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

29 Apr, 2013

Turkish Airlines, Air France start flights to Kuala Lumpur

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 29 April 2013 (18 Jumaada al-Thaani 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



World Islamic Tourism Mart to be held in Kuala Lumpur

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

For more information about what makes Malaysia one of the most popular destinations in the Islamic world, as well as on planning your next holiday or MICE event in Malaysia, please click: http://www.tourism.gov.my/ or

facebook: http://www.facebook.com/friendofmalaysia

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

Blog: http://blog.tourism.gov.my


Watch Islamic Travel Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil’s landmark TEDx lecture on “Peace through Tourism” on YouTube — the first travel industry journalist in Bangkok invited to speak at this prestigious forum. CLICK HERE.


“Weighing the Causes And Costs Of Global Wars And Conflict” and other columns gagged by the Bangkok Post

For 15 years (January 1997-July 2012), Imtiaz Muqbil penned a hard-hitting fortnightly column called “Soul-Searching” in the Bangkok Post. In July 2012, two editors (Sunday Post Editor Paul Ruffini and Managing Editor Chiratas Nivatpumin) of the so-called “newspaper you can trust” censored and muzzled it, with no explanation. In defiance against that unprecedented action, and at the behest of many upset readers, a selection of the nearly 400 columns are reproduced here, with more to be added regularly. Read this column Weighing the causes and costs of global wars and conflict, and several others, by clicking here.

Examples of some columns:

Globalisation Will Make Religion Even More Relevant

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

Acts of God Show the Wrath of God

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



Maldives to welcome the “Oscars of the Travel Industry”

A world “first” for the Maldives as it prepares to host the World Travel Awards Indian Ocean Ceremony in May. This prestigious event acclaimed globally as a premier networking platform in the travel and hospitality industry will hold an elegant and glamorous 5 star island-style event, synonymous with the idyllic Maldives. The Gala ceremony marks a double celebratory year of 40 years of Tourism for the Maldives, and World Travel Awards 20th Anniversary.

Paradise Island Resort & Spa part of the Villa Group, will host an array of personalities and leaders from the region and has the full support of the most important and influential tourism bodies in the Region. Hosting the ceremony will be internationally acclaimed TV and Film personality Shereen Mitwalli who has hosted world class events around the world and brings her experience, warmth and glamour to the evening.

Shereen Mitwalli will host the 2013 World Travel Awards 2013 Indian Ocean Ceremony.

“Lets go Maldives” – a leading consortium of experienced travel professionals who passionately promote the marketing of this exquisite region fully support the global event. Mohamed Riyaz, Managing Director “Lets go Maldives says“we are honoured to be part of World Travel Awards; an event that truly celebrates the spirit of travel and tourism worldwide.”

Mohamed Adam, Acting Managing Director, Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation said “We are extremely privileged and proud to be hosting the most prestigious event of the travel industry, the World Travel Awards (Indian Ocean) in the Maldives this year. Being the celebratory year of the 40th year of tourism in the Maldives, it brings us extra pleasure in extending a warm welcome to the delegates of World Travel Awards to the …sunny side of life.”

Over 58 Awards will be presented and categories including Indian Ocean’s Leading Beach destination, Indian Ocean’s Leading Airline, Indian Ocean’s Leading Family Resort, Indian Ocean’s Leading Cruise Line, Indian Ocean’s Leading Hotel Brand and the others will be hoping for top Awards on May 12th.

Sponsors: www.visitmaldives.com, www.villahotels.com, www.letsgomaldives.com

Back to top

Turkish Airlines, Air France start flights to Kuala Lumpur

Already having the world’s fourth largest flight network and flying to 221 flight destinations in 98 countries, Turkish Airlines continues to grow by adding flights to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Beginning 25th April 2013, roundtrip flights between Istanbul and Kuala Lumpur will be operated three times per week on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Introductory round trip fares are available from Istanbul to Kuala Lumpur starting from RM 2,140 (including taxes and fees).

The inaugural flight TK060 departed Istanbul Atatürk Airport, Turkey, 1:15AM (Istanbul Time) for Kuala Lumpur, representing the first Turkish Airline flight to Kuala Lumpur since 2002, when flights were routed via Bangkok. Flight TK 060 arrived at Gate C2 of Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) at 4:50PM (Kuala Lumpur Time) to a water cannon salute.

The A343-3000 aircraft had a total of 270 passengers and 9 crew members on board. Among the VIPs on board the flight were Ismail Gercek, Member of the Board, Turkish Airlines, Mehmet Nuri Yazıcı, Member of the Board, Turkish Airlines, Ahmet Olmuştur, Senior Vice President for Revenue Management, Turkish Airlines, Ufuk Ugur, Vice President, Marketing and Sales, Asia and Far East, Turkish Airlines and Y. Bhg. Dato’ Mirza Mohd Taiyab, Director General of Tourism Malaysia.

Passengers arrived to a cultural performance, organised by Tourism Malaysia, and were greeted by H.E Ms Serap Ataay, Ambassador of Turkey in Malaysia, Datin Normasila Musa, Director, International Promotion Division for Americas, Europe and Oceania of Tourism Malaysia, Y. Bhg. Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad, Managing Director of Malaysia Airports, Y. Bhg. Dato’ Azmi Murad, Senior General Manager of Operations Services Malaysia Airports, and Mr. Firat Yildirim, General Manager of Turkish Airlines Malaysia.

“We see enormous opportunity to connect business and leisure travellers between Malaysia and Turkey. As one of the fastest growing airlines in the world, our expansive network between East and West, as well as our high level of service quality, will give travellers the connectivity, reliability and comfort that they look for,” said Mr. Firat Yildirim, General Manager of Turkish Airlines Malaysia.

Y. Bhg Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad, Managing Director of Malaysia Airports said, “Malaysia Airports is very thankful to Turkish Airlines for choosing Kuala Lumpur. As Turkish Airlines flies to more countries in the world than any other airline, this service will greatly benefit passengers from Kuala Lumpur in terms of connectivity to other countries through Istanbul. Malaysia Airports warmly welcomes Turkish Airlines to Kuala Lumpur and is confident that their operations will be a success.”

Tourism Malaysia Director General, YBhg. Dato’ Mirza Mohd Taiyab expressed his delight with the Turkish Airlines service from Istanbul to Kuala Lumpur, “Tourism Malaysia is grateful to Turkish Airlines for introducing this new service to Kuala Lumpur which will not only connect Turkey but also surrounding European destinations to Kuala Lumpur. Tourism Malaysia wishes Turkish Airlines ‘All The Best’ and hopes that this new route will very soon become one of the many popular international routes that connects to the metropolitan city of Kuala Lumpur.”

Flights between the two cities will be increased to four times weekly with the addition of a Wednesday flight beginning 17th June 2013. To view the flight schedules, please visit www.thy.com, contact our call center at +90 212 444 0 849 or visit any Turkish Airline sales office.

Air France Launches Its Paris-Kuala Lumpur Route

Air France will serve Paris by three weekly flights on departure from Kuala Lumpur. With the new service, Air France now serves 15 destinations in eight Asian countries.

These flights will complement KLM’s 14 weekly frequencies to the Malaysian capital, which seven of them are operated by KLM codeshare partner Malaysia Airlines. Air France-KLM operates over 200 weekly flights connecting Europe to Asia via the Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam-Schiphol hubs.

“The strong bilateral relations between Malaysia and France, complemented by the growing economic development, as well as its attractiveness as a tourist destination, make it a very good proposition for Air France-KLM to use Kuala Lumpur as a location to increase our presence in South East Asia. Customers wishing to travel to Indonesia from Europe will also benefit from connecting opportunities to Jakarta offered by KLM,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Air France, Alexandre de Juniac, upon his arrival at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

Dato’ Azmi Murad, Senior General Manager of Operations Services Malaysia Airports expressed his delight in welcoming Air France to KLIA, “This is a momentous occasion for Malaysia Airports. Air France presence will have a significant effect on KLIA’s status as the preferred hub in this region. I am confident the direct connections to Paris will receive good response and high demand due to the popularity of the capital city of France as a tourist destination. Malaysia Airports wishes Air France all the success for their operations in Kuala Lumpur.”

Air France will operate three weekly flights from Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) to Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport (France).

Back to top

Air Astana Launches New Direct Flight From Astana To Bishkek

24th April 2013 – Air Astana, Kazakhstan’s flag carrier, launched a new non stop flight from Astana to Bishkek on 23rd April 2013. The new service linking the capitals of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan will be operated three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. The two hour flight will be performed by Embraer E-190 configured with nine business and 88 economy seats.

Astana to Bishkek is the airline’s second service to the capital of Kyrgyzstan. The service between Bishkek and Almaty was launched November 2008, with more than 50,000 passengers and 70,000 kilos of cargo being carried on the route to date.

“The launch of the new services between Astana and Bishkek is the latest step in Air Astana’s strategy of regional expansion. The new three weekly services from Astana not only complement the existing five weekly services from Almaty, but also significantly provides connections between the two capital cities. In addition to direct traffic, the schedule of the new flights have been planned to provide good connections in Astana to destinations in the Russian Federation, such as Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, St. Petersburg, Omsk, and Moscow. This new flight also enables passengers to connect from Kyrgyzstan onto Air Astana’s European network, with destinations including Istanbul and Frankfurt. Air Astana will be using the new Embraer E-190 regional jet on the new route to Bishkek, with customers enjoying Skytrax 4 star award winning comfort and cabin service,” comments Richard Ledger, Director Worldwide Sales, Air Astana.

Air Astana commenced regular flight operations on 15th May 2002 and currently operates a network of almost 60 international and domestic routes from hubs in Almaty, Astana and Atyrau. Air Astana flies an all western fleet comprising of two Boeing 767s, five Boeing 757s, eleven Airbus A320 family, and seven Embraer 190s. Air Astana became the first carrier from Russia /the CIS /Eastern Europe to be awarded the prestigious 4-Star rating at the Skytrax World Airline Awards 2012 and was also named The Best Airline in Central and South Asia.

Air Astana is a full member of the International Air Transport Association and was the first airline in Kazakhstan to achieve EU EASA Part 145 aircraft maintenance certification.

Air Astana is a joint venture between Kazakhstan’s national wealth fund Samruk Kazyna and BAE Systems, with respective shares of 51% and 49%.

Back to top

Doha Wedding expo gets bigger this year

The Peninsula – 22 April, 2013 – Over 15,000 people are expected at the International Wedding Exhibition and Fashion Show Doha (IWED 2013) which will take place at the Doha Exhibition Center from May 16 to 19. The event will gather 110 companies from Europe, Mena and Qatar, that specialises in all details regarding the special day.

In a press conference yesterday, Qatar Expo CEO, Hadi A Ali, said the sixth edition of IWED 2003, is 95 percent sold out. The event aims to present the latest trends in the wedding and fashion industry, featuring 20 fashion shows.

In a 5,000 sq m area, this year’s edition will introduce, along with the fashion show, the pampered area. This new section will deliver round-the-clock tips and tricks on improving the overall look, with the help of a professional style consultant.

Another first time at IWED 2013 will be the ‘Steps’ young designer award competition for young aspiring designers, which will enable students of well-known universities to establish their mark. The award-winning fashion designer Walid Attalah is the Guest of Honour and main fashion designer for IWED 2013.

“The brand new look is moving IWED forward and putting Doha on the map as a fashion capital of the Middle East. We are continuously increasing our exposure to the rest of the world and are now associated with many renowned international events,” said Ali said. “The summer is the wedding season in the GCC,” he added.

Belal Al Kadry, Executive Assistant Manager at The Ritz-Carlton Doha, which organises numerous weddings, said that the number has increased approximately 35 percent since last year.

“The fast growth on this segment is parallel to the growth in the country itself,” said the executive from Ritz Carlton Doha, the official exclusive hotel for IWED 2013. On the wedding day, diamonds are a most wanted accessory for all brides. To the point that, in the region, approximately 50 percent of the wedding’s budget can be dedicated to this jewel, said Mohamed Adel Attia, from Matis Unique Sense jewellers. “We also want to educate the bride on how to spend her money and we’ll have some sessions about diamond wearing,” he added.

Other major sponsors are The Weddings and Events Co, M AC, Fadia El Medelek, Studio Photokina, Trinity Qatar, Al Motahajiba, Nara Salon, Walid Atallah, Matis Unique Sense, Al Muftah Rent A Car and Dnata.

Back to top

Brand Awareness For Malaysian Tourism Products Abroad

FRANKFURT, April, 21 (NNN-Bernama) — While Malaysia does have very attractive attributes as a tourist destination, the country’s image abroad can be further enhanced by creating brand awareness. German tour operators who offer Malaysia in their tour programmes are upbeat about the attractiveness of the country for German tourists but want the country to be as well-known as Thailand and Bali.

Creating brand awareness could be the mantra to further improving its tourism profile, said German tour operators who sell tour packages for destinations in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Airways Travel GmbH, a Frankfurt-based travel and tour operator, sells customised tour packages for several Asian countries, including Malaysia, to German and other German-speaking nationalities such as Swiss and Austrians since nearly three decades, and was even declared winner of the Malaysian Tourism Award given by the Malaysian Tourism Ministry for the year 2010/2011.

In an interview with Bernama, Juergen Anding, Airways Travel’s marketing and product manager and an expert on Malaysia and other Southeast Asian destinations, said Malaysia could attract greater tourism, particularly from Germany, Switzerland and Austria, by having a public information campaign.

“Besides catering to German, Swiss and Austrian nationals, we also offer packages to Malaysians living in Germany. Unlike other Westerners, German tourists prefer to travel individually rather than in groups. We have contacts with some 250 hotels in Malaysia. Most of our tours are organised with Malaysia Airlines (MAS) which operates five flights a week to Frankfurt.

However, demand for plane seats can exceed supply, particularly during the holiday seasons such as Easter, Christmas and summer holidays when Germans like to travel.

“We then use other carriers like Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Thai Airways for Malaysia-bound passengers, giving them a stopover at the national hub of the airlines concerned,” Anding said.

Anding discerns a shift in the preferences of the average German tourist, who in the past could not resist sun and beaches, but now are more inclined towards nature and culture. While many Germans still visit Langkawi, they are also seeking nature and culture in places such as Sabah and Sarawak.

Malaysia has some of the finest natural parks that are lacking in other Southeast Asian destinations. However, because they are not so well-known, Malaysia would do well to launch a campaign to inform and educate the public about the country and its tourism attributes.

Back to top

Bangladesh fair kicks off in Malaysia on Aug 14

DHAKA, April 23, 2013 (BSS) – A three-day largest-ever single country Bangladesh fair styled “Trade in Bangladesh” will be held in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lampur from August 14 to 16, a press release said. The announcement was given today at a press conference at INIFD Auditorium at Banani in the capital. A record 242 stalls will be set up at the fair venue “Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC)” in Kuala Lampur where various Bangladeshi companies will display their products to Malaysian entrepreneurs and consumers.

The fair, to be organised by Headmaster Events, aims to promote export to Malaysia and to take advantage of the recent Malaysian government initiative on waiving duty on import of 300 Bangladeshi products. The exposition also aims to promote Bangladesh tourism industry for attracting more Malaysian tourists in Bangladesh.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Headmaster Events Shafiul Islam said apart from garment and knitwear exporters, a good number of beverage producers, software firms, banks, financial institutions and airlines will participate in the mega Bangladesh exposition in Malaysia.

He said Bangladesh Commerce Ministry has affiliated the fair while the Malaysian Trade Ministry has endorsed it and is looking forward to welcome Bangladeshi entrepreneurs in Kuala Lumpur. The Malaysia Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) has also confirmed their participation in the fair to explore B2B (Business to Business) opportunities with Bangladesh tour operators, he said.

The fair will be held with collaboration of BGMEA, BKMEA and numbers of Bangladeshi business associations while in Malaysia, SME and Expo Media will be responsible as its partners.

Back to top

Breaking the glass ceiling: Q&A with Egypt’s 1st female bank VP

Ahram Online – 21 Apr 2013 – Sahar El-Sallab is perhaps Egypt’s most famous female banker. By the end of nearly thirty years with Commercial International Bank, she had achieved the position of vice chairman and managing director, as well as chair of CI Capital, the bank’s investment arm. In 2008, she left CIB to become the assistant to the Minister of Trade and Industry for Development and Investment in Internal Trade. She has featured in Arabian Business website’s list of the Arab World’s 100 most powerful women for the past three years in a row.

In person, El-Sallab is warm and jovial, an almost archetypal mother hen brimming with energy and eager to chat. Brought up in Lebanon, where her father was a prominent banker, she initially studied to be doctor at the American University of Beirut, before having a change of heart. “I wanted to have a little fun, and I found that being a doctor wasn’t much fun” the lady of banking confesses.

The university student with a natural penchant for mathematics found instead that she was intrinsically drawn to the banking world as a part-time intern at the Union of Arab Banks. “I used to go and do some research work a few hours every day. I hated research work, but I just wanted to belong there,” she recalls.

Shortly after El-Sallab graduated in 1974, the Lebanese civil war forced her family to move back to Egypt. She worked and trained in Citibank, before being nabbed by Chase National Bank in 1981, to work in its credit department.

“There, I was the first to make a credit guide, which is now used by all the banks in Egypt, including the Central bank” she proclaims. “I also turned the credit department around with a strict system of early warning reports on problem loans, which paid off.”

El-Sallab recounts how CIB became dominated by women. When Chase Manhattan Bank sold its equity stake to the National Bank of Egypt in the late 1980s, “most of the male senior officers jumped ship,” expecting the bank’s standards to plummet.

“They said ‘this is going to be an Egyptian bank, we are AUC graduates’…so the women became the leaders of the bank.”

“Soon,” she continues, “the heads of all our departments were women, something which took the board of directors by surprise when they summoned them,” adding playfully “sometimes I would ask any man to accompany me to a meeting, saying, I just need anyone who is wearing trousers! ”

She accredits CIB’s growth to become the largest bank in Egypt to this historical characteristic, as she believes women have a social intelligence that gives them an edge over men in the field. “Women are also more articulate,” she finds.

In 2003, CIB launched a women-only credit card called “Heya”—“She” in Arabic, and five years later El-Sallab also led a drive to attract female customers to the bank, which she partly credits with the bank’s ultimate success. “We held workshops and campaigned to get women to bank with us… it was in those years when our bank reached the number one spot.”

“In CIB, the women were paid as well as the men, and sometimes better, if they made more deals.” I used to say, I don’t want extra points because I am a woman…in the deals, in the promotions, in the salary, I don’t want a pound more, but I won’t take want a pound less” she says with finality.

Still, the banker from Lebanon felt she had to work twice as hard to excel amidst her male peers. “I was the only woman vice chairman, amidst 40 male chairmen of banks; for me to take on a transaction I had to be more innovative, more intelligent, more understanding, and dividing the profits fairly when I did a syndication.”

“And of course there was a glass ceiling, but I was the first to pierce through it,” states the former first-ever female vice chairman of an Egyptian bank.

A dynamic multi-tasker, El-Sallab does not believe in the family-career dichotomy. On the contrary, she believes that her marriage, arranged around the time she started working with Chase National, encouraged her professionally. “It gave me the emotional stability I needed to dive into my career.”

On raising her two boys, El-Sallab can only vaguely recall that “it must have been quite difficult.” But the help and support of her parents and siblings alleviated the burden of trying to juggle her duties as a mother and career woman. “In Egypt we are lucky to have loving and supportive families.”

For El-Sallab, the two years since the revolution have been a time of regression for women in Egypt.

“The percentage of women being recruited in banking and other sectors is not as high as it was in the previous five years; the jobs are mostly secretarial and administrative jobs,” she says. “Employers are less inclined to hire women given the security situation because it is less safe for them to travel and work late hours.”

The disappearance of women from the public sector since Islamist President Morsi came to power also irks the former deputy minister. “At the time I was deputy minister of trade, there were a lot of women in all the ministries; now they are all men,” she laments. “We’ve gone backward…women are being talked about like any man can get married to four, and the women should stay at home.”

As for El-Sallab herself, besides chairing Hiteknofal, a family IT business, the veteran banker’s new passion lies with her angel fund investing in IT startups. “My friends cannot believe that here I am, approaching sixty, and I’m going into entrepreneurship like a child,” she exclaims.

The idea for the fund grew out of her experience judging start-ups for Google, namely 75 projects including ground-breaking online application Bey2ollak, a user-based website which monitors traffic. “What I saw then made me fall in love with the young entrepreneurs,” she gushes. “I think this is the real revolution in Egypt.”

Back to top

Indonesia: Rp3.7 Trillion Proposed To Support Sail Komodo

KUPANG, April 26 (NNN-ANTARA) — Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) provincial government has proposed a budget of Rp3.7 trillion for infrastructure development to support the success of Sail Komodo 2013, an official has said.

“Such an amount of funds is proposed to the central government to support the construction of various infrastructures on Komodo island as the final destination of Sail Komodo participants,” NTT Regional Development Planning Board spokesman Wayan Darmawan said here on Thursday.

According to him, the funds would be used for the expansion of airport, tourist harbor, as well as other tourist facilities on Komodo island. “There is also financial support from NTT regional budget but the amount is not significant enough,” Wayan Darmawan said, adding that all district and city governments in the province were also asked to allocate Rp100 billion from 2012 revised regional budget and Rp125 billion from 2013 regional budget.

He expressed hope that all relevant ministries such as the Ministry of Transportation, the Ministry of Public Works, and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries will support the success of this international marine event this year in East Nusa Tenggara.

“The success of Sail Komodo 2013 will depend on the readiness all related ministries to do their basic tasks and functions to support the event,” Wayan Darmawan noted. He added that all district and city governments in East Nusa Tenggara are making various preparations for the international marine event of Sail Komodo, which is expected to give positive impact on economic development in the province.

Back to top

Gambia: Schools and Tourism

Daily Observer, 25 April 2013 – As the world economy continues to grow, so also is tourism. The industry was already reaching new heights in 2012 and continued to grow robustly in 2013. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) noted that in 2012, arrivals grow more rapidly in the emerging than in the advanced destinations.

Worldwide tourism is considered to be a viable and income-generating sector of government if properly managed. And The Gambia is not an exception as government is the number one promoter of tourism in this country. To continue promoting this industry and to make it one of the most viable sectors, it is important that the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education introduce tourism and culture education into the secondary school curriculum. Students from this level need to educate themselves about Destination Gambia, types of tourism like adventure, cultural, environment, community, sustainable, and eco-tourism among others.

They should be on the lookout for news and current events relating to tourism, as this will enable them to learn about local history, custom and culture. This will enable students to familiarise themselves with issues connected to the country’s tourism industry.

In tourism you need to share your daily experiences with others to foster a greater understanding of the world we are and beyond. Students have been going for series of excursions but the knowledge they gain from such excursions should be utilised.

It is well known that tourism and hospitality management is all about caring, managing and entertaining people and trying to satisfy their desires. If properly oriented, our students will play very useful roles in our tourism industry.

Back to top

Tunisia Bids for UNWTO Executive Board Membership’

24 April 2013 – Tunis Afrique Presse – Tunis — “Tunisia is bidding for the August 2013 elections of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Executive Board to represent Africa,” Tourism Minister Jamel Gamra announced on Wednesday. He added, in a statement to TAP news agency, on the fringes of the 54th meeting of UNWTO Commission for Africa held Wednesday in Gammarth (Tunis suburbs), that “this membership will allow Tunisia to be a junction point between Africa and Europe and a relay destination in the continent.”

The Minister stressed the need to “implement the different tourism agreements signed between Tunisia and African countries by establishing joint implementation mechanisms supported by the organisation.”

Tunisia is ready to contribute to the implementation of a “joint programme for the development of the tourist sector in Africa and diagnose and resolve its problems,” Mr. Gamra went on saying.

“The country is also willing to contribute to developing an upgrading programme of human skills and improvement of the quality of hotels, resorts and travels,” he further said.

Interim Prime Minister Ali Larayedh called, at the opening of this two-day meeting, on all tourism players in Africa to combine their efforts, especially in this period to put an end to difficulties impeding the sector’s development in the African region.

He urged increasing air links, improving infrastructure and enhancing training of specialised workforce and distribution chains. “The Tunisian Revolution (December 17, 2010/ January 14, 2011), which has caught the attention of the world, is a real opportunity that must be valued,” added the Prime Minister.

He also called for drawing on natural and cultural reserves as well as the social specifics of the African continent to give a fresh impetus to tourism. Mr. Larayedh pointed to the efforts made by Tunisia to strengthen international co-operation and exchange of experiences and expertise in this area.

He reminded of the actions taken to promote the marketing system of the Tunisian tourist product and coaching of tourist companies operating in the sectors of accommodation, travel and entertainment.

For his part, Secretary-General of the WTO Taleb Rifai called on African countries to make the most of new information and communication technologies in the tourism field. The official highlighted the importance of inter-African tourism, calling for increasing “investment in the characteristics of each African country,” diversifying products and services and modernising infrastructure and hotels.

A “private sector commitment to the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism,” established by the UNWTO was signed during the meeting by President of the Tunisian Federation of Travel Agencies (FTAV), the Secretary-General of the Tunisian Hotel Trade Federation (FTH) and Cote d’Ivoire’s Tourism Ministry.

The meeting, which is held for the first time in Tunisia, is attended by 250 participants from 24 countries and 15 African Tourism Ministers, in addition to 115 Arab and foreign delegates. The 54th meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Africa is held concurrently with the International Tourism Market (MIT) and the international conference on “Current Challenges and Issues for African Tourism: What Solutions can be adopted to ensure its competitiveness?”

Back to top

Tunisia to Host Over Seven Million Tourists in 2013

23 April 2013 – Tunis Afrique Presse – Tunis — “Tunisia will host over 7 million tourists in 2013” according to the estimates of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Secretary-General Taleb Rifai.

During a meeting with the press, held Tuesday in Kasbah, the UNWTO S-G asserted that the tourism sector in Tunisia is comparable to “inexhaustible oil resources”, it is also “the main locomotive of development”, given its natural and cultural peculiarities and the specialised human resources the country provides.

He specified that during the talk he had, Tuesday with caretaker Prime Minister Ali Larayedh, the latter said “that Tunisia intends to bid for the UNWTO executive bureau, to be renewed in summer 2013.”

As regards the works of the 54th meeting of the UNWTO commission for Africa, Mr. Rifai underlined that the choice of Tunisia to host this event, reflects “its place of choice at the Arab, African and Mediterranean scale in the different sectors, including notably tourism.”

This meeting, held on April 24-25 in Tunisia, will be attended by 20 African Tourism Ministers as well as experts and representatives of financial institutions. “The meeting will include a large workshop to discuss mechanisms likely to boost tourism in the African continent and face the future challenges,” he underlined.

Reminding that the African countries hosted, in 2012, about 52 million tourists, i.e 5% of all the tourist flow in the world, Mr. Rifai pointed that the tourist revenues in these countries during this same year, are estimated at some 38 billion dollars (4% of the world tourist revenues). In turn, Tourism Minister Jamel Gamra asserted that the Ministry strives according to a short-term strategy, to achieve the success of the present tourist season, by ensuring security, promoting the Tunisian destination and diversifying the services offered.

Back to top

Nigeria: Dana Re-opens Flights On Lagos-Port Harcourt Route

25 April 2013 – Daily Trust – Lagos — Dana Air has re-launched flight operations between Lagos and Port Harcourt as part of its full come back programme. The inaugural flight on Monday, operated with an MD 83, took off from the Murtala Mohammed Airport 2 (MMA2) Lagos, at about 12:05pm and arrived Port Harcourt at about 1:50pm. The same flight departed Port Harcourt at about 2:05pm and arrived Lagos 2:50Pm. The Head of Corporate Communications of Dana Air, Mr Tony Usidamen said the re-launch was in response to yearnings from loyal customers.

“Since resuming operations to Abuja, we have been receiving a lot of requests from our frequent customers to resume the Port Harcourt route and we are delighted to resume service on the route,” he said. “Until the incidence of June last year, Dana had established itself as one of the major players on Lagos-Port Harcourt and Abuja-Port Harcourt Routes,” he said.

He indicated that in the coming months, Dana will re-launch Calabar route and other underserved cities across Nigeria.

He also said Dana is acquiring more aircraft. “We have five aircraft. In accordance with our expansion drive, we are working to have Boeing 737 at the end of the third quarter of this year.

Dana Air currently operates ten flights daily on the Lagos-Abuja-Lagos route, Lagos-Port Harcourt-Abuja.

Back to top

Air Arabia doubles Beirut flights

Khaleej Times – 26 April, 2013 – Air Arabia announced on Wednesday the expansion of its services to the Lebanese capital, Beirut, from the carrier’s primary hub in Sharjah, making it easier and more convenient for passengers to visit the capital city.

Starting May 1, 2013, the carrier will offer flights 14 times per week, departing Sharjah International Airport daily at 08:00 and 18:15. Return flights depart Beirut International Airport daily at 12:00 and 22:15.

“Beirut was among the first destinations we started serving when Air Arabia launched operations October 2003. Today’s announcement further underscores Air Arabia’s commitment to the Lebanese market, and we are proud to see services increased to double daily, thus connecting our customers in UAE and Lebanon with a great frequency and un-beatable fares,” said Adel Ali, group CEO, Air Arabia.

Since its launch, Air Arabia’s network has expanded to serve over 85 destinations from hubs in the UAE, Morocco and Egypt.

Back to top

Sharjah, RAK target new deals at Riyadh Travel Fair

Arab News – 24 April, 2013 – Northern emirates Sharjah and Ras Al-Khaimah are looking to further expand their presence in Saudi tourism market. The two emirates will have their booths at Riyadh Travel Fair, which is running until Friday.

“Once again, the Kingdom has contributed the biggest chunk to Sharjah’s GCC tourism market with 195,462 Saudi tourists visiting the emirate in 2012, which is a whopping 96 percent increase over the previous year’s figure of 99,505,” said Mohamed Ali Al-Noman, chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority.

Al-Noman described Sharjah’s participation in the Riyadh Travel Fair as an important part of the emirate’s strategy to reach out to the massive Saudi tourism market.

“This will strengthen the emirate’s tourism cooperation with the GCC countries, especially the Saudi market that is our biggest contributor in the GCC region and thus most important for us,” he added.

“Sharjah offers a perfect family destination for the GCC tourists with common traditions, culture and lifestyle in a modern setting and with world-class amenities,” Al-Noman said.

Ras Al-Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (TDA) CEO Victor Louis said: “We are looking forward to attend Riyadh Travel Fair for discovering new opportunities to strengthen the tourism links between two regions.”

He added: “Over the past two years we’ve spotted a growing number of Saudi holidaymakers choosing Ras Al-Khaimah, making the Kingdom one of our fastest growing markets as well as one of the highest spending per hotel guest. We see important potential for development here and anticipate Saudi Arabia will play an increasingly important role in our growth strategy for the emirate.”

With ever increasing visitor numbers from its primary source markets of the UAE, Germany and Russia, Ras Al-Khaimah is now looking for its reputation to grow as a top regional holiday destination within the GCC and specifically Saudi Arabia.

TDA sources said visitors from the Kingdom represented a small but high value and fast growing proportion of Ras Al-Khaimah’s tourism sector.

In 2012, Ras Al-Khaimah welcomed 3,542 visitors from the Kingdom, representing just 0.32 percent of the emirate’s total visitor number but a 234 percent increase in the number of the country’s visitors from the year 2011.

Saudi visitors to Ras Al-Khaimah also have a significantly higher average hotel spend per guest than other source markets — spending on average $ 110 per room in 2012 compared to $ 98 per UAE guest, $ 78 per German guest and $ 68 per Russian guest.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi have been receiving a huge number of visitors from Saudi Arabia for several years.

Back to top

Indonesian Industry Ministry holds Batik Expo

Tue, April 23 2013 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – A batik exhibition displaying batik clothes from various Indonesian regions such as Java and Papua is being organized at the industry ministry building on Gatot Subroto street here from April 23 to 26, 2013.

“The batik expo is being participated in by batik producers grouped in the Indonesian Batik Foundation from West Java, East Java, Yogyakarta and Papua,” Euis Saedah, the industry ministry`s director general for small-and-medium scale industry, said here on Tuesday.

Officially opened by Industry Minister MS Hidayat, the batik expo is part of a series of batik exhibition events which will include Nusantara Batik Expo to be held at the Jakarta Convention Center, July 17-21, 2013.

Forty four batik producers are taking part in the four-day batik expo.

Back to top

Kuwaiti College Students In UAE Hold Small Businesses Exhibition

DUBAI, April 21 (NNN-KUNA) — The National Union of Kuwaiti Students in the United Arab Emirates held an exhibition here on Saturday aimed at promoting entrepreneurism and small business projects.

“The idea to hold the two-day event came from the students themselves,” said the head of the union Hamad Al-Awadhi, who mentioned that the event also a chance for students to “break the ice” and for them to get acquainted with one another.

The event was also used to announce the Kuwait Health Ministry’s approval of a first-class health certificate for students in the neighbouring Gulf country including free treatment for dental, skin and optical ailments.

The event also included competitions and gifts, sponsored by Sharjah-based airline, Air Arabia.

Back to top

Morocco Starts Construction Of 143-Km Highway

Safi, Morocco, April 22 (NNN-MAP) — Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has launched the construction of a 143-km El Jadida-Safi Highway at the rural commune of Saadla in the Province of Safi, some 340 km south of the capital, Rabat.

The highway, which is being built at a cost of 4.8 billion dirhams (about 564 million USD), will help to develop the tourism, industrial and mining potential of this central region of the kingdom.

Linking Doukkala-Abda to other neighbouring regions via a modern motorway infrastructure, the project will have a positive impact on passenger safety and reduce travel time between the cities served (El Jadida, Jorf Lasfar, Sidi Smail, Sidi Bennour, Zemamra, Oualidia, Safi).

The project is funded by the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development and the European Investment Bank (EIB).

The construction of the motorway is part of the contracted programme between the State and the National Motorway Company for the 2008-2015 period, which was signed on July 2, 2008 for the construction of 384 km of new links including, the Rabat-Salé bypass, Berrechid-Beni Mellal motorway, El Jadida-Safi motorway, and Casablanca-Berrechid motorway.

Back to top

Indonesia Sets 7.5 Mln Tonnes Seaweed Production Target

JAKARTA, Indonesia April 22 (NNN-Bernama) — The Ministry of Maritime and Fisheries Affairs (KKP) has set a target of seaweed production at 7.5 million tonnes this year, Indonesian news agency ANTARA reported. Maritime and Fisheries Minister Sharif Cicip Sutardjo said in a statement this year’s target is an increase of 30 percent from the previous year which stood at 5.2 million tonnes.

The minister said his ministry had also planned to produce 10 million tonnes of the same commodity in 2014 and would develop the downstream sector of the commodity to increase added value of seaweeds. Sharif said the government had also set a target to produce 205,000 tonnesof processed seaweeds this year.

The processed products would be in the form of ATC (Alkali Treated Carrageenan), SRC (Semi Refine Carrageenan), RC (Refine Carrageena), gelatin and alginate. Indonesia has seaweed potential areas covering 1.110 million hectares and has some 555 species of seaweed plasma with about 45 percent of the world’s seaweed species found in the country.

With its huge potential and conducive climate, Sharif said scientists and researchers have a very important role in the development of seaweeds in the country.

“They can directly play roles in the seedling process, culture, post-harvest handling, processing, formulation industry and end production derivation,” he said. Indonesian Seaweed Association (ARLI) chairman Safari Azis said some 50 countries will take part in the 21st International Seaweed Symposium (ISS) scheduled in Bali from April 21-26.

“For Indonesia to host the event, it will be a good opportunity for the country to show various achievements it has made in developing seaweed andseaweed industries,” he said.

The forum themed “Seaweed Science for Sustainable Prosperity” will see scientists, technologists, business people and resource managers presenting their latest research results, exchange ideas and develop new synergies.

Safari said results of various researches, trade exhibitions and business meetings on seaweed will also be discussed to strengthen the nation’s seaweed industry.

Back to top

Iran’s Economic Stability Guaranteed By $100 Bln Forex Reserves

TEHRAN, Apr 23 (NNN-FNA) – Iranian Economy Minister, Seyed Shamseddin Hosseini, underlined that despite the US-led western sanctions, Iran’s considerably high foreign exchange reserves guarantee its economic stability.

“The country’s foreign exchange reserves remain above $100bln, keeping Tehran’s finances stable, despite hopes inside the Obama administration that Iran is on the brink of an economic collapse,” Hosseini said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

The Iranian economy minister noted that Iran is accelerating its efforts to increase its non-oil trade transactions and find new markets in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. He underlined that Iran’s economy is adapting to the West’s sanctions, and added, “One important lesson we have learned from the sanctions is that, we have to use all kinds of foreign exchange. We don’t depend on euros or dollars,” he said.

Earlier this year, Hosseini said Tehran plans to exclude the currencies of the western states, specially dollar and euro, from its foreign trade. “According to the decision made by the cabinet workgroup, dollar and euro will be gradually put aside from Iran’s trade with other countries,” Hosseini said, addressing a meeting in Tehran in Jan.

The minister noted that Iran has changed its trade partners and redirecting its trade transactions from such countries as the UK and Germany to countries like China and Turkey.

Such changes reduce the need to third currencies like dollar and euro, he added.

In Jul 2010, Iran’s First Vice-President, Mohammad Reza Rahimi, stressed that the “country plans to replace Dollar and Euro with other currencies in its oil trades.”

“We are free to choose any currency to sell our crude oil and this issue depends on Iran’s interests,” Rahimi said in a ceremony releasing a report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). “The important issue is to exclude euros and dollars,” he added.

Back to top

Tourist Visits Double Between Iran, Iraqi Kurdistan

TEHRAN,April 24 (NNN-FNA) — The number of tourists arriving from Iraq’s Kurdistan region in Iran and Iranian tourists in the Iraqi autonomous region has doubled in the last few years, Iran’s Consular-General in the Northern Iraqi city of Erbil Azim Hosseini said. He said his office issued 300,000 entry visas for Kurdish tourists last year, while an equal number of visas were issued for the Iranian tourists.

“The figures show that the number of tourist visits between the two sides doubled compared with previous years, which indicates that the friendly relations between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Islamic Republic of Iran have further consolidated,” Hosseini told PUK media.

In March, Iran and the Iraqi Kurdistan region launched direct flights between Iran’s Western city of Orumiyeh and Iraq’s Northern city of Erbil.

Direct flights between Orumiyeh and Iraq’s Northern city of Erbil are available after the airline between the two cities was launched on Sunday with the presence of a number of Iranian and Iraqi officials.

Director of Orumiyeh International Airport Kamal Parhizgar said in a ceremony held to celebrate the event that the flight would be two days a week on Sundays and Thursdays.

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

In January, Iranian First Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi stressed the necessity for the further expansion of the relations between Tehran and the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.

In a meeting with Head of the Islamic Movement of Iraqi Kurdistan Ali Abdul-Aziz in Tehran, Rahimi said, “The two nations enjoy brotherly ties and in this while the Islamic Movement of Iraqi Kurdistan, too, is one of the noble movements which is close to both nations.”

Back to top

Kuwait to host Developing Creativity Conference

Kuwait News Agency – 20 April, 2013 – Kuwait will host on Sunday Developing Creativity conference, with participation of local and international experts, to discuss the issue globally and in the Arab world at individual and organizational levels.

Head of Board of Directors for Gulf Innovation Company Tariq Al-Suwaidan said in a statement on Saturday the conference deals with the concept of innovation in the Arab world, considering importance of this science in developing performance of organizations and making a quantum leap in decision-making.

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

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

For his part, General Manager of the company Ahmed Sharbaji said the conference would open horizons to build a new science in developing creativity in the near future.

The conference of the creative industry, which will last for three days, will be attended by most important creative makers globally and regionally, led by Dr. John Kao, Dr. Saad Al-Barrak and Dr. Tariq Al-Habib.

Back to top

Nigeria state governor woos Kuwait investors

Kuwait Times – 21 April, 2013 – As part of his efforts to attract investors to the Northern Nigerian state, the governor of Kano state in Nigeria, Dr Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso met with officials of the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and some Kuwaiti investors over the weekend during his two-day visit to Kuwait.

Among the issues that topped his agenda for talks were banking, education, sports and tourism. He said that some memoranda of understanding and other agreements will be signed when the Kuwaiti delegates visit Nigeria in July. “We discussed several issues of mutual interest and some agreements will be signed when the (Kuwait) delegation visits Kano in July this year,” he hinted.

Speaking to the press, Governor Kwankwaso said his administration was pursuing robust policy measures to reinvigorate the critical sectors of the state economy.

“The state government is working very hard to set up a sustainable economic system by providing infrastructure and qualified manpower aimed at boosting investments and empowering the people financially. Kano is partnering with investors in its micro-finance scheme. So far, 44 micro finance banks have been established in the state,” Dr Kwankwaso stressed, adding that efforts were being geared towards poverty alleviation through commerce, investments, infrastructural development and security.

The governor noted that his administration has made significant progress in the economic sphere in the last few years. He said that the state’s economic empowerment and development strategy has been designed to lay a solid foundation for sustainable poverty reduction, employment generation, wealth creation and value orientation. Governor Kwankwaso urged Kuwaitis, expatriates and members of the Nigerian Diaspora to invest in the most populous state in his country, especially in the areas of agriculture, tourism, banking, solid mineral and mining.

On the issue of security relating to the extremist group Boko Haram, he outlined the government’s efforts aimed at ending their attacks through reconciliation and healing, and cited President Jonathan’s determination to resolve security related problems.

Back to top

Air Arabia breaks passenger-number record

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

“Air Arabia continues to witness significant growth in passenger numbers, and this demonstrates the popularity of the airline’s value for money and excellent service,” Air Arabia group chief executive officer Adel Ali said in a statement.

“Air Arabia will continue to set the standard for the low-cost travel segment, offering great fares to an ever growing range of destinations,” he added.

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

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

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

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

Back to top

Programme to support entrepreneurs launched

Gulf Daily News – 21 April, 2013 – A new initiative to support youth and start-up businesses in Bahrain has been launched.

The non-profit scheme, called Entrelab, will provide young businessmen and women the chance to showcase and sell their innovative products in one of the country’s top shopping malls for at least two months, starting in June.

It is being spearheaded by Tenmou-Bahraini Business Angels in co-operation with the US Embassy.

The initiative also includes an intensive training programme for exhibitors that will focus on marketing skills, pricing tactics and business start-up courses.

Back to top

Islamic microfinance market touches $ 1 billion

Saudi Gazette – 22 April, 2013 – Islamic microfinance is rapidly gaining acceptance in Muslim and non-Muslim countries due to its remarkable performance in poverty eradication.

According to estimates, Islamic microfinance market’s worth has reached $1 billion, Muhammad Zubair Mughal, Chief Executive Officer of AlHuda Centre of Islamic Banking and Economics (CIBE), said in an address at the three-day International Islamic Finance conference held recently at Park Hyatt Hotel-Abu Dhabi.

The event was organized by the international research and publication organization Emerald, in association with Abu Dhabi University. Mughal said that currently more than 300 Islamic microfinance institutions are offering their services to 1.6 million clients in almost 32 countries. Due to Islamic microfinance’s significant role in reducing poverty, international donor institutions and multilateral organizations like USAID, IDB, ADB, IFAD, UNDP, World Bank and IFC, etc. have clearly explained their policies in different countries to further strengthen Islamic microfinance, which will ensure the quick advancement of Islamic microfinance in near future.

He added that if we take an overview of last 10 years of Islamic finance industry, it can be observed that Islamic banking, sukuk, takaful and other Islamic funds have progressed quickly. While, in next 3 years Islamic microfinance will progress more quickly relative to other Islamic financial products.

To further strengthen Islamic microfinance, AlHuda CIBE has established an international division named “Centre of Excellence in Islamic Microfinance (CEIMF), he said. Its major objective is to provide the advisory and consultancy to microfinance institutions so that conventional microfinance institutions can be transformed into Islamic microfinance institution and along with this new Islamic microfinance Institutes can be established. In this regard, Centre of Excellence in Islamic Microfinance is offering its services in Azerbaijan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mauritius, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and other countries.

He further said that there is immense need of research in Islamic microfinance industry so that new Islamic microfinance products can be introduced. At present, only murabaha has 80 percent share of total Islamic microfinance market.

Back to top

Flydubai starts flight to Juba

Khaleej Times – 22 April, 2013 – Flydubai, Dubai’s innovative low-cost airline, made its maiden flight to Juba, the capital city of the Republic of South Sudan. The inaugural flight, FZ61, touched down at Juba Airport on Sunday with Ghaith Al Ghaith, chief executive of flydubai and Buti Al Ghandi, managing director of Saeed Mohammed Al Ghandi & Sons on board. The Vice-President, Dr Riek Macha Teny, welcomed the flydubai and UAE media delegation with a celebratory ceremony held at the Presidential Terminal.

Ghaith Al Ghaith said the airline’s new route will help boost trade and travel opportunities between the UAE and South Sudan. “We are delighted to have started flights to Juba today which is our 56th destination in operation across our route network. We are excited about the trade and travel opportunities that this new route brings to both the Republic of South Sudan and the UAE.”

The addition of Juba further broadens flydubai’s network in Africa and opens up more routes to previously underserved markets. The carrier now serves six points in the continent: Addis Ababa, Alexandria, Djibouti, Juba, Khartoum and Port Sudan.

“We would like to take the opportunity to thank the authorities for the warm welcome. The affordable, reliable and high quality service we offer will enable passengers to travel more frequently between our two nations and onwards via one stop in Dubai aviation’s hub,” added Al Ghaith.

Elsewhere, flydubai started it’s twice a week service to Mineralnye Vody, its fifth destination in Russia. The carrier will inaugurate two more new routes later in April, adding Osh in Kyrgyzstan and Dushanbe in Tajikistan to its expanding network. To support the rapid network growth, flydubai will take delivery 6 new aircraft before the end of 2013, bringing its fleet to 34.

Return fares to Juba from Dubai start at Dh2,380 while return fares to Dubai from Juba start at $ 650. Special launch fares at $ 599 for return flights from Juba. All fares are inclusive of 20kg checked baggage allowance.

Back to top

Hospitality academy to train young Omani executives

Oman Daily Observer – 22 April, 2013 – Al Bustan Palace Hospitality Academy was launched here yesterday under the auspices of Maitha al Mahrooqiyah, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Tourism. Al Mahrooqiyah said the academy is part of Al Bustan Palace Hotel’s commitment towards developing Omani talents and Omanisation. Al Bustan Palace Hotel has selected 20 highly competent young Omani executives to be placed on an 11-month leadership training program that is designed for their future growth and excellence.

Al Bustan Palace Hotel, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, reinforced its commitment to strengthening its Omani workforce and developing talent within the industry with the launch of this academy. The academy is designed to host young Omani talents through a dedicated training programmes aimed at cultivating hospitality excellence with courses such as leadership and soft skills, culinary skills, basic hospitality-specific training to professional certifications covering an array of disciplines.

“We are committed to enhancing the lives, well-being and career prospects of our valued employees. Our leaders are all committed to their growth and wish to set them up for continued success within the company,” said Bernard N Viola, General Manager. Presently, twenty high-potential Omani gentlemen have been selected for an 11 month leadership course in partnership with Modern Gulf Institute. At the completion of the programme, they will be on the path to assume positions of responsibility within the company.

The culinary programmes are being offered through the structured selection process established by Al Bustan Palace Hotel in partnership with National Hospitality Institute (NHI). The culinary course is designed to provide a solid ground in craft skills covering food preparation, cooking, hygiene, health and safety. In line with the hotel’s commitment in retaining and developing talents, more than thirty leaders attended a four-day “Foundations of Leadership” course conducted by Regional Training Team for the hotel at the end of March this year.

Back to top

Indonesia could exports up to $65 m worth of decorative fish

April 22 2013 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesia is a potential exporter of decorative fishes and could earn up to US$65 million from the exports of the commodity a year, an official said. Promotion, however, is needed to expand export market, Fishery Breeding Director General Slamet Soebjakto said in a press statement here on Monday.

Slamet said the country`s production of decorative fish has increased from year to year. In 2012, production reached 978 million fishes exceeding the target of 850 million, he cited. Indonesia is the fifth largest exporter of decorative fish in the world after the Czech Republic, Thailand, Japan, and Singapore.

“The prospects of business in decorative fish in Indonesia is encouraging. The country has decorative fish varying in forms of body and colors,” he said. Indonesia has more than 450 of 1,100 species of fresh water decorative fish in the world and more than 700 species of sea decorative fish.

Unfortunately the sea potential of the world’s largest archipelago is not sufficiently exploited to make decorative fishes, a major export commodity, Slamet said.

With the potential Indonesian could easily become the worlds largest supplier of decorative fish, he said. "A unified vision and mission is needed between the government, associations and stakeholders to support and speed up industrialization of decorative fish sector to make the country, the worlds largest producer of decorative fishes in 2015,” he said.

He said the government has shown its seriousness in developing business in decorative fishes by building breeding ponds in the regency of Blitar, East Java in 2011, he said.

Back to top

Ayad Akhtar ‘shocked’ by Pulitzer Prize

AP, 16 Apr 2013 – Ayad Akhtar’s “Disgraced,” a play about a successful Pakistani-American lawyer whose dinner party spins out of control amid a heated discussion of identity and religion, has won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for drama. “It’s such a huge honor. I’m still in shock, actually,” the playwright said from London, where he’s helping ready a new production of “Disgraced” at the Bush Theatre. “I feel very fortunate and very grateful.”

“Disgraced” had its world premiere at Chicago’s American Theater Company in 2012 and then ran at Lincoln Center Theater’s Claire Tow Theater. The lead character, Amir Kapoor, a Pakistani-American corporate lawyer, lives on the Upper East Side in an apartment described in the script as “spare and tasteful with subtle flourishes of the Orient.” Amir loves the New York Knicks and the Magnolia Bakery and his elegant $600 shirts with their “ridiculous thread count.”

The dinner party at the heart of the play brings together two couples and several religious and ethnic identities over pork tenderloin and chorizo. When chitchat touches on Islamic and Judaic tradition, the Quran and the Talmud, racial profiling and Sept. 11 and the Taliban and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Benjamin Netanyahu — along with the requisite alcohol intake — chaos is achieved.

“I really wanted to write a play that was going to have a legitimately tragic dimension for a contemporary audience,” Akhtar said. “I wanted the play to have immediacy and a liveness of engagement that harkened back to a tragic form but a mass form, something that would have audiences gasping.”

The Columbia University’s prize board on Monday said the 42-year-old playwright’s work beat out finalists “Rapture, Blister, Burn” by Gina Gionfriddo and “4000 Miles” by Amy Herzog.

Akhtar, a 42-year-old New Yorker, also wrote the novel “American Dervish” and co-wrote and played the lead in the film “The War Within.” His “Disgraced” got a celebrity gloss in New York when the lead character was played by Aasif Mandvi, the very funny correspondent on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.”

The drama award, which includes a $10,000 prize, is “for a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life,” according to the official guidelines. The production must have opened during 2012 to be eligible for this year’s award.

Last year’s winner was Quiara Alegria Hudes’s play “Water by the Spoonful,” about an Iraq war veteran struggling to find his place in the world. Previous playwrights honored include August Wilson, Edward Albee, Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams.

Akhtar, the child of Pakistani immigrants, grew up in Wisconsin, and studied at Brown University and at Columbia University’s film school. In addition to “Disgraced,” he wrote the hostage thriller “The Invisible Hand,” which had its world premiere at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis last year.

Back to top

Palestine on screen at Chicago film festival

Ahram Online, Tuesday 23 Apr 2013 – The 12th edition of the annual Chicago Palestine Film Festival opened on 20 April and will continue until 2 May with screenings taking place at two venues: the Gene Siskel Film Centre and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The event is the world’s longest running festival dedicated solely to showcasing stories from the Palestinian territories and Palestinian filmmakers to large audiences.

According to the festival organisers, every year, the festival strives to bring together films about Palestine that engage, enlighten and entertain the audiences, leaving them inspired. The line-up of this year’s Chicago Palestine Film Festival includes: Nation Estate by Larissa Sansour (2012); When I Saw You (Lamma Shoftak) by Annemarie Jacir (2012); Uncle Nashaat (Ammo Nashaat) by Aseel Mansour (2011); Haneen by Ossama Bewardi (2011) and Gaza Tunnels to Nowhere by Miriam Abu Sharkh, among many other new movies.

Back to top

Circus brings splash of colour to Afghanistan

AFP, 24 Apr 2013 – In a dusty city of grey concrete blast walls where there’s not always much to smile about, the organisers of a children’s circus try to provide a splash of colour and some moments of joy. The Kabul-based Mobile Mini-Circus for Children (MMCC) was founded in Afghanistan in 2002, months after the fall of the hardline Taliban Islamic regime which banned music and dance.

Fewer than one million children — and no girls — attended school nationwide at the time. While other NGOs and government agencies focused on food, shelter and education, MMCC strove to introduce “soft” values bringing children together to foster a more joyful atmosphere despite frequent hardship.

“It’s a special circus,” said founder David Mason, a former salsa and tango dance instructor from Denmark. “It’s a circus to educate, give meaning to life, make children happy, make them dream and realise their dreams and gain self-confidence and inspiration.”

Professional adult artists tour and perform for children across the war-torn country. In the past 11 years, Mason told AFP, the circus and its local partner the Afghan Educational Children’s Circus have attracted a total live audience of more than 2.7 million people in 25 provinces.

At a show in Kabul on Sunday to mark World Circus Day, young performers in colourful cloaks circled a courtyard on rollerskates and headscarved girls showed off their juggling skills. Children performed cartwheels and backward somersaults and formed human pyramids, dancing and clapping to entertain an audience of their peers from a camp for internally displaced people and an orphanage.

Conditions in the camps housing the country’s half a million internal refugees are notoriously harsh. In the winter of 2011-2012 about 100 people, mostly children and the elderly, lost their lives in the cold. “When you are living under a plastic sheet in a Kabul winter, then… hardship and surviving makes people forget about living. And then once you have survived, there’s nothing much to live for,” said Mason, 47.

The circus works to change that. A total of 120 girls and boys attend a centre in Kabul after regular school hours to learn circus skills, going on to give performances in schools and refugee camps.

“They are semi-professionals,” said Mason, co-director of the non-profit body with his partner Berit Muhlhausen. MMCC also draws on support from almost 100 international professionals and volunteers.

Enjoyment is the main message but the circus also stages hour-long educational performances starting with a Koran recital. They include messages lasting for 10-15 minutes on the importance of hygiene, school attendance, mine awareness and malaria prevention.

Children “never forget the messages because the music is there, the story is there, compared with traditional messages,” Mason said. But the overriding message is to be happy. “It’s difficult to convince academics and people in power that having a reason to be joyful is a huge achievement, an aim in itself,” he said.

Mason said he has “very good relations” with the education and culture ministries, and Deputy Culture Minister Nabi Farahi watched Sunday’s show.

He told AFP that attention to children’s art and talents “is really important in society. We can see that young Afghan people have a lot of talent.”

Firouz, an 11-year-old who lives in a camp for internal refugees, also enjoyed the show. “This programme is fun,” he said. “I’d like to learn how to juggle and do gymnastics. It’s really good.”

Every year the circus brings together children from across Afghanistan for major events such as festivals and children’s assemblies. This, says MMCC, promotes unity in a multi-ethnic country.

The circus, which has also performed overseas, says 75 percent of all its activities are run and taught by children at a time when Afghanistan is taking control of its own future as the international community steps back.

“Over the past decade, the children and youngsters at (the circus) have developed the capacity to lead young people across Afghanistan,” it says on its website.

“Their voices are the voices of Afghanistan’s future.”

Back to top

Abu Dhabi hosts first Environmental Film Festival

Ahram Online, Wednesday 24 Apr 2013 – The Emirate of Abu Dhabi has launched its first Environmental Film Festival, running from 20 to 25 April, aiming to increase public awareness on environmental issues in the United Arab Emirates and Arab region.

The festival features a number of long-feature and short film competitions in addition to special programmes, which focus on the effects of human civilisations on environmental changes and vice-versa. The topics of discussion are those that concern the world today, including issues of global warming, energy, and water.

Aside from the film competition, the festival will hold various activities, including seminars, workshops and art exhibitions. Currently open is a collective art exhibition that captures and discusses green issues.

Furthermore, Abu Dhabi University invited a number of environmental experts from across the Arab region and around the globe to engage in a dialogue with the public on urgent environmental issues. Participants are asked to suggest solutions and express their thoughts on the roles of individuals and governments.

On its opening night, the festival screened Promised Land, a joint USA and UAE production feature, starring Hollywood actor Matt Damon. The drama film is about a natural gas company salesman who experiences life-changing events after arriving in a small town where his business wants to tap into the available resources. Promised Land is directed by Gus Van Sant.

The festival also seeks to become a platform that inspires active figures in cinema from around the world to adopt environmental issues artistically, mainly through film and art. Joining the jury board for its first year festival is Egyptian actress Laila Elwi.

According to the festival’s official statement, “Our mission revolves around creating an intellectual, psychological and environment guard mindset in the consciousness of those watching our shows on the big screen.”

Back to top

Dhaka-N’ganj rapid commuter train service starts April 24

DHAKA, April 22, 2013 (BSS) – The country’s first rpaid commuter train service is ready to start its journey with passengers on April 24 on Kamalapur-Narayanganj route with some 300 passengers.

“The newly imported high-speed Diesel Electric Multiple Units (DEMU) commuter train having 80 kilometre speed on the basis of tracks load capacity, will start its first ever service on Dhaka-Narayanganj route as a commuter service,” an official of Bangladesh Railway (BR) familiar with the process told BSS today.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has given consent to formally inaugurate two sets of new commuter service as the chief guest at 11.00am on April 24 at Kamalapur Railway Station, he said.

The official said the railways ministry has brought eight sets of DEMU while 12 more sets will reach Chittagong soon.

Each unit of DEMU having three coaches will be able to make six trips a day on 20-km Kamalapur-Narayanganj route with some 300 passengers. It will take only 20-25 minutes to reach Narayanganj from Kamalapur railway station, said officials.

Talking to BSS spokesman of railways ministry M Shariful Islam said the railways ministry has imported 20 sets of (DEMU) commuter train for plying on Dhaka-Narayanganj route and other sections of the country aimed at ensuring comfortable quick journey in short distances easing pressure on roads.

Each DEMU would carry 300 passengers at a time which can run at a speed of 80 kilometres an hour. The DEMU commuter trains will also be introduced on two northern routes on Dinajpur-Parbatipur-Rangpur and Lalmonirhat-Parbatipur-Saidpur section, he said.

Earlier, the railway authorities gave trial of the DEMU from Pahartali Railway Station of Chittagong to Comilla. An expert team from China is also giving training to railways employees concerned for smooth operation of the DEMU, as this service is the first of its kind in Bangladesh.

Back to top

United Airways resumes flights on Dhaka-Barisal route

DHAKA, April 23,2013 (BSS) – United Airways (BD) Limited, the country’s one of the largest private airlines, will resume its flight operation on Dhaka-Barisal route from Thursday, a source in the company said here today. Assistant General Manager (PR) of the United Airways Quamrul Islam aid the aircraft will carry passengers from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.

Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Faruk Khan will inaugurate the flight at Barisal Airport in the morning.

The one- way special fare for Dhaka-Barisal starts from Taka 3,000 while the return (two-way) fare is Taka 6000 (including taxes). Initially, two flights from Dhaka to Barisal will be operating on Thursday and Sunday a week. It also has a plan to operate flights from Dhaka to Singapore, Yangon, Doha, Dammam, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Karachi shortly.

United Airways, the first-ever public limited company in the country’s aviation sector, is now operating flights on more international routes from Dhaka to Jeddah, Dubai, Muscat, Kuala

Lumpur, Bangkok, Kathmandu and Kolkata and also from Chittagong to Muscat and Kolkata.

Back to top

Bangladesh President for boosting trade with Turkey

DHAKA, April 24, 2013 (BSS) – President Md Abdul Hamid today expressed his keen interest to further improve trade ties with Turkey in the days to come. He was talking to newly appointed Turkish Ambassador to Bangladesh Huseyin Muftuoglu who presented his credentials to him at Bangabhaban.

Welcoming the Ambassador at Bangabhaban, the President said relations between Bangladesh and Turkey are thousand years old and the two countries bear of the same culture.

The President said that the trade ties between the two countries have increased 10 times after the visits of the President and Prime Minister of Turkey to Bangladesh. He also urged the ambassador to take steps to enhance the trade relations further.

Expressing gratitude to the President for accepting his credentials, Huseyin Muftuoglu said that he would make his highest effort to increase the relations between two countries including trade and commerce.

Mentioning the successful political career of Abdul Hamid, the ambassador hoped that he would be also successful as the President of the country.

“I hope the relations between the two countries would reach a new height in your tenure of presidency,” the ambassador said.

Secretaries of the President’s Office were present.

Back to top

S. Kyrgyzstan rural youth learn through comedy

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-04-17 OSH – This spring more than 200 students in seven schools across Osh Oblast are using humour to explore and promote harmony. The programme aims to create constructive activities for youth to promote tolerance, teach conflict prevention and discourage the formation of school gangs, organisers said. Coaches are training about 20 volunteers from each school and creating special “school tolerance clubs” that will engage students in projects including a comedy competition based on the popular Tamashow, an amateur comedy club.

Based on the principle that “everyone is equal,” the programme includes multiple levels of the comedy competition, training sessions for parent and teacher volunteers, classes and interactive sessions, organisers explained.

It will follow the Education Ministry guidelines “Toward a Conflict-Free Future” and the associated resource book, Prevention of Gangs in Schools, which the League of Defenders of Children’s Rights and the Interior Ministry developed with the support of the OSCE in Bishkek.

“This programme enables pupils to identify and voice the problems experienced by teenagers … to convey them to adults through humour … and [then to] help resolve these issues,” Master of Joy Foundation project manager Larisa Katsura told Central Asia Online.

“This work is aimed at increasing the awareness of youth living in mono- and multi-ethnic villages across Osh … giving them the opportunity to open up, develop their potential and find fulfilment through organisational and creative activities.”

It helps prevent difficult situations that high school pupils and youth sometimes get into as a result of their “youthful zeal,” Miradilzhan Moydinov, principal of Altybayev High School No. 94 in Tashlak village, said.

“It is very important for us – the teachers – to understand that the formation of the mind and moral principles in pupils begins at a young age,” he said. “So we are paying particular attention to promoting the peaceful co-existence of all nations and races in a multi-ethnic society.”

In March, members of the Osh Tamashow team visited Moydinov’s school for a special presentation to establish it as the pilot school in the programme.

“This will allow it to measure up to other school teams, whose members will compete and articulate the problems experienced by youth through humour,” Osh team member Ikram Yuldashev told the audience during his presentation.

KVN (Club of the Happy and Resourceful) teams will be created and receive training in all these schools, which will take part in the finals at the 2013 Summer Festival, he said. KVN is a game show, held throughout the former Soviet Union, in which quick-witted teams try to top each other with jokes and comebacks. They will not only participate in the comedy competition but will also take master classes in which they will receive additional training from members of the tolerance clubs and KVN teams.

These regional events foster inter-ethnic harmony and strengthen peace-building, Rahmanberdy Nazarov, the head of the Department of Education in Kara-Suu District, said, pointing to the programme’s effort to involve rural youth, who tend to have fewer such opportunities than their urban counterparts.

KVN team members will teach not only other youth their age but also pupils from middle and junior schools in various villages across Kara-Suu District, he said, adding: “It is important that pupils living in rural areas can voice their ideas, perform on creative teams, articulate their concerns, and in a nutshell, reach their potential.”

Back to top

Giant projects in Makkah to be finished in three years

Makkah, Sunday, 11 Jamad Al-Thani 1434/21 April 2013 (IINA) – Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Emir of Makkah region, said Saturday that Makkah would be in a new attire with the completion of several gigantic development projects, including the largest-ever expansion of the Grand Mosque, within the coming two to three years.

He noted that Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has made promises and fulfilled these promises especially in developing the Holy City. The Emir made these remarks while addressing a press conference after his inspection tour of the development projects being implemented in the city, Saudi Press Agency reported.

Referring to the huge allocations of funds to implement several massive projects in Makkah, Prince Khaled said: “Makkah region is witnessing implementation of several giant projects. Had these projects been implemented in a small country, it would have been enough for it. With all determination and seriousness, we are racing against time to finish these projects without affecting the spirituality of the Holy City,” he said.

Prince Khaled reemphasized the resolve of Saudi leadership in preserving the unique and sublime position and identity of Makkah while implementing these projects. Referring to the ongoing massive projects, the Emir said that there are several ring roads, infrastructure projects, public transport projects, expansion of the Grand Mosque and its mataf (circumambulating area), development of unplanned districts, in addition to drainage projects. He unveiled plans to make Makkah the smartest city in the world.

Back to top

Plans to build robotic surgery center in UAE

Abu Dhabi, Monday, 12 Jamad Al-Thani 1434/22 April 2013 (IINA) – A world-renowned surgeon is in talks with UAE investors to build a multimillion-dirham robotic surgery centre in the emirate. It would be the first in the world with the technology to perform every kind of robotic surgery under one roof, said Adolfo Panfili, an Italian surgeon.

Robotic surgery is a technique in which a surgeon performs an operation using a computer that remotely controls tiny instruments attached to a robot. Prof Panfili said that, while the plan was still in the very early stages, he had met several investors for talks on the private health centre. It would provide robotic neurosurgery, spine, knee, hip and general surgery, and urological, vascular and ophthalmological operations. Robotic equipment is expensive, and Prof Panfili estimates the centre would cost up to $20 million. A standard surgical robot costs about €1.3m, while the world’s most advanced model, Da Vinci, which was used in almost 400,000 operations worldwide last year, costs about €2m.

While robotic surgery is a fast-growing sector of medicine, the concept is new to the Emirates, said Prof Panfili. He said robotic surgery had a 99.7 per cent success rate – about 10 per cent better than traditional operations. The technology also minimizes the damage to the patient, while other benefits include quicker procedures and speedier recovery times. “There are 20 different kinds of robots,” said Prof Panfili. “There are robots for the hip, for the knee, for the brain. “Worldwide, several centers are implementing robotic devices for surgery in specific fields but none is implementing a holistic concept using all of the robots available on the market today. “My aim is to develop a kind of centre where every kind of robotic surgery can be performed. One like this does not exist in the world.” Prof Panfili said he hoped the centre would be built in the next two to five years, and include a training centre for surgeons.

Back to top

First Saudi firm issues Islamic bond in Malaysia

Riyadh, Thursday, 15 Jamad Al-Thani 1434/25 April 2013 (IINA) – Riyadh-based Al Bayan Holding became the first Saudi Arabian company to issue an Islamic bond in Malaysian ringgit, paving the way for more corporations from the Kingdom to tap into Malaysia’s market, the world’s biggest for sukuk.

Al Bayan issued 200 million ringgit ($65.4 million) as the first tranche of a newly established 1 billion ringgit program, a statement from Guidance Financial Group, the company’s advisers, said Wednesday. Pricing details were not immediately available. Both the creation of the program, rated AA3 by local agency RAM Ratings, and the issue of a Malaysian currency sukuk are firsts by a Saudi company.

Companies in the Gulf Arab region have been looking at issuing Islamic bonds that target Malaysian investors as a way to diversify funding sources and tap Asian demand for Middle East debt. Al Bayan issued the sukuk as a wakala; certificates are issued by an originator through a special-purpose vehicle that buys assets which are given to an agent for management. HSBC Holdings’ Islamic unit in Malaysia, Hong Leong Islamic Bank, and Kenanga Investment Bank Bhd acted as joint lead managers on the deal, while Abu Dhabi’s Al Hilal Bank was manager in the United Arab Emirates.

Al Bayan has interests in businesses including construction of infrastructure and buildings, general contracting, information technology products and services.

Back to top

Three-day cycle tour to promote Bangladesh tourism

DHAKA, April 21, 2013 (BSS) – Bangladesh Cycle Tourists (BCT) in cooperation with the Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB), the national tourism organization, will organize a three-day cycle tour from April 24 (Wednesday) aimed at promoting the country’s eco-tourism.

A total of 12 cyclists will start their journey from the city’s Suhrawardi Udyan and end at the shrine of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Tungipara of Gopalganj, en route Mawa-Keurakandi-Madaripur-Gopalganj.

At a press conference today, deputy secretary of the BTB Kamar Jahan said Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Lt Col(retd) Faruk Khan will formally inaugurate the cycle tour at 11 am.

BCT spokesman Khandaker Ali Ahmed, team leader Dilip and BCT members Angela and Sayeed spoke on the occasion.

“The main objective of the cycle tour is to make a number of areas carries memories of Bangabandhu familiar with local and international tourists as well as turn those areas into tourist spots,” Jahan said.

She said the cyclists will place wreaths at the portrait of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in front of the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum at 32 no Dhanmondi.

Speaking on the occasion, Ali Ahmed said, “Our future plan is to bring Bangladeshi national flag to each and every part of the world to project the country as a beautiful and resourceful one.”

Tourism is not only confined to the Cox’s Bazar and the Sundarbans rather there are plenty of resources in the country that could be used as tools to promote the growing tourism industry, he added.

Back to top

Kyrgyzstan to redevelop Bishkek

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-04-23 BISHKEK – Kyrgyzstan plans to give its capital, Bishkek, an overhaul, authorities say.

Surpassing its originally intended 750,000 population, the city’s growth rate and age are putting strain on its power grid, water supply, sewage system, gas supply, roads, and housing capacity, they said. Bishkek boasts 843,000 residents according to Western sources, but that number represents only officially registered residents; thousands of others live in Bishkek without registration.

Now planners are working on a three-stage grand development plan to bring the city up to date. “All these issues have caused us to draft a new plan for Bishkek’s general development through 2025,” Bishkek Main Architectural Department head Gennady Ligai told Central Asia Online. Before work can officially begin, a 1:10,000 scale plan, then a more detailed 1:5,000 scale plan, must be completed; the country must also secure funding from places such as the World Bank, foreign countries and international organisations.

A top priority is development of infrastructure in 48 residential communities formed by internal migrants in the late 1990s, he said.

“These communities … are a source of concern,” Ligai said, adding that the general plan calls for downtown residences to be comprised only of multi-storey buildings, “with barracks-type housing and small private houses to be torn down.”

Even relatively new quarters have “infrastructural deficiencies,” Nuriya Temirova, manager of Arysh, an NGO that helps internal migrants in Bishkek, told Central Asia Online. “Major problems include restricted access to fresh drinking water and the poor performance of public transport.”

Building new residential communities will also bring ancillary improvements, such as new schools and medical clinics, she said.

One complaint is that the public hasn’t really seen the general development plan, Kalicha Umuraliyeva, leader of the Mnogokvartirny Dom (Apartment House) movement, told Central Asia Online.

“People are entitled to know the direction in which their city is to develop,” she said. While the plan has been kept under wraps so far, Ligai said, “The Urban Development Research Institute – the plan developer – is ready to take steps to reduce the urban development documents’ secrecy.”

Infrastructural deficiencies plague the whole city, Ligai said, adding that citywide, the engineering infrastructure is 70% worn out. “Everything, including gas and water supply systems and the power grid, needs to be renovated,” he said. “We haven’t figured out exactly how much a complete overhaul of Bishkek’s utilities will cost.”

Even though the entire document hasn’t been made available for public review, those who are familiar with it discussed some of its aspects, including plans for a new heat and power plant, an additional gas-distributing station and a water intake facility, Nasirdin Tokombayev, chief engineer at the Bishkek Main Architectural Department, said.

“The (existing) heat and power plant is overloaded, and residents in many districts of Bishkek have to heat with coal,” he said. “We started building another heat and power plant in Dzhal village, not far from Bishkek, but had to freeze the 90%-complete project because we lacked money. Also, in line with the general plan, we are to have three gas-distributing stations.”

“All the utilities have outlasted their service life by 50 to 60 years already,” he said. “Overload leads to blackouts, especially in wintertime, as well as to technical disruptions, water supply irregularities, etc.”

The plan also calls for upgrading sewage systems. The idea is to connect newly built residential quarters to Bishkek’s networks, Tokombayev said. “Only two newly built neighbourhoods, Kok-Zhar and Ak-Orgo, have even 20 to 30% coverage by the sewage system; the other 46 blocks have only cesspools,” he said.

Back to top

Largest safari yacht constructed in the Maldives launched

Sun.mv – April 23, 2013 – The largest safari yacht yet to be constructed in the Maldives has been launched from Raa Alifushi port last night. The boat was commissioned by a Polish company registered in the Maldives named “Scuba Spa” and was constructed by Mohamed Yusuf of Gulraunage, Raa Alifushi.

Measuring 167 feet in length and 37 feet across, Mohamed Yusuf told Sun today that the boat took two years and four months to build. He said that the construction of the boat was initially commenced in 2010, when an electrical fault had caused the boat and the construction shed to burn down. Construction was again commenced in 2011, he said.

Mohamed Yusuf said the construction of the boat itself had cost approximate MVR 3 million, and that the Scuba Spa had spent about MVR 5 million on the boat overall.

He also said that it took the construction team a total of three months to lower the boat in to the water, for which they had started work in February this year. He said that they are currently working on loading the Safari Yacht with the necessitates to make its travels.

Mohamed Yusuf said that the company had told them that the first passengers for the boat is scheduled to arrive on the 4th of next month.

Back to top

Xinhua hails Water Village in Bandar Seri Begawan

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, April 24 (Xinhua) — For people who don’t take a shine to overt display of opulence like the world’s largest residential palace and gilded mosques, there is one attraction in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei’s capital, that shall never let you down.

The Water Village (Kampong Ayer in Malay), famously dubbed “Venice of the East”, is a sprawling dwelling cluster on the salty Brunei River that runs through the central area of the capital city. It is also the world’s largest water village.

Built entirely on stilts above the river, the village accommodates around 30,000 people, all Malays, roughly 10 percent of the nation’s total population.

The village, which used to be a trade hub in the country, has developed into a mature living complex of nearly 5,000 structures including homes, mosques, restaurants, schools, shops, a clinic, a post office, a police station and fire station.

The buildings are connected by more than 30 kilometers of sometimes rickety boardwalks, while private water taxis, which resemble wooden speedboats, provide rapid transit for travelers at a cost of 5 Brunei dollars (about 4 U.S. dollars) per trip.

Hurtling ahead across the green tea-colored waters through the maze of bridge pillars, stilts, and parked boats should be an awesome experience for anybody.

Situated near the strikingly resplendent Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, the water village may look like a slum from a distance. However, the villagers, most of them working for the government, enjoy no less modern amenities than their peers living on land, such as air conditioning, satellite television, Internet access, plumbing and electricity.

Haji, a local villager with eight children and 13 cats, said he had been living here since his birth, and has never thought of leaving the place. When asked about how many wives he has as Muslims are allowed to take up to four wives, Haji, 48, chuckled, “I’m not a playboy, you see. I love my wife and love my nowaday life.”

Back to top

Lion Air officially launches Batik Air

The Jakarta Post, Cengkareng, April 25 2013 – Indonesia’s largest low-cost carrier Lion Air launched its full-service Batik Air (photo above) at the country’s main gateway Soekarno-Hatta Airport in Cengkareng, Banten, on Thursday. Batik Air president director Achmad Luthfie said that a maiden flight would be conducted on May 3 from Soekarno-Hatta’s Terminal 3.

“We are going to fly between Jakarta and Manado [North Sulawesi] during the first flight and later on we will fly the route twice a day,” Achmad told reporters. He said that the new airline would put six Boeing B737-900 Extended Range (ER) aircraft into operation this year. “Our second aircraft will arrive on May 4 and connect Jakarta and Pekanbaru and the third on May 8,” he added.

Batik Air would offer 12 business class seats and 168 economy seats on each aircraft. Batik has obtained flight permits and approval from the Transportation Ministry to serve 66 domestic routes and 20 international routes. The full-service airline business, as opposed to no-frills flying, has excellent local prospects, given the rising number of Indonesians with disposable income.

He said that local middle-class customers would likely switch from Lion Air to Batik Air as their incomes increased.

Back to top

Brunei’s Empire Hotel & Country Club opens Pantai restaurant

Hong Kong, April 26, 2013) – Brunei’s Empire Hotel and Country Club is celebrating the long awaited re-opening of its stunning seafront Pantai restaurant, entirely redesigned and renovated into a stylish new destination dining venue that will attract in-house guests and local dining customers alike.

The flexible new setup allows for both a la carte dining, for up to 180 guests, and buffet service with live action cooking stations. The new design is culturally relevant and blends in with the architectural heritage of the region.

Conceived as a South-Asian seafood barbecue and grille, Pantai will feature the freshest fish and finest seafood, along with prime cuts of meat and an extensive salad bar all displayed centre stage in front of Pantai’s theatre kitchen.

Guests will be able to personally choose from the freshly caught seafood selection, being sizzled away on open-fired charcoal grills, while they select their accompaniments in all times favorite Asian style: sambal chili sauce, chutney and wasabi cream to name a few. Western style preparations will also be on offer, such as herb garlic butter, creamy saffron sauce, olive and roasted pepper.

Essentially a “restaurant within a restaurant”, Pantai will expand upon its offering with the twenty-two seat “Zen” teppanyaki pavilion. There, guests will enjoy an interactive cooking experience with fresh seafood, poultry and beef being prepared right before their eyes on an authentic Japanese style teppan grill.

The Empire Hotel and Country Club is Brunei’s most prestigious beach resort, and also consistently ranks among Asia Pacific’s top golf resorts.

Back to top

Pan Pacific Hotels to launch resorts in Bogor and Bali

Singapore, 23 April 2013 – Following the highly-anticipated opening of the iconic hotel-in-a-garden PARKROYAL on Pickering in Singapore last month, Pan Pacific Hotels Group today announced that it will launch the PARKROYAL brand in Indonesia with the opening of PARKROYAL Rainbow Hills Bogor Resort in 2014 and PARKROYAL Pecatu Bali Resort in 2016.

Under the management agreement with PT Bahana Bukit Pelangi (BBP), Pan Pacific Hotels Group will operate the 225-room PARKROYAL Rainbow Hills Bogor Resort, situated beside the existing Rainbow Hills Golf & Country Club managed by BBP.

Just 60km south of Jakarta, Bogor is famed for its cool weather, scenic Botanical Gardens and its presidential palace – one of the world’s oldest. It is also a popular retreat for Jakarta residents and a prime meetings destination outside the capital.

PARKROYAL Rainbow Hills Bogor Resort is located amidst Bogor’s spectacular volcanic mountains and picturesque rivers. It will boast a wide range of recreational facilities including a spa, pool, fitness centre as well as comprehensive conference and event spaces. The resort also offers convenient access to the stunning 18-hole Rainbow Hills golf course, a masterpiece by the world’s foremost golf course designer J. Michael Poellot Golf Design Group.

Pan Pacific Hotels Group further extends PARKROYAL’s reach in Indonesia with the signing of a management agreement with PT Pecatu Adi Graha to manage PARKROYAL Pecatu Bali Resort.

Located on the southern peninsula of Bali, Pecatu is well-known as a surfer’s paradise with limestone cliffs and beautiful, secluded beaches. PARKROYAL Pecatu Bali Resort will be part of the 400-hectare Pecatu Indah Resort, an integrated development with planned facilities including a shopping mall and conference venues that can accommodate up to 12,000 people.

Offering 380 hotel rooms and 35 villas, the PARKROYAL resort in Bali is located near the New Kuta Golf Course, an 18-hole championship standard course that is perched on top of a limestone cliff, overlooking the Indian Ocean and surrounding beaches. In addition, the resort will also feature a wide range of dining options, as well as a swimming pool, fitness centre, jogging track, spa and business centre.

In Indonesia, Pan Pacific Hotels Group currently manages two other hotels under the “Pan Pacific” brand – namely, Pan Pacific Jakarta and Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort, located at Bali’s magnificent southwest coast. “As one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, Indonesia presents vast business development opportunities and growth potential for both our brands,” said A. Patrick Imbardelli, President and Chief Executive of Pan Pacific Hotels Group.

Together with Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort, the two new PARKROYAL properties in Indonesia will also boost the Group’s resorts portfolio which includes three other award-winning beach and ski resorts in Canada and Malaysia, in line with its strategy to develop Pan Pacific and PARKROYAL resorts in unique destinations across Asia Pacific.

The signing of the management agreements for PARKROYAL Rainbow Hills Bogor Resort and PARKROYAL Pecatu Bali Resort marks one of many significant developments for the PARKROYAL brand this year. In January, Pan Pacific Hotels Group opened the 367-room PARKROYAL on Pickering with a sustainable design concept in Singapore, followed by the completion of a multi-million dollar refurbishment of PARKROYAL Darling Harbour, Sydney in February.

Back to top

Indian VP Dr Ansari Releases ‘A Leaf Turns Yellow : The Sufis of Awadh’

Vice President’s Secretariat, 26-April, 2013 – The Vice President of India, Prof M. Hamid Ansari released a book entitled “A Leaf turns Yellow” edited by Shri Muzaffar Ali at a function here today. Addressing on the occasion, Prof Ansari said that the book depicts the cultural history of Awadh by going through all chapters of it in totality. Also it highlights the composite rural culture of north India especially of Awadh. He congratulated Shri Ali for bringing out such a valuable book.

Dr. Farooq Abdullah, the Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy, Dr. Karan Singh, Chairman, ICCR and Dr. Mushirul Hasan, DG, ASI were present on the occasion.

Edited by the filmmaker and social worker Mr. Muzaffar Ali, the book is a thoroughly researched account of Sufism in (erstwhile) Awadh, India and introduces to its history, traditions, sub-cultures, institutions and poetry. Each essay in this anthology is by a renowned scholar. Together, they explore the ways in which Sufism influenced, and was influenced by, social mores and expressive traditions, emerging as a way of living and thinking unique to the region.

Back to top

First Saudi firm issues Islamic bond in Malaysia

Riyadh, 15 Jamad Al-Thani 1434/25 April 2013 (IINA) – Riyadh-based Al Bayan Holding became the first Saudi Arabian company to issue an Islamic bond in Malaysian ringgit, paving the way for more corporations from the Kingdom to tap into Malaysia’s market, the world’s biggest for sukuk.

Al Bayan issued 200 million ringgit ($65.4 million) as the first tranche of a newly established 1 billion ringgit program, a statement from Guidance Financial Group, the company’s advisers, said Wednesday. Pricing details were not immediately available. Both the creation of the program, rated AA3 by local agency RAM Ratings, and the issue of a Malaysian currency sukuk are firsts by a Saudi company.

Companies in the Gulf Arab region have been looking at issuing Islamic bonds that target Malaysian investors as a way to diversify funding sources and tap Asian demand for Middle East debt. Al Bayan issued the sukuk as a wakala; certificates are issued by an originator through a special-purpose vehicle that buys assets which are given to an agent for management. HSBC Holdings’ Islamic unit in Malaysia, Hong Leong Islamic Bank, and Kenanga Investment Bank Bhd acted as joint lead managers on the deal, while Abu Dhabi’s Al Hilal Bank was manager in the United Arab Emirates.

Al Bayan has interests in businesses including construction of infrastructure and buildings, general contracting, information technology products and services.

Back to top

Alcohol consumption mother of all evil, says Turkish PM

ISTANBUL – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said that alcohol and its consumption was the mother of all evilness. Speaking at the official inauguration of the Global Alcohol Policies Symposium held in Istanbul and made possible by the cooperation of the Turkish Green Crescent Society and World Health Organization (WHO), Prime Minister Erdogan emphasized that they were in a position to take measures to help save individuals from alcohol addiction which became a serious threat to the health of the society.

“I am a father, human, and a Prime Minister and I have to help save individuals from alcohol addiction, Erdogan stated. “Alcohol offers no benefits to a society. On the contrary, alcohol hurts a society. Alcohol addiction can in no way be defended as a style of life. Alcohol consumption threatens human health worldwide,” Erdogan stressed.

“Half of the world consumes alcoholic beverages. Alcohol consumption is one of the three factors causing early death,” Erdogan said.

“Every year, 2.5 million people die in the world due to alcohol consumption. Alcoholic beverages and their consumption lead to violence, crimes, suicides, family problems, social problems and traffic accidents. Our duty mandates us to protect the health of humans, to defend the right for life and to make sure people live in tranquility and prosperity,” Erdogan said.

Back to top