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13 May, 2013

Brawijaya University Students Develop Anti-Diabetic Tea from Salak Peel

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 13 May 2013 (03 Rajab 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:

Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus: How to Alleviate Poverty and Insecurity

Call for Israeli Apology to Palestinians As a Prelude To Peace

Asia Must Influence New World Order, Not Be Influenced by It

“War on Terror” is a War Without End

Surin Pitsuwan to Civil Society: “Hold ASEAN to Account”

No Sign of A Pursuit of Accountability for the Global Financial Crisis

Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus: How to Alleviate Poverty and Insecurity



Brawijaya University students develop anti-diabetic tea from salak peel

Malang, E Java (ANTARA News) May 8 2013 – Students of Agriculture Faculty of Brawijaya University of Malang developed anti-diabetic tea from the peel of tropical fruit salak (salacca zalacca). “The idea came from our initiative to harness salak peel which contains active ingredient of cinamic acid derivative,” one of the students Mhas Agoes Triambada said here Wednesday.

The cinamic acid derivative was a compound that could stimulate the regeneration of epithelial cells and having an important role in the healing of pancreas of the Type I diabetics, Triambada said.

The other active ingredients contained in the salak peel was pterostilbene, which helped lowering blood sugar, he said.

Triambada with the other four students namely Audisty Oktavian, Saraswati, Wildan Noor, and Rahayu named their salak peel tea “Litlak Tea” and sell it for Rp3,000 for a medium-sized glass.

The tea is available in some flavors, such as original, chocolate and vanilla. The original flavor was intended for diabetics while the other flavor for non-diabetics. “We hope our tea can be widely consumed as healthy and tasty drink especially for diabetics,” Triambada said.

The students also invited any investors to join them in improving and developing the business opportunity offered by the tea.

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Call to brand local ‘agarwood’ products as reflection of Brunei identity

May 11, 2013, Borneo Bulletin – Brunei’s locally produced ‘agarwood’ products must be appropriately branded based on the Sultanate’s pristine forest, greenery and its sustainable environment, which evidently relies on entrepreneurs marketing these products to undertake such initiatives.

Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources Dyg Hjh Normah Suria Hayati binti PJDSMDSU (Dr) Hj Awg Md Jamil Al-Sufri said this at the soft opening of the Golden Aswad Aroma Enterprise and the launching of Brunei’s very own agarwood, ‘Oudh Al-Aswad’ at its premises at the Airport Mall yesterday.

She said, “Agarwood is categorised as a priceless and valuable product. Hence, it is crucial for producers to ensure that the quality and values are upheld and maintained especially if it is produced in Brunei Darussalam.

“The Sultanate is renowned for its pristine forest and greenery. Thus, products from this forest should be appropriately branded based on the greenery and sustainable environment.

“Branding is part of efforts that can assist in enhancing the marketing of this agarwood product. It is hoped that such Brunei’s Oudh Al-Aswad product will gain benefits from such branding efforts. What is crucial is the promise that must be made behind such a brand, which is the promise for high quality.

“In ensuring that such businesses run continuously, it is vital that we practice responsible harvesting based on the guidelines. We want such business to continue whilst preserving the environment. Entrepreneurs and workers should understand the ecosystem as well as the balancing of wild flora and fauna to facilitate conservation and scrutiny activities by authorities.”

She hopes that firm cooperation between Golden Aswad Aroma Enterprise and the government especially the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources will continue to ensure that efforts runs smoothly and successfully.

Golden Aswad Aroma Enterprise unveiled Brunei’s first-ever agarwood store marking an important milestone for the company and also the country towards recognising Brunei as a major centre for agarwood trading in the region.

The company’s Managing Director, Hj Raduan bin Hj Lamudin said not many are aware that Brunei’s agarwood possesses one of the most sought after scents in the market. It is time that Brunei unveils it very own agarwood products that has its own unique scent to the global market.

“Our local agarwood has its own signature scent and we need to protect and market it as ours just like the ‘Jong Sarat’ or intricately woven gold thread woven that portrays our Brunei identity.”

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Arabic edition of book on UAE-India relations Launched

2013-05-11, WAM, ABU DHABI: The Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has emphasised the keen interest of the leadership, government and people of the UAE in maintaining open channels with India, in cultural, economic and charity spheres in particular.

Sheikh Mohammed made his remarks in a foreword to the Arabic edition of “India and the UAE: In Celebration of a Legendary Friendship”, a new book by Indian career diplomat and scholar of international relations Venu Rajamony, who served as Consul General of India in Dubai from 2007 to 2010.

Through these channels, Sheikh Mohammed noted, good political relations can be built with all countries, based on common interests, mutual respect and constructive cooperation.

“Since the early 1950s, the UAE, and Dubai in particular, have been working on the promotion of these good relations with India, and as a result, social and trade ties have flourished to become stronger now, thanks to Dubai’s geographical location and its busy port which is close to India,” Sheikh Mohammed said.

He emphasised that merchants from both countries have been playing a significant role in building trade, social and cultural bridges between the two peoples and these developments have placed India at the top of industrial and trade exchange with the UAE, in addition to non-oil sectors.

For his part, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, in another foreword to Rajamony’s new book, said the UAE is now the largest trade partner of India in the Gulf region, thanks to the evolution and progress of the unique and solid political, economic and social relations between the two countries which the book documents.

India’s exports to the UAE account for 6% of the subcontinent’s total exports to the world, while 70% of its total exports go through the UAE, Sheikh Nahyan noted.

He further noted that the solid relations between the two countries are further reinforced by the existence of a large Indian community which lives peacefully and contribute to economic development in the UAE.

The minister praised Rajamony’s 256-page work as a signifigant addition to literature on UAE-India relations as it provides an insightful journey into the age-old and prosperous ties between the two countries. He also expressed hope the book will receive a warm welcome from readers as it gives them a comprehensive glimpse of this strong relationship and the mutual respect and appreciation between the two countries.

The Arabic edition of “India and the UAE: In Celebration of a Legendary Friendship” which Rajamony has dedicated to the people of the UAE, provides a treasure trove of facts, figures, tables, photographs, paintings and sketches and stories, all juxtaposed to give a comprehensive account of the ties in five chapters covering history, politics, economy and trade, health and education, people and culture.

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Educating the young about the ecosystem of wetlands in Sabah, Malaysia

Insight Sabah – The Sabah Wetland Conservation Society (SWCS) has signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with the Malaysian arm of the Canada-based company, Talisman Energy Inc, to jointly carry out a campaign to promote awareness on mangrove conservation among the younger generation. The event was held at Teluk Likas in conjunction with World Earth Day celebration and the Talisman-sponsored “Handcrafting from Mangrove Project” that involved over 250 secondary school students in and around Kota Kinabalu organized by SWCS.

It was officiated by Director of Sabah Wildlife Department, Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, representing the Permanent Secretary to the Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Datuk Michael Emban.

The partnership with the international upstream oil and gas company will support the society’s effort to conserve mangrove forests in the State. The wetland conservation society will receive funding from Talisman Malaysia Limited (TML) for two projects, namely Paper Making and Clothes Dying.

The Mangrove project exposed young pupils and students in Sabah to the mangrove and the wetland ecosystem. “Talisman will provide the funding and our role is to ensure that the projects are fully implemented. We want the students to be actively involved and to see the importance of the mangrove forest and how we can conserve it while at the same time utilize the wetland sustainably for economic benefits,” the president of SWCS, Zaini Aucasa said.

Senior Vice-President and Country Manager of the Talisman Malaysia Limited, Ron Aston, disclosed, besides the programme in SWCS, the company has also collaborated with the Malaysia Nature Society in the last two years, to monitor changes in marine and coastal ecosystems in Terengganu and Sabah.

He revealed that TML had contributed more than RM330,000 for the project, which involved villagers from Kampung Meruntum in Putatan, local district councils, various government agencies as well as experts from Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).

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Oman Weighs “Tourism Bank”

Oman Daily Observer – 06 May, 2013 – The concept of Tourism Bank in the Sultanate of Oman has a better potential and the country is open to such ideas including Pan-Arab Tourism Bank, according to Hamood bin Sangour al Zadjali, Executive President, Central Bank of Oman (CBO). “We are open to such ideas that cater to the increasing tourist population because it can add on to the country’s bet to be a better tourism destination”, Zadjali told the Observer on the sidelines of the 2-day symposium titled “GCC Investment Prospects at Duqm Special Economic Zone” recently.

Al Zadjali was recently visited by Dr Bandar bin Fahd al Fahaid, Chairman, Arab Tourism Organisation at the CBO headquarters who discussed the bilateral relations between the ATO and the CBO in light of the Arab proposal to establish a tourism bank in the Arab world to operate mainly in financing the tourism projects in the Arab world. “The ATO team wanted to make a study if there was a good potential for the tourism bank. We at the moment don’t have any law specialised to deal with such a bank and it has to be a universal bank. And hence, there had not been any development on that after the last year’s talks”.

The two sides stressed the importance of this co-operation as the tourism bank proposal will enhance the relations among the Arab tourism organisations besides promoting the tourism activities in the GCC countries in particular and Arab countries in general in the future in line with the tourism development strategy adopted by these countries. Alternatively, the ATO team explored ways of starting a Pan-Arab Tourist Bank as well. “We are open to any idea that helps attract more tourists and such a bank would be highly appreciated. Tourism or Pan-Arab bank in Oman will have better prospects and we welcome the idea. Having said that, we are yet to receive any information as to where they have reached with the project”, Zadjali added.

Undermining the importance of tourism-related bank in the country Al Zadjali stressed the need for such a bank as it can complement the national tourism drive. “There are good potential for tourist projects all over Oman including the Duqm and discussions are on regarding the same”.

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Pakistan major focus of Qatar Airways route expansion

The Peninsula – 07 May, 2013 – Qatar Airways yesterday announced route expansion on three continents together with a huge increase in capacity in Pakistan as part of the Doha-based carrier’s continued aggressive growth strategy. The Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa will become the carrier’s 20th destination on the African continent, launching on September 18, followed a month later by Clark International Airport in the Philippines from October 28.

Effective March 1 next year, Philadelphia will become the airline’s fifth US gateway. In addition, Qatar Airways is significantly increasing capacity to Pakistan where it currently operates 17 flights each week across four cities of Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar.

Beginning next month from June 1, Qatar Airways will step up frequency to Pakistan by 60 percent to 28 flights each week – Karachi up from daily to double daily; Lahore from four to seven flights a week; and Peshawar securing an additional flight to three services each week.

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker announced the expansion during a press conference on the opening day of Arabian Travel Market (ATM) — the Middle East’s premier travel show — taking place in Dubai this week.

“Yet again Qatar Airways is bucking the trend across the industry demonstrating that we are resilient in times of global economic austerity because while others are cutting back, we see the opportunities to expand our global footprint,” he said.

“Our three new routes we are announcing today show we have faith in expanding our operations across different continents. This year for example has certainly been the year of growth in the Middle East with five of our eight scheduled route launches in the region alone.

Al Baker also gave Middle East and international media an update on the reintroduction of the carrier’s five Boeing 787 Dreamliners, the first of which began flying again last week on the Doha — Dubai route, with gradual phasing in over the next few weeks of the other aircraft on long-haul routes such as London Heathrow, Munich, Frankfurt and Zurich.

The airline’s Dreamliner Business and Economy Class seats are a key feature on its exhibition stand at ATM this week providing travel professionals from around the world with an opportunity to sample the seats and amenities.

Al Baker spoke of the airline’s rapidly developing presence on social media as one of the fastest growing airlines on Facebook. The carrier’s fan base has tripled over the past six months and is set to reach a milestone one million users by the end of May.

He said the dynamic activity on social media had significantly enhanced brand loyalty and global exposure as the airline also engaged in a number of activities involving users. The airline boss also provided an update on the latest developments at Hamad International Airport — Qatar’s brand new airport – scheduled to open this year.

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Jakarta to host Islamic Solidarity Games in Sept-Oct 2013

Jakarta, May 7 2013 (ANTARA News) – Indonesian Youth and Sports Minister Roy Suryo has finally decided to move the venue of the Third Islamic Solidarity Games (ISG) 2013 to Jakarta, ending a controversy about whether Riau Province was appropriate or not to be the next host of the international event.

The ISG 2013 was initially to be held in Pekanbaru, Riau Province, on June 6-17, 2013, but due to some problems, the Games’ venue would be moved to Jakarta and its implementation would be postponed to September 22-October 1, 2013, the minister said.

The minister said he made the decision after receiving reports from the Indonesian Olympic Committee (KOI), the National Sports Committee (KONI), and the ministry’s technical team.

“After having an intense discussion with KOI, Riau province, and the Games organizers, we have all agreed to postpone the Games,” Minister Roy Suryo said on April 22, 2013.

In the reports, they basically suggested that the ISG 2013 implementation should be delayed because the construction works of some facilities and infrastructure for the games were not yet finished.

One of the considerations to move the ISG’s venue is the fact that Riau Governor Rusli Zainal was recently named as a suspect by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in a bribery case related to the implementation of the National Games (PON) in Pekanbaru last year.

Another consideration is unsolved debt arrears of the PON main stadium construction amounting Rp240 billion to a consortium. “The decision to shift the ISG venue is also taken based on inputs received from a number of parties,” he noted. A number of observers from the Islamic Solidarity Sport Federation (ISSF) hailing from several countries had expressed their objection if the ISG would be held in Riau because many of the sport venues have not yet met international standard, the minister added.

The sports minister said October was the best option for a rescheduled Games, considering Muslims’ fasting month of Ramadhan and Idul Fitri celebrations will fall in July and August this year.

A budget of Rp 200 billion ($20.5 million) has been earmarked for Indonesia’s hosting of the Islamic Solidarity Games and he said no more money would be funneled into the event. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono approved the postponement, he added. “I have explained the current situation to the president,” the minister said.

The minister stated he was ready to apologize to all Games participants and to the Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation. The ISG is expected to be participated in by athletes from 57 member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

The Games will hold 17 sports to be competed, such as swimming, gymnastic, athletic, football, taekwondo, volleyball, weightlifting, karate, badminton, pencaksilat (martial art), archery, shooting, wrestling, basketball, handball, tennis, table tennis, fencing, and cycling.

Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo (Jokowi) hailed the decision to move the ISG’s venue to the country’s capital city. “We are ready, it’s not a problem. We have often organized similar events. This is a trust that the government has given us. So, this is for the national interest,” Jokowi said last April 2013. If necessary, Jakarta is ready to allocate additional funds for the implementation of ISG, he said enthusiastically.

Riau Governor Rusli Zainal was also very disappointed and considered the minister’s decision as unilateral action. “I understand the minister made such a unilateral decision because he is new in the ministerial post. He does not know how we have worked so hard over the last three years to make preparations for the ISG 2013,” Zainal told the press on April 23, 2013.

Besides, the Riau organizing committee has spent so much time and money to recruit personnel and build a number facilities for the games, he said. “But our efforts are not appreciated at all by the minister,” he said.

Chairman of Riau’s Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) Ondi Sukmara also protested the minister’s decision that he considered as controversial and not favorable to Riau’s tourism industry. The province has lost a chance to promote its tourism potentials to OIC member countries due to the minister’s decision to move the ISG’s venue from Pekanbaru to Jakarta, he said. “We see that the central government and in particular the youth and sports minister have no sensitivity of Riau’s tourism potentials,” he said.

Riau had initially been chosen to host the ISG 2013 because the province is relatively close to Singapore and Malaysia. The delegation of ISSF with the Indonesia Olympic Committee (KOI) had once visited Riau to see the Games’ venues in July 2011. The ISSF delegation at that time said they were satisfied with Riau’s efforts to develop and prepare the venues.

The ISG’s participating countries include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Bahrain, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Palestine, Kuwait, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Oman, Morocco, Uzbekistan, Senegal, Tunisia, Guinea, Congo, Jordan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Somalia.

The First ISG was held in 2005 in Saudi Arabia. The supposed second event was cancelled after it had been originally scheduled to take place in October 2009 in Iran, following a dispute between Iran and the Arab World over the use of the term Persian Gulf in logos for the Games.

The history of Islamic Solidarity Games actually began in 1993 when Iran initiated the games by holding it exclusively for women athletes for the first time. The event was minimally attended by only eight Islamic nations, including Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan.

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SR 5 billion fund proposed for tourism projects in Saudi Arabia

Arab News – 08 May, 2013 – The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) has proposed a SR 5 billion fund to promote tourism in the Kingdom.

Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of the SCTA, told Arab News that the organization is looking to establish a fund to finance tourism projects, to encourage business people to invest in the sector.

Prince Sultan was speaking on the sidelines of the Arab Travel Exhibition in Dubai. “We are talking with a number of government agencies to launch the project,” he said.

The plan is to finance tourism projects with interest-free loans that are paid in annual installments. An SCTA study found that a fund was the best way to encourage more private sector participation.

The fund needs approval from the Supreme Economic Council. It aims to boost domestic tourism by identifying sustainable priorities and ensuring private and public sector partnerships to develop services and infrastructure.

Easy loans would be extended to finance hotel buildings, children’s parks, entertainment facilities, and training of tourism guides.

Many analysts believe that the lack of funding is a major hurdle in the development of tourism projects in Saud Arabia, especially with banks placing stringent conditions on borrowers.

There is also a lack of accurate information and marketing efforts. In addition, some projects are simply not profitable to warrant more involvement.

A number of businesspeople have asked for government guarantees because new tourism projects need bold investments.

Prince Sultan said that Al-Uqair Tourism would be established soon, with capital of SR 3 billion. The project is considered by many to be a major shift in tourism development. Prince Sultan said a number of government and quasi-government organizations will have stakes in the company.

A major boost to the project was the decision of the Council of Ministers to allocate SR 1.4 billion to fund the basic electricity and water work for the project. “I believe it will be a major attraction for tourists in the Gulf,” he said. Meanwhile, sources in the industry said that the value of hotel investments in Saudi Arabia is set to increase to SR 144 billion by 2020.

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SIA resumes Surabaya flights, adds frequency for Jakarta, Bali

The Jakarta Post, May 10 2013 – Singapore Airlines (SIA) is set to resume flights to Surabaya by taking out one of two daily flights currently being served by its fully owned subsidiary, SilkAir.

Starting on July 26, the new route will use an Airbus A 330-300 widebody aircraft with 30 business-class seats and 255 economy-class seats.

Flight SQ930 departs Singapore’s Changi International Airport at 7:50 a.m local time (6:50 a.m. Jakarta time) and arrives at Juanda International Airport at 9:10 a.m. The returning flight SQ931 departs at 10:30 a.m. and arrives in Singapore at 13:35 p.m. local time.

“This will increase Singapore Airlines and SilkAir’s joint capacity along this route by 48 percent,” Singapore Airlines general manager for Indonesia, David Lau, told reporters at a media luncheon on Wednesday.

SilkAir currently uses Airbus A320/319 narrowbody aircraft with eight business-class seats and 128 economy-class seats, he told The Jakarta Post at the luncheon.

“Actually, Singapore Airlines used to fly to Surabaya before being replaced by SilkAir in 2005,” he said.

“We handed over the route to SilkAir because Surabaya needed frequency but we did not have sufficient rights based on the air service agreement between both countries.”

Lau said a new agreement reached in March now allowed Singapore Airlines to fly the route. Singapore Airlines public relations manager in Indonesia, Glory Henriette, said the air service agreement regulated the number of seats that would be allocated for each route. “We used to serve Surabaya with larger aircrafts but the passengers needed frequency so we used SilkAir’s smaller aircraft,” she told the Post.

On July 26, the airline will also add a ninth daily flight to Jakarta and a fourth daily flight to Bali.

Flight SQ964 departs Changi at 4:25 p.m. local time and arrives at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport at 5:10 p.m. The returning flight, SQ965, departs Jakarta at 6:10 p.m. and arrives at 8:45 p.m. local time.

When asked why the ninth flight used an A330-300 instead of Boeing 777-200/300, Glory said the market demanded more business-class seats while most 777-200/300 had a three-class configuration.

For its Bali route, SQ940 to Ngurah Rai International Airport departs Singapore at 7 a.m. local time and arrives at 9:35 a.m. The additional flight, SQ949, leaves Bali at 9:45 p.m. and arrives in Singapore at 12:15 a.m. the following day. The additional flight to Bali will use a 777-200, which has a two-class configuration with a capacity of 323 seats.

SIA manager in Bali Eric Eng said that Bali had become a place for travel and business for Singaporeans.

“Many Singaporeans are of Chinese descent. They love seeing Chinese elements in Balinese culture as well as in its architecture, arts and textiles,” he said.

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Gulf Industries Fair to Open in Oman, June 16

Muscat, May 11 (ONA) — The Sultanate will host on June 16th the “Gulf Industries Fair”. The three-day event will be organized by Serapis Company for organizing international exhibitions and festivals at Oman International Exhibition Centre.

The importance of organizing this exhibition in the Sultanate comes in light of the rapid challenges facing economies of the countries, which coincide with a remarkable progress in the economic development with the increase in the competitive pace that pushed the GCC decision-makers to outline the plans and issue the legislations, as well as providing all facilities that contribute in supporting the gulf products and setting up the pillars for the emergence of advanced gulf industries.

The exhibition aims at promoting the gulf industrial products and their competitiveness via applying the quality system according to the international standards and the contribution of the industrial sector in supporting the national economies of the GCC countries.

The exhibition will be an opportunity for the establishments, corporations and the governmental industrial authorities to raise their competitiveness and exchange ideas and experiences in the areas of raising production efficiency and improving the performance, as well as setting up strategic partnerships that contribute in promoting the gulf industrial investments.

The exhibition will touch on a number of themes on the industrial estates and their role in pushing the wheel of the economic development, as well as the quality and its role in enhancing the product, basics of marketing, industrial training and the human development.

The themes will also include role of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in supporting the national economy of the GCC countries, consumer protection and its impact on the GCC industries.

A training course will be organized on the sidelines of the exhibition under the title of “Quality & Promoting Industrial Products”. The course aims at highlighting the basics and potentials of the quality to come up with regulations for the quality and contributing in stimulating the workers in the industry sector in the GCC countries to adopt the basics of quality to increase the competitiveness via targeting the SMEs owners, workers at the GCC industrial authorities, industrial estates and officials, in addition to following up the development of the industrial projects and graduates of the industrial training centres and institutes.

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Turkish Airlines in sponsorship deal with Germany’s Borussia Dortmund

DORTMUND – Turkey’s national air carrier Turkish Airlines (THY) on Thursday signed a sponsorship agreement with Germany’s Bundesliga football club Borussia Dortmund.

THY Director General Temel Kotil and the CEO of Borussia Dortmund Hans-Joachim Watzke signed the agreement and later appeared at a press conference at the Signal Iduna Park Stadium.

Speaking at the press conference, Temel Kotil underlined that cooperating with Borussia Dortmund was highly important for them. “THY and Dortmund grew fast and became part of some of world’s most important brands,” Kotil stressed. “We will extend support to Dortmund to contribute to their further brandization.”

Borussia Dortmund were the Bundesliga champions in both 2011 and 2012. With the sponsorship agreement, the THY will carry Borussia Dortmund team to international games and camps. THY will be represented at the Dortmund Stadium as part of the agreement. THY and Borussia Dortmund will appear together in joint commercials and cooperate in social media.

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Impacts of maritime projects on Algiers economy and tourism

ALGIERS, (APS) Friday 10 May 2013 – Minister of Public Works Amar Ghoul underlined Thursday the expected impact of different projects of coastal development on economic, tourist and leisure activity of the capital Algiers.

Ghoul, who paid a working visit to several sites of Algiers, declared that these projects included in the national town planning scheme (Snat) will promote economic activity, particularly through the creation of employment in marinas and recreational areas of the coastline of Algiers.

“Our first priority through the marine infrastructure projects is to protect the coast of Algiers (79 km) from erosion and, secondly, to create public recreation areas for families and youth along this coast, “he said.

Indeed, six projects of marine infrastructure development are currently underway in the west, center and east of the capital, according to an official of the Public Works Department.

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1st national colloquium on historical and archeological heritage of Tipasa, Algeria

TIPASA (Algeria) (APS), 9 May 2013 – The first national colloquium on the archeological and historical heritage of Tipasa (70-km west of Algiers) opened Wednesday in the province’s university centre, with the purpose of highlighting Roman, Arab-Islamic and colonial monuments and remains.

“By choosing this theme, the university centre of Tipasa is seeking to highlight the existing interactivity between the university and its environment, as well as its involvement in the efforts aiming at preserving and promoting the region’s heritage,” said Director of the province’s university centre Fadhila Djenouhat.

Tipasa, she said, has always been known as a province rich in archeological sites, adding that this colloquium “marks the first scientific activity of this university, which opened in October 2012.”

“We want particularly to participate in the efforts for enriching historical and archeological researches initiated by the province, while drawing the attention of all the concerned persons (researchers and others) on the need to study and preserve this civilizational heritage,” added Djenouhat.

During this two-day colloquium, lecturers and university researchers will discuss four major themes related to the history of Tipasa and its remains, which date back to the prehistoric, Islamic and colonial periods.

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ISESCO to speak at session on Islamophobia at Arab Media Forum

Rabat 10/05/2013 – Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), will take part in the 12th Arab Media Forum which will be held on the theme of “Arab Media: Transitional Phase. . . Transitional Media”, in Dubai, State of United Arab Emirates, on 14-15 May 2013. This event will be attended by a number of representatives of Arab and international media outlets as well as a host of opinion leaders, academics, decision makers and researchers from the Arab region and the world.

ISESCO Director General will speak at the key session on “Islamophobia: is the media doing enough to reverse perceptions?”

This session seeks to reflect on the phenomenon of Islamophobia, the factors that contributed to its creation, and the motives behind promoting the perception. Panelists will also aim to define the incitement against Arabs and Muslims, underline why Islamophobia is the poison between nations, cultures and religions, and explore effective solutions that help undo long-held and misplaced notions.

Besides, the session will highlight the proactive role media have played in the spread of Islamophobia through taking advantage of the West’s ignorance of the teachings of Islam and the legacy of Islamic civilization.

This session will touch on the effective ways to deal with this phenomenon with special focus on the role of Arab intellectuals and media professionals in the West and the Arab world in reversing this perception. It will also raise a number of queries about the means to introduce the true image of Islam particularly in the West.

The session will be moderated by Saudi anchor Abdullah Al Modifer. The speakers will include Dr Said El Lawindi, the Egyptian writer and expert in international political affairs; Nathan Lean, the researcher at Georgetown University and the author of “The Islamophobia Industry”; Nicolas Blancho, Secretary General of the European Muslim Association; and Dr Rasheed Al Khayoun, the researcher and lecturer on Islamic philosophy, religion and history.

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12th Arab Conference on Green Economy to be held in Hurghada

Rabat 10/05/2013 – The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) in association with the Arab Union for Youth and Environment, will hold the 12th Arab Green Economy Conference on the theme “Green Economy and Environmental Investment Opportunities”, in the city of Hurghada, Egypt, during the period from 12 to 14 May.

The conference is aimed at enhancing the Arab youth’s involvement in environmental issues through the development of a young people’s guide to green economy action, meeting youths’ needs, sensitizing them to the importance of green investments and green economy, and promoting experience sharing among the Arab youth in the field of environmental action.

The event’s agenda features such themes as “green economy and environmental investment”, “eco-tourism”, “mining and renewable energies”, “review of the experiences of countries and organizations in environmental investment”, and “job creation for young people”.

The conference will bring together experts from Kuwait, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and Saudi Arabia, along with others from the Egyptian Forum on Sustainable Development, the Union of Arab Environmental Experts, Ain Shams University, the University of Cairo, Egypt New and Renewable Energy Authority, and the Waste Management Department, and several investors in natural reserves protection.

Dr Abdelwareth Sarhan, expert at the Science Directorate, will represent ISESCO in the conference.

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ISESCO round-table on promoting cultural rights in Islamic world

Rabat 10/05/2013 – The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) will organize a round-table on promoting cultural rights in the Islamic word, at its permanent headquarters in Rabat, on 16 May 2013.

Experts in cultural rights from civil society associations in the Islamic world will take part in this round-table, during which ISESCO will present the “Draft Broad Lines of Cultural Rights in the Member States: Achievements and Future Prospects”, as well as the general provisions of “Draft Islamic Declaration on Cultural Rights”.

This round-table is aimed at furthering discussions with culture experts about the “Draft Broad Lines of Cultural Rights in the Member States: Achievements and Future Prospects”, which is considered as the reference for the “Draft Islamic Declaration on Cultural Rights”.

The two documents will be submitted to the 8th Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers, which will be held next December in al-Madinah al-Munawarrah, on the occasion of its celebration as the Islamic Culture Capital for 1434 A.H./2013 A.D. These two documents are aimed at enabling the Member States from drawing up their own future culture policies and keeping abreast of the international discussion on cultural rights, while having as reference the Islamic stance on the subject.

For the record, ISESCO has organized within the same framework a roundtable on the “Cultural Roles of Civil Society in Promoting Cultural Rights in the Islamic World”, as part of the 2nd International Conference on Civic Values and Alliance of Civilizations, which was held at its permanent headquarters, in Rabat, on 19-21 December 2012.

It is worth noting that the efforts ISESCO exerts in this regard are aimed at opening up in-depth discussions with civil society in the Islamic world before devising reference documents that emphasize the Islamic world’s vision of such issues.

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Art Academy Hosts ‘Stories We Tell’ Photo Exhibition in Palestine

RAMALLAH, May 6, 2013 (WAFA) – The International Academy of Art Monday hosted the first art exhibition, “Stories We Tell,” in the city of Ramallah presenting over 40 photographs taken by Palestinian amateur photographers.

American photographer and artist Todd Drake recently conducted a number of workshops in Jerusalem and Ramallah to train around 40 young Palestinians on how to tell their personal stories through photography.

“I am really interested in turning young people on to the power of visual photography and how it can be used to tell stories,” Todd told WAFA.

“I think this is really critical today,” he said. “If you don’t tell your story, other people will tell it for you and often times when they do its not complete or the truth.”

Todd traveled as a guest photographer of the United States Consulate in Jerusalem to conduct a number of workshops in Ramallah and Jerusalem and at the same time exhibit some of his own photography which tackles daily life in society.

He pointed out that it was harder for photographers in Jerusalem to open up and express their emotions through their work. He thinks that there was some resistance with some students to express their stories, probably because of their harder reality.

Todd expressed admiration for many of the pictures taken by the students especially one of a man suffering from Alzheimer who walks into a checkpoint thinking he is going to the mosque to pray but then realizes that he can’t.

Abed Alrahman Moghrabi, a biology student from Jericho, took part in the training and was very excited to see his photograph among other pictures hanging on the wall.

He said, describing his photo of the window of an old house in Black and white, “I really love this photograph. It shows the beauty of this old Palestinian home in a way that I find spectacular.”

Other students were enthusiastically telling the stories behind their photos while taking pictures of themselves with their trainer, work of art and families who came to witness their first photography exhibition.

Todd clarified that after ending the exhibit on May 18, he will be showing the photos of the young photographers at the University South Carolina in the US and will hopefully broadcast their stories on radios across the United States.

“I would like to encourage anyone interested in helping the Palestinians to use art and photography in storytelling,” said Todd. “The rest of the world has to see that Palestinians are humans and then their hearts will go out for them and hopefully actions will follow.”

Minister of Culture Siham Barghouti expressed delight with the art work of the young Palestinians.

“These photos represent each and every photographer’s village, city and life.” she said. “We have to keep dreaming and resisting to protect our right to exist,” she added.

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Bangladesh plans FTA with Indonesia, Thailand & Jordan

DHAKA, May 11, 2013 (BSS) – The government plans to sign Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Indonesia, Thailand and Jordan, Commerce Minister GM Quader said here today. Speaking at a seminar, Quader said, “If we will not be able to go for FTA with the said countries we will at least sign preferential trade agreements with them. And we are working on that direction.”

“We’re not taking the decision unilaterally or whimsically, rather we are taking the decision through research,” he told the seminar.

Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) arranged the seminar titled ‘Bilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) -Opportunities and Challenges for Bangladesh: Framework Issues’ in the DCCI conference room. DCCI president M Sabur Khan chaired the seminar, attended by business leaders, DCCI leaders, trade analysts and government high officials.

Additional Research Director of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem presented the keynote paper at the seminar. BIDS Research Fellow Dr Abul Basher, Executive Director D-Net Dr Ananya Raihan and Chairman, Bangladesh Tariff Commission attended the seminar as discussants.

Quader said discussions are going on with Malaysian government to sign FTA considering some specific products. He said the government is working for removing tariff and non-tariff barriers on Bangladeshi products in different countries including India. He said “We’re planning to hold a meeting in Kalkata soon to this end.”

“We are expecting a big business with Myanmar as the later has recently improved financial transaction system,” said the commerce minister.

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Indonesia Launches Forest Governance Index

Jakarta, May 7 2013 (Antara News) – As the two-year moratorium on deforestation faces expire, Indonesia has launched its first forest governance index to address the current state of forest protection and management of central and provincial government.

“Good forest governance is about public system and laws to protect the forest and peat lands. We hope the assessment results will translate into concrete actions to improve forest, land and REDD+ governance,” said Beate Trankmann, country director of the UNDP Indonesia at the official launching event on Monday.

UNDP Indonesia, Ministry of Forestry, National REDD+ Task Force and National Development Planning Board (BAPPENAS) jointly conducted the participatory government assessment (PGA) to provide adequate monitoring instrument for forest and peat lands protection in Indonesia.

According to UN-REDD Indonesia program, the country’s forest land comprises 60 percent of its land area, which makes it the third largest area of tropical forest coverage in the world.

However Indonesia has shown one of the worlds’ highest deforestation rates since 1990 due largely to logging, pulp and paper production, agricultural expansion, fires and oil palm plantations.

“More than half of the forest in Aceh National Park is disappearing. The implementation of good forest governance through REDD+ is expected to reverse deforestation rates in Indonesia. It could be a good model,” said Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan in his keynote speech.

In fact, Indonesia is the first of four PGA pilots amongst Ecuador, Nigeria and Viet Nam. The PGA research covered 10 largest forested areas of Aceh, Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, Central Sulawesi, West Papua and Papua as well as two districts for each province since March 2011.

“85 percent of forest managements are in the hand of local government. This participatory approach assessment could bring all stakeholders to claim their ownership to forest. The law engagement to deal with corruption, illegal logging and clear cut of the forest should be addressed,” said Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the head of the national REDD+ task force.

Indonesia’s first forest governance index (2012) recorded at the national level of 2.32 out of a maximum score of 5, while at the central government level of 2.78 and at average index value of 10 provinces of 2.39, at 20 districts of 1.8.

The PGA report pointed the main issue of central level as open access of implementation and rights conflict when in province level has main issue of limited law enforcement and transaction cost in organization.

Norwegian Ambassador to Indonesia Stig Traavik attended the forest governance index launching event. Under the REDD+ scheme, Norway allocated up to US$1 billion over seven or eight years to finance Indonesia’s emission reduction programs.

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OIC to Inaugurate Photography Exhibition on Al Aqsa in Jeddah

08/05/2013 – The Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, (OIC), Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu will officially inaugurate the photography Exhibition of Al Aqsa Mosque in Red Sea Mall, in Jeddah, 12th May 2013.

The event will be sponsored by the General Secretariat of the (OIC) in cooperation with the Red Sea Mall and it will be open to the public as of 10th of this month. Furthermore, the inauguration of the Exhibition will be attended by the members of diplomatic corps, eminent persons from the academic and cultural community and the press in Jeddah.

The Exhibition of the Turkish photographer, Orhan Durgut will include 54 photos on Al Aqsa Mosque shedding light on the First Qiblah and the Third Holy Mosque. Notably the Holy Mosque is passing through critical circumstances in which its sites are subject to continuous intrusions of the extremist settlers in the framework of serious and systematic policy of the occupying power.

It is worth mentioning that this event, among others, is part of the OIC’s significant efforts to raise awareness among Muslim Ummah to protect the Holy Mosque.

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Culture is a uniting factor for Brunei development – Minister

May 10, 2013, Borneo Bulletin – Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Hazair bin Hj Abdullah made the observation that a creation of museum, library and archives portal enhances connectivity among member countries thus making them especially accessible to youths.

Speaking at the 1st Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) Ministerial Meeting on Cultural Cooperation held in Tehran, Iran recently, he said that culture emphasises on moral values, human dignity and respect human creativity, innovativeness, and social order.

But paradoxically we see the decadence of cultural values and understanding amongst our younger generation. If these imbalances are not addressed, it can lead to the breakdown of the fabric of our society, causing irrational political and economic decision-making,

The Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) is a body created in 2002 to promote Asian cooperation at a continental level and to help integrate separate regional cooperation organisations such as Asean, SAARC and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The minister stressing on cultural values continued that according to anthropological studies, Asian cultures came from the same origin and each evolved over time to become a number of great Asian civilisations. “The evolution was due to many factors such as political, religious and social influences. This diversity has now becomes a unique Asian culture and will help to unify us. Through culture, we can have cooperation, coordination and synergy between nations,” he stated.

Meanwhile, he also stressed that cultural cooperation can contribute to political, social, behavioural, and economic developments.

“In terms of political development, cultural cooperation and understanding can enhance national and regional development, and contribute towards peace and stability,” he further said. “Equally in terms of social development, cultural cooperation addresses socio fabrics, for instance, family integration and filial piety.

In view of behavioural development, it helps build self-esteem, dignity, and rationality.

As for economic development, it strengthens economic stability through creative industry, which is now becoming an important economic sector,” he added.

Culture is a uniting factor for development. In this regard, Asean for example places socio-cultural as one of its three pillars besides political-security pillars and economic pillar towards the realisation of the Asean Community 2015.

“Culture plays an important role towards political and social stability and sustainability, and that culture is the soul of one’s nation. In this regard, I hope that we can work together to improve understanding towards cultural diversity and create harmony through ACD as our forum.

Inter-cultural understanding and appreciation also add value to global economics and trade. In other words, while we exchange information globally in order to spread and promote mutual understanding amongst diverse cultures, we will also be able to gain economic benefits,” said Pehin Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Hazair.

“As we are aware, we have vast resources on cultural, historical, language and artistical heritage that we can explore and develop further to take advantage of the tourism, creative and cultural industry. I see that Asia plays a determining role in devising international cultural and creative programmes and market.

The diversities that we have present an enormous opportunity to stage to the world how rich we are in history, culture and the arts. Hence this call for strategies to preserving culture through education and the youth.

“First, through education, we ensure values, aesthetics, moral values, cultural experiences, educational values, personal development and especially our identity will continue to flourish and be transferred to our future generations. Education in its formal and informal forms has a very important role in disseminating such values and heritage.

“Secondly, the youth as our future leaders have to be equipped not only with the current technologies and knowledge, but also be well versed with the cultures of Asia. These responsibilities to protect, conserve and promote our cultural activities also lie in the hands of youths. I see that what many of our youths may not realise, through no a fault of theirs, is the contribution of culture towards globalisation.

One way to prepare our youth is to inculcate reading as a culture. The importance of reading prepares youth to challenges in acquiring knowledge and understanding of the current situation. In Islam, the importance of reading is given highest value when the first revelation of the Holy Quran with verse 1 of Surah Al-‘Alaq – ‘Iqra’.

“I would like to recall the titah of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam during the first ACD Summit in Kuwait last year, whereby His Majesty highlighted the unique and invaluable role of ACD in preparing our youth in facing the challenges of the modern world as they are the generation that stands to inherit Asia’s potential, as well as confront the challenges ahead,” said the minister.

In this regard, the minister stressed, “It is very important to allocate resources to develop the capacity and potential of our youths through education, training and skill development programmes. It is also necessary to encourage the involvement of youths in our future projects, as well the development of youth-centric activities such as people-to-people exchange programmes, youth camps, youth arts festivals involving young painters and artists, and joint culture related exhibitions and performances.

One such example that has been going on for almost 30 years is the Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Programme. Pehin Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Hazair also encouraged more forums and exchanges amongst academics, experts and officials, and to explore further cooperation and activities in line with the objectives of the meetings.

“One example which comes into my mind is the creation of a museum, library and archives portal to enhance connectivity as a means of sharing of resources and information, thus making it accessible for our people, especially youth.

Another activity that we can further develop is organising joint exhibitions and exchanges of books and literary works, where ACD member states can invite each other to participate in.”

Cultural cooperation should also be looking at new media that includes broadcast, the Internet and the social networks as tools to disseminate historical, cultural and artistic wealth of Asia. The youth, practitioners, artists and the general Asian population can benefit and share information and update themselves on cultural and artistic movements in Asia.

“I hope future senior official meetings will look into these proposals and devise activities to promote our cultural cooperation,” the minister said and added, “Once again, I would like to reiterate that culture is the soul of the community and the nation, hence cultural ties within Asia bonds the souls of Asians and further achieve sustainable development, reduce political tension and increasepartnerships and networks within Asia bringing together education and the young in our agenda for development and future cooperation,” the minister added.

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RM229 million to upgrade Sabah Ports

Insight Sabah – A total of RM229 million has been allocated to upgrade Sabah Ports facilities over the next two years, according to Suria Capital Holdings Group Managing Director Datuk Dr Mohd Fowzi Razi. Sabah Ports is a subsidiary of Suria Capital Holdings Berhad.

Datuk Dr Mohd Fowzi Razi said the improvement works involve berth extension at the Sandakan Port and jetty extension of the Sapangar Bay Oil Terminal (SBOT) to forestall potential congestion In the future.

“Sabah Ports is looking forward to providing better berthing facilities at Sandakan Port and Sapangar Bay Oil Terminal in view of the increase in berth occupancy,” he said.

According to him, the commencement of these two projects is expected to be sometime in 2013 and is expected to take two years to complete. after its initiation. Additionally, container and cargo handling equipment will also be installed for these two ports.

Dr. Fowzi also revealed plans to increase Sabah Ports’ container equipment fleet at Sapangar Bay Container Port (SBCP), Sandakan Port and Tawau Port. “This includes one additional unit of ship-to-shore Gantry Crane to add to the existing two units already available at the SBCP.”

In addition, Sabah Ports will also acquire a new mobile harbour crane to further improve the loading and discharging of containers at the Sandakan Port.

All three ports together with the Lahad Datu Port will also be provided with additional transfer and yard container equipment by the end of 2013. Ongoing efforts to study the requirements to further improve the port services in Sabah will also cover other ports.

Sabah Ports manages eight of the ports in Sabah, namely Kota Kinabalu Port, Sapangar Bay Container Port, Sapangar Bay Oil Terminal, Sandakan Port, Tawau Port, Lahad Datu Port, Kunak Port and Kudat Port.

Many of these ports are located at the vicinity of major facilities that contributes to the economic growth in Sabah. SBOT is a dedicated terminal for refined petroleum and chemical products of major oil and gas handlers like Petronas, Shell and Esso, while the Sandakan Port, the second busiest port in Sabah, is located within the vicinity of the palm oil producing areas in East Coast Sabah.

The Lahad Datu Port is located close to the up-and-coming Palm Oil Industrial Cluster (POIC) development area, that is setto be the east coast central hub for the import of bulk fertilizer.

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Kuwait Grants Jordan US$215m For Two Development Projects

AMMAN, May 5 (KUNA) — The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, on behalf of the Kuwaiti government, signed Sunday two agreements with the Jordanian government to finance two development projects worth a total US$215 million.

The two agreements were signed by Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation and Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Dr. Ibrahim Saif and Director-General of Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) Mr. Abdulwahab Ahmed Al-Bader on behalf of the fund. Also attending the signing ceremony was Kuwait Ambassador to Amman Dr. Hamad Al-Duaij and several senior Jordanian officials.

“The grant comes within the framework of the Gulf Cooperation Council resolution in 2011 summit to support development projects in Jordan with USD 5 billion over five-year period,” Al-Bader told KUNA. “By these agreements, Kuwait has completed the payment of USD 1.170 billion of its share in the GCC grant to Jordan, estimated at USD 1.250 billion.” The remaining USD 80 million will be used to finance railway projects in Jordan, he added.

As per the GCC resolution, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar should pay USD 1.25bn to help the Jordanian government meet its growing financial predicaments. The Kuwaiti government has assigned the KFAED to sign agreements of the grants with the Jordanian government.

For his part, the Jordanian minister thanked the Kuwaiti leadership and people for their support through financing a considerable measure of developments accross varied sectors. The current grant will finance a wind farm generation project in Maan District and a new liquefied national gas (LNG) port in Aqaba.

The wind farm generation project aims to meet the future demand on electricity and to reduce dependence on the use of imported fossil fuels – a source of carbon dioxide and acid rain emissions.

The project consists of the construction of a wind farm with a total installed capacity of about 65MW with all its ancillaries, including about 30 generation wind turbines with a 2-3MW capacity, the installation of a step up sub-station (0.69/33/132) KV, some 8km of 132 OHL transmission lines, the expansion of the Maan main sub-station and the construction of about 14km of access roads. The project also includes the necessary consultancy services required for the preparatory works, pre-qualification of contractors and project supervision.

The total cost of the project is estimated at about JD 106 million (KD 44 million). The grant covers 100 percent of the total cost of the project.

The LNG port project is meant to support the Jordanian economy and its strategic goals in alleviating the current energy crisis. This is through the import of liquefied natural gas as a supplementary source to satisfy the current and future demand on natural gas, and guarantee a continuous flow of gas in the event of the interruption of other sources, with competitive prices to assist in reducing the cost of electricity production. It also aims to develop the logistics capabilities of the Aqaba Economic Zone.

The project consists of the construction and equipping of a new LNG port in Aqaba with an operational throughput of 490 million cubic feet per day and a maximum throughput of 790 MMcfd. It also includes the marine infrastructure for berthing and mooring the floating storage and Regasification unit (FSRU), and the LNG carriers, and a loading platform with the related equipment for handling and controlling the gas flow and the connection to the main gas pipeline supplying the Kingdom.

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Saffron cultivation doubled across Afghanistan

May 9, 2013, Kabul (BNA): Officials of ministry of agriculture and irrigation have expressed satisfaction over increasing level of saffron productions and cultivation across Afghanistan and saffron exports have been doubled in the country in recent years.

Talking on the topic, Majidullah Qarar, spokesman to ministry of agriculture and irrigation said that last year Afghanistan harvested nearly 3,000 kg saffron which shows tangible as compare to the recent years and it shows that cultivation of this red gold has been increased in north-west of the country and lands in these areas are quite fertile for cultivation of saffron.

Based on remarks of spokesman of ministry of agriculture and irrigation, the concerned ministry is trying to pave the ground for export of saffron into foreign destinations and currently some of Afghan saffron are being exported in a number of western countries likely Italy, Canada and in Asian region in China and Australia.

Until now, at least eleven saffron exhibitions have been held for advertisement and marketing of Afghan saffron and more than 2,000 farmers have received necessary training in saffron cultivation field, said Majidullah Qarar, spokesman to the ministry of irrigation and agriculture, adding that government is trying to use saffron as an alternative to poppy.

Meanwhile, Syed Nabi Shinwari, head of agriculture science department of ministry of agriculture and irrigation announced Afghanistan as suitable and fertile country for cultivation of saffron and said that during 1390 and 1392,250 farmers across the country were benefited from free saffron seeds distribution and added western Herat province is considered as best land for saffron cultivation.

Local farmer Enayatollah announced Afghan saffron as the best in the world and urged on expansion of the herb to facilitate the farmers boost their income. This came after Afghanistan produced nearly 3,000 kg saffron last year and cultivation of the herb is growing among farmers throughout the country.

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Painting Exhibition Opened in Afghanistan

May 7, 2013, Kabul (BNA) A painting exhibition was opened in Negaristan Millie on Sunday where 200 painting and tableau of young artist Mohammad Habib were put on display, BNA reported.

In his opening remarks, Sayed Musadiq Khalili the cultural deputy to the ministry for information and culture appreciated Habib’s paintings, saying the objective of the exhibition is to convey the message of peace to the people of Afghanistan and the world. Musadiq also added that several exhibitions are held in the peace garden of Negaristan Millie which promotes the arts of painting and miniature among the young generations.

At the end, Musadiq also presented appreciation board to Habib in recognition of his services in the field of art. In the exhibition attended by cultural figures from Afghanistan and abroad, the group of music from American performed at stage.

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“Bakhtar Riches” Exhibit Boosts Australians’ Image of Afghanistan

(Editor’s note: This item has been reproduced unedited and verbatim from the original post).

May 8, 2013, Kabul (BNA) In most countries of the world, the ordinary people think about Afghanistan in a manner that is a matter of mourning and concern for us.

Since long, the world people hear the name of Afghanistan alongside war, murdering, fleeing and refuging. Recently, officials’ corruption, production and trafficking of narcotics, mal-behaving with women, suicide and bad situation of children also are knotted with the name of Afghanistan which is published as the headlines of foreign media.

The reality is this that killing and injuring of about twenty foreign journalists and military men in Afghanistan has its own impact in defaming Afghanistan.

In decade of solar 40s that annually a great number of tourists were visiting our country, most of them returned to their countries with photos, eyewitnesses, documentary films and showing of handicrafts they brought with themselves.

This instigated the thousands other tourists who didn’t visited Afghanistan till date and wanted to visit from near this ancient land, its kind and cheerful people, the most valuable historical monuments, natural beautiful sciences, clean air and its flowers cleansed with water of rainfall.

Cheap food items and varieties of its fruits and finally harmlessness were interesting and fabulous to them. The five and six- member groups of young tourists not with weapons and bodyguards but with guitar, cameras and flout were spending days and nights in Shekary and Ashraf valleys, Band-i-Amir, Salang and Baba mountain valleys and passing their nights in muddy simple Samowars and hotels in remotest villages.

The local people including men and women welcoming them with salutation, smiling and shaking of their hands and also the people were welcoming their foreign guests with Afghan meals. But, with beginning of war, all things were changed. It was the time that visiting Afghanistan as a tourist meant suicide and falling down among the fire. In one word, an industry in the name of tourism chalked off from the culture of Afghanistan.

In the course of war years, the world people sought only smoke, fire, violence, demolishing and other ugly phenomena beside the name of Afghanistan. In the very days of current solar year, when I (writer) along with a high- ranking delegation of ministry of information and culture while foreign minister and ambassador of Afghanistan in Australia, few journalists, employees of other institutions and a member of parliament were present in Melbourne the capital city of Victoria state of Australia, the exhibition of “Bakhtar Riches” when the high-ranking in-charges of museum of Victoria state were also present, was inaugurated. Proper replacement and decoration of historical relics of Afghanistan in this exhibition was taken place with a high tact. So, both deputy information and culture ministries of tourism and culture prof. Nabi Farahi and Mussadeq Khalili lauded the decoration of exhibition did by the in-charges of Victoria Museum Numerous brochures were printed in English language by Melbourne Museum on the same occasion.

Despite giving more information about the relics of this exhibition and history of Afghanistan, in majority of these brochures following patterns are also repeated. Afghanistan hidden rich by National Museum, Kabul. Exhibition of over 230 valuable relics that some of them are related to few thousand years back. This exhibition provided this possibility so the Australians to be acquainted with wonderful angels of history of Afghanistan, a country that has very high and rich culture. The exhibition of “Bakhtar Riches” is continuing in Melbourne as of March 22nd till July 28th of current year and to date, thousands people visited this exhibition. The ticked for visiting this exhibition is fixed for elderly people $24 and for children $14. In another brochure we read: Afghanistan was located at the heart of Silk Route, the way that passed by Gengiz Khan, Marco polo and Alexander the Great. This commercial route linked ancient Persia, central Asia, India and China with Greece and Rome.

My interesting memory from this exhibition is visiting of children and adolcents of Melbourne city from this exhibition. In different hours of the day, groups of 20 to 30 girl and boy students along with their few teachers were coming to exhibition to acquaint themselves with Bakhtar Riches of Afghanistan. One of the most precious relics in this exhibition was a golden crown. I saw hundreds boys and girls who made this crown from other things and laid down on their heads . I believe, in upcoming months, this exhibition be held in other cities of Australia such as Sedney, Berzin and Paret as well. This would have very positive impact in consideration and judgment of Australian people regarding Afghanistan and its people.

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Tunisia: 50 million dinars to modernize border crossings

11 May 2013, Africa Manager – Works to modernize road infrastructure at the level of Tunisia’s borders with Libya and Algeria will be conducted by the Ministry of Public Works and Environment with a budget of 50 million dinars. These works are intended, according to a statement from the Ministry of Public Works and Environment, to develop trade and promote tourism.

They involve the modernization of 140 km of roads in the governorates of Jendouba, Kasserine, Kef, Tozeur and Tataouine. Among the roads affected by upgrades, the National Road 7 connecting Melloula to the Algerian border on 16.6 kilometers and National Roads 11 and 6, over 4km and 8km, respectively.

In Kef, there will be the modernization of Regional Road No. 80 connecting it to Siliana and National Road 12 and the development of local transit point number 747 to the Algerian border (Kalaat Senene crossing point), in addition to strengthening the Kalaa Khasba Road (Hidra crossing point) over 26 km.

In the South, the project involves the development of the Remada / Dhiba border crossing over 51 km and the development of the Regional Road 201 at the border crossing Fej / Bouzayane over 25 km.

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Tunisia: Some 572,000 visitors recorded in April

12 May 2013 (Africa Manager) – Some 572,000 visitors entered Tunisia in April 2013, including 71,510 Tunisian expatriates and 59,343 foreign cruise passengers.

According to a statement of the Interior Ministry released Wednesday, Libyan nationals are leading visitors to the country with 181,000 visitors, followed by French (77187), Algerian (63,763), British (28,528), German (19963), Belgian (11,853) and Italian (11,759). Some 62 yachts docked in Tunisian ports, the source added.

Tourism revenues fell 3.1% to April 20, 2013, compared to the same period of 2012, and down 4.6% from the 2010 baseline year, Director General of the Tunisian National Tourist Office (ONTT) Habib Ammar told the Tunisian public radio on Wednesday.

The number of tourist arrivals until the same date of April 20, 2013 was down 3.7%, and overnight stays fell 5%, he noted. For the French market, one of the most important for Tunisian hoteliers, the decline was 23%.

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Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan to connect railway networks

Tehran Times – 08 May, 2013 – Iran, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan will inaugurate a joint rail project in the coming days which will connect railway networks of the three countries, Iranian Railways Company Managing Director Abdol-Ali Saheb-Mohammadi announced on Tuesday.

The project, which is dubbed the Caspian Sea eastern rail corridor, will be officially inaugurated by presidents of the three countries, he noted, IRNA reported.

The rail corridor will be around 1,000 kilometers in length, 140 kilometers of which will be in Kazakhstan, 700 kilometers in Turkmenistan, and 90 kilometers in Iran, Saheb-Mohammadi added.

In December 2012, Saheb-Mohammadi said that the national Iranian railway network is already linked with the Syrian and Turkish networks.

Iranian Transport and Urban Development Minister Ali Nikzad said on Sunday that construction operations for some other railroads are underway to connect the country’s railroad to those of neighboring countries.

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ATM promotes Dubai’s appeal as year-round tourism destination

Arab News – 09 May, 2013 – Arabian Travel Market (ATM), whose 2013 edition ends this week at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre, plans to continue with a fresh wave of activities in the days to come in pursuance of its new vision.

Its activities include a series of seminars focusing on online travel developments and hosting speakers and presenters from across the industry, as part of its efforts to make the future ATMs much more interesting and appealing to exhibitors and participants.

This year’s ATM, which had a grand opening on May 6, is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Over the past two decades, ATM has grown to be “one of the greatly — if not the most — anticipated events in the industry of travel, hospitality and tourism of the region,” said Mark Walsh, portfolio director of ATM in his welcome address. When ATM first started in 1994, there were only 300 exhibitors occupying just two halls with 3,000 square meters, whereas this year’s exhibition welcomed over 2,000 exhibitors spread across 8 halls with 22,000 square meters, he added.

As a market, the tourism sector has witnessed significant growth and economic prosperity in many countries around the world. Dubai had its share of this growth over the past two decades as the city’s development of a strong infrastructure supported its position as a global gateway for leisure and business.

Confirming this, Helal Saeed Al-Marri, general director of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing in Dubai, said: “The focus of 2013 is on furthering the appeal of the emirates as year-round tourism destination, promoting our exciting and diverse calendar of events and activities which cater to each of our market segments.”

ATM showcased hundreds of destinations, air travel companies, cruises, hotels and resorts as well as travel agencies. Many of the exhibitors are recognized to be among the most important game players in the industry of travel and tourism from all around the world, such as The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company, Grand Hyatt, Six Senses Resorts and Spas, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Booking.com, Saudi Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa and Emirates, to name a few.

Some of the region’s new players have also taken their place in ATM. Vida hotels and resort, which the recently-launched hotel chain from Emaar hospitality was promoting their new hotel located at the prestigious Mohammad Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai. Arab News had the chance to meet with Vida General Manager Stefan Viard, which presented the new hotel chain.

“We have just launched Vida a few days ago, Vida is the Spanish word for life, it is all about being alive to inspire which is our tag line. We are really looking forward to create a niche product in Dubai; it is an upscale four-star hotel which is a good addition the Emaar hospitality family which consists of The Address, Armani and now Vida,” he said.

Viard added: “We have closed one of our properties, Kamareddine hotel, which we had taken over last year to have it completely refurbished. Initially we had 187 rooms and we took them down to 156 in order to create more vibrant restaurant space. Now we have five outlets in total, which three of them are managed by us while the other two are out leased.”

On the new concept of the hotel, Viard explains: “We were able to create bigger room categories, so now we have additional junior suites and a very nice two bedroom suite and additional connecting rooms. The biggest change though is that opened up to the Boulevard side which was completely close, so now guests can choose to access from the Boulevard side or from the back entrance.”

On Vida’s expansion and future plans, Viard said: “The closest neighbor is AlManzil Hotel which has just been renamed as AlManzil Hotel Downtown Dubai managed by Vida hotels and resorts. This is the first step and there are discussions of potential expansion whether in Dubai or outside.”

On Vida’s participation in ATM, he said: “It is going really well now that the business is picking up, and we have received very positive feedback after we have announced the brand as people are very curious about the hotel, especially that it is linked to Emaar and everybody knows The Address hotels so they are very keen to know more about it and we have a few surprises for our guests once they come when we open in June 2013. It’s a different concept and it’s not what you see in Dubai quite often. It starts from the recruitment process up to the service delivered in the hotel itself, I can promise you it will be very inspiring.”

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Iraq to rebuild rail system as reconstruction gathers pace

Arab News – 09 May, 2013 – In a shabby, rusty train that had just left Baghdad for the southern city of Basra, Riyadh Saleh moved restlessly from carriage to carriage, searching for a comfortable, air-conditioned seat.

Saleh was one of about 200 passengers taking a 25-year-old diesel train to Basra recentlyy; he was enticed by fares as low as 7,500 dinars ($ 6.50) for a seat on the 600 kilometer journey. But like many others, he felt the experience — especially the train’s top speed of 60-70 km/hour — left much to be desired.

“The train is not comfortable, it is rocking. I do not feel secure — I feel it will turn over at any moment. Besides, it is slow,” said the retired civil servant, who was traveling with 10 other family members to attend a relative’s wedding in Basra.

Iraq’s infrastructure is dilapidated after decades of war, sanctions and economic decline. In a country where piles of rubble and incomplete buildings are commonplace, almost every sector needs investment, including electricity and the sewage system.

But the country is laying plans to rebuild its historic railways and become a transit hub for goods that would be shipped from Asia to Iraq’s neighbors and beyond.

Iraq’s railways date back 100 years; the foundation of the first line was laid by the Germans under the Ottoman Empire in 1912. That line, connecting Baghdad with the town of Dujail, 60 km to the north, was completed in 1914.

The network has been neglected during the past several decades of political and economic turmoil. The country has only two working passenger trains at present, and officials in the state-run railway company admit that the volumes of passengers and freight which it carries do not generate enough income to cover employees’ salaries, let alone revamp the network.

That leaves Iraq with little public transport connecting regions of the fractious country. Most people rely on minibuses and taxis to make national journeys, which can be expensive and dangerous on poorly maintained roads.

“Our passengers have a right to complain because when they go abroad and see modern trains with new and developed technology, while our lines are the same old thing, they say ëI want our trains to be like the rest of the world,” said Hadi Ali, manager of the train station in central Baghdad.

Plans to revive the rail system are gaining pace along with the country’s oil boom and general reconstruction. If successful, this could not only have economic benefits by facilitating trade and domestic tourism, but by making travel easier, maybe even contribute to the country’s political unity.

Last year the railway company finished building a 32 km line between Mussayab, south of Baghdad, and the holy city of Kerbala to transfer hundreds of thousands of pilgrims during religious festivals.

It is also building a new railway parallel to the old Baghdad-Basra line at a cost of about $ 700 million; the line is due to be in service by the end of this year. Currently only around 250 passengers travel on Iraq’s railways on most days, but when the new Baghdad-Basra line is finished, the number could jump to between 2,000 and 3,000, officials say.

A line connecting Baghdad with the northern city of Mosul is still out of service, but transport officials hope to begin renovating it next year. Last year Iraq signed a deal to import ten trains from China, each carrying up to 450 passengers and running as fast as 140-160 km/hour, for $ 115 million.

Iraq currently has about 2,000 km of railway lines and hopes eventually to increase this to 10,000 km of dual-track railways, with electrified trains running at up to 200-250 km/hour that would connect all major Iraqi cities with neighboring countries.

Mohammed Ali Hashem, manager of the projects department in the railway company, said the goal was to unload goods from Asia at southern Iraqi ports and transport them through the northern Iraqi city of Zakho into Europe via Turkey.

“So instead of a long trip to the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea, through Iraq it will take 24 hours. Iraq will become a transit point for goods transfer.”

Hashem envisions around 25 million tons of goods passing through Iraq annually once the rail projects are completed at an estimated cost of more than $ 60 billion over five years.

For now, such visions face formidable obstacles. One is financing; just $ 175 million has been allocated by the government for projects by Iraq’s railway company this year.

Hashem said there were two options for financing projects: annual allocations from the government, and effectively borrowing money from companies hired to perform infrastructure work — the firms would be paid under a staggered schedule. The staggered payment model would require passage of an infrastructure law by Iraq’s parliament, however, and this has been delayed for several years by political wrangling. It is not clear when it might be passed.

Khudhair Abbas, deputy head of another transport projects company run by the transport ministry, said Iraqi railways were not yet attractive to foreign investors because they would not be profitable until the country’s southern port of Grand Faw was built, which would take years.

In the long term, Iraq may be able to find the money for its railways; the International Monetary Fund expects its oil exports to expand to $ 152 billion in 2018 from $ 94 billion last year, swelling government coffers.

But there are other problems. Talib Kadhim, head of the operations and transport department in the railway company, said many traders preferred to move their goods via private motor transport firms, even though that was more expensive, because the firms offered door-to-door services and train stations were far from the city centers.

Security is still a concern. Recent talks with a foreign company to transfer crude oil by rail to Akashat, near the Jordanian border, for shipment abroad were scuppered by the increasingly volatile situation in the western province of Anbar, bordering Syria. “When stability is achieved, transportation in general will increase in the country,” said Kadhim.

In the Baghdad station hall, ticket booths remain shut with the exception of the window for the Baghdad-Basra line, where a small whiteboard shows train times and ticket prices written in a red marker.

“I have a lot of memories of the trains in the 1960s when I was a kid,” said Emad Maki, 54, an unemployed man who was traveling to Basra with his wife and four children to offer condolences for the death of a relative. “I wish our trains were like the ones in Europe. It is difficult to achieve but I am sure things will be better if there is determination. If we achieve 50 percent of what others have, that will be good.”

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Tourism and civil aviation forming crucial alliance in Middle East

Arab News – 09 May, 2013 – The Arabian Peninsula has always been the crossroads for different civilizations and these days those roads are in the sky rather than on the ground, said Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA).

Stressing the region’s geographical importance to the tourism sector at the second annual UNWTO & Ministerial Forum at Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, he said: “The same role that Arabia has played in the past is now similarly happening with airline networks.”

He added: “The alliance between tourism and air transportation is very much a non-separable alliance, and it is a very important focus on aligning these two sectors to make places more accessible and affordable. “

He was participating in a discussion on “Tourism & Aviation: Building a Common Agenda for Growth.”

The event, which was attended by more than 25 ministers from different countries was opened by UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai and Mark Walsh, portfolio director, Reed Travel Exhibitions.

Other ministers also stressed the need to identify the links between tourism and aviation and set structures where tourism, civil aviation and airlines can work together.

Participating in the ministerial forum were the ministers of tourism of Bahamas, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Gambia, Lebanon, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Niger, Oman, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Seychelles, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, the director general of the National Council of Tourism and Antiquities of the UAE, the vice-minister of tourism of Azerbaijan, the director general of the Jordan Tourist Board and the CEO of the Mozambique Tourism Authority.

Representing the aviation industry were the vice president international and public affairs of Etihad Airways, the CEO of Dubai Airports and the senior vice president, revenue optimisation and distribution of Emirates Airlines.

Rifai highlighted that tourism and aviation need to move out of working in silos. “Tourism and aviation are siblings, and have been working together in parallel lines. We cannot see them separate from one another; with 52 percent of world travelers reaching their destination by air, their growth is intrinsically linked,” he added.

“There are visa regimes still belonging to a century that has past. Despite the fact that the UAE and Dubai are leading the way in opening up in terms of visa accessibility, the Middle East is still lagging behind as 70 percent of people still need visas to enter the region,” Rifai said

Highlighting the potential of regional cooperation, Reem Al-Hashemi, minister of state and managing director of the Higher Committee on International Expo Dubai 2020, said: “For mega events, we have to build synergies and expand the traveler experience. Expo 2020 is not just about Dubai, the region will benefit with visitors going on to explore Muscat or Petra, for example. We are promoting the region as a whole, expanding the picture, becoming more attractive and appealing — both to visitors but also to other airlines.”

Helal Saeed Al-Marri, director general, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing of Dubai, mentioned the Middle East as a prime example of how tourism and aviation can work together, and what the rest of the world can learn from the region.

Other issues highlighted were the need to extend the principle of liberalization to more and more countries, the opportunities existing for regional cooperation in the Middle East, particularly in view of attracting long-haul markets and the importance of aligning tourism objectives with airlines’ profitability.

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Gambia: Mama Africa Museum for Tourist Attractions

The Point – 10 May 2013 – As part from promoting African culture and tourism in The Gambia, one of the best tourist attractions in the country is Mama Africa Museum, which is contributing a lot to promoting African culture as well as tourism.

Mama Africa Museum is an art centre located in the village of Batokunku.

Speaking in an interview with Tourism and Entertainment writer on Wednesday at the museum, Isha Fofana, proprietress of the centre, said this year is another successful season, successful in the sense that not for money but for important people visiting the centre.

She added that some people have seen a lot about Mama Africa in the internet, TV stations making a documentary about the place.

Madam Fofana added that this season has come to an end and plans for the next season have also been started.

“Every season I make the place better by doing a lot of artwork inside it,” Isha explained, saying Mama Africa is one of the best tourist attractions in The Gambia and it is very rich in African culture.

The museum boss told Entertainment that every country needs good tourist attractions; so if I have the opportunity as an artist to open this place where both tourists and the local people visit, I think it really needs a lot of efforts. According to Isha, the museum focuses more on African culture because African culture is one of the richest in the world.

The international Gambian artist said that this year’s season is not going that well as it used to be during the 70s and 80s because of the high competition in the world. She said all the rich tourists go to Kenya and South Africa because those countries have a lot of animals that attract tourists, which is what people are going to look at there.

Isha said further that the only thing that “we can do to attract richer tourists to The Gambia is to develop our culture” and this cannot be without giving more support to the artists who are selling the country. “So we have to create something for our tourists,” adding that a better tourist needs very good attractions.

Isha therefore called on the authority to give more support to the artists “because when they are supported they will sell this country”.

Madam Fofana also noted that some people in the country are not working for the development of the country but only to full their pockets. She said: “If we are not working as one, tourism will not move the way we expect it to move. People should stop selfishness and work to develop this country.”

She therefore thanks The Gambian leader for working both day and night to ensure the country is developed.

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Gambia: Sandele Eco-Retreat a Natural Environment

The Point – 3 May 2013 – Eco-tourism contributes greatly to the development of tourism in this country. One such place that promotes this in The Gambia is Sandele Eco-Retreat, a beautiful sight to behold and a natural environment for attraction of both tourists and people in the area.

Sandele Eco-Retreat and learning centre is situated right in the heart and soul of Kartong, the Western Region of The Gambia the Smiling Coast of Africa.

The place is surrounded by nature with pleasing and refreshing quietness, which also makes it the favourite of most tourists.

It is quite different from many hotels because of its naturalness and touristic characteristics on the backdrop of a local setting which makes it a beautiful sight to behold.

Speaking in an interview with The Point Tourism and Entertainment on Monday at Sandele Eco-Retreat, the proprietress of Sandele, Geri Mitchell, said Sandele Eco-Retreat is a community-based project with an agreement of 25 years of operation, five of these years have already been spent.

At the end of the agreement, the land will be handed over to the village of Kartong, she said, adding that most of the workforce at Sandele comes from Kartong.

The Sandele Eco-Retreat director told Entertainment that one of the big achievements the Retreat enjoys is good season. “And we are working effectively for the development of the area,” she said.

Elaborating on the achievements of the Retreat, Madam Mitchell also said that while the season is coming to an end, they are now working to complete ten more rooms to prepare for the next season.

“Our other achievement is the development of the craft production area, which was assistance from the German Embassy of which we are very grateful,” she said. “Now our plan is to work in this area where tourists can come and see the products.

“I am very excited for the season because we have the visitors of two presidents of the Global Eco village Network (Gen) and the purpose of their visit is Africa, and the alkalo of Kartong was very impressed about their visit.”

Madam Mitchell went further to state that the Eco-village design educator programme, which is a month-long training, will run in Sandele in February 2014.

Lamin Camara, assistance manager of Sandele Eco-Retreat, said many changes have taken place and “this season is really good”.

Camara added that this year’s tourist season for Sandele is great, saying the environment is vey conducive for both tourists and the local people.

“In Sandele, we are very well known for local products and we are trying to come up with more local products from the village,” he said.

Camara said further: “The waste that we think is going to affect the village we will also find a way forward to develop it so that it can also create more employment for the people of the area.”

He therefore thanked his staff for the “wonderful cooperation” without which “we would not have achieved what we have achieved today”.

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Nigeria: The Kwara Tourism Destination Move

Vanguard – 4 May 2013 – Ilorin — The Kwara State administration of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed is putting tourism in the front burner as a major source of revenue for government.

Therefore,in his efforts to provide a conducive environment for investors to come to the state, Ahmed has concluded plans to explore the potentials in tourism to increase the internally generated revenue (IGR).

According to him, with the monthly federal allocations which put Kwara State third from the least paid among the thirty six states of the federation,he would leave no stone unturned to increase the IGR to a level that the government would least reckon with the allocations as its source of revenue.

The tourism policy thrust of the government, according to the Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communications, Dr Muideen Akorede, includes to speedily intervene and ameliorate destitution with a view to re integrating the destitute into the society and to promote the diverse rich culture, arts and crafts of the state to complement tourism development.

This, Akorede said, is geared towards making the state a foremost tourist destination in Nigeria attracting foreign and domestic tourists.The strategic framework to be employed to achieve the target include staging cultural carnivals, comprehensive renovation and upgrading of facilities in the state cultural centre, capacity building and provision of costume.

Others are; provision of materials for the cultural troupe, identification and upgrading of indigenous art and craft work, identification of tourist sites, involvement of private sector in the development of tourism, provision of incentives to investors in the tourism sector, recruitment of professional personnel, enlightenment and sensitization programmes on the importance of tourism and adequate budgetary provision for the tourism sector.

To achieve these objectives, the governor mandated the Office of Tourism and Culture Development to employ all possible means to see that tourism takes its place in the drive for economic growth in the state. The newly appointed Special Assistant to the Governor on Culture and Tourism Development, Mr. Oyedele Adetula, has commenced inspection of all tourist centres across Kwara.

The sites visited are the Owu Falls, one of Nigeria’s highest water falls, situated in Owa Onire, Isin Local Government Area, the Esie Stone Images Museum, at Esie, Ifelodun Local Government Area, Imoleboja Rock Shelter in Ekiti/Irepodun Local Government Area, Aso-Oke Weaving Center, Okuta Ilorin (ancient historical stone), Dada Pottery and Okelele Hide and Skin local industry in Ilorin.

Adetula decried the deplorable state of the facilities in the sector, and blamed the long years of neglect on inadequate publicity. He however expressed optimism that total revamp will be witnessed in a short while.

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Egypt’s Marsa Alam hosts unique music festival

Al-Ahram – Thursday 9 May 2013 – Over 400 people from Cairo and Alexandria camped in the scenic beauty of Egypt’s south, about 800 kilometres from the capital, as part of a three-day environmentally-friendly music and film festival, ‘3al Ganoob.’

Participants discovered the beaches and diving spots by day and enjoyed unique films and live music performances, which ended with open mic and collective jam sessions by night.

‘3al Ganoob Festival’ was hosted by Deep South Camp from 3 to 5 May. Traditionally a spot for divers to settle in between dives in chalets, huts and tents, the camp is a short walk from the beach, ten kilometres south of Marsa Alam.

Besides cultural activities, the festival also hosted a few seminars during the day, conversations with the tribes, and how to co-exist in the surrounding environment without damaging it. Prior to the festival, Ice-Cairo, a hub for environmental and sustainable projects, hosted a seminar with locals on creating solar panels, one of which was used at the festival.

Most people attending the festival did not participate in the environmental aspect and saw it more as a vacation with musical perks. Also, the organisers did not highlight it or push for environmental engagement throughout the festival. However, some individual efforts were made to engage people; one group helped raise awareness on conserving water during showers and picked up trash from the area.

Muhammed El-Quessny, from Like Jelly band, also called on people during their performance to clean the near-by natural pool ‘El-Naizak.’ The following day, a group of approximately 30 people in cars and pickup trucks headed to clear out the area, bringing back a medium-sized truck full of plastic bottles. The clean-up happened swiftly and in a self-organised manner, which left people satisfied and happy with their small contribution to the beautiful place hosting them.

An average day at the festival was waking up to a typical Egyptian breakfast of foul (beans), falafel and eggs, followed by exploring the surrounding beaches and dive spots near the campsite. After sunset, people gathered by the beach to sit in a circle and improvise drumming together.

The drum circle was perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the festival. The organisers provided drums from all over the world as well as local drums, and visitors were encouraged to also bring their own percussions. The activity of drumming created an intriguing non-verbal conversation among the group, and the roles would shift between leading and following, with everyone feeling the rhythm as they exchange drums throughout the whole process.

The films served their purpose in giving an insight into culture and cinema in Egypt. On the first night, award-winning film by Ahmed Abdallah ‘Microphone’ on the independent culture scene in Alexandria was screened, proceeded by Ibrahim Battut’s ‘Hawi’ the following night. On the final night of the festival, two short films by independent director Alia Ayman ‘Hazy Khayal’ and ‘Cartharsis: A Self-Portrait,’ followed by Tamer Eissa’s ‘The Camp’ were screened.

After the films, the musical performances began. Each night started with a relaxed live performance, the first of which were independent musicians Abo wel Shabab, who produce music relating to life experiences and current events with a pop sound. The following night Like Jelly presented their satirical musical comedy sketches, and Yossra El-Hawary and her talented band performed to close the festival.

While the performances were each interesting in their own way, it was what came after them that really stood out. The musicians would invite people to come perform in the open mic segment of the evening, and audiences were invited to showcase their own talents. Some sang acapella, while others sang covers of American and British songs to the guitar, and Baheya Band, who cover Sayid Darwish and Sheikh Imam classics, took the stage several times.

‘3al Ganoob’ attracted several groups of people, mostly youth and many in their 30s and 40s, and a few families. The activities, whether diving, discovering the beaches, the clean-up or cultural activities, played a role in bringing the different segments of the audiences together; it sparked interesting conversations and possible new collaborations among festival goers.

The vibe and energy of the group was upbeat and comfortable. It would be interesting if the second edition of the festival was hosted with a stronger environmental aspect, as was promised through all the communications with the public. However, it is important that ‘3al Ganoob’ maintains its positive energy and relaxed, open atmosphere of encouraging the audience to share their talents and co-create music throughout.

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Egypt’s president signs Islamic bonds bill into law

Reuters, Thursday 9 May 2013 – Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi has approved a law allowing the state to issue Islamic bonds, the official gazette said Wednesday, ending a troubled passage for a bill the government hopes will help revive its flagging finances.

Egypt’s upper house of parliament, the Shura Council, which has assumed temporary legislative powers, approved the law last week after amending it to meet recommendations from Al-Azhar, the country’s leading Islamic authority. The government hopes the law will allow it to tap billions from the Islamic bond, or sukuk, market and bolster state finances hammered in the two years since an uprising ousted former president Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt’s official gazette said the law had been approved by Morsi and would go into effect Wednesday. Regulations for using the law would be issued within three months, it added. Lawmakers had approved the law in March, but Al-Azhar objected, saying its top scholars should have been consulted on the law as stated in the new Islamic-leaning constitution.

Al-Azhar said this month it had given its approval for the law on condition that certain articles be amended. It is not clear whether the law had been sent to Al-Azhar for approval again or not.

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Osh sees renewed interest in the arts

2013-05-09 – Centralasiaonline.com – OSH – Almost three years after ethnic riots in Osh, more parents are regaining the confidence to send their children to music and art schools, partly so the children can put the violence behind them, teachers say.

“In Osh the city and the region as a whole, things have stabilised thanks to joint peace-making efforts,” Vice-Mayor Dastan Khodjayev told Central Asia Online. “The growing number of parents sending their children back to music school is a sign of stabilisation.”

In the past year, enrolment in Osh music and art schools has more than doubled, teachers told Central Asia Online.

“This year, about 60 first-graders enrolled in piano class, almost double that of the previous school year,” said Nargiza Abdurahimova, a piano teacher at the Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky School of Arts.

The school has even begun holding recitals again, she said. Her pupils, ages 7 to 14, put on a gala recital April 11, playing the works of masters like Glinka, Dargomyzhsky, Schubert, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky.

“These concerts are very important for pupils, because when the children perform on stage, they show what they can do and what they have achieved, and in doing so gain self-confidence and develop their interest in music,” she said. “They see their parents, family members and friends in the audience, who have come to … support them.”

The school now has more than 40 teachers and 200 pupils learning to play various instruments including Kyrgyz, Uzbek and Russian folk instruments, she said. The school also offers theatre, painting and drawing. Children study there five to seven years.

After the riots, Osh art schools suffered a steep decline, but they’re rebounding now as parents and children shed their fears, principal Mukaram Madaminova, who has run the Tchaikovsky school since 1993, said. The school now is fully operational and various ethnicities attend, including Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Russians and others.

“Once the situation in the city began to improve, people realised that these events would not be repeated, and that it’s possible to safely live, work and study,” Madaminova said. “I would say that this school year has been productive, the school is fully staffed, the departments and classrooms are full, and we are working at full speed.”

Although first-grade classrooms are full, the school’s total enrolment hasn’t rebounded all the way from June 2010, Madaminova said, explaining that the size of some classes fell almost by half and that some teachers fled the country.

“Many of our older pupils stopped attending after June 2010,” she said. “After the conflict ended, the tension in the city, the military vehicles, people’s habit of going home early, and the political situation in general frightened the people of Osh. … Many families moved or sent their family members (elsewhere). We lost both pupils and teachers.”

However, many Osh residents say they intend to move on from the conflict.

Gulnara Tashmatova, an economics instructor at a university in Osh, attended the recital to watch her children perform. They enjoy attending the art school, she said.

“Our 8-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son attend piano classes (there),” she said. “We’re very pleased with the school, the administration and our teacher. … We want our kids to have an interest in music, obtain a good musical education and to become well-rounded.”

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Mozambique asks Indonesia to boost trade in Africa

Mon, May 6 2013 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Mozambique has asked Indonesia to increase its trade with and investment in African countries and vice versa.

“Politically Indonesia has been widely known for a long time in Africa. The challenge for the country now is realizing the concept of economic cooperation with African countries including my country (Mozambique),” Mozambique’s Foreign Minister Oldemiro Baloi said on the sidelines of his meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa here on Monday.

He hoped increased cooperation with Indonesia could promote development efforts in various sectors such as economic, cultural and security. Marty meanwhile said there are a lot of sectors where the two countries could cooperate in such as economic, trade and investment.

“In the meeting just now we also talked about technical cooperation in the field of agriculture, fisheries and others,” he said. “We also discussed possibilities to exchange students,” he added.

According to foreign ministry data trade between the two countries in the past few years had been positive despite a drop in 2012 due to global economic crisis. Total trade in 2012 reached US$120.3 million down from US$130 million in 2011.

Cooperation between the two countries have also covered other areas such as women’s empowerment, police, research and technology, small and medium credit and industry.

Minister Baloi said he would benefit much from his visit to Indonesia as he could understand better about the economic development road map and plans in the Asia Pacific region.

“We have an opportunity to know about issues in the Asia Pacific region and so could understand better about the region and see the potentials they have and the areas of development we could participate in,” he said.

Indonesia has good diplomatic relations with African countries in view of the Asia-Africa Conference in Bandung, West Java, in 1955, which was the landmark support from Indonesia to developments in the African countries.

The 50-years long good relationship however has not expanded to trade cooperation between the two parties.

In 2011 Indonesia’s trade with the sub-Sahara African countries totaling 42 countries except North African countries reached only US$9.5 billion.

This is small as the country’s trade with India at the time already reached US$17.6 billion. “The problem lies in the long perception held by peoples of the two countries. Most Indonesian people think African countries are poor and prone to political conflicts while most African people think Indonesia is too far and it is difficult to do business there,” the directo of African Affairs of the Directorate General of Asia Pacific and Africa, Larson Simbolong said.

Contrary to what many Indonesians think of Africa, he said, African countries’ economy has grown fast in the past few years including that of Angola, Nigeria, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Quoting analysts’ reports published by The Economists and the International Monetary Fund seven African countries namely Ehiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria would become part of the 10 countries that would record the fastest economic growth from 2011 to 2015.

Following economic crisis in traditional markets such as the US and the European countries Indonesia needs to increase its economic cooperation with non-traditional countries such as African countries, he said.

“This is a good opportunity for Indonesia to boost economic and trade cooperation with African countries. The spirit of unity of the Asia-Africa Conference in 1955 must be realized in mutual economic relations,” he said.

Several commodities that have market potentials in the Sub-Sahara Africa include food, textile, crude palm oil, paper products, furniture and lubricating oil. “An Indonesian instant noodle brand has been well known in Nigeria and so is CN235 aircraft produced by PT Dirgantara Indonesia that has now expanded to Burkina Faso and Senegal,” Larso said.

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Govt opens chance for foreign investment in tourism sector

May 7 2013 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Indonesian government is opening a chance for foreign investors to invest in the country’s tourism sector, Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said. “We are very open to foreign nationals to invest in the tourism sector,” she said at a press conference here on Tuesday.

She said foreign investors are allowed to hold a 100 percent stake in three-star hotels and above, tourist resort, golf court, convention hall, and world-class hotel, among others. Meanwhile, foreign ownership of other business must not exceed 50 percent, she said. No investment in gambling den and casino is allowed in the country, she said.

Data released by the ministry’s economic impact team show the tourism sector employed 9.28 million people in the country last year and contributed Rp104.5 trillion to the state income. The tourism sector contributed 3.9 percent or Rp321.57 trillion to the gross domestic product and Rp11.57 trillion to tax receipts.

According to the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM), investment in the tourism sector jumped 210.86 percent to US$869.8 billion in 2012 from a year earlier, consisting of domestic investment worth US$101.5 billion and foreign investment worth US$786.3 billion.

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RAK Int’l Airport to get four new airlines

Khaleej Times – 09 May, 2013 – RAK International Airport expects four new commercial airlines to start operations from October this year, Chairman Shaikh Salem bin Sultan Al Qasimi told Khaleej Times in an interview. Without disclosing the name, the chairman said these new carriers are coming from Asia and Europe.

RAK Airways will remain the primary airline of the airport and additional capacity will be allotted to new airlines, he said. RAK Airways expects 77,000 passengers a month by the end of 2013, Shaikh Salem said, who is also vice-chairman of the airline. “The airline will get two new aircraft this year and expect to open more sectors and increased frequencies to existing routes,” he added.

“We will double the passenger capacity of the airport from next month to meet the growing demand,” the chairman said. The annual passenger capacity will cross one million mark for this first time in the third week of June, he said, adding that the current capacity is 545,000 passengers per year and it handled 406,000 passengers last year.

“We are investing Dh50 million this year to expand the infrastructure of the airport,” he said. There will be new cater facility from last quarter of the year, new retail and F&B experience, new check-in hall, new baggage system and etc., he added.

RAK Airport’s major upgrade programme involves increasing annual passenger handling capacity to three million by 2015, according to the chairman.

Talking about biggest attractions to airlines, he said there: zero slot restrictions, quick and efficient processing times, quieter skies over RAK to optimize flying time and 21 minutes fuel burn efficiency per engine, and other commercial incentives.

Charter business is another important area for the airport, he said, adding: “We receive 30 charter flights a month and mostly from Europe.” The airport aims to spruce up business in charter and scheduled airlines, which is its 2013 focus. This year, there are three strategic focus areas for the airport, he said, adding that cargo, MRO and training.

Further elaborating, he said the focus will be to support the growth of RAK Airways, cargo growth, public private partnership based concessions, charter flights and tourism. He said the airport expect up to 40 per cent growth in passengers and revenues this year.

Earlier this month, RAK International Airport announced its first quarter result that shows significant growth. The airport reported 31 per cent more revenue compared to the same period last year. Contributing to this growth were 42 per cent in aircraft movements and 100 per cent growth in retail.

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Salalah to host third Arab Aviation and Media Summit

Oman Daily Observer – 09 May, 2013 – Low budget airline Air Arabia has announced that the 3rd Arab Aviation and Media Summit will be held under the patronage of Maitha al Mahrouqi, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism from June 2 to 3, in Salalah. Hosted by Air Arabia in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism and Airbus, the theme of Arab Aviation and Media Summit 2013 is ‘Aviation and Tourism: Enabler of Economic Growth’. In addition to assessing the impact of aviation and tourism on regional economic growth, the Summit will focus on discussing the challenges and opportunities faced by the industry in the wider Arab world.

The two-day event will commence with a gala dinner hosted by the Ministry of Tourism, followed by a full day summit featuring a high profile panel of speakers and a wide network of editors and media from all over the Arab world, together debating Arab aviation and tourism. Last year, the event drew more than 150 participants and took place in Sharjah. Maitha al Mahrouqi said, “The Sultanate of Oman offers a lot when it comes to travel and tourism. Hosting the summit in Salalah demonstrates our commitment to developing tourism across the country. We are delighted to join with our partners to make this important and timely summit possible as a platform for a dialogue of ideas between industry participants and media.”

Adel A Ali, Group Chief Executive Officer of Air Arabia said, “The Arab world’s aviation and tourism industry has, over the years, demonstrated its significance to economic growth. Underscored by job creation and bilateral trade, the sector will continue to be regarded as a catalyst for economic activities. We are confident that by joining hands with Oman’s Ministry of Tourism, Airbus and fellow partners, the summit is uniquely positioned to meet the most pressing needs and capture future opportunities in this key sector.”

This year, the summit is eyeing increased regional and international participation through showcasing the rapid growth and development that the aviation and tourism sector is experiencing in Oman, the region and the wider Arab world. This summit is open for industry peers and media.

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UAE rejoins UN World Tourism Organisation

Gulf Today – 09 May, 2013 – The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has rejoined the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) after 26 years of having left the entity, it was announced on Wednesday.

“The UAE plays a central role not only in the development of tourism in the region but also in linking the Middle East with other regions and we expect that by working together we will enhance tourism within and to the Emirates as well as increase regional co-operation,” said the UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai at the UNWTO and Arabian Travel Market Ministerial Forum on Tourism and Aviation in Dubai.

UNWTO, in a news release, said it will work with the UAE on several initiatives including the measurement of the economic impact of tourism, statistics and human resources development.

The Middle East is one of the fastest growing tourism regions in the world. According to the UNWTO, between 1980 and 2010, international tourist arrivals in the Middle East rose from 7.1 million to 60.9 million. This represents an average annual increase of 7.4 per cent, which is higher that the world’s average of 4.2 per cent, the international organization.

Rifai said that tourism in the region continued to grow despite the countless challenges it faced. “Much of this dynamism has been led by the strong political commitment awarded to tourism in the region and the vision that tourism is a key pillar of development in the Middle East of which the UAE is a perfect example,” he said.

UNWTO estimates that tourism growth in the Middle East is set to continue, with arrivals expected to reach 149 million by 2030.

Welcoming the development, Mohammad Khamis Bin Hareb Al Muhairi, director-general of the UAE National Council of Tourism and Antiquities, said: “This will help us to play a greater role in the global tourism industry and share our success story.

This is good. The NCTA’s role is to consolidate efforts of tourism authorities in the UAE and co-ordinate efforts to preserve and maintain the UAE’s antiquities through unified external representation and co-operation with international organisations, governmental and non-governmental.”

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Turkish hotel group Rixos bullish on Egypt projects

Khaleej Times – 09 May, 2013 – Rixos Hotels, the hospitality chain from Turkey, celebrated the collaboration with a number of key investors from Egypt across multiple hotel projects, in order for the hotel group to continue its dynamic expansion within one of the world’s most recognised travel destinations. After the triumphant entry in Sharm El Sheikh in October 2012, Rixos Hotels announced it would now grow further through a number of projects spanning across Egypt, including the capital Cairo. In Sharm El Sheikh, one of the world’s leading diving and leisure destinations, the project showcases a colossal property consisting of three resorts, one boutique hotel and 80 villas, the biggest SPA center of Sharm El Sheikh and a total of 2,576 rooms.

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New Saudi railway projects to link eastern and western regions

Arab News – 09 May, 2013 – New railway projects will flourish the regional transportation in Saudi Arabia through linking the west to east of the Kingdom. It will also provide facilities to trade transportation through connecting Jeddah Islamic Port with Riyadh and Dammam. It will allow cargo goods imported from East Asian countries through King Abdul Aziz Port in Dammam, and from Europe and North America through Jeddah Islamic Port, resulting in more transit cargo and savings in regional freight economy.

“The railway line would start from Jeddah Islamic Port to Riyadh and will be connected with the existing 450-kilometer line between Riyadh and Dammam. A second 115-kilometer new line is also planned to connect Dammam with Jubail,” said SAR Board Chairman Mansour Al-Maiman.

The $ 7 billion railway project linking Riyadh with Jeddah gathered steam with the state-owned Public Investment Fund (PIF) signing a SR 270 million ($ 72 million) contract with Fluor, a US company, to provide management consultancy. The contract is a part of the plan that has been ordered by King Abdullah to complete the railway infrastructure of the Kingdom and in line with a decision of the Council of Ministers to construct a railway line connecting the Kingdom’s west coast with its east shoreline.

The SAR is currently implementing the North-South Railway (NSR) project, the world’s largest railway project and the longest route to adopt the European Train Control System (ETCS) to date. It is a 2,400-km passenger and freight rail line originating in Riyadh, in the northwest of the country, to Al-Hudaitha, near the border with Jordan.

The North-South railway represents a top priority over the other projects due to its strategic importance to the national economy. It is an integral part of the planned phosphate and bauxite mining projects in the northern region of the country that are available in commercial quantities and can be exported from the processing facilities at Raz Al-Zwar on the Gulf coast. This will make Saudi Arabia as the second largest exporter of minerals in the world.

The North-South Railway will have 107 bridges and 2,679 culverts along the 2,400-km freight and passenger line. The stretch involves construction of a 280-km rail line in the Al-Nafude desert between Hail and Al-Jawf. The land bridge project is part of the Saudi Railways Organization’s railway expansion program, which will be the first rail link between Red Sea and the Gulf.

“The land bridge along with North-South Railway and Haramain Railway will have a big impact on social and economic development of the country,” said Transport Minister Jabara Al-Seraisry.

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214 new hotels to be built in two years in Saudi Arabia

Arab News – 09 May, 2013 – A total of 214 new hotels will be built in the Kingdom over the next two years, according to an official from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA).

Salah Al-Bukayyet, deputy president of the SCTA, said the future looks “promising” for the industry and that an estimated SR 144 billion will be pumped into the hotel sector by 2020. The SCTA is currently developing a number of tourist destinations, including Al-Aqeer beach at a cost of SR 17 billion. “The first phase of the project will provide 1,364 rooms,” he said.

“These hotel projects are in line with the Kingdom’s aim to provide more tourism choices, better services and affordable prices,” said Al-Bukayyet.

He said there has been significant growth in the sector, particularly in Riyadh. “Many international names in the hospitality sector are entering the Saudi market for the first time while others are expanding,” he said.

He said the SCTA had drafted a plan to set up a mechanism to boost investments in the sector and provide funding for suitable projects.

A recent SCTA report indicated that 100 towers would be built in Makkah, led by the Jabal Omar and Jabal Al-Kaaba projects. The Jabal Al-Kaaba project stands on an area of 35,000 sq. meters, on which six international towers with 8,500 rooms will be built.

The developer, Abdul Latif Jameel will soon complete the first phase of the project, which is expected to open soon, with a chain of hotels under the name Anjum Makkah.

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nasair set to be ‘first’ to fly passengers at new Dubai airport

Saudi Gazette – 10 May, 2013 – nasair, Saudi Arabia’s national carrier, announced on Thursday that it will be the first airline in the Middle East and North African to fly passenger from the new Dubai World Central (DWC), Dubai’s second airport and the world’s first purpose-built aerotropolis, on October 28 this year.

The airline also shared remarkable growth figures among the attendees at the 20th annual Arabian Travel Market, which closed on Thursday.

Commenting on the announcement, nasair’s Chief Executive Officer Captain François Bouteiller said: “As one of the leading airlines in the Middle East and North Africa, we are extremely excited to be the first airline to launch passenger services from DWC in October this year. We believe that this launch will encourage more air traffic to the Middle East, especially to Dubai, and further afield to neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia.”

The airline plans to operate more than 50 flights per week between Dubai and a number of destinations in Saudi Arabia, Captain Bouteiller said. “The launch of passenger operations at DWC is one of our biggest highlights to date and we look forward to offering our passengers even more flexible services with the assistance of another airport in Dubai while we maintain our long-standing flights from Dubai International,” he added.

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

The airline also announced that it has recorded a 20 percent increase in passenger traffic since the beginning of the year, compared to 2012, and its number of flights have increased by 11 percent, compared to the same period.

“The past year has been phenomenal as we saw the airline go from strength to strength. As Saudi’s national airline, we try to be more innovative to keep the services exciting and effortless to our customers. This approach has shown to be effective and we look forward to sharing further growth indicators soon as this is the most exciting time for aviation in the Middle East,” said Captain François.

Launched in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in February 2007, nasair has been providing safe and affordable travel to more than 11 million passengers with 950 weekly flights, covering 88 routes both within and outside Saudi Arabia.

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Yas island’s allure highlighted at Arabian Travel Market

Saudi Gazette – 10 May, 2013 – Tour operators and travel agents have been introduced to Yas Island in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as an all-encompassing leisure and entertainment destination at the Arabian Travel Market.

Positioned within the stand of the Abu Dhabi’s Tourism and Culture Authority, Yas Island and its stakeholders arrived at the travel fair, excited and eager to promote the islands growing appeal, both within the region and beyond.

“With more and more attractions being developed, each of the stakeholders recognize the importance of reinforcing Yas Island as an all-encompassing destination,” says Karim El Guanaini, Vice President of Yas Island Destination Management.

‘When you are on business, on vacation, or a quick getaway, it is rare that you visit just one attraction,” he said, adding that Yas islands has the combination of attractions and connectivity which enhances one’s chance to savor an “overall experience”.

“Committed to cultivating a more connective approach, Yas Island continues to enrich its offerings by developing island-wide products and services,” he said.

Yas Waterworld recently launched its Yas Flow League sessions, where in members receive expert training within a fun program designed to motivate and inspire enthusiasts to further develop their abilities.

“We introduced the Yas Express on January 1st, 2013, a complimentary shuttle transporting visitors to various attractions throughout the Island. The response was very encouraging,” says Guanaini.

At the ATM, Yas Island management continued to promote its yearly events by communicating a variety of different offerings. For instance, Ferrari World-Abu Dhabi announced its plans to move toward a 7-day operational model later this year; FLASH Entertainment announced that British music legends Depeche Mode will close out the 2013 race weekend with a show-stopping after-race concert at the Du Arena while Yas Marina Circuit introduced its expansive Yas Pass upgrade, providing regular and premium access to the F1 as well as two other Yas Island attractions including, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and Yas Waterworld.

With plans well under way for the Yas Marina expansion project and the Yas Mall opening scheduled in the first half of 2014, the island is gearing up toward becoming the regions’ most desired business and leisure address.

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Regional airlines set to fly high in the next decade

Saudi Gazette – 10 May, 2013 – The next 10 years will see the aviation industry dominated by growth in the Middle East and Asia with consolidation in traditional markets creating a new era of streamlined operations and the introduction of a new mega-carrier business model, Ernst & Young said in an industry report released on Thursday.

The report, authored by Sunil Malhotra, Director of Aviation Sector, Middle East & North Africa for Ernst & Young and presented Thursday at an industry-focus seminar session “Looking to the Skies: Global Aviation Trends 2013-2033” at the closing of the Arabian Travel Market, examined the industry and looked ahead to opportunities and challenges facing airlines, airports and governments seeking to capture increased passenger traffic while managing the soaring aviation fuel costs and new government-levied fees and taxes.

“An industry with a history of resilience, the growth of the aviation business is directly linked to that of global GDP and emerging markets are the ones driving economic growth and fueling air traffic development. The industry has grown by 53 percent since 2000 and will continue to grow airline traffic at 5-percent Revenue Passenger Kilometer (RPK) until 2023,” Malhotra said.

The report noted that Asia-Pacific will lead world traffic by 2031, with a 32-percent share and with global airline passenger numbers projected to grow at 4 percent per annum, based on ICAO forecasts, and Middle East carriers to see market share rise to 11 percent in 2031 from the current figure of 7 percent.

Year-on-year RPK growth by Middle East-based carriers is also being factored into the equation, rising from 11.4 percent to 15.6 percent, driven by long-range aircraft capability and the region’s newly developed airport hubs.

“Translating this into financial results, in the near term we will see a moderate improvement in net profits. However, looking on longer term, the rising middle class in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East offers a large pool of opportunity in emerging markets, complemented by higher economic growth,” said Malhotra, with Ernst & Young noting that this sector will grow from 1.8 billion to 4.9 billion by 2030, creating $ 56 trillion in consumer spending.

“While the opportunities are clearly there, airlines must remain focused on innovation in order to maintain competitive edge, with four key areas of focus to develop, including customer insight, a realistic understanding and appreciation of people and culture, investment into comprehensive R&D, and operations and business model alignment,” he explained.

Wrapping up the session, Malhotra summarized the reports’ key findings, listing three clear trends and three strategy directives that Ernst & Young says are crucial to future success.

“The new global aviation landscape will have seven to 10 mega-carriers occupying prime position in the market, while aggressive Middle East sector growth and low-cost carrier expansion will be a major driver for passenger traffic in the region,” he said

“With consolidation front of mind in North America and Europe to take advantage of these opportunities, airlines everywhere must develop meaningful alliances and partnerships, with past rivals becoming new allies, and also work on their customer loyalty programs and the social customer agenda,” he said.

A number of Gulf carriers are joining global alliances, with others entering into strategic code shares to promote traffic flows between continents, the report noted.

Held under the patronage of Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, ruler of Dubai and in its 20th year, ATM has grown to become the largest showcase of its kind in the region. The Arabian Travel Market 2013 was organized by Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE).

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Gulf Cruise tourism to grow in 2014

Khaleej Times – 10 May, 2013 – As the 2012-2013 cruise season comes to a close with the Sea Princess from Princess Cruises due on June 10 2013, plans are already in place to increase the sector’s contribution to the growth of tourism in Dubai, in-line with the vision to attract 20 million visitors per year to the emirate by 2020.

The 2013-2014 season will see Dubai welcome MSC Cruises as its newest home porting partner with the arrival of C.S. MSC Lirica in November. During the season, the cruise liner will make 20 turnaround calls to Dubai bringing in over 60,000 passengers. MSC Cruises will join Costa Cruises and AIDA in employing Dubai as their home port in the region. Further, more than 20 world-class cruise lines currently include Dubai on their itineraries.

Today the emirate’s cruise sector plays host to over 94 nationalities from around the world with key markets being Germany (38.18 per cent), UK (13.75 per cent), and Italy (11.71 per cent). During the 2012-2013 season, Dubai hosted 407,825 passengers, an increase from 396,554 in the previous season. Numbers are set to rise during the 2013-14 season as 110 ships carrying approximately 420,000 passengers are expected this year.

Looking further ahead, the 2014-2015 season promises to bring even more growth with TUI Cruises resuming its operations in the region: C.S. Mein Schiff 2 will operate seven-night long Gulf cruises from Dubai, with destinations expected to include Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Bahrain. The liner will have a throughput of over 75,000 cruise tourist from its 20 turnaround calls to Dubai. Additionally, Dubai will host a “Double Call” when both the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Elizabeth will port in Dubai on the same day — the first time ever that the two Cunard Cruise liners have arrived in Dubai simultaneously for a full passenger turnaround.

Hamad bin Mejren, executive director for Business Tourism in DTCM, said: “Cruise tourism offers a fantastic way to travel that is very cost effective without compromising luxury, comfort, or variety in experience. It’s a sector which is stimulating increased travel among tourists both from in the region and beyond. Our objectives are to grow cruise tourism both in terms of international visitors using Dubai as an embarkation point and residents of the UAE taking cruises around the region.”

With annual income of the Cruise Tourism sector expected to grow to approximately Dh840 million per year by 2015, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) believes that cruise tourism is a key growth sector that will bring great economic benefits to the region, increasing overall expenditure in the tourism sector and boosting the economy. Expanding the growth of cruise tourism is one of the key drivers in attracting 20 million visitors per year to Dubai by 2020.

Mejren said: “The cruise tourism sector in the region is strong and its continued growth remains extremely promising, bringing with it huge economic and development opportunities. Considering this, the DTCM has played, and continues to play a significant role in attracting interest from international cruise line operators to organise regular itineraries from Dubai to the region’s ports. Of course, these efforts are supported by Dubai’s already alluring tourism attractions, its excellent air connectivity, its beautiful beaches, hotels and international shopping malls, and its straightforward visa procedures.”

Dubai Cruise Tourism availed itself of the exposure that came at the region’s pre-eminent travel expo, which celebrated its 20th edition and welcomed over 2,500 exhibitors from 87 countries. Dubai Cruise Tourism is co-exhibiting with five large stakeholders in the region’s cruise tourism sector, the cruise line operators Costa Cruises and Royal Caribbean International, and inbound tourism destination management specialists Dnata Gulf Ventures, Orient Tours, and Sharaf Tours.

The timing of ATM 2013 is opportune for Dubai Cruise Tourism, which forms an integral part of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing charged with the promotion of the Emirate as a cruise tourism destination, both regionally and globally, as well as the management and operation of Dubai Cruise Terminals.

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GCC-Morocco Investment Forum Lays Groundwork For Strategic Partnership

TANGIER, May 9 (NNN-KUNA) — The Third GCC-Morocco Investment Forum has reached its set target of laying the groundwork for a strategic partnership between the two sides, chairman of the forum Mohammad Buselham said.

“The recommendations of the forum opened new horizons for economic cooperation and joint investment through facilitating the two-way flow of capital,” he said in statements to KUNA in Morocco’s northern city of Tangier.

“The forum brought together more than 150 business leaders who represent the public and private sectors of Morocco and the six member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC); the participants held in-depth talks in candid atmospheres about the investment opportunities,” Buselham affirmed.

“The participants called on their governments to coordinate their legal systems in a way that could facilitate investment and maximize benefit from the joint action plan (2012-2017),” he added.

Themed “strategic partnership for future economy,” the three-day gathering was held under auspices of Moroccan King Mohammad VI.

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Iran’s 2nd Trade Exhibition Kicks Off In Lebanon

BEIRUT, May 9, (NNN-IRNA) – The second specialized exhibition of the Iranian trade, economic and industrial products is being held here from May 8-12. The exhibition was inaugurated Wednesday in a ceremony attended by Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi as well as Lebanese minister of economy.

Representatives of a large number of major Lebanese economic, political, industrial and agricultural bodies also attended the inaugural ceremony. Addressing the ceremony, the Iranian ambassador said the exhibition was held to help boost Tehran-Lebanon trade relations. Latest achievements of the Iranian experts in various trade fields are to be displayed during the five-day event.

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Kuwait To Finance Mosque In Guyana

GEORGETOWN, May 7 (NNN-CARIBBEANNEWS) — Kuwait has agreed to fund the expansion and modernisation of a mosque in Meten-meer-Zorg, a small rural community in this South American country, which will be named Masjid al Kuwait.

Zakaat House of Kuwait, which for decades has been funding social programmes to assist the poor and needy in Guyana, such as orphanage programmes and other philanthropic works through the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG), has accepted the CIOG’s proposal to fund the “Masjid al Kuwait.”

The project includes the modernisation and expansion of the present mosque, addition of a library, a female prayer hall, an auditorium, four guest rooms, a kitchen and dining facilities, according to the CIOG.

“The present Masjid cannot accommodate the worshippers, which have increased, especially in the female section and which does not have the necessary facilities to cater for the needs of the community. The new Masjid will accommodate more than 500 worshippers at any time, and will complement the existing buildings housing the Meten-meer-Zorg Islamic Academy,” the press statement said.

Construction of the state-of-the-art Masjid started last Saturday. After it’s completion, the CIOG said, “The central mosque will serve the communities at West Coast Demerara and East Bank Essequibo.”

Back in 2011, Zakaat House funded the building of a school to accommodate 300-plus students at the same Meten- Meer- Zorg Islamic Academy. And, more recently, donated a bus to transport students to school in Guyana.

According to the president of the CIOG, Fazeel Ferouz, Kuwait continues to make a difference in the lives of poor children by allowing them access to education, hence allowing them an opportunity to maximize their potential, with the help of donations from supporters such as Zakaat House, government and people of Kuwait, the International Islamic Charitable Organisation, and the Ministry of Awqaf.

The CIOG has been in existence for 35 years and supports the socio-economic development of Muslims in Guyana through their support of 137 mosques throughout Guyana, their Zakaat programme, education, dawah, healthcare, disaster relief and women empowerment.

In addition, the CIOG aid needy non-Muslims and is at the forefront of disaster relief regardless or religious beliefs, which has brought great admiration of the organisation locally and internationally.

Guyana and Kuwait established diplomatic ties in 1995 and are both members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Kuwait is today one of Guyana’s strongest partners in the Arab world. Kuwait will fund a four-lane highway in Guyana and is hosting the Guyana Embassy in Kuwait City at a substantial discount.

Kuwaiti’s prime minister, Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah visited Guyana 2010.

Muslims are an estimated 13 percent of Guyana’s population and Islam arrived in the former British and Dutch colony with slaves from Hausa, Fulani, Mandinga, Akan, among other Muslim African nations.

Later, indentured immigrants from India, Afghanistan and what is now Pakistan brought more Muslims to Guyana.

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Saudi Cultural Days Started In Kyrgyzstan

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, May 7 (NNN-SPA) – Saudi Cultural Days in Kyrgyzstan started here yesterday with a number of folkloric activities.

The activities were attended by Kyrgyzstan’s Deputy Prime Minister, Kamila Talieva; Under-secretary of the Ministry of Culture and Information for International Cultural Relations, Dr. Saleh Al-Namlah of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Charge D’affaires to Kyrgyzstan, Mirei’ bin Baraka Al-Derbass.

Dr. Al-Namlah said in his speech, that these cultural days are a bridge for closer ties between the two countries, and a key for more communication between the two peoples to be acquainted with each other.

For her part, Kyrgyzstan’s Deputy Prime Minister, said in a statement to Saudi Press Agency (SPA), that her Government is looking forward to signing an agreement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the field of culture, and there is now a project studied by the competent authorities in this regard, in addition to an arrangement for the signing of General Framework Agreement between the two friendly countries.

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Indonesia tourism drive targets Saudi families

Arab News – 04 May, 2013 – Indonesia has launched a major drive to attract more Saudi tourists this year. Its new two-day promotion ended at the Mall of Arabia this week. The Indonesian Consulate General in Jeddah, which organized the event in coordination with the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, and Garuda Indonesia, was upbeat about the campaign and hoped to receive many more Saudi families during the year.

“This event aims to promote Indonesian destinations for the Kingdom’s residents, both citizens and expatriates,” said Nur Ibrahim, vice consul at the Indonesian Consulate General. He opened the promotion with Aehmed Harun, inspector of Indonesian Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy. “The effort is also to focus on Indonesian travel and tourism agencies who are offering attractive travel packages to local tourists,” said Nur Ibrahim.

Fourteen Indonesian travel and tour agencies, and hotels from Indonesia joined the event showcasing their products and services, especially the country’s natural attractions.

Some Indonesian traditional dresses were on display, which children wore and had their pictures taken. Brochures and other printed promotion materials were distributed during the program.

“Last year, Indonesian tourism contributed $ 9.07 billion to the country’s foreign exchange earnings. The earnings were 6.03 percent higher than in the previous year’s (2011) $ 8.554 billion,” said Ibrahim. “Every year, Indonesia receives increasing number of visitors from Saudi Arabia compared to those from other parts of the world. That’s why we focus on our quality services in a bid to get more Saudi travelers,” he added.

According to Indonesian Statistics Agency BPS, 86,645 Saudi tourists visited Indonesia in 2012, 3.38 percent more than 83,815 visitors in 2011. Harun said the Middle East has been a growing market for Indonesia, whose economy has remained robust since the beginning of 2013.

According to Harun, 1.29 million foreign tourists visited Indonesia in the first two months of 2013, a 3.82 percent increase over the same period in 2012, to 1.25 million tourists. With more than 17,000 islands, Indonesia has many exotic natural attractions and ecotourism destinations that will hopefully draw more Saudi visitors, he said.

The Indonesian government has identified some priority destinations to be developed in the coming year, including Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Pangandaran in West Java, the Borobudur–Prambanan areas in Central Java and Yogya-Sleman in Yogyakart, besides others in East Java, Southeast Sulawesi, Derawan islands in East Kalimantan, Pulau Weh in Aceh, as well as in Jakarta and Bali.

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Abu Dhabi airport to launch sleeping pods

Khaleej Times – 05 May, 2013 – Abu Dhabi Airports Company on Sunday announced an exclusive ‘world first’ with the introduction of ‘GoSleep’ sleeping pods at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

The ‘GoSleep’ is a state-of-the-art chair that converts into a private flat bed. Ten sleeping pods have been installed in Terminal 3 and the Al Dhabi Lounge in Terminal 1 at AUH, with a further 35 units on order for later installation.

The Finnish designed sleeping pods are easy to operate and feature a partial or fully enclosed sliding shade that isolates the occupant from noise, light and crowds. After an initial launch phase, the chairs will be upgraded to include Internet access, secure storage for luggage and other valuables, and will allow customers to charge laptops, mobile telephones, and other electronic devices. Passengers will be able to use the chairs at a rate of Dh 45/hour using a credit card.

Commenting on this initiative, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Chief Commercial Officer of ADAC, said: “Abu Dhabi Airports Company continually strives to enhance the experience of passengers travelling to, from or via Abu Dhabi International Airport. The introduction of ‘GoSleep’ sleeping pods is another step towards exceeding customers’ expectations and delivering world-class levels of service. Abu Dhabi Airports Company is proud that it is the first airport in the world to have secured an agreement to install the very latest passenger experience that embraces the latest technology.”

“In 2012 Abu Dhabi Airports Company was awarded the Skytrax 4* rating, becoming the first and only airport in the Middle East to have achieved this, and just last month, the Capital’s airport was named ‘the Best Airport in the Middle East’ by Airport Council International (ACI). ADAC will continue to implement new initiatives, combining great design with technological advances, to ensure that our passengers experience world class levels of service and comfort whilst visiting the Capital’s gateway to the world,” he added.

Passengers interested in using the new chairs can pay per hour using a credit card. The airport has plans to further increase the number of pods throughout the airport terminals in the coming months.

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QTA attends world tourism meeting in Bahrain

The Peninsula – 06 May, 2013 – Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) recently participated at “The 37th meeting of United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Commission for the Middle East”, held in Bahrain.

QTA Chairman, Eng Issa Al Mohannadi, who headed the Qatari delegation said: “As QTA steers Qatar to become a leading world-class hub for the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions’ sector (MICE), the country continues to garner strong momentum for quality and excellence in staging and developing sustainable events on the account of its first-rate infrastructure.

The 37th meeting of UNWTO Commission for the Middle East is a vital platform that fosters productive dialogue that is an essential requisite to devise proper forward-looking and tangible industry solutions. For us at QTA, this is a defining pillar for the development of solid, ethical and responsible fundamentals to ensure that our cultural assets are responsibly managed for tourism.”

Of the most important topics that have been raised during the meeting “Promoting tourism investments in the region” made roundtable discussion on visa facilitation in the region, and preparations for the 20th session of the General Assembly (Victoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabwe, 24-29 August 2013).

UNWTO’s forecasting study “Tourism Towards 2030” reveals that growth in international tourism will continue at a moderate pace with the number of international tourist arrivals increasing to 43 million tourists a year on average and climbing to 1.8 billion tourists by 2030.

The Middle East region is expected to capture eight percent of the 1.8 billion with a steady growth of four million tourist arrivals per year. Hassan Al Ibrahim, Strategy Advisor at QTA said, “We have lately shared our new planned strategy with the UNWTO which imparted its invaluable insights on best practices in tourism, with a particular focus on the industry’s long-term impact on our nation’s economy, human capital and environment. Qatar’s tourism is already one of the most dynamic landscaped owing to the relentless efforts of our government which are geared towards carving a solid presence for Qatar on the global tourism chart.”

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Tourism is lucrative

Khaleej Times – 07 May, 2013 – Tourism is a vital sector in Oman that offers lucrative investment opportunities to investors across the globe, a top official said.

Mohammed Mahfoodh Al Ardhi, chairman of Sundus Investments and vice-chairman of the National Bank of Oman, highlighted the growth prospects of Oman’s hospitality sector at the ninth Arabian Hotel Investment Conference, or Ahic 2013, which concluded on Monday.

“Some major projects are currently underway with plans to add nearly 2,000 hotel rooms to the country’s three-, four- and five-star hotel inventory by the end of 2013,” he said.

An experienced investor in real estate and finance, Al Ardhi shared outcomes of his strategic research and financial analysis on the investment opportunities in Oman during a session at Ahic. He also shed light on Sundus Investments’ role in furthering the nation’s ambitions of serving as a premier global tourism hub.

Al Ardhi said the Sultanate of Oman’s plan — Vision 2020 — reinforces the government’s commitment to boosting the tourism sector to diversify the economy and stimulate comprehensive development.

“We have recently signed an agreement with Rotana Hotel to shape iconic entertainment and retail developments and expand the hospitality landscape in the region. We are confident that Sundus and Rotana’s symbiotic partnership will significantly contribute towards achieving Oman’s Vision 2020,” he said.

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Tourism project for island off Doha

Gulf Times – 07 May, 2013 – Qatar-based hospitality giant Katara Hospitality is to develop an island near the Ritz-Carlton Doha as an international tourist spot and open hotels in Paris and Milan in the coming months.

Katara Hospitality CEO Hamad Abdulla al-Mulla told Gulf Times in an interview on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai that the island, owned by the group near Ritz, would be either developed as a fashion centre or a medical tourism hub. He also said that Katara Hospitality planned to launch about 10 hotels in the next 10 years.

“The hotel in Paris will be opened in the first week of June and in September this year another hotel in Milan will be launched. Katara Hospitality is the only group that is opening so many hotels each year in the recent times.”

Al-Mulla said the group was ready to operate the Milan hotel at any time. “From our side we are ready and we have got all the requirements to start the hotel. If there is any delay from the contractor’s side, we will open it by the first quarter of 2014.”

He further said the island off Doha would be developed into a “unique” project. “We are exploring the possibility of turning it into a unique place so that people from all over the world will fly to Qatar to experience it. We are looking for the possibilities of turning it into a fashion centre or medical tourism place or any such grand project which will be known internationally. Once we finalis the project, we will entrust it to the right people to develop it .”

He disclosed that Doha Sheraton would be closed for major renovation and rebranded once the work was completed. “Doha Sheraton will be closed for two years for major renovation from 2014-2016. Once the renovation is completed, it will be rebranded but the operator will continue to be the same.”

As for the Lusail project, al-Mulla said it would be completed according to schedule. “The Lusail hotel will be the landmark of Qatar and Katara Hospitality. It will be completed, latest by early 2017. At any cost we will start operations from 2017.”

He said that the hotel would be operated by Katara Hospitality. “We will be operating the hotel and we want to show to others that we can do it like any other operator. Similarly, we will be operating other hotels under our group in later years.”

The CEO said Katara Hospitality had property worth QR150bn. “The group will have around 6,000 employees by 2014.”

As for the projects in Gambia and Maldives, al-Mulla said the group was ready to start the projects. “However, we are evaluating the market and studying the feasibility before starting the project. According to the market evaluation, we will start the project. We will be there very soon.”

Operational hotels like Raffles Singapore, Le Royal Monceau – Raffles Paris, Schweizerhof Bern and upcoming hotels like Excelsior Gallia Milan, Bürgenstock Resort Lake Lucerne, Royal Savoy Lausanne or The Peninsula Paris are hospitality jewels that are now part of Katara Hospitality portfolio.

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Bahrain, Indonesia to bolster key trade ties

Arab News – 08 May, 2013 – Trade between Bahrain and Indonesia has seen a positive development, with an increase from about $ 39 million in 2009 to more than $ 140m in 2011.

On the other hand, Bahrain’s exports to Indonesia have also witnessed a notable increase from $ 5m in 2009 to almost $ 93m in 2011, Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Hassan Fakhro announced on Tuesday.

He was speaking at the opening of a key seminar on ‘Exploring Opportunities and Investment’ between the two countries at the Sheraton Hotel.

“This shows the growing importance of the Indonesian market for trade and our future endeavours,” he said.

Dr. Fakhro confirmed that the significant development between the two countries would also open new avenues for mutual co-operation.

“Our main objectives are attaining a knowledge-based economy for creative innovation, enhanced productivity, market competitiveness, and for sustainability, and these are but many of the range of possibilities for our joint co-operation,” he said.

“Mutual areas of interest may also cover hi-tech options in the industrial sector, and enhanced development of small and medium enterprises.

“Food security is particularly important to our country – commodities that Indonesia is blessed with, supplies and regional and international trading and distribution logistics,” he added.

The minister stressed to not overlook the service sectors, including health, education, and especially financial services.

“More recently, the 2012/13 Global Free Zones of the Future Top 50 rankings, released by Foreign Direct Investment Magazine, has included four Bahraini zones, namely, Bahrain International Investment Park, Khalifa Bin Salman Port, Bahrain International Airport and Bahrain Logistics Zone,” he added.

“Such recognition shows how far Bahrain has gone in establishing its distinguished regional supply chain logistics infrastructure.”

He confirmed that the Indonesian delegation’s visit to Bahrain was a positive signal for the respective private sectors, for forging closer ties with their counterparts, with a view to creating deeper understanding of business environment, and highlighting potential areas for further beneficial gains.

“The official establishment of the Indonesian Embassy in Bahrain in December 2010 reflected the view of the Indonesia government on the importance of strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries,” said Indonesian Ambassador Chilman Arisman.

“The need to further develop bilateral co-operation is imperative considering the vast potential that both countries could offer, particularly in the economic sector.

“This seminar on Indonesia-Bahrain is timely and reaffirms the importance to further explore co-operation in the field of trade and investment,” he added.

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Antalya readies to host the 4th theater festival

ANTALYA – Anatolia News Agency – The southern province of Antalya is welcoming the best in international theater for a fourth annual festival starting next week and running through the end of the month.

Speaking to journalists, Antalya Sate Theaters (ADT) Manager Selim Gürata said the festival would have six exclusive theater plays from the Ankara, Istanbul and Adana State theaters.

At the same time, six plays from the Korean National Theater, Germany’s Dortmund Theater, Kazakhstan’s Dram Theater, Romania’s Marin Sorescu National Theater and Spain’s Kulunka Theater will also be on the stage.

Gürata said he hoped the festival would attract 25,000 people for this year, 5,000 more than last year.

There are many people who have migrated to Antalya from Russia and Germany, said Gürata, adding that the theater teams coming from Germany and Kazakhstan would be showcasing plays in their language and that the resident foreigners had been waiting for such a prospect for months. The festival will start May 17 at 8 p.m. in Cumhuriyet Square. The Korean National Theater will perform a drum show before the Adana State Theater stages a “Treasure Island” play for children.

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Istanbul sees 21% rise in visitors in Jan-April

ISTANBUL – Anatolia News Agency – Istanbul has received 2.9 million tourists within four months. This figure marks an increase of 21 percent when compared to last year.

According to the information taken from the Culture and Tourism Directorship, the first four months of tourist figures have increased. The city received a total of 2.4 million last year between January and April. This year it has seen a significant rise.

In April the figure rose by 14 percent to become 936,961. According to the latest data taken from the Culture and Tourism Ministry of Turkey, Topkapı Palace is the most-visited monument in Turkey. The palace attracted the highest number of visitors during the first two months of 2013.

After Topkapı, the Mevlana Museum ranked second on the list. While Topkapı Palace was visited by 325,685 people, the Hagia Sophia attracted a total of 313,549 people during the first two months of the year.

Other places in Turkey such as Ephesus ranked high on the list.

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