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10 Jun, 2013

Islamic banks can fund Asian infrastructure needs

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 10 June 2013 (01 Sha’baan 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



Malaysia Organises Aeromeet 2013 To Boost Arrivals From Americas, Europe & Oceania

A group of 67 outbound travel agents and 23 media representatives from the Americas, Europe and Oceania attended AEROMEET 2013, a special event organised by Tourism Malaysia to introduce Malaysia’s tourism products and attractions. “Last year’s EUROMEET 2012 focused only on the European market. This year, in line with the celebration of Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) in 2014, we aim to boost tourist arrivals from Americas, Europe and Oceania markets in order to achieve our target of 28 million tourists next year,” said Director General of Tourism Malaysia Dato’ Mirza Mohammad Taiyab. AEROMEET 2013 comprised of tours and product updates, a travel mart and a travel seminar. The participants, from the USA, Canada, Russia & CIS, Italy, UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Scandinavia & Baltic, Turkey, Germany, Australia and New Zealand, visited the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery, the Royal Selangor Pewter, KLCC, and Batu Caves. They also attended Malaysia’s cultural extravaganza, Colours of 1Malaysia, before proceeding to pre-tours to Taman Negara, Terengganu or Sarawak. On 29 May, the Chairman of Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) Tan Sri Khalid Ramli officially opened the event, followed by a welcome dinner at the Westin Langkawi Beach & Spa Resort. A total of 75 Malaysian sellers, comprising state tourism authorities, inbound tour operators, hotels and airline, participated in the travel mart with AEROMEET buyers. Aeromeet 2013 was supported by the Sarawak Tourism Board, Langkawi Development Authority (LADA), The Royale Chulan Kuala Lumpur, Mutiara Taman Negara, Tanjong Jara Resort, Grand Margherita Hotel, Air Asia X, Berjaya Hotels & Resorts, and Westin Hotel.

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

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

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


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


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

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

Examples of some columns:

Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus: How to Alleviate Poverty and Insecurity

Call for Israeli Apology to Palestinians As a Prelude To Peace

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

“War on Terror” is a War Without End

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

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

Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus: How to Alleviate Poverty and Insecurity




IFC Helps Indonesian Women Coffee Farmers Improve Productivity

Jakarta, Indonesia, June 4, 2013 – (ACN Newswire) – IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and PT Indo CafCo, a subsidiary of global coffee trader ECOM Agroindustrial Corp., have helped hundreds of women coffee farmers in North Sumatra double their farms’ productivity and raise their incomes.

Women make up 80 percent of coffee farmers in North Sumatra, but are often excluded from training and other development opportunities. Over the past three years, IFC has been working with PT Indo CafCo to train 6,000 farmers, including 1,600 women, on good agricultural practices. The farmers are therefore able to produce more and better-quality coffee beans, which can then be sold for higher prices, thereby increasing their incomes.

“In North Sumatra, women farmers play a significant role. They are the ones who are working on the farms every day to grow coffee beans,” said Melanie Landthander, sustainable manager of PT Indo Cafco. “Teaching these women the right farming techniques is key to raising productivity on their coffee farms.”

An IFC survey of coffee farmers in North Sumatra showed that training groups consisting of both male and female farmers reported a 102 percent increase in their productivity level, while those groups comprising only men reported only an 87 percent increase in their productivity level. Those farmers who did not receive training from the ECOM-IFC supported program reported only a 34 percent increase in productivity.

“The project implemented by IFC and PT Indo CafCo in the Simalungun district of North Sumatra makes us realize that equipping women with the right agricultural practices can help us improve crop yield and the quality of the beans,” says Ir. Amran Sinaga, head of the Agriculture Office of the Simalungun district.

To encourage women’s participation, IFC and PT Indo CafCo employed women trainers and women volunteers, engaged women union and farmer association leaders, and adjusted the training schedule to accommodate women’s needs. They also developed gender-specific training materials and introduced a simple financial management tool to help women farmers, who are often in charge of managing the household income, document and analyze household and farm expenditures.

“Empowering women in key sectors such as agribusiness has been one of IFC’s strategic focuses,” said Sarvesh Suri, IFC’s country manager for Indonesia. “Based on our experience, supporting women with training programs that suit their needs can improve productivity and increase family incomes in the rural areas.”

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector. We help developing countries achieve sustainable growth by financing investment, mobilizing capital in international financial markets, and providing advisory services to businesses and governments. In FY12, our investments reached an all-time high of more than $20 billion, leveraging the power of the private sector to create jobs, spark innovation, and tackle the world’s most pressing development challenges. For more information, visit www.ifc.org.

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Toronto Halal Food Fest draws huge crowds

Toronto, Wednesday, 26 Rajab 1434/05June 2013 (IINA) – The first-ever halal food festival in Canada has drawn record-breaking crowds, showing the diversity of the marketplace in a major North American city.

“Halal Food Fest TO is dedicated to the halal food scene, and hopes to showcase the variety and diversity that makes Toronto what it is,” OnIslam.net reported quoting Salima Jivraj, Marketing Director of the Halal Food Fest. “We’re hoping that the food festival inspires and encourages more businesses to look into halal alternatives – it’s also a way for us to educate the general public about halal food.” The festival, held at the International Center in Toronto, was overwhelmed by thousands of visitors who came from the Greater Toronto Area, as well as from cities across Canada, and from as far as the US.

Lineups wrapped around the 100,000 sq ft facility as attendees had to wait as long as 2 hours on Saturday to gain admittance to the festival. “I am very pleased to see a flourishing halal food industry in Ontario,” said Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario, in an official message to the festival. “Its growth has supported local farmers and businesses, and given consumers more choice. “Beyond that, halal food is an expression of the vibrant multicultural society that we have built together,” Wynne said. The two-day event showcased over 60 food booths in a well-planned Sample City and attendees had a chance to try a wide variety of cuisines from around the world.

Visitors also enjoyed seminars, demonstrations and competitions at a Community Stage and were able to take part in cheese-tasting seminars hosted throughout the festival by the Dairy Farmers of Canada. There were interactive exhibits, a Street Fest with more food booths, a large children’s area and another outdoor stage where chefs provided cooking demonstrations with halal food products. “We are so proud to sponsor the first Canadian Halal Food Festival and support the diverse needs of Canadians with a variety of wholesome, high quality, hand slaughtered halal chicken that our consumers can enjoy,” says Pam Kellogg, Sr. Marketing Director of Mina Foods.

The festival also featured popular comedian Azhar Usman and up-and-coming nasheed performers, Mustaqeem. Visitors also had the chance to give back to the community by donating non-perishable items to a local charity, Muslim Welfare Center. The idea of holding the festival grew out of the experience of founder Salima Jivraj while she was doing reviews of halal food establishments in Toronto. “For the past two years, I’ve operated a website halalfoodie.ca, dedicated to providing reviews for halal restaurants and products in the Greater Toronto Area,” said Jivraj. “Our reviews are well-received and I’ve noticed that more and more Muslims want more variety in their choices of halal food.

“Gone are the days when halal food meant shawarma or biryani,” she added. “Now you can get halal Italian cuisine and even Japanese dishes.” The concept of halal, — meaning permissible in Arabic — has traditionally been applied to food. Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned. Now other goods and services can also be certified as halal, including cosmetics, clothing, pharmaceuticals and financial services. Jivraj hopes that the festival will help promote the halal industry in Canada. “We hope that people will feel connected to their city and the fact that they have so many options, it really is a celebration,” she said. “Having more options and availability will help foster growth in the industry as well.”

The Greater Toronto Area has one of the largest Muslim populations of any North American city and has fast become the magnet for major Muslim conventions and festivals on the continent. The city is already home to two of the largest gatherings of Muslims in the West – the annual Reviving the Islamic Spirit Convention and the summer festival, MuslimFest. The Canadian domestic halal meat market value is estimated to be $214 million with an average annual household expenditure of $1,623, according to a study by the Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. Muslims make around 1.9 percent of Canada’s 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the country. A survey has showed the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian.

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Forward Planning: Full List of Malaysian Tourism Highlights in July 2013


George Town Festival 2013 is a month-long celebration of art, music, theatre, dance, opera and film to commemorate the capital city of Penang’s inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage listing on 7 July 2008.

Every year, the celebration transforms George Town into an exciting and unique platform for the arts, heritage and culture. Do not miss this opportunity to see the unique historical architectural buildings around Penang too!

PUTRAJAYA, 13 May 2013 – A mix of sports, art, and foreign cultural events kicks off the third quarter of 2013. Come and experience Malaysia’s tourism highlights in July for an unforgettable holiday.

Organiser: Date: Venue: Contact: Website:

George Town Festival Secretariat 7 June – 7 July 2013

Esplanade, Pulau Pinang

+6 04 261 6308 www.georgetownfestival.com

The bargains continue! The 1Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival 2013!

Organiser: Ministry of Tourism & Culture, Malaysia Date: 29 June – 1 Sept 2013

Venue: Nationwide

Contact: 03 – 2614 8691



No. 2, Tower 1, Jalan P5/6, Precinct 5, 62200 Putrajaya, Malaysia

Tel: +603 8891 8000; http://www.tourismmalaysia.gov.my www.facebook.com/friendofmalaysia; twitter.com/tourismmalaysia; blog.tourism.gov.my

Shopaholics alert! The 1Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival 2013 continues in July. For the whole month of July, you can look within and beyond shopping malls to enjoy irresistible offers and special promotions!

Bookmark your calendar now to enjoy shopping and save more with all the great bargains. Shop till you drop!


Do you swim like a fish? Run like the wind? Cycle like the dogs are chasing you? How about taking up this 3-in-1 sports challenge at the Port Dickson International Triathlon 2013?

As the most popular triathlon in Malaysia, the event attracts triathletes from as far as Hong Kong and Macau every year to compete in this test of endurance and stamina. Catch the live action at the most popular beach on the west coast of the peninsula!

Organiser: Triathlon Malaysia

Date: 6 – 7 July 2013

Venue: Avillion Admiral Cove / Admiral Marina & Leisure Club,

Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan Website: www.triathlonmalaysia.com


Similar to Penang, the Melaka UNESCO World Heritage City Celebration 2013 commemorates the historic occasion of Melaka being declared as a World Heritage City by UNESCO on 7 July 2008!

Highlights of the celebration include dazzling fireworks display and cultural performances by Melaka’s unique communities such as the Baba & Nyonya, the Portuguese, and the Chitty. The night-long celebration will be a colourful display of the city’s unique culture and heritage!

Organiser: Melaka Historical City Council/ Melaka Museums Corporation (PERZIM) Date: 7 July 2013

Venue: Bandar Hilir Melaka, Melaka

Contact: +6 06 2326411


As the Muslim fasting month begins, a long line of street-side stalls will sprout up all over the country at local bazaars offering a sumptuous array of local delicacies especially traditional Malay food for Muslims to break their fast.

A jovial mood pervades these bazaars as everyone shops around for the best bargains on food, clothing, and religious items! Unique to Malaysia, the Ramadhan Bazaars can be found at most cities and towns throughout the nation, and is a sunset shopping and fasting experience for all.



No. 2, Tower 1, Jalan P5/6, Precinct 5, 62200 Putrajaya, Malaysia

Tel: +603 8891 8000; http://www.tourismmalaysia.gov.my www.facebook.com/friendofmalaysia; twitter.com/tourismmalaysia; blog.tourism.gov.my

Date: 8 July – 7 August 2013 Time: 5pm – 6pm

Venue: Nationwide


Get your running shoes ready as the Ipoh International Run (IIR) 2013 is back! This time, the event is targeting more than 13,000 runners from all over the world, from as far as Kenya, Hungary and Japan.

The run will be divided into 12 categories (21km, 10km, 5km and 7km) including the 5km Fun Run event. Prizes will also be awarded to the best-dressed participants in the Fun Run! Run with us!

Organiser: Ipoh City Council

Date: 7 July 2013

Time: 6.30am

Venue: Stadium Indera Mulia, Ipoh, Perak Website: www.ipohrun.com


Get ready for Malaysia’s largest Japanese cultural event! Unlike the one held in Japan, this Bon Odori Summer Cultural Festival is mainly held to showcase Japanese art, dance and delicacies in Malaysia.

The highlight of the event is the gathering around the yagura, a platform or stage where everyone is invited to dance to local Japanese folk tunes. Come and experience the real Japanese matsuri atmosphere!

Organiser: Date: Venue: Contact: Website;

Tourism Selangor & Japan Club of Kuala Lumpur 7 July 2013

Matsushita Shah Alam Stadium, Selangor

+6 03 5513 2000



Missed the Bon Odori festival in Shah Alam? There’s another one in Penang! Here, one will have the opportunity not only to witness the showcase of Japanese culture but also to mingle with the Japanese community in Penang!

As one of the signature cultural events of Penang, the festival is celebrated with dance and drum performances, stalls selling local Japanese food and souvenirs, fireworks display, and games! Get ready!



No. 2, Tower 1, Jalan P5/6, Precinct 5, 62200 Putrajaya, Malaysia

Tel: +603 8891 8000; http://www.tourismmalaysia.gov.my www.facebook.com/friendofmalaysia; twitter.com/tourismmalaysia; blog.tourism.gov.my

Organiser: The Consulate-General of Japan &

Penang State Tourism Development and Culture Office

Date: 20 July 2013

Time: 5pm – 11pm

Venue: Esplanade (Padang Kota Lama), Pulau Pinang Contact: +6 04 6505 136

St Anne’s Feast 2013 procession!

St Anne’s festival and candlelight

Watch as the St Anne’s Church in Penang transforms into a fairyland of lights!

Catholic pilgrims from all over the world take part in this massive

The celebration includes prayer, a candlelight procession, a novena, and a nine-day prayer.

Drawing up to 100,000 pilgrims from around the world every year, it is the largest such festival in

South-East Asia, and one of the biggest in the world!

Organiser: St. Anne’s Church

Date: 19 – 28 July 2013

Venue: St. Anne’s Church, Bukit Mertajam, Pulau Pinang

Contact: +6 04 5386405


In July every year,

The Borneo International Yachting Challenge 2013 is back! Boats from all over the world including Holland and the United States are participating in this exciting regatta!

Watch the teams race against one another along the coastline of Tanjung Aru beach and Kota Kinabalu city, and circling the nearby islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park.


Date: Venue: Contact: Website:

Ministry of Urban Development and Tourism Sarawak & Sabah Tourism Board & Labuan Corporation

1 – 7 July 2013

Labuan & Miri, Sarawak & Kota Kinabalu, Sabah +6 085 423 033




No. 2, Tower 1, Jalan P5/6, Precinct 5, 62200 Putrajaya, Malaysia

Tel: +603 8891 8000; http://www.tourismmalaysia.gov.my www.facebook.com/friendofmalaysia; twitter.com/tourismmalaysia; blog.tourism.gov.my

1Malaysia Contemporary Art Tourism Festival (1MCAT)

Check out the coming 1Malaysia Contemporary Art Tourism Festival (1MCAT)

The objective of the event is to create a unique platform to promote Malaysian artists and artworks to a global audience, as well as to discover, groom and launch the careers of young Malaysian artists.

Organiser: Ministry of Tourism Malaysia Date: 1 July – September 2013 Venue: Throughout Malaysia Contact: +6 03 8891 7519

All information is correct at time of publication. Visitors are advised to contact the event organiser for the latest updates.

4th June 2013

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Malaysia First In S.E. Asia To Develop Intellectual Property Valuation

PUTRAJAYA, June 3 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia is the first country in Southeast Asia to carry out intellectual property valuation through the Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH), its director-general, Abd. Hamid Abu Bakar said Monday.

He said a new unit had been set up early this year to protected intellectual property. The unit, he said, is managed by JPPH with the cooperation of the Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO) and operates under the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry.

The valuation carried out by the unit included for designs, trademarks, lyrics and copyrights, he told reporters after the 56th JPPH Day celebration at the National Assessment Institute (Inspen) here Monday.

Abd Hamid said the setting up of the unit was a recognition on the professionalism of JPPH in the field, adding that training would be carried out to enhance the skills of its staff in the field. Trainers from the United Kingdom and Switzerland would be engaged for the purpose, he added.

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Maldives President Visits Palestinian leader in Ramallah

RAMALLAH, June 4, 2013 (WAFA) – President Mahmoud Abbas Tuesday received Maldives President Mohamed Waheed Hassan in the presidential headquarters in Ramallah.

Hassan, who is in a three-day visit to Palestine, laid a wreath on the grave of late President Yasser Arafat, which was followed by a red carpet ceremony.

A joint news conference of the two presidents will be later held at the presidential headquarters. The two presidents will discuss strengthening bilateral relations and recent developments in the area. Maldives President will later visit Bir Zeit, Bethlehem and Hebron.

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Abbas: Palestinians Will Never Give Up on Jerusalem

RAMALLAH, June 5, 2013 (WAFA) – President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that the Palestinian people will never give up their right to Jerusalem as the capital of their state in spite of all the Israeli measures intended to alter the character of the occupied city.

Abbas was speaking at the fourth annual conference on Jerusalem, which is held in Ramallah on the occasion of the Muslim holiday, al-Isra wa al-Miraj, the miraculous trip of Prophet Muhammad who travelled on his horse, al-Buraq, from Mecca to Jerusalem, and from there he ascended to heaven and back.

“This time 46 years ago, Jerusalem came under Israeli occupation,” said Abbas. “Israel started a process to change the geographic and demographic character of the holy city through the demolition of homes of Jerusalem residents, their systematic removal from their city and preventing them from building homes or their economy while building settlements and falsifying facts, names and characters.”

He said that Israel’s goal was to isolate the city from its Palestinian surroundings and empty it or reduce its Palestinian residents to create an Israeli majority in the city, describing this policy as “a blatant violation of international law and denial of Palestinian rights.”

He said that this Israeli policy is a reflection of an approach that is against peace and supports settlements, occupation and expansion.

Abbas said that in spite of all these years of occupation and Israeli policies, they did not affect the Palestinian people’s determination to keep Jerusalem as their eternal capital nor affected their will to fight or remain steadfast.

“There will be no peace without Jerusalem, no state without Jerusalem and no stability without Jerusalem,” he said, stressing that protecting and defending Jerusalem is not a Palestinian responsibility only, but also an Arab and Islamic one.

Abbas said that even though 65 years have passed since the “nakba” and 46 years since the Israeli occupation of the remainder of Palestine, “the Palestinian people have risen from under the ruins of the nakba and the remains of the defeat to redraw their political and historical map.”

He said that after becoming a non-member state in the United Nations and full member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), efforts will now be exerted on joining all UN organizations.

“These steps will be followed by others until we achieve our legitimate right to become full members in all the international organizations and establish our sovereign Palestinian state on all the occupied territory with Jerusalem as its capital so that we will put an end to the historical injustice against our people,” he said.

He also rejected a one-sided peace with Israel, which he described as surrender.

“One-sided peace is not real peace. It is surrender, which we will not accept or want,” he said.

Abbas saluted the prisoners whom he promised there will not be peace without their release from Israeli jails and called on Hamas to move forward on reconciliation through agreeing to elections.

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Over 2m tourists expected as Jeddah Summer Fest launches

Saudi Gazette – 05 June, 2013 – Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Emir of Makkah region, will open the Annual Jeddah Summer Festival on Wednesday evening. The inaugural ceremony of the festival, with the slogan of “Jeddah Ghair” (Jeddah is Different), will be held at Al-Hamra Corniche, south of the Jeddah Equestrian Club and Park Hyatt Hotel.

Jeddah Governor Prince Mishal Bin Majed, who is also chairman of the festival’s Supreme Organizing Committee, and several other dignitaries will be present at the function, Saudi Press Agency reported.

Adnan Mandura, Secretary General of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), said that more than two million tourists from within and outside the Kingdom are expected to visit the city during the festival.

“The festival is also expected to generate over SR1 billion in revenues. The 30-day event will include more than 100 tourist and recreational activities catering to all sections of the society,” he said, adding that the festival would further consolidate the position of Jeddah in the domestic and foreign tourism map.

Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) in cooperation with JCCI and the Jeddah Municipality is organizing the festival. According to Mandura, more than 50 government and private departments and agencies will contribute to make the fest a great success.

Around 70 fun cities and tourism parks, in addition to 360 malls and commercial centers will take part in the event. Prizes worth millions of riyals will be distributed to winners of various competitions, which will be held as part of the festival.

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Science festival in other emirates too

Khaleej Times – 05 June, 2013 – The Abu Dhabi Science Festival (ADSF) has returned this year with new locations, expanding to the other emirates, and a wider footprint scheduled to run from November 14 to 23.

The third edition will be held at two new locations, Abu Dhabi’s du Forum on Yas Island and the Abu Dhabi Corniche (East Plaza) along with activations in Al Ain, Al Gharbia, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain.

Compared to last year, ADSF expects to welcome 25,000 students (25 per cent increase in organised school tours) this year. For this year’s edition, over 800 science communicators will be recruited and trained by world-class experts from the Edinburgh International Science Festival (EISF), TDC’s content partner. TDC has already partnered with 10 local universities to provide the science communicators.

This year’s ADSF will host even more exciting scientific experiences, building on the overwhelming success of the previous two editions. With preparations already well under way, visitors can look forward to an array of new and exciting workshops, shows and interactive exhibits. Alongside returning blockbusters such as Dig-up-a-Dinosaur, ER Surgery and CSI Crime Scene Investigation workshops, ADSF will showcase new science experiences in health, clean-tech, astronomy and mathematics.

A globally awarded strategic initiative organised by the Abu Dhabi Technology Development Committee (TDC), the science fest aims at inspiring the nation’s youth with science-related hands-on activities and is part of a wider strategy to build a talent base on science, technology and innovation (STI) in the UAE.

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6,600 jobs created at Oman’s tourism port

Oman Daily Observer – 06 June, 2013 – The project for conversion of Sultan Qaboos Port into a tourist port will provide 6,600 jobs and will include a marine facade, yacht marina to accommodate more than 100 yachts, a terminal for cruise ships, in addition to a hotel complex and natural rock garden. This was revealed by Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Futaisi, Minister of Transport and Communications, as the Majlis Ash’shura hosted the minister yesterday.

He gave a visual presentation on conversion of Sultan Qaboos Port into a tourist hub of international standards to re-plan facilities and terminals at the port to be integrated with the vivid marine facade. He also spoke about the importance of the port as it is a new addition to the national economy by establishing what is called an integrated city. The project aims at marketing the Sultanate as a tourist hub and transit point for world tourist destinations.

The Majlis held its 25th regular session of the seventh term under the chairmanship Shaikh Khalid bin Hilal al Maawali, Majlis Ash’shura Chairman. A number of members gave remarks about the need to conduct a detailed study on different aspects of the presentation, especially the economic ones. They also highlighted the importance of maintaining communication and co-ordination with different stakeholders to absorb the employees of the port.

Dr Al Futaisi said that these suggestions will be taken into consideration and that the ministry is very keen to conduct required studies on various aspects of the project, which is expected to be a qualitative jump for the Governorate of Muscat and its residents. He added that the ministry is studying all alternatives to settle conditions of the existing employees at the port whether at the new port or the projects that will be set up.

During the session, the Majlis approved a report of the Economic and Financial Committee on the standard agreement for the Arab capital investment in the Arab countries. The agreement aims at facilitating movement and protection of Arab investments. The Majlis decided to refer the agreement to the State Council. The Majlis also approved a report prepared by the Economic and Financial Committee on the draft Annex No (2) of the agreement on the basic terms for co-operation between the Government of the Sultanate and the UN Population Fund and decided to refer it to the State Council.

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Al-Azhar TV to promote Islam

Cairo, Monday, 25 Rajab 1434/04 June 2013 (IINA) – Amid rising polarization in Egypt, Al-Azhar, the highest seat of learning in the Muslim world, is planning a satellite channel to fight extremist ideologies and promote the moderate and tolerant teachings of Islam. “Al-Azhar will launch its own television channel,” Gulf News reported quoting Grand Imam of Azhar Ahmad Al Tayyeb.

“The channel will promote moderate teachings and tolerance of Islam.” The new channel is planned to go on air on trial in July to coincide with the holy fasting month of Ramadan. The channel, which will feature religious, social, cultural and historical programs, aims to combat extremist ideologies. It follows growing calls for the prestigious seat of learning to monitor content of religious channels which offer a wide source of information for social and personal issues. A recent study by the Faculty of Mass Communication at Cairo University found that 70 percent of Egyptians frequently watch religious programs and 30 percent watch them sometimes.

It also found that Egyptians seek knowledge about religion and solutions through fatwa (a juristic ruling related to Shari’ah) for personal and social issues. Al-Azhar is the highest seat of learning in the Muslim world. Established in 359 AH (971 CE), Al-Azhar mosque drew scholars from across the Muslim world and grew into a university, predating similar developments at Oxford University in London by more than a century.

From within its tall, crenellated walls, Al-Azhar’s sheikhs spent more than 1,000 years studying Islam’s holy texts and interpreting their meaning for the faithful, building an authority unrivalled in the Muslim world. Al-Azhar, which means the “most flourishing and resplendent,” was named after Fatima Al-Zahraa, daughter of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The first courses at Al-Azhar were given in 975 CE and the first college was built 13 years later. Al-Azhar first admitted women students in 1961, albeit in separate classes.

Al-Azhar’s channel also comes amid rising polarization in the Egyptian media, with some channels promoting certain political agendas. “Nowadays, these channels discuss politics a lot and this will cause fitna (chaos) in our society,” Ahmad, a 26-year-old worker, said. “These channels should be following Al Azhar’s footsteps and doctrine.”

Polarization has gripped Egyptian society since a popular revolution in 2011 that swept Hosni Mubarak from power. The situation became further tense after the election of Mohamed Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, as Egypt’s President last year. Islamists and secularists have taken their differences to air, with both camps are using religious and secular channels to support their views.

The polarization has raised concerns that both secular and religious channels are being used to sow sedition in the country. Earlier this year, two sheikhs at Al Hafez channels were taken to court for comments deemed offensive. Religious channels were also accused of launching smear campaigns against liberal and opposition figures. Mohsin Kamal, a consultant for the Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies, admitted that secular media is biased as well. “Secular channels have also become less ethical since the revolution, but they tend to attract less criticism from the public.

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The virtues of the halal economy

Asharq Al-Awsat – 02 June, 2013 – The Islamic economy used to be thought of as exclusively associated with financial institutions implementing systems and laws that adhere to Islamic Shari’a law. The concept, however, gradually developed to include other sectors, such as insurance, the food industry and investments. This concept of a “responsible and conservative” economy has emerged recently around the world, an economic system that complies with strict rules and regulations and avoids investing in sectors promoting “impure” entertainment, all forms of human trafficking, abuse of children or animals, violence, drugs and arms.

It seems, however, that the Islamic economy is the most developed of all; and although it amounts to just one sixth of this “responsible and conservative” economy around the world, it is rapidly growing.

Today, several “unique and different” products and services have entered the Islamic market. While some of these products are strange, others are downright bizarre. For example, there is a European brand of nail polish which is being marketed as an “Islamic” product because it allows water to permeate and reach the nails, and thus help women perform proper ablution. There are also so-called “sex” shops selling products to improve relations between couples. The owner of one of these shops, who has a retail store and also sells his products online, insists his merchandise does not promote pornography and that even conservative Muslim families need such products.

There are also travel companies making tours of conservative regions, booking hotels that do not provide alcohol, night clubs, discos or gambling venues. These hotels provide separate swimming pools for each gender, and restaurants that provide “halal” food. Other companies offer similar services, but under stricter rules and conditions. Such companies offer music-free trips and vacations, known as “virtuous” vacations.

Of course, there is also the “halal” food and beverage industry which, of course, includes meats and poultry, but also vegetables, fruit and drink. This industry has become widespread across the world, transforming several non-halal products into halal ones. In the beverage industry, for example, production of “halal” malt drink is growing annually by 14%, an astronomical growth rate. There are also alcohol-free grape juice drinks being sold as a legitimate alternative to wine. Moreover, a “whiskey” factory in Scotland is now exporting a non-alcoholic drink made from onions to the Islamic market.

Bahrain, Malaysia, Turkey and Dubai are the most influential players in this growing market. Bahrain was the first and most important hub of Islamic banks and financial institutions, becoming the most important country to issue regulations in this field. Turkey has partially followed in Bahrain’s footsteps.

Malaysia has established a complementary market to support the Islamic financial market and to issue bonds, becoming the first country to support—through its central bank—the Islamic economy. Malaysia has also authorized legislative bodies for quality control policies and standards to ensure “halal,” that is to say Islamically permissible, financial products. This is something that has made Malaysia an authority on halal industry and services.

Finally, Dubai has emerged strongly to become “the capital of international Islamic finance,” organizing the most significant conferences, exhibitions, and awareness campaigns to promote the idea of this growing Islamic economy.

Thanks to these efforts, the concept of the Islamic economy has moved from being dubious to becoming a reality, occupying a significant position in the international economy thanks to interests and returns in the billions of dollars. Governments across the world are aware of this success and are seeking to become a part of it. Although some of these governments grasped the opportunity, many have failed. As more halal products becoming available today at McDonalds, Wal-Mart, Marks & Spenser, Nestlé, and elsewhere, it is clear that this has become an important reality.

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Al Gharbia witnesses boost in tourism

Khaleej Times – 02 June, 2013 – Abu Dhabi’s western region of Al Gharbia has seen an upward tourism growth over the last five years, with hotel guest numbers increasing over 205 per cent, according to recently released figures by the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, or TCA Abu Dhabi.

Hotel guest numbers in Al Gharbia from 2008 until the end of 2012 rose from 30,070 to 92,000, while guest-room nights grew by 113 per cent to 288,000 over the same period. Total revenue generated by hotels in the western region has doubled since 2009, with TCA Abu Dhabi predicting that 2013 figures will top Dh235 million ($ 64 million).

“The story of Al Gharbia’s tourism industry is one of a segment developing at a measured pace through public and private sector investment. The potential it holds going forward is positive,” said Mohammed Al Dhaheri, quality and performance management manager at TCA Abu Dhabi. “Al Gharbia is increasingly finding its feet on the international tourism agenda, which opens doors for all.”

Al Dhaheri also said that would-be investors could look into as yet untapped tourism development areas for the region including golf, leveraging potential cruise stop-overs and inter-island cruising. Building average guest length of stay would result from enhanced product development, said Al Dhaheri. Last year, hotel guests stayed on an average of 3.13 days in Al Gharbia.

“NCTH, which operates the Jebel Dhanna Resort and the Al Dhafra Beach Hotel, has announced it will double capacity of these properties by Q3 next year. It will also add three new restaurants, a swimming pool and spa, creating, by 2015, the largest tourism complex in the area. At Al Mirfa Hotel, the development of a private beach is underway and plans are afoot to add 30 villas to the island project,” revealed Al Dhaheri.

Al Dhaheri also said that the established flagship Tourism Development and Investment Company properties of Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara on Sir Bani Yas Island and the award-winning Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara in Liwa, also continued to add to their offering, helping to raise the profile of the area significantly both domestically and internationally. Rotana Jet’s direct flights to Sir Bani Yas from Abu Dhabi city also made access easier.

“With more to offer, product packaging will increasingly be key. Packaging will mean more business — enhancing the investment opportunity. Plus the development of an events portfolio in line with the growing hotel inventory is also bringing this part of the emirate into the spotlight and allows us to host international media and travel trade there,” noted Al Dhaheri, who further outlined the positive effects this growth was having on the local industry.

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Road projects worth SR 2.04 billion approved

Arab News – 03 June, 2013 – Transport Minister Jabara Al-Seraisry yesterday signed 55 new road projects worth SR 2.04 billion. These projects will improve transport services in the country’s 13 regions. The Makkah region has got seven projects valued at SR 153 million, including the second phase of the Jeddah-Makkah Expressway and completion of the Ring Road in Taif.

The projects in the Madinah region include the second phase of the Madinah-Al-Ula-Tabuk Expressway. Madinah has got five projects valued at SR 114 million. The Riyadh region has won 12 projects worth SR 919 million including the construction of an intersection between Khorais Road and Sheikh Jaber Al-Sabah Road at a cost of SR 514 million. The intersection-project contract was won by Binladin Group.

The Eastern Province has received six projects that would cost SR 168 million while Qassim received four projects worth SR 432 million. Asir region’s four projects are worth SR 52 million and Tabuk’s two projects are valued at SR 26 million.

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Exhibition City plan underway

Gulf Daily News – 03 June, 2013 – Bahrain is pushing ahead with plans to construct a new “Exhibition City” following a bumper 2012, with plans for a BD6 billion industrial city also in the pipeline.

Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Hassan Fakhro revealed the exhibitions industry saw an increase of 40 per cent last year, compared with 2011.

He was speaking during a Press conference after the Cabinet meeting at Gudaibiya Palace, during which the ministry’s annual report for last year was approved.

“Last year was an outstanding year in comparison to previous in all aspects – industrial, commercial and exhibitions,” said Dr Fakhro.

“The sectors under my ministry have returned to normalcy with the commercial sector picking up from the unrest, the industrial sector seeing huge progress and the exhibitions sector being 100pc active.

“The Bahrain Exhibition and Convention Authority (BECA) is full and can’t take any bookings.

“We now direct exhibitors and conference organisers to hotels and sometimes we have to turn down requests because we can’t make other arrangements.

“The authority (BECA) made profits of BD1.58m last year, an increase of 40pc from 2011, which has seen us save around 57pc in operation costs.

“What was years ago a mediocre sector has now seen a 116pc turnover.”

The minister said the exhibition sector was faring so well that it made sense to expand, with a Bahrain Exhibition City to be built in the south of the country to keep up with demand.

“It will be carried out in three phases – with the first seeing the exhibitions and conferences area constructed, the second seeing two hotels and the third including complimentary facilities that will also feature recreational outlets,” he explained.

Meanwhile, the minister said 125 industrial licences were issued last year involving investments worth BD52.4m and initial approval was also granted to another 280 industrial proposals worth a total of BD763m.

In addition, 8,689 Commercial Registrations (CRs) were issued – bringing the total number of active CRs to 72,424, with a cumulative working capital estimated at around BD19.4 billion.

Dr Fakhro said the BD6bn industrial city would be built in Bahrain by 2040 or 2050, with studies into the project still ongoing. “The project, which will cover 95 square kilometres, will increase the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 20pc and will offer 24,000 job opportunities,” he said.

“Licences are being given in line with existing industrial spaces and we are facing scarcity of land. I have asked that two areas in Hidd and Sitra be reclaimed to meet the demand, especially with us attracting investments in pharmaceutical and foodstuff products – six were from Germany last year.”

The Industry and Commerce Ministry report stated that 33,640 trademark requests and 417 patents were approved last year.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet approved a memorandum from the ministerial committee for legal affairs to initiate a trademark law in the GCC. The law, which will be referred to the National Assembly, regulates procedures for registering a trademark, its duration, protection and other issues.

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Turkish Airlines opens flights to Al Qassim

Saudi Gazette – 04 June, 2013 – TURKISH Airlines, the national carrier of Turkey and Europe’s best airline, is further strengthening its focus on Saudi Arabia, one of the airline’s fastest growing markets, with the launch of direct flights from Al Qassim to Istanbul, sustaining the momentum of one of the world’s fastest growing airlines.

The flights from Al Qassim are scheduled four times a week on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Sunday and introductory round trip fairs start at 1,360 Saudi Riyals, inclusive of taxes and fees. Travellers will benefit from the luxurious surroundings and stylish interiors of the new generation Airbus 320 and Boeing 738, complemented by the airline’s award winning on board cuisine and service.

The increase in Turkish Airlines flight network and capacity across the Kingdom is testament to the robust growth of 66 percent in passenger traffic in the country in the first five months of this year, compared to the same period in 2011. The addition of this seventh city in Saudi, now directly connects passengers on Turkish Airlines flights from Al Qassim to more countries than any other airline, with 229 destinations across 100 countries.

The inaugural flight from Istanbul International Airport was welcomed at Prince Nayef Bin Abdulaziz Regional Airport in Al Qassim by the airport’s senior representatives with a signing ceremony and celebratory reception attended by GACA members, VIP guests and passengers on the inaugural flight who were presented memorabilia for the occasion.

Ziya Ta?kent, Senior Vice President Marketing & Sales for Turkish Airlines, said: “As part of Turkish Airlines planned expansion in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East we are delighted to be launching direct flights from Al Qassim to Istanbul, connecting over a million residents from the city to more than 220 worldwide destinations.”

He added: “This new route has been launched in response to the robust growth in passenger traffic across Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East where our 32 destinations recorded an additional one million passengers in 2012 compared to the previous year, an upward trend we aim to maintain with new routes and increased capacity.”

Muhammed Bilal Doner, General Manager for Turkish Airlines in Al Qassim, said: “The direct flights from Al Qassim are available just in time for residents to travel directly to Istanbul and beyond destinations for the summer holiday season and enjoy the network that offers connections to every corner of the globe.”

He added: “The airline’s new capacity in Saudi will also provide a platform for further business developments with Turkey owing to Al Qassim’s position as a rising city of commerce in the Kingdom.”

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Islamic banks can fund Asian infrastructure needs

Kuwait Times – 05 June, 2013 – Islamic banks can help finance Asia’s burgeoning infrastructure investment needs while continuing to adhere to fundamental Sharia tenets, executives said yesterday. Islamic banks, which emerged relatively unscathed from the global economic crisis in 2008, saw total assets top $ 1.6 trillion (1.22 trillion euros) in 2012, a 20.4 percent rise from 2011.

Asian nations hold 13 percent of global Islamic banking assets, the highest outside of the Middle East, speakers said at the World Islamic Banking Conference in Singapore. “Within Asia and the Middle East, there is a huge amount of infrastructure building to cater to the needs of growing populations in some countries and mass urbanization in others,” Mohammad Y Al-Hashel, governor of the Central Bank of Kuwait, said in a keynote speech. “Since Islamic finance dictates that lending should be backed by tangible real assets, it has the potential to offer the much needed funding for infrastructure building,” he said.

The Asian Development Bank in 2012 estimated that fast-growing Asia needs to invest a total of $ 8.0 trillion to fund national infrastructure needs such as rail networks, airports, power networks and water treatment plants in the current decade to 2020. Ranjit Ajit Singh, chairman of the Securities Commission of Malaysia, said the region’s “staggering and substantial” infrastructure capital needs could be a key driver for Islamic finance to gain a foothold in more Asian economies. “These substantial amounts provide tremendous potential in my view for financing and capital raising through the issuance of sukuk (Islamic bonds) as many infrastructure assets are inherently Sharia-compliant,” he said.

Singh added that the growing affluence of middle-class Asian consumers could also spur an increased demand for Sharia-compliant investments and savings products, especially within Southeast Asia, which has a substantial Muslim population. “The opportunity for Islamic investments to meet this prospectively strong demand should not be underestimated,” he said.

Officials also reiterated the need for Islamic banks to avoid the excesses of their mainstream counterparts that led to the global economic crisis, and to invest in “socially responsible” industries. Apart from barring investments in “haram” or banned sectors such as gambling and alcohol, Islamic finance does not allow the payment of interest, which is seen as a form of gambling.

Risks are shared between the bank and depositor so there is an incentive to ensure any deal is sound. Al-Hashel cautioned against the creation of financial products that were against the “true essence of Islamic banking”. “Given the need for a clear link between financial transactions and the real economy, innovations in Islamic finance are considered useful only if they.

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$10bn tourism projects under way

Oman Daily Observer – 05 June, 2013 – With the advent of summer and the vacation season, tourist activities are on the rise in most of the governorates which boast of several natural attractions including plains, mountains and deserts especially with the approach of the Khareef season in Dhofar Governorate.

The Ministry of Tourism is striving to improve the sector which is considered as a major contributory to the national economy by developing various tourism spots and attracting foreign investments.

Omran, which is tasked by the government to develop the tourism sector and manages investment projects, is a major player in actualizing the government’s target of transforming the tourism sector into a main contributor to the national economy and a provider of jobs for Omanis.

Omran’s current projects which cost $ 10 billion include some of the largest development projects such as Oman Conference and Exhibition Centre and the company’s policy is to execute projects all across the Sultanate.

The company has more than 20 projects at different stages of implementation, these include residential and tourism projects as well as hotels and resorts in various governorates.

Saraya Bandar Jissah is among a new integrated tourism complex, offering exclusive homes and two 5-star beachfront hotels, as well as recreational and community facilities, on a beautiful secluded beach surrounded by the Hajjar Mountains, just East of Muscat. With villas, apartments and hotels, the development is positioned sympathetically amongst 2.2 million square metres of undulating hillsides.

The project is being developed by Oman’s tourism development and investment arm, Omran, in partnership with Saraya Oman, a subsidiary of Saraya Holdings, and the leading international development company.

Construction has now started on site, with the advanced earthworks package under way, after an extensive environmental impact assessment, which resulted in wide-ranging archaeological protection work.

The Minister of Tourism, Ahmed bin Nasser al Mehirzi, during his recent tour of South Al Sharqiyah Governorate, has said that the Ministry continues its plans, programmes and strategies towards the development of the tourism sector in different governorates of the Sultanate and it has made great strides in this aspect, including the establishment of integrated plants on the long roads and the agreement of the first project of these stations will soon be signed with Omran, and to be on Qurayat-Sur road, adding that in the coming stage there will be two stations on Adam-Thumrait-Salalah road, where each station will contain a gas station, restaurants, restrooms and stores and there is a study of all roads in the Sultanate.

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Iran Keen To Expand Trade Ties With Turkey

TEHRAN, Iran, Jun 7 (NNN-FNA) – Iran’s Ambassador to Ankara, Alireza Bigdeli, underlined the need for the expansion of trade relations between Tehran and Ankara. Bigdeli made the remarks in a meeting with a group of Turkish businessmen in Ankara on Thursday.

“The grounds are well prepared for Turkish businessmen to invest in Iran’s projects,” the Iranian envoy to Ankara said. “Industrial cities such as Tehran, Zanjan, Tabriz and Isfahan welcome Turkish investors for direct or indirect investments there,” Bigdeli added.

During the meeting, the two sides exchanged views on new areas of economic cooperation between the two countries. According to a recent report by Turkey’s statistics centre, the value of trade balance between Tehran and Ankara reached $2.372 bln, in the first two months of 2013.

In Jan and Feb, Turkish exports to Iran rose by 4.3 percent, while the imports registered 8.1 percent decline.

Earlier this month, Turkey’s Minister of Development, Cevdet Yilmaz, voiced Ankara’s willingness to boost trade and economic relations with Tehran, and called for stronger efforts by both sides’ officials, to expand economic and trade ties between the two neighbouring nations.

The Turkish Minister of Development made the remarks in a meeting with Bigdeli. Yilmaz called on the two countries’ officials to do their best to increase trade exchanges between Iran and Turkey.

Meantime, he noted that the value of Iran-Turkey annual trade exchanges should be increased to $35 bln. Iran and Turkey have recently expanded their bilateral relations, especially in trade and energy fields. Trade between Turkey and Iran has risen sharply over the past decade.

Iran-Turkey trade value exceeded $22 bln in 2012. Also, Turkey was Iran’s fifth-largest oil customer in 2011, buying around 200,000 barrels per day, 30 percent of its total imports and more than 7 percent of Iran’s oil exports.

The two countries’ officials stressed the necessity for stronger relations and pursuing the planned increase of mutual trade to $30 bln by 2015.

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Remarkable Growth In Foreign Investment In Iran

TEHRAN, Iran, Jun 1 (NNN-FNA) – Western sanctions against Iran’s economy are ineffective, as the volume of foreign investment in the country has witnessed remarkable growth, a senior Iranian economic official announced. Iran’s foreign investment attraction reached $4.85 billion ceiling, in the last Iranian year (ended on Mar 20, 2013), Iran’s Deputy Economy Minister, Behrouz Alishiri, announced.

He announced that the figure hit $2.60 billion and $4.60 billion in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Iran enjoys high capacity for attracting foreign investment in its oil and gas industries. In Apr 2012, Iranian First Vice-President, Mohammad Reza Rahimi, invited domestic and foreign capital holders to make investment in the country’s oil and gas industries, and said, Iran is among the most secure countries for investment in the energy sector.

Iran, which sits on the world’s second largest reserves of both oil and gas, is facing western sanctions over its civilian nuclear programme. Iranian officials have dismissed US sanctions as inefficient, saying that they are finding Asian partners instead.

A large number of Chinese, Indian and other Asian firms have negotiated or signed up to oil and gas deals with Iran.

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Malaysia-Indonesia To Jointly Promote Products In Global Markets

JAKARTA, Indonesia June 2 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia and Indonesia will enhance cooperation in business by promoting the products of companies from both countries to international markets.

Minister of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism, Hassan Malek said it includes training in quality control and preparation of products capable of competing in international markets such as franchising and retailing (convenient stores).

“We will establish a joint working committee to discuss and organize measures to realise this partnership for mutual interest,” he told reporters after chairing the Malaysia-Indonesia Business Forum here Saturday.

Hassan said Malaysia has the advantage in terms of knowledge while Indonesia is rich with a variety of products meant for international markets.

For starter, the partnership will focus on markets in the Asean region and it will then be rolled out across the world.

Hassan was leading the Malaysian delegation in the trade mission of the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry to Indonesia.

Several Malaysian companies are participating in Malaysia-Indonesia Business Expo (MIBEX) 2013 being held for three days from yesterday.

They consist of 11 franchise companies, five direct sales companies and three Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

Malaysia hopes the companies can sell products worth RM31.5 million at MIBEX 2013. At MIBEX 2012, Malaysian companies recorded sales of RM28 million.

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Algeria Writes Off Over US$500m In Debts For Iraq And Yemen

ALGIERS, June 2 (NNN-APS) — The Algerian government has written off more than USD500 million in debts for two member countries of the Arab League, namely Iraq and Yemen, since 2010, as it has done for fourteen member countries of the African Union, the ministry of Foreign Affairs said Saturday.

The initiative “is part of Algeria’s support to Arab peoples who live in a situation requiring urgent solidarity actions, especially for reconstruction and for economic and social development,” the spokesman of the ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amar Belani, told APS.

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Mina to get space for 185,000 more pilgrims

Makkah, Monday, 24 Rajab 1434/03 June 2013 (IINA) – The first phase of the massive plan to shift offices of government departments and agencies from Mina to the precincts of Muzdalifah will be implemented during the coming Haj season, according to Makkah Governor Prince Khaled Al-Faisal.

With the plan’s implementation, the capacity of the holy site of Mina will be increased by 23 percent so as to accommodate 185,000 more pilgrims. Prince Khaled, who is also chairman of the Central Haj Committee, said that shifting of the departments to the huge complex of new government buildings in Muzdalifah will be completed in two phases. The governor made the remarks when he was briefed on the progress of the Muzdalifah project at a ceremony held at his office in Makkah on Sunday. “Those departments, which are concerned with Haj-related services and whose presence is not necessary in Mina will be shifted to the new facility during this year’s Haj. This will make more space available for the growing number of Haj pilgrims,” he said.

Speaking on the occasion, Assistant Minister of Finance Muhammad Al-Mazeed said that the sprawling Muzdalifah complex, covering a total area of two million square meters, would comprise residential and office buildings. It can accommodate as many as 10,000 officials and employees. There would be 3,200 office and housing units in addition to 13 buildings, five entrances and a huge water tank with a capacity to hold 36,000 cubic meters of water that would be sufficient for 15 days. The complex would also house warehouses, electricity power plant and a helipad.

Equipped with about 1,000 instruments and machinery, more than 6,000 workers are engaged in implementing the project on a war-footing. Al-Mazeed said that the work will finish within the stipulated period of seven months. In the first phase, some government departments will be shifted to the facility in mid Dhul Qaada (second half of September), he added.

Nearly, two years ago, the late Crown Prince Naif Bin Abdul Aziz, who was also chairman of the Supreme Haj Committee, formed a committee, under his chairmanship, to carry out studies about the prospect of shifting government departments from Mina. The committee recommended that shifting the departments, which are not directly serving the pilgrims, from the tent city is essential. The Tent City of Mina is a narrow valley with a total area of 20 square kilometers, situated five km east of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

Muzdalifah is a valley between Mina and Mount Arafat where Haj pilgrims spend the night after their standing on the plains of Arafat, on Dhul Hijja 9, marking the climax of the annual pilgrimage. The Saudi authorities are exerting all efforts to find more space in the tent city to accommodate the growing number of pilgrims every year. A study is under way to level some mountains in Mina and construct more tents and buildings so as to accommodate the pilgrims.

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Pakistani TV smashes taboos with its answer to ‘Glee’

AFP, Wednesday 29 May 2013 – Gay romance, religious extremism and a soundtrack of classic love songs make for Pakistan’s taboo-breaking answer to the hugely successful US television series ‘Glee’.

Like its smash hit forerunner, ‘Taan’ follows the lives and loves of a group of young people who regularly burst into song. But this time they attend a music academy in Lahore, instead of an American high school.

Taan — which is a musical note in Urdu — tackles subjects considered off limits in Pakistan’s deeply conservative Muslim society, with plotlines including love affairs between two men and between a Taliban extremist and a beautiful Christian girl.

The plan is for the 26-episode series to air in September or October, and while producer Nabeel Sarwar insisted the programme was not a “political pulpit”, he is determined to take on the tough issues.

“Nobody wants to have controversy for the sake of controversy, nobody wants to have an assignment to violence, nobody wants to push a button that would result in a disaster for anyone,” he told AFP.

“But the truth has to come out somewhere. Where are we going to put a line in the sand and say, ‘Look, this is what we are’?”

Taking a public stand to defend liberal values like this is rare in Pakistan, where forces of religious conservatism have risen steadily in recent years.

Risque scenes in foreign films are routinely cut by the authorities and the team behind Taan are acutely aware that they must tread carefully with their challenging material.

In one scene the two gay lovers dance and sing in a small room but never embrace — their relationship is suggested rather than overtly shown. The moment is interrupted when a radical Islamist character bursts in.

Director Samar Raza said representing the lives of gay characters was difficult in a country where homosexuality is still illegal.

“Let’s say in a certain scene, there are two boys talking to each other, they are not allowed to show their physical attachment to each other,” he said. “So I bring a third character who says: ‘God designed Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve’.”

It is not only the sensibilities of the censors the producers must navigate. While 70 percent of Pakistan’s population is under 35, a huge and potentially lucrative audience for advertisers, it is the head of the household who decides what families watch on TV, explains Sarwar.

“The head of the household during the day is the matriarch and the head of the household at night is the patriarch — they control access to TV,” he told AFP. “You have to find programming that allows the matriarch and the patriarch to join in and participate, but there has to be room for the younger audience.”

In a bid to appeal to older viewers the makers of Taan have licensed around 100 classic Pakistani songs, some by legendary artists such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and have reworked them to suit modern tastes, as Glee does.

“We try to find music that resonates with the older generation which control the access to the TV but we contemporise that music so that the younger audience does not feel left out,” Sarwar said.

The show hopes that by taking on difficult issues in a light-hearted way it will both reflect the changing nature of Pakistani society and attract a young audience currently hooked on imported Turkish soap operas. Local dramas struggle to compete with the likes of “Manahil and Khalil” and “Ishq-e-Mamnu” (Forbidden Love) — Turkish serials starring Westernised characters with fair skin and dubbed into Urdu.

Turkish soaps are widely watched across the Muslim world, but the popularity of “Ishq-e-Mamnu” has prompted a lively debate about the “Turkish invasion” of the small screen in Pakistan, with local production companies complaining that they do not have the resources to rival them.

Yasmin Huq, one of the stars of Taan, told AFP a homegrown show could speak more clearly to Pakistanis than foreign imports. “Today’s generation is watching Turkish and Indian dramas,” she said. “But no one can make a musical story like Pakistanis. Even if you watch the Turkish and Indian dramas, you will see that nobody can talk about Pakistan like Pakistanis.”

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Iranian Safavid-era carpet sold at auction for $33 million

Ahram Online, Thursday 6 Jun 2013 – An anonymous buyer purchased a Safavid-era carpet for more than $33 million at Sotheby’s in New York on Wednesday. Al-Arabiya said the price exceeded estimates by 300 percent. The price beats the highest price for a carpet, ‘Kraman’, which sold at Christie’s in London for $9.6 million.

The Safavid-era carpet is 2.67 by 1.95 metres, and was made in Iran 350 years ago. Iran was united under the rule of the Safavid dynasty from 1501 to 1722. The carpet, known as the ‘Sickle-Leaf’, resembles a Safavid portrait. It depicts plants that bloom in each of the four seasons, such as the seeds of plums and vine leaves and cypress trees.

Its colours resemble the clothes of Sufi dancers, which are white, black, and scarlet, and symbolise the shroud and tomb. Such colours have been worn by Darwish dancers in the modern era.

The previous collector was American millionaire William Clark, an industrialist and US senator. He acquired the carpet during a visit to Paris a century ago then donated it to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, which was established in 1869, among hundreds of works of art and rugs before his death in 1925 at 86.

The Sotheby’s auction included 25 rugs that were auctioned off to fund new acquisitions of contemporary art at the Corcoran Gallery.

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Aceh’s Saman dance stuns Paris community

June 3 2013 London (ANTARA News) – Saman dance performance from Indonesia’s Aceh Province stunned Paris community at the Indonesian Embassy cultural hall in Paris on Sunday night (June 2).

Organizing committee chairman Fadil told ANTARA News here on Monday that the public in Paris were mesmerized by the Saman dance performance during the “Smile Indonesia” cultural program at the embassy cultural hall.

Fadil said the Smile Indonesia cultural program was divided into two sessions to introduce the audience with the wealth of art and culture of Indonesia.

“We did our best to entertain the audience with variety of our art, culture and hospitality to make them love every moment of it,” Fadil said.

Meanwhile, the embassy’s education and culture attache Syafsir Akhlus said Indonesian students abroad were Indonesia cultural ambassadors to promote their art and culture in the countries where they were studying.

“The event is relevant to raise our homeland cultural treasures,” Syafsir said, adding that the Saman dance was performed by eight Indonesian students to close the event.

He noted that the Smile Indonesia cultural program which lasted from morning until late at night was enlivened not only by the Saman dance but also by other cultural performances.

The event was opened with Pandet dance and then followed with Janger dance, Baris dance, Legong Keraton dance, Surabaya Sparkling dance, and Kecapi and Angklung musical performances.

The embassy’s Deputy Chief Representative Asharyadi said the event organized by Indonesian Students Association in France, was an important part of diplomatic mission.

“Cultural interaction among the students of Indonesia and French community during their study in France is beneficial to introduce Indonesia to a larger community,” he said.

According to him, the event was attended by among others Indonesian community in France, students of other countries such as Russia, Rumania, Cameroon, and representatives of some campuses in France.

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W. Sulawesi intends to cooperate with Urumqi in agricultural sector

Tue, June 4 2013 Urumqi, China (ANTARA News) – West Sulawesi provincial government intends to cooperate with Urumqi in China’s Xinjiang province in agriculture sector.

“I don’t think it’s wrong if we learn from Urumqi, an area advanced in agriculture and animal husbandry sector in China,” West Sulawesi Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Service spokesman Muh Abduh said here on Tuesday.

Abduh is the member of a group of people from West Sulawesi to attend Sulawesi Trade Tourism and Investment Expo 2013 in Urumqi.

He also accompanied West Sulawesi Governor Anwar Adnan Saleh for a meeting with Xinjiang provincial government officials and Indonesia Ambassador to China, Nur Bekri.

“We are going to discuss many things about investment opportunity in agriculture,” Abduh said.

According to him, agriculture sector in Urumqi becomes one of the largest sources of income with the commodity of grapes, melon, pear, wheat, silk, walnut, cotton, and animal husbandry.

A city of 5 million people, Urumqi lies in the northwest of Xinjiang and is also connected via internal flights to most major Chinese cities and to international destinations throughout Central Asia and its capital cities and major trading hubs.

Twenty-one international airlines are based out of Urumqi, making it a convenient base for conducting business throughout Central Asia.

Urumqi is the region’s wealthiest city, and connections with the rest of China’s cheap manufacturing bases mean it is also a trading hub for goods that citizens of other Central Asian cities cannot otherwise obtain easily.

Meanwhile, West Sulawesi provincial government spokesman Jamil Barambangi said the Sulawesi Trade Tourism and Investment Expo 2013 was part of Governor Anwar Adnan Saleh effort to introduce West Sulawesi business potential in various fields to Chinese community.

According to him, Governor Anwar Adnan Saleh will speak on the development and business potential in South Sulawesi in his capacity as the chairman of South Sulawesi Regional Development Board.

Besides, South Sulawesi Regional Capital Investment coordination Board and Integrated Permit Service (BKPMD-P2T) Chairman Surung Katta said the Sulawesi Trade Tourism and Investment Expo was expected to have a positive impact on the economic development in the province.

“We are optimistic that after this event, many investors from China will invest in West Sulawesi,” he said.

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Qatar develops keen interest in Egypt’s cultural heritage

Dina Ezzat, Wednesday 29 May 2013 – The recent sale of the painting “Icons of the Nile” by Egyptian-Armenian artist Chant Avedissian at a Qatar-hosted auction by Sotheby’s offered reminder of a growing interest by Qatar in Egyptian cultural heritage. At over $1.5 million, the sale comes alongside the Qatari purchase of Seragueddine Palace, ostensibly at over $100 million.

The art purchase was made as part of a wider announced move to uplift Qatar’s humble cultural profile. The palace purchase was, on the contrary, shrouded in considerable secrecy. If the painting was the most expensive purchase of Egyptian art by Qatari collections, it was not the first

A leading Egyptian entrepreneur shared with Ahram Online his account of “a marvelous collection of Islamic era porcelain vessels that are ever so elegantly displayed at the office of a Qatari partner.”

The partner said he bought them from an Egyptian dealer who is making sure that crafts that have been illicitly gained would be safe with those aware of their worth.

A source at the Egyptian Ministry of State for Antiquities agreed that some items went missing from a few museums, including from the collection of the Museum of Islamic Arts, in the wake of the January 25 Revolution when security broke down nationwide.

“We could not know where they ended, but traditionally a good part of the Islamic items stolen or illegally sold end up at the palaces of rich Arab Gulf figures.”

Meanwhile, the Seragueddine Palace, whose sale prompted dismay due to its historic value and venue to key political events in the 20th century, is said to be the third Qatari acquisition (the two others are in Giza and Alexandria) of exotic architectural structures from elite 19th and early-20th century Egypt.

“We had offered my great grandfather’s villa for sale. It is an architectural gem by all accounts and the furniture is simply exotic. It was only when we got an offer from Sheikha Moza (the spouse of the emir of Qatar) that we felt we are getting close to the estimated worth of the villa,” said a co-owner of one of the three property’s purchased Qatar. He declined to reveal his identity on the advice of his lawyer.

The same co-owner went on: “The Egyptian mediator bargained too much, and we almost cancelled the sale. But then Sheikha Moza sent an envoy from Qatar and he looked at the place and agreed exactly to the original price we had put. We signed the contract in no time.”

A source at the Ministry of Culture, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Ahram Online that “whatever is private property is private property, and as long as a building is not registered as a monument then we have no say on whether or not it should be sold or demolished.”

The families of the original owners of two houses said that the new Qatari owner is not planning to demolish the buildings but would rather renovate them. In the words of one family member, a French and an Italian architect and designer have already inspected the palace to decide on a renovation plan.

Meanwhile, interested Qatari buyers are already discussing a couple of villas that were once the houses of two prominent Egyptian writers and that are now considerably run down. Qatari negotiations are also ongoing on several state-owned and long-closed cinema theatres.

“These are theatres that have been closed and non-functioning for so many years and they need millions of pounds to be reconstructed and upgraded with modern equipment. We need at least LE5 million for each — maybe more. We don’t have the money,” said a concerned government source.

He suggested that one of these theatres is in Alexandria and two are in downtown Cairo, but declined to say which ones.

The government source said that “there is no legal handicap” to such purchase deals because they fall squarely under the banner of privatisation that allowed for the sale of theatres in the past to Egyptian entrepreneurs.

Keen Qatari interest in Egyptian culture is part of a wider cultural acquisiton drive that Qatari enterpreneurs and members of the ruling family have pursuing worldwide.

In a recent example, Doha managed to get Arab League Secretary General Nabil El-Arabi to agree to send to Qatar close to 200,000 stamps in the collection of the pan-Arab organisation, to be now permanently displayed in a stamps museum in Doha.

The request was presented by Qatar in 2011 under former Arab League head Amr Moussa, but was shelved. A concerned Arab League official said: “There is nothing wrong with sending these stamps to Qatar, because we have original copies of the entire collection.”

The collection includes an original copy of every single stamp that was issued by the 22 member states of the Arab League.

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Consultant starts work for Dohajari – Cox’s Bazar railway

SANGSAD BHABAN, June 5, 2013 (BSS) – The railway minister M Mazibul Haque today told the House that a consultant firm started work on detailed design with updating of feasibility study of Dohajari -Cox’s Bazar via Ramu and Gundum rail track from November 2012.

He said the government signed an agreement for detailed design with updating of feasibility study of the project on October 11, 2012 to construct rail track from Dohazari in Chittagong to Gundum in Myanmar via Ramu which will also connect Dhaka with Cox’s Bazar.

Replying to a question of Abdur Rahman Badi, MP, Cox’s Bazar, the minister said the government has taken initiative to construct 128 km rail track from Dohazari to Cox’s Bazar at a cost of Taka 1,852 crore.

The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) meeting chaired by the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on July 6 in 2010 approved Taka 1,852 crore project for construction of a single track rail line, the Minister said.

About the completion of the project, Haque said the government has sought $ 350 million from Asian Development Bank (ADB) as project aid for implementation of the rail track.

On availability of the fund, the government would start land acquisition and construction work, he said.

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Tk 5,589cr proposed Bangladesh for railway development

SANGSAD BHABAN, June 6, 2013 (BSS)-The national budget for the fiscal 2013-14 has proposed Taka 5,589 crore for development of the railways infrastructure in the country.

“We have drawn out a master plan for Bangladesh Railways with an objective to expand and modernize railway,” Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith said while placing the national budget of Taka 2,22,491 crore for the fiscal 2013-2014 in the Jatiya Sangsad here today.

The government has undertaken 50 new and revised projects worth of Taka 24,000 crore for the expansion and modernization of railway system, he said adding, “We have introduced 45 new trains and expanded necessary services in the existing 22 trains.”

The minister said the present government gave special priority to railways and took initiatives to make Bangladesh Railway a corporate organization.

The total allocation for railway in the budget of FY 2012- 2013 was Taka 4,900 crore. The allocation has been enhanced by Taka 689 crore in the FY2013-2014.

“As part of Railways Master Plan, we have taken initiatives to connect our railway network with India, Nepal and Bhutan and are finalizing our design and study for construction of new railway lines to establish connectivity with the Trans-Asian Railway,” the finance minister said.

He said the upgrading work of Dhaka-Chittagong railway corridor to double line is underway while detailed designs and feasibility studies for construction of 2nd Bhairab and 2nd Titas bridges are being finalized.

“The feasibility study for construction of a separate dual gauge rail bridge parallel to the Bangabandhu Bridge is in progress,” Muhith told the House in his budget speech.

Besides, the government has undertaken projects to construct new rail tracks and reconstruct the old ones to expand rail networks, he said adding, “Immediate steps would be taken to mobilize support from Asian Development Bank, World Bank, China and India in this regard.”

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Tk 308 cr for Bangladesh civil aviation, tourism

DHAKA, June 6, 2013 (BSS) – An allocation of Taka 308 crore has been made in the budget proposed for 2013-14 fiscal for Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry for developing country’s aviation system and tourism industry. The proposed budget is Taka 41 crore up than the Taka 267 revised budget of 2012-13 fiscal year.

Of the total amount, Taka 265 crore will be spent under the Annual Development Programme ADP) and Taka 43 crore under non- development sector.

Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith made the announcement while placing the budget for the new financial year before the Jatiya Sangsad today.

As part of our development plan, the finance minister said the work for expansion and up-gradation of runways of various airports including Hazrat Shahjalal (Rh) International Airport is going on.

“Steps have been taken to build two more boarding bridges, holding lounge and connecting corridors for improving the quality of passenger services,” he said.

Besides, Muhith said steps have been taken to install necessary equipment to ensure takeoff safety at Hazrat Shahjalal (Rh) in the capital and Shah Amanat (Rh) International airports in the port city Chittagong.

A project has been undertaken to upgrade Cox’s Bazar Airport to international standard, he informed the House. “We will have to construct a bigger airport within the next five years,” he said adding “We have given special emphasis on the development of Hajrat Shahjalal (Rh) International airport to ensure free movement of air traffic in the interim period.”

Mentioning his previous budget speech, where he announced to add ten more aircrafts to the Biman fleet, the finance minister said two aircrafts have already been procured and two more will be delivered by the Boeing Company next February and March.

“A qualitative change is likely to take place in the flight operations of Biman to different destinations after the planned addition of the new aircrafts to the fleet,” he said.

For tourism industry, the proposed budget has made a proposal, much demanded by the tour operators, for comprehensive duty rebate on importation of commodities required for promotion of tourism industry has been made.

The finance minister said the government has taken steps to publish a book featuring various tourist sites scattered around the country. For this purpose, the process of collecting relevant data is in progress, he said.

“We have primarily identified several projects to be implemented under public private partnership (PPP) for developing infrastructure for tourism industry and improving management of this sector,” he said. A couple of such programs has been planned to be implemented at Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf, he said.

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316 development projects implemented in Netrakona

NETRAKONA, June 07, 2013 (BSS) – A total of 316 development projects have been implemented in the rural areas of ten upazilas of the district under rural infrastructure repairing programme of the government during the current fiscal year.

An official source said the government allocated 2, 890 tonnes of rice for implementation of these projects under the supervision of the upazila parishads and District Relief and Rehabilitation Department.

The projects included repair and renovation of rural roads and earth works in different educational and religious institutions and kuccha bazaars.

District Relief and Rehabilitation Officer Siddiqur Rahman told BSS that the rural road communication network of the district and the infrastructural conditions of different rural schools, colleges, madrashas, mosques, temples and churches and kuccha bazaars have been improved following implementation of uplift projects.

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Istanbul State Opera to stage ‘Afife’ ballet

Hurriyet – ISTANBUL – The ballet “Afife,” which tells the life story of the first Turkish theater actress Afife Jale, will be staged at Istanbul’s Kadıköy Süreyya Opera House on May 28, 30 and 31 after a 14-year hiatus. The ballet was last performed by the Ankara State Opera and Ballet, but is now back with the Istanbul State Opera Ballet.

Jale was the first Muslim theater actress in early Turkish history and chose to take the stage despite the fact that it was forbidden for Muslim women to perform during the early 1900s. She continued to perform as an actress in the face of social pressure and negative comments.

The performance is an example of modern Turkish ballet and dance drama, reflecting different parts of Jale’s life in gold, red, purple and silver costumes, according to organizers.

A 25-person cast will tell her life story through lyrical and modern dances. Tülay Yalçınkaya, Zuhal Balkan, Ebru Cansız, Deniz Zirek and İlke Kodal will all be playing Jale’s character, while one of the most important people in Jale’s life, Ziya, will be played by Erhan Güzel.

The cartography and libretto of the show were organized by Beyhan Murphy, the music was arranged by Turgay Erdener and the costumes were created by Turkish fashion designer Bahar Korçan.

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Local tourism earns 1.5 billion-lira incentive

ISTANBUL – Anatolia News Agency – The local tourism sector received over 1.5 billion Turkish Liras-worth of investment incentives within the first four months of this year. A total of 130 tourism investments projects, 105 of them totally new ones, received 1.55 billion liras-worth of incentive licenses between January and April, the Mediterranean Touristic Hotels and Investors Association (AKTOB) announced.

The statement said the 105 new planned projects would provide employment opportunities for 6,120 people. The facilities projected to be built with incentives will have 12,600 rooms and 25,300 beds.

Antalya became the top city that received the most incentives by far, receiving a 36 percent share. It was followed by Istanbul with 11 percent, and Muğla, Mersin and Hatay with 5 percents. With regards to hotel types, three-star hotels received the lion share of funds.

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Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan establish railway link

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-06-03 ASTANA – The opening of a railway between Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan will not only help develop ties between the two countries and boost their economies, but it will also help the region as a whole, analysts say.

“This project can have a positive impact on the general situation in the region and beyond and can significantly boost stability and security in Asia,” Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov said.

The inauguration of the 148km-long segment of the railway May 11 officially linked Bolashak, Kazakhstan, to Serhetyaka, Turkmenistan. The corridor eventually will be 470km long and will provide access to the Persian Gulf.

Turkmenistan is working to improve its transport infrastructure, said Raihan K., an employee at the Turkmen Railway Transport Ministry, noting that previously the countries had poor, roundabout transport connections.

“We co-operate with Kazakhstan in various spheres, and this line is important both for freight and passenger traffic,” he said.

Some, though, were sceptical of spending money on a rail project. “The cost should be weighed against the general situation in the country,” economist and opposition politician Serikbolsyn Abdildin said.

“We are spending money left, right and centre and losing out on the chance to boost our economy and improve our standard of living,” he said.

But proponents contend that there will be economic benefits. The new project will benefit the economies of both countries and of the region, Kazakhstani lower house MP Aitkul Samakova said.

For example, Kazakhstani grain, oil and oil products will be transported along the newly opened corridor – when it’s complete – to the Persian Gulf region, Daniyar Ashimbayev, a Kazakhstani political commentator and the author of several political and economic books, said.

“Kazakhstan does not have its own corridor to the sea, and most of the freight is transported by road and rail,” he said, adding that Kazakhstan needs this route. “One of the state’s most important tasks is to improve the transport infrastructure.”

Employment is another benefit of the railway. The construction created more than 2,000 jobs, which went to citizens of both countries, according to official figures from Astana. About 1,000 more jobs will become available once the line is fully operational, forecasts predict.

The railway will also open up employment opportunities in related businesses like restaurants and tourism in the future, Tokhtar Aubakirov, adviser to the president of the Kazakhstan National Railway, said.

With the opening of the passenger line, Serhetyaka resident Asker Yusuf plans to open a small business selling prepared meals to passengers, he told Central Asia Online.

“If the demand is good, I will sell other goods on the train,” he said. “I heard that there would be other ways to make money on the railway, and that is a very good thing.”

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Private Bangladesh Airline Regent Airways To Go International

DHAKA, June 5, 2013 (BSS) – One of the country’s private airlines Regent Airways is set to spread its wings to fly beyond the border by launching its debut international flight to Malaysia next month after two years’ operation on domestic routes.

“The airline has procured two 126-seat next generation Boeing 737-700 ER aircraft from the US for 6 years on dry lease,” CEO of Regent Airways Imran Asif told journalists today at a press conference at a city hotel here.

The debut flight RX782 will depart on 7th July from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 12.30 midnight (local time) and the return flight RX783 will depart next day from Kuala Lumpur at 8.20 am (local time), he said.

The cabin configuration consists of 12 business class and 114 economy class seats, he said adding that customers can purchase economy class tickets by 27,500 taka and business class by 55,000 taka both round trip.

The airline has also planned to operate flights on Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore and Kolkata routes from this year, Asif said.

“To maintain international standard we will provide flight catering from Biman Flight Centre (BFCC) which is the only international standard flight catering in Bangladesh,” he said.

The airlines has a plan to operate one flight to Kuala Lumpur each day and four flights each for Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok every week with Boeing 737 aircraft, Asif said. “We have planned to start flight on Kolkata route from this August with Dash-8 aircraft,” he added.

Regent Airways had inaugurated its first domestic flight in November, 2010. The airline has been operating flights between Dhaka and Chittagong, Sylhet, Cox’s Bazar and Jessore with two Dash-8 aircraft.

With the Regent Airways endeavour, the number of the country’s international route airlines stands at three. At present, state-owned Biman Bangladesh Airlines and private carrier United Airways have been conducting flights on international routes.

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Uganda: Govt to Promote Community Tourism

New Vision – 6 June 2013 – The Government will develop a framework to train local people to engage in community tourism, Maria Mutagamba, the minister of tourism, wildlife and antiquities has said.

“We would like to develop the capacity of our people to start using what they have locally to attract tourists,” she said. The Minister said this recently during a meeting with Maria Baryamujura, the 2013 winner of the prestigious African Diaspora World Tourism Award and a leading consultant on community tourism.

At the meeting which took place in the Minister’s office at Famer’s house on Parliament Avenue, on Wednesday, Baryamujura presented Mutagamba with the certificate she received in recognition for her outstanding work. She also shared useful tips on community tourism.

“We have got one of the richest and most unique cultures in the world, but we still are trying to find ways of making the most of it. Community tourism is one of the most viable ways of marketing our country,” Mutagamba said.

She added that community tourism is not yet a widely understood concept in Uganda, perhaps “because our people do not have the skills to package our products in a way that can attract the attention of tourists.”

“We shall work closely with experienced people like Baryamujura to sensitise Ugandans about the importance of community tourism,” she said.

Community tourism is where people within their communities use the materials available to them; things like food, culture, housing, environment as tourist resources for foreign visitors.

Baryamujura is a community tourism Consultant, Founder and Executive Director of Community Based Tourism Initiatives (COBATI) a tourism non-profit organisation. Over the last three decades, she has been involved in tourism and cultural heritage promotion.

The African Diaspora World Tourism Awards honours leaders in the field of black culture and heritage as an influence on tourism. It recognises the service and dedication of key people from around the world who have significantly influenced world tourism and the exploration of the global places of black culture and heritage. The official Awards Ceremony was held on Saturday April 27, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

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Nigeria: FG Develops Tourism Brand for Nigeria

Vanguard – 7 June 2013 – ‘The Brand: Fascinating Nigeria; Beckoning Beauty’ has been described as a tourism brand for the country by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Chief Edem Duke.

According to the Minister who disclosed this in a chat with the media last week , said the brand will be launched by President Goodluck Jonathan in July.

He noted that the slogan: ‘Good People, Great Nation’ launched by Yaradua’s administration was for domestic re-engineering that has no global recognition.

He added that all over the world, Nigeria is known for its creative industry, and that, the cultural diversity of its people makes her the most fascinating country globally.

According to him, “People, culture and environment remain the first letter of recommendation before you even thinking of business activities.

“Yet we have the potential to be a big player, but then, we must be identified with a product. What is Nigeria unique selling point? And we say, we are a fascinating country and I think that is in all ramifications, if you see the endowment of our people, you will see that truly we are.

“This is the tourism brand identity, the Nigeria good people great nation, is a national effort for domestic re-engineering of national conscience, for inspiration within our country and of course an expression of the kind of people we are.

“For tourism, for our music, culture, people, history, and heritage Nigeria is now positioning itself as the most fascinating country, so this is not a competing initiative; no doubt we are good people, great nation. For economy and such power of projecting Nigeria, this is what we will be showing to the rest of the world.

“I am sure that if you go to a site fascinating Nigeria in a couple of days, you will see some extra ordinary things that will make each and every one of us proud. The issue of sustainability has been taken care off.

“Yes Nigeria may be of various political or religion callings, we may have other interests that will compete with one another, but when it come to the blood that flow in our veins, when it comes to the integrity of our country, the image of our country, Nigerians all over the world always stand firm and resolute, that is what we want to empower with this initiative”.

In her remarks, the newly appointed Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mrs. Sally Mbanefo, said the new agenda of the NTDC was to create domestic tourism, which will attract foreign investors.

She commended the Minister for his effort towards the growth and development of the tourism sector in the country, adding that, Nigeria’s Tourism Identity would go a long way to project the country positively.

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Nigeria: Abuja Debuts Nigeria’s First Six-Star Hotel

This Day – 2 June 2013 – The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has stepped up its stake in the hospitality and tourism, when AES Luxury Apartments Abuja made history at the weekend by becoming the first 6-star hotel to be established in Nigeria.

The Minister of Culture and Tourism and National orientation, Chief Edem Duke, who declared open AES Apartments open commended the owners and managers of hospitality outfit for its high standard.

Duke said that the emergence of AES on Abuja’s hospitality landscape is particularly timely as patrons seek secure, yet opulent, alternatives to the few and often overcrowded 5-star hotels in the city. He declared: “With what I have seen here today, AES is indeed a “first among equals”.

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Algeria: Gov’t Looks to Jump-Start Tourism

Magharebia – 4 June 2013 – Algiers — Algeria on June 1 began beefing up security at coastal tourist destinations for the start of the summer beach season. Authorities re-launched the Delphine Plan. Under this year’s security roll-out, officials are stepping up patrols on 256 beaches, or nearly three-quarters of beaches where bathing is permitted. The National Gendarmerie is setting up 156 surveillance points to safeguard those beaches and surrounding areas as well as give holiday makers peace of mind.

The latest mobilisation comes as the tourism industry grapples with how to bounce back amid a slump brought on by insecurity in the Sahel. The deadly terror attack on the Tiguentourine gas complex in mid-January only complicated the recovery.

Algerian officials and tourism professionals held a conference in Algiers in mid-April to chart a new strategy for jump-starting this economic sector.

In the aftermath of the attack near In Amenas, Tourism Minister Mohamed Benmeradi reassured desert tour operators that no tourism development in southern Algerian would be cancelled as a result. He stated unequivocally that “the driving force of Algeria’s entire tourism industry is the Sahara”.

Industry insiders and tourism officials, nonetheless, have raised concerns about diminishing tourist numbers in the desert. In 2012, 706 foreign tourists visited Tamanrasset, compared with 1,807 in 2011, according to figures released by Tamanrasset Province Tourism Director Abdelmalek Moulay.

At the National Tourism Conference in Algiers on April 15th-16th, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika set the tone for two-day forum by saying that the industry needed to chart a broader strategy for success because Algeria’s natural assets alone could not attract tourists.

For his part, Benmeradi told conference participants that tourism workers needed to rally behind the slogan “Tourism is the business of us all” in order to achieve medium and long-term goals.

The sector’s first goal was to develop internal tourism by attracting the 1.9 million tourists who currently choose to spend to vacation abroad, he said. The second goal was to increase the number of foreign tourists who visit the country.

In 2012, some 250,000 European tourists visited Algeria. However, the tourism minister acknowledged the country suffered from a “lack of quality and capacity in terms of accommodation”.

“It is essential to create new infrastructure and improve the quality of our services in order to attract more tourists,” he said.

To achieve these goals, tourism professionals are implementing a strategy that will continue until 2025. Participants concluded the conference by recommending a host of measures to boost the industry, including improving quality, supporting training efforts, modernising infrastructure, and regulating the industry.

“Although tourism isn’t the country’s biggest source of revenue, the impact of terrorism has been felt by professionals: when no one goes out any more and the beaches are deserted, there is inevitably a negative impact on establishments which cater to tourists,” commented French teacher Nabila Arroudj.

Dali Menouar, the president of a cultural organisation in Bechar in southern Algeria, was unequivocal.

“Ever since the situation in the Sahel deteriorated, we have been feeling the consequences directly. A lot of tour operators have gone under,” Menouar said. “Many people who were used to working on a seasonal basis found themselves out of work this year. There have been very few tourists this year, and the outlook appears to be bleak.”

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Egypt Air Relaunches Flights to Zim

The Herald – 3 June 2013 – THE timing of the relaunch of the Egypt Air services to Harare is perfect considering the expected increase in the movement of people into the country for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly next month, an official said yesterday.

Speaking at a ceremony to celebrate the airline’s inaugural flight from Cairo to Harare at the Harare International Airport, Transport, Communication and Infrastructural Development Permanent Secretary Mr Munesu Munodawafa said the direct flight solved the problem of connectivity between Zimbabwe and Northern Africa.

“In the past, you had to go to Europe first and then connect to Cairo or spend two days in East Africa before you can get to Cairo. The coming back of a direct connection to Cairo is very welcome and it will connect the Great Pyramids of Egypt with the Mighty Victoria Falls,” he said.

He added that the link between the two countries would make travel easier and more efficient for visitors coming for the meeting in August.

Mr Munodawafa said the relaunch also fits in well with the vision of the ministry to transform Zimbabwe into a regional hub with world class infrastructure and service for the transport and communication sectors.

“This connectivity is poised to bring significant traffic between the two regions, in particular our two countries and I urge business people to now look toward Egypt as a potential trade partner and improve trade between the two countries.”

“Egypt is linked with other countries so a connection with Egypt is a connection with the whole of North Africa across all sectors,” he added.

Mr Munodawafa challenged the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority to take advantage of the connectivity to come up with strategic tour packages that would bring more travellers to Zimbabwe and boost the tourism sector.

“The biggest challenge ZTA has is to increase the movement of people between Zimbabwe and Egypt but they have been given the tools and the link.

“What is left is for them to create specific tour packages that will help them get the tourists from all over the world to proceed to Zimbabwe from Egypt. If tourism doesn’t play its part, all other sectors will not grow,” he said.

Mr Munodawafa also said the coming in of the airline provided synergies with Air Zimbabwe following the resurgence of the national airline.

Egyptian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Basem Khalil said the airlink would not only connect Egypt and Zimbabwe but would provide a direct link with East Africa which has not been available.

“This comes at a time when Zimbabwe and Zambia are preparing for the UNWTO General Assembly and many people will want to travel to Zimbabwe. It is a big step toward the promotion of business between the two countries,” he said.

He added that there was also potential for growth in tourism and culture for both countries, which would be enhanced by the connectivity.

The manager of the airline’s operati ns in Africa Mr Saeed Ahmed Ramadan said Egypt Air was working on increasing its operations in the country soon.

“This is one more tie for Egypt to connect with Zimbabwe. I commend the hospitality of Zimbabweans and I can tell you that this is the beginning. Egypt Air is working on increasing the number of flights into the country. We look forward to servicing Vic Falls and Bulawayo as well.”

Egypt Air’s return to Harare skies comes after a nine-year absence that was precipitated by the turbulent economic situation. The airline will fly four times a week between Harare and Cairo via Dar es Salaam, using a Boeing 737-900.

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Air Astana And Turkish Airlines Sign Codeshare Agreement

Air Astana and Turkish Aiirlines, Skytrax award-winning carriers from Central Asia and Europe, have signed a codeshare agreement on routes between Kazakhstan and Turkey. The agreement was signed at the IATA Annual General Meeting in Cape Town yesterday by Peter Foster, President of Air Astana, and Dr Temel Kotil, President and CEO of Turkish Airlines.

Air Astana and Turkish Airlines signed the Letter of Intent to expand the range of cooperation between the two carriers in March 2013. The codeshare agreement allowed passengers to benefit from a higher number of combined frequencies for better connectivity and increased travel flexibility between the two countries. Codesharing on flights between Almaty – Istanbul and Astana – Istanbul additionally include special prorate agreements on sectors beyond respective hubs in Almaty, Astana and Istanbul.

“Under the strong and visionary leadership of Temel Kotil, Turkish Airlines has become a globally recognized network carrier serving more countries globally than any other carrier and achieved the Skytrax rating as “Best Airline in Europe” for the past two years consecutively. The code-share agreement signed today is the latest step in the increasingly close link between the two airlines; both of which show equal ambition to continue to rogress well above average world ratings and fully committed to delivering excellence in customer service,” said Peter Foster, President of Air Astana.

“We are extremely pleased to sign this codeshare agreement with Air Astan and aim to improve our partnership to maximize the travel opportunities offered to passengers through the extensive networks of both airlines. Air Astana continues expanding successfully, offering superior customer service, with a very young fleet. We believe the partnership with Air Astana will bring enormous benefit to both airlines, not only from a commercial perspective in rapidly growing Kazakhstan, but also in technical and training areas,” said Dr Temel Kotil, President and CEO of Turkish Airlines,

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

Air Astana is a full member of the International Air Transport Association and was the first airline in Kazakhstan to achieve EU EASA Part 145 aircraft maintenance certification. In September 2011, Air Astana successfully completed its third ATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA).

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

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Maldives To Host World Tourism Day Celebrations on Sept 27

Madrid, Spain, 3 June 2013 PR No. 13036 – Centered on the theme ‘Tourism and Water: Protecting our Common Future’, World Tourism Day 2013 will underline tourism´s responsibility and needed commitment to preserving the world´s vital water resources. The Maldives will host the official celebrations on 27 September 2013.

This year’s World Tourism Day (WTD) theme focuses on tourism’s significant role and contribution to worldwide water conservation efforts. The theme is in line with the UN General Assembly’s declaration of 2013 as the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation, providing the opportunity to further highlight the shared responsibility of the tourism sector to the wider sustainability objectives.

As a trillion dollar economic sector, tourism is a powerful force capable of tackling this challenge by offering effective solutions geared towards a more sustainable water future. With over one billion people traveling internationally each year, tourism can also be an important vehicle of raising awareness and changing behaviors.

“As one of the largest economic sectors in the world, it is the responsibility of the tourism sector to take a leadership role and ensure companies and destinations invest in adequate water management throughout the value chain. If managed sustainably, tourism can bring benefits to the national and local communities and support water preservation,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai in his official WTD 2013 message. “I urge all those involved in the tourism sector to join our global World Tourism Day campaign and continue to devise innovate solutions to ensuring sustainable access to water resources worldwide.”

Clean, accessible water is vital to tourism, running most of the sector´s businesses, from hotels and restaurants to leisure facilities and transportation. More importantly, wetland tourism is growing, with many of the world’s coastlines, lakes and other wetlands among the most popular tourism destinations.

World Tourism Day will be a unique opportunity to examine the challenges facing water management in tourism and the measures being undertaken by the sector to protect and promote water resources while creating benefits for local populations around water tourism destinations.

Official WTD celebrations in the Maldives will include a High-Level Think Tank bringing together public and private tourism stakeholders and water experts to devise policies and strategies aimed at ensuring the tourism sector contributes to protecting water resources.

World Tourism Day is celebrated annually on 27 September. Its purpose is to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value. The event seeks to address the global challenges outlined in the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and highlight the tourism sector´s contribution in reaching these goals.

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Tourist season opened in Issyk-Kul

Bishkek, June 10 / Kabar /. Ceremony of official opening of the tourist season “Salam Issyk-Kul 2013” is held in Issyk-Kul oblast with the participation of Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Zhantoro Satybaldiev.

The opening ceremony is held in the cultural center “Ruh Ordo” and in the central square of Cholpon-Ata. A concert and exhibition of handicraft souvenirs and national dishes were organized in frames of the event.

During his speech, the Prime Minister called upon everybody to rest in spas and health resorts of Kyrgyzstan. “There are many recreational and therapeutic resorts in Kyrgyzstan. There are great places like Issyk-Kul Lake, Sary-Chelek, Kara Shoro, Son-Kul lake, mountain resorts and a number of places where you can spend time with advantage for health, “he said.

Satybaldiev stressed that stability in the country is the basis for tourist attractiveness of the country. “Any political instability could affect the influx of tourists. Therefore I would like to urge all compatriots to resolve conflicts and disputes through dialogue and compromise, not by protests and blocking roads, ” said the Prime Minister.

In addition, J. Satybaldiev said that this year reconstruction of the airport in Tamchy completes and in 2014 the airport will accept any type of aircraft. The Prime Minister expressed confidence that this year’s season will be more successful than last year.

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New farming methods give local crops a boost in Abu Dhabi

Global Arab Network – – Asif Khalifa Sunday, 09 June 2013 17:23

Efforts to raise the profile of farmers and their produce in Abu Dhabi are gathering strength as the emirate steps up its bid to generate greater food production.

Addressing the challenges stemming from the UAE’s arid climate and limited water supply forms a key component of the emirate’s agriculture drive and is expected to facilitate Abu Dhabi’s plans to to roll out extensive development projects in the coming years, Global Arab Network reports according to OBG.

The emirate has begun growing vegetables and plants using methods that require less water, according to the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA). It has also stepped up conservation efforts, recycling irrigation water and using it more effectively, while taking steps to prevent leaks and evaporation.

“In addition to these, we are conducting several programmes to create and strengthen awareness among farmers and farm owners about how the right use of technology can contribute to higher productivity, higher incomes from farming and reduced time spent on cultivation,” Rashed Mohamed Al Shariqi, the director-general of ADFCA, told OBG.

At present, water used for agriculture and afforestation accounts for 76% of Abu Dhabi’s total consumption, according to ADFCA. Some 48% of the emirate’s water goes towards farm irrigation, while 23% is channelled into afforestation. Around 5% is used in gardens and parks. The demand for water is expected to increase by 123% by 2030 as Abu Dhabi pushes ahead with its development plans.

Al Shariqi told OBG that the agency was working with the Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Services Centre (ADFSC), a country-wide education resource for farmers, to boost productivity by using farming areas more efficiently. “In 2010-11, for example, intensive methods produced high-quality potatoes which were cultivated in the Western Region,” he said.

Farmers who took part in the programme saw their potato crops more than double, rising to 44,000 vegetables per hectare (ha) up from 20,000, with productivity per ha increasing from 10-15 tonnes of potatoes to 38 tonnes. The volume of water required to grow a kilo of potatoes dropped to 154 litres, down from 640, through the use of efficient irrigation methods.

A recent study showing that 13% of soil in the UAE is suitable for irrigated farming should bolster the emirates’ efforts to expand the agricultural industry and promote local produce, particularly in Abu Dhabi, which was found to hold more than 5% of the country’s potential agricultural land. The findings of the two-year soil study, revealed in December, are expected to help the UAE attract new investment for agricultural initiatives and address problems caused by degradation of land and natural resources.

The emirate’s bid to build a better local network of food production has also raised awareness among consumers about both food security and safety. In its campaigns, the ADFSC has highlighted the benefits of buying local meat and animal foodstuffs from a traceable source, pointing out that reducing the number of stages involved in handling produce helped lower the risk of food-borne diseases.

Industry players acknowledge, however, that consumers will be looking for produce that holds its own against international foodstuffs. “The community wants local products,” said Chris Hirst, the CEO of ADFSC, told regional media. “However, shoppers aren’t going to buy vegetables or meat just because they’re local. They have to be as good, or better, than the imported [items].”

Efforts to boost production have also led to local companies investing in farmland abroad to ensure the emirates are supplied with essential foodstuffs. The UAE-based firm Al Dahra Agriculture, which is the biggest supplier of hay, rice and other essential commodities to the emirates, has channeled funds into various investments aimed at cultivating agricultural lands for long-term food security. The company announced in January that it would become the majority shareholder in eight Serbian farming corporations that own some 14,000 ha of farmland.

“By investing in acquiring and developing agricultural lands outside the emirates, the UAE can alleviate the pressure on water security and contribute to executing the nation’s vision for food security. At the same time, we are creating a stable and consistent supply of human food and animal feed by integrating the supply chain and retaining control of all aspects of the production-supply process,” Khadim Al Darei, the vice-chairman of Al Dahra Agriculture, told OBG.

Projects aimed at boosting local produce alongside increased demand from consumers have also highlighted the scope for expansion in Abu Dhabi’s agricultural industry. The new soil findings should strengthen the emirate’s hopes of attracting investors for a broad range of planning and development initiatives across the sector.

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19th Fez Festival of World Sacred Music held in Morocco

07 June 2013 Maghreb Arab presse – Princess Lalla Salma presided, Friday night, over the opening ceremony of the 19th Fez Festival of World Sacred Music on the theme

The princess attended the inaugural show of the festival under the theme “Love is my religion,” a poetic epic of the history of Andalusia through dances, songs, poetry, music and filmed projections.

The Fez Festival of World Sacred Music celebrated this year the Andalusian culture which, for more than eight centuries, has combined the Amazigh, Arab, Iberian, Roman and Visigoth cultures and brought together in one melting pot the East and West cultures, according to the “Spirit of Fez” Foundation which organizes the event.

The festival features a rich programme of lively concerts by artists carrying messages of peace and spirituality from around the world, especially from Mongolia, Greece, Turkey, Mauritania, Spain, Lebanon, India, Martinique, Egypt, Algeria, Bhutan, Portugal, Syria, Palestine, the USA, France and Morocco.

It will offer the public free concerts, exhibitions, Sufi nights, educational events and artistic activities. The Festival aims to harness the arts and spirituality in the service of human and social development, and the relationship between peoples and cultures.

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Tunisia: number of visitors increases by more than 50,000 in May

The number of visitors who entered Tunisia in May 2013 increased by 50 842, compared to May 2012, according to figures from the Ministry of the Interior.

The Directorates of Aliens and Borders said 674,721 citizens came to Tunisia in that month, including 67,992 expatriate Tunisians and 55,393 cruise passengers.

According to the official website of the Ministry of Interior, Libyan come out on top with 204,000 visitors, followed by French (74,872), Algerian (60,697), British (47,374), German (44 933 ), Russian (32,755), Belgian(13,750) and Italian (13,406).

In addition, 97 yachts and pleasure boats docked in the port of Tunisia, during the same period.

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Iran Unveils 3 New Medicines

TEHRAN, Iran, Jun 9 (NNN-FNA) – Iranian Minister of Science, Research and Technology, Kamran Daneshjou, on Saturday unveiled three new drugs, produced by Iranian scientists at Razi University in the western Kermanshah province.

The three drugs named Minoxidil, Monte Lucas and Thiopental Sodium are used to treat blood pressure (hypertension), chronic asthma and post-anesthesia convulsion, respectively. The medications were imported into the country from foreign states before.

Iran has taken wide strides in science and technology, particularly in medical and medicinal fields, in recent years. Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, unveiled five new home-made radiomedicines in a ceremony in Apr.

The radiomedicines were developed and produced by Iranian experts, at the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI), with the cooperation of the presidential office for science and technology.

Also in April, Iranian Vice-President for Science and Technology, Nasrin Soltankhah said, “Five radiomedicines, in whose production the Atomic Energy Organisation has played the central role, will be unveiled by the end of Farvardin (mid Apr).”

She explained that the new radiomedicines are used for “diagnosing and curing refractory diseases, cancer in particular.”

In Febr, AEOI Chief, Fereidoun Abbasi, announced that Iran is due to unveil 8 new radiomedicines with applications for diagnosis, prevention and treatment of a number of diseases.

“We have produced a number of radiomedicines before, and at present we have 5 new radiomedicines under production,” Abbasi said at a ceremony in Tehran at the time.

“They (the new radiomedicines) should pass clinical verifications and then obtain the necessary license from the Health Ministry, before they can be unveiled and supplied to the market,” he added.– NNN-FNA

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Iran Opens Its First Space Monitoring And Surveillance Centre

TEHRAN, Iran, Jun 9 (NNN-MNA) – Iran’s president has opened the country’s first space monitoring and surveillance centre.

In the opening ceremony of the centre, named after Imam Sadeq (as), Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi, Defence Minister also attended. Vahidi, talking to reporters, congratulated the religious festivities of Rajab. “In line with the realisation of providing space security and the country’s space systems, we need to monitor all heavenly bodies passing our airspace regularly,” Vahidi added and that “Data provided by space surveillance systems, not only is used for our own satellites’ guiding, but also, it would be useful for monitoring orbital traffic for countries having the technology.”

“Currently, international conventions coordinate the exchange and sharing of surveillance data. Sharing such data provides the opportunity for us to be online in the network, and use the data from other surveillance systems worldwide,” he said.

Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi pointed out that the Imam Sadeq (as) space monitoring and surveillance centre had been intended for discovery, detection, exploration, and surveillance of heavenly bodies. “Radar, electro-optic, and radio surveillance are three modes of exploration and detection of these bodies,” he said, adding that, “All data from surveillance is transferred to command line of the centre, collected, classified, and the process of exploration and detection is launched.”

Vahidi pointed to different specialities and complexities inherent in the construction of the centre. “With the centre opened, space technology chain is completed for the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said.

Vahdi also expressed his gratitude to scientists, management and experts of Electronic Industries Co., in the Ministry of Defence, for their hard work in establishment of such a centre in inclement climatic conditions. “Sa Iran played a crucial role as a weighty company, in developing electronic and electro-optic devices,” he added.

Vahidi assessed the launching of the centre as an unforgettable ‘epic’ in space technology for the country. “In the year of political and economic epic, the epic creators also have presented the Iranian people with such a bright achievement, in line with the Supreme Leader’s guidelines,” he said.

The Defence Minister congratulated the great achievement to the Supreme Leader, Iranian ‘honourable’ people, and space technology scientists. “We got other valuable achievements in space technology, which would be communicated to Iranians very soon,” he said.– NNN-MNA

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Parade, street show, concert open Diwan Music Festival

BECHAR (Algeria) 8 June 2013, APS – A traditional parade, a musical street show and a concert kicked off Friday the seventh National Cultural Festival of Diwan Music in Bechar (965-km southwest of Algiers).

In the afternoon, a traditional parade of Berk Aichou, in Kenadsa, was followed by a procession of musicians along one of the thoroughfares of the downtown, before the opening of the first show of the festival, drawing more than one thousand people.

The festival’s opening show featured Ouled Bambra band of Algiers, which takes part in the official competition, and the new women’s band Kerktou, led by Hasna el Becharia and guitarist Lotfi Attar.

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“Koyo” choreography, Bechar’s traditional diwan at 7th Diwan Music Festival in Algeria

BECHAR 9 June 2013 (Algeria) APS – A diwan dance and music show was given Saturday in Bechar (965-km southwest of Algiers) by three competing troupes from Relizane, Oran and Bechar provinces, in addition to Ouled el Hadja Maghnia, the invited group of the evening.

Relizane’s “Ouled Sidi Blal” troupe, which participates in the festival with the same elements for the third time, is made up of young musicians overseen by Mhamed Belamria.

Oran’s “Tourat Gnawa,” the second candidate, enthralled the audience with its homogeneous and expressive choreography “Koyo.”

Headed by Ami Brahim, one of the last Mkeddem of Bechar, “Diwan ami Brahim” troupe captivated the audience with its dancers who performed a long and intense “koyo.”

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Indonesian Private sector to support Sail Komodo 2013

Jakarta, June 7 2013 (ANTARA News) – Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Sharif Cicip Sutardjo has asked the regional government and the private sector in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) to support Sail Komodo 2013.

“The regional government and the private sector should mobilize all available resources to support the international marine event and to make it a success,” the minister said here on Friday.

According to him, that Sail Komodo 2013 is expected to become a stimulant for empowering the local communities to develop their region.

Therefore the minister said coordination among all ministries and related institutions was needed for the international marine event of Sail Komodo in September 2013.

Sharif said various ministries involved in the event are Coordinating Ministry for People’s Welfare, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, Transportation Ministry, Public Works Ministry, Foreign Affairs Ministry, Home Affairs Ministry, State Enterprises Ministry, Defense Ministry, Social Affairs Ministry, the Ministry of Public Housing, and the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy.

Some development centers that have been prepared for Sail Komodo are integrated gateway including public bathing, washing and toilet facilities (MCK) and houses renovation by Public Housing Ministry; shopping ward and fishermen village renovation by Social Affairs Ministry; creative economic related training by Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry; road repair by Public Works Ministry, and fishermen welfare program by Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry.

“President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will visit and dedicate some of these facilities,” the maritime affairs and fisheries minister said.

He noted that Sail Komodo is a very effective event to promote the areas in East Nusa Tenggara as national and international tourist destination. “Besides, Sail Komodo 2013 is also an effort to promote Komodo National Park as as water conservation area in the framework of developing marine related economy,” Sharif said.

He explained that the peak event of Sail Komodo will take place in Labuan Bajo, West Manggarai district, on September 14, 2013.

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Indonesia’s natural beauty ranked world’s sixth

Jakarta, June 10 2013 (ANTARA News) – Indonesia’s natural beauty is ranked sixth in the world based on a survey of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2012 which was released recently, said Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy (Menparekraf) Mari Elka Pangestu. “This year’s tourism ranking is up four positions based on the WEF survey,” said Mari Elka Pangestu here Monday.

Marie said that in 2011 Indonesia placed at the 74th rank in world for tourism, the rank continues to step up four positions to the 70th in 2012, according to WEF. “The proudest thing is that Indonesia was ranked sixth for its natural beauty,” he said.

According to Marie that this might become a strong base to develop tourism because everyone knows that the most beautiful beach and ocean in the world is in Indonesia. “Some time ago we managed to amaze visitors 2013 ITB Berlin (Internationale Tourismus-Borse Berlin) by featuring the replica of Phinisi ship as an attraction and an icon of Indonesian Pavilion,” she said.

It was a form of tourism and creative economy that gives positive impact to boost the pride of Indonesia as a nation that has had a maritime tradition and history dating back thousands of years ago.

The ministry is committed to develop seven thematic tours (special interest) and three of which are strongly associated with the beach and sea (nature tourism and ecotourism, sports tourism and recreation, and sightseeing cruises).

“However, this thematic tourism development requires the support of cooperation with other ministries and local governments,” she said. The optimal thematic tourism development is expected to boost Indonesia’s tourism ranks in the coming years.

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Pakistan local products “must meet global standards”

ISLAMABAD, Jun 9 (APP): President Asif Ali Zardari has stressed that local products should meet the standards set by an internationally recognized system of accreditation so as to successfully compete the global trade market. The President urged the local entrepreneurs to utilize the internationally recognized accreditation services of Pakistan National Accreditation Council (PNAC) to ensure provision of high quality products and services to consumers.

In a message on World Accreditation Day on June 9, the President said this year’s theme ‘Accreditation: Facilitating world trade’ was of special significance to Pakistan which had been seeking ‘trade, not aid’ to address its economic ills.

He said endorsement of products and services by a credible and recognized system of accreditation ensures protection of consumers’ right and also saves the manufacturer from the wastage associated with multiple tests.

The President expressed satisfaction that PNAC was celebrating World Accreditation Day along with other member states of International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and International Lab Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC).

He congratulated the PNAC for raising awareness about the importance of accreditation and also for providing accreditation services to testing and inspection bodies and medical laboratories.

He said observing this day would help raise awareness among the business community about the importance of accreditation in promoting their businesses both in the domestic and in the international trade market.

He called upon the PNAC to continue its efforts to attain greater sophistication so as to become the leading accreditation body of the region.

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Egyptian Oasis Respite in the desert

By Amira El-Naqeeb, Al-Ahram online

Bahareya Oasis has always been a stopover for travellers heading to the Black or the White Desert. Situated in a depression about 100km by 40km and completely surrounded by high black escarpments, it has been known since ancient times as the Northern Oasis. It takes about three and a half hours by car to cover the distance of 350km from Cairo, and is considered the closest oasis to the capital.

Bahareya Oasis boasts lush palm trees and verdant fields, standing in contrast to golden sand dunes and cinnamon-coloured hills. It is home to several villages, most prominently Al-Bawiti, Al-Qasr, Harrah, Mandisha, Zabw and Hayz in the southern most part. Al-Bawiti is the capital and the oasis’s largest village.

Until recently, little was known about Roman history at Bahareya which was mostly based on a large volume of Roman papyri found at Oxyrhynchus (Al-Bahnasa). The ancient documents reveal the oasis was occupied by Roman troops of the larger contingent there. Tamer Al-Sayed, an avid Egyptologist and owner of an ecolodge at Bahareya, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the existence of many Roman ruins and an elaborate aqueduct system suggest the oasis was heavily populated during this period.

In March 1996, a guard riding his donkey from the Temple of Alexander stumbled on a hole in the sand which turned out to be a tomb. This began an excavation which subsequently led to an astonishing discovery of a vast necropolis containing possibly as many as 10,000 well-preserved mummies dating back to Graeco-Roman times. Some were wearing spectacular golden facemasks.

“Bahareya now has one of the most important archaeological sites in Egypt, and is famous around the world for its Valley of Golden Mummies,” Al-Sayed explained.

The Museum of Golden Mummies houses some of these mummies. One of the most recent discoveries was in 2010 when a Roman-era mummy was unearthed in Harrah village. It was of a woman covered in plaster and decorated in what resembled Roman dress and jewellery. The mummy can now be viewed at the Museum of Golden Mummies.

Almost all hotels at Bahareya organise daily tours, which include an orientation tour of the oasis to give visitors a sense of the place. The streets of Bahareya are mostly narrow and garnished with green fields on both sides. Sometimes if the street is too narrow palm trees form a canopy that allows very little sun to come through. Watching the sunset by Maamoor Lake is unforgettable, so make sure not to miss it.

Close to the lake is the area of Al-Dest wal-Maghrafa, where you can cut across the small tabletop mountains, and take a sneak peak at Wahati (native oasis) fields and houses. Close to this area is Pyramid Mountain where the Bahareyasaurus (Bahareya lizard) was discovered. The huge theropod was found at Bahareya Formation and its remains can be viewed at the Geological Museum in the Cairo suburb of Maadi.

Another mesmerising archeological site is the Tombs at Qarat Qasr Salim (Salim’s Palace), also known as Bannentiu Tomb. The tomb, dating back to the New Kingdom of the 26th Dynasty, is located about four metres underground and can be reached via steps leading to the entrance. Upon entering, one finds most of the drawings in the tomb are well preserved and colours and characters are bright and vivid.

There are four tombs used as burial sites during Roman times. The Chapels of Ayn Al-Muftillah are four chapels that also belong to the 26th Dynasty. In her book Islands of the Blest, a Guide to the Oases and Western Desert of Egypt, Cassandra Vivian writes one chapel was discovered by Steindorff in 1901, and the other three excavated by Egyptian archaeologist Ahmed Fakhry. The walls of the chapels are made of sand stone which made carving easy. While the colours of the murals are not as vivid as those at Bannentiu Tomb, there are more inscriptions inside that are well worth seeing.

Gabal Al-Ingliz (English Mountain), located in Al-Bawiti, got its name because British colonial soldiers spent a long time on this mountain, and built a building from basalt rocks to use as a watch tower. Since this is one of the highest peaks over Bahareya, it was ideal for surveillance and monitoring strangers or intruders coming to the depression, especially the Sinosy tribes of Libya. Today, all that is left are ruins of the watch tower believed to date back to the 1800s.

Gabal Al-Ingliz can be visited on foot — just rent a 4×4 to take you very close to the foot of the mountain where you can climb up to the see the remaining walls. The area was declared a natural protectorate by Egypt’s Ministry of Environment in 2010.

The ancient village of Al-Qasr, formerly the capital of Bahareya in Pharaonic times, has clearly lost much of its lustre. Compared to Al-Qasr at Dakhla Oasis, there is not much to see at this one except some relics. Nonetheless, a stroll in the orange and apricot groves was enjoyable, especially if you can pluck your fruit snack right off the tree.

Although Al-Bishmu Roman Spring is not the best sightseeing opportunity, walking around Al-Bishmu you can see some abandoned old houses that embody the unique distinct architecture of the oasis in earlier times. A contemporary museum was recently built by one of the locals to offer a glimpse into how life once was, and showcase oasis traditions and culture.

Bahareya is also famous for its handicrafts; the women of Al-Agooz village make a variety of embroidered bags, tablecloths and pillowcases. A woman’s traditional dress at the oasis is called galabiya, which Vivian describes as “the most beautiful in the Western Desert”. She portrays it as “a black loose fitting garment falling to well below the knees, with straight long sleeves. The bodice of the dress is the most highlighted part, where it’s embroidered in red and yellow cross-stitch with authentic Islamic coins sewn into the pattern below the breast.”

Baharia Handicraft Shop is a joint venture between the Bahareya branch of the Ministry of Social Solidarity and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The project aims to support Bahareya women by helping them sell their products in the shop, and teaching them how to make beauty products such as olive oil soap and lip balm.

Umm Mohamed is one of the skilled women at Al-Agooz village, who complained that business is not going well. “Unfortunately, since the revolution we sell nothing because of the few tourists who come to visit,” she explained, while displaying some of her impressive work.

Bahareya residents are a mix of original oasis dwellers, Bedouin tribes of the Western Desert, and families who migrated from Middle Egypt and the Nile Valley. Most Wahatis are Muslims and their customs are a mix of religion and tradition. In Al-Bawiti, the community seems more conservative and most women will cover their faces when they leave the house. In Al-Agooz, meanwhile, the culture seems less rigid and women can meet strangers, trade their handicrafts and do not have to cover their faces.

For a genuine cultural experience, visitors and foreigners can easily be invited into one of the local homes for dinner or lunch. These visits can be organised through hotels and a local guide will usually accompany the guests. According to custom, women will eat in a separate room than men and shoes are not worn inside the house.

Walking languidly through the fields of Bahareya not only cures one’s soul and unwinds the coils of the mind, but the natural springs in Bahareya also offer a true wellness experience. The natural hot springs are rich in minerals, especially sulphur which helps cure various skin diseases and arthritis. There are only two hotels in Bahareya that house natural hot springs in their gardens.

There are also different types of hotels and lodgings at the oasis that cater for different tastes and budgets.

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First leisure centre for the retired opens in Astana

ASTANA. June 8. KAZINFORM – Mini-Center named “Kuishi Dina” has received its first visitors. Recreation has been organized for retirees and veterans, informs the astana.kz web-site. People will be able to read books and newspapers, play chess, checkers, dominoes and discuss the latest news over a cup of tea. The centre will carry out all sorts of tournaments and will celebrate birthdays and holidays.

“All day long the old people are sitting in their apartments, there is no communication, except the TV. Here they gather for leisure, play chess, checkers, the dombra and the guitar, enjoy bingo and dominoes, ” said Maken Kairov, chairman of the veterans’ organization called “Kuishi Dina. ”

As stated by the retired people the opening of the center is thanks to Maken Kairov, a head of the veterans’ organization. The basement area has been given by “Astana Zhil Service”. All guitar and dombra lessons will be provided free of charge by the visitors themselves. The events will be taking place three times a week for two hours a day – from 4 to 6 pm. 25 people can visit the center every day. Only in the Almaty district of Astana there live 23,000 of the retired.

“It will bring people together, there will be communication, and there will be interest in life,” says the pensioner Tatyana Levchenko.

“Taking care of us, the elderly and veterans, is a nice thing. Definitely, we will be holding tournaments of chess and checkers and will be talking about the past and present life, ” says the pensioner Galymbek Dosanov.

Only in the Almaty region four such centers will open their doors. But even today elderly people of other districts of Astana have come to have a look at it. They hope that a leisure center like that in the near future will be working in their residence area.

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Int’l cycle race “The Sun Trip: on the road to Astana EXPO-2017” starts in France

PARIS. June 6. KAZINFORM – In France, on June 15 kicks off the international cycling race «The Sun Trip: on the road to Astana EXPO-2017″, it has been reported by the “National Company” Expo-2017-Astana ” JSC.

Bike Ride “Savoie – Astana” will start on June 15 opposite the building of the National Institute of Solar Energy (INES) in France. 35 participants from six countries will be travelling from France to Kazakhstan on bikes running on solar energy.

The purpose of the bike ride is to give an example of the use of new forms of transportation. Each of the travelers will be representative of clean energy and the exhibition in Astana called “EXPO-2017”.

During the trip, planned are the stops in cities such as Venice (Italy), Sofia (Bulgaria), Bucharest (Romania), Odessa (Ukraine), Istanbul (Turkey), Sochi (Russia), Baku (Azerbaijan), and cities in Kazakhstan . Approximate arrival of the participants bike ride in Astana – mid-August of this year

At the presentation of the launch cycle race there will be prtesent a former economy minister, the president of the Savoy region Herve Gaymard, a senator, president of the French Institute for Solar Energy INES Jean-Pierre Vial, European Parliament Deputy Michel Dantin, as well as many other politicians of France.

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Governor of Makkah Washes Holy Kaaba

WAM Makkah, June 10th, 2013 — On behalf of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, Governor of Makkah Region, has today the honor of washing Kaaba.

According to Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Walls of the Kaaba is washed with Zamzam water mixed with rose perfumes in pursuant of Prophet’s Sunnah.

Participants in washing of Kaaba included General President for the Grand Holy Mosque and the Prophet’s Holy Mosque Affairs Sheikh Dr. Abdulrahman bin Abdulaziz Al-Sudais; Vice General President for the Grand Holy Mosque Affairs Sheikh Dr. Mohammed Al-Khuzayyem; Mayor of Makkah Dr Osama Al-Bar, a number of ministers; and members of Islamic diplomatic corps accredited to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

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Sharjah Museums Department celebrates World Oceans Day

WAM SHARJAH, June 10th, 2013 — As part of the International World Oceans Day celebrations, Sharjah Aquarium, in collaboration with the Environment and Protected Areas Authority in Sharjah, has returned a group of rehabilitated hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) to their natural habitat.

Sharjah Museums Department’s World Oceans Day event, being held as part of its corporate social responsibility initiative “Because We Care”, witnessed both large and small types of hawksbill set free in the Gulf.

The critically endangered turtles were found by the general public and taken to Sharjah Aquarium, which has been running a programme for the past three years to protect these distinctive turtles. SMD returned these beautiful sea creatures to their natural habitat at an event which took place on Sunday June 9th, at 8:30am at the Mangrove Natural Reserve in Khor Kalba.

Human fishing practices threaten the hawksbill sea turtles with extinction. To mark this year’s World Oceans Day, a Sharjah Aquarium team, led by marine aquarist Ismail Al Bloushi, has rehabilitated the turtles found in the emirate with extreme care to prepare them to be released into the sea.

Manal Ataya, Director General of SMD, said, “Sharjah has a rich maritime heritage and marking World Oceans Day highlights the vital role that Sharjah Aquarium plays in educating the public about the need to act as custodians of our ocean”.

She added, “Sharjah Museums is reaching out to ensure a sustainable future for our precious marine resources, through the aquarium’s diverse portfolio of events aimed at the community and schools, as well as the work our biologists do to rehabilitate and release marine animals. We are taking important steps to preserve our ocean for future generations”.

The hawksbill is one of the smaller sea turtles, and is named for its narrow head and hawk-like beak. Despite international conventions prohibiting the hunting and trading of sea turtles, hawksbills have suffered an 80 per cent global loss of population in just three generations. Their existence is threatened by coastal development, climate change, egg harvesting at nesting beaches, pollution, and through being caught accidentally in fisheries.

The World Oceans Day provides an opportunity to get directly involved in protecting marine life.

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Israeli Attorney General: West Bank Palestinians’ Properties “Absent Owners” properties

WAM GAZA, June 5th, 2013 — Israeli Government Attorney-General, Yehuda Weinstein, has stated that properties owned by Palestinians living in the West Bank, Jerusalem, belong to “absent owners” and are therefore prone to confiscation.

The Attorney-General’s stated position came during a legal opinion put forward yesterday before the Supreme Court that had previously requested Weinstein to specify his stance on the issue of Palestinian property, located in the city of Jerusalem, with owners residing within the West Bank.

Previously, many judicial attorneys of various Israeli governments have legislated rules that contradicted the current advisor’s stance regarding this matter. This remains subject to the Supreme Court’s decision, which will determine the validity of Weinstein’s stance, and thus the fate of Palestinian property in the Holy City.

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