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17 Jun, 2013

‘Pakistan Corner’ Set up at Thammasat University Library, Bangkok

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 17 June 2013 (08 Sha’baan 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




Tourism Malaysia Sabah Office with the support of eight Sabah tour agents has developed its latest brochure – Sabah Premier Events ”Best Of Borneo” Tour Packages – in an effort to step up promotion of the state. The brochure is specially created in conjunction with the state’s five spectacular premier events, namely Sabah Fest (03-04 May), Sabah Dragon Boat (15-16 June), Sunset Music Festival (28-29 June), Kokol International Paragliding Race (16-18 September) and Mt. Kinabalu International Climbathon (19-20 October).

Fifteen tour packages that range from 2 Days 1 Night to 4 Days 3 Nights have been created, promising tourists a fun-filled time with lots of exciting activities. In conjunction with the Sabah Dragon Boat Race at Likas Bay, Kota Kinabalu, the 3 Days 2 Nights ’Merlin’s Dragon’ package has been created. Through this tour package, tourists get to witness the race on either 15 or 16 June and enjoy a day trip to one of the islands in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. The tour package is also inclusive of a trip to Klias River, famed for its long-nosed proboscis monkeys.

Another interesting tour package created in June is the 2 Days 1 Night ’Romancing The Music at the Tip of Borneo’ package, in conjunction with the Sunset Music Festival. Be prepared to be mesmerised by the amazing talents of musicians as they bring you to the ultimate musical bliss whilst the red sun vanishes down below the horizon at the Tip of Borneo, Kudat. The new Minister of Tourism & Culture YB Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri bin Tan Sri Abdul Aziz is also expected to grace the event on 29 June 2013.

Tourism Malaysia Sabah will also be promoting the tour packages through websites, online social media, email blast and distribution of brochures at Tourism Malaysia state and overseas offices. For further enquiries, kindly contact: Trecey J. Tojuka (Ms.), Email: tracey@tourism.gov.my. Tel: 088-248698 / 211732

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




Global Tourism Cities Conference 2013 To Be Held In Sarawak

Key experts from the world of tourism cities planning will be sharing insights at the Global Tourism Cities Conference 2013 – the international conference on tourism cities infrastructure development held at The Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK), Sarawak, Malaysia from 2 – 3 July 2013.

Themed ‘Building A Sustainable Global Tourism City’, the two-day conference consists of four exciting main sessions and special focused forum covering over 12 specific and topical subjects, focusing on: Tourism City Planning: Key Factor to Success; Infrastructure Development for Sustainable Urban Tourism; Heritage and Amusement As Tourism City Attractions; Success Stories of Regional Urban Tourism Cities; Tourism Industry Catalyst Forum: Building A Sustainable Global Tourism City of The Future: Balancing The Socio-Economy and Environment Aspects.

The main goal of the conference is to provide tourism cities planners, government authorities, mayors, municipal councils, decision makers, being C-level executives as well as related business leaders, with the knowledge and the connections they need in order to make valid planning and business decisions in terms of planning and development of sustainable tourism cities over the coming years.

Dato’ Kamal Ariffin Zaharin, an award winning urban planner that have worked with Professors Duany and Plater-Zyberk, who were internationally renowned for their design practice and ideas and worked on numerous buildings and city designs across the globe will talk about the impact of unique infrastructure as tourism attraction. One of the firm’s signature projects is the town of Seaside, Florida which was named the “Best of the Decade” by Time magazine and featured in the movie “The Truman Show”.

Dato’ Kamal also assisted the two time Aga Khan awards recipient Professor Abdel Wahed El-Wakil, a foremost authority in Islamic architecture who designed the current Masjid Quba, Qiblatain and Miqat among others. With El-Wakil, Kamal worked on the designs of various institutions and palaces, including the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies in UK under the patronage of HRH The Prince of Wales. Kamal later designed and produced the interior woodwork for its Auditorium and Gallery, which received the European Award of Excellence.

Prof. Amran Hamzah, the Advisor of Tourism Planning Research Group, Malaysia will share his views on Lessons From The Adaptive Reuse Of Historical Buildings; while the Organisation of Sports Events and Festivities as Urban Tourism Attractions will be addressed by Prof. Brian E.M. King, School of Hotel and Tourism Management, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong

For further information on the topics and speakers at Global Tourism Cities Conference, please visit www.globaltourismcitiesconference.com or call the secretariat at +603. 4045 5999

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Libya counts on tourism to help rebuild country

Tripoli, Libya 14 June 2013 – Libya’s Ministry of Tourism has enlisted UNWTO to help implement an action plan to rebuild its tourism sector as an effective way to increase national revenue, create employment, foster national cohesion and enhance the county’s international image. A UNWTO mission led by Secretary-General Taleb Rifai made a first approach on the specific needs of the country during a workshop on technical cooperation in the capital Tripoli (9-10 June 2013).

Libya is counting on tourism to help rebuild the country, in the light of its ongoing socio-political transformation. Libya’s Ministry of Tourism has drawn up an action plan focused on institutional capacity building to pave the way for sustainable tourism development and calls on the support and participation of its public and private sectors to help implement its plan.

“Achieving sustainable tourism is a propeller to create employment, diversify Libya’s national sources of income and promote our image as an attractive tourism destination domestically and abroad,” said the Minister of Tourism, Mrs. Ikram Bash Imam. “Revitalizing domestic tourism will likewise help foster national cohesion in this significant period of nationwide rebuilding,” she added.

“Libya is a prime setting for tourism development, being blessed with natural, cultural and archaeological assets, including five UNESCO World Heritage Sites,” said UNWTO Secretary-General. “Tourism is the right vehicle to contribute to the international repositioning of Libya whilst contributing to its sustainable economic development and job creation particularly among the youth,” he added.

Following a request by the Ministry of Tourism to assist in its tourism development efforts, a UNWTO delegation delivered a first approach during a two-day workshop, addressing issues such as institutional framework building, human resources development, sustainability, image building and marketing.

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‘Pakistan Corner’ Set up at Thammasat University Library, Bangkok

Bangkok, 12 June 2013 – Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education Phongthep Thepkanjana presided over a ceremony to set up a “Pakistan Corner” at the Pridi Banomyong Library of Bangkok’s esteemed Thammasat University. The event was attended by numerous academics, members of the Pakistani community in Thailand and diplomatic corps. It is one of several measures enacted by Pakistan’s outgoing Ambassador Sohail Mahmood during his four-year tenure to build people-to-people contacts between Thailand and Pakistan.

In his remarks, Minister Phongthep said the Pridi Banomyong Library is an apt venue since it is named after one of Thailand’s great intellectuals and founder of this prominent university.

He said, “The Kingdom of Thailand and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan have enjoyed a long-standing relationship, marked by cordiality and growing cooperation in diverse fields. Our two countries have recently celebrated the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations. Furthermore, our civilized connection can be traced back to the Buddhist Gandhara days – almost 2,500 years ago. In recent years, we have worked closely to forge deeper ties in politics, trade, finance, education and culture. It is particularly gratifying to see a significant growth in cultural and educational collaboration, and an increase in institutional linkages.”

He congratulated the Embassy of Pakistan and Thammasat University for their initiative. “Forging academic linkages and establishing platforms to share knowledge and information is an excellent way to promote better mutual understanding and build long-term partnerships between nations.

“Building people-to-people contacts remains central to any relationship. Thus, the theme for this event — building bridges, bringing people together – is entirely appropriate. The establishment of the ‘Pakistan Corner’ marks a significant step in this direction. I am confident that this will be the fore-runner of many more such initiatives in the years to come.

“The ‘Pakistan Corner’, established here, contains books and materials highlighting various aspects of Pakistan. Scholars and students will be able to deepen their understanding of Pakistan’s history and politics, and its heritage of civilizations, arts and culture, language and literature, music, cuisine, and tourism. I have no doubt that this symbolic milestone represents a substantial addition to the existing information and knowledge about Pakistan in Thailand. Because of this, I truly hope that the Pakistan Corner will foster and enhance the expertise of visitors, and make a tangible contribution to strengthening multi-faceted ties between Thailand and Pakistan,” the minister said.

In his remarks, Ambassador Sohail Mahmood extended a special thanks to Thammasat University for partnering in this important venture. The following is the full text of his remarks:

“Pakistan is located at the crossroads of South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. The geo-strategic placement of Pakistan, and our unique historical experience, has pre-ordained that the country would play a significant role in its part of the world. Operating under this imperative, Pakistan has always endeavoured to make its rightful contribution to peace, progress and prosperity in the region and beyond. At the same time, while pre-occupied with politics and geo-politics, the Pakistani nation has also been making consistent advancements on the creative sides of life.

So while we have an eventful political scene, or a challenging external environment, we also have the arts, crafts, literature and music developing in full bloom. Our consistent effort is to tell the full story of Pakistan, to our friends and well-wishers in the international community.

Pakistan and Thailand are two friends, whose linkages go back to over two millennia when the Buddhist Gandhara civilization was at its zenith in areas in northern Pakistan with Taxila at the centre. These linkages have only strengthened in modern times. Recently, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of our Diplomatic Relations as well as the 50th anniversary of the State Visit of Their Majesties King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit to Pakistan (which took place in March 1962).

Today, our cooperative and multi-dimensional ties are growing in diverse fields – political, trade, investment, security, defence, education and culture. In particular, the two countries are placing a strong emphasis on expanding the vital people-to-people dimension of the relationship.

It is part of this commitment that the two sides have collaborated to establish the “Pakistan Corner” at a premier Thai institution of higher learning like Thammasat. We are also grateful to get space for this Corner at the prestigious Pridi Banomyong Library.

For the success of this undertaking, I wish to express our profound appreciation to Rector Dr. Somkit, Vice Rector Dr. Nitinant and their very able team. By establishing this Pakistan Corner, we are opening another window on Pakistan for the students and scholars alike.

The Corner contains books and audio-video materials on different aspects of national life in Pakistan – including history and geography, civilizational heritage, political and constitutional evolution, national security and foreign policy, art and culture, language and literature, and travel and tourism.

The Corner also highlights glimpses of Pak-Thai relations and contains some traditional Pakistani items, illustrating the skills of our craftsmen. It is our hope that the Corner will serve as yet another platform to widen the knowledge base about Pakistan and promote further mutual understanding and goodwill between our nations. After all, if you build bridges, people will come together.

This project would not have been possible without the crucial support provided by a large number of institutions – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Book Foundation in Islamabad, and Thammasat University, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Education in Bangkok. I express our sincere thanks to all of them. I also acknowledge the vital contributions of members of Thai-Pakistani community.”

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Tallest twisted tower opens in Dubai

Khaleej Times – 12 June, 2013 – Dubai, home to Earth’s three tallest buildings, witnessed the opening of the world’s highest twisted tower late on Monday.

Cayan Real Estate Investment and Development Company inaugurated the Dh1 billion Cayan Tower, formerly named Infinity. Located in Dubai Marina and close to the world’s tallest residential building, the 414-metre Princess Tower, the skyscraper with a 90-degree twist is 310 metres high and has 495 apartments.

The company has sold 80 per cent of the project and is not in a hurry to sell the remaining 20 per cent, Cayan Group president and chairman Ahmed Alhatti told reporters at a news conference.

“In a city like Dubai with sophisticated world-class developments, Cayan wanted to develop a project to stay within this space, and provide a remarkable lifestyle development with these characteristics to the Dubai skyline,” Alhatti said.

Talking about reasons on renaming the tower, he said: “We are very attached with this unique project and it was a very conscious decision we took. We know there won’t be any Cayan Tower in the world and this will be the only one.”

Cayan Tower provides residents with stunning panoramic views of the Palm Dubai and the Marina, he added. The project, which was supposed to open in 2010, was delayed due to some reasons, including the global financial crisis, according to Al Hatti. He said that the company is planning to launch two more projects in Dubai, but declined to provide any details.

Cayan Real Estate Investment and Development Company had been in the Dubai real estate market since 2004. Its projects, estimated to be worth around Dh10 billion, cover a wide spectrum from exclusive residential property to commercial space. Cayan Tower, designed by world-renowned Skidmore Owings and Merrill — the same team behind Burj Khalifa — boasts 75 floors in an unparalleled synergy between uniqueness, functionality, efficient space planning and the use of high-end materials.

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Salalah Tourism Festival from August

Oman Daily Observer – 12 June, 2013 – The Salalah Tourism Festival (STF) will start with the Eid festivities this year. Beginning from the second day of Eid al Fitr, the official festival will continue for another 26 days. The dates have been extended almost by one-and-a-half months due to Ramadhan, which is likely to start in the second week of July.

This was announced yesterday by Shaikh Salim bin Oufait al Shanfari, Chairman Dhofar Municipality. He gave elaborate details of Dhofar Municipality’s preparedness for the STF-2013 and said all possible efforts were being made to make the festival successful. In his comments to the Observer Al Shanfari said: “We have taken lessons from last season’s rush situation in

Salalah and working in close co-ordination with all the departments to offer an entirely different experience to our guests from neighbouring GCC and far off countries.” He made special mention of ensuring fuel supply during the Eid holiday, which is coinciding with the festival, and said that committees had been formed to address the issue. “We have requested the petrol stations connecting Salalah from Muscat and other directions to raise their storage capacity and working in close co-ordination all the stakeholders to monitor all possible facilities throughout the festival,” he said.

Commenting on the availability of accommodation to meet visitors’ requirement during the khareef season, the Dhofar Municipality chairman said: “Many new buildings have come up during the past one year. We have much more rooms in terms of villas and apartments and we are hopeful of managing the guest flow in a better way this year.” The festival this year will have many new elements, the details of which are likely to be announced in coming days. Though the official festival is starting late, tourists’ are likely to visit all through the season, while the maximum flow is expected during the Eid holiday.

The festival is more popular as Khareef festival due to a rare geographical phenomenon of delicate drizzling, which begins in the last week of June and continues till Septembner. From July till September the annual summer monsoon touches the Salalah mountain slopes and the coastal area with its delicate drizzling fog. During these three months nature awakens from its slumber and a tender green carpet of grass is decorated with flowers.

The whole of Salalah turns green during this time giving a rare feeling to the tourists especially those who visit from the countries where the rains are rare phenomenon. The festival attracts a large number of tourists from the neighbouring GCC countries as also from Europe and other Middle Eastern countries and over the years Salalah has earned a reputation of one of the best summer destinations in whole of the Middle East.

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Fresh Dates Start Flooding Madinah market

Saudi Gazette – 12 June, 2013 – With the fasting month of Ramadan nearly a month away, the dates market in Madinah has started receiving a wide varieties of ripe dates from various regions. Farmers and dealers are bringing products to the market expecting a good harvest season this year.

Varieties of ripe dates that are displayed in the market include Rabiah, Lubana and Helwa. Rothana, one of the precious varieties of fresh Madinah dates, will hit the market over the coming weeks, Saudi Press Agency reported quoting market sources.

Price for one box of fresh dates ranges between SR30 and SR50. Prices will start dropping when more varieties and quantities begin flooding the market in the coming days. Ripe dates will continue flooding the market until the end of August. Then the season of dry dates will start. These dates include the most popular of Madinah produce such as Ajwa, Anbara and Safawi.

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Kuwait invites bids for first solar energy project

Saudi Gazette – 13 June, 2013 – Kuwait invited bids Wednesday to build a solar farm to produce 70 megawatts of electricity by 2016, the first phase of a plan to generate 2,000 megawatts from renewables in 2030, the project supervisor said. Thirty-seven consortia out of 107 pre-qualified to bid, said Salem Al-Hajraf, head of energy research at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research.

The second and third phases will produce 930 MW and 1,000 MW, respectively, when the project is completed in 2030, he said. Fifty megawatts will be produced from solar thermal sources and 10 each from photovoltaic and wind sources.

The pioneer project will be built on a 100-square-kilometer (39-square-mile) area in Shagaya, a zone 100 km (62 miles) west of Kuwait City, near the borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Hajraf said the target is for renewable energy sources to contribute up to 15 percent of Kuwait’s total power production by 2030.

At present, the OPEC member pumps 3.0 million barrels of crude oil daily. It uses 126 million barrels of oil equivalent for electricity production, which currently stands at around 14,000 MW, with summer consumption approaching the total at peak hours, Hajraf said. The second and third phases will be offered to investors on Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) basis for 25 years, during which the government pledges to buy all output.

When complete, the project will be enough to supply electricity to 100,000 homes and save about 12.5 million barrels of oil equivalent per year, Hajraf said.

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Jeddah’s unique food carnival launched

Saudi Gazette – 13 June, 2013 – The Jeddah Summer Festival 2013 “Jeddah Gheir “ has launched a unique food carnival at the Courtyard Tuesday in a bid to further promote and popularize both Saudi and various international foodstuffs for Jeddah visitors and residents as well.

Speaking at the launch of the festival, Bandar Al Suliman, Managing Director at AlMathaaq Hospitality, said “our visitors love to enjoy good food and they are always ready to try something new in a city like Jeddah which boasts one of the regions’ best collections of restaurants.”

He announced the carnival will include the Saudi week (June 8-14), the European week (June 15-21), the Oriental week (June 22-28) and the American /Asian week (June 29-July 5). “In addition to tasting the various delicious dishes, the Courtyard will allow diners and visitors to experience live cooking, food sampling, enjoy the culture shows and they will also have the chance to win valuable prizes from the weekly competitions,” he said.

He added that the volume of investments in the catering sector exceeded SR6 billion and that the demand for restaurants is growing annually by more than 10 percent.

Meanwhile, Hassan Al Dahlan, director of the organizing committee of Jeddah Summer Festival 2013, disclosed that 1,500 stores, 17 shopping malls and 70 entertaining kids cities will witness around 150 events this summer. “The 30-day event will include more than 100 tourist and recreational activities catering to all sections of the society and the festival would further consolidate the position of Jeddah in the domestic and foreign tourism map,” he added.

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Emaar to build $ 2bn Kurdish resort

Gulf Times – 13 June, 2013 – Emaar Properties of Dubai and Kurdish company Faruk Group Holding will soon sign a contract valued at more than $ 2bn to develop a resort in Iraq’s oil-rich Kurdish region in the north, a government official said, according to Bloomberg.

The Dukan tourist city project will be built in Sulaymaniyah near the border with Iran, Herish Muharam Mohamad, chairman of Kurdistan Regional Government’s investment board, said in an interview in the regional capital, Erbil.

The resort at the artificial lake Dukan will include hotels, restaurants and residential areas as well as cinemas and casinos, he said.

The semi-autonomous Kurdish region has become a focal point for tourists and business visitors even as much of Iraq continues to face political and ethnic violence following the war that toppled Saddam Hussein. Emaar, which has the heaviest weighting on Dubai’s benchmark stock index, last year signed an agreement with Iraq government officials to develop housing and tourism projects in the country.

Faruk Group Holding comprises 12 companies in businesses including construction, telecommunications, cement, hospitality and retail. It is Iraq’s largest private company, with 11,000 employees, according to Faruk’s website.

Emaar is bidding for a $ 5bn housing project in central Iraq, Mohammed Ameen, vice chairman of Iraq’s National Investment Commission, said in an April 1 interview in Baghdad. Iraq has allocated more than $ 31bn to address a residential shortage estimated at more than 670,000 homes. Emaar didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment on the Kurdish resort project.

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Gulf’s largest open-air square to be built in Doha

Gulf Times – 13 June, 2013 – The regeneration of the historical commercial centre of Doha will feature the Gulf’s largest open-air square – Al Baraha, according to Msheireb Properties, developer of the Msheireb Downtown Doha project.

Al Baraha will be one of the main attractions of the development, where visitors will be able to enjoy al fresco fine and casual dining at over 15 outlets. Being built as part of Phase 1B of Downtown Doha, Al Baraha is set to be the biggest manmade square in the Gulf, equal in size to the famous Piazza San Marco in Venice.

Al Baraha will comprise state-of-the-art cooling systems and climate management technologies to create a comfortable temperature for visitors, pedestrians and diners even in the hot summer months.

Inspired by aspects of traditional Qatari architecture, the streets and buildings are oriented to ensure natural ventilation by capturing cool breeze from the Gulf, shading most pedestrian routes from the heat.

Al Baraha is destined to be the symbolic heart of this regenerated district and will host a number of vibrant activities throughout the year.

The square will also be bordered by the 19,000sqm Cultural Forum, which will provide a venue for the creative community with features such as two art-house cinemas and a performing arts theatre. Space will also be available for public art exhibitions and lessons in music and the fine arts.

Designed by international architecture firm Mossessian & Partners, Al Baraha will feature a unique urban majlis, blending interior design features such as chandeliers and banquettes in an outdoor setting. The design was recognised at the MIPIM Architectural Awards in Cannes, France, earlier last year.

“As one of the key social hubs within the Msheireb Downtown Doha development, Al Baraha will reintroduce an authentically Arab social dynamic into our capital and serve as a meeting point for young and old, and a gateway into Doha for the many first-time visitors to Qatar,” said Abdulla Hassan al-Mehshadi, CEO of Msheireb Properties. “It will also reflect the way Msheireb is recreating traditional Arab urban environments to lessen human impacts on the environment, with features that discourage car use and promote social interaction and pedestrianism.”

Paved with stone, Al Baraha will serve as a relaxing meeting point, with light installations, water fountains and benches. It will be anchored by Mandarin Oriental Hotel and host more than a dozen restaurants at its ground level, overlooked by clusters of residential and office buildings.

An iconic retractable canopy will help provide shade and reduce direct heat during the day; it will be retracted at night, allowing the heat to escape. Low-level canopies will provide additional shading and circulate chilled air from cooling bollards powered by photovoltaic solar panels on the roof. An advanced under-floor radiant cooling system will further lower the temperature of the floor and eliminate heat gain from the stone paving.

“Al Baraha will be a fascinating showcase of how sustainable technologies, historic and modern, are being used to sustainably manage the local climate,” said al-Mehshadi.

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Summer shopping festival held at Kuwait Int’l Fair

Kuwait News Agency – 11 June, 2013 – The International Summer Shopping Festival begins at the Kuwait International Fair in Mishref on Tuesday, organizers announced. The two-week-long event will showcase varied products including those travel-related, clothing, jewellery, cosmetics and handicrafts, among others, the Kuwait International Fair Company said in a statement.

The goods on display are from international as well as local retailers, and consumers will get a first-hand opportunity to be exposed to the latest these businesses have to offer. The festival intends to pay close attention to those planning to spend their summer holidays elsewhere this year, however, will also offer people staying behind a little something as well, added the organisers.

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Saudi Arabia expected to invest $45 bn in railway networks

Arab News – 11 June, 2013 – Saudi Arabia is currently undertaking ground-breaking transformations in the transportation sector and Huawei Technologies aims to place the passengers at the heart of the new transformation by emphasizing safety, comfort and reliability as critical components of railway infrastructure. At a recent event in Riyadh, Huawei Enterprise revealed its latest railway communication solutions, including its GSM-R, metro solution and long-term-evolution (LTE) based technologies, better known as 4G.

Alongside highlighting rail solutions that meet the unique challenges of Saudi railway projects, Huawei joined other rail experts in supporting Middle East railway operators to encourage more public transport commuters.

Saudi Arabia is expected to invest $ 45 billion to establish railway networks across the Kingdom. Projects include the likes of the Saudi Landbridge, the North-South Railway Line, the Haramain High Speed Rail, the GCC Rail, the Riyadh Light Railway and Makkah Metro. The total length of these railway projects is expected to be 7,000 km, establishing a comprehensive rail network for commuters in Saudi Arabia. It is expected that the number of railway passengers will increase to 3.37 million by 2014 using the existing railway system – North-South line — and the Haramain high speed rail.

Rabii Ouadi, head of business development, transportation solutions at Huawei Enterprise, Middle East and North Africa, said: “Within the next 10 years transportation infrastructure in the Middle East and especially Saudi Arabia will dramatically change. According to market studies, the worth of the projects related to railway telecom systems is estimated to run into several hundred million dollars. Huawei looks forward to being more involved in helping shape the future of Saudi rail transport.”

At the conference, Huawei’s railway experts demonstrated how 4G technology is set to dramatically enhance passenger experience on board the train. Another focus was Huawei’s GSM-R solutions, a reliable and secure communication system developed specifically for railways to enable seamless contact between train drivers and control dispatchers on station platforms. Datacom, transmission networks, ICT solutions for metro and urban rail, and intelligent video surveillance solutions were also addressed at the show as critical to the construction and operation of modern railway infrastructure.

Ouadi added: “The future of railway networks in the region will rely heavily on the capability of its 4G technology, as it forms the backbone of all rail communication systems. Huawei is diligently researching and developing more railway features based on LTE technology, with the vision of ultimately merging the entire GCC rail network onto one single communication system infrastructure.”

Train-ground wireless network, based on LTE technology, enhances the passenger’s experience on board a high speed train by allowing for onboard broadband Internet and mobile coverage. Enabling passengers to video-call home and connect to the office over wifi or cellular networks, passengers can also keep track of their travel itinerary through integrated scheduling and ticketing systems — all accessible by downloading an application on their smart phones. Railway operators will also have the ability to share information on journey updates, passenger and train status as well as being able to keep a close eye on physical security issues by using the latest CCTV monitoring equipment.

Huawei recently won the Etihad rail project to provide the core network infrastructure with GSM-R, MSN (multi-service networks) and a Masterclock. The entire railway project is expected to finish in 2013. In early 2012, Huawei successfully deployed the mobile transmission network for the Dubai Metro Green Line. Today, hundreds of thousands of passengers including small retail businesses have access to mobile services in the stations across 18 metro stops on the Green line in total.

As a global player with vast experience in the rail and metro sector, Huawei creates synergies between different technologies, laying the foundation for future railway networks in Asia, Europe and in the Middle East. To date, Huawei has successfully deployed network communication solutions in China with similar projects under way in Australia, Central Asia Turkey and also South Africa. Rail and Metro transmission data solutions have also been deployed in Europe and North Africa.

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Inland tourism to get fillip during summer break

Arab News – 11 June, 2013 – Local tourists are expected to spend more than SR 10.5 billion this summer. This makes for an increase of 18 percent compared to spending last year, which stood at SR 8.9 billion, according to data from the Tourism Information and Research Center (MAS), an affiliate of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA).

Local tourist excursions are predicted to jump to 5.3 million during the months of July and August compared to five million trips in the same period last year, an increase of 5 percent, according to the report.

Local tourists will spend 25.9 million nights during the summer break compared to 24 million nights in 2012. Similarly, spending rates per tourist per night will reach SR 406, the report said.

According to the report, Riyadh province is expected to capture 30.9 percent of the total number of tourist excursions, followed by the Eastern Province at 27 percent, Makkah Province at 25.3 percent, Madinah Province at 11.8 percent and Jazan Province at 1.6 percent.

About 36.7 percent of local tourists are expected to make trips to visit their relatives and friends, 25.4 percent for religious purposes, 20.2 percent for holiday-making and shopping and 3.3 percent for business and conferences, the report said.

The report cited a number of reasons for the expected raise in the rate of local tourism during this summer break. These include the SCTA’s promotional campaigns on domestic tourism through the implementation of more than 40 summer festivals, unrest in neighboring Arab countries and the approach of the holy month of Ramadan followed by the Eid-ul-Fitr holidays.

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Qatar to get global tourism accounting system

The Peninsula – 10 June, 2013 – Qatar is set to have a Tourism Satellite Account soon as part of the development goals of the recently signed agreement between Qatar Tourism Authority and United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

“By the end of next year, Qatar shall have an active and accurate Tourism Satellite Account, a global tourism accounting system,” said Tony Williams, Tourism Development Consultant, QTA.

Approved by the UN in 2002, TSA provides reliable data on the impact of tourism on the nation’s economy and serves as a powerful instrument in designing economic policies on tourism development.

Williams was speaking at a workshop by Qatar Green Building Council (QGBC) titled “Breaking Down Barriers to Enhance Sustainability in the Hotel and Tourism Sector”, yesterday at Wyndham Grand Regency Hotel – Doha.

QTA has signed a national-level cooperation agreement with the UNWTO in line with its thrust toward sustainable tourism development, said Williams.

The agreement will develop a holistic approach to sustainable development through internal capacity building programmes on sustainable tourism, tourism management of biodiversity and habitat conservation, capacity building programmes on climate change mitigation and tourism management of heritage and sites, among others.

Among the other development goals of the agreement, Williams mentioned were enhancing the country’s expertise in sustainable tourism development and developing a regulatory system which links hotels and tourism products to sustainable environmental practices.

The two parties would also work on establishing development and operations guidelines for tourism products across protected areas, heritage and cultural sites as well as putting up tourism observatories to monitor tourism activity’s impacts on natural destinations.

QTA is also developing “Brand Qatar” which showcases the country’s natural environments and wildlife, its heritage, history and culture and protects them for the future.

Attended by senior QGBC and QTA officials as well as by representatives and pioneers from Qatar’s green industry and hospitality sector, the workshop was held to generate a roadmap for Qatar’s tourism and hospitality sector which, once endorsed, will be used as a tool to develop and improve the hospitality sector here.

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Emirates Holidays details attractions for Saudi tourists

Arab Times – 11 June, 2013 – Visits by Saudis to the United States have more than doubled last year, according to Dina N.A. Al-Herais, vice president — commercial operations, Emirates Holidays.

“In fact, the United States has become the most favored tourist destination besides Australia,” she said while announcing several holiday offers here yesterday. She hoped that these offers will attract more Saudis to these and various other destinations.

“From immersing yourself in the amazing world of Harry Potter, to soaking in the rich history and culture of Vietnam, or enjoying magical moments at a Disney park, to having the adventure of a lifetime on a South African safari, these holidays will bring fun, adventure and memories to last a lifetime,” Al-Herais added.

Through the new strategy of Emirates Holidays, consumers will see specialized products communicated to them with most offers at most competitive rates, she said.

“Saudi Arabia is the first market for us after the UAE,” Al-Herais said. “The UAE is really not a big market but it is a hub. We sell out of the UAE Eastbound, Westbound, North and South. Plus the population mix in the UAE helps us sell multiple types of products. But next after that comes Saudi Arabia,” she added.

“Because we never ventured huge markets in the past, we continued to operate from the Middle East, from Africa, from the Indian subcontinent and East Europe. Probably very soon, as much as we will be looking at growing the Saudi market, there will be other international markets that will be selling — we’re looking at the UK, the United States and Australia,” Al-Herais said.

She said Emirates Holidays is also expanding its horizon. “We buy a million hotel beds in a year. We are the biggest hotel beds buyer in Dubai.”

About the Harry Potter Tour, she said one can experience stunning Scottish scenery featured in the Harry Potter movies. The lochs and mountains of Glen Coe and Glen Nevis formed the backdrop for some of the most dramatic scenes in the films. Included is a trip on the Jacobite Steam Train, better known as the Hogwarts Express, which climbs up through the valleys, to the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct.

Al-Herais said Vietnam — with its friendly, lively people — is a great family destination. It offers something for every member of the family — history, culture, fun activities and entertainment.

About South African adventures, she says: “Begin your holiday with a one-night stay at Johannesburg followed by a trip to Sun City, better known as South Africa’s playground for entertainment and family fun. Children will love the “kiddie” gaming zone and The Valley of the Waves — one of the most advanced water parks in the world. The Family Safari experience incorporates various activities for children such as a tracker course, birding, face painting to camouflage in the bush, hair braiding, learning about nocturnal animals, joining traditional song and dance activities.

She also highlighted the magic of Disney by suggesting a magical holiday to Disneyland Paris.

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Islamic Economy Higher Committee tackles plans

Khaleej Times – 08 June, 2013 – The initiative to transform Dubai into the world’s capital of the Islamic economy is progressing steadily with confidence towards the goals as scheduled, said Mohammed Abdullah Al Gergawi, Chairman of the Executive Office of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai; Chairman of Dubai’s Islamic Economy Higher Committee and UAE Minister for Cabinet Affairs.

“This is made possible by the joint efforts of the UAE’s different economic and essential sectors. The efforts are in line with the vision of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and the directives of Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, to transform Dubai into the capital of Islamic economy,” he said in remarks following the committee’s third meeting, which he chaired.

During the meeting, the committee viewed the work of its major teams tasked with implementing the initiative. The meetings provide an opportunity to discuss the role of these sectors in the implementation of the initiative, he added.

“Through these periodical meetings, we make sure to view the latest developments relating to the initiative and its different tracks, building on the recommendations from the committee’s previous meetings and workshops. The committee was keen on involving all strategic partners and experts in these meetings and workshops so as to exchange views and ideas on the initiative, and reach a form of fruitful and constructive cooperation,” he said.

Dubai’s Islamic economy platform includes finance instruments, insurance, contracts arbitration, Islamic food industry and trade standards (halal food), and quality management standards.

The Islamic Economy Higher Committee’s members are Sami Al Qamzi, director-general of the Dubai Department of Economic Development; Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, vice-chairman of the Dubai International Financial Centre’s Higher Board; Hussein Nasser Lootah, director-general of Dubai Municipality; Dr Hamad bin Al Sheikh Ahmed Al Shiebani, director-general of the Department of Islamic Affairs and Charity Work in Dubai; Abdul Rahman Saif Al Ghurair, chairman of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Hussein Dhaen Al Qamzi, chairman of Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation; and Essa Kazim, chairman of the Dubai Financial Market.

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Third Ecowas Investment Forum Opens In Nigeria

LAGOS (Nigeria), June 7 (NNN-PANA) — Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo Thursday called on ECOWAS member countries to focus more attention on youth employment and policies that will attract more investors to the region.

“The greatest threat to life and property in the region is youth unemployment. It is potentially threatening and must be addressed. It is a vicious circle that has to be addressed. Poverty breeds insecurity and insecurity drives away potential investors,” he told participants at the opening of the third ECOWAS Investment Forum in the commercial city of Lagos.

The forum, with the theme “The African Opportunity: Spotlight on West Africa”, has attracted participants from the 15-member economic bloc and beyond.

Its main objective is to bring to the attention of local and foreign investors the huge investment opportunities within the region.

Commending the gradual economic progress being achieved across Africa, particularly in West Africa, Chief Obasanjo said the region’s economic integration policy, which allows free movement of people and goods, had become a successful model.

He said: “But it is not all rosy. There is a need for good governance, there is a need for greater commitment to reduce corruption and there is a need to improve the electoral space. Infrastructure is another bane. Investment in West Africa comes with both challenges and opportunities.

“Leaders are aware of these challenges and therefore it is important to partner with the private sector to help address all the challenges. Hear it, see it, feel it and smell it, Africa’s moment is here and West Africa is the gateway,” the former Nigerian leader added.

The potentials of the West African region, as a great investment enclave, are not in doubt, given the comparative and competitive advantages it has over other regions, he said, adding: “With a population of about 300 million, it has the largest population across Africa. It is the first Regional Economic Community (REC) that allows free movement of citizens and goods across the countries.”

Chief Obasanjo said the region is Africa’s largest producer of cocoa, groundnuts and cotton. “In addition, the bloc has high deposits of strategic minerals such as uranium, gold and lime stones. It also has one of the highest returns on investments in Africa. An investment in one country rubs off with the other 14 countries,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the President of Cote D’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, the Ivorian Ambassador in Nigeria, Mrs Toure Mamam, stressed the need to accelerate the construction of major highways that link countries, such as the Abidjan-Lagos and Abidjan-Lome highways.

She also underscored the need to fast track the West Africa Gas Pipelines, sub regional electrification, telecommunication and postal services, adding that this in turn will create wealth, jobs and reduce poverty.

“Cote d’Ivoire is going through great reconstruction. The actions and policy embarked by my President has restored economic and political stability. The security situation has improved tremendously. The country has great potentials and huge investments opportunities.

“The country is the world’s largest producer of cocoa and the third for copper, it is a centre for modern infrastructure and government has put in place policies that will encourage private sector investments. We have created a one stop shop that can register businesses within 48 hours, put in place tax incentives and very generous land policy,” she said

The Gambia High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mrs Angela Colley Iheme, described West Africa as a region of family, which in spite of their differences and diversities, have come together to make it easy for citizens to live anywhere in the region.

In his address, ECOWAS Commission President Kadre Desire Ouedraogo said the regional economic community had shown a lot of promise given the various reforms carried out. He added that the investment forum, driven for the first time purely by the private sector, was a dream come true.

He said: “ECOWAS needs private sector establishment in reshaping the wrong perception about the region. The various initiative put in place such as free movement of goods, people and a common market have jump started the economies in the region. There is free flow of capital, skills and technology and these can create greater opportunities for the people.

“I see our region becoming a stronger economic union sooner than expected where boundaries that separate us will become irrelevant. In the next two days, there will be new initiatives, partners and networking.

“Why Invest in ECOWAS? The answer is that it boasts of arable land, emerging and stable democracy. There are opportunities in tourism, housing, infrastructure, aviation, agribusiness, hospitality and an emerging single market. It also has high human capacity, productive labour force and immense benefits for investors.”

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Pakistan Seeks More Investments From Malaysia

NEW DELHI, India June 11 (NNN-Bernama) — Pakistan is seeking more investments from Malaysia in various sectors, including halal food and refineries, says Mumbai- based Trade Consul Noraslan Hadi Abdul Kadir. He said Pakistan businesses were open to joint ventures, especially for refineries.

“They import a lot of palm oil and there is a huge demand for refinery business and Pakistan wants to tap Malaysia’s expertise,” he told Bernama today.

Pakistan’s edible oil consumption is about 3.2 million tonnes annually, ofwhich, palm oil accounted for 65 per cent or between 2 and 2.1 million tonnes. Last year, Malaysian palm oil met 73 per cent of Pakistan’s edible oil requirements while in the first five months this year, it dropped to 60 per cent.

Other areas of interest are in the pharmaceutical, medical tourism and Islamic banking industries, Noraslan said. As for medical tourism, Pakistan is hopeful Malaysian companies would invest aggressively as there was a huge demand for it, said Noraslan.

Against this backdrop, he said a 30 member delegation comprising Malaysian companies would participate in Expo Pakistan 2013 in September. “I have also invited them to partake in Intrade Malaysia 2013 to be held in November,” Noraslan said. Intrade, he said would give them the opportunity to explore areas of potential for export.

“Currently, the trade imbalance, which is in Malaysia’s favour, is of concern to them. They want to increase their exports to Malaysia and Intrade is a good platform to get potential customers or clients,” he said.

Bilaterial trade stood at US$2.1 billion last year. Exports amounted to a whooping US$1.83 billion while imports stood at only US$250 million. Malaysia’s major exports to Pakistan are palm oil, chemical and chemical products, electrical and electronic products, machinery, appliances and parts, as well as, textiles and clothing.

Malaysia mainly imports cereal, textiles and clothing, seafood (fresh,chilled and frozen), refined petroleum products and, chemical and chemicals products.

Pakistan is strong in agriculture, such as basmati rice, mango and seafood. “I see more potential in expanding seafood exports,” Noraslan added.

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Banda Aceh City Gets Award For Being One Of Indonesia’s “Cleanest Cities”

JAKARTA, June 12 (NNN-Bernama) — Aceh provincial city of Banda Aceh has received the Adipura award as one of Indonesia’s cleanest cities, Indonesian news agency ANTARA reported. The award was presented by Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya at the State Palace on the occasion of the World Environment Day celebrations here Monday.

“This is the sixth time for Banda Aceh to receive the award. We have received the same award in 1995, 1996, 2009, 2010 and 2012,” Banda Aceh Vice Mayor Illiza Saaduddin said Tuesday.

She said the award should be a momentum for local people and government officials to maintain and improve Banda Aceh’s standard as an environmentally sustainable city.

A total of 149 cities/municipalities and districts out of 374 entries received the awards this year, compared to 125 municipalities and districts in 2012 The Adipura awards are given to recognise cities, municipalities and districts in the country for their cleanliness.

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Intensify Efforts To Turn Malaysia’s Putrajaya Into A Tourist Attraction

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia June 11 (NNN-Bernama) – Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad wants Putrajaya Corporation (PPj) to intensify efforts to beautify Putrajaya to turn it into a tourist attraction. Dr Mahathir who mooted the idea to build Putrajaya said PPj president Aseh Che Mat has many ideas to beautify Putrajaya with various initiatives to attract more tourists.

“Despite beautification efforts by the government, Putrajaya is like a beautiful lady who covers up her face, deserted after working hours. We want to make Persiaran Perdana like Champs Élysées Avenue in Paris but there are no shops along the streets. We need coffee shops, souvenir shops and entertainment to enliven the atmosphere along Persiaran Perdana. Aseh has lots of ideas which when put into practice can turn Putrajaya into a big tourist attraction,” he said after dinner in conjunction with the first Lake Cruise here last night.

Also present were Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali, secretary-general of the Ministry of Federal Territories,Adnan Md Ikshan, and the CEO of Putrajaya Holdings, Azlan Karim.

Meanwhile, Aseh said tourists can now go on a boat cruise around Putrajaya and enjoy the beautiful landscape after the deepening of Tasik Putrajaya was completed. The deepening of Tasik Putrajaya costing RM14 million means that the boat cruise can now cover the entire 10.4 km in 45 minutes compared to 9.4 km previously.

Since 2008, cruise could not cover the entire lake and the boat was forced to turn back to the jetty as some parts of the route were shallow, particularly in Precinct 18. Aseh said there are four Lake Cruise boats operating and will expand the service by having more boats if there is encouraging response.

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Turkey Supports Protection of Harar Heritages

10 June 2013 – Ethiopian Radio and Television Agency – Turkish Corporation and Cooperation Agency promises to strengthen ongoing support to protect tourist attraction sites and heritages in Harar city. Agency Deputy President, Harun Tuncer and Tourism and Heritages Bureau Head of the Region Muhidin Ahmed signed agreement to renovate historical sites in the region.

The agreement is hoped to enable Ethiopia and Turkey to further boost existing cultural relations as well as people-to-people ties. Muhidin admired the Turkish government for undertaking activities to help the regional government achieve its endeavors in keeping its heritages.

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Tunisia: Launch of Strategic Plan to Revive Tourism – Minister

8 June 2013 – Tunis Afrique Presse – Bardo — Tourism Minister Jamel Gamra says his department has launched a strategic plan to revive the sector. This plan is based on four axes: restoring security, improving the quality of services, protecting environment and stepping up marketing actions, he noted.

Speaking on Saturday at the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) during a debate with the government, Mr. Gamra said the plan seeks to better promote the Tunisian destination in external markets, step up tourist services quality control and contribute to strengthening security in the country’s regions.

It also aims to promote cultural tourism and handicrafts and heritage products in tourist tours. The minister pointed to the recent initiative of the Tourism Department to create a Tourism Council tasked with boosting Tunisian tourism. Mr. Gamra also spoke of the Bizerte Marina project whose works resumed recently. This project is carried out with investments estimated at 170 million dinars.

For his part, Transport Minister Abdelkarim Harouni announced during the debate that development works of a runway in the Gafsa airport have begun. He also announced the start of development of a study on the project of trans-Maghreb railway transport of persons and goods. This project, funded by the European Investment Bank (EIB), will connect Tunisia, Libya and Morocco.

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Egypt is special destination for Iranian tourists

Ahram Online, Friday 7 Jun 2013 – With the greatness of the Giza pyramids and Sphinx looming overhead, at the last stop on the agenda for the group of 134 Iranian tourists Ahram Online interviews the guests who raised fears from ultra-conservative Sunni Salafists by their mere presence. Some Sunni Muslims were up in arms over the flow of tourism from the Shia-majority country, since they see them as “heretics” and suspect that Iran is trying to spread the Shia faith in the Sunni-Muslim world.

Iranian businessman, Mohamed Redha, who has described Egypt as a “special destination” above the many countries he has visited, says he expects that an enormous number of Iranians will come. “Tourism will contribute to the rapid political and economic development in both Tehran and Cairo,” he predicts. Redha praised the Egyptian civilisation and the ancient monuments, confirming that the visit went without a hitch.

“I have been informed how ancient Egyptians lived throughout the centuries and I can’t believe that I’m standing in front of one of the world’s seven wonders!” Redha said as he stared at the Giza pyramids. “I loved visiting Egypt, which has an inveterate history, like Iran,” said 27-year Hamed Dilshah, an Iranian engineer. I really liked the great Nile River, the Red Sea and the water activities there.”

Dilshah, who only speaks Persian, and the group tell Ahram Online that the boiling hot weather hampered their enjoyment of the pharaonic sights in Egypt’s far southern provinces, Luxor and Aswan. “We were warmly greeted, regardless of the expected troubles that we might have faced due to Salafists’ opposition,” Dilshah said.

One of the Iranians was irritated by the tight security presence around them, but understands that it was to keep them safe. “I know that our visit represents a problem to Salafists in Egypt, but I don’t know why,” Frank Boha wondered.

Egyptian Tourism Minister Hisham Zazou has tried to allay fears of a ‘Shia infiltration’ just before a new Iranian tour group was due to visit Egypt, arguing that the flow of Iranian tourists to the country is like any new market that will benefit the travel industry.

In April, more than 50 Iranians – the first to visit Egypt as tourists since relations between the two countries were severed more than 30 years ago following the 1979 Iranian revolution– arrived in Upper Egypt amid tight security. The visit came as part of a bilateral tourism agreement signed in February between Cairo and Tehran.

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Abraaj Group Art Prize announces 2014 winners

Ahram Online, Wednesday 12 Jun 2013 – The Abraaj Group Art Prize, now in its sixth year, will fund projects by five artists from Iran, India, Morocco, and Egypt. The works will be unveiled in an exhibition at Art Dubai 2014.

Funded by the Abraaj Group, a leading private equity investor, the Art Prize seeks to support and showcase exceptional talent emerging from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. It is awarded annually to five artists from the region, who are selected based on their proposals for new projects. The artworks, which receive financial and curatorial sponsorship by the Abraaj Group, are traditionally shown at Art Dubai, an annual international art fair.

“The prize affords winners the opportunity of developing ambitious projects which without the granted funds would not have been possible,” according to the Abraaj Group.

Out of a large pool of applicants from the region, five artists were chosen to participate in this sixth edition of the Art Prize: Abbas Akhavan and Kamrooz Aram from Iran, Anup Mathew Thoma from India, Bouchra Khalili from Morocco, and Basim Magdy from Egypt.

“The 2014 winners are an internationally-acclaimed and diverse group combining outstanding artistic ability with a desire to engage and champion the arts throughout the region,” reads the press release.

Underlining the annual art grant is a pursuit for projects that transcend geographic borders, while remaining entrenched in the region from which they emerge. Another curatorial commitment on the part of Abraaj is to toy around with the boundaries of mediums.

The five artists will start to work with Pakistani guest curator Nada Raza on their respective art projects, which will be unveiled in March at Art Dubai 2014. Contemporary visual artist Basim Magdy is the fourth Egyptian to be awarded the Abraaj Group Art Prize, following Iman Issa, Wael Shawky and Hala Elkoussy.

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Contemporary Emirati art exhibited in Venice Biennale

10 Jun 2013 – Art Dubai, a lavish annual contemporary global art fair, held its seventh edition in March 2011 with $45 million worth of art, coinciding with the 11th Sharjah Biennale, a major regional art extravaganza.

Abu Dhabi is the designated sight for Middle Eastern branches of the Louvre and the Guggenheim. The oil-rich country has been heavily investing in the arts and culture scene, attracting groundbreaking contemporary artists to the region. But is the United Arab Emirates investing as heavily in its indigenous art landscape?

The United Arab Emirates is participating in this year’s Venice Biennale, which kicked off earlier this month with a solo exhibition Walking on Water by contemporary Emirati artist Mohamed Kazem. Curated by Palestinian Reem Fadda, the UAE’s third consecutive national pavilion introduces the Venice Biennale audience to home-grown art from the country.

The United Arab Emirates was the first Gulf Nation to take part in the monumental art festival in Venice, La Biennale di Venezia. Hamdan says that the national pavilion was in a way, “a natural progression of the country’s diverse and growing art scene.”

Cultural exchange, with art as a currency has been a clear mission of the UAE government. Participating in the Venice Biennale, which Hamdan dubs the “Olympics” of the global art scene, “has created the most significant international platform for Emirati art possible.” She estimates that through participating in the previous three art festivals in Venice, Emirati art has been exposed to an audience of 450,000 guests, among the art world’s elite.

The solo exhibition at this year’s Venice Biennial is a specially-commissioned video installation by contemporary Emarati artist Mohammed Kazem that was originally conceived in 2005, but was brought back to life for this exhibition.

Walking on Water is based on Kazem’s Directions series, a conceptual work that he has constantly revisited over the past decade. Sparked by an incident in which the artist was lost at sea for half an hour, the Directions series utilises the Geographic System (GPS) coordinates to constantly document his location. Such coordinates are repeatedly replicated and represented in multimedia installations and photography series. As in his previous works, natural elements feature prominently in Walking on Water, with a particular emphasis on water and the sea.

“In some ways this year’s National Pavilion of the UAE at the 55th Venice Biennale is an indication of the dynamism of the UAE’s contemporary art practices,” Commissioner of the National Pavilion of the United Arab Emirates Lamees Hamdan told Ahram Online. “The message is no longer: ‘This is who we are,’ It is: ‘this is what we are achieving’,” she says.

Hamdan explained that the continuous exchange the UAE engages in through international art fairs, for example, has led to the bridging of different cultural narratives. “The UAE is assuming its historical geographical role as a meeting point between the East and the West in the cultural scene… becoming the space where these diverse identities then produce, negotiate and present their works,” she says.

Part of the country’s leaders’ vision has been to support local cultural developments. Such initiatives as the Saadiyat Island and the Sharjah Biennial have “played a key role in ensuring that the UAE has not only “caught up” but has positioned itself at the very least as a regional leader in contemporary arts and culture,” argues Hamdan.

Art fairs such as Art Dubai and Abu Dhabi Art have garnered growing attention in the region. A burgeoning gallery scene, showcasing international artists is also a key indicator’s of the UAE’s regional prominence.

Hamdan says that the UAE is no toddler when it comes to producing its own art. “The UAE is mistakenly perceived internationally as a young nation with a short history of contemporary artistic practice,” starts Hamdan. But, she says Mohammed Kazem’s work is only a snippet of a legacy of contemporary artistic practice in the UAE.

Speaking to Ahram Online, Mohamed Kazem reveals that starting the dawn of the 1960s until the 1980s, Emarati artists were influenced by “the European artistic tradition, mainly using conventional media, which was influenced by Iraqi, Syrian and Egyptians academics and artists.”

An essay by Walking on Water curator Reem Fadda, published in the exhibition’s monograph describes that the onset of Emirati contemporary art practices coincided with the country’s move towards modernity. The declaration of independence of the UAE, then, was a pivotal point in the nation’s history in more than one way.

Fadda suggests that to understand the history of today’s visual art landscape in the UAE, and certainly to understand the work of Mohammed Kazem, we need to examine the father of contemporary Emirati art, Hassan Sharif. As a pioneer of conceptual, experimental and performance art, Sharif has radicalised an art scene long immersed in traditional practices of painting and calligraphy.

Sharif had studied at the Byam Shaw School of Art in the UK and brought back a conceptual-based practice that set him apart from his contemporaries in the region. In many ways, the evolution of Sharif’s body of work has mirrored that of the development of the urban landscape that surrounds him. The growth of a city echoes in the growth of an artist, and in turn, on the growth of a contemporary art movement in the UAE.

Similarly, Kazem’s oeuvre reacts to the surrounding context. He was born at the brink of change, and grew up against a backdrop of a desert’s metamorphosis into an ultra-modern city. Kazem says that at the onset of the contemporary art movement in the UAE, the main obstacle was that local audiences “found it difficult to accept the language of contemporary art.”

But in recent years, the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority has established a number of programmes to nurture diverse local art practices, including the Gulf Film Festival; SIKKA Art Fair, an annual initiative established to support and showcase Emirati art; the Dubai Festival for Youth Theatre, now in its fifth year; and the Artists-in-Residence Dubai programme, which is run in partnership with the Delfina Foundation, Art Dubai, and Tashkeel.

“There has been a surge of enthusiasm amongst people about art in the Middle East, which is both a wonderful opportunity and a challenge for your artists, who are in some ways expected to fill a certain voice that the international community expects from the Middle East,” says Kazem.

The National Pavilion of the UAE has been awarded a long-term hospitality agreement with the Venice Biennale: for the coming 20 years, Emirati artists will be represented in Italy.

“A ‘permanent pavilion’ in the Arsenale will afford us a strong platform from which to present the development in the UAE’s arts and architecture scenes,” says Kazem. The artist states that it as a “great honour and also big responsibility” to be presenting his work in Venice this year.

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President SBY opens Jakarta Fair 2013

June 10 2013 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo officially opened Jakarta Fair (PRJ) 2013 here on Monday evening. The opening of the Jakarta Fair was held at the main stage of Jakarta Fair at the Jakarta Fair Ground in Kemyoran, Central Jakarta.

“PRJ 2013, which will last from June 6 to July 7 2013, is held as part of the commemoration of Jakarta’s 486th anniversary,” the governor said. Joko hoped that PRJ 2013 would serve as A useful arena which provides information and entertainment for the people. “I hope this event will provide information for the people as an entertainment arena and as a place for introducing the nation’s creative products,” the governor said.

President Yudhoyono expressed his hope that PRJ would continue to develop and provide economic benefit to the people and serve as an entertainment place for them. “I congratulate the holding of the Jakarta Fair and I wish a happy 486th anniversary of the Jakarta City. I hope the 46th PRJ would benefit and entertain the people,” the President said.

The President pressed the button of the siren marking the official opening of Jakarta Fair 2013, followed by Jokowi, Chief Economic Minister Hatta Rajasa and the PRJ 2013 General Chairman of the organizing committee Murdaya W Poo. “By praising God Almighty, I hereby officially open the 46th PRJ,” the president said while pressing the button.

PT Jakarta International Expo (JIExpo) has earlier said it is targeting transactions of Rp4.5 trillion in Jakarta Fair 2013. “Last year, we set a transaction target at Rp4 trillion and it was achieved. This year we have set a higher target at Rp4.5 trillion. Hopefully, it will be achieved,” Prajna Mudaya, a PRJ committee chairman, said in the Jakarta Fair Ground in Kemayoran on Thursday.

Prajna is optimistic that PRJ 2013 will achieve its target. After all, the number of tenants of participants this year is bigger. “There were 2,550 tenants taking part in PRJ 2012. This year the number of tenants relatively increases to 2,650 participants,” said Prajna.

He explained that for the PRJ 2013 festivals, a total of 1,280 stands had been built for businesses, consisting of large scale businesses and industries, cooperatives, small-scale and micro enterprises. Besides transaction values, said Prajna, the committee also expected bigger number of visitors this year than those in 2012. “A total of 4.5 million visitors were registered to have come to PRJ 2012. We hope this year the Jakarta Fair will be visited by some 4.8 million people,” Prajna said.

PRJ 2013 will be taking place for 32 days beginning from June 6 to July 7, 2013. The fair will be open every day from 3.30 p.m to 10 p.m (Monday-Thursday), from 3.30 p.m to 11 p.m (Friday) and from 10 a.m to 11 p.m (Saturday and Sunday). Admission tickets will be sold at a price of Rp25,000 for the days from Monday to Thursday and Rp30,000 from Friday to Sunday.

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Makassar city focuses on tourism development

June 11 2013 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Makassar city government in South Sulawesi Province has set its focus on the development of tourism for the welfare of its local community. Tourist industry is one of the potential sectors in Makassar, with existing tourism varieties and good nature tourism with its natural condition.

Makassar is the gateway to eastern part of Indonesia and the entry point to an adventurous tour to the Tanah Toraja highlands, deep fertile plateaus of Sulawesi island. The unique Torajan culture including their animistic burial rites makes the region one of the most fascinating wonders in Indonesia.

For the Makassar city residents, the most interesting way of spending an evening is going to the Losari beach, which has a very strategic position and become an integral part of the atmosphere of the city of Makassar.

In the light of this, the Makassar city government is making every effort to develop the coastal areas and its small islands into tourist paradise. “We have some beautiful beaches and small islands to be developed into tourist paradise,” local Economy and Finance Department spokesman Syahrir Sappaile said in Makassar on Thursday.

He said the development of marine tourism in coastal areas and small islands was one of the latest approaches to the local community.

Syahrir noted that the coastal areas and small islands development into tourist paradise was the manifestation of the desire of the community to maintain the existence of marine resources in order to be utilized in a sustainable manner.

“All of it is to meet the needs of the community, especially for Makassar city dwellers to enjoy,” he said, adding that the development of marine tourism in Makassar city was very prospective because there are 11 small islands along the coastline of the city.

Besides, the area has a stretch of coral reefs and sea grass beds, and beautiful beaches of Losari, Akkarena, and Tanjung Bunga for boating, skying, snorkeling, fishing, and other water sport activities.

Makassar city will be more famous in the world because it has Trans Studio World Indoor Theme Park, an area of integrated tourism which is located only 5 minutes away from Akkarena beach.

The Trans Studio World Indoor Theme Park has adopted the concept of the Universal Studio in the United States.

According to regional coordinator of the Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies Nico B. Pasaka, the development of tourism in Makassar city was expected to have a positive impact on the economy of the people near the tourism objects.

He noted that the Makassar city administration should pay a serious attention to tourism development so that it did not lead to economic imbalance, especially to the small communities living near the tourism objects.

“Tourism should have a direct positive impact on the economy of the people,” Nico said, adding that pedicab drivers in the vicinity of Makassar’s Sukarno-Hatta port should take the advantage from tourism development.

He said around 150 pedicab drivers at the port could drive foreign tourists to tourism objects in the city each time a foreign cruise ship with hundreds of tourists arrived there.

Meanwhile, former South Sulawesi Tourism Office Chief Syuaib Mallombassi has said the province is rich in marine, natural, cultural, historic and agro tourism destinations.

He pointed out that the Taka Bonerate Marine Park, located at Takabonrate Island in Selayar district, is famous for having the third largest coral atoll in the world after Kwajifein in the Marshall Islands and Suvadiva in the Maldivian Islands.

Swimming, diving, snorkeling, and fishing are some of the fun activities at Taka Bonerate Marine Park.

“With beautiful tourist attractions such as Tana Toraja and Taka Bonerate Marine Park, we are optimistic that more domestic and foreign tourists will visit Makassar this year,” he said. For about a 90-minute ride from Makassar, the tourists will arrive in Maros district to enjoy the natural, historic, and agro tourism attractions.

Maros district head Hatta Rahman said in Makassar recently that the district has at least 8 natural tourism attractions and most of them have been developed.

“The natural tourism attractions that have been developed in the district include Bantimurung Waterfall, Pattunuang Natural Caves, Bulu Sipong Hill with its caves, Bonto Somba Waterfall, Lerang Pannige, Kuri Beach, and Karaenta Natural Preserve,” Hatta Rahman said.

As for historical tourism sites, he said that the district has Leang-leang prehistoric park, Leang Akkarrasa Rammang-rammang historic site, Kassi Kebo cemetery, Karaeng Simbang cemetery, Japanese fort, and Karaeng Loe Ripakere traditional houses. Hatta Rahman added that Maros also has agro tourism attractions such as the Pucak Safari Garden and various types of typically traditional food.

About Bantimurung’s natural tourism, the Maros district head noted that it would be developed as per international standards with hotels, golf courses, and other facilities. Bantimurung Waterfall is a destination in South Sulawesi that tourists should not miss, as it can be reached in an hour’s drive from Makassar and a 30-minute drive from Hasanuddin Airport.

Situated at the valley of a limestone hill with its fertile tropical vegetation, Bantimurung Waterfall is a government protected natural reserve that houses a beautiful waterfall and 1000 ha of surrounding forest.

There are also several caves around the waterfall, which make this area an ideal habitat for many types of butterflies and rare birds. Bantimurung also has a reservation of rare butterflies. Hatta Rahman said the naturalist Alfred Wallace collected specimens here in the mid- 1800s.

Among the butterflies that he caught was the Papilo Androcles, one of the rarest and largest, with a tail like a swallow. According to Rahman, the best time to see butterflies is when the sun appears after a shower, as the butterflies form a riot of color while flying from one shrub to another.

As for Makassar, the city will rely on its cultural and marine tourism to support the Visit South Sulawesi 2012 campaign.

Meanwhile, Makassar Mayor Ilham Arif Sirajuddin said tourists would be able to choose many attractive destinations, such as Rotterdam Fort, Somba Opu Fort, the tomb of Syech Yusuf, the tomb of Prince Diponegoro, the tomb of Tallo King, Mandala Monument, Losari Beach and Paotere harbor to see traditional Pinisi schooners.

For marine tourism, Ilham said Makassar would offers islets such as Khayangan, Lae-Lae, Samalona, Kodingareng, Barang Lompo, Barang Caddi, and resort areas like Akkarena Beach, Tanjung Bayam Beach and Tanjung Bunga Beach.

He noted that the city would also offer religious tourist destinations, including the old Katangka Mosque, Raya Mosque, Al Markaz Al Islami Mosque and La Galigo Museum.

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Surabaya holds “Great Expo 2013”

June 11 2013 Surabaya, East Java (ANTARA News) – The city administration of Surabaya held a 5-day Surabaya Great Expo 2013 from June 12 to 16 in the East Java capital, the city’s official said on Tuesday. The exhibition was held in cooperation with promoting agency and exhibition organizer PT Intramedia Promosindo at the 6th floor of Convention Hall Tunjungan Plaza 3.

Head of the Surabaya office of the trade and industry service Agus Eko Supaidi said the exhibition is held in appreciation of the expansion of Surabaya as a trade and service city in eastern Indonesia. “This exhibition is a replacement of the Surabaya Fair previously held by the city administration in cooperation with PT Anthesu Indonesia since 2004. The change is aimed at giving different color and appreciation from the previous exhibition,” Agus said.

He said around 100 companies from Surabaya and other area such as North Maluku and Banjarmasin took part in the Surabaya Great Expo. The companies include big, small and medium scale industries, cooperatives and state companies as well as companies owned by regional administrations. They operate in manufacturing, food and beverage, automotive and handicraft industries.

“Last year, transactions in the Surabaya Fair were valued at Rp4 trillion exceeding the target of Rp2 billion. This year we set the target at Rp6 billion, but the realization could reach Rp10 billion,” he said. He said the trade and industry service will offer extra service to issue business license (SIUP). The licensing procedure will finish in a single day, he added.

PT Intramedia Promosindo Director Bayu Santoso the exhibition will be highlighted with entertainments such as live band, and contests such as coloring content.

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Beaches opened doors to visitors in Azerbaijan

14 June 2013 – TODAY.AZ (AzerNews) – Azerbaijan possesses enormous natural wealth that is not destined to most countries of the world. The world’s largest “lake”, the Caspian Sea, washes the shores of Azerbaijan, enriching the life and well-being of the people from the viewpoint of economy, recreation, tourism, transportation and so on.

Especially Caspian beaches are a lovely place of relaxation for both Azerbaijanis and expatriates in summer. Some 10,000 tourists every summer spend time on the beaches in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku.

Hygienic purity and safety of the beaches are the main topics for pre-season public discussions. It is necessary to listen to the experts and try to visit the beaches in places which are not dangerous to human health.

On June 10, Azerbaijani Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources announced the results of a monitoring carried out on the beaches of the Absheron Peninsula by the Caspian Complex Environmental Monitoring Administration.

According to the Ministry, 17 modular cleaning devices meeting international standards have been installed in the Bilgah, Buzovna, Mardakan, Pirshagi, Nardaran and “Amburan” beaches and alongside Novkhani and Jorat gardens, in compliance with a decree on “Some measures on the protection of pollution of the Caspian Sea” signed by the President of Azerbaijan in 2007.

The amount of taeniae coli has been minimized in the areas where the devices were installed in the past six years. The monitoring has revealed that in the above-mentioned beaches the contamination degree is within the norms.

However, microbiological contamination has been recorded in Shikh and Sahil beaches where the said devices are not installed. The taeniae coli was recorded above the norm in these areas due to the pouring of large amounts of waste water into the sea without purification.

Besides the purity and cleaning, the new tendency on prices of the beaches’ entrance and other services is an important issue. To say frankly, the payable beaches are cleaner, and the bottom of the sea there was verified by rescuers and divers in terms of safety. There are also free beaches, however, they are sometimes littered and uncomfortable.

All the beaches are free on Absheron Peninsula, which encompasses the capital Baku and its surrounding districts, and measures are taken to prevent undesirable instances in accordance with a relevant order of the Baku executive authorities.

Installation of toll-gates at the entrance of the beach area is prohibited, spokesman for the Trade and Services Department of the Baku City Executive Power Aliabbas Bagirov said.

Copies of the order have been sent to the beach administration representatives and they were informed of the obligations under this document. “We have repeatedly said through the media that the entrance to the beaches is free,” Bagirov said.

The mentioned order also envisages the need for cleaning measures and improvement of the coastal strip, adjustment of changing rooms and showers, identifying sites for trade services in the beach area, preventing cases of paid entry to the beaches, as well as the sale of alcoholic beverages without a license.

“The coastal strip should be kept clean,” Bagirov said. “The order (issued by the mayor of Baku in May 2013) says that relevant bodies are entrusted to provide sanitary standards in the beach area. According to the order, the Department of Trade and Services will set up a hotline to receive suggestions and complaints from the population. Very soon we will inform the public about the hotline issue. Baku residents will be able to call that number and inform us in case of detecting irregularities on the beaches.”

As for the safety of Baku beaches, people relaxing in the beaches should observe certain rules of behavior.

Mansur Piriyev of the State Water Rescue Service says that due to the undertaken activities, no problems occur in the permitted beach areas in terms of security. According to Piriyev, accidents happen in unrecommended areas.

According to Piriyev, despite warnings, some people endanger themselves in violation of safety regulations. “With the aim to strengthen control over these territories, we are working in conjunction with local authorities,” he said.

Deputy head of the State Water Rescue Service Bakhtiyar Hasanov said penalties may be applied to the people swimming in the prohibited beach areas and proposals are being drafted in this regard.

Aliabbas Bagirov said, “Furthermore, it concerns not only public beaches. The privatized beaches have no right to keep out visitors either if they do not want to use the services.” Bagirov said that if someone collects a fee from people for access to the beach, it is considered illegal.

“Only the rendered services – showers, umbrellas, sccoters, etc. – can be paid at beaches. Entry of the cars is also unpaid, while if someone wants his car to be watched they can pay for this service,” he said.

The paid beaches can be divided into two categories: “all included”, in which case one pays at the entrance usually 4 to 30 manats (AZN), depending on where the beach is located and services rendered. The other category is the beaches where payment is taken only for the particular services used, but entrance is free.

The second category is more advantageous for those who come to the seaside for half an hour just to dive.

The most expensive beaches are in Novkhani and Bilgah. Although the sea bottom is not uniform in these beaches, the water is clean from the environmental point of view. Each zone has its own flavor; in Novkhani one can not only relax, swim and sunbathe, but also feast on well-known Jorat Gutabs, while in Bilgah there are many aqua parks and other entertainment facilities.

Most of the Baku residents prefer Mardakan beaches and travel there every year. In general, it is understandable, because when the beach business started to develop, Mardakan beaches were almost the first ones to develop infrastructure on the coast. Traditionally older people rest here given the gold-like sand; the shoreline here is one of the most convenient and clean in terms of seawater and sea bottom. Unfortunately, the prices there rise year-on-year, but the entrance is usually free. A similar situation is seen in many well-known beach areas, for example, in Zagulba, Shuvelan, etc.

The more accessible and recently used beaches are Hovsan and Turkan as the fees there are cheaper than those at the above-mentioned beaches. The only disadvantage of these beaches is the location far from the city.

Meanwhile, during the opening ceremony of the 2013 summer beach season held by the State Water Rescue Service of the Emergency Situations Ministry at the Buzovna Rescue Point on June 1, Bakhtiyar Hasanov said that the service is implementing the requirements and tasks to provide safety of the citizens through 32 rescue points, 7 rescue posts, and 4 diver search groups.

New water rescue techniques and equipment that meet high standards were also presented at the opening ceremony. It was noted that the equipment will allow to carry out search and rescue operations in different weather conditions.

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Pakistan’s Economic Council approves Rs 1155 billion development projects

ISLAMABAD, Jun 10 (APP): The National Economic Council on Monday approved Rs 1155 billion development projects, including Rs 540 billion federal Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) and Rs 615 billion development projects belonging to the provinces.

The NEC meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif here at the Prime Minister’s Office, also decided to constitute a committee led by the Minister for Planning and Development with provincial chief ministers as its members to consider issues and make a policy with clear guidelines consistent with the functional responsibilities under the Constitution. The Council authorized the aforementioned committee to also streamline the process of release of funds to the provinces. The NEC also authorized the Ministry of Planning and Development for making adjustments within the approved PSDP size as decided by the committee.

Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, in his welcome remarks, congratulated the chief ministers on their assumption of offices and completion of smooth transition. He reiterated that the mandate of the people would be respected and expressed the confidence that if they continued on the path of democracy, respect democratic traditions and the mandate of the people, the days were not far off when they would be able to raise their heads high as a civilized nation.

He expressed the hope that the provincial governments would work in their respective provinces for the implementation of development projects with sincerity and ensure that the funds were not only used judiciously but each and every rupee was spent as a sacred trust of the people. “We will not tolerate any breach of national trust. Funds should be utilized for the purpose they are intended and honestly”, he emphasized.

The Prime Minister said that the biggest issues facing the country were loadshedding, extremism and sectarianism, which have a direct bearing on the country’s economy. Peace is needed for economic activities, he added.

“We have to eliminate corruption and plug loopholes and leakages to increase revenue. The present quantum of revenue collection, and size of the development programme is a shame for a country of the size and status of Pakistan”, he remarked.

The Prime Minister said that the country needed revenues and these targets could be improved provided they rid the tax collection machinery of corrupt elements. This is a pathetic situation and is unacceptable, he observed and warned, “No one involved in corruption will be spared.”

Nawaz Sharif directed the Minister for Planning and Development to review the ongoing schemes reportedly amounting to nearly Rs three trillion and come up with recommendations by July 31, so that a roadmap on their implementation could also be finalized. He directed Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif to find a way out to provide additional electricity to Balochistan in view of the urgent requirement of water for the crops.

The direction was issued in response to the request made by Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, who informed the Prime Minister that the province was presently receiving two hours of electricity only and this would adversely impact the standing crops.

The Prime Minister directed the Ministry of Finance to present a proposal to the Cabinet containing recommendations for improvement in revenue collection, including structural reforms.

The chief ministers of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK President while congratulating the Prime Minister on the assumption of office, assured him of their unconditional support to his programme of revival of economy for the country.

The meeting was attended by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, Balochistan Chief Minister Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch, Gilgit Baltistan Chief Minister Syed Mehdi Shah, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Eng. Shaukat Ullah, Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, Advisor to Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah, Senior KPK Minister for Finance Siraj ul Haq, Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, chief secretaries of all provinces and senior officials.

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Adoption of new tourism law on agenda in Azerbaijan

11 June 2013 – TODAY.AZ – A new law in the field of tourism will be adopted in Azerbaijan, Minister of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan Abulfaz Garayev said on Monday. The Minister noted that the UN World Tourism Organization prepared a set of recommendations for Azerbaijan, which cover the Tourism Management.

A new bill in the tourism sector is being prepared based on these recommendations and European standards, he said. “The law will allow to impose on hotels and other structures stringent requirements for standards of service that will create the conditions for the work of professionals in the field of tourism,” Garayev added.

The minister also said that 17 travel agencies of Azerbaijan applied to the World Tourism Organization for associate membership. According to him, in August this year, a meeting of the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization in Zambia should approve the associate membership of these companies.

The minister said that three structures: the Association of Tourism of Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijan Tourism Institute and Baku Tourist Information Centre, are already members of the World Tourism Organization.

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Japanese expert writes about Azerbaijan

13 June 2013 – TODAY.AZ – Japanese expert well known for exploration of investment opportunities in foreign countries Kazuyasu Ishida has published an article in his book featuring Azerbaijan’s business potential. The article, titled “Azerbaijan – Undiscovered Mountain of Wealth” highlights investment opportunities of the country.

In his book titled “Investment opportunities in foreign countries for Japanese businessmen”, the author focuses on Azerbaijan’s dynamic progress and favorable business climate.

The expert, who visited Azerbaijan in 2012 to study the country’s investment and business potential, shared his thoughts with Japanese readers about the country, its rapidly growing economy, favorable conditions created for foreign and local businessmen.

Giving broad information about the country, its geographic and geopolitical position, the Japanese expert writes that Azerbaijan is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north and Iran to the south.

The author says Azerbaijan has rich natural resources, particularly oil and gas reserves. The Japanese expert praises arable fertile soils of the country for agriculture. He also highlights development of mine industry in Azerbaijan. The author compares territories of Azerbaijan with Hokkaido islands of Japan.

“As a multinational and multi-religious country, Azerbaijan is home to 9.3 million people. The national policy of the country is defined on the principles of tolerance and coexistence of various nationalities, ethnic groups and religious minorities,” the article underlines.

On the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Japanese expert writes that the unresolved armed conflict continues for more than 20 years, with neighboring Armenia which occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s territory and ousted over one million of Azerbaijanis from their homelands, who became refugees and IDPs. The author underlines that Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan. The article says that Nagorno-Karabakh is a self-proclaimed republic, whose independence was not recognized by any country.

On energy resources and projects of the country, Kazuyasu Ishida writes “the oil industry of Azerbaijan has the history of 150 years. Nevertheless, the people of Azerbaijan were only able to begin a wide-scale utilization of these reserves in the late 20th century. Heydar Aliyev was the one who made that come true.”

“Azerbaijan which is famous as the oil country in the entire world initiated the industrial production of oil in the middle of the 19th century. Azerbaijan took the first place in the production and processing of oil in 1899 and accounted for 50% of the global oil production.”

The author particularly stresses the role of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline in terms of developing economic welfare of the country.

“BTC pipeline is a 1,768 kilometres long crude oil pipeline from the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli oil field in the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. It connects Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan and Ceyhan, a port on the south-eastern Mediterranean coast of Turkey, via Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. It is the second-longest oil pipeline in the former Soviet Union, after the Druzhba pipeline. The first oil that was pumped from the Baku end of the pipeline on 10 May 2005 reached Ceyhan on 28 May 2006,” the article writes.

The author describes the pipeline as “an important project” for Europe. He says the project was initiated by nationwide leader of the Azerbaijani people Heydar Aliyev. The author writes “as a result of the implementation of oil strategy thoroughly worked out by Heydar Aliyev, Azerbaijan turned into one of the oil centers of the world, the state playing an important role in the formation of quite new economic model for the development of the region and the energy potential of the Caspian Sea, the expansion of political and trade relations between Europe and Asia.”

“Azerbaijan enjoys all round economic and social development due to effective management and spending of oil revenues” the expert notes.

The expert also brings examples by saying “in 2009, overall GDP grew at 9.3 percent, while a surplus of the payments balance was at $15 billion in 2010. According to the annual World Bank and International Finance Corporation ranking ‘Doing Business – 2013,’ Azerbaijan remains among the top 10 countries with the best situation in the field of property rights registration. The country scored 18th place among 185 countries”.

Comparing Azerbaijan with the United Arab Emirates, while its capital Baku with Dubai, the article highlights huge projects like Khazar Islands, Baku White City, construction of Heydar Aliyev International Airport’s new terminal and Heydar Aliyev Center. The author hails Azerbaijan’s business climate and investment potential as “favorable” for foreign investors.

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Azerbaijani musicians perform in Palestine

06 June 2013 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijani musicians Mehri Asadullayeva (kamancha) and Narmin Hasanova (Kanun) performed as part of the Dresden Symphony Orchestra in Palestine.

The work combines elements of Arabic folk music, with traditional instruments such as the Arabic violin, oud, kamancheh, darbuka and qanun as well as a European string orchestra. It uses classical Persian melodies with European orchestral textures. The work was premiered by Dresden Symphony, conducted by Andrea Molino, at the Tonlagen festival. This is the first time since that date that the symphony has been brought to Palestine.

The orchestra will perform in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Jenin with the Dresden Symphony again to be conducted by Andrea Molino.

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Int’l folk festival held in Azerbaijan

07 June 2013 – TODAY.AZ (AzerNews) – The second International Folk Festival will be held in Masalli, a southern region in Azerbaijan, on June 12-16. According to the Masalli executive power, preparations for the festival, which is dedicated to the 90th birthday anniversary of Azerbaijani National Leader Heydar Aliyev, have been completed and the city is now awaiting the participants of the event.

Groups from Turkey, Iran, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Latvia and Russia, as well as the “Karabakh nightingale” band from Agdam and four bands from Masalli will take part in the festival to present their folk dances and music.

About 300 visitors are expected at the festival, which will feature the rich heritage of Masalli, as well as the culture of the other participating countries.

Trips to the tourist attractions and the historical sites of Masalli will be arranged during the festival. Also, concerts and exhibitions of various artists’ works will be organized.

Masalli was announced Folk Capital City of Azerbaijan in 2012 and it hosted the first International Folk Festival the same year. The idea of the organizers of the previous festival was to make it the culmination of the folklore events of the year. Folk bands from Turkey, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Azerbaijan participated at the festival.

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Azerbaijani documentary achieves best award

08 June 2013 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijani film director Rodion Ismayilov’s film “My relatives” has won “The best Documentary film” award at the eleventh “Shaken’s Stars” International Film Festival in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The Shaken’s Stars International Film, named after the Kazakh actor and director Shaken Aimanov, takes place in May and has been held annually since 2003.

The 11th festival in which 980 films from 32 countries took part aimed at supporting local film creators and offer chances for their professional development.

The Festival’s priority is to support and help young artists and filmmakers. It is the only film festival in Central Asia that promotes and focuses on young talents. Every year the festival welcomes around 50 filmmakers from all over the world.

The storyline of “My relatives” is based on the first visit by lead character Lolita to Azerbaijan. Lolita is a person who personifies two cultures, as her mother is Russian and her father is Azerbaijani.

This delicate and compelling story describes a ten-year-old girl who comes to Azerbaijan for the first time to be acquainted with her father’s relatives. Lolita aspires to learn about the culture and traditions of her Azerbaijani family members.

The film of the DS FILM Production Center was made with the support of the Ministry of Culture of Russia in the Tovuz region of Azerbaijan. Camera operator of the film is Mikhail Gorobchuk, music has been composed by Vladimir Kuptsov, and the producers are Rodion Ismayilov and Svetlana Dalskaya.

Ismayilov graduated from St. Petersburg State University of Cinema and Television in 1998. In 1997, along with Alexander Bashirov, he established a studio and shot a feature film, “The Iron Heel of Oligarchy”, which became a cult film once. The previous film by Ismayilov, called “Camping Ground”, represented Azerbaijan in about 20 international festivals.

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Bangladesh Tourist Board to hold tourism awareness workshop

DHAKA, June 13, 2013 (BSS) – Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) has embarked on a plan to carry out a ‘Tourism Awareness Programme-2013’ to increase the quality of services being provided to tourists in the country.

As part of the plan, the national tourism organization, will conduct the campaign in Rangamati, Bandarban and Paharpur on June 15 and 22 respectively. “We want to promote our unexplored tourist spots by incorporating local people and increasing awareness about the quality of tourism services,” Akhtaruz Zaman Khan Kabir, Chief executive Officer of BTB, told a press conference at the board conferance room here.

Kabir said behavioral pattern has become the major barrier to flourishment of tourism and hospitality industry as local people at and around the tourist spots are still unaware how to deal with foreign tourists. “We’ve given top priority to the hygiene, safe food and water to encourage giving quality services to both local and foreign tourists,” he said.

BTB CEO said around 50 participants including rickshaw pullers, souvenir sellers, owners of hotels and restaurants, labours, locals, local government representatives and security personnel will take part in the training workshop.

Local people of respective tourist destinations would be given a better idea so that they can help tourists by providing them with all sorts of information regarding the tourist spots, he observed. Kabir said tourism experts from the industry will impart training to the tourism service providers in the said districts.

Mentioning the salient features of the tourism training workshop, he said deputy commissioners of the concerted districts will formally inaugurate the programme at 9.30 am on June 15 and the programme would be followed by the training workshop.

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KL keen to boost trade with Dhaka: High Commissioner

DHAKA, June 13, 2013 – Kuala Lumpur is keen to boost the trade with Dhaka by increasing export goods in all potential sectors on both sides, Malaysian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Norlin Othman said here today. The High Commissioner said this when a three-member delegation of Headmaster Events met her at the High Commission in the capital, said a press release.

Headmaster Events Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Shafiul Islam, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Syed Zafar and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Jamil Ahmed were in the delegation. During the meeting, the delegation members apprised the High Commissioner about the upcoming largest ever Bangladesh single country fair in Kuala Lumpur titled ‘Trade in Bangladesh’ from August 15 to 17.

A large numbers of Bangladeshi business enterprises and entrepreneurs will display an array of products in 242 stalls, they said. They told the HC that apart from the regular trade bodies like BGMEA and BKMEA, Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB), the National Tourism Organization (NTO), will join the fair to promote various Bangladeshi products including tourism.

On the sideline of the fair, they said, a wide range of B2B (Business to Business) sessions and four seminars on RMG, Investment in Bangladesh, Tourism and Business Networking will be held at the fair venue -Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC), one of the most prestigious exhibition venues in Kuala Lumpur.

Welcoming the initiative, Othman said there are still ample opportunities to explore new avenues of trade and commerce between the two friendly countries. The event will encourage Malaysian entrepreneurs and investors to do more business with Bangladesh, he hoped.

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Oman Air hosts IATA and ICAO Middle East Regional Aviation Safety Group initiative

Oman Air’s commitment to safety for all its customers was underlined when it hosted the IATA, ICAO Safety Management Workshop at Hotel InterContinental – Muscat on 11th and 12th June 2013. The event was organised by Oman Air in conjunction with OAMC, Airbus, Nexus and MedAire.

The event was held as part of an initiative by the IATA Regional Aviation Safety Group (RASG-MID) to enhance safety in the Middle East and brought together officials involved in the implementation of the State Safety Program and/or Safety Management Systems (SMS), in the areas of training, aircraft operations, maintenance and airworthiness of aircraft, aircraft design and manufacture, air traffic services, aerodrome operations and Accident and Incident Investigation. It was attended by safety management officials from the Royal Oman Police (ROP), the Oman Ministry of Defence (MOD), the Oman Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC), the Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO), the Oman Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA) and international delegates from the MENA region.

The purpose of Safety Management Workshop was to share best practices and lessons learned for Safety Management Systems (SMS) and State Safety Programmes (SSP), provide break-out sessions for the sharing of safety data and SMS/SSP implementation, promote safety data tools and enhance safety culture.

Following a welcome and opening address by Oman Air General Manager Quality & Safety, Captain Manin Al Said, in which he gave an overview on the history, progress and changes in aviation in Oman, the growth of Oman Air and the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead, delegates enjoyed keynote speeches by a number of major figures from the Middle East aviation sector. These included Mohamed Smaoui, Regional Officer ANS/AIM, ICAO; Abdullah Al-Ojaili, Assistant Director General for Safety, PACA; Achim Baumann, Regional Director SO&I MENA, IATA; and Marthinus Olivier, Serco Middle East Aviation Director.

Wayne Pearce, Chief Executive Officer of Oman Air, said: “Oman Air was delighted to welcome delegates to the IATA/ICAO Safety Management Workshop in Muscat. This important event has made an important contribution to the safety of air travellers in the region and emphasises both Oman Air’s close co-operation with organisations and agencies throughout the Middle East and our total commitment to safeguarding the safety of all our customers.

“I would like to thank all those who contributed to the event, particularly Captain Manin Al Said, whose knowledge and expertise have helped make this event such a success. I would also like to echo Captain Al Said’s gratitude to ICAO and IATA for holding such event in Oman.”

Captain Manin Al Said added: “We have been very pleased to host this event and are grateful to all the sponsoring organisations for partnering to support this workshop in Oman and for taking such a positive and proactive approach to promoting safety initiatives.”

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3rd seaport to be constructed at Patuakhali, Bangladesh

BAGERHAT, June 8, 2013 (BSS) – Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan today said that the third seaport would be constructed at Patuakhali Ramnabad Channel. “The primary work for construction of the new seaport has already been started,” he said while inaugurating a project titled ‘Navigational Aids to Mongla Port’ in between the jetty of Zulfikar and Pashur Channel here.

He said different countries including India, Nepal and Bhutan are eager to use Mongla port as their transit. “If transit is opened in Mongla Port, the pressure of ship will increase … then the necessity of third seaport will arise. Meanwhile after examining feasibility, necessary works for making Ramanabad port have been taken,” the minister said.

He said the Mongla port is fully ready to provide transit and waiting to be opened. Shahjahan said the government has taken steps to retrieve the navigability of Pashur channel to make the Mongla port more vibrant.

“Capital dredging activities in Pashur channel will begin within two months. The management for ship anchoring at the eight number jetty of the port has been taken through cutter dredger,” he added.

Chaired by Mongla Port Authority Chairman MHR Bhuiyan, the function was addressed by lawmaker of Bagerhat- 3 constituency Begum Habibun Nahar, project director M Altaf Hossain khan and CBA president Soij Uddin Mia.

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Carnival hopes to bring back enthusiasm in Brunei’s past

Borneo Bulletin Online – June 14, 2013 – During this current school holiday, the Brunei History Centre is organising a ‘History Carnival’ from June 17 until June 20 at the Airport Mall in Berakas as part of their efforts to revive enthusiasm on Brunei’s colourful past and heritage. Members of the public are welcome to visit the four-day event.

The carnival will commence at 2pm until 10pm on the first day and 8am until 10pm on the subsequent days, with an exception on the final day where it will end at 3pm. The venue is specifically chosen due to the volume of youngsters who frequent the area, making it an ideal spot to lure them into learning about Brunei’s past.

Apart from supplementing the Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB) philosophy and practices, the carnival is also aimed at strengthening patriotism among the general populace particularly the youth.

According to the Brunei History Centre Deputy Head, Haji Abdul Karim Haji Abdul Rahman and Senior History Officer, Hajah Fatimah Mohd Daud, this year’s carnival will witness the involvement of six other agencies such as the Royal Brunei Police Force, the Fire and Rescue Department, Customs and Immigration and the Post Office which have their own histories to tell.

Their involvement will make the celebration even more special than the previous carnivals held in Tutong District and Belait District. To pique more public’s curiosity, the centre also invites members of the community to showcase their own personal historical collection which includes imported luxurious items from overseas.

The festivity will include quizzes, games, plays showcasing Puteri Lela Menchanai and the Kastila War, cultural performances from local communities and book exhibition which will see 70 per cent discount off locally produced books.

Themed ‘Sayang Brunei’, or ‘Love Brunei’, the climax of the event will take place on June 19 where winners of the history documentary competition will be announced along with the presentation of tokens of appreciation to those who have made a significant impact in Brunei’s history, such as the composer of the national anthem and the creator’s of the Brunei flag.

The public display of gratitude, it was added, is hoped to instil in the population a deeper understanding of how important the country’s history is in having shaped the way Brunei Darussalam is today.

Meanwhile, as part of their promotion, the centre plans to bring their theatre performances to schools across the Sultanate and to conduct similar event in Temburong District next year.

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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.”

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.”

A university with research laboratories “can’t solve all problems overnight,” Kapysheva said. Still, she said, “It’s important for us to take the first few steps toward restoring agricultural science, and that’s exactly what we mean to do by opening (such a) university.”

Kazakhstan needs a new world-class university, lower-chamber MP Kamal Burkhanov, a member of the ruling Nur Otan Party, said, adding that “it would indeed help to improve (our) work in agriculture.”

“Revitalising science and restoring research institutes will boost (our) agriculture and increase its profits, which will then help attract more investment and specialists,” Kapysheva said.

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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UAE, Qatar win emerging market status

New York, Wednesday, 03 Shaaban 1434/12 June 2013 (IINA) – The UAE and Qatar have been upgraded to emerging-market status by MSCI, in a long-awaited move forecast to see about $800 million of investment flow into the two countries. MSCI, which allocates classifications according to factors like economic development and bourse trading volumes, reclassified the two countries’ markets late last night.

The countries were previously classed as frontier markets, but had long expected to win upgrades. The reclassification is expected to take effect in May 2014. MSCI praised the improvements made in trading mechanisms in Qatar, as well as the “progress made to date and the further commitment of the Qatari authorities to increase the foreign ownership limit” on shares in Qatari companies. “Foreign ownership limits in Qatar remain low by emerging market standards and the Qatari authorities should actively continue to increase them above 25 percent in order to mitigate potential issues arising from increasing foreign capital inflows,” MSCI said.

MSCI also praised improvements in trading mechanisms in the UAE’s Dubai Financial Market and Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange. HSBC forecast last month that a reclassification to emerging-market status could see an additional $370 million flowing into the UAE and more than $430 million into Qatar. Morocco and Greece were downgraded in MSCI’s review, the latter from an emerging market to frontier. “The MSCI Morocco Index has failed the emerging market liquidity criteria for several years and this downward trend in liquidity has shown no sign of reversal,” MSCI said.

MSCI said it is wary of the situation in Egypt. It is closely monitoring the situation in Egypt, in particular the negative developments in the foreign exchange market. MSCI may launch a public consultation on a potential exclusion of the MSCI Egypt Index from the MSCI Emerging Markets Index were the situation to worsen in the coming months,” it said in a statement.

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Madinah to have state-of-the-art pilgrim city

Madinah, Monday, 02 Shaaban 1434/11 June 2013 (IINA) – A state-of-the-art pilgrim city will be established in Madinah on an area of 1.6 million square meters along Hijrah Road with modern facilities and public transport systems to house 200,000 faithful who come for Haj and Umrah.

“Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has instructed the Finance Ministry to implement the project,” said Madinah Governor Prince Faisal bin Salman, adding that it would boost pilgrim services in the city. State-owned Public Investment Fund will finance the project, which is located close to the Prophet’s Mosque, he said. It includes a railway and bus station, offices of government agencies and a 400-bed hospital. A number of hotels and furnished apartments will be constructed as part of the world-class city to accommodate 200,000 pilgrims, said Prince Faisal while thanking King Abdullah for approving the vital project.

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Pakistan, Malaysia urged to expand trade

Karachi, Wednesday, 03 Shaaban 1434/12 June 2013 (IINA) – Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) has urged Pakistan and Malaysia to take steps to diversify their trade opportunities and provide special incentives to exporters and importers.

FPCCI Acting President Azhar Sayeed Butt said that even though Malaysia counts Pakistan amongst its closest trade partners, there should be greater efforts towards enhancing bilateral trade between the two countries. “Imports/exports remain confined to a few commodities, while there are a lot of avenues to be explored as far as bilateral trade is concerned,” said Butt during a meeting with Malaysian Trade Commissioner Norsalan Hadi Abdul. Butt urged Malaysia to open its doors to Pakistan’s exports. Meanwhile, Pakistan Malaysia Business Council Chairman Bashir Janmohammad said that the issue of cess being imposed on the Malaysian palm oil exports should be resolved soon as Pakistani importers look towards other sources.

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US-Islamic World Forum begins in Doha

Doha, Monday, 01 Shaaban 1434/10 June 2013 (IINA) – The 10th annual US-Islamic World Forum began at the Ritz-Carlton Doha yesterday. The three-day event was organized jointly by Brookings Project on US Relations with the Islamic World and Qatar.

Among the dignitaries attending the forum included President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Ahmed bin Abdullah Al-Mahmoud, Organization of Islamic Cooperation Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, former US ambassador to the United Nations Thomas Pickering, Egyptian Minister for International Co-operation and Development Amr Darrag, and Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs undersecretary Tara Sonenshine.

This year’s forum is titled “A Decade of Dialogue”, representing its ongoing commitment to fostering improved relations between the United States and Muslim societies around the world. It will focus on the conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria, political change in Pakistan and a number of Arab nations, as well as the need for greater economic opportunity within the world’s emerging democracies. “The 10th annual forum comes at a time of transition and conflict for several nations,” said Brookings vice-president and director of foreign policy Martin Indyk. “Through frank and honest dialogue, we hope to contribute to greater security and stability for those countries and peoples currently at greatest risk.”

Every year, the forum brings together officials, policymakers, scholars, thought leaders, journalists and activists for “candid dialogue and strategic engagement on a range of political, economic and socio-cultural issues”. This year’s edition includes participants from more than 30 countries and Muslim-majority communities. “Over the past 10 years, the US-Islamic World Forum has played a critical role in building bridges between the United States and Muslim-majority communities,” said Tamara Wittes, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings.

In particular, this year’s sessions will highlight the changing landscape in South Asia, assessing how Nato and US troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and the historic transfer of power in Pakistan will affect prospects for internal and regional security. Other sessions will focus on the economic challenges that have loomed throughout the Middle East in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. The forum working groups will examine how economic growth and inclusiveness can be fostered amid continued political instability.

The forum will also convene a discussion on the conflict in Syria, exploring the spiraling effects of the conflict on the Middle East, including humanitarian concerns, security threats and political challenges. The forum will address Arab public opinion, the driving forces behind the Arab uprisings and how these are likely to shape the political battles in Arab societies in the coming years.

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A renowned university from the UK will be established in Addu: President Waheed

Sun.mv – June 14, 2013 – President Dr Mohamed Waheed has said that a renowned university from the UK will be established in Addu. Speaking at a function held by his coalition ‘Forward with the Nation’ in Addu City last night, President Waheed said that the Equatorial Convention Centre (ECC) will be provided for the operation of the university.

“The convention centre will be transformed accordingly, and a UK university will be established in this city soon,” he said. He added that the construction of a 100-bed hospital in Hithadhoo will also commence soon, and that it had been decided to hand over the operation of Herethere to a new group.

The president went on to say that the construction of 300 housing units in Addu will commence in July, and that it had been decided to reclaim 70 hectares of land in Addu, which will be done by the company reclaiming land for Gan Airport. He said that Gan Airport, which will be completed soon, is the pivot of Addu’s development.

President Waheed said that efforts will also be made to establish a tranship port in Addu. He said that Maldivians do not wish to return to the situation of the past 3 or 30 years, and thus, the country is in need of change. He said that the Maldivian nation does not belong to any one group of people.

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Office opens in China to promote Maldives trade and tourism

Sun.mv – June 11, 2013 – An office named “Maldives Trade and Tourism Promotion” has officially opened in Kunming City, China. Minister of Economic Development Ahmed Mohamed officially inaugurated the office, during a recent visit by senior officials from Economic and Tourism ministries to China.

Speaking of the initiative, Deputy Minister ad the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Mohamed Maleeh Jamaal told Sun that the office is currently staffed by two Chinese citizens and that it will function without any government expenditure. He said that efforts to promote tourism will be made through the office at a larger scale, in the near future.

“The office will work to promote Maldives, to bring in investments to Maldives, to carry out different promotions and to bring in journalists (to Maldives, it will function as) a very wide office,” Maleeh said. He said that the office will work to attract high-end tourists from China and that more such office will be set up in China in the future.

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Maldivian to link three northern atolls for flights from Addu to Colombo

Sun.mv – June 10, 2013 – Island Aviation Services has stated that the national carrier Maldivian will arrange connections from three atolls in the north, Gaafu Alif, Gaafu Dhaalu and Fuvahmulah for their flights from Addu International Airport, Seenu Gan to Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Managing Director of the government’s aviation company Island Aviation Services Abdul Haris said that the company is preparing to begin flights from Addu to Colombo on the 7th of August this year.

“There are certain things that have to be done by both sides in terms of operation, regulation and from the legal side, as we look to commencing flights. It will also take some time to do the necessary to commence scheduled flights to Sri Lanka,” Haris said.

He said that the company is working on coming to a code sharing and international agreement with Sri Lankan, ahead of commencing flights on the new route to Colombo.

“Both sides will benefit. We’re not only focusing on Addu, but also provide connections to people who want to travel from Gaafu Alif Kooddoo, Gaafu Dhaalu Kaadedhdhoo and Fuvahmulah. This will reduce the cost, relative to going to Colombo from Male’, when they can make the trip straight from Gan,” Haris said. “Fights between Gan and Colombo will be acceptably cheap.”

The Managing Director said that Maldivian will also arrange for to carry cargo on their flights between Gan and Colombo. Sri Lankan Airlines has also proposed to begin flights between Gan, Addu to Colombo. The airline has not yet announced when to expect the flights.

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President Waheed inaugurates Addu International Airport Development Project

Sun.mv – June 9, 2013 – President Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has inaugurate the Addu International Airport Development Project. Participated by a number government ministers and senior officials, the inauguration ceremony was held at the Addu International Airport arrival hall this evening.

President Waheed kicked off the reclamation the airport runway area through a Telecast from the airport’s arrival hall. Speaking at the ceremony, the President described the day a joyful occasion that marks the beginning of the “most important” project for the south thus far.

“Its our good fortune that this project has begun. A blessing, for the people of Addu, especially,” President Waheed said. The reclamation work will be completed within four month’s time and the first phase of the project will be completed by October next year, the President said.

“Then, we’ll have a great big airport. Then, all big aircrafts can land here. From the strategic location of Gan airport especially, it will become a big harbour in the Indian Ocean. This will facilitate development for the whole region,” President Waheed said.

He said that the project will equip the airport with facilities to land and accommodate the largest aircrafts that fly today. “The agreements to make this possible have now been jointly established. This will contribute greatly for the development of the Maldives, for the next five year.”

“A seaplane base will also start up, along with this airport. Right now, we have only one seaplane base. A seaplane hub will be constituted in the years to come,” the President said.

President noted that the project will drastically change atolls in the south of Maldives, providing ease and accessibility to the tourist resorts operating in the region. “Work is being done to arrange transportation services from this airport. It is an aspiration of the people of Addu for being direct flights. Efforts have been made to make this possible, discussions are ongoing with Sri Lanka,” President Waheed said.

He said that the government has come to the conclusion that starting direct flights through the national carrier “Maldivian” is the most beneficial course of action and that the airline is to planned to begin scheduled flights on the 7th of August.

“These projects will kick off development. It will bring great development to the tourism industry. Not much has been done to expand the runway during the past 50 years. This has been no coincidence, this is the result of a lot of people’s hard work,” President Waheed said.

He said that the government put a great deal will into commencing the project. “The government really wanted this. We have not taken up this responsibility just to play politics. We will begin projects in Addu that it has never seen before,” President Waheed said.

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Tourism helps Maldives economic activity expand

Sun.mv – June 7, 2013 – Maldives central bank, Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) has said that the overall economic activity has expanded in the first quarter of 2013, supported by the strong growth in the tourism sector.

In their Quarterly Economic Bulletin for the first quarter of 2013, MMA stated that major indicators of the tourism sector such as arrivals and bed-nights showed solid growth rates when compared to last quarter of 2012, as well as the corresponding quarter of 2012.

The central bank also stated that fisheries-related activities continued to expand in the first quarter of 2013, as fish exports volume and earnings from fish exports grew overall.

Meanwhile, slowed activity in the construction sector had in the latter half of 2012 further weakened in first quarter of 2013, largely due to the disruptions to several construction projects caused by shortages in the supply of river sand and aggregate.

As for the distribution sector, mainly consisting of wholesale and retail trade, the economic bulletin states that given the moderate growth in overall economic activity, the sector grew marginally as indicated by private imports.

With regard to the price situation, the rate of inflation decelerated further to 4.7% in first quarter of 2013, which is measured by the percentage change in three-month average of consumer price index (CPI) for Male’.

MMA states that despite the growth in revenue during the first quarter of 2013, the cash flow position of the government continued to deteriorate, owing to increased levels of expenditure.

The aurthority states that the trade defcit improved during the first quarter of 2013, mainly as a result of growth in exports which benefited from buoyant re-exports while imports declined.

However, gross international reserves continued to be on a downward path and further fell at the end of March 2013, after showing increases during the first two months this year.

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Flight training centre project takes off in Brunei

Borneo Bulletin Online – June 11, 2013 – A groundbreaking ceremony took place yesterday to mark the start of the construction of the CAE Brunei Multi-Purpose Training Centre (MPTC) in Rimba which is expected to be a training and learning hub for not only Brunei Darussalam but also the Southeast Asian region.

A joint venture between CAE and the Ministry of Finance, the CAE Brunei MPTC will initially have five simulator bays along with supporting classrooms and additional infrastructure. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of April next year. Long-term training service contracts have been signed to provide training platforms for the aircraft Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk helicopter, Pilatus PC-7 and Sikorsky S-92 helicopter.

Among the senior government officials who attended the groundbreaking ceremony yesterday were Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abd Rahman bin Haji Ibrahim, Minister of Finance II at the Prime Minister’s Office, and Dato Paduka Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong, Deputy Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Chairman of the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB).

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