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

6 May, 2013

Early Bird Offer Open to Register for Tourism Indonesia Mart & Expo

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 06 May 2013 (25 Jumaada al-Thaani 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.


World Islamic Tourism Mart to be held in Kuala Lumpur

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

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

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

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


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


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

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

Examples of some columns:

Globalisation Will Make Religion Even More Relevant

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

Acts of God Show the Wrath of God

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


Ahmedabad Marks Tune Hotels’ Entry Into India With Extra-Low Intro Rates

NEW DELHI, 3 May 2013 – Award-winning international hotel chain, Tune Hotels, is all set to welcome its first guests in India with the opening of the 100-room Tune Hotel Ahmedabad this month.

“We look forward to offering travellers to Ahmedabad an unbeatable proposition that combines great savings with a great comfortable stay and in a location that is annexed to the newest Shopping Mall in Ahmedabad. Our business model is designed to take care of the needs of travellers in India looking for great comfort without paying exorbitant rates,” said Mark Lankester, Group CEO of Tune Hotels.

“Ahmedabad is an amazingly vibrant city and we are looking to welcome both business and leisure travellers. This hotel marks our brand’s very first entry into India. It aims to serve both domestic travellers and visitors from abroad, especially members of the large non-resident Indian (NRI) community from Gujarat settled in places like the US, Britain and the Gulf, who may already have had prior knowledge of the brand in the five countries we are already present in,” he said.

Online bookings are now accepted with attractive all-inclusive room charges that start from as low as 599 Indian rupees (US$11). Guests have the option to choose and pay only for amenities that they require.

The promotion is offered exclusively online at www.tunehotels.com and bookings can be made from 3 May 2013 until 10 May 2013, subject to availability of rooms. The rate is available on a first come, first served basis, for stay period starting 15 May 2013 until 30 September 2013.

The arrival of Tune Hotels in India will also introduce new green ideas to hotel stay. “We at Tune Hotels pursue a conscious policy of being environmental-friendly by optimising use of available resources, reduction of waste and by introducing processes that save on energy consumption.”

The 100-room Tune Hotel Ahmedabad, annexed to the newly developed 4D Square Mall in the city’s Motera area, is located on the main thoroughfare to the state capital of Gandhinagar and a stone’s throw away from Ahmedabad’s Sardar Patel cricket stadium. It provides high quality accommodation and cuts away the generally underutilised facilities commonly found in other hotels such as swimming pools, business centres and gymnasiums. That keeps its operating costs low and savings are passed on to guests in the form of super low rates.

Tune Hotels will be introducing family rooms that can accommodate between four to six people in order to meet the needs of the Indian guests, especially in the wedding market. Apart from properties in major cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai – Tune Hotels is focusing on Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities along with hotels in the tourist triangle destinations of Agra, Jaipur and Delhi. Tune Hotels will have five to six hotels in Gujarat as part of our 20 planned hotels across India in the next three years.

Tune Hotels opened its first hotel in Downtown Kuala Lumpur in 2007. With the opening of Tune Hotel Ahmedabad, there will be 29 Tune Hotels in operation globally. The rest are 11 in Malaysia, five in the UK, four in the Philippines, four in Thailand and four in Indonesia. By the end of 2013, Tune is set to open properties in Japan and Australia.

Tune Hotels’ Indian expansion signifies growing economic relations between India and Malaysia, which has emerged as India’s key partner in Southeast Asia. India-Malaysia trade hit a record high of $13.5 billion in 2012, a 7.3 per cent growth over 2011, while tourist traffic also continues to remain strong between the two countries. Malaysia is among India’s top 10 sources of tourism, while India was Malaysia’s sixth biggest source of tourists in 2012.

Tune Hotels is part of Tune Group, a lifestyle business conglomerate co-founded by Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and Dato’ Kamarudin Meranun, who are the Group Chief Executive Officer and Deputy Group Chief Executive Officer respectively of Asia’s largest low cost carrier AirAsia. AirAsia plans to launch its domestic airline services in India in a new venture.

For real-time updates and promotion alerts, guests can stay connected with Tune Hotels via Facebook at www.facebook.com/tunehotelsIndia and on Twitter via www.twitter.com/tunehotels.

Back to top

India to Open Kashmir Festival May 13

Ministry of Tourism, 04-May, 2013 — As a major initiative to promote Tourism in Kashmir Valley the Union Minister Tourism Mr K. Chiranjeevi announced here today that “Kashmir Festival 2013” will be held for a fortnight from May 13th to May 29th at different places in the State of Jammu & Kashmir. The Minister said his Ministry is providing financial support for this.

The Festival will be held in Sringar, Pahalgam, Yousmarg, Manasbal, Doodhpathri, Gulmarg, Lolab Valley and Sonmarg and will include activities such as Shikara Races, Cycle Races, Canoeing, River Rafting, Para Gliding, Painting, Swimming Competition, Horse Races etc. The Festival will also showcase culture of Jammu & Kashmir through performances by the cultural troupes of the State.

The Ministry of Tourism is also coordinating with other Ministries including Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Civil Aviation for outlining the concessional fares / tour package, Ministry of Culture for organizing cultural events through different cultural troupes and Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports for undertaking sports activities such as Boat Race and other adventure sports like paragliding, horse race etc.

The local service providers such as hoteliers, Guest House Owners including House Boats of Kashmir Division have already offered discount of 20-30% as a special case for the tour packages/tourists during the forthcoming tourist season.

Back to top

Egypt: First No-Alcohol Hotel Opens in Hurghada

28 April 2013 – Aswat Masriya – Egypt’s first no-alcohol hotel was opened in the touristic city of Hurghada on Saturday, with an entire floor for women only. Resort owner Yasser Kamal told the state news agency that the decision is not influenced by one ideology, but an attempt to promote a new approach to tourism.

“Tourists have alcohol in their countries, and they can find other alternatives in Hurghada for the purpose of diversity,” Yasser explained, adding that the hotel is open for all nationalities and both Muslim and Christian Egyptians.

The owner added that only women will be allowed on the top floor of the hotel where female security will be placed. The opening ceremony included lining up alcohol bottles on a bar and breaking them to announce the beginning of a new tourism approach under the new administration, the agency reported.

Back to top

Early Bird Offer open to register for “Tourism Indonesia Mart & Expo”

Jakarta – Now in its 19th year, Tourism Indonesia Mart and Expo (TIME) today is recognized as the pivotal travel mart for any tourism industry related professionals in this region. The Indonesian tourism industry has given a resounding thumbs-up and acknowledged its role in setting future directions alongside enabling business.

TIME 2013 to be held in West Sumatera, Indonesia from 19 to 21 October 2013 at Grand Inna Muara Hotel Convention & Exhibition, Padang. As in previous years, TIME is organized by members of the international tourism sector and supported by the entire tourism industry in Indonesia, as a means to lure potential visitors to Indonesia.

Meity Robot, Chairwoman of the Steering Committee of TIME 2013 said that in its 18-year history, TIME has previously been held in Java and Eastern Indonesia (Makassar and Lombok). Lampung is the first venue for TIME in Sumatra. “We are happy to announce that TIME this year will take place in Padang,” said Metty.

“The shifting of TIME to West Sumatra is aimed at promoting West Sumatra to the international market and speeding up the development and improvement of infrastructure, tourism facilities and tourism attractions in the region, so that at the end the destination could establish itself as a global travel destination. It will attract more tourist arrivals to the island and speed up the improvement of infrastructure and encourage more investors to the region to develop new hotels as well as tourism attractions,” Meity went on.

Various destinations in Sumatra are equipped with a good variety of quality hotels as well as cultural, natural and man-made attractions. “Hosting TIME would allow international buyers to take a closer look at the products on offer and aid local tourism stakeholders in selling their products overseas,” she added.

There are six (regional) gateways in Sumatra, namely Banda Aceh, Medan, Pekanbaru, Padang, Palembang and Batam. “While direct regional services are still limited to Malaysia and Singapore, destinations in Sumatra can use these regional hubs to attract travelers from beyond these countries,” Meity concluded.

With a target of approximately 150 buyers, TIME 2013 will be working closer with partners, trade associations, publications, and exhibitors (Sellers) to identify leading decision makers in each of key segment of the industry to guarantee the attendance of high quality Buyers. Universally recognized as the leading travel industry event for Indonesia, TIME 2013 brings you:

Experience meeting All of Indonesia Under One Roof

Direct contacting, rewarding and close networking with worldwide industry Buyers

Diversified tourism destination, new products and services Indonesia proud to offer

Meet Indonesian Sellers from leading companies in the industry

Comprehensive information of the latest travel industry development

Experience the Indonesian warm hospitality through all social function

Meet and Greet your international and national travel partners

A chance to meet and get response from the world-leading travel publication

The very best selection of Post Tours from all over Indonesia

Get to known all about Padang, West Sumatera

Take advantage of the EARLY BIRD OFFER which expires on 31 August 2013 to SAVE IDR 2,000,000 off the normal rates. For further information please contact: TIME 2013 Secretariat, Masyarakat Pariwisata Indonesia, c/o Pacto Convex Ltd., Lagoon Tower level B1, The Sultan Hotel, Jl. Jend. Gatot Subroto, Jakarta 10270, Indonesia, P: +62 21 570 5800, F: +62 21 570 5798, Email : secretariat@tourismindonesiamartexpo.com. http://tourismindonesiamartexpo.com/

Back to top

Palestinians build museums to tell their story

BIRZEIT, West Bank, May 05, 2013, (AP) – Palestinians recently began construction of the West Bank’s largest museum devoted to their history, planning to tell diverse stories of Palestinians in their land and of millions who live abroad. The museum represents a step in the Palestinian quest for statehood by creating a repository for 200 years of history, alongside galleries and space for debates about the Palestinian cause, said director Jack Persekian.

“I am hoping that this museum would be able to give the opportunity for many Palestinians to tell their stories. We are looking at a museum that doesn’t have one particular narrative line that it wants to consecrate through its exhibits,” he said.

The privately funded museum, which has government support, is the biggest such project the Palestinians have undertaken in terms of scale, space and budgets. Persekian hoped the museum would tell stories not just of Palestinian Muslims and Christians, but also of Jews who lived in what was Britain-administered Palestine before Israel was founded in 1948.

“We would like to think about (the museum) in an inclusive way,” he said. The museum draws attention to the conflicting narratives at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For Jews, the establishment of Israel reinforced the homecoming of an exiled people with ties to the Holy Land going back thousands of years. Palestinians refer to the establishment of Israel, and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who either fled or were driven from their homes, as their “nakba”, or catastrophe.

Israel has dozens of museums with vast collections of biblical texts and artifacts connecting the Jewish people to the Holy Land. Palestinians have about 30 museums in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, the areas where they hope to establish a state, but nothing on the scale of the new project.

The $15 million first phase is scheduled to take two years to build and cover 3,000 square metres, or 32,000 square feet, of space. The planned glass and stone building was designed by the Dublin-based architectural firm Heneghan Peng, which is also building the new Egyptian national museum.

Dozens of Palestinian officials attended the laying of the museum’s foundation stone on Thursday on a grassy hill near the Palestinian university town of Birzeit, with views of rocky hills, pines and olive groves. The site can be reached only over a bumpy road, and few residents appeared aware of the project.

Phase one will include a gallery, cafeteria, classrooms, a gift shop and staff offices. The museum’s board plans to have the second phase built within a decade, expanding it to 9,000 square metres, or nearly 100,000 square feet. It is being overseen by the Welfare Association, a Palestinian aid and development group supported by philanthropists that has close ties to the governing Palestinian Authority.

The museum will focus on the past 200 years, from the Turkish-based Ottoman Empire through the British mandate over Palestine. It will cover Israel’s creation in 1948 and the subsequent displacement of Palestinians during the war surrounding Israel’s founding.

It will continue with the history of Palestinians abroad as well as their living conditions in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and east Jerusalem under Jordanian and Israeli control as well as the last 20 years of partial self-rule. The organisers hope the museum will lead to partnerships in other territories where Palestinians live. There are refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, along with Palestinian communities in the West, particularly in Chile.

Although it’s a private initiative, it fits into a series of institutions Palestinians are building in anticipation of statehood.

Palestinians have built other museums in the past few years, said Khaled Hourani, director of the International Academy of Art Palestine. He said the unrelated initiatives indicate a trend to establish spaces that could serve as interactive repositories for Palestinian art, artifacts and the stories of the aging generation of Palestinians who endured the 1948 displacement.

There’s a museum dedicated to Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish and another under construction for the late leader Yasser Arafat. In Gaza, two museums display artifacts from the territory’s thousands of years of history as a crossroad between Asia and Africa.

“A museum is like an airport or hospital. It is one of the things that is part of a state,” Hourani said.

Back to top

Malawi Plans First Islamic University

IslamOnline – CAIRO – Seeking to promote modern education among Muslims and reduce stampede for university places, Malawi is planning to open the country’s first Islamic university for students interested in studying Islam.

“We all have the common purpose of seeing Malawi as a country develop and through the right leadership this is possible,” Sidik Mia, Minister of Transports and Public Works, told Nyasa Times on Monday, April 29. “Leaders need our support.”

Meeting with Muslim leaders at Mangochi Boma Sub mosque, Mia announced plans to open an Islamic university to promote modern education among Muslims in Malawi.

The new institution would welcome students with an interest in Islam, offering them a chance to earn a degree in Islamic studies. The plans will be launched soon with support from Direct AID Society from Kuwait.

There are currently church-run universities which include the African Bible College, the Livingstonia University owned by Church of Central Africa Presbytery, Seventh Day Adventist University and Catholic University. There are also three state universities in the country.

As the country is suffering from stampede for university students, the opening of the Islamic university will help ease the problem.

Islam is the second largest religion in the southern African country after Christianity. Official statistics suggest Muslims constitute 12 percent of the country’s 12 million people, but the umbrella Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) puts the rate at 36.

Back to top

Indian VP Hamid Ansari Releases Book “Fida-e-Lucknow – Tales of the City and its People”

The Vice President of India Shri M. Hamid Ansari released a book entitled “Fida-e-Lucknow – Tales of the city and its people” authored by Ms. Parveen Talha, former Member UPSC, at a function here today. Addressing on the occasion, Shri Ansari said that many renowned authors and poets have written about Lucknow and its culture earlier. There is something special in the roots of Lucknow that a cultural civilization grew there. He congratulated the author for bringing out such a fine book.

The book, a collection of 22 short stories, is peeped in the flavours and textures of life in Lucknow. Woven through these stories is the history of its Ganga-Jamuni culture and the changes which came over the city and its people in the post-Independence period. It is also the story of Lucknow’s women.

This collection is steeped in the flavours and textures of life in Lucknow. Woven through these stories is the history of its Ganga-Jamuni culture and the changes which came over the city and its people in the post-Independence period.

The true hero in these stories is the Lucknow-wala whose affection and loyalty are not restricted to relationships between equals, and religion never comes in the way. Fida-e-Lucknow is also the story of Lucknows women. Be it Qudsia Begum, Zulekha, Amina or Ghengaran-all of them are liberated in the truest sense of the word. A beautiful blend of history, relationships and vignettes of city life, it will interest all those who enjoy the variety and colour of this and many such cities.

About the author: Parveen Talha belongs to an old family of Awadh. She was the first Muslim woman to join the civil services through the IAS examinations. After retiring as Member of the Union Public Service Commission in 2009, she lives in Lucknow and spends time writing about the city she loves. Her writings bring alive the history, folklore, and composite culture of Lucknow. She also works for animal rights and has adopted many strays.

Back to top

Indonesian tourist arrival in Q1 up by 6 pct

JAKARTA, May 1 (Xinhua) — The number of foreign holiday makers in the first three months in Indonesia rose by 6 percent to 2.02 million people on yearly basis, national statistic bureau announced here Wednesday.

Head of the bureau told a press conference that the number of foreign tourist arrival in March this year was up by 10.13 percent to 725,300 people from that at the same period last year. He said that the hike was contributed by intensive promotion done by the government.

Indonesia targets 9 million foreign holiday makers in 2013, higher than that of 8.04 million in 2012. The government is striving to encourage more foreign holiday makers to visit the country by luring more Muslim tourists particularly from the Middle East and boosting health tourism.

Most of the country’s 238 million population are Muslim, with the majority of them moderate. The tourism authorities believed the country has great potential to tap the Muslim tourists.

The country also expects to raise the number of health tourists to 2 million in 2012 from 300 people in 2011, according to Asnawi Bahar, chairman of Indonesian travel agency association (Arsita).

Back to top

Visit Malaysia Year 2014 Takes Centre Stage At Arabian Travel Market

KUALA LUMPUR, 3 May 2013 – Tourism Malaysia’s efforts to publicise the country’s fourth Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) in 2014 and its comprehensive promotional activities continues in the Middle East. Its Deputy Director General (Planning) Dato’ Haji Azizan Noordin will be leading a Malaysian delegation to participate in the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai from 5 to 9 May, followed by a post-ATM sales mission to Oman and Kuwait.

The four-day ATM, the biggest travel and tourism event in the Middle East, is scheduled to begin on 6 May at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre (DICEC). It offers Malaysia an excellent platform to market and create awareness of Visit Malaysia Year 2014 to the travel and tourism industry players in the Middle East.

ATM 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of Malaysia’s participation in this prestigious event, which is a strong testimony to the country’s support to the event and its commitment in attracting more Middle Eastern tourists to Malaysia.

“With the celebration of VMY next year, Tourism Malaysia will strive to attract more tourists from the Middle East to Malaysia. I’m confident that we will be able to achieve our target as Malaysia is the top destination for Muslim travellers.

“In a survey released in January this year by Crescentrating, a Singapore-based Muslim travel consultancy, Malaysia secured the first spot as the world’s top Muslim-friendly holiday destination. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 as the best score, Malaysia obtained 8.3, among 50 nations surveyed,” explained Dato’ Haji Azizan.

In fact, Tourism Malaysia has just added another feather in its cap by garnering the “Best Global Tourism Advertising Campaign” award at the 4th Middle East Business Leaders Awards 2013 held on 28 April in Abu Dhabi. The event was jointly organised by the Federation of GCC Chambers and The Leaders International.

As in previous years, the 2013 ATM sees the participation of a strong Malaysian delegation comprising 120 sellers from 77 organisations comprising hotels and resorts, travel agents, tourism products owners, representatives from various state governments, including Legoland Malaysia, Putrajaya Corporation, Tourism Selangor, Langkawi Development Authority (LADA), and Visit KL (the Tourism Unit of the Kuala Lumpur City Hall).

Also joining the Malaysian delegation to ATM this year are officials from the VMY 2014 Secretariat and two very prominent figures in Malaysia’s tourism industry – the President of Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Datuk Haji Mohd Ilyas Zainol Abidin and the President of Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) Dato’ Mohd Khalid Harun, who are also Board members of Tourism Malaysia.

The Malaysia Pavilion at Hall 1, Sheikh Saeed Arena (Booth No. AS6420 & AS6620) is expected to attract a significant number of international buyers throughout the event. It will be launched on 6 May by Dato’ Hj. Azizan. To attract visitors to the Malaysia Pavilion, a batik demonstrator, a group of Malaysian traditional musicians and dancers will be present at the Pavilion.

He is also scheduled to pay courtesy calls on both Chairmen of Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and Sharjah Commerce & Tourism Department, as well as the Chairmen/CEOs of top airlines in the Middle East including Oman Air, Emirates Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Etihad Airways. Besides that, meetings with top travel agencies in the Middle East and media interviews are also expected to take place.

Several important programmes have been scheduled for 7 May, which include a media briefing and the launch of “Destination Malaysia” brochure.

Tourism Malaysia will be launching online tour packages and the “Tourism Malaysia Dubai – App” during the media briefing. The informative and interactive app allows travellers and businessmen to find information on tourist destinations in Malaysia, book flights and hotels, and get the best travel deals and packages from Dubai to Malaysia. In addition, LADA will also be launching its online tourism campaign at the briefing.

In the evening, Tourism Malaysia will be hosting a special dinner at the Al Ameera Ballroom in Grand Hyatt Dubai to promote VMY 2014. The ‘Malaysia Gala Night Dinner’ will give the guests a glimpse of what awaits them in Malaysia, especially during the celebration of VMY 2014. It is also to show Tourism Malaysia’s appreciation to buyers, media and invited guests for their support in stimulating travel to Malaysia. Dancers from Istana Budaya, under the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture, will be performing specially choreographed Malaysian traditional dances to entertain the guests.

After ATM, Tourism Malaysia’s promotional efforts in the Middle East will continue with a sales mission to Oman (10 – 12 May) and Kuwait (12 – 14 May), which will be participated by 28 and 27 Malaysian sellers respectively. Programmes for both destinations include travel mart, press conference, gala dinner, and meetings with selected travel agents.

“Through ATM and the post-ATM sales mission, Tourism Malaysia aims to boost tourist arrivals from the Middle East. These events offer Malaysian delegates excellent platforms to network, meet and discuss business opportunities with their foreign counterparts, as well as sharing with them Malaysia’s latest tourism developments. These will definitely help generate more publicity for Malaysia,” said Dato’ Haji Azizan.

In 2012, tourist arrivals from West Asia to Malaysia were 370,535, which was an increase of 3.2% compared to 358,994 in 2011. For the same period, tourist arrivals from Oman registered a hike of 13.2% while tourist arrivals from UAE and Kuwait recorded a drop of 24.7% and 0.3% respectively. In terms of tourist receipts, Oman and Kuwait registered a growth of 14% and 0.9% respectively.

In terms of flight accessibility, Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways ply between UAE and Malaysia, offering 32 flights and 11,169 seats per week. Flights from Oman and Kuwait are serviced by Oman Air (7 flights, 1,540 seats per week) and Kuwait Airways (3 flights, 816 seats per week) respectively.

Back to top

Iskandar Malaysia To Create Over 500,000 Jobs In Next 5-8 Years

SINGAPORE, May 2 (NNN-Bernama)– Johor Menteri Besar Abdul Ghani Othman said the development projects in Iskandar Malaysia are expected to generate more than half a million jobs in the next five to eight years.

He said the investments in various sectors would not only make Iskandar Malaysia as an economic growth centre but also an employment growth centre in industrial as well as other sectors.

“Iskandar Malaysia is seen as able to become a centre that provides employment choices to the rakyat based on their qualification, expertise and skills. At present there are various types of investments in the region not only in industrial and manufacturing sectors but also in services sector which is more varied including urban wellness and resort projects in Iskandar Malaysia.

“The project is a joint-venture between Khazanah (Khazanah Nasional Bhd) and Temasek (Temasek Pte Ltd) that represents a sub-sector in the services sector which requires high- and medium-skilled workers,” he said.

He said this to reporters at the Jurong East Bus Terminal after boarding a bus in a get-together with Malaysian workers in Singapore. Abdul Ghani spent close to one hour on the bus which departed from Bukit Indah at 6.30 am to feel the experience by the people in Johor who commute to that country to work.

He explained that Iskandar Malaysia also offered jobs in higher education and so far 12 universities have established their campuses in the region, out of which half are campuses of foreign universities.

Abdul Ghani said Iskandar Malaysia also offered jobs in tourism sector and creative industry with the presence of Legoland and Puteri Habour theme parks and Pinewood Studio.

In addition, Iskandar Malaysia has its own specialty namely its pleasant environment with various facilities that provide comfortable living hence increasing the people’s quality of life. “Besides job opportunities we have better quality of life. Hence Iskandar Malaysia is not only a place that give employment choices but also a place to live,” he said.

From the visit, Abdul Ghani said a lot of feedback from the younger generation who are working there was because of higher pay due to the foreign exchange.

“In terms of pay, there is not much different between Johor and Singapore but when convert into ringgit from Singapore dollar it’s double. That’s why they choose to work in Singapore, some even willing to commute as it’s worthwhile,” he said.

Back to top

Malaysia Wins Accolades At “India’s Best Awards” 2012

MUMBAI – Malaysia has once again proven itself as a leading tourist destination in the region by winning several accolades at Travel + Leisure India and South Asia’s India’s Best Awards 2012. The Felicitation and Awards ceremony took place at the Taj Lands End in Mumbai on 23 April 2013.

Malaysia won the award for Best Green Destination (World) while Langkawi was awarded the Best Honeymoon Destination (World). The Kuala Lumpur International Airport received the award for Best Airport (World), Runner-Up.

Other categories in the awards include best emerging destination, best cruise, best business hotel, best airport, best luxury train, and best spa and honeymoon destination.

Travel + Leisure is a premier travel and lifestyle magazine based in New York, with a readership totalling to 4.8 million. It has been conducting the iconic World’s Best Awards for over 12 years, and after five successful years in the South Asian region, Travel + Leisure India & South Asia launched the first India’s Best Awards in 2011, and again in 2012.

The awards come as a proud addition to a string of other accolades that Malaysia garnered recently. Last year, Kuala Lumpur was ranked the second best shopping destination in Asia Pacific by Globe Shopper Index, while CNN listed it as the 4th best shopping city in the world.

Earlier this year, a survey carried out by Crescentrating, a Singapore-based Muslim travel consultancy, placed Malaysia as the top Muslim-friendly holiday destination, ahead of Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.

This is a good indicator of Malaysia’s booming tourism industry, which has seen a steady growth in terms of tourist arrivals and receipts over the last decade. Last year, its tourist arrivals rose to 25 million, registering a growth of 1.3%, while its tourist receipts climbed to RM60.6 billion, which was an increase of 3.8%.

Back to top

Malaysia Airlines’ Superjumbo Takes-Off To Hong Kong

Sepang, 1 May 2013: Today marks another significant milestone as Malaysia Airlines commences its Airbus A380 service from Kuala Lumpur to the capital of Hong Kong. Malaysia Airlines flies twice daily to Hong Kong on the A330-300 and B737-800. The superjumbo will be replacing the A330-300 service from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong and will operate on MH72/MH73.

In a simple yet meaningful inaugural flight event at the KL International Airport graced by Malaysia Airlines’ Group Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya and Malaysia Airlines’ senior management staff, the superjumbo operating flight MH72 was given a ceremonious send-off at 9:15am. The full capacity A380 flight took off for Hong Kong, 41 years after its maiden flight operations on the B737 between the two cities on 1 October 1972.

Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said “The decision to fly the A380 to Hong Kong is to showcase our newest premium offering in products and services – improved comfort, luxury and convenience to our guests. Hong Kong has great potential due to its good mix of Business and Leisure travellers—the city has a promising market and I also believe that our membership in the oneworld alliance from 1 February 2013 will also contribute to our load factor”.

The airline offered its customers attractive Economy Class fares from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong for only RM760 all-in return on a promotion from 17 April until 20 May 2013. MASholidays, the travel arm of Malaysia Airlines also offered vacation packages for 4D/3N in Hong Kong with a choice of City Tour, visit to Disneyland or Ocean Park from RM1416 onwards.

“We decided to reward our passengers with these irresistible promotions as our customers were very excited when they heard we were flying the A380 to Hong Kong. We generated more than 2,000 passenger sales between 13 April to date under this campaign and the numbers are still growing. This promotion has helped us kick-start the momentum to drive more sales on the A380 to Hong Kong route.”

With the A380 replacing the A330-300, Malaysia Airlines is also introducing First Class travel on this route. The super jumbo has eight First Class seats on the main deck, which converts into a full flat bed of 87 inches in length and a width of 40 inches, making it the widest seats amongst other airlines. Each seat boasts an individual 23-inch in-flight entertainment screen with personal closet and stowage for coat, luggage, laptop and personal belongings.

The airlines’ A380 also has 66 Business Class seats on the upper deck and each comes with individual 17 inches in-flight entertainment screen, the largest amongst Malaysia Airlines’ Business Class. Personal items stowage is available on each seat along with 115VAC PED power supply and USB port.

Hong Kong is the national carrier’s third A380 destination after London and Paris.

Back to top

Malaysia Airports Welcomes Back Philippine Airlines To Kuala Lumpur

SEPANG – KL International Airport (KLIA) welcomed back Philippine Airlines (PAL), the national flag carrier of Philippine after seven years absence, and looking forward for the airline to serve Kuala Lumpur for many years to come. PAL offers four flights weekly for the Manila – Kuala Lumpur vice versa route, flying every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. For this operation, PAL uses the Airbus 319 with 134 seating capacity.

“We hope that this renewed air service will result in increased exchanges not only in passenger traffic between our countries but also in economic and cultural realms, in order to further bind our peoples. More importantly, the re-opening of the Kuala Lumpur to Manila route will not only make Manila a key or vital link to the Philippines’ domestic destinations but will also make the capital city a gateway to Asia, the Australia, the United States and Canada. Such interconnectivity will benefit Malaysian tourists and corporate travelers alike!”, PAL External Affairs Assistant Vice President Josen Perez de Tagle stressed.

Dato’ Azmi Murad, Senior General Manager of Operations Services, Malaysia Airports said, “Malaysia Airports is pleased that PAL has re-established its connection to Kuala Lumpur. I believe the airline is poised to take advantage of the strong travel demand between Manila and Kuala Lumpur. This service is also positive development to tourism industry for both countries.

Passengers will be spoilt with choices as the flight connections and options between Malaysia and Philippine are now significantly increased. Passengers opting to fly from LCCT-KLIA can use either Cebu Pacific Airways or AirAsia Philippines while those preferring to fly from KLIA can travel with either Malaysia Airlines, PAL or PAL Express.”

Tourism Malaysia’s Director, International Promotion Division (Southeast Asia), Mr. Syed Yahya Syed Othman, expressed his delight with the new service by Philippines Airlines (PAL), “Tourism Malaysia is thankful to PAL for introducing this new service to Kuala Lumpur and confident that this operation will meet with great success with the abundance of business opportunities between Malaysia and the Philippines. Tourism Malaysia wishes PAL all the success and believe that this new route will very soon become one of the many popular international routes that connects to the metropolitan city of Kuala Lumpur.”

Effective 1 May 2013, PAL Express flies three times weekly to KLIA, relocating its operations from LCCT-KLIA to KLIA. With PAL now serving KLIA four times weekly, passengers now have the privilege to fly daily from KLIA to Manila with PAL or PAL Express.

The inclusion of PAL takes the total number of airlines operating to KLIA to 62. In the first five months of 2013, KLIA has welcomed five new airlines – Thai Smile, Malindo Air, Air France, Turkish Airlines and Philippine Airlines. Malaysia Airports will continue with its relentless marketing effort, keen collaboration with the Government and relevant stakeholders, which is vital and has always been instrumental in the effort to attract new airlines and establish new routes.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) began life with a noble mission: to serve as a partner in nation-building. With this in mind, PAL took to the skies on 15 March 1941, using a Beech Model 18 aircraft amid the specter of a global war. It became Asia’s first airline. PAL has become one of the most respected airlines around the world with a young and modern fleet of aircraft and a route network that spans 31 foreign cities and 29 domestic points.

Back to top

Energetic discussion at Islamabad Literature festival

ISLAMABAD: At the first day of the Islamabad Literature Festival, (Website: http://www.karachiliteraturefestival.org) English literature by Pakistani writers figured prominently. There were two sessions, on either side of Ahmed Rashid’s lively noen-fiction session. And it was revealed that he had also written poems in his more youthful days.

He chaired the session about ‘English novels in the new millennium’, as the talk and slide presentation by Muneeza Shamsie was entitled. She gave a beautiful presentation of a dozen writers with brief summaries of their main works, some 50 in all.

Ahmed Rashid was quick to ask why she hadn’t mentioned Daniyal Mueenuddin, the author of the much acclaimed novel In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, and what about Mohsin Hamid’s books? His book The Reluctant Fundamentalist has been filmed, and just released. It turned out, though, that Muneeza Shamsie was taken in by Mohsin Hamid’s works, including the mentioned book and his latest one How to Get Filthy Rich in Emerging Asia.

A participant wanted to know if many of the English language writers belonged to the Pakistani diaspora living abroad.

Muneeza Shamsie explained that the term is not clear; many writers live abroad for a while, then, back to Pakistan, and may be they go abroad again. In many ways, it is up to the writer himself or herself to define their own identity. “And, does it really matter as long as the literature is valuable?”

Openness was shown regarding different genres, too: poetry, novels, short stories and even non-fiction literature. In the past, writers and readers were more rigid and formalistic. In our time, with new media, everyone has become more open. It is perhaps not obvious that a country like Pakistan, with at least half a dozen major languages, and many more vernaculars, should also have an English language literature.

Yet, English is a major language in Pakistan, and Muneeza Shamsie explained that when she was young, in her teenage school years, she came to know that English was easier for her than Urdu. Today, many youngsters attend English medium schools and are likely to feel more comfortable in that language than in the mother tongue, especially if they also continue further education abroad, in a globalised era.

Athar Tahir gave a brief historic overview of English literature in the subcontinent, explaining that in certain ways English had taken the place of Persian. There was also a debate about using the colonial language on English.

He drew attention to the vibrant late 1960s and 1970s and said schools should teach more about Pakistani writers who write in English. “That is how they become great,” he said. “We teach about African and Indian writers.”

Poet Harris Khalique underlined that, “It is not about language. Poetry is my passion, Pakistan is my country and South Asia my larger area.”

“This part of the world has always been multilingual,” he said, and added that he thought that young people had little interest in Urdu poetry, and less understanding of it. “It is important to use English, too,” he said. “It puts me in contact with the wider world. And if a Polish writer, for example, is translated into English, I can also read his works,” he said.

Ilona Yusuf emphasised the role of the publishing houses. “I was writing in isolation when I was young,” she said, expressing the hope that publishing houses could be contact points and forums for writers. Poet Harris Khalique also underlined this point.

Ilona Yusuf said she had appreciated the good work done by (the now defunct) Alhamra Publishing and its leader Shahiq Naz.

Recently, a Canadian poetry journal entitled Vallum published as a special issue about Pakistani poetry, edited by Ilona Yusuf and Blain Marchand as guest editors. It was agreed that such efforts are important.

“Sometimes there is the notion that there is not a big enough market for English language literature in Pakistan. But I don’t believe that,” Muneeza Sahmsie said, and drew attention to the essential role of schools in giving more attention to the new literature.

Ahmed Rashid said there was a need for translation of English language literature into Urdu, which was more common earlier. He reminded the attentive audience of many hundred listeners that for that to happen there was a need for subsidies and sponsorship.

Back to top

Metropolitan Museum Uses High Tech to Restore Islamic Art

New York, 12 April 2013 – IslamOnline – The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) is currently holding an exhibit that goes beyond the art — it’s a show about conservation technologies that are keeping the museum’s Islamic collection pristinely preserved. “Making the Invisible Visible: Conservation and Islamic Art” explains how art historians get a better sense of a work’s history and how to best take care of it with advents such as infrared and X-ray light wavelengths.

The show will run at the Met, 1000 Fifth Ave., through August 4, 2013. Twenty pieces of art in various media and an explanatory video will be presented in the Hagop Kevorkian Fund Special Exhibitions Gallery. The highlighted items include a 17th Century wood box with ivory, a 19th century wool, a silk children’s coat and a 16th century watercolor painting.

While our eyes respond only to visible light, important additional knowledge is obtained through the use of other kinds of light on the electromagnetic spectrum, including x-rays, ultraviolet radiation, and infrared radiation. The exhibition highlights how various kinds of light reveal areas of earlier restorations and repairs as well as new information on the materials originally employed.

The exhibition also explains how this information helped Metropolitan Museum scientists and conservators determine appropriate courses of preventive conservation and loss compensation. Through minimal, non-invasive, and reversible conservation, fragile objects were stabilized and restored to a level sufficient to enhance the public’s appreciation of their aesthetic qualities.

In addition, officials said, the greater technical insight allowed conservators to repair a work of art as close to its original look as possible rather than relying on guesswork.

A brief film within the exhibition highlights recent conservation performed on the celebrated Emperor’s Carpet, an exceptional classical Persian carpet of the 16th century that was presented to Hapsburg Emperor Leopold I by Peter the Great of Russia.

Yana van Dyke, associate conservator at the Met working on the show, said recent advents in the conservation field both from the scientific, material and textile discipline as well as art history will protect these cultural milestones.

“We have a very strong moral responsibility to preserve fine works of art — to make sure that they have the physical integrity and that they’re housed in an environment critical to their long term stability,” she said. “We’re saving them for the future.”

Back to top

3-D Arabic Calligraphy Exhibition Premiers in Paris

16 April 2013 – IslamOnline – Yahya and Mehdi Qotbi’s exhibition presents seventeen UAO’s (unidentified artistic objects). Invisible Light is an encounter between a painter and a sculptor, between two and three dimensions, relief and color, oil and bronze, words and shapes.

The calligrapher-artist Mehdi Qotbi and the sculptor and designer of objets d’art Yahya present seventeen works that encapsulate the dialogue between the two artists in an imaginary language that freely reinterprets the calligraphic tradition in Islamic art. Together the two artists have created a series of intricately interwoven signs and letters that create a new form of abstraction.

The three-dimensional calligraphy is infused by light that is by turns immanent and transcendent, conferring a quasi-magical aura on the sculptures, shown for the first time in Zaha Hadid’s unique new exhibition space at the Institut du monde arabe in Paris. The sculptures are immobile, yet somehow shimmer and dance, suggesting a world of light and shade.

The abstract forms consist of Arabic words like “Salam” as well as arbitrary signs suggestive of Arabic script but bearing no explicit message. Yet, they still recount an epic, poetic narrative of the encounter between East and West, where cultures change each other through exchanges, and where artists invent contemporaneity by dreaming of an age-old calligraphic tradition with universal relevance.

The sculptor Yahya Qotbi is a self-taught artist. He was born in London in 1972, to a Christian Anglo-German mother and a Moroccan Jewish father. As an adult, he converted to Islam.

Free of any academic reference, he works in a particularly demanding anchent craft of brassware. His metalworking is enhanced through his passion for a sculpture of light. Cutting, hammering, drilling and chiselling copper become the heart of his syncretic language, true fusion between traditional Islamic and contemporary art.

The caligrapher Mehdi Qotbi discovered a passion for drawing which he first developed first at Fine Arts Rabat, in Morocco, then furthered in Toulouse and then Paris. A few decades later, in 2005, he returned to live in Morocco, where he became a member of the Advisory Council on Human Rights and work tirelessly for the Rapprochement of Cultures.

In 2011, he was appointed by King Mohammed VI at the head of the National Foundation of museums in Morocco while continuing his pictorial work, which has achieved world recognition. The exhibition runs until 7 July 2013.

Back to top

Popularity of Islamic Art Changes Museums’ Attitudes toward Textiles

29 April 2013 – IslamOnline – Museums have developed new practices towards the display of textiles in response to the increased worldwide popularity of Islamic Art. Historically, carpets and textiles have been among the most important vehicles for artistic expression in much of the Muslim world.

According to Marika Sardar of New York’s Institute of Fine Arts, under the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal dynasties, carpet weaving was transformed from a minor craft based on patterns passed down from generation to generation into a fine art medium with patterns created in court workshops.

In this period, carpets were fabricated in greater quantity than ever before. They were traded to Europe and the Far East where, too precious to be placed on the ground, they were used to cover furniture or hung on walls. Within the Islamic world, especially fine specimens were collected in royal households.

In Western museums, textiles have been treated as artifacts (objets d’art) and not as examples of fine art. This attitude is changing worldwide, thanks to the increased importance of Islamic art, and developments like the Louvre’s new Islamic Art wing and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s recently opened Islamic galleries.

These new galleries had to be planned to accommodate the demands of carpets and textiles, fundamentally sifting the design and use of gallery space. In response to these developments, the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California is hosting a lecture: “Carpets, Textiles and Islamic Art: New Museum Practice in the 21st Century” by Professor Walter B. Denny.

Dr. Denny is Professor of Art History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Senior Consultant in the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The lecture will include the planning and implementation of the new galleries at Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and will concentrate on the enhanced displays of carpets and textiles. Professor Denny will also discuss the role of textiles and carpets in other new or renovated Islamic art departments and museums, including the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, the Louvre in Paris, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the David Collection in Copenhagen, and the forthcoming Aga Khan Museum in Toronto.

Back to top

ASEAN Common Market Will Spur Cross-Border Economic Activities

LUNDU (Sarawak), May 2 (NNN-Bernama) — Border residents can expect vigorous economic activities in their areas, once the Asean common market comes into force in 2015, said Sarawak Chief Minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud, here.

He said the common market policy would see the abolishment of border taxes,thus, enabling higher volumes of cross-border goods to be transported and intensifying other economic activities that would eventually elevate them livelihood of residents living near the borders.

“This also means that those capable of producing goods and offering it at cheaper prices, can sell it throughout the Asean region,” he added.

He was speaking while officiating the opening of the 18-km Biawak Road near the border of Sarawak and Indonesia’s Kalimantan region near here.

He said the establishment of such a market would bring about stiffer competition, but the prevailing situation can drive those participating in it, to improve their products and operations efficiency,” he added.

According Abdul Taib, the Biawak Road would play a greater role in the next few years, to facilitate the transportation of goods between Sarawak and Kalimantan, while spurring other development around the Biawak area.

Back to top

Salman Khurshid in Tehran: India to upgrade Iran’s Chabahar port

PTI : Tehran, May 04 2013 – India and Iran today decided to give a major push to their bilateral ties in all aspects including connectivity for which New Delhi will participate in the upgradation of strategically crucial Chabahar port.

During a meeting between External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi under the framework of Joint Commission, the two sides agreed to work on a trilateral transit agreement involving India, Iran and Afghanistan. But it was underlined that the work on the draft agreement should be started soon.

The two sides also discussed ways to enhance trade relations and people to people contact, regarding which the need was felt for liberalising the visa regime.

At the meeting, Khurshid conveyed India’s decision to participate in the upgradation of Chabahar port. He informed the Iranian side that the Indian government has given in-principle nod to this project. India’s Secretary, Ministry of Shipping, will travel to Tehran for negotiations on cost and other aspects. The Iranian side underlined that the project is important not only for Iran and Afghanistan but for entire central Asia.

The two sides also reviewed the progress on the proposed North-South corridor which will link Russia with Iran, with Khurshid saying that any obstructions or any hurdles should be resolved. Iran’s controversial nuclear programme also came up for discussions and Salehi informed that talks with P5+1 will start in this year.

Salehi gave a detailed briefing on the subject to Khurshid who was appreciative of the decision to resume talks. The two sides felt that the level of trade was not reflective of the close relations between the two countries and should be enhanced.

Agriculture and pharma products and aeronautics were among the areas identified where cooperation could be increased. The two sides reiterated importance of enhancing cooperation in expanding trade and banking relations and agreed to study the prospects of joint investment in both countries.

Khurshid also inaugurated the Indian Cultural Centre in Tehran yesterday. He also called on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and had meetings with Ali Akbar Velayati, Advisor to the Supreme Leader and Ali Larijani, Speaker of the Iranian Majlis.

Back to top

Jordan AFAQ Economic Forum to open May 7

Amman, May 4 (Petra)–The Fifth Jordan AFAQ Economic Forum opens in Amman on Tuesday to discuss challenges facing the sectors of food, water and investment and their impact on comprehensive development. Participants in the two-day forum will discuss economic challenges facing the sectors of energy, food, investment as well as Arab and international financial markets. They will also review challenges facing the local and world economies, solutions to address these challenges and developments opportunities. Chairman of Afaq Group Khaldoun Nusair said the forum will also focus on the investment climate in Jordan, energy, water, the future of oil exporting and importing countries and water crisis management in Jordan.

Back to top

Int’l Conference on Mechanical Engineering in Iran

Tehran, May 5, IRNA — The 21st Annual Int’l Conference on Mechanical Engineering will be held in Khaje Nasireddin Tousi University on May 7-9.

Sponsored by MAPNA Group and the Mechanical Engineering Faculty of the university and Iran’s Society of Mechanical Engineers, the event will deal with various subjects including solid mechanics, dynamics, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, energy and environment, biomechanics, micro- and nanomechanics and designing and construction.

Seven specialized panels on intellectual property management in the academic and industrial agreements, morality in engineering, approaches to protect environment by mechanical engineers, promoting professional mechanical engineering culture, essential changes in textbooks and educational programming will be organized on the sidelines of the conference.

Holding a peripheral exhibition focusing on power plants, oil and gas, railway and transport are among the other programs of the conference.

Back to top

Denmark, Finland to Upgrade Relations with Palestinians

COPENHAGEN, May 4, 2013 (WAFA) – Denmark and Finland Saturday announced plans to upgrade the status of the Palestinian Missions in Copenhagen and Helsinki, said a joint press release. The two countries will present to the Palestinian Government a draft agreement that would give a status equivalent to that of an embassy to the Palestinian Missions in their capitals.

The release pointed out that all Nordic countries will be offering the same working conditions for official Palestinian representatives as is the case for accredited diplomats serving in an embassy of a recognized state.

Danish and Finnish Foreign Ministers Villy Søvndal and Erkki Tuomioja said, “Palestine is in a phase of state-building, and many challenges remain for President (Mahmoud) Abbas to handle before we can recognize Palestine formally as a state.”

“We hope that the intention to give, for all practical purposes, the Palestinian Missions in our capitals conditions for work identical to those of an embassy will encourage Abbas to engage with determination in the necessary negotiations with the Israeli government on a two-state solution.”

It is expected that the changes to the status of the Palestinian Missions in Denmark and Finland will be implemented in the course of 2013.

Back to top

Turkey’s Crude Oil Imports From Iran At Peak

ANKARA, Turkey, May 4 (NNN-IRNA) – Turkey’s crude oil imports from Iran during Apr was 140,000 barrels per day, which marked a record high during the past eight months.

According to IRNA, Turkey’s eco-finance reported that Ankara’s crude oil imports from Iran, which was around 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) from Sept 2012 to Mar 2013, with a slight increase in Aug, reaching its eight months highest record of 114,000 bpd.

Turkey’s increased oil imports from Iran takes place under such conditions, that the United States still insists on need for intensifying Iran oil sanctions, asking various countries to totally halt, or at least decrease their oil and gas imports from Iran.

Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resource, Taner Yildiz, said this in Ankara after meeting a US delegation, comprising of senators and representatives of the US Congress, who demanded decrease in gas imports from Iran.

According to the Turkish Anatolia news agency, US Congress Member Ed Whitfield, chairman of the Energy and Power Subcommittee, had referred to discovery and excavation of new oil and gas resources in the United States, arguing that the extent of discovered gas there is enough for US consumption for the next 100 years, adding that Turkey, too, can purchase that gas.

Minister Yildiz, all the same ensured that Turkey-Iran gas deal would remain quite unaffected and continue as before. The UN ratifications have imposed certain limits on Iran energy sales and Turkey, too, abides by the international regulations, Yildiz said.

The Turkish Energy Minister noted that the annual energy need of his country is equal to 119 million metric tonnes, adding, “Turkey imports 72% of that energy from abroad.”

Yildiz added, “Turkey provides 44% of its needed electricity through gas power stations and intends to provide another 30% of it by the year 2023 from coal power stations and 10% through nuclear plants.”

He said that by this year Turkey would have invested 130 billion US dollars in energy field, adding, “There would then be very few countries exporting energy to Turkey.” Up to two years ago Turkey was providing half of the petroleum it needed from Iran, but has now decreased oil imports from Iran, replacing it with Libyan, Saudi, and Russian oil. The Iranian gas exports to Turkey have all the same remained quite unaffected.

Focusing on method of paying the price of the Iranian oil and gas, Yildiz said, “That money is deposited in three ways. Iran has some companies in Turkey; in addition, Iran’s international trade includes imports from Turkey.”

Iranian Oil Minister, Rostam Qassemi, reiterated Iran’s preparedness to supply Turkey’s energy needs, and announced that Tehran will boost export of natural gas supplies to the neighbouring country.

“Iran is prepared to meet Turkey’s needs in the oil, gas and petrochemical sectors,” Qassemi told reporters on the sidelines of his meeting with visiting Turkish Minister of Development, Cevdet Yilmaz, in Tehran. Qassemi added that he and Yilmaz had ‘constructive negotiations’ about the further expansion of mutual cooperation in the oil, gas and petrochemical industries.

The Iranian minister further announced that Iran plans to boost gas exports to Turkey, adding that Tehran and Turkish companies will soon finalise a deal over the extension of a gas pipeline from Iran’s South-western city of Ahwaz to the borders with Turkey.

“The Turkish private sector companies will take part in the project and we hope to sign the contract within a month,” Qassemi said, adding that Iran sees no restriction at present on activity of the Turkish companies and investors in Iran. Iran and Turkey are determined to boost their trade exchanges to $30 billion in the near future.

Iran and Turkey have in recent years increased their cooperation in all the various fields of economy, security, trade, education, energy and culture.

Back to top

Third Istanbul airport tender awarded for 22.1 billion euros

ISTANBUL, Hurriyet daily news, 3 May 2013 – The Cengiz-Kolin-Limak-Mapa-Kalyon Consortium, a joint venture of Turkish companies, has won a tender for a controversial third airport in Istanbul, promising to pay the government 22.1 billion euros for 25 years starting from 2017.

Seventeen groups qualified to enter the tender, but only four – TAV, IC-Fraport Consortium, Cengiz-Kolin-Limak-Mapa-Kalyon Consortium and Makyol İnşaat – showed up at today’s bidding session.

IC-Fraport Consortium, the last competitor of the winning consortium, and TAV withdrew from the race at 22.1 billion euros, following Makyol İnşaat, which quit in an earlier phase.

From the closed envelopes, IC-Fraport had bid 20 billion euros (tax excluded) for the 25-year lease, Cengiz-Kolin-Limak-Mapa-Kalyon offered 12.7 billion euros, TAV 9 billion euros, while Makyol had offered 4 billion euros before withdrawing from the tender.

Fifteen Turkish and two foreign companies had bought for Istanbul’s third airport, which was valued at more than 7 billion euros ($9 billion) by Turkish Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım. Many of Turkey’s leading companies, including Enka, Doğuş and Sabancı Holding, and two foreign companies, Malesian Khazanah Nasional Beerhad and India-based GMR Infrastructure, did not submit their bids although they bought the specification, the Anatolian News Agency reported.

In order to spark competition for the third airport, the Transportation Ministry introduced some amendments to the specifications last week. The changes made in the specifications included lifting the three-company limit for consortiums and the requirement that a dominant partner own a 51 percent share.

The tender for the build-operate-transfer project, which is to be conducted in four stages, will be for a 25-year lease, with the cooperation of the private and public sectors. The state will guarantee the amount of passengers and tariff levels for a certain amount of time.

Following the finalization of the tender approval, the first phase of construction is set to be after 42 months, in 2017, and will provide an initial capacity of 90 million passengers a year. Once all six of the planned runways are complete, the capacity is expected to increase to 150 million passengers, the world’s largest in terms of the passenger capacity at full capacity. The airport is planned to provide jobs for 100,000 people, the Minister Binali Yıldırım said earlier.

A total of six runways, 16 taxiways, 165 aircraft passenger bridges at all terminals and 6,5 million square meter apron with 500 aircraft parking capacity among other facilities will be constructed. The new airport is planned to be constructed at the Istanbul’s European side between the Black Sea regions of Yeniköy and Akpınar, on an area of 7,659 hectares. Some 6,172 hectares of this area is forest land.

The Environmental Impact Assessment’s (ÇED) report for the 3rd airport project in Istanbul said last April the total number of trees in the area is 2,513,341 and 657,950 of them will need to be cut indispensably while 1,855,391 of the trees will be moved to new places. However the exact number of the trees to be cut and moved will be revealed after the airport’s project is completed, the Forestry Ministry told the Hürriyet Daily News.

And the tender has been taken to court by the head office of the Turkish Chamber of Environmental Engineers (ÇMO) on the grounds that the project violated the existing legislation for the environmental impact assessment (ÇED) report preparation.

Back to top

ISESCO DG calls for concerted efforts to access knowledge society

Rabat 02/05/2013 – Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), stressed that the future of the Muslim world hinges on modernizing the educational system, developing science and technology and boosting the knowledge industry, while opening up to world advancements and engaging in the process of human growth at all levels.

In a message addressed to the Muslim world on the occasion of ISESCO’s 31st anniversary (3 May), Dr Altwaijri stated that access to the knowledge society represents the considerable challenge that Member States ought to take on through knowledge, wisdom and cooperation. He added that production and generation of knowledge are the essential prelude to the global knowledge society that is open to universal horizons.

In addition, ISESCO Director General emphasized the need to invest in the building of individuals. He said that the human capital is highly instrumental in achieving the sustainable development that brings prosperity to human societies, reinforces the foundations of full security and civil peace, and supports the stability that provides the appropriate environment for creation, innovation and development, while adhering to the tenets of good governance which are the solid pillar of stable human life.

Dr Altwaijri called for strengthening solidarity and cooperation among Member States, averting disputes and sectarian conflicts, and resolving problems emanating from non-observance of international instruments, particularly OIC and ISESCO Charters. He called on the Member States to further strengthen ties, both bilateral and regional, for greater Islamic solidarity and cooperation to re-engage the Muslim world on the path to rebuilding human civilization on the solid base of human freedom and dignity.

The urge was also for the Member States to set into motion the strategies developed by ISESCO and approved by the Islamic Summit Conference, sixteen in number, as a roadmap for achieving the objectives of sustainable development by raising education, particularly university education, to high quality standards, promoting use of ICT, renewable energies, and renewing cultural policies.

He reiterated the commitment by ISESCO to achieve development goals for the Muslim world, most notably in education and culture, and engage in the global effort to foster dialogue of cultures and alliance of civilizations toward a brighter future for humanity.

Back to top

Indonesian apparel attracts Moroccan consumers

May 5 2013 London (ANTARA News) – Indonesian Muslim apparel has attracted Moroccan consumers and visitors in an exhibition on Indonesia`s handicraft products held for the first time in Rabat, Morocco, April 29 – May 5, an Indonesian official said.

Coordinator of the Indonesian Advertisement Agencies Association (PPI) in Morocco Kusnadi El-Ghezwa told ANTARA here on Sunday that European and African consumers recognized the quality of Indonesian Muslim apparel in the exhibition.

The exhibition was attended by Moroccan government officials and companies from various countries such as Russia, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Palestine, France, Spain and European countries. Indonesia displayed various types of goods, including traditional handicraft products such as clothing, foot wear, batik clothes, ornaments, furniture, paper, wood-based products, tea, coffee, instant noodle and spice.

Event coordinator Decy Widhiyanti said Indonesia sent 20 businessmen from various provinces to the exhibition because Moroccan consumers and visitors from various countries were very enthusiastic and recognized the quality of Indonesian products. Widhiyanti said that for Moroccan citizens prices did not matter even if the Indonesian products were relatively expensive.

“They really understand the quality of the Indonesian products. A number of local producers and designers visited the Indonesian stand and cooperate with Indonesian businessmen,” she said.

Sarah, one of the visitors from Marrakesh, was very enthusiastic with the Indonesian products. She spent all her money to purchase all stocks of an Indonesian stand owned by Ayu Indriati from Bekasi, West Java.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS), two-way trade between Morocco and Indonesia was US$150.13 million in the first seven months of 2012, up 80.19 percent from $83.32 million in the same period a year earlier.

Phosphates accounted for around $70 million of the $152.44 million in products that Morocco exported to Indonesia in 2011. Indonesia’s major exports to Morocco comprise coffee, tea, electronic goods, rubber and textiles.

Morocco, which has the fifth-largest economy in Africa, is home to 75 percent of the world`s reserves of phosphates, which Indonesia needs to manufacture fertilizer. With an annual per capita income of $5,100, Morocco is considered a medium-sized market of 32 million people.

However, Morocco could become a base for Indonesia to enter larger markets of the European Union (EU) and North Africa, according to Moroccan Ambassador to Indonesia Mohamed Majdi, as reported by the Jakarta Post some time ago.

“We have signed free trade agreements with the US, the EU and Turkey. Indonesian companies can establish production bases (in Morocco) and export their goods to the US and the EU freely,” Majdi said. “Morocco is a gateway to Europe,” he added.

On Africa-Indonesia relations, Foreign Ministry information and public diplomacy chief Abdurrahman M. Fachir said that there were no hurdles. “We don`t have political problems with African countries, but it will be a big task as to how to translate these good relations into concrete cooperation,” Abdurrahman said.

Morocco, a tolerant Sunni Muslim-majority state, recently won kudos in a study on religious freedoms in various countries conducted by the US State Department. Religious minorities, such as Jewish and Christian people, have the freedom of worship in the nation. “There are no prohibitions on religious clothing or symbols, in either the public or the private spheres,” the report said.

Back to top

Air Arabia to boost flights to Saudi

Emirates 24/7 – 29 April, 2013 – Sharjah-based carrier Air Arabia is planning to boost services to Saudi Arabia with the launch of a non-stop flight to the southern town of Abha in May, its CEO has said.

Speaking to reporters in the western Saudi Red Sea port of Jeddah on Sunday, Adel Ali said the airline is committed to using its infrastructure to improve connectivity with most major destinations in the Gulf Kingdom.

In addition to Abha, Air Arabia operates non-stop flights to the Saudi cities of Riyadh, Jeddah, Madina, Dammam, Qassim, Yanbu, and Taif.

“Since launching operations to the Kingdom in 2004, Air Arabia has been determined to using its infrastructure to organically grow its operations into many cities across the Kingdom,” Ali said, according to Saudi newspapers.

“The Kingdom has been a market focus for us, and given the vast potential that the country’s aviation sector offers, we look forward to expand our operations to more airports in this vibrant market.”

He noted that Air Arabia, the first and largest low-cost carrier in the Middle East and North Africa, celebrates today nine years of successful operations in Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab economy and the most lucrative market in the region.

Air Arabia started operations to the Kingdom with regular services to Jeddah in 2004. Since then, reflecting the overall growth of the Saudi aviation sector, the airline has seen increasing demand for the appealing value of its offers.

Today, the airline operates more than 88 weekly non-stop services from its three hubs – Sharjah, Casablanca in Morocco and Alexandria in Egypt — to eight Saudi destinations.

“The strengthening of our route network in Saudi Arabia testifies the significance we attach to the Kingdom, and our business strategy is to be present where our customers want us to be. That said, Air Arabia will continue to offer enormous choice for customers seeking to travel from Saudi Arabia to the UAE and Egypt, and beyond.” Ali said.

Air Arabia’s fleet has grown to 33 aircraft in just 10 years. By 2016, the airline will boost the size of its fleet to over 50 aircraft.

Back to top

Record-breaking passenger traffic in March for Dubai Airports

Emirates 24/7 – 29 April, 2013 – Dubai International continued its draw as the world’s second busiest international hub, registering a record 5.8 million passengers in March according to the monthly traffic report issued by Dubai Airports.

According to the report, passenger traffic in March surged by 20.6 per cent – the highest since August 2012 – to 5,846,297 compared to 4,848,320 in March 2012; this is the fourth consecutive month with more than five million passengers and a double-digit growth.

The strong showing has boosted the year-to-date traffic to nearly 16.5m, up 15.6 per cent compared with 14.2m recorded during Q1 of 2012.

The largest increase in total passenger number was recorded on the Western European routes, with destinations in the region registering the largest increase in total passenger numbers (+227,830), followed by the AGCC (209,737), and the Indian subcontinent (+202,703).

Growth remained subdued (+2,532) on South American routes while Middle Eastern routes registered moderate growth (+36,479).

Eastern Europe was the fastest-expanding market (+67.9 per cent), which was further fuelled by increased connectivity via Emirates airline’s launch of new services to Poland and flydubai’s service to Macedonia, followed by Asia Pacific (26.5 per cent).

Dubai International recorded a total of 31,713 aircraft movements in March, up 8.3 per cent compared to 29,276 in March 2012. The year-to-date movements increased 5.9 per cent to reach 91,130, compared to 86,014 recorded during the first three months in 2012.

Cargo volumes also surged in March with Dubai International recording 213,748 tonnes of cargo, an increase of 14.7 per cent compared to 186,417 tonnes in March 2012. The year-to-date cargo traffic grew by 13 per cent reaching 584,847 tonnes compared to 517,440 tonnes during the corresponding period in 2012.

Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports said: “We have had a very successful first quarter highlighted by record growth and the opening of the world’s first purpose built A380 facility. We are now not only the world’s second busiest international hub but also one of the most efficient with 208 passengers (March 2013) per aircraft movement thanks to our growing number of A380 operations, which led the world in 2012 with 7,259 A380 flights to 28 destinations.”

He added that traffic looked set to continue its upsurge in the second quarter adding to the import of Dubai Airports’ on-going expansion projects at Dubai International.

Back to top

Saudi hotel brands to make debut at Arabian Travel Market

Arab News – 01 May, 2013 – Saudi Arabia’s Frontel for Hospitality Inc. will mark its Arabian Travel Market (ATM) debut this month as the group looks to take its growing portfolio of properties beyond the Kingdom’s borders, with a strategic development plan for the Middle East.

Owner-operator of the recently renovated five-star Western Alharithia Hotel in Madinah, the company is keen to become the “operator of choice” for hotel owners and developers across the region, according to Rushdi Sherwani, director brand development, Frontel for Hospitality Inc.

“With three new group hotels set to open in the Kingdom in the next two years, we are also accelerating our development agenda for the region, and are also seeing growing interest from established markets such as the UAE, as well as from Iran and Yemen — both of which are looking for professional operators to come in and help grow their hospitality base.”

Frontel for Hospitality Inc. is also close to signing for three properties in Pakistan as the branded operator or on a franchise basis, having opened up negotiations for two of most significant hospitality landmarks.

The first is Karachi’s tallest tower, which currently combines a hotel with a shopping mall. The second is Karachi’s largest hotel in terms of room inventory and the third property is in the industrial city Sialkot Pakistan.

“Showcasing our portfolio of properties at Arabian Travel Market presents us with an opportunity to meet existing partners as well as new potential partners,” said Sherwani. “ATM will also provide a platform for us to create awareness of the Frontel brand and our focus on quality. Moving forward, our strategy is to become a major hospitality player not only in the Kingdom but throughout the region,” said Sherwani.

Frontel for Hospitality Inc. is already actively growing brand presence on its home turf, where it will launch its first Frontel property, the 1,350-key Frontel Village Hotel, Madina, in 2014.

Located just one kilometer from the city’s key religious sites, and offering a choice of five-star accommodation and facilities housed in five individual seven-story towers, this will be followed in 2015 by the debut of a second Madina property.

The luxurious 650-room Frontel Hotel Al-Baiya will be situated in the heart of the city, and comprises two 10-story towers, with a footprint of 6,500 square meters, but affording 65,000 square meters of hotel space.

Expansion into the burgeoning mid-market hotel sector is also part of the company’s development vision, and it will launch its first three-star property in Jeddah in 2016, with the opening of the Frontel Business Hotel under the branding of ‘Frontel Eco’.

“Infrastructure growth within the Kingdom has created a wave of interest and investment into new tourism and business travel facilities, and during the ATM week we will be meeting with Haj and Umrah travel companies and other tour operators from the UAE, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, to sow the seeds for future partnerships to support forecasted demand,” said Sherwani.

Sherwani said some 381,000 new hotels rooms are expected to be added to Saudi Arabia’s existing inventory by 2015, representing a 63 percent increase on 2010 figures.

Inbound visitor arrivals are also forecast to grow from 13 million in 2010 to 15.8 million by 2014, with the kingdom focusing its efforts on providing the necessary travel infrastructure to boost domestic, Haj and Umrah, and the fledgling inbound tourism sector, as it allocates $ 500 million to airport expansion and $ 7 billion investment into the new Jeddah airport.

Back to top

Flydubai launches new service to Tajikistan

Khaleej Times – 01 May, 2013 – Dubai’s pioneer low-cost carrier, flydubai, has launched a new flight service to Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe. Flights will operate on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The Tajik capital is the airline’s 57th operational destination ever since it announced flights to a total of 64 destinations. The budget carrier also announced the first aircraft delivery of the year and its total fleet has now reached 29 aircraft.

“The new service will help boost both tourism and business between the two counties,” flydubai chief executive officer, Ghaith Al Ghaith said on Tuesday at a news conference ahead of the flight landing in Dushanbe. “We will consider adding capacity, depending on the success of our route and demand,” Al Ghaith told Khaleej Times at the news conference.

Talking about the new flight, he said: “It’s within our geographical reach. We can see the opportunity to connect more people to our country for business and tourism as Dubai is the hub for these. There is not enough flight between the two countries so we are making the relationship stronger.”

Return fares to Dushanbe start at Dh2,000 while return fares to Dubai from Dushanbe start at $ 545, inclusive of 20kg checked baggage, 7kg hand baggage plus one small laptop bag or handbag and taxes.

The start of services to Dushanbe ends a busy month for flydubai during which the airline also began flights to Mineralnye Vody, Russia, and the South Sudanese capital, Juba. The Dubai carrier operates across the Middle East, Southeast Europe, Russia & Ukraine, Central Asia, Subcontinent and North & East Africa. Russia and the CIS region are the most important sectors for flydubai and that’s the reason the carrier doubled its network. The airline also announced start of cargo services to Moscow.

Last year was the most important year for flydubai as it was its first full year of profitability. It also carried more than 5 million passengers during 2012. This year is going to be another important year as the Dubai carrier is expected to announce a fresh 50 aircraft order during the forthcoming Dubai airshow in November.

Back to top

Dubai to Host 13th Airport Show

Gulf Today – 01 May, 2013 – Dubai is once again setting its sights high, placing itself among the world’s major air-travel hubs. A promising $90 billion of investments is expected to keep fuelling the aviation industry until 2020, pointing to a blockbuster decade.

The industry’s unprecedented boom is reflected in the 13th Airport Show, which will take place from May 6-8 in Dubai. According to Reed Exhibitions, organiser of the event, the show has not only been sold out weeks ahead of its opening date, but has also seen remarkable growth in exhibition space, number of Hosted Buyers and pre-registered participants.

This year’s show will occupy a gross 11,000 square metres and will host 201 exhibitors, 6 country pavilions and 56 high-ranking Hosted Buyers coming from Iran, Turkey, Jordan, Kuwait, Tunisia, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq and India. The event has also recorded a 65 per cent increase in visitor pre-registrations from last year.

Khalifa Al Zaffin, Executive Chairman of Dubai Aviation City Corporation, said, “The aviation industry has been gaining quite a lot of knowledge and expertise at the show. All companies that participate in the show have an opportunity to work with us. Moreover, we also help open the door for them to expand their presence across the region, not just in the UAE. The industry can take advantage of the show’s depth in terms of participation from leading aviation suppliers and manufacturers worldwide to identify and adopt the best of what the industry has to offer to support the aviation development programmes.”

Dubai’s consolidating position as the regional business hub, asserts Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General of Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) and CEO of Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), is a strong factor behind the success of several industry exhibitions with stronger growth each passing year.

He said, “The continual growth of Dubai International Airport has been fundamental to both the success of the city’s tourism industry and the story of the Emirate itself. Therefore, Dubai is a natural location for the hosting of the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia’s (Menasa) premier airport show. Industry leading events such as this are vital components of DWTC’s annual calendar and demonstrate the city’s position as the premier trade and tourism hub of the region. We look forward to hosting the show and to taking a glimpse into the future of the aviation industry.”

This year, the Airport Show will introduce two new features, the Airport Passenger Experience, an airport terminal-format zone offering a ‘touch and feel’ of the airport of the future, and the Global Airport Leaders’ Forum (GALF), an international conference aiming to create a platform where industry experts and thought-leaders can share knowledge and expertise to address issues of common interest.

Daniyal Qureshi, Event Director, The Airport Show, explained the good response to the show. He said, “We feel there is a positive sentiment across the aviation industry since several airport developments have been announced in the region in the past 18 months. Mega-projects that had slowed down are picking up pace again. International suppliers are looking to the region, so massive airport upgrades are necessary to meet the fleet and aircraft upgrades.”

A new report from Amadeus Air Traffic Travel Intelligence solution reveals that the Middle East’s three key airports – Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi – are all experiencing strong overall air traffic growth of around 10 per cent per annum, with very high levels of connecting traffic.

Dubai International Airport is the fastest growing airport in the world, as measured by annual seat capacity growth, according to OAG, the market leader in aviation intelligence. The Middle Eastern hub has been increasing capacity by an average of 12 per cent per year since 2004.

Back to top

Call to promote Islamic economies as alternative to financial order

Oman Daily Observer – 02 May, 2013 – At a time when the world economy in general and the European economies in particular are deteriorating and their financial crises are far from over, scholars had better focus on Islamic economics as the best alternative to the ailing international financial order. This was the gist of the speeches of some of the speakers at the second edition of the Oman Islamic Economic Forum 2013 (May 1-2) that began here yesterday under the auspices of Hamoud bin Sangour al Zadjali, Executive President, Central Bank of Oman.

As many as 30 speakers in the event’s line up seek to provide deeper insights into Islamic values to drive business, social and economic growth in the world. In his opening speech, Khalid Hilal Alyahmadi, Chairman, Amjaad Development, said, “As the global economy continues to struggle amid one of the worst financial crises in recent history, the call for an alternative way of conducting financial activity has progressively become louder. In an interconnected world, the financial markets have become somewhat of an international casino for the elite, where millions are made and lost in a zero sum game, paying scant attention to the disastrous effects these speculative activities have on society”.

Addressing a huge gathering of distinguished audience, Alyahmadi said, “The current financial crisis was driven by greed and there is no doubt that there is a need for an alternative financial system, one in which ethics and justice form the foundation. The Glorious Quran and Sunnah have much to offer the world in terms of providing the building blocks of a just and ethical society. Over the past few decades the profound Shariah principles have been re-examined and reapplied in the context of the contemporary Islamic finance industry, which has experienced a phenomenal growth as a result”. During the past two years Islamic banking has seen a worldwide growth rate of 30 per cent, amounting to $ 1.7 trillion, he added.

Oman Establishment for Press, Publication and Advertising (OEPPA) is the main sponsor of the event. Raja Dr Nazrin Shah, Crown Prince of Perak, Malaysia and Financial ambassador of Malaysia International Islamic Financial Centre (MIFC) said this is a highly opportune time to research and show how Islamic economic principles can address issues of the world economy and lauded Oman’s move towards Islamic banking since May 2011.

Experts at the conference said the global economic order needs drastic changes. The present economic crisis is due to the capitalist system; it is important to see interest rates as the biggest and most fundamental problem of the capitalist system. Economic programmes based on Islamic principles offered the way out because the world is looking for fairer values that conspicuous by their absence in the capitalist system. The world system based on usury is fast collapsing, proving its failure.

Hamood bin Sangour al Zadjali, the CBO Chief, underlined the need for Islamic banks to offer finance to small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The SMEs need access to Islamic finance and Oman’s newly established Islamic banks and windows can fill this need, he added. The two-day event, organised by Amjaad Development, will highlight the importance of Islamic investment capital in boosting research and development projects. It will discuss small and medium project ventures and ways to ensure that university institutions develop curricula that create dynamism among individuals in keeping with Islamic principles.

The OIEF 2013 is a gathering of policy makers, scholars and practitioners committed to the promotion of Islamic finance in Oman and the international markets.

Back to top

Global Islamic financial assets to hit $ 1.8 trillion

Oman Daily Observer – 02 May, 2013 – The size of Islamic financial assets is forecast to reach $ 1.8 trillion in 2016, while the financing and investment activities are expected to accelerate, especially in the Islamic capital markets as emerging economies embark on infrastructure spending. This was stated by an expert at the two-day Oman Islamic Economic Forum 2013. The forum in its second edition is organised by Amjad Development at Al Bustan Palace Hotel under the auspices of Dr Yahya bin Mahfoudh al Mantheri, Chairman of the State Council.

The forum shed light on various aspects of Islamic finance, Islamic banking, Takaful insurance, Zakat, Awqaf, alimonies, perfection of work, development of Islamic banking to finance the public sector and infrastructure projects, development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the human resources. Speaking to the reporters, Al Mantheri said that Islamic banking has started taking shape in the Sultanate with the establishment of Bank Nizwa and the opening of Islamic windows by traditional banks.

He said that Islamic banking is witnessing remarkable growth in different parts of the world and that the industry is worth over $ 1.5 trillion. The figure reflects the fact that there is a global trend towards Islamic banking. The co-operation of Islamic countries in developing the mechanisms of Islamic banking will have a positive effect on the growth of the industry in the world including the Sultanate. Speaking on the occasion, Hamood bin Sanjour al Zadjali, Executive President of the Central Bank of Oman, said the holding of the conference coincides with the launch of Islamic banking in Oman.

He added that in response to the Royal directives of Sultan Qaboos regarding the development of SMEs, it is expected that the Islamic banks would provide suitable financial support for SMEs and entrepreneurs. Banks will provide them with innovative Sharia compatible solutions that meet their needs. Khalid bin Hilal al Yahmadi, Chairman of Amjad Development Company, said that the Islamic banking industry posted more than 30 per cent growth in the last two years. He added that this high growth ushers well for the industry in the coming years.

He also emphasised the need to keep pace with this growth by developing existing human resources and ensuring sound utilisation of the available resources. Al Yahmadi added that the conference will include a panel discussion on education, technology, morals and their role in economy, especially in the light of employment challenges. Raja Nazarin Shah, Crown Prince of Perak in Malaysia and Financial Ambassador of the Malaysia International Islamic Financial Centre (MIFC), in his address said that over the last 30 years, the relations between Oman and Malaysia have grown in key areas including education, culture, business and trade.

He said that the Sultanate seeks to achieve the aims of its Vision 2020, as it is the case with Malaysia which has its vision 2020. He said that bilateral trade between the Sultanate and Malaysia stood at $ 740 million in 2011, a substantial increase from $ 265 million in 2010. Raja added that the Islamic finance industry has registered an impressive annualised growth of almost 15 per cent over the past 10-15 years to reach $ 1.3 trillion globally. While this growth has been achieved primarily in Muslim-majority countries, an increasing number of non-Muslim countries have also been developing their Islamic finance industry, including the United Kingdom, Luxembourg and Hong Kong.

Back to top

Khoja opens ’25 Years of Arab Creativity’ exhibition

Saudi Gazette – 02 May, 2013 – Minister of Culture and Information, Dr. Abdulaziz Khoja, opened the Paris based Institute of Arab World exhibition entitled: “25 Years of Arab Creativity” here Sunday night. The opening took place at the presence of Jack Lang, President of the Institute du Monde Arabe in Paris, the Director General of the Institute, Mona Khazindar, German Ambassador to Riyadh, Dieter W. Haller, large audience of admirers of art works, and media people.

The exhibition displays 29 paining arts and metal works made by artists from many Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia. Organized at Naila Gallery here in Riyadh, near Euromarche mall, at Al Takhasosi Street, the exhibition will stay open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., until Friday.

“These paintings represent a panorama of the Arab creativity in paining arts in Europe during the past 25 years. They were first displayed at the Institute in Paris in October 2012, to mark the 25 anniversary of the Institute, and stayed open there until early February 2013. And then it moved for a month, and now it is in Riyadh for a week, and later it will move to Bahrain.

Naifa Al Faiz, the owner of the Naila Gallery, the event host, told Saudi Gazette that the gallery is honored for hosting this exhibition of marking the 25 anniversary of the Institute here. “This brings to light the long and established cultural relations between France and the Kingdom,” she said.

Naila Gallery is a private institution founded in 2012 in Riyadh with the aim of bringing light on emerging and established local and international artists by providing them a platform to exhibit their creative works in order to stimulate discovery, knowledge, and appreciation of arts.

Institute du Monde Arabe, the organizer, is non-for-profit cultural and educational institution found in 1980 in partnership between each of French government and some Arab counties in Paris. The purpose was to promote the culture of each other for better understanding and cultural development.

Back to top

Algeria Reports Big Increase In Olive, Citrus Production

ALGIERS, April 30 (NNN-APS) — Olive and citrus production increased significantly in Algeria during the 2012-2013 crop season, compared with the previous one, according to a report from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Olive production reached 5.8 million quintals (580,000 tons) during the 2012-2013 harvest season, against 3.92 million quintals in 2011-2012, or an increase of 47 per cent, according to the figures provided by the Ministry in its quarterly assessment report on the performance contracts for agricultural and rural development.

Meanwhile, citrus production hit 10.3 million quintals during the season, which is still continuing, against 9.3 million quintals in 2011-2012 and a target of 10.9 million quintals.
The province of Blida, about 50 km south of Algier), which accounts for one third of the national citrus production, achieved 15 per cent of its objectives.

Back to top

Yemen To Participate In Arab Travel Market In Dubai

SANA’A, Yemen, May 2 (NNN-SABA) – Yemen is to participate in the Arab Travel Market (ATM) scheduled for the Emirate of Dubai during the period May 6-9.

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

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

Back to top

Int’l Conf on “Exploring New Cultural Horizons For Tourism” in Bahrain

Kuwait News Agency – 29 April, 2013 – Deputy Premier Sheikh Mohammad bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa kicked off on Sunday a key international conference under the theme “Exploring New Cultural Horizons for Tourism.” Sheikh Mohammad said in the opening speech, that such conference is tremendously important through presenting ideas to support tourism and culture exchange amid development of the concept of cultural tourism.

The role of government is also vital in this regard to achieve a sustained tourism development, being the cornerstone to boost the Gross Domestic Product, Sheikh Mohammad said. The Ministry of Culture is organizing the three-day event at the Bahrain National Amphitheatre in cooperation with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Ministers, (UNWTO) representatives, experts, economic figures, diplomats and tourism investors are attending the event, being held as part of Manama Capital of Arab Tourism 2013.

The deputy premier minister also pointed out Bahrain’s efforts to promote the exhibition industry and encourage forums and conferences, stressing the instrumental importance of such events in promoting cultural tourism.

For her part, Bahraini Culture Minister Sheikha Mai bint Mohammad Al-Khalifa said, in a similar speech, said that the conference is also important because it connects culture and tourism together.

Back to top

Dubai Airport’s upgraded Terminal 2 opens

Khaleej Times – 29 April, 2013 – Dubai International Airport will open the doors to its upgraded Terminal 2, which will boost its capacity by 50 per cent from the current level beginning today.

At present, more than 50 airlines operate out of Terminal 2. Recent expansions and refurbishments have increased its annual capacity to five million passengers from three million, which will reach 7.5 million passengers with today’s opening of the upgraded area.

The increased capacity will further help Dubai International to become the world’s busiest airport for international passengers soon. The airport is currently ranked No. 2.

Terminal 2 is home to Dubai’s budget airline flydubai, which launched operations on June 1, 2009. At the moment, the low-cost carrier accounts for around 80 per cent of the total passengers at the terminal. Inaugurated on May 1, 1998, to alleviate congestion at Terminal 1, Terminal 2 caters to scheduled, charter and special interest flights during special occasions. The first of a three-phase expansion planned for Terminal 2 include the introduction of a new 200 metre-long, 90 metre-wide main hall that will increase the size of the terminal to almost 600,000 metres. New baggage handling facilities have also been added.

The Terminal 2 building as a whole will be modernised in stages to meet the urgent needs and the steady increase in the number of passengers through this terminal, especially flydubai passengers.

Flydubai touches more than 60 destinations and operates more than 1,000 flights per week. The budget carrier carried 5.1 million passengers in 2012.

Operator Dubai Airports has already announced its plan for refurbishment of Dubai International’s Terminal 1 and the new facility will provide passengers with improved service and accessibility.

The refurbishment of Terminal 1 includes more efficient and streamlined baggage screening in the departures hall, the replacement of all check-in desks, upgrade of baggage systems and the modernisation of all public areas. The upgrade is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

Back to top

Lagos to Develop More Wildlife Parks

Premium Times, 30 April 2013 – Ashamu Fadipe, the Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Tourism and Intergovernmental Relations, said the state government will soon develop more wildlife parks. HE said in Lagos that the location of the parks was being looked into.

“To develop parks of high magnitude, particularly on the island, we need a lot of research work, particularly on the eco-system. You cannot bring an animal into a place that is not conducive, so researchers are working on it presently and as soon as that is done the projects will take off,” he said.

Mr. Fadipe added that state government had also resolved to complete the Tenkunle Island Wildlife Park in Lekki. “The government needs to finish the Tenkunle Island Wildlife Park in no distance time,” he said. He said that the park would consist of gorillas, tigers, monkeys, elephants and other animals. He added that the ministry was discussing with some South African experts on how the animals would be transported to Lagos.

Back to top

Supporting Tourism in Togo As a Tool for Development

29 April 2013 – UNDP – Lomé — Through diversifying destinations and boosting tourist arrivals, tourism in developing countries can contribute to poverty reduction as it offers significant opportunities for employment creation, local economic development and integration into the international market.

The West African nation of Togo is aiming to increase the contribution of tourism to its national economy from two percent to seven percent by 2020, with the support of the United Nations.

The Togolese Government has formulated a master plan for tourism development to provide a coherent framework for mid-term goals and activities, ultimately aimed at boosting the country’s tourism industry and improving employment opportunities.

“This is something tangible,” Togo’s Minister of Tourism, Christophe Tchao, said during a launch ceremony for the plan, together with, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in Togo, Khardiata Lo N’Diaye, and in the presence of the Minister of Planning, Development and Territorial Development, Mawussi Djossou Semondji.

UNDP will contribute to the master plan as part of its support for government’s strategy for accelerated growth and promotion of employment.

“Tourism is essential for the Togolese economy. Togo has real potential and can reach the position it held several years ago,” Ms. Lo N’Diaye said.

Tourism in Togo has high growth potential. In 2011, the country received 325,633 tourists who generated income of nearly CFA franc 20 billion (approx. US$40 million).

At nearly two percent of the gross national product, this income is similar to the rest of the West African Economic and Monetary Union, according to the Togolese ministry of tourism.

To be kick-started by the UN World Tourism Organization over the next 10 months, the first stages of the tourism master plan will involve a detailed situation analysis of Togo’s current tourism services and the development of and a long-term implementation strategy, including recommended strategic directions and cost estimates for activities to be implemented by 2018.

The budget for this 15-year sustainable development project is US$450,000, with US$319,000 contributed by UNDP and US$131,000 by the Togolese government.

It will help integrate tourism into the broader development agenda and build the country’s competitive advantage – important given the World Tourism Organization estimates that by 2020 there will be 1.6 billion international tourist arrivals worldwide, with Africa expected to see 75 million of them.

Back to top

Tsogo Sun Channels US$100 Million to Nigeria, Mozambique Hotel Expansion

1 May 2013 – This Day – Tsogo Sun Group has announced that it will invest $100 million (R900 million) in two exciting hotel projects in Mozambique and Nigeria in line with its growth strategy.

According to Tsogo Sun the group will spend $30 million (R270 million) to expand its hotel in Mozambique, the Southern Sun Maputo in complete refurbishment of the existing 158 room hotel.

The company said the current investment effort will include the enhancement of bedrooms and public areas as well as an expansion of the restaurant; introduction of additional 110 new hotel rooms as well as new conferencing facilities. It said the expansion takes advantage of the unique location of the hotel, extending along the beachfront on the Avenida de Marginal.

According to the Chief Executive Officer of Tsogo Sun, Marcel von Aulock : “The Mozambican economy has shown encouraging signs of growth in recent years, and Tsogo Sun has benefited from a strong trading performance at the Southern Sun Maputo. The Group has for some time been planning to utilize the additional land owned next to the hotel and believe that this exciting expansion programme will cement the Southern Sun Maputo as the destination hotel of choice in the city.”

He noted that the project in Nigeria involves the acquisition of an approximate 75 per cent stake in Ikoyi Hotels Limited, the holding company of the Southern Sun Ikoyi hotel in Lagos Nigeria.

The company explained that the hotel has been managed by the Group for the original developers since opening in 2009. The Group’s expected investment, including loan funding, is approximately $70 million (R630 million). The acquisition is subject to several conditions precedent including regulatory approvals. Shareholders will be notified once these have been fulfilled and the Acquisition becomes effective. The Acquisition is not a categorized transaction in terms of the Listings Requirements of the JSE Limited.

The Southern Sun Ikoyi hotel is centrally located with convenient access to prime business nodes in Lagos and comprises 195 guest rooms and suites, a restaurant, business centre as well as meeting room facilities. The hotel also has additional land available for future expansion.

“This acquisition will cement our presence within the fast growing and progressive Nigerian economy as well as provide a base from which to expand our operations in Nigeria.The investments totaling $100 million will be funded through a combination of existing offshore cash and new United States dollar-based borrowing facilities,” said Von Aulock.

Tsogo Sun operates hotels in seven African countries including South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria and the Seychelles.

Back to top

Gambia: CPA Trains Tourist Guides, Others On Child Protection

2 May 2013 – The Point – As part of their mandate in raising public awareness on child rights and protection-related issues, Child Protection Alliance (CPA), in collaboration with the Gambia Tourism Board (GTB), recently held a daylong sensitization training for tourist guides and security from the child welfare unit.

Held at the Baobab Lodge at Bijilo, the training addressed the topic of “Child Protection in Tourism and the Tourism Offences Act 2003.”

The workshop, funded by ECPAT Netherlands, brought together 30 participants from the Official Tourist Guides and the Tourism Security Unit.

The training aimed at capacitating participants as they deal directly with the tourists thus helping them understand the Act and how to protect children from being victims of child abusers.

Speaking earlier, Mustapha Jobe, president of the Tourist Guides Association, highlighted the importance of the collaboration between the tour guides and security officers, as this will contribute meaningfully to the fight against Child Sex Tourism in The Gambia.

He thanked CPA for organizing the training which, he said, is not the first time as there were similar capacity building workshops held in the past geared towards the protection of children from sexual abuse and exploitation in the tourism industry in particular.

For his part, Mr Njundu Drammeh, national coordinator of CPA, said it is one of the initiatives of CPA that it does, in partnership with the Gambia Tourism Board to mainstream all relevant stakeholders in the crusade to end child sexual abuse and exploitation in tourism.

He highlighted the important role played by tourist guides, whom he said are the main contact of tourists whenever they enter and wherever they are going to in the country. Mr Drammeh urged the participants to be mindful of how they deal with tourists, especially when it comes to the protection of children.

He said a lot of tourists are genuine but that there are few who are only interested in exploiting the poor economic situation of The Gambia by engaging in sexual relationship with the country’s minors.

He commended the government’s stance in protecting children. This, he said, is manifested through the enactment of the Tourism Offences Act in 2003 and the Children’s Act in 2005 and several other initiatives such as the formation of the Tourism Security Unit to protect the interest of The Gambia in the Tourism Development Area.

Declaring the official opening of the forum, Ousman Kebbeh of the Gambia Tourism Board highlighted the work the CPA has been doing in collaboration with the Gambia Tourism Board and other partners over the years to ensure The Gambia remains a tourist paradise and”our children also remain safe and free from abuse”.

He reminded officers of the Tourism Security Unit and members of the Official Tourist Guides that they have a key role to play in the protection of children as they know all parts of the country, and tourists who want to engage in exploiting children are likely to use them to get to children.

Mr Kebbeh emphasised GTB’s commitment to working with all relevant stakeholders in the tourism industry to strengthen the collaboration in ensuring that children are safe while safeguarding The Gambia’s interest as a leading tourist destination.

Back to top

Gambia Tourist Board Organises Food & Beverage Festival

29 April 2013 – The Daily Observer – The Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard) in collaboration with a number of stakeholders such as: GHA; Chef’s Association of the Gambia; TTAG; GTHI; NCAC; Teranga Beach Club; Green-Technologies or Green Mamba, on Satuday organised a food and beverage festival.

Sponsorsed by Banjul Breweries and Africell, the three-day festival brought together families, friends and tourists to enjoy and celebrate the first-ever food and beverage festival 2013, held at the Teranga Beach Club. The festival is a pilot project intended to be staged twice in a year, in April to commemorate the beginning of the green season, and in November to usher in the main season.

Benjamin A Roberts, director general of GTBoard, expressed delight for this special festival while thanking all the collaborators and sponsors for making it a successful event. According to him, the idea of the event is to introduce a new product that would diversify and enhance the existing tourism products in The Gambia. Roberts believes that the event would give Gambians the opportunity to enjoy themselves with their families and loved ones, as it is another dimension of bringing everyone together.

He noted that GTBoard wants to replicate in The Gambia some good events happening in other countries. DG Roberts revealed that the country and the industry in particular, plan to, in the next three years starting now, provide avenues for tourists for any international forum and conference. He commended the organisers and expressed his satisfaction with the outcome, while calling on more people and sponsors to come forward during the main season’s celebration later this year.

The GTBoard boss also called on stakeholders to come out in their numbers to join the board for the celebration in order to develop this new product and enhance the tourism industry in The Gambia. “Hence the industry is an important contributor to the development of the national economy, and helping us reach our Vision 2020 objective of having half a million tourists coming to The Gambia, everyone needs to support it,” he urged.

The festival attracted a lot of people that stormed the venue with their families, friends and loved ones to enjoy the different varieties of local cuisines. It was also puntuated by musical performances by the likes of Poco Loco Band, Kabakel Cultural Groups among others.

Back to top

Uganda: Cultural Hiking Challenge On

Kampala, Uganda – 29 April 2013 – East African Business Week — Busoga tourism Initiative has organized Kagulu hill climbing tour event aimed at promoting tourism in the Busoga region. According to the coordinator of (BTI) Hon Edward Balidawa Kagulu hill is one of the tourist sites in the region but this has not been exploited by many tourist sector players in the country.

“This climbing event will awaken many tour operators to start taking their visitors in return we expect the community to benefit from the event” he said.

Balidawa observed that promoting tourism sector in the region has the capacity to improve on the local communities’ well fare as well as encouraging people to conserve their culture and through such cultures the local communities can earn living. After the Kagulu Hill climbing challenge which is slated for 10-11 / May 2013 the initiative will also embark on promoting Busoga culture as tourism asset.

Balidawa revealed that the organizer are receiving positive response to the climbing challenge he said they have registered more than 9000 climbers who are willing to participate in the challenge. Kagulu hill is 3000 meters above sea level located on the shores of lake Kyoga. It is located in in the current Buyende District Busoga region in Eastern Uganda about 174 kilometers East of Kampala city.

Back to top

Solar power lights up slum in Rajshahi city, Bangladesh

RAJSHAHI, April 26, 2013 (BSS)- Slum dwellers city are going to avail the privileges of improved housing and solar street light in the city for their livelihood improvement. AHM Khairuzzaman Liton, Mayor of Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC), revealed this while distributing bank cheques worth Taka 2.52 crore for eco-friendly infrastructural improvement for the slum communities.

Urban Partnership for Poverty Reduction Project (UPPRP) organized the distribution programme held at Moonlight Garden Auditorium here on Thursday afternoon. All 11 cluster chairmen and 26 leaders of Community Development Committees of UPPRP received the money for implementation of the scheme.

Officials said around 2,200 slum dwellers will get improved housing facilities and around two lakh poor and underprivileged population will derive solar street light amenities with the disbursed money.

Local Government Engineering Department has been implementing the project in the city with financial support from UNDP in association with UKaid and UNHabitat. The seven-year programme is being implemented with the main thrust of elevating the living and livelihood condition of around two lakh poor and extreme poor people, especially women and girls, through multifarious interventions in the city by 2015.

The programme promotes household and community level urban food production technology demonstrations, provides small input supports especially high yielding variety vegetable and fruits seeds, saplings and poultry vaccination. By dint of the financial support, Mayor Liton said the community people have become involved in different income-generation activities.

“Everywhere in the slum and other disadvantaged areas a positive change is being witnessed among the organized women and children,” he added. Mayor Liton urged all concerned to maintain hundred percent transparency and accountability so that the target group of people can derive total benefits of the scheme.

With Ward Councilor of RCC Masuda Mollik in the chair, social leader Shaheen Akhter Rainy, Panel Mayor Shariful Islam Babu, Councilors Shahidul Islam Pintu and Sufiya Hassan and UPPRP Town Manager Ershadul Haque also spoke on the occasion.

Back to top

3-day ‘Showcase Malaysia’ in Dhaka from May 23

DHAKA, April 27, 2013 (BSS) – A three-day trade exhibition titled “Showcase Malaysia 2013” will begin here on May 23 with an objective to connect strong network among the business communities through the bilateral chamber MBCCI.

About 40 representatives from Malaysian companies including manufacturers, exporters, traders, educational institutions and service providers like telecommunication, banking, insurance, information technology, tourism and healthcare will take part in the show.

“Showcase Malaysia will further strengthen and expand the existing collaboration and partnership in trade and investment between Malaysia and Bangladesh,” Syed Nurul Islam, President of Bangladesh-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BMCCI), told a press briefing at a city hotel today.

Malaysian High Commissioner in Dhaka Norlin Binti Othman, immediate past president of MBCCI Syed Moazzam Hossain and Matiul Islam Nowshad, Chief Human Resource Officer of Robi Axiata Limited, title Sponsor of the event, addressed the press conference.

Islam said MBCCI in collaboration with Malaysian High Commission in Dhaka and Bangladesh High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is organizing the single country event.

The chamber president said the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) and Malaysia South-South Association (MASSA) supported the trade show, third of its kind.

“We are expecting 15,000 visitors will visit this three-day exhibition,” he added.

The showcase Malaysia will provide a great avenue to attract large number of businessmen, visitors and professionals and is expected to achieve its purpose to project Malaysia as the preferred destination for higher education, healthcare, tourism, property investment, automobiles, construction, building materials, petroleum explosion, banking and financial services and business, organizers said.

Back to top

MPs favour increasing budget for rural infrastructure

DHAKA, April 28, 2013 (BSS) – Lawmakers at a pre-budget meeting today suggested allocating necessary funds in the upcoming budget for the fiscal year 2013-14 for rural infrastructure development, especially for completion of all under implementation development projects.

The MPs also suggested giving the education minister fund for bringing more educational institutions under the monthly payment order (MPO).

They also requested the finance minister to keep necessary allocations in the upcoming budget for implementation of pledges the individual MPs made for the development of their respective constituencies.

During the meeting the finance minister told the lawmakers that rail connectivity, gender budgeting, poverty elimination and social safety net will be focused in the next budget. About the MPO, the finance minister said the education minister will be given budgetary allocation and it would decide whether it would bring more education institutions under MPO or not.

Reiterating his plan to increase budgetary allocation for the development of railway connectivity, Muhith said the government has attached priority to expanding the rail connectivity to ease load on road network.

Earlier, the finance minister said the government is considering allocation of Tk 3,000 crore for the development of rail sector.

He said the size of the next Annual Development Programme (ADP) will be around Tk 65,000 while Tk 5,000 crore will be allocated for the Padma Bridge project, he said, adding that appointment of consultant for the project will be finalized in the meeting of the cabinet committee on purchase tomorrow (Monday). Tenders are likely to be invited in the first week of May, he told journalists.

As a part of the effort towards bringing reforms in the existing budget management system, Muhith told MPs that the ministry has initiated necessary measures for formulating the district level budget. As part of this initiative, budget will be prepared for seven districts for the fiscal year 2013-14, he added.

About the repairing of roads, culverts and other rural infrastructures, the finance minister said the LGRD ministry has already been given funds for these purposes.

During the meeting, the lawmakers also requested the finance minister to take steps for releasing budgetary allocations immediately after the budget announcement so that the ongoing projects could be implemented timely.

Stressing the need for giving industrial sector priority for providing gas and electricity connections than household consumers, they said the government would have to ensure supply of gas and electricity for uninterrupted industrial production.

Back to top

Bangladesh plans e-commerce fair in London in July

DHAKA, May 2, 2013 (BSS)- Government is planning to organise an e-Commerce Fair in London from July 6-8 to create opportunities for showcasing Bangladeshi e-Commerce services and products.

In line with the Digital Bangladesh vision, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is going to organise the e-Commerce Fair in London in collaboration with Bangladesh High Commission in the United Kingdom (UK) and Computer Jagot.

A preparatory meeting on the said fair was held today at the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) with its Secretary Md. Nazrul Islam Khan (N I Khan) in the chair.

“Bangladesh for the first time is going to organise e-Commerce fair in a foreign country aimed at making expatriates Bangladeshis and foreigners know about the opportunities that might be created through extending the use of services and products, said N I Khan.

He said the potential entrepreneurs of Bangladesh and UK will get the opportunity to showcase their respective products and services. N I Khan said though late, the government has already opened e-Payment gateway for paving the way for bringing money from outside country without hassle. But, more is to be done by the authorities to break barriers on way to flourishment e-Commerce, he added.

The meeting was attended among others by Executive Director of Bangladesh Computer Council (BCC) S. M. Ashfaque, Additional Secretary of Ministry of ICT Kamal Uddin, General Secretary of Bangladesh Computer Samity Md. Shahid-UL- Munir and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Computer Jagot Abdul Wahed Tomal.

The meeting decided to talk to organisations like Bangladesh Bank (BB) and Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) to involve them with the initiative. Abdul Wahed Tomal said more than 80,000 visitors are expected to visit the fair.

Back to top

Giza Plateau cleaned of garbage and dung

Nevine El-Aref, 28 Apr 2013 – Al-Ahram – A private company is now cleaning Giza Plateau, the world famous archaeological site, removing garbage accumulated in the area and attempting to recapture its serenity. Visitors to the plateau, where the three pyramids of ancient Egyptian kings Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure are located, along with the Sphinx, will be pleasantly surprised with the change.

Due to a lack of security and the absence of police on the plateau, the site, like other archaeological sites, was subject to encroachment. Horse and camel owners violated the law and entered the archaeological safe zone in an attempt to find clients. Animal dung also became a problem and is being cleared from the site.

After the revolution, the number of tourists to Egypt has decreased, leading to greater competition in the Egyptian tourism trade.

Aly El-Asfar, director general of Upper Egypt monuments, told Ahram Online that the private company won a bid launched by the tourism ministry to help in preserving the plateau from urban encroachment. The company is using state-of-the-art machines to collect the dung and is recycling other garbage.

A collection of garbage baskets made of stone, similar to the plateau’s bed rock, were installed in different locations on the site.

“Finally, the plateau has regained some of its respect, and I hope that this company will continue its success in keeping the plateau hygienic,” said El-Asfar.

Back to top

Indonesia’s Sebatik Island sees high potential for palm oil investment

Sun, April 28 2013 Nunukan, North Kalimantan (ANTARA News) – Sebatik Island in Nunukan District, North Kalimantan, has the potential for investors to develop palm oil processing factories as the area has about 8,000 hectares of oil palm plantations, local entrepreneur H Herman said. “The people of Sebatik Island need palm oil factories to process the commodity as the region has at least 8,000 hectares of plantation,” he said here on Sunday.

Since there is no investor willing to develop business in the sector, oil palm farmers sell the commodity to Tawau in the Malaysian state of Sabah, he said. “We are forced to sell our palm product to Tawau because the island does not have palm processing factory,” said Herman who has successfully developed Sebatik Island by creating oil palm plantations.

According to him, currently, former Nunukan district head Abdul Hafid is constructing an oil palm processing plant in Bambangan Village, West Sebatik Sub-district. “We hope the factory can accommodate the island`s oil palm production,” Herman said.

However, he doubted the factory can accommodate oil palm production from all of the 8,000 hectares of plantation in Sebatik.

He said the factory will have small production capacity although palm oil production from the island keeps increasing. “It is not enough to have one processing plant particularly when all plantations here have produced palm oil. So we need another processing factory,” Herman said.

It is likely that foreign and domestic investors are unwilling to build palm oil processing plants due to inadequate power supplies, he said.

Back to top

Indonesian coffee producers participate in London festival

Tue, April 30 2013 London (ANTARA News) – Some Indonesian coffee producers have participated in London Coffee Festival (LCF) held at The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, here, April 25 to 28, 2013.

Trade Attache of the Indonesian Embassy in London Merry Maryati said here on Tuesday, Indonesia was one of the world`s biggest coffee producers in the LCF that brought some special coffees like Flores coffee from Bajawa, Flores, East Nusa Tenggara and Baliem Coffee from Papua as well as other various of robusta and arabica types.

“This is the first time that Indonesia joined the LCF which was supported by the agriculture ministry and the Indonesian embassy in London and was participated in by PT Kopi Kamu, PT Wahana Pronatural, PT Coffindo, and PT Bandar Kopi,” she said.

Those producers were also brought Gayo coffee (Aceh), Limtong coffee (Sumatera), Toraja coffee (Sulawesi), Java Preanger (Java), Kintamani coffee (Bali), and Luwak coffee. “We brought sealed powder coffee, roasted bean and green been of the various types,” she said.

Maryati added through the LCF, hopefully the Indonesian coffee producers would reach wider market and build networking and partnership in the coffee industry. “Further, we hope Indonesia could increase the coffee exports to UK, and promote various types of Indonesian coffee to global market,” she said.

The LCF was the flagship event of UK Coffee Week and celebrates London`s bustling and vibrant coffee scene that participated by over 15,000 coffee lovers and foodies, professional baristas (coffee makers), coffee shop owners and top decision-makers in coffee industries.

The festival was featured artisan coffee and gourmet food stalls, tastings, demonstrations from world-class baristas, live entertainment and music in the uniquely themed zones.

Back to top

OIC Initiates Student Exchange Program for Muslim World

IslamOnline – The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is working toward its goal of an Educational Exchange Program that spans the Muslim world, according to a spokesman.

The OIC has announced the start of the programme that will ultimately facilitate scholarships, faculty exchanges, collaboration on distance learning methods and research projects among its 57 member countries spread over four continents.

The OIC is the second largest inter-governmental organisation after the United Nations, and upon full realization, the exchange program promises to be the largest inthe world.

“It all started with the recommendation that we should have a counterpart to Erasmus,” Mohammad Kamran Akhtar, director at the O.I.C.’s Department of Science and Technology, said by telephone, referring to the exchange program of the European Union.

The OIC announced 10 new scholarship positions at the University of Kuala Lumpur last month, and 25 fully subsidized training spots in Malaysia this month.

There are also about 50 subsidized post-graduate spots at the Comsats Institute of Information Technology in Pakistan and pledged spots in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan that have not been finalized, according Mr. Akhtar. Turkey is also poised to offer scholarships.

The Exchange Program is to be fully operational by 2015, where it should span the OIC member states. “We are not just focused on scholarships but also exchange of researchers and faculty,” Mr. Akhtar said.

The organization is also looking to provide academic exchange links with non-OIC countries. “We hope that the Program can be helpful in going beyond purely inter-governmental efforts to promote dialogue among civilizations,” Mr. Akhtar said.

Back to top

Canada Muslims Fulfill Mosque Dream

IslamOnline – VANCOUVER – Fulfilling a long awaited dream, Muslims in North Vancouver are preparing for the inauguration of their first mosque in the city, breathing a new life in their society and help the Muslim community feel that they are part of the society.

“This is basically the community’s mosque,” Ar-Rahman mosque acting Imam Abu Abdus-Salaam told North Shore News on Sunday, April 28. “It belongs to North Vancouver and everyone’s welcome here.”

Serving the Muslim community in North Vancouver, the mosque is located on the former site of St. Richard’s Anglican Church.

The centre is expected to attract about 100 faithful Muslims for Friday prayers each week after years of offering prayers from rented recreation centers. “We used to be renting beside Capilano University on Friday only. We used to have about 20 guys at the most,” he says. “Now we are having close to 100.”

Neighbors, Muslims, and anyone else with an interest in the mosque will be welcome at the official opening, which is tentatively scheduled for the beginning of May, according to Abdus-Salaam.

“In Islam, there is no membership to any mosque. There is no barrier to anyone. There is no distinction when they come here,” he says. “When we stand there we don’t know who is standing beside us except we know it’s another Muslim. . . . You can be standing, literally beside a beggar, or literally you can be standing next to a billionaire.”

The inauguration followed a year of working on the mosque after purchasing the site for $3.05 million.

Over the past year, the mosque has succeeded in asserting the rights of neighbors, overcoming their worries. “They were a little uneasy at the very beginning because they thought that this would be a lot of high-traffic and a lot congestion and a lot of noise,” he says.

However, with most congregations limited to one hour, there haven’t been any issues with neighbors thus far, he says.

The construction of the mosque was largely the product of extensive Muslim efforts in North Vancouver. “There’s a lot of money, volunteer and effort that was put into it by members of the community,” Abdus-Salaam said. “Had it been a full, professional and business venture, it could’ve been done in a year.”

The new center would offer Muslims the services they have yearned for over the past decades. “Learning takes place here, problems are solved here, conflicts are resolved in this place, people are getting married here, people will be divorced here if they have to according to Islamic law, I mean the Shariah,” Abdus-Salaam said.

There are also plans to attain a funeral home license to conduct funerals at the mosque. “We’re about to secure our own burial plot where Muslims can be buried,” he added.

The mosque may also incorporate a daycare, and plans are underway to build a small playground on its lot. The mosque includes four classrooms as well as a kitchen.

For Muslims, the glass-covered building offers a better opportunity to offer the larger community a transparent view onto Muslim worshipping sites.

“We don’t want people to be passing on the road and say, ‘What goes on within the walls here?’ For those reasons, we make it as transparent as possible,” Abdus-Salaam said.

Muslims make around 1.9 percent of Canada’s 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the Roman Catholic country. A recent survey showed that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian, and that they are more educated than the general population.

Back to top