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24 Jun, 2013

Japan’s Demand for Halal Food Grows As Muslim Visitor Numbers Rise

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 24 June 2013 (15 Sha’baan 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.




The ASEAN Tourism Forum 2014, or better known as ATF 2014 will be held from 16-23 January 2014 in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia. The ATF 2014 TRAVEX will be held at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) while the Ministerial and other official functions would be held at the Pullman Hotel, Kuching. Malaysia was where ATF was first held way back in 1981 and it is appropriate that it has returned “home”. The theme is ASEAN Advancing Tourism Together, although ASEAN is diverse in terms of the culture, the people, the tourism attractions and the landscape, it is united in terms of its ability to jointly promote ASEAN as an attractive tourism destination. We in ASEAN have to be united in jointly promoting and advancing the tourism sector in this region as the progress and prosperity of one country inadvertently affects the other member countries. Ministry of Tourism and Tourism Malaysia have appointed ASEANTA to organized ATF 2014 TRAVEX. ASEANTA in turn has appointed MICEM Sdn Bhd to manage all aspects of ATF 2014 TRAVEX including but not limited to the onsite booth allocation and operational matters at BCCK, compiling and determining the Hosted Buyers, the ASEAN Tourism Conference, Ground Transportation and Airport transfers, ATF Golf Game, Pre & Post Tours.

To sign up as a Buyer, Seller or Media for ATF 2014, please fill up the respective Registration Form online at the ATF 2014 website – www.atf-malaysia.com or contact the by email here: secretariat.atf@matta.org.my. For more details, please contact Mr Balan Suppiah at: Tel: +603-9222 1155; Mobile/SMS: +6012-693 6482; Email: sbalan@matta.org.my.

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.



Imtiaz Muqbil’s 100% accurate forecast in the 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, which claims to be the “newspaper you can trust”. In July 2012, the column was gagged, with no explanation. Over the years, four columns had explicitly forecast the rise of whistle-blowers — a prediction now coming 100% true. Read the four columns by clicking on the links below.

Let’s Hear It for Whistle-Blowers

2002: The Year TIME Magazine Recognised Whistle-blowers

Ex-White House Spokesman Exposes “Culture of Deception”

U.S. is No Longer the Country it Once Was

To read other far-sighted “Soul-Searching” Columns, click on any of the headlines below or here to access all the columns

If the Burmese are entitled to freedom, aren’t the Palestinians?”

An Open Letter to President George W Bush: God Does Not Love Liars and Killers

Beware the new colonialism

Study of “Happiness” is Becoming both a Science and a Business

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

“War on Terror” is a War Without End

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

Shouldn’t ‘Never Again’ Apply to All?

Globalisation Will Make Religion Even More Relevant

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

Acts of God Show the Wrath of God

Weighing the causes and costs of global wars and conflict


Read Imtiaz Muqbil’s columns in Lookeast Magazine

Imtiaz Muqbil writes two columns a month in Lookeast magazine, one of Thailand’s leading consumer travel publications. Here are some of the recent columns:

Thammasat University – A Must-see Destination

Russian Visitors To Thailand: Women Outnumber Men

China is Now Dominant Force in Thai Tourism

Take Advantage of the Rail-tours

10 Fascinating “Factoids” about Thailand

The Next Big Thing: Northeast Thailand

Chiang Mai, North Thailand Set to Boom

Top 10 Reasons to Hold Your Next MICE Event in Thailand

Thailand’s Big Spenders

Phuket grows as Thailand’s Second Most Important Gateway

10 Reasons to Pursue Further Studies in Thailand

Promoting Sustainable Tourism Via ‘Designated Areas’ in Thailand

Japanese Market Rebounds After Four-year Slump



Japan’s Demand for Halal Food Grows As Muslim Visitor Numbers Rise

NAGOYA, Kyodo, Jun 21, 2013 – Halal food, the only type Muslims are permitted to eat under Islamic law, is in hot demand, say managers at Halal Deli, which delivers boxed lunches to devout Muslims in Tokyo. “Halal foods are currently delivered only within the 23 wards of Tokyo, but we want to expand the delivery area,” a member of the deli’s staff said.

The shop, based in Koto Ward, opened to meet growing demand for halal food from tourists from Indonesia and other Islamic countries. A group of about 30 education officials from Indonesia in Japan to visit schools were licking their lips during a recent lunch break as they tried some curry from Halal Deli in a room at the nearby National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.

“It’s delicious,” one said.

“I want some more,” said another.

Halal Deli signed contracts with three restaurants in April to supply Malaysian, Indonesian and Turkish food. They also decided to expand by launching phone and Internet-based delivery services.

Their most frequent customers are companies that have Muslim employees and visitors, and tourists. On the menu you can find about a dozen “bento” (boxed lunches) containing chicken, rice and Japanese foods.

The concept of halal does not only prohibit pork and alcohol as most people think. It can also ban consumption of beef, lamb or chicken if the meats are not processed according to Islamic custom. When this happens, they become “haram” or forbidden — the opposite of halal.

Some seasonings or condiments, like “mirin,” a sweet cooking sake used in Japan, can also be designated haram. “I didn’t have to worry if what I was eating was allowed or not,” said Fauziah Fauzan, 42, another of the visiting Indonesian officials. “It would be great if halal foods were available in other areas.”

After visiting Osaka and Nagoya, Tokyo was the first place they found restaurants or dining services that offered halal food, said Fauziah, who by then was resorting to fish or strictly vegetarian meals.

The leader of the team, Mina Hattori, an associate professor at the School of Education and Human Development of Nagoya University, said the last time they had a group of visitors from Indonesia, she had to prepare about 50 halal lunches with only the help of Indonesian students at the university.

“There are many Muslims who would like to visit Japan, but the concern about the food is the main reason why they have second thoughts,” said Hattori, who has conducted research on Islamic education. “I think that if halal became more available, the number of Muslims visiting Japan would increase.”

The Japanese government recently made tourism from Southeast Asia a priority and is preparing to relax visa requirements to lure more people from the region.

“In our primary plan, we estimated about 200 orders monthly, but now we receive over 500 per month,” says the staff member at Halal Deli. “We plan to get more contracts and we hope the service will eventually be expanded to other cities.”

Translated by The Japan Times

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Palestinian President: Assaf’s Arab Idol Victory Example of Palestinian Uniqueness

RAMALLAH, June 23, 2013 (WAFA) – President Mahmoud Abbas Sunday described Mohammad Assaf’s winning of the Arab Idol title on Saturday as an example of Palestinian youth’s creativity and distinguished abilities when they are given the chance to express their people’s suffering.

During a meeting with Abbas and Algerian novelist and critic Wasini al-Araj in the presidential head quarters in Ramallah, Abbas stressed that culture and art are the true measures of the progress and advancement of the nations and a proof of the extent of love and peace among humans.

Abbas assured his ultimate support to culture and art, which transferred the suffering of the Palestinian people under the Israeli occupation to the world as well as gave hope of a better future and of an independent Palestinian state for the Palestinian people.

For his part, al-Araj told WAFA that Assaf’s winning of the Arab Idol title proves the Palestinian desire to co-exist and compete.

He said that Assaf’s winning also proves the Palestinian people’s ability to achieve unity despite all the difficult circumstances they are going through, “Which I clearly saw during my current visit to Palestine,” he said.

Mohammed Assaf, who is a Palestinian refugee of Khan Yunis camp in the Gaza Strip, is a singer well known for being the winner of Arab Idol, a Beirut, Lebanon-based talent show hosted on the MBC network. He was given the nickname Asaroukh (The Rocket) by Lebanese singer and Arab Idol judge Ragheb Alama.

Assaf was named a goodwill ambassador for youth by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). He was also offered a position of Palestine goodwill ambassador with diplomatic standing by Abbas.

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Palestinian Poet Ghassan Zaqtan Wins 2013 Griffin Poetry Prize

TORONTO, June 15, 2013 (WAFA) – Palestinian poet Ghassan Zaqtan was this year’s international winner of the Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize, a news statement by the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry said on Thursday.

Zaqtan, who received a 65,000 Canadian dollars prize, was recognized for his poem Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, and Other Poems, translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah.

Scott Griffin, founder of the prize, presented the 2013 Griffin Poetry Prize to Zaqtan and Joudah during ceremony attended by some 400 invited guests at Corus Quay – a new venue featuring a five-story bio-wall and a wall of glass with doors opening onto a lakefront promenade.

The Griffin Poetry Prize was founded in 2000 to serve and encourage excellence in poetry, said the organization. The prize is for first edition books of poetry written in, or translated into, English and submitted from anywhere in the world.

The 2013 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist features collections by four international and three Canadian poets. David McFadden’s What’s the Score was the Canadian winner of the award.

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Bangladesh Journalist launches travelogue

CHITTAGONG, June 16 (BSS) – The publication ceremony of a travelogue titled “Thailand Theke Japan Proshanto Probhay”, written by senior journalist Jasim Chowdhury Sabuj, was held today.

Lawmaker MA Latif formally unveiled the book as the chief guest at a simple ceremony organized by Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) at its auditorium.

CCCI vice president Syed Jamal Hossain presided over the function while Principal Fazlul Hoque, Principal Mohammad Hossain Khan, Jesmin Khanom, CCCI president Mahbubul Alam and CCCI secretary Osman Goni Chowdhury, author and journalist Jasim Chowdhury Sabuj and journalist Hasan Akbar, among others, addressed the function .

Addressing the function as the chief discussant, Principal Fazlul Hoque emphasized on reading books to widen the realm of knowledge.

He also urged all especially the teachers and students to develop reading books as habit in order to broaden the inner world and to build up a knowledge based society.

Addressing the function, MA Latif said the people of the country can easily know about the country’s trade and business because of a good relation between the journalists and business organizations.

Terming Bangladesh as a fast growing country, he said Bangladesh would make its position among the best countries in the world within 10 years.

Jashim Chowdhury Sabuj, Special correspondent and Chittagong Bureau Chief of the daily Jugantar, has five books to his credit.

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Nigeria: Etihad Airways Offers Free Tourist Visas to UAE

Daily Trust – 19 June 2013 – Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, is offering free 30-day tourist visas to Nigerian travellers flying to the UAE. Etihad Airways Corporate Communications chief, Mr Damian James said in press release that this promotional offer is valid from June 10 to July 10, 2013, and is open to Etihad Airways’ existing and new customers.

Maurice Phohleli, Etihad Airways’ General Manager, Nigeria and West Africa was quoted as saying, “With this offer we hope to support and assist Nigerian visitors in gaining their visas for the United Arab Emirates, so that they can visit many of the UAE’s popular attractions, and experience for themselves the renowned Arabian hospitality the region is so famous for.”

The promotion only applies to travellers who have purchased tickets at Etihad Airways’ standard published fares, and a period of seven days is required for processing the visa. James maintained that all outbound travel from Nigeria must be completed by July 10, 2013.

Passengers submitting their visa applications must hold a valid international passport, a confirmed Etihad Airways ticket issued at least 24 hours prior to visa application, one colour passport photograph with white background, and confirmation of hotel accommodation in Abu Dhabi.

Passengers under 40 years of age will also have to present a birth certificate and/or marriage certificate where applicable. Approval of visa applications is at the sole discretion of the UAE Immigration authorities, the release stressed.

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Bangla Language and Cultural Centre opens in Japan

DHAKA, June 18, 2013 (BSS) – The Bangladesh Embassy in Japan recently opened a centre for Bangla Language and Culture as a part of public diplomacy initiative. The first formal class of the Center began on June 16 in presence of more than 10 children aged between 7 to 12 years, a release of the Foreign Ministry said here today.

The young learners were also shown a video documentary entitled “Beautiful Bangladesh” in Japanese version. They were taught the National Anthem of Bangladesh on the first day.

The purpose of the Centre is to ensure that the younger section of the Bangladesh Diaspora in Japan learn their mother tongue, retain and nurture their unique and distinct culture and tradition while at the same time they learn to respect the Japanese culture as well. The Embassy also presented gifts to the young learners.

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Makkah Governor: Haj quota cut to ensure pilgrims’ comfort

Makkah, Sunday, 14 Shaaban 1434/23 June 2013 (IINA) – Makkah Governor Prince Khaled Al-Faisal emphasized yesterday that the decision to reduce the number of Haj and Umrah pilgrims in the wake of the ongoing Mataf (circumambulation area) expansion is aimed at ensuring the comfort and dignity of pilgrims.

Prince Khaled urged the faithful to comply with the directives issued by the authorities with regard to the new arrangements to ensure smooth flow of pilgrims and enable them to perform the rituals in ease and comfort. The Emir was speaking to reporters during an inspection tour of the center for correcting the residency status of Burmese nationals at Kudai. He said about 115,000 Burmese nationals have so far corrected their status and eventually residency permits were issued to them. “The scheme for correction of status will provide the Burmese nationals with a good opportunity to take part in the development of the region,” the governor said while announcing that the governorate will not abandon any unplanned districts without developing them and correcting the status of local residents.

Referring to the new arrangements at the Haram Mosque, Prince Khaled, who is also chairman of the Central Haj Committee, said: “It is among the priorities of this nation to provide the best possible services for the guests of Allah, and the temporary arrangements to cut the number of Haj pilgrims is to ensure the arrival and return of pilgrims in a dignified manner.”

Meanwhile, Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, head of the Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, urged pilgrims not to repeat Haj or Umrah until after finishing the ongoing largest ever expansion in the history of the two holy mosques so as to make way for those who did not perform these obligatory rituals.

“The authorities are racing against time to complete the gigantic expansion works at the Haram. In this context, any rush of pilgrims and their stay at Haram for a longer period would harm their safety and security.” He urged everyone to positively respond to the decision to cut the number of Haj pilgrims as well as to limit the period of Umrah visas to 14 days.

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Al Baraka to host symposium on Islamic economics in Jeddah

Arab News – 20 June, 2013 – Al Baraka Banking Group will hold its 34th symposium on Islamic economics at Jeddah Hilton on July 17-18 to discuss a number of emerging banking and financial issues and transactions.

Saleh Kamel, chairman of ABG’s board of directors, and Adnan Ahmed Yousif, president and CEO, will address the opening session. The symposium will be attended by well-known scholars in the field of Islamic banking, in addition to a number of senior executives in Islamic banks and institutions.

Participants include Ahmad Khaled Babacar, secretary general of the Islamic Fiqh Council, Abdul Basit Shaibi, CEO of Qatar International Islamic Bank, and Abdul Razak Khuraiji, executive vice president and head of the Islamic Banking Development Group at NCB.

This year’s symposium will discuss issues related to Zakat, including measuring of Zakat for crops and fruits, and trading in global gold market. “It will address important issues in participatory transactions, such as the trade-off between debit and participation contracts, and legitimate means to reduce risk,” Yousif pointed out.

The first Al Baraka symposium was held in Madinah during June 27-30 in 1981, Yousif said, adding that it was instrumental in finding economic solutions to the problems faced by Muslim communities.

He commended the role played by Saleh Kamel, chairman of the group, for the success of the previous symposiums. He also thanked scholars, researchers, executives and employees in Islamic banking for their contributions.

Al Baraka is a Bahrain Joint Stock Company licensed as an Islamic Wholesale Bank by Central Bank of Bahrain, listed on Bahrain bourse and Nasdaq Dubai stock exchanges. It is a leading international Islamic bank providing its unique services to around one billion people and with Standard and Poor’s investment grade long term counterparty credit rating of BBB- / A-3 (Short Term).

Al Baraka offers retail, corporate, treasury and investment banking services, strictly in accordance with the principles of Shariah. The authorized capital of Al Baraka is $ 1.5 billion, while total equity amounts to about $ 2 billion.

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Australia Arab Film Festival to begin 27 June

Ahram Online, Tuesday 18 Jun 2013 – The Arab Film Festival will take place from 27 June to 14 July in three Australian cities, providing a platform for Arab artists to showcase their work. This year’s festival includes filmmakers from Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, Algeria, Morocco, Jordon, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Australia.

The festival will open in Sydney from 27 June to 30 June, followed by Canberra 4-7 July and Melbourne 12 -14 July. The Arab Film Festival was first launched in 2001 and features films from across the Arab world as well as films that address topics related to the region.

Over the course of a decade, the festival has developed a considerable following, and it is supported by many partners. Each year it presents the work of Arab filmmakers to over 18,000 people.

In the festival’s opening night, Egypt director Yousry Nasrallah’s film ‘After the Battle’ will show for the first time in Australia. Nasrallah’s film chronicles the aftermath of the ‘Battle of the Camels’ from three different perspectives.

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Iran to Host 2nd International Festival of Independent Filmmakers

Tehran – Iran will host the second international festival of Independent Filmmakers (NEW HORIZON) between Sept 3-7. Organised in collaboration with the Cinematic Organization of I.R.Iran, the festival will focus on social and political issues arising over the recent surge of change and awakening throughout America, Europe and Islamic countries.

The mission is to provide a platform where independent scholar and filmmakers can show their films and engage in debate and deliberation on various aspects of world cinema. The festival also aims at facilitating professional, academic, and activist action; bridging the gap between the human ideals they hold in common & strive to achieve, as well as highlighting the stark realities which confront the global community.

The festival will show a number of films and documentaries divided into those longer than an hour, and less than an hour. The topics will include:

The Occupy movement in Wall Street America and Europe

The fall of regional monarchies

Islamic and world awakening

The economic crisis in Europe and America

The role of lobbyists in influencing government policy.

Resistance against occupation

Anti-war movements

Islamophobia and Iranophobia

A world toward sustained justice

A world without nuclear weapons, terrorism, and Wahhabism

Family and faith destruction

Insulting Holy Prophets

Violence, terrorism, and portrayal of Satan in Hollywood

Rights of individuals versus rights of nations;


False flag attacks

Holding nations accountable for their actions


Foreign Influence in Toppling Arab Governments

The jury will introduce the best film in each section, and a special award will be dedicated to the jury’s chosen film of the festival.

• $1,500 and a plaque for the Best Feature Film (60 minutes or longer)

• $1,000 and a plaque for the Best Feature Documentary (60 minutes or longer)

• $750 and a plaque for the Best Short Film (less than 60 minutes)

• $500 and a plaque for the Best Short Documentary (less than 60 minutes)

• $2,000 and a plaque for the Jury’s Chosen Film

Once a film has been considered and approved, applicants will be notified and asked to send additional required documents for visa application, hotel reservation, etc. No registration fee is required. Once an application has been confirmed, the festival will cover the expenses of the film-maker’s travel to Iran, including airfare, transportation, accommodation and meals.


Films must be completed on or after 2011 and must be submitted in Bluray, QuickTime, DVCam, HD, 16 mm and/or 35mm.

Entrants are required to submit 3 photographs from their film and one photograph of the director.

All entries must be either in English or subtitled in English. Non-English entries submitted without subtitles are not eligible.

Films should contain no logos or watermarks.

Only complete entries (including entry form, and preview screener) will be processed.

Festival office:

Phone: (009821) 88 69 73 87, Fax: (009821) 88 69 73 87

http://newhorizon.ir/; E-mail address: info@newhorizon.ir

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Etihad Airways implements new technology to reduce flight delays

Khaleej Times – 20 June, 2013 – Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the UAE, has entered into an agreement with global technology company Taleris to launch a new technology which can help predict potential maintenance faults and recommend preventive action.

Taleris’ web-based prognostics service, part of its Intelligent Operations offering, is a first for the commercial airline industry and will be used to monitor Etihad Airways’ fleet of Airbus and Boeing aircraft. The prognostics technology will leverage the Industrial Internet to increase the airline’s overall operational efficiency. It is expected to deliver significant financial savings for Etihad Airways and improved reliability for passengers and freight customers as the technology continuously analyses data from multiple sensors on aircraft components and systems, and warns of imminent problems.

The expected benefits include a reduction of unscheduled maintenance, fewer delays and cancellations, increased aircraft availability, enhanced on-time performance, increased maintenance efficiency, reduction in maintenance costs and reduction in lost revenue costs. The service can also reduce the requirement to store expensive spare parts, which are typically stocked in case of failure.

The agreement comes as Etihad Airways prepares to add a new daily flight between Abu Dhabi and Kuala Lumpur to offer a double daily service from July 15, 2013. The new schedule will add 1400 new seats per week to the route – an increase in capacity of approximately 23 per cent. It will enable Etihad Airways to offer better flight connections to its global network and to foster the growth of tourism and trade.

Etihad Airways’ President and CEO James Hogan said the new double daily flights would cater for the already significant and growing demand for passenger air travel and cargo between Malaysia and Abu Dhabi and beyond to the GCC, the Middle East and Europe.

“We have enjoyed strong support from business and leisure travellers at both ends of the route. More than one million passengers have travelled with Etihad Airways to and from Malaysia since the commencement of services in January 2007,” said Hogan.

The airline on Tuesday took home the title of ‘Best First Class’ for the fourth consecutive year, as well as top honours for the ‘Best First Class Seats’ and ‘Best First Class Catering’ at the Skytrax World Airline Awards’ First Class category, receiving all three awards, for the second year in a row. The awards, which are voted on by travellers from more than 160 countries, were presented at the Skytrax World Airline Awards ceremony at the Paris Air Show.

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Women playing vital role in Bahrain’s economy

Gulf Daily News – 18 June, 2013 – Women are playing an increasingly important role in Bahrain’s economy, particularly in the private sector, according to a major report by the Economic Development Board (EDB). And more women are gaining higher education attainment than men, it said.

“The Role of Bahraini Women in the Economy”, which provides detailed statistics on women’s participation in the workforce is the subject of a research paper issued by the EDB.

It looks at recruitment in the private sector, unemployment among women, female entrepreneurship, education and related legislation. The report also highlighted programmes run by Tamkeen as well as the different aspects of social life in the kingdom, anticipating an increase in women’s participation in the economy by five per cent to reach 45.6pc in 2020 from its current level.

The paper also indicated that the number of women joining the private sector has increased by 73.5pc in 2010 to more than 25,000 compared with 2002. This increment is higher than the rate of women recruitment in the public sector which stood at 45pc.

Despite all efforts being made to increase women’s participation in the private sector, women still represent only 5pc to 6pc of the overall work force in this sector. The average wage for Bahraini women grew from BD317 in 2006 to BD457 in 2011.

However, the difference between the average wage for men and women in the private sector still stands at 30pc, in contrast to the public sector where women receive on average 10pc higher wages than men.

Sectors such as education and health are still considered the preferred sectors for women to work in, even though the number of women working in the manufacturing, trade and financial sectors has noticeably increased, the report said.

Women on average attain a larger number of higher academic degrees after high school than men do, standing at 17.1pc for women against 14.4pc for men.

The rate of unemployment amongst women decreased to 3pc in the last quarter of 2012, compared with 12pc in 2002. In comparison the number of business and commercial licences for women increased to 29pc in 2012, which is 23pc higher than its previous figure in 2008.

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RO 600m projects to boost tourism

Oman Daily Observer – 19 June, 2013 – The investment by Oman Tourism Development Company (Omran) has reached RO 600 million and is spread over projects managed by the company in various governorates of the Sultanate. Addressing a press conference here yesterday, Wael bin Ahmed al Lawati, CEO of Omran, gave details of the tourism projects developed by the company in different governorates, saying that the company has expanded in 2012 and this year tourism infrastructure in the Sultanate will cover all governorates in accordance with the government’s economic vision to diversify the economy and strengthen the role of the private sector and promote tourism throughout the country.

He added that Omanisation levels in some hotels managed by the company has reached more than 50 per cent, adding that the company awarded contracts to Omani architects for interior design services for Musandam resort and other projects. Al Lawati said that the Oman Centre for Conferences and Exhibitions is one of the largest projects supervised by Omran, expecting that the centre, when completed in 2016, will host large meetings, conferences and will attract international and regional events.

He gave details of last year’s projects, current ones and future plans that will contribute in achieving long lasting results on local development, jobs and stimulate economic growth, noting that among these projects is a joint venture between Omran and Orascom Hotels and Development to develop two projects in Sifa Mountain and Salalah Beach. He said that Omran has established in the Wilayat of Duqm a joint venture with Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering/Oman for the construction of the first integrated residential complex in the Duqm.

The project is an integrated tourist complex consisting of 5-star hotels and five residential areas and a recreational club, shops and service facilities, in addition to other projects. Omran, which is tasked by the government to develop the tourism sector and manages investment projects, is a major player in actualising 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 other projects 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.

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Dubai Mall to host global fashion event

Saudi Gazette – 19 June, 2013 – The Dubai Mall seen at night is the world’s largest shopping mall based on total area and sixth largest by gross leasable area. The largest of its kind global fashion event in Dubai will elevate the city’s stature as one of the top international style destinations with The Dubai Mall’s “Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience” to be held on Oct. 10, 2013.

Billed to position The Dubai Mall as a definitive fashion destination, the event will witness impressive showcases of the latest fashion trends, bringing fashionistas from around the world for an unprecedented celebration.

Organized in partnership with Vogue Italia, one of the world’s style-setting fashion magazines, “Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience” will bring together an unprecedented 250 fashion brands in an extended retail and lifestyle celebration at The Dubai Mall.

Setting a clear differential, “Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience” will be highlighted by dedicated mentoring sessions for Emirati and regional fashion designers led by Mrs. Franca Sozzani, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Italia, and other renowned celebrities.

A gala dinner underlining the spirit of sharing will also be hosted, to be attended by international celebrities, with the proceeds to go towards Dubai Cares, the charity initiative founded by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.

Mohamed Alabbar, Chairman of Emaar Properties, said: “The Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience will be the most definitive fashion celebration in the city, with the world’s leading names in the industry joining hands for a true celebration of the best in fashion. Today, Dubai serves as the undisputed style capital of the region, with the high-density aggregation of luxury brands at The Dubai Mall making it the must-visit shopping destination for fashionistas from around the world.”

“Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience will be unmatched in scale, with emphasis on both showcasing the newest trends as well as promoting retail. The choice of Vogue Italia to host the event in the city and at The Dubai Mall is a strong declaration to the global fashion circuit that Dubai has indeed arrived. Further, by nurturing young talent and raising funds for Dubai Cares, the event underlines the strong societal role that the fashion industry can play.”

Sozzani said: “The Dubai Mall is a Fashion World. Vogue Italia is the Fashion Magazine. To make an event together means to welcome all the people who love fashion, and also to give an opportunity to young talents to show their creativity and their talent. But this event has another aim, too, and that is to raise funds for Dubai Cares which is one of the most internationally recognized organizations in helping children for education and health. We are really delighted to participate in such an incredible project and to underline how much The Dubai Mall and Vogue care about creativity and social opportunities.”

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AMF to provide $144m loan to Yemen to promote financial reform

Saudi Gazette – 19 June, 2013 – The Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) will provide a $ 144 million loan to Yemen this year to help its financial reform program, the fund said Monday. Recovery has been weak as political turmoil continues and attacks on oil installations deprive the government of vital budget revenues.

The AMF loan will support a set of reforms begun in 2012 that aim to stabilize the Yemeni economy, improve living standards and restructure government departments and their services, the fund said in a statement.

The first, $ 96 million-tranche of the loan was signed on Sunday and a second tranche will be provided later. The latest loan brings the total AMF support to Yemen to $ 1.1 billion in the past two years, the fund said. A third of Yemen’s population live on less than $ 2 a day, inflation runs at 14 percent and about 35 percent of people is unemployed.

Last year wealthy Gulf states, Western governments and other donors pledged $ 7.9 billion in aid over several years to Yemen but only a small fraction of the money has so far arrived.

The International Monetary Fund hopes to agree a new longer-term loan for Yemen by the end of 2013 and mobilize aid from international donors.

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Qatar to be region’s top Eid destination

The Peninsula – 19 June, 2013 – Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) has expanded the scope of this year’s Eid festivities with more activities and venues, aimed at positioning Qatar as the next Eid destination in the region.

The “Eid Festivals” will include family-friendly edutainment activities, world-class shows and exciting international performances taking place throughout Doha and all the way to Al Khor. QTA has extended the celebrations paths to reach The Pearl, where the children can enjoy face painting and the magic balloon.

The Lusail International Circuit for Shooting, Racing Club, and Equestrian Club will open to visitors to enjoy the celebrations.

At Al Shaqqab air sports will be organised by Qatar Air Sports Committee (QASC) and air tours in helicopters in collaboration with Gulf Helicopters. There will also be visits to Mohamad bin Abdul Wahab mosque as well as field trips to Al Maha Sanctuary and the Sheikh Faisal Al Thani Museum.

For cultural and heritage activities, QTA has collaborated with all concerned parties such as the Private Engineering Office, Souq Waqif, Katara, Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage and Sawat Al Rayyan, for a programme catered to both residents and visitors.

This year, all the malls in Qatar will be part of the festival offering visitors entertaining activities while they enjoy shopping. “There is now much more to see and do in Qatar than ever before,” said QTA Chairman, Issa bin Mohammed Al Muhannadi, at a press conference yesterday to announce the event.

“It is our task at Qatar Tourism Authority to offer residents and tourists alike a wide range of events and attractions, in addition to positioning Qatar as a world class tourism hub for business, leisure, culture, education and sport,” said Al Muhannadi.

He said this will be followed by additional stages to execute the national strategy 2030 related to tourism, and thus implement such in QTA’s new strategy to develop the tourism industry, and encourage the workforce in fuelling the engine of national tourism.

“We will aim to promote Qatar as the destination for family and leisure with emphasis on engaging with residents and the region as a whole, as well as to base a platform for future plans to develop this strategy,” he added.

QTA will later announce the detailed programme that will accompany the celebrations so that the residents and visitors will have a chance to plan their holidays accordingly. The “Eid Festivals” will be announced throughout a campaign to include all media as well as Internet and social media. The aim behind this is to focus on QTA’s role in promoting Qatar as the destination for family and leisure with emphasis on engaging with residents and the region as a whole.

“What makes “Eid Festivals” special is the participation of the private sector. This is implemented to promote Qatar as leader in tourism in the region,” said QTA Tourism Director, Abdullah Al Badr.

Among the activities private companies are organising as part of Eid festivals are kayaking/canoeing, wakeboarding, sailing lesson tour, parasailing tour, scuba diving tour and sky diving tour, added Al Badr.

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Iran Ready To Boost Communications Infrastructure Ties With Iraq

TEHRAN, June 17 (NNN-Bernama) — Deputy minister for communications and information technology, Hassan Mazloumi, here on Monday said that Iran ready to cooperate with Iraq on expansion of optical fiber capacities and communications infrastructures, Iran’s IRNA reported.

Mazloumi made the remarks during a meeting with visiting deputy Iraqi Minister of Communications for Technical Affairs, Amir Khadr Al-Bayati. He underlined the need for enhancement of communication and telecommunication cooperation between the two countries.

He also pointed to numerous cultural, religious and geographical commonalities shared by Iran and Iraq. The Iraqi deputy minister, meanwhile, stressed that Iran was considered as the main East-West communication route in the region.

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Marditech To Develop New Halal Hub In Johor

KUALA LUMPUR, June 17 (NNN-Bernama) — Marditech Corp Sdn Bhd, the commercial arm of the Malaysian Agriculture Research Development Institute (Mardi), is working to link Bandar Iskandar Malaysia, Johor with other countries to make it the next halal hub.

Its group chief executive officer, Anas Ahmad Nasarudin, said Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) would have a halal centre of excellence that would look into trade, promotion and traceability of halal services.

“Within Johor itself, there are many supporting government institutions that are very strong, such as Malaysian Pineapple Industry Board and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia,” he told Bernama on the sidelines of the 2nd Global Halal Trade and Logistics Summit here today.

According to news reports, IRDA has commissioned Marditech to undertake the study of the halal hub in Iskandar Malaysia. Marditech had developed an application, “Myhalal Trace”, where it can detect any non-halal ingredients in the fish feed. “It is to ensure that the fish that we export, say to the Middle East, is 100 per cent halal,” he said.

The hub, which is also a collaborative initiative by the Labuan Corp and the Ministry of Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing, is managed by Labuan Halal Distribution Hub. The 49-hectare hub, which focuses mainly on the marine-based products, houses dry warehouse, cold room facilities of which the traceability system come in hand.

Anas said Labuan could now offer the system to any other halal hubs too. He said Marditech’s task was to come out with solutions on how to make farming an easy job, using less manpower as the cost of labour was expensive today. “It is our challenges to produce something that is more efficient, more cost-saving and effective as well as increasing the profitability in farming,” he said.

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Syria Exempts Iranian Products From Customs Duty

DAMASCUS, Syria, Jun 18 (NNN-SANA) – Syria has taken all measures to facilitate the flow of Iranian products into its markets, free of customs duty, the Syrian prime minister said. Wael al-Halqi made the remarks during his meeting with an Iranian delegation, headed by Hassan Kazzemi, an advisor to Iran’s foreign minister.

According to SANA news agency, al-Halqi stressed the importance of developing commercial relations between Syria and Iran, by activating old agreements and signing new ones on expanding bilateral trade.

He said, the government’s facilitation is to ease the flow of Iranian products into Syrian markets, by exempting all Iranian imports from customs fees and taxes. For his part, Kazzemi said that his country would work on some development projects in Syria, particularly in the fields of flour mills and electric power, in addition to providing Syria with all the basic commodities it needs.

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Algeria Honoured By FAO For Early Achievement Of Poverty Reduction Target

ROME, June 18 (NNN-APS) — Algeria has been honoured by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for its early achievement of one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), that relating to reducing extreme poverty and hunger.

At a special ceremony held on the sidelines of the ongoing 38th annual session of the FAO here on Sunday, Algeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Rachid Benaissa, received on behalf of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika a commendation from FAO Director-General Graziono da Silva honouring Algeria for meeting this target before the deadline of 2015 set by the UN in 2000.

Bensaissa thanked the FAO for this recognition for Algeria’s huge efforts through the different development programmes carried out since decades in all fields, especially the social sectors.

In this regard, the minister underlined the significant progress made towards the achievement of three other of the millennium development goals, namely halving the number of the population living on less than one US dollar per day, ensuring full employment and enabling access to a decent work for everyone, including women and young people, and halving the number of people suffering from hunger.

In this regard, he underlined that in 2012 Algeria achieved, improved and even exceeded the three indicators before the deadline.

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Focus On High-Potential Tourist Destinations, Sabah State Govt Urged

KOTA KINABALU, Sabah state, Malaysia June 19 (NNN-Bernama) — A Sabah assemblyman today called on the state government to give extra focus to areas with potential to be developed as tourist destinations, especially along the east coast of Sabah, including Semporna.

Jaujan Sambakong (BN-Sulabayan) said small islands in Semporna or in Sulabayan in particular, had been identified, under the National Eco-Tourism Plan, as having vast potential to become eco-tourism marine site.

“Approximately 617,260 foreign tourists and 1,478,942 domestic tourists have visited Sabah. A total of 24,393 of the tourists visited and stayed in various resorts in Pulau Mabul, Mataking and Kapalai and enjoyed scuba diving between January and September 2012.

“Tourists from Asian countries numbered 8,389, Oceania (1,007), Europe (5,176) and North America (790),” he said when debating the motion of thanks on the Yang Di-Pertua Negeri (Governor) Juhar Mahiruddin’s speech at the state assembly sitting here today.

Jaujan said Pulau Sipadan, Pulau Mabul and Mataking were synonymous with Semporna, which had been the main tourist destination in Sabah. He said not many people were aware all of the islands were located in Sulabayan constituency which could become the largest contributor to the state’s economy should the natural resources be managed in a effective and comprehensive manner.

“Sulabayan has a very positive potential to progress. Although the majority of the people are fishermen and appeared to be poor, but their daily meals consist of the freshest seafood, including grouper, tuna, lobster and high quality seaweed,” he said.

He also called on relevant ministry or agencies to organise programmes or to set up an institution to provide skill trainings to local residents in tourism management.

“The institution will ensure that local children who did not have the chance to pursue their tertiary education can be trained as tourist guides or maybe to develop communication skills and ability to speak foreign language, such as English, French and Spanish,” he added.

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Dubai may fast-track Metro expansion

Saudi Gazette – 14 June, 2013 – Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) eyes to fast-track a 5 billion dirham expansion of the city’s Metro’s Red Line to link it to the Dubai World Central if the emirate wins the bid to host the World Expo 2020, Gulf News said on Thursday, quoting a top official.

Dubai has earmarked a large venue for the Expo 2020 at the Dubai World Central (DWC) — the 140-square kilometer airport city that will host a 160 million passenger capacity Al Maktoum International Airport and the world’s biggest greenfield airport project.

“As soon as the bid results are out and if we win — which we will Inshallah, we start the planning and development of the project,” Gulf News quoted Mattar Mohammad Al Tayer, Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), as saying on Wednesday.

He said the plan to extend the Red Line to DWC has been laid and linked to the growth in the number of passengers at the Al-Maktoum International Airport that will launch commercial flights in October through a temporary terminal that can hold a capacity of five million passengers.

However, he said things will change in November, if the UAE wins the bid to host the World Cup in 2020, “If that happens, we will start working on it from then, in November itself.” The airport, which was opened in 2010, currently handles cargo operations, Gulf News said.

Al-Tayer said the UAE’s Etihad Railway will also pass through Jebel Ali, which is close to the DWC, to bring additional visitors to the Expo site. “We have already floated the tenders for the next stage of Etihad Rail’s development. The entire project is expected to be completed by 2017, and that will bring additional traffic to the area,” said Al Tayer, who is also on the Etihad Rail’s board.

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ADNEC to promote business tourism in Asia

Khaleej Times – 16 June, 2013 – The Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company, or Adnec, is gearing up to promote Abu Dhabi as a leading global business tourism destination to top industry decision-makers in South Korea and Japan during a promotional tour of the two countries.

Organised by the Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau, a body tasked with bolstering the UAE capital’s global status as a business tourism hub, the road show will kick off tomorrow in Tokyo before moving to Seoul on Wednesday.

During the tour, officials from the Adnec and the the Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau will conduct workshops and offer presentations to invited guests, highlighting the emirate’s unique selling proposition and competitive advantages as a business destination.

“Korea and Japan present huge opportunities for Abu Dhabi and the Adnec in achieving our objective to attract leading meetings, conferences and exhibitions. Both countries continue to demonstrate strong growth in outbound tourism. Our geographical proximity to western markets, while remaining within easy reach of key eastern markets, will serve as a key strategic advantage in raising our profile to these audiences,” said Robin Miller, sales director for Conferences and Events at the Adnec.

“We recognise the role we play in the development of the emirate in line with Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030. Our collaborative approach to attracting the world’s leading meetings, conferences, exhibitions and events to Abu Dhabi are testament to our commitment towards this mandate.”

The road show team will comprise 15 senior representatives from 12 high-profile entities across Abu Dhabi including Etihad Airways, the Tourism Development and Investment Company, Emirates Palace, Anantara Group, Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas, City Seasons Group and more.

Earlier this year, the Adnec participated in the Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau’s first promotional tour to the United States.

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Mauritania, Yemen Sign Agreement To Regulate Air Transport

NOUAKCHOTT, June 14 (NNN-Saba) — Yemen and Mauritania signed on Thursday in Nouakchott an agreement-in-principle to regulate air transport and a memorandum of understanding allows the immediate operation of both countries’ national carriers.

The agreement was signed by the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Civil Aviation and Meteorology Authority (CAMA) Hamed Faraj and General Manager of the Mauritanian National Agency of Civil Aviation (NACA) Abu Bakr al-Sedik Ould Mohammed al-Hasan.

Faraj said that the agreement and memorandum were signed on the sidelines of Yemeni-Mauritanian talk session concluded Thursday in the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott.

The three-day session discussed several topics of cooperation relation between the two countries in air transport and civil aviation, particularly the experience exchange in fields of safety, security and training, he added.

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UAE Top Importer Of Saudi Products

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Jun 17 (NNN-SPA) – Saudi Arabia’s external trade continued to display moderation for the third month in a row in Mar, with analysis showing the United Arab Emirates’ leap over China as top importer of Saudi products. The value of exports totalled SR16.5 billion versus SR17.5 billion a year ago.

Volume-wise, exported goods weighed 3.8 million tonnes compared with 4.3 million tonnes last year, the National Commercial Bank said, in its Saudi economic report. In perspective, the report said, export revenues declined by 5.9 percent Y/Y, while the volume of exports declined by 11.5 percent, reflecting continued adequate demand for Saudi exports.

On the imports side, the value of imported goods amounted to SR51 billion, surpassing last year’s figures by 12.7 percent. On the other hand, the volume of imports receded by 11.6 percent, to record a total of 6 million tonnes, which is indicative that imported inflation is intensifying.

Analysis of exports composition, shows that petrochemicals regained dominance as the top non-oil export category by 33.7 percent.

Exports analysis by direction shows that the UAE, China, and Singapore were the top three trading partners, with demand weighing as much as 14 percent, 10.8 percent, and 6.2 percent, respectively. SR2.3 billion worth of goods headed to UAE, which leaps over China as the top importer of Saudi exports, registering a 42 percent rise.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s demand for Saudi exports waned by 0.7 percent Y/Y, generating SR 1 billion of export revenue. Analysis of Saudi imports by composition, reveal that 26.6 percent of non-oil imports comprise of machinery and electrical equipment, which continue to dominate the categories of goods demanded in Saudi Arabia.

The largest exporters of non-oil articles and products to the Kingdom are: the US, China, and Germany, with import shares of 13.9 percent, 11.2 percent, and 6.2 percent, respectively.

The US continues to dominate as the largest source of imports since Oct last year, surging in Mar by 33.9 percent Y/Y, after racking up SR7.1 billion. China, the second largest, made an annual upturn of 18.5 percent, attracting SR5.7 billion. Imports of German origin recorded SR3.2 billion, an increase of 2.9 percent Y/Y.

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Gambia: President Jammeh Vows to Transform Kombo North

The Daily Observer – 19 June 2013 – The president of the Republic has vowed to transform Kombo North, the country’s most densely populated constituency in the West Coast Region, saying the area plays an integral role in the nation’s development and is also the gateway to The Gambia. He assured that before 2020, by the grace of the Almighty God any resident who travels out of the country and comes back in five years will not recognise Kombo North. His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh made this promise Monday in Lamin, while addressing thousands of people on day eight of his 2013 ‘Dialogue with the People Tour’.

The meeting was graced by a high-powered cabinet delegation, speaker of the National Assembly, senior government officials, director generals, managing directors, ‘Yaye kompins’ and APRC militants, among a cross-section of the community.

President Jammeh, in his address, thanked the people of Kombo North for their effort, recalling that since the referendum in 1995 to the last election date, APRC has never lost in Kombo North Constituency. He assured that he would do everything he can for the people of Kombo North. He also urged the people of Kombo North to be patient, and not think that he has forgotten them.

He pointed out that a lot of development projects have also taken place in the area, even though more still needs to be done. The Gambian leader further pointed out that the people of the area have now benefitted from clean drinking water and good road network, among other things. He said the developments people of the area are witnessing are just a tip of the iceberg, while promising to greatly transform the constituency.

Regarding Kombo North’s stance in party politics especially during elections, President Jammeh noted that it is evident that when votes are counted and results reached Kombo North Constituency, that is the time when the opponents go to bed with their heads down, because they knew they have lost.

The Gambian leader further stated that he wants Kombo North to be an example when it comes to the monthly cleansing exercise locally called ‘set settal’. He urged the people of Kombo North to clean their communities, as it is the country’s gateway. He added that with the number of people in the area, they can effectively clean all the villages in the constituency. He then tasked the Paramount Chief and the alkalolu to organise cleansing exercise in every village in the constituency.

The Gambian leader also pledged to give D0.5M for the feeding of those who participate in the proposed cleansing exercise. “After the cleansing exercise I will give another D0.5M to mobilise trucks that will throw away the refuse. Kombo North is the gateway to The Gambia and any visitor who comes to The Gambia, the first entrance you will see is Kombo North. As the English man puts it, first impressions are lasting impressions,” he said.

The Gambian leader told the paramount chief to liaise with the governor, alkalolu, ‘Yaye kompins’, youth leaders and school authorities, to see how to kick-start the initiative, so that any visitor who comes to the country would respect the people of the country.

He again assured that the time will come and by the grace of the Almighty Allah, one can travel from Banjul to Koina without knowing whether you are out of the capital city or not. To this end, President Jammeh affirmed that he wants The Gambia to be a shining sample in the world. He then challenged the youths to work towards the development of the nation. “Whether you work or don’t work by the grace of God, this country will continue to move forward but I don’t want the country to develop for others,” he said.

He made reference to the fishing project in Gunjur, which cost about US$8M; likewise the projects in Gunjur and Bakau, while urging women and youths to take advantage of these projects so as to realise their dreams. The Gambian leader also spoke at length about the country’s natural resources and urged the youths to take advantage of them rather than leaving them to foreigners. He equally called on the youths to assist their parents in order to get their blessings; as well as take advantage of the available resources rather than siting down complaining that the country is difficult.

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Jakarta to hold traditional arts festival 2013

June 16 2013 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Jakarta provincial government will conduct a traditional arts festival 2013 or “Enjoy Jakarta International Folklore Festival (EJIFF)” on June 26 through 28, a tourism official has said.

Six foreign countries are expected to participated in the first-ever EJIFF, said head of the city`s tourism and cultural affairs office, Arie Budhiman here on Sunday.

The participating countries are Egypt, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Jakarta as the host, he pointed out.

“EJIFF is one of the promotion and preservation programs of traditional arts which is aimed to commemorate the Jakarta`s 486th anniversary,” Arie said.

“We wish to make Jakarta as a modern international tourism destination through this event, because Jakarta as a melting pot of the national arts and cultures as well as a benchmark of the Indonesian cultural development,” he said.

According to Arie, EJIFF will take place at Sasono Langen Budoyo in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (TMII) or Beautiful Indonesia in Miniature Park on Wednesday (June 26) at 7.00pm local time, and in Mall Taman Anggrek on Friday (June 28) at 1.00pm local time.

The TMII is a culture-based recreational area located in East Jakarta, while Mall Taman Anggrek is in West Jakarta. Meanwhile, the peak event will be held in Gambir Market Expo in Kemayoran Jakarta Fair arena on Thursday (June 27) and Friday (June 28) at 5.00pm, Arie added.

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Latin American countries Indonesia`s target market for tourism

June 13 2013 – Nusa Dua, Bali (ANTARA News) – Countries in Latin America are potential to be Indonesias next target market for tourism, spokesman to Balis Tourist Guide Association (HPI) Amos Lillo has said.

“The key is the government`s willingness to engage with Latin American countries to promote our tourism potential. In order to boost more tourist visit to Indonesia, it is important for the government to diversify target market such as to Latin American countries,” he said here on Thursday on the sideline of the 6th Foreign Ministers Meeting of Forum for East Asia and Latin America Cooperation (FEALAC) that runs on June 13 to 14.

Amos called on the establishment of commitment among governments from east Asia and Latin American countries to boost cooperation in tourism sector. “Strong government to government relations will ease off business people in executing the cooperation agreed,” he added.

Earlier FEALAC Vision Group members during the meeting last June 4-6 in Bali also discussed the importance of cooperation in tourism sector saying that it is an important tool to boost people to people relations.

On its final report, the group recommended that government and tourism agencies should increase efforts to engage their counterparts, and as a way to increase tourist visits across the two regions.

“FEALAC member countries should explore ways and means to facilitate travels in order to encourage more people to people contacts, especially with reference to culture and youth-related tourism when visited by tourists from other region,” the recommendation said.

FEALAC was established in 1999 as an informal forum to link Asian and Latin American countries. As the only forum bridging the two regions, FEALAC has recently developed its membership to include 36 countries namely Indonesia, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Japan, South Korea, and Laos.

Also Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Mongolia, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Equador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, peru, Dominican republic, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

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Indonesia has become world’s 15th biggest economy

June 18 2013 Tondano, N Sulawesi (ANTARA News) – Indonesia now is the world`s fifteenth biggest economy with a value reaching Rp10,000 trillion in 2012, Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan said.

“If the value of Indonesias economy is accumulated from 2012 to 20 years ahead, it will reach Rp600,000 trillion. With its domestic consumption reaching 60 percent, Indonesias domestic market potential is very big,” the minister said.

The minister made the remarks when giving a general lecture at UNIMA University here on Tuesday. He said that it was Indonesia`s challenge in the future to put its domestic products in the market which was worth Rp360 trillion.

In the current digital era, Indonesia must be built so that its domestic products will be able to compete with foreign goods. “We should not be outplayed by South Korea which is able to produce smart phones. It should not happen that we could only consume foreign electronic products,” he said.

Citing as an example on the importance of innovation, the minister said iPhone production cost was only US$10 or about Rp100,000 but its selling price in Indonesia was more than US$400 or about Rp6.8 million.

Ahead, the minister said, good leaders are leaders who are able to develop Indonesias economy, unite plural society and advance democracy so that they are able to improve the welfare of the whole people. "In the coming 20 years, Indonesia will become the worlds seventh or sixth economy,” the minister said.

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Egypt: 5 million tourists bring in $4 bn during 2013

Ahram Online, Friday 14 Jun 2013 – Speaking last week at an Egyptian Tourism Journalists Association conference, Egypt tourism minister Hisham Zaazou said that the number of visitors could reach 13 million by the end of the current year, which would bring the industry close to its pre-revolution level of 14.8 million tourists in 2010.

Egypt received 1.1 million tourists in April 2013, 5.2 percent more than the 1 million it received in the same period last year, according to data previously released by state statistics agency CAPMAS, which put the April 2010 at 1.2 million visitors. The corresponding figures for May 2013 are yet to be released.

Revenues have not kept up with tourist numbers, however, as each tourist currently spends $70.3 per night, compared to $85 per night in 2010, according to the minister. Many Egyptian tourism agencies and hotels dramatically cut prices to maintain occupancy levels in the wake of the 2011 revolution.

“Egypt is seeing larger numbers of domestic and foreign tourists, but this cannot be considered a full-fledged recovery until it translates into higher revenues,” Elhamy El-Zayat, head of Egypt’s Federation of Tourism Chambers (EFTC), told Ahram Online in May. “Prices are significantly lower than they were in 2010, so the number of tourists isn’t a correct gauge of the sector’s current performance compared to 2010,” he added.

However, Zaazou warned that the progress made thus far was fragile, and that the tourism industry would return to “square one” if protests scheduled for 30 June turn violent.

The Rebel campaign, which since May has been working to collect 15 million signatures in a vote of no confidence in President Morsi, plans to hold nationwide anti-government demonstrations throughout the last week of June, culminating in a march to the presidential palace on 30 June.

Though Rebel campaign organisers have stressed their commitment to peaceful protests, this has not assuaged public fears of the demonstrations taking a violent turn.

Zaazou, for his part, urged all of Egypt’s political currents to express themselves through peaceful means, for the sake of the recovering industry.

Egypt’s tourism sector has received several blows since the beginning of this year, the most serious of which was the highly-publicised hot air balloon accident in Luxor that left 19 tourists dead in late January.

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London’s Shubbak festival to include Egyptian artists

Ahram Online, Sunday 16 Jun 2013 – ‘Shubbak: A Window on Contemporary Arab Culture’ will take place at several venues in London between 22 June and 6 July, giving platform to a wide range of artists from across the Arab world.

16 countries – including Egypt, Palestine, Morocco, Tunisia, Syria and Saudi Arabia, among many others – will participate in this year’s festival, now in its second edition. For 15 days, artists will showcase a variety of arts through exhibitions, film screenings, music concerts, theatre performances and fashion shows.

The festival will also include roundtables and discussions. According to the festival’s official press release, talks and discussions will include an international conference on contemporary art in the Middle East, along with a discussion on the ‘conservative chic’ trend as expressed by young Muslim women who have taken the hijab.

From Egypt, the festival will include an exhibition entitled ‘Mr. President’s Circus’ by British photographer John Perkins and supported by Egyptian artist and journalist Mona Abouissa, who have been following the circus around Egypt for four years. Perkins has taken a series of photographs depicting circus performers’ lives, both on and off the stage.

The Shubbak festival will employ several venues, including the Barbican Centre, the British Museum, the Tate Modern, the Mosaic Rooms, the Arab British Centre, Asia House, ICA, Serpentine, Gallery, Rich Mix and the London College of Fashion, among others.

The Egyptian Culture Centre, for instance, will host a musical event. “Set in the newly-restored baroque splendour of the Nasser Hall in Mayfair, the acclaimed contemporary ensemble Notes Inégales plays some of the most innovative and evocative works of contemporary Arab composers,” according to a press release for the event.

The El-Alfy Theatre Company, meanwhile, will present 1970 stage play ‘The Comedy of Oedipus’ by Egyptian playwright Ali Salem.

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Singapore Art Museum hosts Arab artwork exhibition

Ahram Online, Monday 17 Jun 2013 – In what will be the first Arab art exhibition in South East Asia, the Singapore Art Museum is hosting a show entitled “Terms & Conditions” from 28 June – 8 September.

Held in collaboration with the United Arab Emirates-based Barjeel Art Foundation among a number of other contemporary art institutions and collectors, the exhibition will feature a large collection of Arab art, including works by Egyptian, Palestinian, Lebanese and Emirati contemporary artists.

Artworks by installation and multimedia Palestinian artists Mona Hatoum, and Egyptian visual artists Huda Lutfi and Moataz Nasr will be among the works exhibited in Singapore this summer.

“The exhibition … provides an inquisitive open-ended debate into how history and social realities are represented – with an emphasis on the Arab world,” according to the exhibition’s curatorial statement.

Generally, terms and conditions can “powerfully dictate the representation and interaction between people, entities and countries, as well as set parameters that appear rigid over time,” argues the curatorial statement.

Paradoxically, the title hides behind it a collection of work that is difficult to categorise or bind by rigid terms or conditions. “Many artists with roots in the Arab world work simultaneously across different geographic, physical and cultural contexts, making it difficult to define and constrain them to specific identities and representations.”

Therefore, the collection that will be on show to a South East Asian audience during summer 2013 will relay the diversity of contemporary Arab art.

Terms & Conditions is organised in collaboration with the Barjeel Art Foundation, the Abraaj Group Art Prize Collection, Mathaf-Arab Museum of Modern Art, Paris-based Museum of History of Immigration and collections of private individuals and artists.

The Singapore Art Museum is a public institution that houses more than 7000 works of art, including the world’s largest collection of modern and contemporary Southeast Asian art.

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Excavation uncovers ancient Egyptian town in northern Egypt

Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 18 Jun 2013 – At the Hyksos fort at Tel El-Yahoud area in Qalioubiya governorate in northern Egypt, an Egyptian excavation mission by the Ministry of State for Antiquities has stumbled upon an ancient Egyptian town from the Middle Kingdom, which dates from approximately 2000 BC to 1700 BC.

The town includes a residential area with a collection of houses and royal palaces, as well as a four metre-tall mud brick fortress and a necropolis with a large number of rock-hewn tombs.

A collection of lamps, amulets, clay pots, scarabs and faience floor tiles that were once used to decorate the palace of the New Kingdom kings Meneptah and Ramses II were also unearthed. A collection of mud brick tombs from the Hyksos era was also found, as were remains of a temple dedicated to the god Sotekh who was worshipped during the Hyksos era was also unearthed.

Adel Hussein, head of the ancient Egyptian department at the antiquities ministry, said that excavation mission in Tel El-Yahoud area was resumed after having being stopped after the January 2011 revolution.

He pointed out that such a site is very important as it reveals the daily life of ancient Egyptians from the New Kingdom until the Graeco–Roman era. The town was also important from a military point of view, Hussein said, saying that excavations had shown that the town was surrounded by a wall to protect it.

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Int’l “From Waste to Art” exhibition in Baku

17 June 2013 – TODAY.AZ – Baku will host the second international exhibition “From Waste to Art” on June 16-20. The event will be held with the support and initiative of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. The exhibition will bring together artists from 16 countries. The aim of the project is to organize waste sorting, collection, transportation and utilization in compliance with up-to-date standards in Gala settlement.

Waste is unavoidable part of human life – and it will always be so. For this reason in order to increase attention for environmental protection and to agitate responsible approach to our planet`s environmental health, the artists used trash art as means to direct public attention to environmental problems caused by the impact of waste.

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Book about Azerbaijani carpets’ Tabriz school launched

20 June 2013 – TODAY.AZ – The Presentation of a book on Azerbaijani carpets’ Tabriz school has taken place in Baku. The book was published by “Azer-Ilme” LLC as part of the project titled “All schools of Azerbaijani carpet-weaving”. The book presents the characteristics of Tabriz school of carpet-weaving and offers photos of 89 carpets preserved in a special collection.

Carpets related to Tabriz group are notable for compositional ornament, high technology and artistic design. The book was published in Hebrew, English, French, Italian, German, Russian and Turkish.

Earlier books dedicated to the Irevan and Karabakh schools of the Azerbaijani carpet-waving art were published as part of the project.

“Azer-Ilme” LLC, which offers unique contributions to the material and cultural resources of world civilization through its activity, preserves the traditions of Azerbaijani carpet-weaving, develops the art of carpet weaving, and promotes it through carpet sales worldwide.

“Azer-Ilme” became the centre of carpet weaving in 1996. Today, more than 350 employees work in the company including artists, art critics, and other specialists. Various types of decorative carpets are made in the company using the old traditions and modern technologies. The complete cycle of carpet weaving is conducted through traditional and modern technologies including spinning yarn, dying wool with natural dyes, weaving carpets, and post-weaving tightening and washing.

“Azer-Ilme” preserves the artistic and technical features of the carpets woven by national artisans in Gazakh, Borchali, Goyche, Zangezur, Aghbaba, Derechichek, Pashali, Jalaloglu, Hamamli, Sharur, Dereleyaz, Derbent, Tabriz, Ardebil, Sarab, and other historical regions of Azerbaijan. The carpets woven from silk and wool by the professional weavers in Azer-Ilme workshops are notable for their fine weave, high knot density, unique compositions, and bright harmonious colours.

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State program for railway infrastructure in Azerbaijan reaches full completion

15 June 2013 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijan Railways CJSC has completed 80 percent of work on its state railroad development project, the deputy head of the company Gurban Nazirov said on Thursday.

According to him, 240 kilometers of the Baku-Boyuk Kesik railway have been already repaired; works on updating the energy management, communication systems and signaling system are being carried out as well.

“The projects are being implemented with credit from the World Bank and the Czech Export Bank. Fifty percent of the credit has been already spent for the realization of the projects,” Nazirov said.

As a result of work on the Baku-Boyuk Kesik line, the speed of trains increased to 140 kilometers per hour from the current 80 kilometers per hour. This in turn helps to reduce by half the time of passage of this area – up to five or six hours, whereas now this way can be passed for 10-12 hours.

Also, according to Nazirov, the Azerbaijan Railways is planning to buy 25 passenger wagons, as well as send 80 passenger cars to Russia and Ukraine for capital repairs.

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Minister offers diverse travel services in Azerbaijan

20 June 2013 – TODAY.AZ – Prices of travel agencies correspond to the potential of Azerbaijani citizens, Culture and Tourism Minister Abulfaz Garayev said commenting on the issue of tourism price reduction for this year.

According to Garayev, tickets in most of the travel agencies have been booked for the following month; in this case, it is impossible to force anyone to cut prices.

The minister also spoke about monitoring of travel agencies, preparations for this season and the existing shortfalls. He cited certain shortcomings of the travel agencies and orders were issued to eliminate them.

“The monitoring focuses on such issues as compliance with sanitary standards, improving the quality of services, increasing the range of services, etc. During the second monitoring, it is already becoming clear that these facilities are ready to accommodate visitors. However, there are facilities that need more attention,” Garayev said.

According to Garayev, the services of travel agencies should not be limited to food and an increase of the range of services is needed.

“The services have to be diverse, it is necessary to organize various tours. Travel agencies are assisted by local bodies in this issue,” he said.

Azerbaijan Tourism Association (AzTA) and the Culture and Tourism Ministry started a monitoring to scrutinize the quality of the travel agencies’ services across Azerbaijan in May.

Earlier in June the ministry concluded that some tourism zones were not ready for the summer season and gave the tourism facilities an opportunity to eliminate the revealed shortfalls.

The summer tourism season starts in Azerbaijan in mid-June, while tourist trips outside the country started in the middle of May.

The number of hotels in Azerbaijan has been on the rise recently. However, only 260 of the 514 operating hotels have obtained licenses. 221 licensed travel agencies operate in the country.

Some 2.5 million foreign tourists visited Azerbaijan in 2012, and the country expects an increase of 70 to 80 percent in the tourist flow in the next five to six years.

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Kyrgyzstan to build Bishkek-Osh highway

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-06-18 BISHKEK – The Kyrgyz government is discussing the construction of a Bishkek-Osh highway connecting the country’s south and north.

The existing highway between the cities was poorly built and is unable to meet traffic needs, Nikolai Chuikov, an analyst with the government’s economic and strategic development unit, said.

“The new road is to go through mountainous areas where there are no roads at all and where construction of new hydro-power stations, big and small, is planned,” he said.

The road also will link Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev told the National Council on Sustainable Development in May. The second highway will also serve as an alternative route, Chuikov said.

“Any wintertime emergency on the Bishkek-Osh highway brings traffic to a standstill, cutting the connection between north and south and freezing the delivery of fuel, lubricants, food and other goods,” he said.

The road should cost a maximum of US $800m (38.7 billion KGS) and take five years to build, Atambayev predicted, though a funding shortfall has delayed the start of the project, leading some MPs to suggest further postponing the road construction. “We just don’t have the money to build a new one,” MP Omurbek Abdrakhmanov said. “We could borrow, but international donors won’t lend to us indefinitely.”

But others said the link is too vital to put off, and other countries have expressed support for the upgrade. “I can tell you in advance: Kazakhstan is ready to support this project,” Atambayev said told the National Council in May.

And the interest goes beyond Central Asia, as Japan has conducted preliminary talks with Kyrgyzstan about helping with financing.

“It (Japan) is ready to provide a low-interest loan to finance initial construction,” Prime Minister Jantoro Satybaldiyev said. “We will secure the necessary funding, I am sure.” But would-be funding partners want to be sure the project will be a solid investment, Chuikov said.

“To be able to attract investment, we will need a very good feasibility study,” Chuikov said.

Once the feasibility study is complete, Kyrgyzstan will present the project to the Japanese government, Satybaldiyev said.

Kyrgyzstan also will also be able to use that study to borrow from the Asian Development Bank and World Bank, he added.

Quality and development

Having money is not enough, Transport and Communications Ministry Secretary of State Maksatbek Dyykanov said. “We need to find a conscientious road-building company.”

Pavement on some sections of the Bishkek-Naryn-Torugart highway already has cracked, Dyykanov said, accusing the foreign company of neglecting its contractual obligations.

“Unless that company fixes the road, we won’t accept the work,” he said, noting that the government plans to stop hiring foreign contractors and to develop a domestic road-building industry instead.

Remedies that the government could pursue on the defective Bishkek-Naryn-Torugart paving job include firing the contractor and asking it to repair the pavement at its own expense.

Kyrgyzstan, having learned from past mistakes, will also insist that any foreign company hire locally for the Bishkek-Osh highway project, Dyykanov said. “Up to 70% of unskilled workers and at least 30% of specialists,” he said. “So far, more than 95% of the personnel come from the contractor countries.”

“Workers and specialists from Kyrgyzstan must be involved in the road’s construction,” highway engineer Samat Karypov said. “If there’s a road, there’ll be jobs, which today go to foreigners, and new factories and mines will be built,” he said. “People won’t have to go abroad to work anymore.” Chuikov pointed to yet another advantage if foreign firms hire Kyrgyz workers.

“In addition to the financial gains, there’ll be technology sharing,” he said, “and our specialists will receive training. We need to build up our potential. “So far, we’ve had to invite specialists from abroad because the process is very involved — tunnel boring and other technologies that we haven’t mastered yet,” he added. “Step by step, we will create a road-building infrastructure of our own.”

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Youth festival in southern Kyrgyzstan strengthens unity

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-06-17 OSH – Ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan continue to build bridges to each other’s communities. The “We are all under the same sky” youth friendship festival took place in Osh June 15. Youths from various ethnic communities in southern Kyrgyzstan participated.

Feruza Mirzarakhimova, 14, came from Nariman village, Osh Oblast, with her friends to perform the Andijan Polka. “This is the first time we danced at the Babur Uzbek Drama Theatre; … the audience kept calling for encores,” she said. The audience witnessed performances by Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Russian, Kazakh, Tatar and other troupes.

“I liked the melodious songs,” Aiganash Parpiyeva of Japalak, near Osh, said. “The dances were colourful and exciting, (the dancers’) costumes were beautiful. … It was fantastic.”

The audience was thrilled by all the performers, who came from various parts of Osh and nearby villages in Kara-Suu District, she said.

“At this festival, the local minorities demonstrated their folk customs and traditions, performed folk songs and dances and staged scenes from folk tales,” Meder Abdymanapov, a youth affairs specialist from the Osh mayor’s office, said.

The festival’s main aim is to further tolerance and to deepen cultural understanding among youth, he said. Osh authorities plan to hold more such festivals because demand for them is great. “Youths need to communicate with each other, and we help them do so by educating them in a spirit of patriotism, tolerance and mutual understanding,” Dilbarkan Mamajusupova, director of the NGO Iret, told Central Asia Online.

The rising generation wishes to learn about other peoples’ culture and customs, traditional way of life and cuisine, she said. Such curiosity inculcates devotion to shared moral and ethical values, she added.

“The most important thing is that such events form a positive attitude toward other ethnicities among youth, increase the rising generation’s potential in culture and in knowledge of traditions and the history of ethnic minorities, and create a positive model for forming friendly relations,” she said.

This type of contact reduces the number of negative incidents among youth, Osh Territorial Public Council No. 3 Chairman Keneshbek Zulpukarov told Central Asia Online. “Sometimes young people start inter-ethnic brawls or stereotype their peers by ethnicity or locality,” he said. “To prevent such events from happening, we work closely with the local authorities, hold meetings and discussions, and educate the public.”

It is essential to spread truthful and positive information about inter-ethnic co-operation and to reduce the prevalence of negative ethnic stereotypes among pupils and undergraduates, he said.

“This friendship festival shows how events of this sort raise youth’s potential by leading them to understand that their participation in peace-making processes is an important part of forming their world view,” Kasiyet Arapbayeva, a senior instructor at Osh State University, told Central Asia Online.

Involving the young in various activities develops their sense of responsibility and worth, which benefits how they communicate not only with their peers but also with adults, she said.

“Such friendship festivals should be held more often, because they draw together different ethnicities in the younger generation,” she said. “After all, they’ll be helping build peace and will bear positive feelings for all of civil society.”

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Tunis hosts summit on Internet freedom

Tunis, 08 Shaaban 1434/17 June 2013 (IINA) – Global advocates of freedom of expression in cyberspace gathered in Tunis today for the third Freedom Online Coalition conference to push for more Internet openness amid concerns of increased state surveillance.

The coalition was launched in December 2011 during a conference in The Hague, during which former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a keynote speech. This year, the event is set to address three major issues: Internet freedom and security, digital development and openness and online privacy and transparency. The founding declaration of the coalition states that it seeks to “share, as appropriates,” information on “potential violations and other measures that undermine the enjoyment of freedom of expression and other human rights on the Internet.”

It also aims “to support – both politically and through project aid – the ability of individuals, particularly those operating in repressive environments, to exercise their human rights through the Internet and connection technologies.” Tunisia, the birthplace of the uprisings that swept the Middle East since 2011, joined the coalition during the second conference held in Kenya in September 2012.

It was the first Arab and the third African country to have joined the collation, which now has 19 member states, including the United States. The U.S. government has recently come under fire for operating a massive international online surveillance program through its security and intelligence agencies. Egypt and Jordan, both U.S. allies in the region, were reported to be the most targeted by the U.S. surveillance program, known as PRISM.

America’s Internet giant Google, a major private stakeholder of the Online Freedom Coalition, has denied giving the U.S. National Security Agency “direct access” to its servers. “We have not joined any program that would give the U.S. government—or any other government—direct access to our servers. Indeed, the U.S. government does not have direct access or a “back door” to the information stored in our data centers,” Google said in an official blog on June 7.

Google’s credibility on Internet freedom advocacy is likely to come under scrutiny during its Big Tent summit, which will be held on the sidelines of the Tunis conference. The Google summit will discuss “the present state and future of Internet freedom in the region,” a statement from the online giant read. Google’s Global Head of Free Expression and International Relations

Ross La Jeunesse and famous Egyptian television satirist Bassem Youssef are among the featured speakers at this year’s Big Tent summit.

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Kazakhstan to promote agricultural sector revitalisation

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-06-12 ASTANA – Determined to boost its agricultural production and to revitalise its long-abandoned agro-technical research, Kazakhstan is planning to build a new university in Astana dedicated to education, research and experimental farming.

“It is necessary to study the prospects of establishing a world-level research university devoted to agriculture,” President Nursultan Nazarbayev told ministers attending a May 22 conference of foreign investors, drawing their attention to the country’s agricultural science potential.

Such an institution, Nazarbayev said, would be based on the existing agricultural research organisation, KazAgroInnovatsiya. The proposed university would build on “three components: a university, territorial research institutes and experimental farms.”

The idea of combining a university with a research complex is “very timely and even overdue,” Ghani Kaliyev, director of the Kazakh Scientific Research Institute of Economy of Agro-industrial Complex and Development of Rural Territories, told Central Asia Online, adding that developing such an idea would need “a responsible approach.” His institute has been part of KazAgroInnovatsiya since 2007.

“If (such a complex) is to be organised, we must give the issue an all-round study, with focus on efficiency,” he said. “Regrettably, our agricultural science has generally fallen into decay over the years. We would need to transfer the agricultural university from the jurisdiction of the Education Ministry, which is in charge of all the universities today, to the control of the Agriculture Ministry, which oversees the experimental farms.”

“Making the university and the farms part of the Agriculture Ministry structure is key,” he added.

This wouldn’t take much time, Kaliyev said, noting that “the rest would depend on organisation, education and researcher training” and on “the level of financing and of the salaries.”

“We’ll need to encourage our scientific potential – our scholars – by subsidising them and rewarding them for discoveries,” he said. “Agricultural science, unlike physics or chemistry, is a nationally oriented science. Only (Kazakhstan’s) scholars know our distinctive conditions.”

Revitalising a lagging agro-sector

Kazakhstan, where agriculture is the second-largest economic sector after the oil industry, is among the world’s leaders in grain and flour exports – eighth in wheat exports in 2012 – but after 20 years of hollowing out of its agro-industrial scientific research, soil erosion, insufficient irrigation, and shortcomings in food processing, storage and transportation, the country now needs to invest more in the sciences, Agriculture Ministry agronomist Irina Kapysheva said.

“These aren’t problems plaguing Kazakhstan alone. The situation is much the same throughout Central Asia,” she said. “If we succeed in making visible progress, we will find solutions to many burning regional problems and will see students from other Central Asian countries come here to study.”

“With time, the (new) university may rise to a still higher – Eurasian – level,” she added.

Former Kazakhstani Agriculture Minister Baltash Tursumbayev pointed to the need to bring the country’s agro-industrial system back to its Soviet-era development level, which he said “was higher than today’s.”

“We’ve lost much more (than we’ve gained),” he said. “Such a vast agrarian country as Kazakhstan imports more than half of its basic foods today – 60% of its meat and nearly 50% of its dairy – not to mention fruit and vegetables that we used to grow in abundance. Correcting those mistakes requires hard work, while establishing a university overnight in hopes of improving the situation in agriculture is just futile.”

Political scientist Mukhit Asanbai welcomed the new initiative but expressed doubts as to Kazakhstan’s ability to translate it into reality.

“The question is whether it will work,” he said. “Why establish such an institution if there’s actually no agriculture as a system?”

“Instead of establishing educational institutions, we would do better to rebuild infrastructure and to make rural life more attractive,” he said.

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Istanbul Shopping Fest aims for 1 million tourists

Hurriyet – ISTANBUL – Istanbul Shopping Fest (ISF), which is being held between June 8 and June 30, is expected to draw 1.1 million tourists by spending around 500 million Turkish Liras.

ISF is being organized for the third time in Istanbul, one of the world’s leading centers of attraction for art and culture, entertainment and fashion, with civil society, private and public sector cooperation. “We expect tourists to spend 500 million liras over 23 days,” said ISF General Manager Füsun Tavus. She said around 940,000 tourists had visited Istanbul during the festival last year and they expected this number to reach 1.1 million this year. Tavus also noted that local expenditure was worth 7.5 billion liras last year.

Due to the country-wide protests, which began in Istanbul due to the Gezi Park dispute and spread all around the country, the program of the organization has been revised. Some events and concerts have been postponed.

Sponsors of the event from the outset, the Development Ministry, the Culture and Tourism Ministry, the General Directorate of Promotion, the Office of the Governor of Istanbul, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, the Istanbul Development Agency, the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, Turkish Airlines and the Interbank Card Center are all backers of Istanbul Shopping Fest 2013 as well.

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Turkish culture, literature travel the world with project

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News – The Culture and Tourism Ministry’s TEDA project, which aims to promote Turkish arts and culture abroad with the translation of works by Turkish writers, has been continuing with growing interest since 2005. Thanks to the project, Turkish books have gained lots of readers around the world

Within the Translation Subvention project, (TEDA), which was initiated by the Culture and Tourism Ministry in 2005 to translate Turkish books into other languages and promote Turkish arts and culture abroad, has so far supported more than 1,300 works in 54 languages in 57 countries.

According to information provided by the ministry, the TEDA Council and Evaluation Committee, which held meetings in May and November last year, examined the applications and decided to give support to 366 works last year.

Therefore 1,350 works were supported in 54 languages and 57 countries between 2005 and 2012. Among these works, 880 have been published so far.

Also, translation workshops began to be organized with the goal of gaining new translated works and translators.

Within the TEDA project, which has been carried out for many years by countries with a rich literary accumulation, 39 works were supported in the first year in Turkey. The interest shown in the project continued in 2006. The number of countries that applied for the project increased. Among these countries were Finland, Ukraine, Brazil, Macedonia, Austria, Bulgaria, Iran, Taiwan and Russia.

The project has been accelerated with works in the field of travel, theater and history, in addition to novels and poetry. Interest in the works of classical writers and poets such as Yunus Emre, Mevlana, Ömer Seyfettin and Mehmet Akif Ersoy as well as contemporary artists and works increased. Sixty-one works were supported in 2006 within the scope of the project.

The number of applications for TEDA projects greatly increased in 2007 because of the fact that Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel Prize in 2006 and Turkey was the guest country at Frankfurt Book Fair in 2008 as well as interest of readers in Turkish writers abroad. As a result, 202 works were supported in the same year. In 2008, 184 works were supported, 140 in 2009 and 185 in 2010.

Significant writers in the project

Turkish literature also draws great interest especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnian book lovers closely follow Turkish novels and history books that have been translated into their language. Besides the books of writers such as Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, Orhan Kemal, Ayşe Kulin, Pamuk and Elif Şafak, works by well-known historians like Halil İnalcık and İlber Ortaylı are popular among Bosnian readers.

According to officials of leading Bosnian publishing houses, besides the Nobel laureate writer Pamuk, works by Ayşe Kulin, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar and Aslı Erdoğan draw great interest in the country. Pamuk’s novels “Snow” and “My Name is Red” were among the best-selling books in Bosnia.

In the same year, three novels of well-known Turkish author Orhan Kemal have been translated into Chinese under the auspices of TEDA.

Three of Kemal’s novels, “Avare Yıllar” (Idle Years), “Cemile” and “Baba Evi” (My Father’s House) were translated into Chinese as part of the project. “Bereketli Topraklar Üzerinde” (On Fertile Lands) was another book of Kemal translated into Chinese. Turkish literary works were also presented at the 19th Beijing International Book Fair last year in September for the first time. Chinese audiences had the opportunity to read books by Tuna Kiremitçi and Can Dündar as well as Kemal in their own language.

Two of his books, “72. Koğuş” (72th Cell) and “Cemile” were also released last year in Pakistan as part of the project. “72. Koğuş” and “El Kızı” (Strange Girl) will also be published in Albania as part of the project.

The 25th Tehran Book Fair also saw the introduction of the TEDA project to foreign authors, publishing houses and translators.

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Helicopter tours begin in Miniatürk

Hurriyet – ISTANBUL – Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Kültür A.Ş. has initiated Flyride helicopter tour simulation, which includes Istanbul and all of Turkey. According to a written statement made by Kültür A.Ş., the Flyride helicopter tour offers 3D effects like wind, rain and touching. In each session, 30 visitors simultaneously are capable of touring Istanbul in 11 minutes and Turkey in 14 minutes.

During the tour, visitors take off from Miniatürk and enjoy seeing the Ottoman history of Topkapı Palace, ancient Greek cities in Bergama and Ephesus, gladiators in Aspendos, underwater world in Kaş, unique beauty of Fethiye, magic of fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, ruins of Mount Nemrut and architecture of Mardin as well as Sümela Monastery and skiing in Mount Uludağ.

The Istanbul helicopter tour includes the Bosphorus, Maiden’s Tower, Dolmabahçe Palace, Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace, Sultanahmet, the Golden Horn, Rumeli Hisarı and the Spice Bazaar.

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Rs 199.4 bln released for Pakistan development projects

ISLAMABAD, June 16 (APP): The Planning Commission of Pakistan has so far released Rs 199.4 billion under its Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) against the total allocation of Rs 234 billion for the fiscal year 2012-13. According to the latest data released by of the Planning Commission of Pakistan, Rs 104.5 billion has been released for 346 infrastructure development projects and Rs 87.5 billion for 717 social sector projects.

Similarly, up to June 14, Rs 2.4 billion has been released for 77 other projects and Rs 5 billion for the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA). The total size of the PSDP for the year 2012-13 is Rs 360 billion, including Rs 99 billion foreign aid, which is managed by the Economic Affairs Division and Rs 27 billion special programmes, funds for which are released by the Cabinet Division or Finance Division.

According to the break-up, the total cost of 346 infrastructure projects has been estimated at Rs 2,314.4 billion, out of which Rs 211.7 billion had been earmarked in the 2012-13 budget, which includes Rs 85.6 billion as foreign aid.

Likewise, the total cost of 717 social sector projects is Rs 554.8 billion of which Rs 135.3 billion is to be allocated in the PSDP 2012-13, with foreign aid of Rs 8.4 per cent.

The cost of other 77 projects has been estimated at Rs 41.8 billion out of which Rs 3 billion has been earmarked in the PSDP 2012-13, besides Rs 10 billion for ERRA in the current development programme.

The Planning Commission of Pakistan follows a proper mechanism for releasing funds. It releases 20% of funds in first quarter (July-September), 20% in second quarter (October-December), 25% in third quarter (January-March) and 35% in fourth quarter (April-June).

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Dubai sets sights on Holy Qur’an-themed park

Dubai, Friday, 12 Shaaban 1434/ 21 June 2013 (IINA) – Dubai has added a new item to its top ambitions such as building the world’s largest Ferris wheel and bidding for an Angry Birds theme park – a site honoring the Qur’an.

The estimated $7.3 million project will include a garden with plants mentioned in the Islamic holy book and an air-conditioned tunnel depicting events from the Qur’an. Dubai media quoted the city’s director of projects, Mohammed Noor Mashroom, as saying

Thursday the park should be ready in September 2014. It’s a departure from Dubai’s emphasis on Western-style tourism, which draws millions of visitors from around the Muslim world but has its detractors. This week, a Saudi cleric issued a religious edict saying it was a “sin” for Saudi women to visit Dubai, but later retracted the opinion after outcry.

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Arab Monetary Fund loans $96 million to Yemen

Sana’a , Saturday, 13 Shaaban 1434/22 June 2013 (IINA) – Finance Ministry and Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) signed here on Sunday an agreement to support the financial reform program for 2013 in Yemen.

Under the agreement, the AMF gives Yemen a loan of $96 million to support financial reform program in 2013, which aims at achieving stability and balance in the overall economy and improving the standard of living through ensuring basic services access and restructuring economic institutions to raise the effectiveness of the services they provide. It was signed by Finance Minister Sakhr al-Wajih and AMF Director-General and Board of Directors Chairman and Jassim al-Mannai. Hitherto, the Arab Monetary Fund (IMF) has given Yemen 25 loans, including this one, with an amount of KD 240 million ($1.1 billion).

During an earlier meeting, al-Wajih briefed al-Mannai on the economic reforms made by the government in order to achieve an economic stability led to acceptable growth rates in various economic indicators. “The efforts made by the Arab Monetary Fund with the Yemeni government and its support for the economic reform process resulted in an improvement on various national economic indicators,” the Minister said, stressing the government’s adherence to continue the economic reforms until realizing the desired goals.

The AMF Director-General said that Yemen deserved, due to the government’s success in the economic reform, the second installment of the sixth ordinary loan the Fund has provided to Yemen in 2012 to support the financial reform program agreed upon in 2012. “As a result of the successes achieved by the Yemeni government in implementing the previous economic reform program, Yemen will get an amount of KD10.5 million (nearly $48 million), which is the 2nd installment of the sixth ordinary loan,” al-Mannai said.

He praised the previous reforms results that resulted in the improvement of many economic indicators and the government’s efforts aimed at reducing interest rates and encouraging the private sector, which led to the stability of Yemen’s national currency and the inflation rates. “Those indicators confirm the seriousness of the Yemeni government to continue the economic reforms, which will enhance the strong relationship between Yemen and the Fund,” al-Mannai said.

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Ihsanoglu to open OIC mission in Brussels

Jeddah, Sunday, 14 Shaaban 1434/23 June 2013 (IINA) – The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu left for Brussels for the official opening of the OIC Permanent Observer Mission to the European Union (EU) on June 25. During his three-day visit he will meet officials from the European Union including the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso and the High Representative for Political Affairs and Security Policy Baroness Catherine Ashton. The secretary general has appointed Ambassador Arif Mamedov from Azerbaijan as the OIC Permanent Observer to the EU and he will be at the opening ceremony to take his post.

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Sheikh Khalifa Road opened in South Waziristan

South Waziristan, Sunday, 14 Shaaban 1434/23 June 2013 (IINA) – General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan, opened Friday Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Road in south Waziristan in Pakistan on Friday.

The move follows directives by United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to support and implement developmental projects in Pakistan. The opening ceremony of the over $38 million road was attended by UAE Ambassador to Pakistan Eisa Abdullah Al Basha Al Nuaimi, Director of the UAE Assistance Programme to Pakistan Abdullah Khalifa Al Gafli, as well as a number of local ministers, senior Pakistani army officers, other senior officials, a number of tribal chiefs, citizens and members of the Program. Al Gafli said the UAE-Pakistan relations are characterized by a spirit of solidarity, fraternity and mutual respect, adding that the inauguration of the road reflects a long history of solidarity and cohesion between the UAE leaders and the people of Pakistan.

He cited the initiatives and efforts of Sheikh Khalifa to provide developmental assistance to Pakistani people in all fields. Al Gafli said the road is strategic as it connects Pakistan and Afghanistan with central Asian countries, noting that it would ease trade exchange for local people. The road shortens the distance between Karachi and Kabul by 400 km.

He referred to continuous support to the Programme by General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs. Regarding the role of the Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Humanitarian Foundation, Al Gafli said the Foundation plays a pivotal role in financing the roads and bridges being implemented by the UAE Assistance Programme to Pakistan. He noted that the Foundation funded the Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Bridge on Swat River, which was opened last year and the Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Road. Al Gafli said the total amount offered by the Foundation for the road and bridge projects in Pakistan was $60.9 million.

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