ships.

Speaking to The Gulf Today at Port Rashid during a tour and special celebrations of Costa’s anniversary, Al Marri noted that Dubai is also 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.

DTCM has taken on the task of promoting cruise tourism both locally and internationally, ensuring Dubai can offer all the facilities necessary to cruise liner operators in the region, with the aim of boosting the performance of this important and vibrant sector in a way that benefits Dubai and the entire region, said Al Marri.

He said that DTCM has played a significant role in attracting an increasingly keen interest from international cruise liner operators to organise regular itineraries from Dubai to the region’s ports.

The cruise tourism sector in the region is strong and its continued growth remains extremely promising, bringing with it huge economic and development opportunities, said the director general.

Dubai’s cruise tourism industry is growing rapidly, and the increase in passenger numbers is clearly proportionate to the Emirate’s industry recognition. In 2011, the city 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.

Over 8,000 passengers and crew of both the Costa ships had the opportunity to see and experience Arabian Hospitality and traditional activities arranged by DTCM at the Dubai Cruise Terminal in Mina Rashid.

Others present were at the celebrations were Hamad M Bin Mejren, Executive Director of Business Tourism and Jamal Humaid Al Falasi, Director of Cruise Tourism from the Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing exchanged the commemorative plaque with the Captain of CS Costa Atlantica as a part of the celebrations.

We were honoured to host the first ever cruise ship naming ceremony in the Gulf in 2010 for C.S. Costa Deliziosa and now we are proud to collaborate once again with Costa Cruises to celebrate their 65th anniversary here in Dubai, said the director general.

He added, “Costa has seen great success operating in this region and we at the DTCM are vigilant in rendering service and support to the cruise lines. We are sure that the bond between us will only grow stronger in the years to come.”

“We are extremely glad to celebrate this important milestone together with a long term partner like DTCM here in Dubai like in many other ports around the world – commented Dario Rustico, Sales and Marketing Central Europe, Africa, Middle East and India Director, Costa Cruises.

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Jazeera Airways ranked No 1 in Mideast in January 2013

Kuwait Times – 31 March, 2013 – Award-winning Jazeera Airways yesterday issued its January 2013 Operational Performance Report which showed that the airline has carried increasing number of passengers on key routes that include the destinations of Amman, Beirut, Bahrain, Assiut, Dubai, Jeddah, Luxor, and Sohag.

The monthly report, which presents market share figures based on official statistics from Kuwait’s Directorate General for Civil Aviation (DGCA), also showed that Jazeera Airways was the leading airline serving popular expats destinations of Amman, Assiut, Luxor, and Sohag. Jazeera Airways grabbed a 39 percent market share on the Kuwait-Amman route, a 6.4 percent increase in market share from January 2012, and witnessed a 27.5 percent increase in passengers during the month, compared to January 2012. On routes serving Egyptian cities, Jazeera Airways was the leading airline on the Kuwait-Assiut route with a 63 percent market share, on the Kuwait-Luxor route with a 72 percent market share, and on the Kuwait- Sohag route with a 50 percent market share.

The airline’s market share increased by 17.6 percent from January 2012 on the Kuwait- Assiut route, by 1.9 percent from January 2012 on the Kuwait-Luxor route, and by 15.4 percent from January 2012 on the Kuwait- Sohag route. Passengers on routes serving Assiut, Luxor and Sohag increased by 42.1 percent, 27.4 percent and 33.9 percent respectively from January 2012.

The airline was also the leading Kuwaiti airline on routes serving high demand cities of Beirut with a 39 percent market share, Bahrain with an 11 percent market share, Dubai with a 17 percent market share, and Alexandria with a 21 percent market share. Passengers also increased on routes serving Beirut, Bahrain and Dubai.

Passengers on the Kuwait-Beirut route increased by 6.8 percent from January 2012, while passengers on the Kuwait-Bahrain and Kuwait-Dubai routes increased by 17.3 percent and 8.3 percent respectively from January 2012. Jazeera Airways’ monthly report for January 2013 also showed that the airline continued to lead in on-time performance (OTP) against all other airlines in the Middle East with a 92.93 percent performance, as ranked by the independent US-based OTP tracker FlightStats. On the Kuwait- Jeddah route, Jazeera Airways’ market share increased by 2.3 percent from January 2012 to a 17 percent market share in January 2013, accompanied by a 17.9 percent increase in passengers compared to January 2012

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Dubai international passengers continue to rise

DUBAI, Mar 26 (NNN-WAM) – Dubai International passenger numbers continued to soar in Feb with 5.08 million customers passing through the facility, up 11.4 per cent from the same period in 2012, according to the monthly traffic report issued today by Dubai Airports.

Passenger traffic totalled 5,080,360 in Feb up from 4,561,147 recorded during the same month in 2012. Year to date, passenger numbers are up 13 per cent to 10,640,120 from 9,413,286 recorded during the same period last year.

Aircraft movements reached 28,085 in Feb, climbing 3.8 per cent from the 27,058 recorded in Feb 2012. Average passengers per aircraft movement, which is an indicator of airport efficiency and fleet mix, totalled a record 201 up 4.4 per cent from the 193 passengers per movement registered in Feb 2012, primarily due to the increased number of Emirates airline A380s.

Regionally, Eastern Europe was the fastest-expanding market, in terms of percentage growth ( 29.6 per cent) driven by new services to Poland (Emirates) and Macedonia (flydubai), followed by Asia Pacific ( 21.8 per cent), Russia & the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) ( 18.5 per cent), Arab Gulf Council Countries (AGCC) (16.5 per cent) and Asia (15 per cent), thanks primarily to the additional Emirates daily service to Manila. The Middle East was the only region to record fewer travellers with a slight year-on-year drop of 1.6 per cent.

The top three destination countries in terms of market size, continued to show strong positive growth overall in Feb. Traffic on routes linking Dubai International’s largest market, the Indian Subcontinent, was up 10.8 per cent while the UK saw a 5.2 per cent traffic increase and the number three market Saudi Arabia continued its remarkable traffic growth with a 42.3 per cent increase compared to the same period last year, thanks to expanded services between Dubai and Saudi Arabia launched in 2012 by Emirates, flydubai, nasair and Saudi Arabian Airlines.

Freight volumes continued their resurgence in Feb, rising 15.9 per cent to 182,580 tonnes, up from 157,492 tonnes recorded in Feb 2012, confirming a return to more robust growth in cargo volumes at Dubai International, as air freight capacity into Dubai International increases and consumer confidence continues to improve globally. Year to date cargo volumes are up 12.1 per cent to 370,099 tonnes compared to 331,023 tonnes during the same period last year.

“We continue to stay ahead of the curve in terms of our traffic forecast of 65.4 million passengers in 2013,” said CEO Paul Griffiths. “We are also on track in terms of introducing capacity to meet demand. Concourse A is fully online and setting new standards for A380 service. Additionally, the expansion of Terminal 2 is proceeding as planned as is the upgrade of Terminal 1 and the construction of Concourse D. All three projects are integral elements of our $7.8 billion airport strategic plan to boost capacity and augment service levels over the next several years.”

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Iranian minister stresses importance of expanding Islamic cultural ties

TEHRAN, Mar 27 (NNN-FNA) – Iranian Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Seyed Mohammad Hosseini, underlined the importance of further development of cultural relations among Muslim states for resolving problems in the Islamic world.

Hosseini made the remarks in his meetings with Iraqi officials and Ulema in Iraq.

During his stay, he held meetings with his Iraqi counterpart, Sadun Farhan al-Dulaymi and Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Ali Muhammad al-Adib, as well as Head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, Ammar al-Hakim.

He also conferred with a number of Iraqi Ulema on the issues of religion, culture and art. Also, Iranian and Iraqi ministers of culture inked an agreement on expansion of mutual cooperation in cultural and cinematic fields.

Iran and Iraq have enjoyed growing ties ever since the overthrow of the former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, during the 2003 US invasion of the Muslim country.

Both sides are working on a series of plans to take wide strides in the expansion of their ties, in economic fields in particular.

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Abu Dhabi Plaza Complex To Be Completed In 2016

ABU DHABI, Mar 31 (NNN-WAM) – The Abu Dhabi Plaza Complex, which is developed by Aldar, will be ready by Nov 2016 in Astana, to be ready for the Economic Expo 2017, which will be held in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.

Askar Mussinov, Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the UAE, said that the mega project will be a milestone in the country, benefiting from UAE experience in the green house building techniques.

“The Abu Dhabi Plaza Complex project will include 90,000 square metres of commercial space, 598 residential units in an 88 storey tower (382 metres), a retail space of 111,000 square metres and two hotels. There will also be a tower within the complex, the highest in Central Asia,” said Mussinov.

“This development will expand the Special Economic Zone in Astana. The Abu Dhabi Plaza development is a catalyst for the city of Astana to further develop its economy and bring business interest into the nation.”

He added that the Abu Dhabi government had invested Dh5.5 billion ($1.5 billion) to construct the complex in Astana through its main developer Aldar. The project will be completed in Nov 2016.

The project is a major mixed-use development by the presidential palace in the centre of Astana. It comprises of a retail podium, integrated plaza, residential apartments, international grade office accommodation, and a hotel quarter. This integrated community will be a 24 hour destination, offering complete leisure and work solutions for the residents of Abu Dhabi Plaza.

Aldar is developing the complex, which also consists of 450 luxurious flats. The hotel area will be 12,000 square metres. The complex will also have 80,000 square metres of office areas. The Abu Dhabi plaza will be connected with rail network to Astana Airport. The complex will have 5,300 parking lots. This will make the complex a benchmark for accommodation standards, work and leisure, expanding across the Special Economic Zone by providing incentives for investments.

Responding to questions on what other investments the UAE have in his country, he said, “Well, in addition to the construction of the multifunctional complex Abu Dhabi Plaza in Astana, the two governments agreed to launch a Dh3.68 billion ($1 billion) Kazakh-UAE Equity Fund, “Al Falah” in Kazakhstan. The fund focuses on investments in power and energy, oil and gas services, mining and agriculture, in Kazakhstan and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The UAE and Kazakhstan each contributed $500 million to this fund.

He informed that 50 businessmen from Dubai will be visiting Astana next May to consider scopes of economic and investment cooperation between the two countries.

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Malaysia continues to be regional sourcing hub for halal ingredients

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia March 30 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia continues to be a regional sourcing hub not only for halal food and beverages but also for halal ingredients in health and services.

Malaysia External Trade and Development Corporation (Matrade) Director for Food, Biotech and Halal, Trade and Services Promotion Division Mohd Aminuddin Sham Tajudin said there have been signs of growing demand for halal products other than halal food and beverages.

“Among the products that are in demand by foreign companies are medical products like halal gel and capsules as well as franchising opportunities. These are some ideas or products that have attracted interest from foreign companies coming to MIHAS 2013,” he told Bernama in an interview recently.

The 10th Malaysia International Halal Showcase (MIHAS), to be held on April 3-6, is expected to attract some 350 companies for the incoming buying mission(IBM) with more than 500 representatives from 55 countries.

“The biggest buyers coming for the IBM are from China, followed by South Korea, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.

“This shows very encouraging response from these coutries looking to specially come and source Malaysian halal products to fulfil demand in the global marketplace,” he said.

Mohd Aminuddin said Matrade has arranged more than 3,500 business matching meetings for more than 400 Malaysian companies from different businesses.

About 340 Malaysian and 178 foreign companies have confirmed their participation at the exhibition. The biggest foreign participation is from Indonesia with 54 companies, followed by Thailand, Taiwan, Iran, Turkey and Pakistan.

“MIHAS is a good avenue for these companies to come and meet with Malaysian companies and take this opportunity to look for new products in the showcase,” he said.

He said there is a lot of participation from foreign companies in the food,processed food and non-food sectors like pharmaceuticals, toiletries and services.

Last year, total sales derived from MIHAS including IBM hit RM782 million.

MIHAS is hosted and organised by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and Matrade.

On the World Halal Week (WHW) conference, Mohd Aminuddin said the focus areas would include catalysing the halal ecosystem through innovation, inspiring innovation in halal science, and halal innovation success stories.

The two-day conference, which starts on April 3, will also touch on finance and investing as well as building bridges for halal, creation of a halal value proposition, healthcare and tourism and making an informed choice on halal network as halal businesses.

The WHW conference provides a unique proposition as a platform for deliberation on issues related to halal participation, halal trade and promotion of products and services, introduction to innovations and technologies, and what’s new in the halal industry.

MIHAS and the WHW conference are components of World Halal Week taking place on April 3-6 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

Under the patronage of MITI, the WHW Conference is organised by the Halal Industry Development Corporation in collaboration with IHI Alliance.

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Nigeria: Daarsat to Dedicate Channel to Nigerian Tourism

22 March 2013 – Premium Times – DAAR Communications’ pay television, DAARSAT, will dedicate one channel to the broadcast of tourism-related programmes in Nigeria, Raymond Dokpesi, the Chairman of DAAR Communications, has said.

This is contained in a statement signed by Wilfred Orhue, the Press Officer at the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, NTDC, during a visit of DAAR Communications Group, led by Mr. Dokpesi.

The statement said that the aim was to market Nigeria as a major tourism destination with the hope of tapping into its huge tourism potential which is expected to translate into economic gains.

“The re-launch of DAARSAT will ensure the promotion of local content in broadcasting with about 27 channels dedicated to local content, while the entire platform will accommodate up to 250 channels. DAAR Communications is poised to broadcast instructive and educational programmes for all strata of the society as its unique selling point.”

The statement attributed the success of DAARSAT, which was to broadcast on full high definition decoders, to the doggedness and enterprise of its proprietor.

“DAARSAT is bigger and better; wholly the first indigenous communications company to support and promote African cultural contents. It is the first broadcast company in Nigeria to be listed on the Nigerian Stock exchange,” the statement said.

The pay TV solicited the partnership of NTDC in the provision of contents for the tourism and culture channels that would assist in expressing the true Nigerian spirit.

It implored NTDC to make the decoders available and encourage hotels, travel agencies, tour operators and other related hospitality outfits patronise DAARSAT.

The statement said that Nigeria Premier League would feature fully on DAARSAT, noting that the English Premiership and other European football leagues would not have a place.

Responding, the Director-General of NTDC, Olusegun Runsewe, promised to fully align with the initiative in a mutually beneficial partnership.

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Egypt Expects 41 Million Tourists By End of 2013

27 March 2013 – Egypt State Information Service – Tourism Minister Hisham Zazou forecasted that tourist numbers will rise by 21.7% by end of 2013 compared to last year, saying the government will focus on beach attractions.

Egypt is expected to see a rise of tourist numbers by end of 2013 to reach 41 million, generating some $ 21 billion, said Tourism Zazou in an interview with the Austrian magazine Society.

Zazou added that the country’s tourism sector saw a decline of 1.3 percent in 2011 compared to 2010. Meanwhile, the sector witnessed an upsurge of 1.1 percent in 2012 compared to the corresponding year.

About 11.5 million tourists visited the country in 2012 and generated some $10 billion in revenues. Zazou told the Austrian magazine that the Egyptian government would concentrate on beach tourism, pointing out Egypt’s live streaming channel project.

In February, the Tourism Ministry stated it would launch a live streaming channel to allow tourists to become aware of the security situation in Egypt and to promote the country as a safe tourist destination. Accordingly, the Ministry plans to provide large screens to different countries to show live images of Egypt.

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Nigeria: Lagos to Upgrade Lekki, Badagry Tourism Sites

25 March 2013 – Premium Times – The Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Tourism and Intergovernmental Relations, Ashamu Fadipe, on Monday said the government had mapped out strategies to upgrade tourism sites in Lekki and Badagry.

Mr. Fadipe made this known in an interview in Ikeja.

“Those strategies, include the development of Lekki axis as resort centres and Badagry axis as the former slave routes and its other cultural and tourism potential,” she said.

Mr. Fadipe said that the decision of the state government to develop the two areas was due to their enormous tourism potential.

“The essence of doing this is to harness the potential of the area. The potential are enormous. If you want to talk of what we have in Lekki axis, there are Island culture, lake, lagoon, rivers leading to the Atlantic Ocean and the cultural aspect of people within that locality.

“On the other side of Badagry, we have the first storey building, the slave market and so many other things that have to do with history. These are what the international tourists want to see and these are what adventure visitors want to see. In doing this, it is the way of making the locality known; making the state known and also making Nigeria known as well,” he said.

The permanent secretary said the decision of the government was meant to develop tourism as a means of generating employment for the people.

He added that many people would benefit economically from a visitor that stayed in a locality for at least one week.

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Nigeria: NOA, Nihotour to Use Tourism for Peace

27 March 2013 – Daily Trust – The National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR) plan to use tourism as a tool for promotion of peace in Nigeria as part of the activities to mark the country’s centenary celebrations in 2014.

This was disclosed by the two agencies during the courtesy visit to the Director-General, NOA, Mr. Mike Omeri by his NIHOTOUR counterpart, Dr. Munzali A. Dantata. Omeri challenged Nigerians to build reputation for peace through tourism, adding that we must “show our good characters” to attract tourists. Earlier, Dantata emphasized on using tourism for promotion of peace, stressing that this belief was behind NIHOTOUR’s plan for organizing the proposed “International Conference on Peace and Multi-cultural Understanding,” to mark Nigeria’s centenary celebrations.

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The Best of Concerts Happening in Dubai’s April

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Dubai’s stature as a global hub for entertainment will be further enhanced when the Emirate plays host to some of the movers and shakers in the international music scene, as part of the exciting line-up of events highlighted by Dubai Calendar, the official calendar of events in Dubai, during April. With more than 8 international concerts for some of the biggest entertainers in the world, it affirms the fact that Dubai has become a highly attractive destination for artists, international event organising companies and tourists, who are looking for top notch entertainment.

April in Dubai promises to be a month of major concerts; two of the biggest names in entertainment, Bruno Mars and Yanni will perform live, in addition to performances by the American band Train and Katya Apekisheva, one of Europe’s renowned pianists, from Russia.

The string of concerts is among the top events of April that are being featured by Dubai Calendar, an initiative by Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment, to tap into and develop the events sector in Dubai in line with its objective of ensuring that the Emirate stays a family tourism destination all year round.

Superstar Bruno Mars will wow fans in Dubai on his Middle East debut on 12 April with a repertoire of his greatest hits. The global music icon has sold over 45 million singles worldwide, with over one billion views on YouTube.

Legendary Greek composer, Yanni returns to the city and will perform live on 4 and 5 April, as part of his World Without Borders Tour 2013 in a highly anticipated concert.

Performing at full steam, on 5 April, will be the Californian band Train, who will be in the UAE, as a part of the du World Music Festival, while changing the tune and tenor of the entertainment programme will be the acclaimed London-based Russian pianist Katya Apekisheva, who will give a classical performance in Dubai on 29 April.

Art, culture and theatre will happen in Dubai in a big way in April dominated by the Middle East Film and Comic Con 2013 from 5-6 April. The fun culture-oriented event, which will feature celebrities, artists and musicians among the participants, will focus on a wide range of activities including film, TV, comics, manga, animation, collectibles and pop art.

The famous musical thriller Sweeney Todd will be staged at the Centrepoint Theatre in DUCTAC, Mall of the Emirates from 9-13 April, while Don Quixote, a ballet based on an episode taken from the famous novel by the same name by Miguel de Cervantes, will be held from 17-26 April.

Lifestyle happens in Dubai with Bride Dubai from 10-13 April, which is the largest and most luxurious bridal and fashion show in the Middle East while Fashion Forward from 26-29 April is a series of fashion events by well known designers and featuring the latest trends and designs.

As business happens in Dubai, technology geeks and business travellers are bound to make a beeline to GITEX Shopper 2013, the region’s biggest and best consumer electronics exhibition that for the first time will have a Spring edition from 3-6 April.

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George Town Festival Announces Programme Highlights

GEORGE TOWN, March 28 (Bernama) — Penang residents and visitors are in for a treat this June at the fourth George Town Festival (GTF). Among its main highlights of this year are some of the best international and local performances in music, culture and the performing arts.

Bridges & Kaki Lima, a specially commissioned street dance performance revives the tradition of street performances literally at the five-foot ways along Victoria Street, George Town. This performance is directed and choreographed by Aida Redza and comprises of dancers from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

“I am very proud that Aida has taken on such a brave and innovative approach in interpreting culture and dance. This is a specially commissioned piece for GTF2013, a ground breaking performance that celebrates and is celebrated on our streets. It is the perfect embodiment of our approach to this year’s programming, guided by the keywords — interaction, community, spaces,” festival director Joe Sidek explains.

Bridges & Kaki Lima is one of the 200 over proposals received from 25 countries in the last five months. The overwhelming responses by members of the international and regional arts and cultural groups have been extremely heartening, as is the response and support from members of the public. The Festival originally started out as a celebration of heritage, arts and culture, in commemoration of George Town’s listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.

Equally exciting is Sutra, an energetic and mesmerising performance that combines the athleticism and gracefulness of Shaolin monks, the choreography and artistic direction of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui… and a live orchestra with original music composed by Szymon Brzoska!

“I hope Penang audiences and visitors will be inspired by this successful cross-cultural visual collaboration that has been staged in Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London and the Sydney Opera House,” says Sidek. “To encourage ticket sales and to promote accessibility, we have reviewed our ticketing prices and will announce RM20 student rates for selected programmes soon.”

The Festival’s opening ceremony Taking Off will be held at the Esplanade in George Town. Members of the public are invited to join this music and fun-filled kite festival, featuring some of the top kite masters in the country and from around the region.

Bridges & Kaki Lima, Sutra and Taking Off are three of the 11 confirmed highlights for GTF2013. More than a dozen other programmes will be announced in stages on www.georgetownfestival.com staring next month.

“We value public and community participation in all our programming, and hope to see similar support this year. Moving forward, we will initiate an economic impact report for contemporary festivals such as George Town Festival, to be carried out over two years. This will supplement conventional reporting on the Festival’s value and relevance for the local and regional community, art and cultural producers, and the business community,” Sidek adds.



Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui/Sadler’s Wells London 29 June & 30 June, Dewan Sri Pinang

Celebrated Flemish/Moroccan choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui presents a dance work inspired by the skill, strength and spirituality of Buddhist Shaolin monks. He has collaborated closely with Turner Prize-winning artist Antony Gormley, who has created a design consisting of 21 wooden boxes which are repositioned to create a striking, ever changing on-stage environment.

Featuring 17 monks directly from the original Shaolin Temple in China, the piece also includes a beautiful brand new score for piano, percussion and strings by Polish composer Szymon Brzoska which is played live.

Sutra image link: http://www.sadlerswells.com/tour-marketing/sutra/sutra_marketing.asp


GTF2013 Commissioned Dance Project 29 June, Victoria Street

This contemporary dance journey revitsalises the tradition of street performances in the city, mapping the energy, behavior and playfulness of George Town. This choreography is devised to celebrate cultural commonalities and to draw bridges across differences between our neighbouring countries, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

Streets and five-foot ways (‘kaki lima’) will be used as performance stages in this delightful journey of dance, play and memory. Kaki Lima is presented by Ombak-Ombak ArtsStudio and PEARL (Penang Arts Link), choreographed by Aida Redza (Malaysia) and Jefriandi Usman (Indonesia) and features dancers from NAFA Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Singapore and ODC Ombak Dance Collective Penang.

Bridges & Kaki Lima image link: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/5vfdzp9um1xwajq/MMCc8cEiDf


Italian Chamber Music Orchestra 7 June, Dewan Sri Pinang

The renowned Italian chamber music group I Musici presents classical excerpts from some of Italy’s famous composers through several eras, as well as a contemplative interpretation of Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

I Musici is the oldest chamber group in Italy, and based on reviews, their performance here in Penang promises to be an emotional and majestic aural experience. This live performance will be truly memorable as even the ensemble’s recorded CDs have been awarded prizes by specialised juries; their production of Four Seasons by Vivaldi sold more than 25 million copies!

For more information please contact: Wanida Razali, PR & Media, George Town Festival, Tel : +604-261 6308 E-mail : wanida@georgetownfestival.com

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Second Round Green Investment Campaign Launched In Indonesia

JAKARTA, March 28 (NNN-Bernama) – Collaborative stakeholders have launched a campaign of the ‘Second Round Green Investment Towards Innovation and Productivity in Indonesia’ to support the Indonesian government in mainstreaming climate change issues.

The stakeholders consist of National Council on Climate Change (DNPI),Matsushita Gobel Foundation, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Indonesia Chief Editors Forum, Indonesian news agency ANTARA reported.

The Second Round Green Investment campaign is aimed at sharing ideas and experiences on potential for green investments and also attended by experts,scientists and environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

DNPI executive chair Rachmat Witoelar said during the launch here Wednesday that the roots of climate change are anthropogenic and man-made problems need to be tackled by man.

“Stakeholders of all levels rely on partnership with the media to spread the message of climate change impacts and solutions to the citizens,” he said.

President Director of PT Gobel International, Rachmat Gobel, said Matsushita Gobel Foundation has been supporting collaborative efforts towards green industry through the first round of green investment that provided technical roundtable on green technology and green industry.

“The second round green investment is launched to face new challenges to boost high economic growth and mitigation efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emission,” he said.

“Efforts in reducing greenhouse gas emission have become a global market trend as is the increasing demand of eco-green products. Understanding green technology and implementation of the green industry is critical to increase competitiveness,” he added.

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EAD applies new Knowledge to Falcon Conservation

Abu Dhabi, Mar 31st, 2013 (WAM) — The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) initiative has resulted in a major scientific advance that will greatly assist in the conservation of falcons across the region and the world.

The project, which commenced in 2011 and has been conducted by scientists from Cardiff University in the UK and Beijing Genetics Research Institute in China, sought to decode the entire genetic make-up of the Peregrine and Saker falcons. Now, the project has unveiled comprehensive data on the entire genome sequences of the falcons and results have been published by the prestigious international science journal Nature Genetics.

Falcons are a key element of Arab cultural heritage and two species in particular, the Saker — categorised as Endangered in the IUCN Global Red List of Endangered Species – and the Peregrine were traditionally used by Bedouin falconers and are still greatly prized by falconers across the region today.

The two particular falcons that had their entire DNA mapped and recorded were both patients at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital – which was established by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi in 1999 and is now the largest falcon hospital in the world. Veterinarians at the hospital collected samples of their blood and sent them to a laboratory in the UK so that the DNA could be extracted and eventually sequenced at the Beijing Genetics Research Institute.

The two falcons are the first raptors and only the 7th and 8th bird species to have the genome sequences published (the others are Chicken, Turkey, Zebra Finch, two Pied Flycatchers and Rock Pigeon).

Through analysis of the genomes, the project scientists were able to determine that the two falcon species shared a common ancestor over 2 million years ago and that they each have around 16,200 genes. In comparison to other bird species, whose genomes have been sequenced, the falcon genomes showed evidence of rapid evolutionary change, indicating strong selection pressures for their predatory lifestyle – they have to adapt quickly to be successful hunters.

As an example of this specialist adaptation, the scientists examined the genes involved in controlling the size and shape of the falcon beak. The scientists were able to determine that specific genes regulating the size and shape of the falcon beak have evolved rapidly under strong selection pressures.

The sequenced genomes allow scientists to identify the genetic basis of what makes the falcons unique.

Mohammed Al Bowardi, EAD’s Managing Director, said: “This latest research is important not only to increase our understanding of the evolution and biology of Saker and Peregrine Falcons, but also to better manage their health and their conservation. EAD is proud to support this cutting-edge science of ÔøΩconservation genomics’ and will be extending its research programme with Cardiff University and BGI-Shenzhen to apply the new knowledge gained from the genome sequences to falcon conservation in a practical way.” With this type of genomic information, conservationists can accurately quantify the level of genetic biodiversity remaining in fragmented populations of falcons and identify specific population ‘units’ that deserve special attention. This information enables conservation efforts and reintroductions to be targeted appropriately and effectively.

Thanks to the Sheikh Zayed Falcon Release Programme, 1,363 falcons have successfully been released back into the wild since the programme began in 1995. The long-term programme helps EAD better understands if migratory birds such as the Peregrines and Saker Falcons can maintain the same migratory route after they have been used for Falconry. It also helped the Agency to understand if Falconry birds can be readapted to the wild, and how best to select and prepare them to ensure the greatest success rates.

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64 water projects completed in Pakistan

Islamabad, Mar 30th, 2013 (WAM) — The UAE Project to Assist Pakistan has announced the completion and delivery of 64 water projects at cost $5. 774 million (five million and 773, 000 US dollars) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and the South of Pakistan Region.

The move follows the directives by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan to support the water sector in the regions and poor areas in Pakistan, the administration of the UAE Project to Assist Pakistan stressed in a statement the value and importance of these projects which have been carried out in accordance with the directives by the UAE president for the people of remote villages and areas in Pakistan to contribute to the development of infrastructure and human resources development.

The statement pointed out that the purpose of implementing these projects is to provide clean drinking waterto the areas which suffer from various health problems due to the pollution of available water and difficulty in accessing clean water. This led to the outbreak of serious illnesses in the community such as hepatitis, malaria and others.

It emphasised that 44 villages in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province benefit from water projects, while 20 villages benefit from the projects in the South of Wazirstan.

A number of key officials and citizens of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and the South of Pakistan Region, hailed the initiatives the UAE president regarding the projects, citing the humanitarian aid and developmental support represented in terms of the educational, health, roads and bridges’ projects WAM/HH/MN

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Saudi Grand Mufti: Treat non-Muslims well

Riyadh, 18 Jamad Al-Awwal 1434/30 March 2013 (IINA) – Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Alsheikh has urged employers to treat their non-Muslim employees well and give them all their lawful rights.

He also called upon employers to be fair, just, honest, and kind to all workers and never oppress them or mistreat them or deprive them of their rights.

“Treating people kindly and gently is one of the best ways to call persons to Islam,” he said during a phone interview with Okaz Arabic daily. This is not the first time that the Grand Mufti has defended the rights of expat workers. Last month he urged the Ministry of Labor to reconsider its decision to impose annual fees of SR2,400 on each foreign employee working for companies that have not met the Saudization quota.

The Grand Mufti said the fee is unjustifiable, adding that the ministry should deal with this issue immediately. Al-Alsheikh made the remarks following a lecture at Imam Turki Bin Abdullah Mosque of Riyadh. The ministry should explain the basis and grounds on which it imposed this annual fee on foreign workers. “What were the real reasons behind such a decision?” the Grand Mufti asked. “Did it make the decision due to logical reasons? I believe the ministry should reconsider its decision wisely. Is this money spent on public services?”

The Grand Mufti called for paying the salaries of workers on time and treating them kindly and with compassion. He stressed that any company or business which has paid the fee should follow up with concerned authorities and claim its rights legally. Chambers of commerce and industry claimed the decision could deter expats from coming to Saudi Arabia or remaining there, potentially affecting the national economy.

A number of businessmen have heavily criticized the Ministry of Labor for hastily enforcing the decision to impose a SR2,400 annual levy. At the same time, some business owners said they will ask their employees to shoulder the extra cost defeating in effect the whole purpose of the levy, which is to make employment of foreigners more expensive to encourage Saudization. However, many other businessmen said they will pay the new fee themselves in order to avoid disruptions in their operations.

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Days of Culture of Saudi Arabia to be held in Kyrgyzstan in May

Bishkek, March 30 / Kabar /. Days of Culture of Saudi Arabia will be held in Kyrgyzstan in May. Such a decision was taken during a meeting chaired by Vice Prime Minister Kamila Talieva.

The meeting decided to hold the Days of Culture of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on 6-9 May, 2013.

Organizing committee is assigned to prepare a detailed action plan of the upcoming culture days. The Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Culture, Information and Tourism of Kyrgyzstan should prepare draft agreements on cooperation in the field of culture and education with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

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The regular International Festival “JazzBishkekSpring” kicks off in Bishkek on April 19

Bishkek, March 30 / Kabar /. Public Foundation “Central Asia – Art Management” organizes the 8th International Festival “JazzBishkekSpring” -2013. It will be held from 19 to 21 April at the Kyrgyz National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater. 14 jazz groups from 9 countries of Central Asia, Europe and the U.S. will create a unique atmosphere of the festival in 2013.

International Festival “JazzBishkekSpring” has become a traditional annual event, which brings together creative people, developing jazz and enriching the cultural environment in Central Asia.

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4th Annual Translation Conference to be Held in Doha

Doha, March 30 (QNA) – The Translation and Interpreting Institute (TII) of Hamad bin Khalifa University (HBKU), a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF) and Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (BQFP) have announced this year’s conference program, due to take place between April 14 and 16.

The three-day conference features three panels, focusing on this edition’s theme, “Texts in Contexts: New Cultural Constellations in Translation Studies,” while keynote addresses will be open to the public as they explore theoretical and literary translation discussions.

Dr. Ovidi Carbonell Cortes from the University of Salamanca, a keynote speaker, will analyze the perspectives on Arabic-Spanish translation, while Samuel Shimon will describe the past and present state of literary translation based on his experience as founder and editor of Banipal Magazine.

The call for papers attracted contributions from regional and international scholars specialized in translation studies. The presentations will address theoretical and cultural questions related to translation, starting from the Tower of Babel, Abbasid Era, and Chinese tradition, to contemporary discussions of English and French translation of classical Sufi poetry, The Thousand and One Night, and Egyptian author Alaa Al Aswany’s The Yacoubian Building. In addition, there will be a presentation on translating the Quran into English.

“‘Texts in Contexts’ is an annual event that aims to enrich academic and cultural fields by demonstrating the importance of translation as a dialogue between cultures and nations and fostering discussions and debates among local, regional and international academics and professionals,” Dr. Amal Al-Malki, TII executive director said.

Participating in these panels are scholars from the University of Salamanca, Spain, University of Texas at Austin in the United States, Concordia University in Canada, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, University of Amsterdam, American University of Sharjah, and United Arab Emirates University.

The interdisciplinary topics and international participations draw attention to Translation and Interpreting Institutes role in contributing to translation studies globally and regionally. By hosting this conference TII shows that the Arab World is a crucial translation site while emphasizing the contributions of Arabs in the translation of philosophy and other sciences during Abbasid and al-Andalus periods,” said Dr. Moneera Al-Ghadeer, director of postgraduate studies and research.

Hanouf Al Buainain, BQFP director pointed to the “remarkable” evolving of the conference over the past four years. “The Translation Conference has become a multidisciplinary platform that combines academics, translators, and authors in a unique way. It also takes publishing outside of its normal confines when people at the conference are privy to the literary translation process.”

The afternoon workshops will focus on the rising media industry in the Arab world. Dr. Ashraf Abdel Fattah, Senior Interpreter at the Al Jazeera Arabic Channel, will outline theory and practice in the “Approaches to Media Translation” workshop. Also, the conference will offer a workshop on audiovisual translation that will explore the best subtitling practices using specialized computer software.

A new component in this year’s conference is the “Author Conversations” in which authors talk about literary and theoretical translation in relation to their works. Dr. Amal Al-Malki will discuss her latest book “Arab Women in Arab News” with Dr. Moneera Al-Ghadeer, who will address translating Bedouin women’s poetry in Desert Voices. The final Author Conversation centers on fiction with novelist Fadia Faqir who will talk about her own experience as a writer in translation.

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Bangladesh economy witnessed huge qualitative changes: Muhith

DHAKA, Mar 31, 2013 (BSS) – Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith today said economy of the country has witnessed huge qualitative changes in the last few years as it is moving fast toward development.

“The country has attained 6.3 percent economic growth for what we could feel proud. Besides, it has achieved remarkable position in the development of human resource index globally while attained top position in the Asia for the index that is also satisfactory for us,” he said.

The finance minister was addressing the inaugural ceremony of a training programme of Census Coordinator and Master Trainer for the 3rd Economic Census as chief guest at the auditorium of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).

Chaired by Planning Minister Air Vice Marshal (retd) A K Khandker, FBCCI president Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed, Statistics and Informatics Management Division Secretary Najibur Rahman and BBS director general Golam Mostafa Kamal also spoke.

BBS Census Wing director Zahidul Huq Sarder made a presentation on the Economic Census-2013.

The main objectives of the economic census are to prepare an updated directory of different organization engaged to industry and service sectors in urban and rural areas as per the Bangladesh Standard Industrial Classification- 2009, draw a structure of informal sectors, make classification of industry, and count the number of manpower and type of ownership. The 3rd census would be conducted from the March 31 to May 31.

Apprehending the necessity of accurate statistics, Muhith said the future development planning is depended on the accurate and objective information.

The BBS is doing well in last few years through overcoming difficulties as the past government tried to destroy the organization, said the finance minister, adding, “I hope the BBS would prove its objectivity and neutrality again by generating accurate and objective data”.

Muhith urged the BBS officials to complete the economic census within December this year using the modern technology. A K Khandker said the industries and service sectors have expanded rapidly, but the country yet to have actual statistics of the sectors.

“Accurate and objective data of the sectors is inevitable for the future expansion,” he added.

The planning minister hoped that the BBS would able to declare a result by completing the economic census within December. Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed requested all the businessmen for providing necessary information during the data collection of Economic census.

He hoped that the industrialists would make Bangladesh a middle income country before 2021 if the subversive activities are stopped.

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ISESCO Director General at opening of 19th Casablanca International Editing and Book Fair

Casablanca 29/03/2013 – Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), this afternoon in Casablanca took part in the opening ceremony of the 19th Annual Casablanca International Editing and Book Fair (known by its French acronym SIEL), chaired by Prince Moulay Rachid, with the presence of Mr Mohamed Amine Sbihi, Minister of Culture of the Kingdom of Morocco, and other high profile political personalities, diplomats and intellectuals.

The Director General visited ISESCO stand at the Book Fair and met ISESCO publication exhibition team.

A number of publications by ISESCO are on display to visitors in the Arabic, French and English languages which cover topics relating to education, science, culture and communication. There are also issues of (Islam Today) journal, published annually, and (ISESCO) periodical.

SIEL 2013 is hosted by the Moroccan Ministry of Culture, under the high patronage of H.M. King Mohammed VI of Morocco, at the Casablanca International Fairgrounds from 29 March through 7 April, on the theme (Let’s Live the Cultural Morocco). The State of Libya is the guest country of this year’s Casablanca SIEL.

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Kazakhstan launches production of luxury KIA Quoris

UST-KAMENOGORSK. March 31. KAZINFORM Production of KIA Quoris full-size sedan was launched in Ust-Kamenogorsk, eastern Kazakhstan this week.

KIA Quoris, also known as KIA K9, is the tenth KIA model to be assembled by AZIA AVTO in Ust-Kamenogorsk. The launch of the new KIA Motors model started amid unprecedented success of the brand in Kazakhstan.

At the launching ceremony, it was noted that developers were to create a car that could compete with European vehicles and epitomize the future of the brand.

According to First Vice President of “AZIA AVTO” JSC Erik Sagymbayev, KIA Quoris sedan is not the first executive-class car produced together with South Korean automaker KIA Motors. KIA Cadenza was one of the most popular cars and a hit of auto sales in Kazakhstan last year.

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Yogyakarta Cultural Park to present traditional art performances

Yogyakarta (ANTARA News) March 28 2013 – Yogyakarta Cultural Park (TBY) will present traditional art performances as art programs along 2013. “We will present traditional art group of Langen Mendrawanaran on March 31,” Chairman of the Art Performance Committee of TBY Sri Eka Kusumaningayu said here on Thursday.

She said there were four groups of arts that will perform on March such as the dance groups of Wirogo Apuletan, karawitan traditional Music group of AMPTA and traditional arts group of Langen Mendrawanaran. There are four performing arts groups every month, so that there would be 48 groups to perform in 2013.

“The event was held for public and free of charge, the goal is to introduce the traditional arts to community,” she said.

Kusumaningayu expected that the effort to introduce traditional arts could encourage community awareness of local art that is starting to disappear due to television programs. “Hopefully this activity could encourage traditional arts regeneration process, development of arts and loved by people,” she said.

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Indonesian Batik Sales increase on Easter Day

Cirebon (ANTARA News) March 31 2013 – Batik traders in Trusmi Market, Plered District, Cirebon, West Java, said sales turnover of Sarimbit (married couple) batik increased on Easter Day compared with normal days.

“The Sarimbit batik is a combination of distinctive motifs of Cirebon, soft batik fabric and the model and is aligned with fashion today,” a batik trader in Trusmi Market, Wuri, said here on Sunday.

Wuri sold 200 pieces of batik dresses on Easter Day, while on normal days, she usually sold 70 pieces.

She said Sarimbit batik attracted consumers from Jakarta, Bandung, Sumedang, Tangerang, Cirebon and Indramayu, so the sales were quite exciting.

She added, demand for various types of batik provided opportunities for batik artists and entrepreneurs in Cirebon to improve their products.

Other batik trader Muryanto said sales of Sarimbit batik with simple fashion increased.

He added that consumers usually wear couple batik dresses to attend wedding parties, recitals and family gatherings.

Meanwhile, a young entrepreneur from Cirebon, Ibnu Riyanto, said that selling traditional dresses with batik motifs become more and more exciting on long holidays because the number of visitors was on the rise.

He added, traditional Pantura Plered batik type now becomes an attraction for tourists to visit Cirebon.

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Multimedia University Launches Programme To Help Transform Malaysian Entertainment Industry

CYBERJAYA, March 27 (Bernama) — Multimedia University (MMU) today announced the launch of its newest programme, the Bachelor of Cinematic Arts (Honours). Also known as the Cinematic Arts Programme (CAP), the programme will bring Hollywood-ready skills for the local and regional entertainment industry.

The objective of having the CAP is to develop the next generation of Malaysian film- makers. This three-year programme was designed with the collaboration of the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California (USC), which is the oldest such school in the United States. Since 1929, the School of Cinematic Arts has trained and nurtured thousands of writers, directors, scholars, entrepreneurs, producers, animators, interactive designers and others who have developed an unparalleled mastery in cinema, television and new media.

Given the school’s proximity to Hollywood, as well as the superb quality of their academics, the School of Cinematic Arts at USC has a very good understanding of the industry. MMU is tapping into the entirety of its knowledge and syllabi, and not just taking halfway measures such as hiring one or two of its alumni.

As such, MMU is expecting to change the landscape of live-action cinema and TV in Malaysia, much as it did with animation. For instance, MMU graduates were the creators of the iconic Upin & Ipin, as well as BoboiBoy.

President of Multimedia University, Professor Dato’ Dr. Muhamad Rasat Muhamad, who chaired the press conference where the announcement was made, expressed his happiness with the programme. “MMU was established with the purpose of helping Malaysia transform its economy,” he said. “Now, with the introduction of CAP 17 years after our establishment, we are proving to the world that MMU is still the premier university for Creative Multimedia in Malaysia and even the region. We are completely in line with the government’s effort of developing the creative industry.”

Initially, CAP will be delivered at the Faculty of Creative Multimedia (FCM) in MMU’s Cyberjaya campus. Come 2014, however, the programme would be shifted to its purpose-built campus in EduCity Iskandar, Nusajaya, Johor. The 1.02-acre campus will have a built-up area of approximately 45,000 square feet, and will be part of the 7-acre Multi-Varsity Enterprise Building.

Prof. Rasat was also very excited with the location of the new campus. “The CAP campus is only 10 minutes away from Pinewood Studios Malaysia,” he said. “So the potential for our students and even our staff is amazing. One of the best ways we could leverage this opportunity is securing the best placements for our students’ industrial training attachments. Having our students getting first-hand exposure to the industry will be an education like no other.”

He is confident that the CAP will help transform the landscape of the Malaysian entertainment industry. “We have done it before through our graduates who created Upin & Ipin and BoboiBoy. Now, with very strong support from USC, we have set our targets through benchmarking and we are ready to help Malaysia become the cinematic capital of South East Asia.”

Also in attendance was Mr. Khairil Anwar bin Ahmad, Chief Operating Officer, Iskandar Investment Berhad, who expressed his happiness with MMU’s CAP being hosted in EduCity Iskandar. He described Iskandar Malaysia is being set to become Southern Peninsular Malaysia’s most developed region, where living, entertainment, environment and business seamlessly converge within a bustling metropolis. The CAP campus would not only fit in with the overall concept of EduCity, but would also supply invaluable human capital for the Pinewood Iskandar Studios nearby.

Prof. Rasat stresses that the combination of CAP’s comprehensive syllabus together with its facilities would enable any student to pursue a rewarding career in cinematic arts. “You can be a normal student who has never made a video even with a phone camera, but if you are interested and passionate about learning, we will train you to be what you want to be.”

MMU will have a preview of CAP during its Open Day on 31st March at MMU Cyberjaya. Everyone, including those interested to learn more about CAP or any of MMU’s courses are invited to attend.

The Bachelor of Cinematic Arts (Honours) will be taking in its first batch of students in MMU’s June 2013 intake. For more information for enrolment, please contact either 013-6133144 (Vincent), 013-3808844 (Emely) or 013 6306455 (Mr. Azlan).

To learn more about Multimedia University, visit http://www.mmu.edu.my/

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Bangladesh Wants To Emulate Malaysia’s Infrastructure Development To Attract More Tourists

KUALA LUMPUR, March 27 (NNN-Bernama) — Bangladesh is keen to emulate Malaysia’s infrastructure development to attract more tourists to the country, said Bangladesh’s High Commissioner to Malaysia A.K.M. Atiqur Rahman. He said tourists were easily attracted to Malaysia because of its infrastructure.

For example, an average of 500 people from Bangladesh fly to Malaysia each day, with three flights operating daily between Kuala Lumpur and Dhaka, he told Bernama in an interview recently, in conjunction with the country’s 42nd independence anniversary celebration.

Atiqur Rahman said the lack of infrastructure facilities had restricted the country from getting more tourists from around the globe. “Once we can do these things (rebuild infrastructure), I think we will get more tourists, not only from Malaysia but also from other countries,” he said.

However, he noted that a lot of work needed to be done, not only to improve Bangladesh’s infrastructure but also to develop air links, hotels and restaurants. The High Commissioner said Bangladesh had many tourist attractions, including the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest and home to the Bengal tiger.

The Sundarban forest covers around 10,000 square km, of which a major portion is in Bangladesh, while India’s portion is estimated to be around 4,264 square km.

Atiqur Rahman said Bangladesh is also known for its Cox’s Bazar beach, which is one of the world’s longest natural sandy beaches and also a fishing port, an added value to attract more tourists.

Touching on investments, he said a number of Malaysian companies were investing in housing projects in the country.

However, he sees the need for more collaboration in the pharmaceutical industry as Bangladesh maintains a high standard of medicinal products at very competitive prices. “So, we hope that by the next three to five years, there will be lot of Malaysian companies investing in Bangladesh in the medical sector also,” Atiqur Rahman said.

Touching on bilateral relations, he said diplomatic ties with Malaysia began in 1972, a year after Bangladesh attained its independence.

He lauded the Malaysian government and its people for being the first Muslim and Southeast Asian country to recognise Bangladesh, just within months after its liberation on Dec 16, 1971 (regarded as Victory Day).

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Tourism Carnival Kicks Off Alongside LIMA’13

LANGKAWI, March 27 (NNN-Bernama) — The LIMA Tourism Carnival was launched Wednesday alongside the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA’13). Eighty exhibitors are showcasing a wide array of products and services at the five-day carnival launched by Tourism Minister Dr Ng Yen Yen.

The carnival, hosted by the Tourism Ministry, is introducing for the first time the “Fabulous Food 1Malaysia” sales stall, featuring traditional and authentic cuisines from throughout the country. Themed “Malaysia Truly Asia”, the carnival aims to promote Malaysia as a multicultural tourism destination in keeping with the 1Malaysia concept.

The carnival also encourages domestic tourism in tandem with “Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia” (1Malaysia Holidays) and serves as a prelude to Visit Malaysia 2014. Held at the Langkawi Development Authority parking area in Kuah, the carnival is open to visitors from 11 am to 12 midnight from Tuesday till Saturday. Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak launched the biennial LIMA’13 Wednesday.

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Malaysia’s AirAsia Incorporates Company For Venture In India

NEW DELHI, India March 31 (NNN-Bernama) — Gearing up to launch services in partnership with Tatas, Malaysia’s low-cost carrier, AirAsia, has incorporated a company in India, with the filing of all requisite documents to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs. Press Trust of India reported that the venture, AirAsia (India) Pvt Ltd, was incorporated as an “Indian non-government company”, with its registered office in Mumbai.

It will be an “unlisted” company as per the documents filed with the Registrar of Companies (RoC). The private company was incorporated on March 28, 2013, with an initial authorised capital of Rs5 lakh (about RM28,130).

A company can change its share capital and other details at a later stage, the news agency said in the report.

Most of the serving airlines in India, including SpiceJet, Go Air, Kingfisher, Jet Airways and IndiGo have authorised share capitals running into hundreds of crores of rupees, their RoC filings showed. (One Crore: ten millions)

Among documents submitted by AirAsia (India) are the incorporation certificate filed on March 28 while the article of association, memorandum of association, image of airline logo and other forms were filed earlier on March 11. Prior to that, AirAsia registered the name for its Indian venture on March11 after getting the necessary approvals from the ministry.

The filing process for the new venture has been completed on a fast-track basis, a senior official said.

The Foreign Investment Promotion Board has already approved the investment in the new venture, wherein Malyasia-based AirAsia will hold 49 per cent stake, Tata Sons will have 30 per cent and 21 per cent stake will be owned by Telestra Tradeplace’s Arun Bhatia, whose son is married to the daughter of NRI billionaire Lakshmi Mittal.

Taking-off with an initial investment of US$14.5 million (about RM44.6 million) AirAsia India will compete in the domestic passenger aviation space with Jet Airways, Spicejet, IndiGo, Go Air and state-run Air India.

The airline now needs to get a no-objection certificate from the Aviation Ministry and thereafter an air transport licence from the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) to be declared a scheduled airline.

AirAsia India will also mark the re-entry of Tatas into the aviation space after about 60 years of JRD Tata-founded Air India being nationalised in 1953. AirAsia and Tatas announced their plans to start the low-cost airline in India on Feb 20 while the FIPB approved the foreign investment for the venture in March.

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Yemen to participate in Arab Travel Market in Dubai

SANA’A, March 26 (Saba)- Yemen is to participate in the Arab Travel Market (ATM) scheduled for the Emirate of Dubai during the period (May 6-9).

Executive Director of Tourism Promotion Council Fatima al-Huraibi explained to Saba that this participation comes as a part of the council’s plan for the current year , includes the participation in nine international fairs and it has participated in four of them ,which are (Berlin, Kuala Lumpur, Turkey, and Italy).

Al-Huraibi pointed out that participation in the Dubai includes four travel agencies in addition to the Council and aims at marketing the Yemeni tourism product in the relevant international fora.

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Afghanistan Economic Infrastructure Needs Suitable Conditions, Govt. Support

Kabul (BNA) March 31, 2013 – The realities and expenses of developed industrial countries show that healthy and organized economy is the indicator of a developed country.

Because of growth of economic resources such as mines extraction, growing and expansion of agriculture and development of industrial resources through functioning productive factories that can respond to sufficiency of people from industrial production point of view causes healthy economy.

But what is effective in this respect is regular playing and organized economic strategy that controls all aspects of economy.

But in the first step if the evaluation of priorities that covers the possibilities of growth of infrastructures and economic resources, agricultural and animal husbandry is from among them that the ground is papered more in our country for its development. This should be the headline of economic development. In second step, the expansion of industrial infrastructures and productive factories that fortunately as a result of domestic and foreign investments have developed more comparing previous years, can be a main mechanism for creation of employment and promotion of level production specially the primary requirements of people.

Fortunately with the establishment of factories and industrial townships, the way is paved for new profession of thousands of our unemployed youths. With the expansion of industrial centers and the growth of handicraft in villages and increment of agriculture products from among them the useful herbs such as saffron, fresh fruits that are include of grapes, apple, and pomegranate, our products find its way towards foreign international markets.

This is in a time that most investment should take place in the filed of mines extraction, expansion of industrial townships with complete support of government and observation of order in custom tariffs as well as arrangement of tax collection and custom products of consignments.

It is mentionable that one of the issue that cause prevention of investment and non-growth of industrial factories for national traders and industrials is imbalance of custom tariffs, increment of raw material tax of factory holders and nonexistence of secure transit route for merchants during recent years.

As in last year, with the stoppage of containers of merchants in Karachi port of Pakistan that were loaded with food items caused much losses for merchants that this problem is not solved so far.

If suitable transit condition be prepared for merchandized through government and concerned authorities in collaboration with chamber of commerce and industrial of Afghanistan as well as suitable condition prepared for merchants and investors such as electricity and plot for establishment of productive plants and possibilities be prepared through industrial townships, it is believed that from one side employment would be provided for unemployed youth and on the other, through increment of domestic products, our people’s requirements are maintained through it.

One of the issues that caused the economic council be established in provision of condition for national traders and attraction of investment for establishment of factories industrial townships in the capital and provinces of the country and establishment of coordination between chamber of commerce and responsible institution in the field of commerce and economy of government with private sector.

If the said mechanisms be placed in the headline of economic policy of government and foreign and domestic investors feel more security and the ground is prepared for commercial activities and establishment of factories in townships, we have complete believe that the foreign and domestic investment be increased in the country and Afghanistan would move toward welfare and development and is the same time as a result of healthy competitions, the economy of market would move in its legal framework and our agriculture products would find its way towards world with markets though national trades and our peasants would purchase their products in a suitable price:

In such condition we would have access to a healthy economy and commerce and would earn national and international guarantees for peasants and national traders based on the export of agriculture products. It’s mentionable that the president of the country also mentioned in this connection at the first meeting of economic council. Based on the same policy, he demanded for foreign merchants and investors to invest in Afghanistan.

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Afghan-Tajik-Turkmen Railway Project Launched

Kabul (BNA) March 27-2013 – Establishment of railway link between the three neighboring countries of Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan ratifies comprehensive efforts of government of Afghanistan and implementation of the project highly support trade and commerce relations between the regional countries including ultra-regional nations and for this propose, recently a memorandum of understanding was signed between leaders of the three states in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat.

For evaluation of the project and impacts on regional economic and trade ties, our correspondent has discussed the topic with Engineer Noor Gul Mangal, technical deputy of ministry of public works. Based on the MOU signed between leaders of the three countries the rail project will connect the three countries constituting Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. The rail track will be started from Hatamarat region to wards Yamnaz and onward to Sher Khan Bandar and will connect to Tajikistan and nearly 450 km of the railway line will be established inside Afghan territory.

A technical survey of the project is initiated within the couple of months and completion of the project will support the three neighbors to exchange merchandize easily and in large scale. However, president Karzai had signed an MOU with his Turkmen counterpart last year for establishment of such a project, but practical works weren’t started on the project and the recent agreement signed between heads of states from the three countries for implementation of the rail link help these countries to intensify their economic and trade relations in the future, said technical deputy of ministry of public works Noor Gul Mangal.

Evaluating economic benefits of the project, economic analyst Syed Masood said that implementation of the project further enhances commerce relations between the three countries including attraction of international investments and political harmony between the regional nations adding that the project also facilitate our business community and companies to seek better sale markets for our domestic products and expand our export and import level.

The railway link will help Afghanistan to get access to the central Asian markets and even to the European market. Economic analyst Syed Masood added that the project also support Afghanistan to introduce its transit location to the world and signing of the agreement could be entitled as one of the great achievements of the current year 1392 and implementation of the project will connects Afghanistan with rest of the economically important countries same as China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and onward to Asian region and eastern Europe.

Responding to a query regarding trade level between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, economic analyst Syed Masood said that our import graph is much higher than our export level to these countries and currently Afghanistan allocate huge financial expenditures annually for importing fuel material including electricity from the neighboring countries and current statistics show that Afghanistan annually imports electricity and oil with the cast of nearly $2billon while overall cast of our import reaches to $6 billon and on exchange Afghanistan’s export if only $ 300 million annually.

The memorandum of understanding for establishment of railway line between Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan signed at a time after a railway link with the length of 77 kilometers which connects Hairatan port to Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Balkh province has already been established.

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US$60 million Afghanistan-UNESCO Cooperation Agreement Signed

Kabul (BNA) March 31, 2013 – The Ministry of Education and the UNICEF signed a cooperation agreement worth over 60 million dollars in Kabul yesterday. The aid will be expended in two years in different spheres in education sector.

Talking at the signing ceremony Ministry of Education said that of this money use will be made this year and the coming year for improvement of the education quality, completion of construction work on some pending school buildings, buildings of new structures for schools, support to 2270 local school students and creation of 670 recreational educational centers for students of the country.

He added that the money will also be utilized for improving teaching standards of 1500 schools in 102 districts in ten provinces of the country, raising the education quality and provision of facilities for schools, creation of education support shuras at schools.

The head of UNICEF also said at this ceremony that the aid of UNICEF to Afghanistan after 2014 will not only continue but will increase as well.

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