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1 Jul, 2013

CAIR Issues Backgrounder: The Extrajudicial Exile of Muslim-American Citizens

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 01 July 2013 (22 Sha’baan 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




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

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

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

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

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


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



Imtiaz Muqbil’s 100% accurate forecast in the columns gagged by the Bangkok Post.

For 15 years (January 1997-July 2012), Imtiaz Muqbil penned a hard-hitting fortnightly column called “Soul-Searching” in the Bangkok Post, which claims to be the “newspaper you can trust”. In July 2012, the column was gagged, with no explanation. Over the years, four columns had explicitly forecast the rise of whistle-blowers — a prediction now coming 100% true. Read the four columns by clicking on the links below.

Let’s Hear It for Whistle-Blowers

2002: The Year TIME Magazine Recognised Whistle-blowers

Ex-White House Spokesman Exposes “Culture of Deception”

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

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

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

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

Beware the new colonialism

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

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

“War on Terror” is a War Without End

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

Shouldn’t ‘Never Again’ Apply to All?

Globalisation Will Make Religion Even More Relevant

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

Acts of God Show the Wrath of God

Weighing the causes and costs of global wars and conflict


Read Imtiaz Muqbil’s columns in Lookeast Magazine

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

Thammasat University – A Must-see Destination

Russian Visitors To Thailand: Women Outnumber Men

China is Now Dominant Force in Thai Tourism

Take Advantage of the Rail-tours

10 Fascinating “Factoids” about Thailand

The Next Big Thing: Northeast Thailand

Chiang Mai, North Thailand Set to Boom

Top 10 Reasons to Hold Your Next MICE Event in Thailand

Thailand’s Big Spenders

Phuket grows as Thailand’s Second Most Important Gateway

10 Reasons to Pursue Further Studies in Thailand

Promoting Sustainable Tourism Via ‘Designated Areas’ in Thailand

Japanese Market Rebounds After Four-year Slump




Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Among World’s Top 25 Attractions

Abu Dhabi, UAE. 27 June, 2013: The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi city, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, has been ranked by the world’s largest travel community as among the world’s Top 25 landmark attractions.

The ranking – which sees the Abu Dhabi landmark lined up alongside the Taj Mahal in India, Petra in Jordan and Machu Picchu in Peru – comes in TripAdvisor’s 2013 Travellers Choice Awards.

“This is particularly pleasing as the rankings are solely based on reviews and recommendations by the vast TripAdvisor travelling community, thus confirming its place as one of the most important cultural tourism destinations,” said H.E. Yousif Al Obaidli, Director General of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center.

TripAdvisor recently named the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque as “one of the world’s most talked about attractions.” With the release of the 2013 Travellers Choice awards, TripAdvisor describes the mosque as an Abu Dhabi “must see.”

“The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center offers services for worshippers, domestic and international visitors alike, all year round. In 2012, 4.7 million visitors were welcomed to the mosque from all over the world,” explained Al Obaidli.

This year, during the Holy Month of Ramadan, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque’s opening times have been extended on previous years. Opening times will be 9am – 2pm and guided tours are offered complimentary at 10am and 11am, except Fridays.

“Our tours are led by one of our official Tourist Guides and the interactive tours provide information about the mosque, its architecture and there is plenty of opportunity for visitors to ask questions. Ramadan is a special time of the year and we encourage our visitors to take a guided tour and experience the Islamic culture of the mosque.” concluded Al Obaidli.

About the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center

The SZGMC, under the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, is sponsored and monitored by His Highness Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs and was established to be the centre of the cultural and intellectual movement focused around the Mosque. Its vision and mission was created from the cultural and national values preserved and nurtured by the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan (God rest his soul). These cultural values are still deeply-rooted in the consciousness of the people and are an extension of the national identity inspired by the teachings of the nation’s religion.

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Friendly policy with India to continue for regional peace: Pakistani PM

ISLAMABAD, Jun 29 (APP): Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Saturday said that they had been pursuing a policy of friendship and cooperation with India during its previous stints in power and the same policy of amity would be followed to promote peace and prosperity in the region. The Prime Minister expressed these views in a meeting with Pak-India Joint Business Council at the Prime Minister’s House. The Prime Minister said that it has always been his utmost endeavour to bring the peoples of the two South Asian neighbours closer to each other so that they could benefit from each other’s experiences.

Expressing his satisfaction over the visit of Indian businessmen under the auspices of Pak-India Joint Business Council, the Prime Minister said, “It is reassuring that both sides are sitting together and talking to each other.”

The Prime Minister told the meeting that he had directed Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Minister for Water and Power, to visit India and explore potential areas of cooperation between the two countries.

The Prime Minister told the Indian businessmen that his government was following investor-friendly policies. “We are facing acute power shortage in our country and any assistance in the power sector would help us in addressing the issue” he added.

Indian members of the Pak-India Joint Business Council informed the Prime Minister that being located in the same region and facing similar problems, India could be of great help in providing support in the fields of medical science, higher education and technical/vocational training.

The meeting also discussed Non Discriminatory Market Access and agreed that the industrialists of both the countries should be provided level-playing field.

Minister for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage Pervez Rashid, Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Tariq Fatemi and senior officials attended the meeting.

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Pak-China trade corridor to benefit about 3 bln people

ISLAMABAD, June 29 (APP): Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif Saturday said that the envisaged Pak-China Trade Corridor would open vistas of development and prosperity to about 3 billion people inhabiting this region. During his interaction with the visiting Chinese media delegation, the Prime Minister said that both the countries enjoyed deep ties in all fields and spheres. “We will pursue cooperation in all spheres of national activity; we have cooperation in the strategic and economic fields and of course, there is great potential. Pakistan and China have to extend this economic cooperation and collaboration into the Central Asia countries and into the SAARC countries, of course with the SAARC, where Pakistan is also a member,” he opined.

The Prime Minister said “I think there is cooperation of 3 billion people of the region and they will benefit from such cooperation and I think, this the big, huge population in this region which is going to benefit from this cooperation.”

Terming this cooperation as ‘game changer’ for the whole region, the Prime Minister further said that it would bring in economic development and prosperity to the region.

About handing over of the Gwadar port to China, the Prime Minister shared that they viewed it as the significant economic hub and important port in the Arabian Sea which of course would be beneficial for China as well as for Pakistan, ‘I’m talking of Pak China interests’.

He said that during his forthcoming visit to China, he would be discussing all these initiatives with the Chinese leadership so that the steps could be materialized. He said that a high level team headed by a federal minister Ahsan Iqbal with the secretary Economic Affairs Division had just returned from China after holding positive talks with their counterparts.

There was good news for both the countries as both sides were keen on accomplishing such projects, he said, adding, “Pakistan has to come out of its difficulties and we want to cooperate with each other on a number of fields of energy, infrastructure and in the field of energy, we have talks with the Chinese companies and I have invited them to Pakistan to work in this sector and take up projects based upon coal to produce power, setting up solar based houses to generate power.”

To another query, the Prime Minister said that they would like to build motorways and happy to report that the Chinese companies were keen in these projects.

During his upcoming visit to China, he would be discussing the setting up high speed trains and said “I think if all these things are materialized, trade volumes in the economic cooperation will cross over hundreds of billions of dollars, so this is the time for both countries to move forward at faster pace so that we can harness the potential which exists between the both countries.”Dilating on the Pak-China trade corridor, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif said that ‘special economic zones’ would be established where the Pakistani and Chinese businessmen would invest together or in their individual capacity.

Underlining the importance of the cooperation in different fields from infrastructure to industry including textile and engineering, he said that Pakistani and Chinese businessmen were interested to invest. Responding to a question, the Prime Minister maintained that they would have soon a fast paced train with 250km per hour capacity to run from Karachi to Peshawar on the same pattern as being moved from Beijing to Shanghai in China.

Reiterating the Government of Pakistan’s clear stance on the drone attacks, the Prime Minister said “I think which is of course, creating ill will in Pakistan and it is true that international laws are very clear on that. Drones are certainly violating our airspace and challenging our sovereignty.”

He said that the people in the country had protested against such attacks and the government had taken up the issue with the Americans and protested strongly against such attacks. Terming such attacks as counter-productive, the Prime Minister said that his government was taking up the issue seriously with the US.

About the tragic incident of Chinese mountaineering team members’ death, the Prime Minister said “Let me express my deep condolences on the tragic death of Chinese and other tourists. I feel very sorry for the people who lost lives and my heart goes out to all bereaved families.”

The Prime Minister said in categorical terms that it was an unforgettable incident and they would make every effort so that such situation should not occur in future.

About Pakistan’s losses during the five-seven years violence, the Prime Minister said that Pakistan had paid a heavy price so far as the loss of lives was concerned; as far as terrorism was concerned; as more than forty thousand people of this country had lost lives, including the personnel of armed forces, police, administration and general people.

“I am talking about the lives lost during 5-7 years, Pakistan’s economy suffered a lot, our growth has suffered a lot, I think, it is to the tune of more than 100 billion dollars had been lost because of it,” he lamented.

About a question posed to him by the Chinese media personnel in Urdu language requesting the Prime Minister to respond in the same language, he said that youth in both the countries were vital for the development of their respective countries. He said that youth in any country had the role of a back bone and if properly harnessed, their potential could be materialized adequately.

The Prime Minister said that his government would implement a single word of its elections manifesto and told that the youth in Pakistan would be encouraged through proper training, facilities and bank loans to play their due role in the prosperity of the country.

The Prime Minister also advised the Chinese media men to rebuff any kind of false accusations and negative propaganda against the interests of both countries and focus upon their shared goals and objectives.

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July 8 last date for seeking Umrah visa

Makkah, 18 Shaaban 1434/ 27 June 2013 (IINA) – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced July 8 (Shaaban 29) as the last date for seeking Umrah visas.

All Saudi diplomatic missions across the world will continue issuing Umrah visas until the “end of Shaaban,” said Osama Nugali, a spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to the statistics released by the Ministry of Haj, the Kingdom has already issued about four million Umrah visas this year.

“This is a routine procedure that is taken every year by Saudi Arabia,” said a travel agent Arif Kannauji, who has been working for a local Haj and Umrah operator in Riyadh.

“Every year, we are requested not to accept any visa application for Umrah during Ramadan,” he said. The move, Kannauji said, was to ensure that all those willing to perform Umrah have received their visas well in time, during the month of Shaban itself. It normally takes 7 to 14 days to get a visa. Umrah season starts in the month of Safar, the second month in the Islamic calendar, until the end of Ramadan. Until July 1, about 3.8 million Umrah pilgrims entered the Kingdom, which is an increase of 400,000 compared to the same period last year, according to a report issued by the Ministry of Haj recently.

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CAIR Issues Backgrounder: Extrajudicial Exile of Muslim-American Citizens

Washington DC – 30 June 2013 – For the past several years, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has dealt with an increased number of cases concerning the extrajudicial exile of American citizens traveling abroad. CAIR defines extrajudicial exile as intentional actions by the federal government that prevents a U.S. citizen from returning to the United States without any judicial process. This paper seeks to clarify the circumstances surrounding known cases of extrajudicial exile as well as to highlight several recent cases that received national prominence in the media.

n the past year, Americans have seen the no-fly list, the federal watchlist of persons banned from flying, double to 21,000 including 500 U.S. citizens. Last year The Associated Press reported that the standard for placing someone on the watchlist had been lowered. “[A] person doesn’t have to be considered only [a] threat to aviation,” but can also be included if they “are considered a broader threat to domestic or international security,” an imprecise and undefined status.

Many of these U.S. citizens pose no security risk and are victims of unwarranted or incorrect placement on the government’s no-fly list or other federal watchlists. Most often, when attempting to return home while abroad, these U.S. citizens are informed at the airport that they have been barred from flying or placed on the no-fly list, often by the FBI. They are often coerced into submitting to interviews with FBI agents or foreign law enforcement while being denied legal counsel. At times they are put into situations of extreme duress and are asked to spy on their religious communities in exchange for being allowed to travel home.

Click here download the full backgrounder.

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MyBatua to Launch Latest Abaya Collection on Eid

(PRWEB) June 24, 2013 – At MyBatua.com, one will get several options of Abayas. If hooded and jersey-styled abayas work well for casual occasions, then kaftan-styled abayas look great in formal occasions and parties. Paired with matching accessories such as gloves, footwear, hijabs, designer brooches, bags, etc. This clothing style looks divine, bestowing the wearer with elegance. With the availability of online personal customization of all garments, forget size issues for once and for all. The prints and embroidery on the abayas are never overdone, and a good combination of these with sober colors looks excellent any day. Abayas in different fabrics work well in different seasons. Wedding abayas and Abaya Wholesale are also available. These are crafted with utmost care and with innovative designs.

The Director of MyBatua.com said, “We have many modest abayas on sale. All available in numerous colors and designs. You can have a look at the complete collection, which is updated every few weeks, all within a few minutes. It will now be easier to find abayas for all occasions, and none of your dresses will be out of fashion. Ordering abayas is even easier with the interactive interface and dedicated customer support we have at MyBatua.com. Special seasons call for special discounts and offers on all the modest Islamic clothing on sale. Now just sit back at home and order your favorite Islamic dresses priced at pocket-friendly rates in the most hassle-free manner from the most friendly Abaya Shop online.”

He added, “We are delighted to announce the launch of our new collection on Eid, one of the biggest Islamic festivals. The website has been designed to improve the opportunity for the consumers to shop online for Islamic clothes in a more time efficient and enjoyable way. Many of our customers request maxi dresses and plus size dresses, so we were happy to listen and stock more of these this season. Be it any size, any length, we customize for you.”

Being an advanced e-commerce shopping portal, MyBatua.com is built exclusively for the consumers. This online shopping platform allows customers to get Islamic clothing and accessories. This successful project has been developed in response to an increasing demand of shopping online for convenience and better deals for customers seeking quality Islamic clothing and accessories.

MyBatua.com is a primary international online store and boutique for Muslim fashions and fashion accessories including abaya, jilbabs, hijabs, tunics, tops, scarves, footwear, handbags, vintage bags, embroidered bags, metal framed bags, clutch bags, designer handbags and more at very affordable prices. Over the years, MyBatua has attracted a loyal customer base of people searching for Islamic clothing collections that can be hard to find in mainstream clothing stores. To buy Abaya, Jilbab, Muslim wedding dresses, Islamic wedding dresses online, and to avail regular discounts and offers, visit their website at http://www.mybatua.com.

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China proposes to build Bangladesh-Myanmar-China-India highway

DHAKA, June 26, 2013 (BSS) – Visiting Chinese Vice-Minister on Transport Feng Zhenglin today proposed that China is keen to construct a trans-border highway among Bangladesh, Myanmar, China and India for boosting up the regional trade. The Chinese Vice Minister made the proposal while holding a meeting with Communication minister Obaidul Quader at secretariat here today.

The Chinese minister, who led a 15-member high level Chinese delegation, said the highway will connect Bangladesh directly with Kunming province of China. Quader welcomed the Chinese proposal and observed that a feasibility study is required to coordinate the proposed highway with the Asian Highway.”

The minister urged the Chinese delegation to provide support to Bangladesh government in constructing an elevated expressway from Uttara to Dhaka Export Processing Zone (DPEZ) via Ashulia. Quader expressed his gratitude to the Chinese government for constructing the 7th Bangladesh-China Friendship Bridge on the Arial Kha River in Madiripur district.

He also requested to submit the feasibility study on Karnaphuli Channel that was conducted with assistance of Chinese government. The Chinese delegation apprised the minister that the Chinese authority will submit the report of Karnaphuli channel by this month.

The Chinese Vice-Minister assured Quader that his government would continue its support for helping Bangladesh government in infrastructural development. Bridge Division secretary Anwarul Islam and Roads and Highway division secretary Man Sidiique were also present in the meeting.

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Cairo landmark Villa Casdagli to be restored to former glory

Al-Ahram, Tuesday 19 Mar 2013 – The Egyptian Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) will restore the early 20th century Villa Casdagli, located in downtown Cairo, following years of negligence and recent destruction occurred during clashes between protesters, vandals and police. “Villa Casdagli is really in a very bad conservation condition,” said Mohamed Ibrahim, antiquities minister, adding that due to clashes most of the mirrors that once decorated the villa’s main hall have been smashed.

Wooden stairs connecting the villa’s ground floor to the first floor were burned down, and fire also destroyed the wooden decorative motifs, walls, cupboards and floors. All the windows have been broken, and the walls are peeling. “Casdagli is to regain its original look,” Mohamed Abdel Aziz, director of the Historic Cairo Rehabilitation Project (HCRP), told Ahram Online, adding that restoration work will start immediately, following a ministry decision to proceed.

According to Abdel Aziz, the ministry will launch a bid to select the most suitable company to complete the conservation project. The villa was built in the early 20th century by the Austrian architect Edward Matasek for the British-Levantine businessman Emanuel Casdagli.

In 1943, the villa became Egypt’s US embassy, which it remained until the end of World War II. After the 1952 revolution it was converted into a girls school named after the Sudanese revolutionary Ali Abdul-Latif. In 2006, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), now the MSA, placed the villa on Egypt’s heritage list as an Islamic monument. In 2008, the SCA, in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the American Research Centre in Cairo (ARCE), developed a comprehensive restoration plan for the building. The project was funded by the US Department of State’s Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.

The restoration project at that time was scheduled to be carried out in two phases over 12 months, including an initial period of conservation studies, looking into the best ways to restore the villa’s unique architectural features. The aim was to turn the building into a museology institute with a public library.

In late 2010, the school was relocated and the restoration project was due to begin. However, the project was halted due to the January 2011 revolution. There were media reports that the villa was subject to several robberies during and after the revolution and that several of decorative features were damaged or missing.

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Emirates Etihad Airline To Launch Double Daily Flights To Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, June 20 (NNN-Bernama) — Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, will add a new daily flight between Abu Dhabi and Kuala Lumpur to offer a double daily service from July 15, 2013. The new schedule will add 1400 new seats per week to the route – an increase in capacity of about 23 per cent.

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

The double daily flight will be operated by two Airbus A330-200 aircraft with a two-class configuration of 18 seats in business class and 236 in economy class.

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Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014 Campaign Launched in Australia

PERTH, AUSTRALIA, 28 June 2013 – Malaysia’s newly appointed Tourism & Culture Minister YB Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz led a delegation of the country’s industry players to Australia recently in a global promotional campaign for Visit Malaysia Year 2014.

The Minister arrived in Perth on 20 June to host a media conference and the Malaysia Truly Asia Evening, officially announcing the launch of the VMY 2014 campaign. Besides Perth, he has also hosted a series of trade industry events in Auckland, New Zealand (16-17 June) and Melbourne (18-19 June).

Visit Malaysia Year 2014, comprises an intensive tourism campaign that will promote Malaysia internationally including Australia. The global campaign aims to attract 28 million tourists to the country next year, with a target of 620,000 Australian tourists.

Australia is one of Malaysia’s key markets. The first quarter of 2013 already saw a hike of 11% in tourist arrivals from Australia compared to the same period last year.

“I believe that there is a great potential to boost this figure further. During my visit here, I will be engaging with travel wholesalers, retailers, airlines and the MICE industry to find new ways to work together to attract more Australians to Malaysia, particularly during Visit Malaysia Year 2014.

“Besides Australia and New Zealand, we will also be carrying out the VMY 2014 promotional campaign in other key markets to raise awareness on the event and to identify ways to further boost our tourist arrivals,” said Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri.

Last year, over half a million Australians travelled to Malaysia, making Australia the eighth top tourist generating market to the country. In 2012, Malaysia registered 25 million tourist arrivals and RM60.6 billion in tourist receipts.

In 2014, Malaysia will celebrate its fourth VISIT MALAYSIA YEAR (VMY) with the theme “Celebrating 1Malaysia Truly Asia”. The VMY 2014 promotional campaign has started this year with a series of year-long special events and activities leading to VMY 2014. It will contribute to the Government’s target to receive 36 million tourist arrivals and RM168 billion in receipts by 2020, as outlined in the Malaysia Tourism Transformation Plan (MTTP) 2020.

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Pakistani-born Parsi Artist’s Exhibition Boosts Culture Harmony With Thailand

On Thursday, June 27th, the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre hosted an exhibition on paintings by world-renowned Pakistani artist Jimmy Engineer. It

Born on 13th August 1954 in Loralai Baluchistan, Pakistan in a Parsi family, Jimmy Engineer was to grow up to break all barriers of caste, creed and religion. Jimmy completed his schooling from St. Anthony’s High School, Lahore. After a brief interlude at the Forman Christian College, Lahore, he spent three years with the National College of Arts. He then turned professional in 1976. His equal relevance to the rich as well as the poor, literate or illiterate, religious or atheistic, speaks volumes for his dedication and honesty. He can bring succour and relief to all those in need. Although an artist by profession, his true passions in life are his fellow human beings and their welfare. Much of his efforts for supporting individuals as well as institutions remain undocumented and unsung.

His penchant for social service, however, in no way detracts him from his artistic performance, for his art has received acclaim nationally as well as internationally. His canvases on the 1947 holocaust depict in graphic detail the suffering, bloodshed and sacrifices that ushered in the birth of Pakistan. This pioneering effort is intended to capture the imagination of successive generation of Pakistan and imbue them with a similar urge and desire for sacrifice and dedication to the country. These canvases and murals have been exhibited extensively in the country as well as abroad and have won him fame and fortune. The latter he spends generously on charitable work and is content to lead an ascetic life.

A peaceful crusader for the oppressed, disabled, mentally handicapped, impoverished and generally for who so ever needs him. Jimmy has the rare ability to communicate with people from all walks of life. He has adopted an unusual but highly effective method for creating awareness about issues close to his heart. His numerous walks have taken him over the length and breadth of this country in pursuit of diverse objectives, mostly in the context of promotion of human rights and human dignity, enhancement of quality of life and the creation of an equitable civil society in this country.

He paints a variety of themes, and has done landscapes, still-lifes, cultural paintings, religious paintings, seascapes, calligraphy, philosophy of colours, miniatures, abstract, historical paintings, paintings on war and philosophical paintings and of course, self-portraits.

He has painted over 2,000 original paintings and over 1,000 calligraphies and over 350,000 prints are in private collections in more than 50 countries.

He has held more than 60 art exhibitions all over, has led more than 100 walks for noble causes and has arranged more than 140 awareness programs for handicapped, blind and orphaned children.

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ISESCO Director General says innovation is key to Islamic civilization advancement

Amman 26/06/2013 – Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), on receiving the (Best Creative Innovator Award 2013) in Amman said, “Today’s Muslim world needs to re-energize efforts to promote the values of middle way and effectively address issues of utmost concern to Muslim community.” These, he underlined, revolve around Pan-Islamic unity, good governance and respect for human rights, the fight against despotism and oppression, the right of Palestinians to build a totally free and independent State with Al Quds Al Sharif as capital, and the main challenges of development.

Further emphasis was placed by the Director General on innovation as the backbone of the project for the advancement of Muslim civilization. Innovators from all walks of life are indeed the architects and custodians of such a future-oriented project, he maintained.

Dr Altwaijri in Al Hussein City on June 25 in Amman received the “Best Creative Innovator Award 2013” from the League of Innovating Writers of the Global Forum for Moderation, in appreciation of his major contribution to Arab-Islamic thought and the project for Muslim civilization promotion.

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ISESCO Director General attends Bangladeshi cultural ceremony at UNESCO Headquarters

Paris 26/06/2013 – Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, the Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), attended a Bangladeshi cultural ceremony this evening at UNESCO Headquarters, in Paris, at the invitation of UNESCO Director General, Ms Irena Bokova. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, the President of UNESCO General Conference, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadors, as well as a number of Member States’ delegates to UNESCO also attended the ceremony, during which paintings were exhibited, a music concert was held, and a Bangladeshi fashion show was organized.

The ceremony was also an occasion for ISESCO Director General to discuss with his UNESCO counterpart, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh and the President of UNESCO General Conference the distinguished relations between ISESCO and UNESCO, which signed a new joint cooperation programme two weeks ago in Marrakech, in the Kingdom of Morocco, on the sidelines of the 7th World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC).

Equally, they discussed the coordination meeting ISESCO will hold for the Heads of Member States’ delegations during their participation in UNESCO’s General Conference, next November.

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Al Islami Foods to set up processing facility in Dubai

Dubai, Sunday, 21 Shaaban 1434/ 30 June 2013 (IINA) – A state-of-the-art food processing facility is being established by Al Islami Foods to meet the increasing regional demands for high-quality halal food products.

The construction of the 11,500-square-foot facility, with an investment of AED 100 million, will begin early next month and is expected to be completed by end 2014. The project, located in Dubai Investment Park, is in line with the vision of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, to position Dubai as the capital of the Islamic economy. Announced earlier this year, Sheikh Mohammed’s vision for a halal economy includes Islamic financial instruments, Islamic insurance, Islamic contracts’ arbitration, Islamic food industry and trade standards (halal food), and Islamic quality management standards.

Once complete, the plant will be able to process more than 1,500 tons of meat per month. Al Islami says that it strictly enforces high quality standards where the meat is exclusively sourced from farms and where the real halal process of no-stunning and hand slaughtering is followed. The plant will be equipped with the latest machinery and technologies to produce many categories of products such as sausages, burgers, minced meat, and nuggets, among many others, conforming to world standards under very stringent hygienic conditions.

Saleh Abdullah Lootah, board member of Al Islami Foods, pointed out that the new factory is another milestone in the 40-year history of Al Islami and will reinforce the company’s position as a regional industry leader in halal processed food. “The new plant is in line with our expansion strategy and will help us to satisfy the increasing regional demand for food products of global standards,” Lootah said. “This latest development is also an example of our commitment to continue to invest in the UAE economy and build it as a world leader of the halal economy,” he added.

Additionally, the strategy behind the establishment of the new facility is to ensure a minimum production time for all products from the farm to the production facility, which in turn will result in fresh and healthy halal products. “Al Islami will continue to strictly adhere to its policy of supplying real halal products that meet the regulatory standards of local and international markets. With the ever increasing demand in the local and international markets for halal products, this production facility comes in at the right time,” Lootah said.

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Doha to host international conference on Holy Qur’an contemplation

Doha, Tuesday, 16 Shaaban 1434/25 June 2013 (IINA) – The first international Conference on Contemplating the Qur’an will be held in the Qatari capital of Doha on July 2.

Prominent scholars and thinkers in Qur’anic topics will take part in the conference to discuss how to coordinate efforts to revive Qur’anic teachings in society, alQuran.ma website reported. The event is organized by the World Society for Quran Contemplation in cooperation with Qatar’s Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, Tadabbur (contemplation) Studies Center, Imam Shtaebi Quranic Studies Foundation and Ajadeh Qur’anic Center. Titled “Contemplating the Qur’an and its role in the life of Islamic Ummah”, the conference also aims to discuss ways to use contemplating the Qur’an in promotion of peace and spreading awareness about the issues of contemporary Muslim world. “Contemplating the Qur’an, meaning, objective, and method”, “role of Qur’an contemplation in progress of Muslim Ummah” and “contemplating the Qur’an, and means for investigating contemporary issues” will be the main themes of the gathering. There will also be sideline forums on “role of media in promoting the concept of contemplating the Qur’an”, and “plans and methods for promotion of the culture of contemplating the Qur’an”. Those interested can refer to www.tadabbor.com website to get further information about the conference.

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OIC Mission at European Union opened

Brussels, Sunday, 21 Shaaban 1434/ 30 June 2013 (IINA) – The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu inaugurated recently the OIC Mission for the European Union in Brussels. Officials from the EU Commission, Parliament and Council, representatives of the Belgium Foreign Ministry, and Ambassadors of OIC Member States and other countries attended the opening ceremony.

Ihsanoglu considered the opening of OIC Mission to the EU as a new phase in OIC-EU relations. In his welcoming statement, Ihsanoglu invited the ambassadors, the EU and the Belgium Foreign Ministry to work with the Mission to have a better relationship between the Muslim world and Europe.

Speaking on behalf of the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Baroness Catherine Ashton, Hugh Mingarelli, the Managing Director of Middle East and Southern Neighborhood at the EU, said that there are two issues in particular that the EU and OIC can focus on and that is promoting common values of respect and tolerance and the need to strengthen cooperation to be more effective. The Head of Belgium Foreign Minister’s Cabinet, Francois de Kerkhove, expressed satisfaction in the OIC’s opening an office at Brussels and assured complete cooperation.

During his meeting with the EU Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, the OIC Secretary General said that he hoped OIC-EU relationship would now be more institutionalized and that they can work together substantively. Ihsanoglu met with Barroso at the latter’s office at the EU Commission earlier on Tuesday and their discussion focused mainly on developments in Syria. They both expressed their concern and called for a political solution and stopping the bloodshed while supporting the convening of Geneva 2 as the best chance to reach an agreement. Regarding the situation in Africa, particularly Mali, Ihsanoglu warned of the potential increase in radicalism, violence and conflict there and the need to take action. Ihsanoglu also brought up the issue of the Muslim Rohingyas in Myanmar and urged EU to take affirmative steps in support of their rights.

The secretary general also had a working lunch with the EU Political Security Committee 27 permanent representatives during which they exchanged views about OIC’s activities in terms of conflict prevention and resolution and potential areas of cooperation with the EU.

Meanwhile, the secretary general met with the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response Kristalina Georgieva. The deteriorating situation in Syria was high on their agenda. The leaders stressed the need for immediate humanitarian assistance to Syrians as the number of refugees continues to increase. They also discussed the situation in the Sahel Region, Somalia, Yemen and Myanmar. Ihsanoglu stressed the need for pressuring the government of Myanmar to allow access of international humanitarian agencies to the Rohingya Muslims.

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CAIR Offers Guide to Help Muslims Share Ramadan with Neighbors

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 6/28/13) — The nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization today urged Muslim communities nationwide to reach out to their neighbors of all beliefs and backgrounds by inviting them to take part in an interfaith “iftar,” or fast-breaking meal, during the upcoming month-long fast of Ramadan.

Ramadan is the month on the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims abstain from food, drink and other sensual pleasures from break of dawn to sunset. It is estimated to begin July 9 this year.

To assist local Muslim community leaders, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has produced a “Sharing Ramadan Resource Guide 2013” that offers step-by-step advice on hosting an interfaith iftar. It can be downloaded FREE here.

The resource guide includes instructions on forming a “Sharing Ramadan” committee, a sample media advisory for an iftar, advice on reaching out to local media, an advertisement for the event, text for a “Welcome to Our Ramadan Fast-Breaking” brochure, frequently-asked questions about Ramadan, and a sample event program and newspaper advertisement.

“The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said Ramadan ‘is the month of sharing with others,'” said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper. “All our research has shown that prejudice and stereotyping decrease when people of other faiths know more about Islam and interact with ordinary Muslims.”

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

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Garuda receives first Boeing 777-300ER

The Jakarta Post, Seattle, June 26 2013 – A red carpet ceremony at Boeing’s Everett Delivery Center in Seattle, United States, on Tuesday marked the official delivery of a Boeing 777-300ER from the American aircraft manufacturer to PT Garuda Indonesia.

Boeing senior vice president of sales for Asia Pacific & India Dinesh Keskar symbolically handed over the aircraft to Garuda Indonesia president director Emirsyah Satar.

Emirsyah was accompanied by Indonesian Ambassador to the US Dino Patti Djalal, independent commissioner Peter F. Gontha and Chairul Tanjung, who owns 10.88 percent shares in the national flag carrier.

“This extraordinary aircraft will help us win the Best Business Class and the Best First Class awards”, Emirsyah said during the ceremony.

He was referring to two awards — The World’s Best Economy Class and The World’s Best Economy Class Seats — that Garuda received from Skytrax at the recent Paris Air Show.

The aircraft was the first Boeing 777-300ER the national flag carrier expected to receive this year. The second is expected to be delivered in July and two others by year’s end.

Garuda Indonesia ordered 10 Boeing 777-300ER as part of its fleet revitalization program. Three aircraft will be ready next year and three more in 2015. Each aircraft costs Garuda Indonesia around US$150 million. Garuda’s 777-300ER has 314 seats with the following configuration: 8 first class seats, 38 business class seats and 268 economy class seats.

First class passengers will get privilege of having their meals cooked by a “chef on board”. The aircraft is also equipped with “In-flight Connectivity” that includes exConnect facilities (internet connection via WiFi) and exTV (live telecast from prominent international channels). By 2015, the airline expects to operate as many as 194 aircraft with average age of under 5 years, from the current total of 106 aircraft with an average age of 5.8 years .

This year, Garuda will add 24 new aircraft to its fleet. In addition to four Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, Garuda will also receive three Airbus A330, 10 Boeing 737-800NG and seven Bombardier CRJ1000 NextGen planes.

Commenting on the delivery, Chairul Tanjung said he would try the new aircraft when he and family members perform umrah during Ramadhan.

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Jakarta Islamic Fashion Week: Faith in fashion

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, June 30 2013 – Designers dispel the perceived limitations in Muslim fashion, giving a modern twist and playing with their designs while, at the same time, staying true to their signature styles for the first Jakarta Islamic Fashion week.

Prominent young designer Barli Asmara presented on Saturday his newly rebranded B by Barli Asmara line of Islamic fashion, presenting his first 36 creations, the overall style of which was a throwback to the 1940s.

“The inspiration of the B by Barli Asmara collection comes from the movies from the 1940s, such as La Vie en Rose as well as Audrey Hepburn’s style,” Barli said prior to his show.

The five-day fashion week, which is sponsored by Kompas Gramedia and ends on Sunday at the Jakarta Convention Center in Central Jakarta, include 11 shows from 25 of the country’s top and up-and-coming designers.

The event opened on Wednesday with a showcase of the latest creations by two veteran designers — Adjie Notonegoro and Stephanus Hamy; Adjie highlighted Middle Eastern inspirations with rich lace details, while Stephanus presented a collection with strong ethnic nuances.

Other prominent designers — from Denny Wirawan, Ronald V. Gaghana, Samuel Wattimena and Itang Yunasz to Malik Moestaram — also revealed their latest creations, all of which carried their signature touches, while young designers Dian Pelangi, Ria Miranda and Ghaida Tsurayya offered their fresh and innovative pieces.

A modern take on colors, fabrics and silhouettes, mixed with traditional flourishes, was the event’s main theme, showing off Indonesia’s distinct approach to influence the world of Islamic fashion.

On Saturday, Malik presented 16 pieces of his latest Islamic fashion collection, which was inspired by decorative architectural details during the reign of King Edward VII of England between 1901 and 1910.

Designer Dian stayed true to her tie-dye style, bringing to the runway the beautiful spring colors of Paris and a splash of floral design, which were uniquely combined with South Sumatra’s songket (woven cloth sewn with gold thread).

Samuel wowed fashion lovers with his 48 ethnic-inspired creations for men, while Ronald and Denny presented their collections on the opening day’s evening show.

Drawing on his Elements line, Ronald revealed graceful designs with 24 fashion items: 18 for women and eight for men. The designer, whose collection’s theme was “passion”, was inspired by Moroccan and Chinese embroidery that was perfectly executed on tulle, silk, chiffon, taffeta and satin.

In developing his new retro collection, Noblidonna, designer Denny was strongly inspired by the fashion sense of European and Middle Eastern aristocrats of the 1940s and 1970s. “In my new Islamic collection, I want to introduce the use of not-too-long skirts combined with knee-length boots. I think that is an alternative to Islamic fashion nowadays,” Denny said.

Islamic Fashion Week’s chairwoman, Iis R. Soleiman, hoped the event would encourage Muslims to wear trendy attire without feeling that they were neglecting their religion’s basic rules. “Around 88.1 percent of Indonesians are Muslim and Islamic fashion trends are very positive these days,” she said. “Over the past five years, creativity among Islamic fashion designers has also greatly increased. Therefore, we hope this event will help to cater to the market’s demand for Islamic fashion.”

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Saudia needs 35 more planes to meet growing demand

JEDDAH: Arab News, 30 June 2013 – Saudi Arabian Airlines needs at least 35 new aircraft to beef up its domestic fleet and meet growing demand, said Abdullah Al-Ajhar, executive vice president for public relations.

He said the Saudi travel market faces a shortage of two million seats, and added that the operation of domestic flights by Qatar Airways and Gulf Air would fill the gap. The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has already licensed the two Gulf airlines to operate flights to domestic airports.

“We don’t have much information about the two airlines but we have learned from GACA that they would use 20 aircraft for domestic flights,” Al-Ajhar said. GACA has offered to give cheap fuel to the two airlines to start domestic flights quickly. According to GACA, there is a 19 percent increase in domestic passengers.

The Council of Ministers recently urged the national carrier to increase the number of its domestic flights and raise the number of seats to all destinations. “Saudia should continue its efforts to develop its technical and service capabilities so as to provide distinguished services to win passenger satisfaction,” the Cabinet said.

Al-Ajhar said the Cabinet directive would encourage Saudia to mobilize all its capabilities to increase the number of flights and expand seat capacity. “We have transported 14.5 million domestic passengers in 2012 and the figure is expected to reach 15.5 million this year,” he said.

Saudia has purchased 90 new aircraft including Airbus and Boeing to modernize and beef up its fleet and meet marketing requirements. “We have received 65 new planes including A330s and B777-300ERs,” Al-Ajhar said. Saudia is operating a large number of extra flights this summer.

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Saudi businesswomen seek level-playing field

RIYADH, Arab News, 30 June 2013 – A new set of proposals have been unveiled to encourage Saudi women’s business projects.

Saudi businesswomen face a series of difficulties in undertaking investment projects related to policies, procedural matters, female manpower planning, and in dealing with governmental bodies, says a report released by the National Women’s Council of the Saudi Chambers.

Huda Al-Jeraisy, chairperson of the council, also outlined the difficulties and obstacles facing investment ventures initiated by Saudi businesswomen. The report has called for the setting up of a supreme body to create a conducive environment to help businesswomen to develop their ventures throughout the Kingdom.

Al-Jeraisy stressed that female business leaders should be given an opportunity to participate in the development plans of the country and be allowed to create their own business mechanisms. Al-Jeraisy said a supreme committee should comprise men and women who would offer advise and supervise women’s business ventures in the Kingdom.

The chairman stressed the need for cooperation between the Saudi Industrial Property Authority (Modon) and the Chambers of Commerce and Industry to provide information centers for private investments and female projects.

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Oman Tourist arrivals stand at 1.4m

Oman Daily Observer – 27 June, 2013 – The number of tourists visiting Oman has touched 1.4 million in 2012 and various steps are on to increase the numbers. Speaking at the third Arab Aviation and Media Summit at Salalah Hilton Resort yesterday, Maitha bint Saif al Mahrouqiya, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism, said that the government has signed memoranda of understanding with several countries to further upgrade tourism sector which was not affected by the turmoil in the Middle East region during the last two years.

At present the tourism sector in Oman is attracting huge investments in the form of comprehensive tourism projects in Muscat and Salalah. “We have been devising sustainable strategies for development of tourism and are quite satisfied with the services presented by the ministry. A number of tourism sites have been restored and the number of tourist arrivals has also increased. Currently there are 12,000 rooms and we are planning to increase the number to 15,000 by 2017.”

“We have an excellent tourism record and this was translated into the selection of Muscat as the Arab Tourism Capital which means that the Sultanate is now listed among the world best countries in tourism,” she said. The official said that these events on aviation and media extend considerable support to the tourism sector, in addition to supporting the sector.

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Gulf Air Increases Frequencies To Jeddah

MANAMA, Bahrain, June 25 (NNN-BNA) – Gulf Air, Bahrain’s national carrier, has added seven extra flights weekly to and from Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, increasing capacity on the route by over 30%, to meet a growing market demand. The airline will now operate one extra frequency daily, increasing its scheduled flights to three per day to the key city in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Starting from July 9, 2013, Gulf Air will increase its frequency from 14 to 21 flights per week each direction. The extra flights offer more flexibility for Bahrain and Saudi-based business and leisure travellers, and more flights for pilgrims, who now have more choices to visit the holy city of Mecca via Jeddah.

Gulf Air Acting Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Maher Salman AlMusallam said, “I would like to thank Saudi Arabia’s General Authority, specifically its President, Prince Fahd bin Abdullah Al Saud, and its Vice President, Dr. Faisal Al-Sugair and his colleagues, for their cooperation in approving the additional frequencies.

The introduction of additional flights between Jeddah and Bahrain reinforces the importance of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as a key long-standing market for Gulf Air, and is aligned to the airline’s business strategy, to concentrate on high-demand routes, to ensure its primary customer base is served effectively and efficiently.”

He continued, “As part of Gulf Air’s restructuring strategy, the airline is committed to strengthening its core services, specifically its regional network. Gulf Air operates one of the largest networks in the region. Gulf Air is pro-actively looking for opportunities to strengthen its network, through increasing frequencies, enhancing existing code-share relationships and developing others. We are in the final stages of negotiations to increase frequencies to a number of key destinations, in order to offer more convenient travel options to our customers.”

The introduction of the additional flights to Jeddah gives passengers greater choices to connect through Bahrain’s efficient hub to Europe and Asia with Gulf Air, and on to North America with the airline’s code-share partner, American Airlines.

Tickets can be booked online at www.gulfair.com or through the Gulf Air Worldwide Contact Centre on ( 973) 17373737, open 24 hours, or through Gulf Air offices and approved travel agencies.

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Salalah-Jeddah flight launched

Oman Daily Observer – 21 June, 2013 – Oman Air launched the direct flights route between Salalah and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia during an inaugural ceremony held at Salalah Airport yesterday under the auspices of Shaikh Salim bin Ofait al Shanfari, Head of Dhofar Municipality. Abdulrazaq bin Juma al Ra’eesi, Oman Air’s Chief Commercial Officer, said that Oman Air will operate two flights weekly on Thursdays and Saturdays.

He pointed out that launching this route comes to cope with the ambitious plans of the national carrier of the Sultanate to link the Sultanate’s cities through direct flights with cities around the world. Ahmed bin Mohammed al Amri, Regional Manager of Oman Air, said that Salalah–Jeddah route will contribute in enhancing the position of Salalah as an international destination added to the great success being witnessed by Salalah–Dubai route.

Najm bin Abdullah al Ghassani, Regional Sales Manager in Salalah, said that the new service will provide direct scheduled flights between Salalah and Jeddah on Thursdays and Saturdays. Salim bin Awadh al Yaf’ee, Director-General of Salalah Airport at Oman Airports Management Company (OAMC), highlighted the importance of operating two weekly flights to Jeddah.

Launching the direct flights between Salalah and Jeddah comes as part of Oman Air’s commitment to increase the tourism movement to Salalah in parallel with its ambitious plans in the Middle East, Europe and Africa. The inaugural ceremony was attended by a government and private officials, representatives of local media and members of the senior management of Oman Air.

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RO15m to boost services during tourism festival

Oman Daily Observer – 24 June, 2013 – With the onset of annual tourism season which coincides with early harbingers of the rainy season with drizzle and nice weather, Omanis and visitors from GCC countries began to pour in to Dhofar Governorate in large numbers. Traffic congestion is now seen in the Wilayat of Salalah, particularly on the road that leads to the Ateen plains.

Mohammed bin Omar al Rawas, event director, said: “Salalah Tourism Festival has become a prominent event and a major destination for tourists from Arab countries.

This event has — since its inception in 1997 — seen progressive development in tourism infrastructure and services and each year Salalah Tourism Festival sees new facilities and enhanced services thanks to the efforts taken by the office of the Minister of State and Governor of Dhofar represented by Dhofar Municipality and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry represented by the Directorate General of Tourism.”

Al Rawas hailed the Royal orders allocating RO 15 million to boost the quality of services for tourists at the festival locations saying that it comes as a continuation to the Royal gestures of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos which span all the aspects of development. Speaking about the economic aspects of the festival, Al Rawas said it provides more than 6,000 temporary jobs as well as annual revenues of around RO 65 million during the festival period.

Meanwhile, the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI) in co-operation with the Ministry of Tourism and the Royal Oman Police (ROP) began the 1372012395595686900 surveys and field works for Khareef Salalah 2013 from June 21. Dr Khalifa bin Abdullah al Barwani, acting executive chairman of NCSI, said the Khareef Salalah survey is aimed at identifying the size of internal and foreign tourism in Dhofar Governorate during the Khareef Salalah tourism season, measuring the development of tourism in Dhofar as well as estimating the total spending by tourists during the season.

The survey falls into two parts — the first enumerates the number of tourists visiting Dhofar during the Khareef Salalah, 2013 by directly meeting them at the Harit outlet or Muscat International Airport. Those coming to Salalah via Salalah Airport will be enumerated through statistics cards which will be distributed on board the aircraft.

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Qatar carrier set to triple daily flights to Cairo

Saudi Gazette – 25 June, 2013 – Qatar Airways is set to increase frequency on its popular Cairo – Doha route to triple daily flights beginning July 1 ahead of the busy summer travel season.

The Doha-based carrier is introducing five flights to its current 16 services a week, taking frequency up to three flights each day offering passengers more choice, greater flexibility and additional travel options.

Qatar Airways has been flying to Cairo since 1994 – the airline’s initial year of operations and the route has proved highly popular both as a leisure and business destination.

The airline will be operating a mix of narrow-body Airbus A320s, wide-body Airbus A330s and its flagship Boeing 777 aircraft on flights to and from Cairo. The operating aircraft follow a two-class seat configuration offering seats both in First Class and Economy Class.

Apart from flights to Cairo, Qatar Airways has an extensive network in Egypt offering non-stop daily flights to popular gateway cities Alexandria and Luxor. The additional services to Cairo will see Qatar Airways operate a total of 35 flights a week to Egypt.

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said “for the second time this year, we’ve increased capacity between Cairo and Doha due to over whelming demand demonstrating the resurgence in tourism, as well as business travel to and from the Egyptian capital.”

“In the space of just three months, Qatar Airways has increased frequency on the route by 24 percent, soon operating three daily flights each morning, afternoon and evening, and with better connectivity to an array of destinations including Beijing, Bangkok, Dubai, Manila, Hong Kong, Singapore, Colombo and cities across the Gulf. Come July 1, our passengers to and from Cairo will be able to enjoy enhanced flight frequency as well as our unmatched Five-Star hospitality onboard our aircraft,” he added.

Over the next few months, Qatar Airways will expand with the addition of further destinations –Sulaymaniyah, Iraq (August 20), Chengdu, China (Sept. 3), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Sept. 18), Clark International Airport, Philippines (Oct. 28) and Philadelphia, USA (April 2, 2014).

Qatar Airways has so far launched six destinations this year – Al-Qassim (Saudi Arabia), Najaf (Iraq), Phnom Penh (Cambodia), Chicago (USA), Salalah (Oman) and Basra (Iraq) – the latter started on June 3.

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UAE offers $1.25b grant to Morocco for sustainable development

Saudi Gazette – 26 June, 2013 – The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on a grant by UAE for Morocco within the framework of the UAE’s contribution to the GCC’s Gulf Development Fund initiative.

The UAE’s contribution within this initiative amounts to $1.25 billion (AED4.6 billion), of the total grant value of $ 5 billion to support Morocco over the next five years, which was previously approved by the leaders of the GCC to be contributed to equally by the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Nizar Baraka, Minister of Economy and Finance in Morocco, and Mohammed Saif Al Suwaidi, acting Director-General of ADFD, signed the MoU in the Ministry of Economy and Finance in Rabat.

The grant, which will be directly managed by the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), will go toward financing crucial projects which have been carefully selected to support the tireless efforts of the Moroccan government to achieve sustainable development, and raise the standard of living and social and economic status of the Moroccan people.

Al Suwaidi said “the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Morocco have close relations at various levels, established over the past decades under the directives and direct follow-up of our wise leadership, and we are confident that this grant will play a vital role in supporting the ambitious development plans implemented by the Moroccan government, which will help to put in place strong foundations for achieving social and economic development and promote sustainable economic growth in the Kingdom.” A high-level delegation from the ADFD will hold talks with the Moroccan government to determine the package of projects proposed for funding which fall within the priorities of the development plan in Morocco. These projects are expected to focus on vital sectors in the field of infrastructure, such as education, roads, housing, water, health and social services,” Al Suwaidi added.

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Saudi Arabia sees growth in medical tourist arrivals

Saudi Gazette – 26 June, 2013 – The medical tourist arrivals in Saudi Arabia are projected to increase to 105,000 by 2016 at a CAGR of 20 percent for the years 2012-2016, the “Middle East Medical Tourism Industry Outlook to 2016 – Advanced Medical Infrastructure Paving the Way for Future Growth” report said Tuesday.

It said the medical tourism industry in the Middle is projected to attract 753,500 medical tourists and will generate revenue of $ 2 billion by 2016.

The UAE is promoting its medical tourism in the world by the creation of the Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC). The country has the highest number of JCI certified hospitals in the region. In the coming years the UAE is expected to play a significant role in the medical tourism industry in the Middle East region, the report added.

The report pointed out that Jordan is the leader in the medical tourism industry in the Middle East region. The country serves medical tourists from Iraq, Syria, Yemen and other countries in the region. The country offers state of the art medical treatment in all of the 106 hospitals in the country.

Turkey, on the other hand, has a strategic location that makes the country a well-known destination for the medical tourism in the region, the report said.

The country is the second largest country in terms of the medical tourist arrivals and also the second largest in terms of revenue generated through medical tourism.

The creation of the health zones in the country by 2014 is expected to attract more medical tourists to the country. The medical tourism industry is estimated to attract – medical tourists thereby generating revenue of $ 408 million by 2016, the report added.

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Saudi Tourism sector advances 1.52%

Arab News – 26 June, 2013 – Saudi Arabia’s benchmark stock index (TASI) yesterday rose 16.67 points to finish at 7,517.36 after trading between 7,489.36 and 7,527.57. The index traded within a range of 38.2 points, adding 0.22 percent for the entire day. On year-to-date basis, it showed a yield of 10.53 percent.

All market cap indices ended in the safe area. Most of the major sectors closed in the green territory, accumulating an aggregate of 334 points. Hotel & Tourism sector with an upward jump of 171.5 points or 1.52 percent remained prominent among sectoral indices, closing the day at 11,478.12.

Insurance sector, on the other hand, posted the largest losses for the second consecutive day, turning down 0.83 percent further.

Top ten heavyweights closed the day in mixed territories, showing small changes from previous day’s level. Etihad Etisalat Co. (Mobily) remained significant gainer, moving up 0.63 percent for the day.

Market breadth was positive, with 81 stocks witnessing advances and 48 others marking a decline.

Middle East Specialized Cables and Halwani Brothers came out as key gainers among all Saudi stocks, marching higher by 6.57 percent and 4.85 percent.

Market activity was a little low for the day; specifically 208.3 million shares worth SR 5.2 billion were liquidated at Tadawul. This turnover reflects a daily decrease of 4.5 percent on volume basis and 6.7 percent in terms of liquidity. But upside-downside volume ratio of 5.7:1 remained strong.

The top five most active stocks also witnessed a positive change, with Emaar the Economic City surging more than two percent, Dar Alarkan Real Estate 1.92 percent and Zain 1.5 percent. Dar Alarkan with trades over 28.8 million shares topped the volume chart, capturing roughly 14 percent of the overall market volume.

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Summer Doha Trade Fair begins at exhibition centre today

The Peninsula – 26 June, 2013 – Organisers of the summer edition of Doha Trade Fair 2013, which opens today at the Doha Exhibition Centre, expects daily footfalls to reach 40,000.

“We hope the number of daily visitors to continue increasing from 30,000 during the last edition to 40,000, which is a big number compared to other exhibitions in the Middle East,” said Exhibition Director, Maher Eid. Latest statistics put daily number of visitors to the fair at 30,000 but because of the coming Ramadan when there is an expected rush of shoppers, organisers expect the number to rise to 40,000.

Considered the biggest shopping carnival in Qatar, Doha Trade Fair is held biannually with its last edition held in January this year. For its summer edition, the fair witnessed an increase in the number of stalls from nearly 560 last January to 570.

The number of companies who filed request to take part in the expo had reached 2000, but less than half of them were granted because of space constraints, according to Jaber Al Mansouri, General Manager of Maraya, who is organizing the expo for the third time.

“We only chose 570 out of the 2,000 requests because of lack of space, and many of the companies who expressed desire to take part in the event were included in the waiting list,” he said, adding the companies hail from 30 countries. The exhibition comprises four sections including fashion and accessories, household products, perfumes and cosmetics, and food.

In addition, there is a 3,000sqm Entertainment Tent where live music and cultural shows will be staged. It also includes a children’s zone where the young ones can enjoy inflatables, face painting and mascots as their parents shop. A parade is also being held at the venue from 2pm daily.

The additional events for this edition of the fair, Al Mansouri said, are set to attract more visitors, resulting to an increase in the number of footfalls. Organised in cooperation with Qatar Tourism Authority, Doha Trade Fair 2013 runs until July 6 at the 15,000sqm Doha Exhibition Centre.

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Abu Dhabi hotels deliver ‘best ever’ results

Khaleej Times – 27 June, 2013 – Abu Dhabi’s 146 hotels and hotel apartments delivered ‘best ever’ May results last month with near across-the-board growth in key performance indicators. Growth was recorded across guest arrivals, guest nights, average-length-of-stay, occupancy and revenues.

Last month 232,650 guests checked into the emirate’s accommodation – a rise of 21 percent on May 2012, accounting for 716,041 guest nights, which is up 32 percent on the month-to-month comparison.

“This is an extremely heartening result as we look to achieve a greater traction to balance our supply-and demand equation,” said Mubarak Al Muhairi, Director General, Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), which compiles the monthly figures.

“We are particularly encouraged by growth in the average-length-of-stay, which has moved up 9 percent to 3.08 nights. This suggests that our campaign to convince travellers of our ‘more to see and do’ destination proposition is converting extended stays. While there is still much to be done, the results suggest we are on the right track,” he added.

Occupancy rates nudged up 7 percent during May to 67 percent with total revenues climbing 22 percent to Dh 439.5 million ($ 119.7 million), which represents a 22 percent month-on-month growth. Room revenues rose 23 percent to Dh 205.15 million ($ 55.9 million) while food & beverage income grew 23 percent to Dh 185.8 million ($ 50.6 million). Average room rate was the only non-climber; it slipped a mere 1 percent to Dh 401 ($ 109).

Abu Dhabi has now experienced consistent arrivals growth every month this year and leaves it well placed to achieve its 2013 hotel guest target of 2.5 million.

To date, 1.1 million guests have stayed in the emirate’s hotels this year – a 12 percent rise on the first five months of 2012. Year-to-date revenues have climbed 17 percent to Dh 2.3 billion of which f&b accounted for Dh 908 million ($ 247.3 million) and is up 15 percent on 2012. Average room rate in the first five months came in at Dh 464 ($ 126.3).

This May domestic tourism proved a stalwart for Abu Dhabi with a 9 percent growth in guests to 81,358. India took over from the UK as the emirate’s largest international source market with 15,091 Indians checking into Abu Dhabi – a 37 percent rise on 2012. The Indian guests delivered 54,734 guests nights – up 33 percent on last year and stayed, on average, 3.63 nights.

“India with its close proximity to Abu Dhabi and increasing air access emanating from Jet Airways’ move of its regional hub to Abu Dhabi International and the addition of services from Mumbai, Delhi and Kochi to the UAE capital is an increasingly promising proposition for us,” said Al Muhairi.

“Following the landmark deal between Jet Airways and Etihad Airways, in which our own national carrier now owns as a 32 percent stake in the Indian airline, we can look forward to opening additional Indian gateways to Abu Dhabi with services from Bangalore, Amritsar, Jaipur, Lucknow, Kolkata, Goa and Mangalore on the horizon further deepening our reach from the republic. We will support this in December with a five-city road show throughout India when we will reach out to the country’s travel trade to secure greater traction with these important influencers.”

The UK – traditionally Abu Dhabi’s leading overseas source market – ranked second in May with some 12,978 Britons checking into the emirate in May this year.

“The good news is that the UK is still achieving growth for us. Some 18 percent more UK nationals have checked into our hotels this May comparied to last year same period and they are delivering increased number of guest nights and staying, on average, a healthy 4.59 nights,” explained Al Muhairi.

Germany, the destination’s third largest overseas source market is also in growth mode with 11,740 Germans checking into the destination in May – up 60 percent on last year. “A key indicator from Germany is the increasing length-of-stay of the German guest – which is now 5,29 nights and is up 10 percent on last year,” he said..

Year-on-year the UK maintains its leading source market profile while Russian guests are proving the longest-stayers, averaging 6.17 nights.

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Malaysian Magician To Perform In London

KUALA LUMPUR, June 27 (NNN-BERNAMA) — Malaysian magician Kabir Khan Mohamad Reaz will perform in London at the invitation of The Magic Circle, the world- famous club since 1905 for magicians and magic enthusiasts. Kabir Khan, 29, will perform in London next month.

His overseas venture will be sponsored by local companies including Kuala Lumpur Tower and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia. The Penang-born magician told a press conference here Thursday that some of his performances would have a ‘Malaysian identity’ to promote the country in London.

“Each time I perform, people out there will still want to know about Malaysia because they can’t believe we have someone like David Copperfield,” he said. “There will be no different tricks in my performance but I can guarantee, the quality will be the same as my performance in Hollywood in 2011,” he added.

Before this, Kabir Khan had performed in the United Arab Emirates in 2009 at the invitation of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, and at several luxury hotels in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. He was a student of the McBride School of Magic and Mystery, Las Vegas, and also a graduate in Manual Dexterity and Prestidigitation from Chaves Studio of Magic, Los Angeles.

Recounting his involvement, the director of Business Magic Worldwide (M) Sdn Bhd said he started in this field at the age of six after watching the world-renowned magician, David Copperfield, in the 1980s. He began venturing in magic during his school days by performing at corporate dinner functions. Kabir Khan, who wants more Malaysian youths to be involved in magic, plans to open a school of magic to share his knowledge.

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Budget Focus Group To Discuss Developing A “Malaysian Happiness Index”

IPOH, Malaysia June 22 (NNN-Bernama) — The 2014 budget focus group, which will meet in July, will, among others, discuss developing a Malaysian happiness index’, says Second Finance Minister Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah. He said the meeting, which would be chaired by him, would discuss the role of the public and private sector in creating prosperity for the people.

“Now, we see all government policies in the context of generating economic growth only but how do we link it to the peoples’ prosperity?”, he asked. “As an example, there are rich countries but the wealth is only in the hands of a few. In this context we can learn from what is happening in other countries. There should be a balance in this country between the rich and the low-income”, he told reporters after a thanksgiving function here today.

Ahmad Husni, who is also Tambun Member of Parliament, said 15 focus groups, comprising representatives from both the public and private sectors, would focus on how to accelerate growth based on investment and productivity, fiscal measures, enhance and retain the participation of women workforce and increase the contribution of small-and-medium enterprises to the economy.

“To diversify exports further will also be another topic that will be given upmost attention especially in the context of economic development, the country’s economic growth is linked closely to export growth which is now declining,” he said.

A total of 96 memorandums have been submitted to the Ministry of Finance for consideration covering a wide spectrum of macro, sectoral and social issues. Ahmad Husni said he would chair four focus groups while his deputy will chair the the remaining groups. The 2014 budget will be tabled in Parliament on Oct 25.

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Indonesia Has Potential To Export Halal Beef

JAKARTA, Indonesia June 26 (NNN-Bernama) — Deputy Trade Minister Bayu Krisnamurthi said Indonesia has the potential of exporting beef with halal certificate by utilising the community in the Aceh region, Indonesia’s Antara news agency reported. “We have the potential for export, particularly by utilising our society who are in the Veranda of Mecca (Aceh),” said Bayu, while giving a speech at Seminar on “Beef Imports: Quota Issues Under the WTO,” in Jakarta on Tuesday.

Bayu said that each year the need for halal beef in Aceh reached four million tonnes, and it is an opportunity that is promising if explored and developed. “Besides, processed beef products can also be exported to Bangladesh, India, or Myanmar, it is a tremendous opportunity,” said Bayu.

Although the halal beef export market is very large, in which the price of beef in the traditional market had fetched Rp95,000 (RM30.58) per kilogramme, the government is continuing with its efforts to increase the supply in order to stabilise prices in the range of Rp75,000 (RM24.15) per kilogramme.

Ministry of Trade has stated that the price of beef meat in the traditional markets is gradually decreasing. The government itself has commissioned the National Logistics Agency (Bulog)to focus on beef price stabilisation ahead of the coming month of Ramadan in July by granting the 3,000 tonnes beef import quota.

Beef import quotas for the year 2013 is 80,000 tonnes which consist of 32,000 tonnes of frozen beef, and 267,000 of live feeder cattle or equivalent to 48,000 tonnes of beef.

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More tourists find information about Indonesia from Internet

Thu, June 27 2013 – Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara (ANTARA News) – A senior official of the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry said most tourists visiting Indonesia found information about the country from Internet. At least 61.8 percent of tourists visiting Indonesia decided to visit the country after having information from the Internet, Torang Nasution, head of the sub-directorate of development of tourist destinations, said.

“In 2012, we carried out a survey at Soekarno Hatta Airport of Jakarta interviewing foreign tourists on their way home to their countries after visiting various tourist objects in the country,” Nasution said here. Therefore, the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry has for the past several years developed e-tourism, a concept utilizing information and communications technology to promote the country`s tourism wealth, he said.

He said Internet-based tourism services are more effective than conventional method of promoting tourist objects in the country as based on a survey around 400 million grown up people in the world use on-line media mainly social network like facebooks and twitter.

“That is why we are set to develop a solid tourism with a system called destination management organization (DMO), which is based on technology,” he said, adding, it is important to adopt DMO in tourism industry.

He said the ministry, therefore, is seeking to socialize e-tourism to all business players in the tourism industry through workshop. In Mataram a workshop on e-tourism is being held attended by around 30 business players in the tourism industry. The participants are shown how to utilize website and blog to promote the regions` tourism object mainly Mount Rinjani climbing.

“Promotion of Mount Rinjani will attract more mountaineers and visitors to this region,” Nasution said.

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Next from Stevie Wonder: A Gospel Tune in Arabic?

June 26 2013 Los Angeles (ANTARA News/CNA/AFP) – Soul music legend Stevie Wonder says hes toying with the idea of including a gospel song in Arabic on an upcoming album dedicated to his mother. "Gospel Inspired by Lula" is among several projects that Wonder, 63, has going right now, he told Rolling Stone in an interview posted Tuesday on the pop culture magazines website. “Were going to do some traditional gospel stuff, but Im thinking about doing a gospel song in Arabic,” he revealed.

“I`m going to twist it all up in different ways, because I think everyone needs to hear the word of the gospel … whether they read the Koran, the Torah or the Bible, whatever they read.”

Wonders mother, Lula Mae Hardaway, the daughter of a poor Alabama sharecropper, was credited as a co-writer on several of Wonders songs including “I Was Made to Love Her” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I`m Yours”. She died in Los Angeles in May 2006 at the age of 76.

“I promised her I would do it,” said Wonder, who hosted singer John Legend`s induction into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame on Saturday. “She always wanted me to do it before she passed away.”

Wonders other projects include a collaboration with Canadian producer David Foster that will see him recording both old and new material with a symphony orchestra. "All of these are coming out relatively soon," the entertainer said, "but I never put a time on things, because the most important thing is that its good.”

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Indonesia promotes Javanese culture in Frankfurt

June 26, 2013 London (ANTARA News) – Indonesian Consulate General in Frankfurt in cooperation with the Frankfurt University`s Southeast Asia Department, supported by Indonesian community in Frankfurt and its environs, conducted the Java Tag (Java Day) in the university, a spokesman said.

The Java Tag was aimed at promoting the Javanese culture by performing, among other things dances, pencak silat (martial arts), and batik workshop by a German batik expert, Annegret Haake, said Hendriek Yopin, spokesman of the Indonesian Consulate General in Frankfurt on Wednesday.

According to him, Indonesian consul general in Frankfurt Damos Agusman expressed his appreciation to the Java Tag`s organizers and hoped that such event can be held annually.

The Javanese “gamelan orchestra” also enlivened the Java Tag, Yopin said, adding that around 200 people of various nations attended the first-ever Java Tag in the German city of Frankfurt. In the meantime, Chairman of the Frankfurt University`s Southeast Asia Department, Prof. Dr. Arndt Graf also hoped that such Java Tag will take place again next year.

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CBE: Egypt balance-of-payments deficit down $9 bn in first 9 months of 2012/13

Ahram Online, 19 Jun 2013 – Egypt’s balance of payments deficit narrowed dramatically to $2.1 billion in the first nine months of the current 2012/13 fiscal year, down from $11.2 billion in the same period one year earlier, the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) announced on Wednesday.

According to the CBE, the period from July 2012 to March 2013 witnessed a 2.7-percent drop in the national trade deficit, which narrowed to $23.8 billion from a previous $24.5 billion as the value of exports increased from $19.1 billion to $19.8 billion. Total imports, meanwhile, remained at $43 billion.

The nine months to March 2013 were also marked by a 14-percent rise in tourism revenue as the number of tourist nights in Egypt increased by 14.1 percent. Suez Canal revenues, however, decreased by 3.9 percent during the same period to register $3.8 billion.

There was a marked decline in net outflows of portfolio investments in Egypt, meanwhile, as foreign investors turned away from Egyptian treasury bills, for which net sales declined from $3.9 billion to $14.7 million for the period. Foreign direct investment, however, picked up during the period, with net FDI inflows rising by $0.2 billion as net investment outflows in the oil sector in particular contracted and net inflows of greenfield investments declined.

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Otherwise Occupied: An alternative Palestine in Venice

Al-Ahram, 20 Jun 2013 – ‘Otherwise Occupied’, an exhibition made up of two projects by Palestine-born contemporary artists Aissa Deebi and Bashir Makhoul, runs until 30 June at the 55th Venice Biennale. Organised by Jerusalem-based art association Al-Hoash, the exhibition is one of 48 unofficial pavilions presented among 88 national pavilions at the international arts festival being held in Venice, Italy.

The two projects – ‘The Trial’ and ‘Giardino Occupato’ (Occupied Garden) – which make up the installation present alternative ways to view Palestine, raising questions about identity, nostalgia, and imagined spaces.

The first project, which takes its name from Franz Kafka’s famous novel, is a re-enactment of a historical text; a speech by Daoud Turki, a Palestinian poet and representative of an Arab-Jewish leftist group dubbed the Red Front, who was tried for treason in Haifa District Court, Palestine, in 1973 and subsequently jailed for 17 years. The Trial is a 15-minute cocktail of mediums; a cross between video art, performance, theatre and film.

Bashir Makhloul’s installation, Giardino Occupato, is an occupation of the garden at Liceo Artistico Statale di Venezia, in which visitors and volunteers participate in choreographing a set of buildings using thousands of cardboard boxes. This installation illustrates the performative act of occupation, which essentially entails physically filling a space.

The slightly playful installation of an occupied garden is intended to evoke the dwellings of refugees, and simulated venues where trainings of military personnel for urban fighting are conducted. They also allude to the stereotypical set design used in Hollywood productions or games to represent the typical “Arab village.”

Deebi (b.1969) is an artist and a scholar based in Cairo and New York, and Makhoul (b.1963) has been based in the UK for the past 20 years. Both artists have tackled themes of conflict, diaspora and exile in their work, reflecting their Palestinian heritage and their compound identities.

At a café in Cairo, a few days after he returned from Venice, Aissa Deebi talked to Ahram Online about The Trial. In Deebi’s video installation, actors Saleh Bakri, Amer Helehel, and Hanan Hillo, joined by the artist himself, re-enact a speech read by Daoud Turki in a Haifa courtroom in 1973, in which he makes a case for Arab nationalism.

“I wanted to go back to when utopia was possible in the 1970s,” explains Deebi. Back then, an anti-Zionist, Jewish-Arab leftist group led by Turki believed that communism was the answer for peace, and that it was the recipe for “utopia.” Deebi found it interesting to “revisit this moment in history and bring it back.”

Aesthetically, the artist has constructed the video in a manner evocative of a dream; the characters are engulfed in a dark black room, in solitude. The actors reading the speech are constantly interrupted by the slamming of cups of tea and water –a symbol for torture in prisons- on the table, as if perpetually yanking the audience out of their reveries. The speakers waver in conviction, and appear hesitant and melancholic. The uncertainty that pervades the 15-minute video is a harbinger of the torture, pain, solitude of the trial and ultimately, the failure of the movement.

The artist explains that this was one of the techniques he used to visually portray the idea that the dream of creating a movement of Arab nationalism or communism in the region had never actually been realised. “I wanted to show that the experience was never complete,” says Deebi. “They are constantly interrupted, so by the end of the 15 minutes, the actors do not actually deliver anything.”

Filmed using two cameras, the video plays out across two screens; “to show this kind of impossible utopia,” he says. The artist says he read 365 pages of research about this group. “What I thought was striking was that no one listened to them,” he said. In an attempt to toy with history, perhaps, Deebi creates a three-minute pinnacle in the video, where two “prisoners” read the speech in unison, and this joint reading becomes unavoidable; you cannot help but listen to it.

“I thought, it would be quite interesting to get you excited for three minutes, then you go back to normal,” he explains. Away from popular images of an occupied Palestine, Deebi provides the audience with an alternative view of the place. In essence, the project tries to reveal the way in which communism had created an ideological space. “The work deals with the idea of utopia,” he says. “It tackles a very crucial moment in history, takes a story that was hidden, and opens a new discourse to a new utopia.”

The artist shot The Trial, which bears a potent leftist slant, in Palestine, using Palestinian actors. Leftist culture is not a Middle Eastern concept, Deebi says with a smile. But this project is about “how ideology creates new imaginary spaces,” he explains.

The Kafka novel that The Trial takes its name from revolves around a man being tried for an unidentified crime, and prosecuted by an unspecified authority. The narrative is cruel, and seems to proceed in slow motion as the character and the reader feel fear and uncertainty.

While The Trial that Deebi presents is relatively fast paced, merely taking up 15 minutes, it bears similarities to Kafka’s trial. Both Deebi’s Turki and Kafka’s protagonist, Josef K., had to suffer through circular, seemingly never-ending ordeals. Another similarity is that Kafka’s novel was an unfinished work, much like Deebi’s illegible, incessantly interrupted version of Turki’s speech.

While the actions in the video appear calculated and precise, the artist says he wrote no rigid script, and gave the actors the freedom to improvise. “I’m not a filmmaker,” he professes. “Filmmaking is totally different from video art, which is done for an exhibition space not for the screen.”

Like most of his work, this project is autobiographical. The artist, who has leftist roots and views, decided to use a group with communist ideals, established in Haifa, the town he grew up in, as the subject for the artwork. Deebi says he focused on this group because they “saw the space differently.”

For him, living outside of Palestine has been liberating, in that it has allowed him to also, envision the space differently. “Living abroad, you see Palestine outside of Palestinian politics,” he explains. “I felt that maybe, I can look into my Palestinian-ship from a different perspective, if I am free, away,” he recalls. “When you don’t live there, you see Palestine from a different perspective. It’s critical, and it is romantic.”

As an artist born in Palestine, voluntarily uprooted from his home to study, work and teach in the UK, the US, Egypt, Mexico, and Thailand, among others, his artwork has naturally reflected his experienced of being an immigrant. His projects have dealt with feelings of alienation and displacement, as well as his Palestinian identity.

“My work is not only about Palestine, it’s also about my experience, and a large part of my identity is being Palestinian,” he says. Sometimes, the inevitable political undertones that seep through his life and work overwhelm Deebi. “Sometimes, I wish I could just be a landscape painter,” Deebi remembers telling a friend. Yet his compound identity is inescapable, and is mirrored in his artwork.

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Art Alert: Documentary screening on very different Egyptian female activists

Ahram Online, 25 Jun 2013 – The screening is part of the Cinema El Fourn activities, an outdoor cinema at the Darb 1718 premises that showcases independent films from Egypt and around the world. Darb collaborates with MAD Solutions, a Cairo-based company that specialises in public relations and marketing for the film and the entertainment industry.

Four Women of Egypt (1997) is a documentary that retells the story of friendship between four Egyptian women of different political and religious affiliations. The four women are prominent names on the scene of women activism in Egypt. Although their opinions collide, Amina Rached, Safynaz Kazem, Shahenda Mekled and Wedad Mitry accept their differences – a process they say strengthens their friendship.

Tahani Rached is an Egyptian filmmaker known for tackling sensitive societal issues. She’s also headed the documentary of street girls, El Banat Dol (Those Girls, 2007) and Soraida: Woman of Palestine (2004).

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‘Bangladesh to sign joint commission with Yunnan of China to promote tourism’

DHAKA, June 25, 2013 (BSS) – Bangladesh is to sign a joint commission soon with Yunnan (China) for development of the tourism industry between the two tourism-rich countries, Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Lt Col (retd) Faruk Khan said here today. “We’ll sign the joint commission soon with Chinese Yunnan to increase movement of tourists in Bangladesh…the commission can work towards joint tourism with Europe too,” Khan told a seminar at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel.

Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC) and the visiting 15-member Chinese Delegation jointly arranged the seminar on ‘Tourism in Bangladesh-China’. Deputy Director General of Yunnan Provential Tourism Development Commission (YPTDC) Chen Zhenlong, who led the delegation, also spoke on the occasion. Representatives from Chinese cities — Lijiang, Qujing, Zhaotong, Kunming and Dhali – are in the YPTDC delegation.

BPC Chairman Maksudul Hassan Khan, Charge d’Affaires of Chinese Embassy in Dhaka QU Guangzhou and Chairman of Tiger Tours Muith Cowdhury addressed the seminar as special guests.

Faruk Khan felt the necessity of regional connectivity of Bangladesh with China saying that the connectivity inside giant economy China and outside need to be improved. “We’ve been working to improve the regional connectivity to welcome more tourists’ movement to Bangladesh,” he said. He said China has proved that it is a trusted friend of Bangladesh due to the approval of duty-free and quota-free access of Bangladesh’s 7,000 products to the Chinese market few years back.

“Our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina believes that China to be one of our key development partners… there are lot of areas where we can strengthen our bilateral relationship,” said the minister.

YPTDC Deputy Director General Chen Zhenlong said Bangladesh has become an attractive outbound tourism destination for Chinese citizens, and the arrival of tourists has increased after introduction of the Kunming-Dhaka direct flight. He favoured Bangladesh’s durable cooperation with China for bilateral tourism. The tourism cooperation and exchanges between Yunnan province and Bangladesh will continue to be strengthened ahead, he hoped.

He formally invited tourism officials and traveling salespersons to attend the upcoming ‘2013 China International Travel Mart’ to be held in Kunming, Yunnan on October 24. QU Guangzhou of Chinese Embassy in Dhaka identified poor infrastructure and irksome traffic congestion as key hurdles to promote Dhaka-Beijing tourism.

Referring to the world’s longest sea beach Cox’s Bazar, the embassy official said “It takes eight hours to reach Cox’s Bazar form Dhaka. It would have been only an hour through bullet train if the unique beach was in China.” BPC Chairman stressed the need for closer partnership with Chinese eastern region including Yunnan province.

In doing so, he laid emphasized on two-way cultural exchange programme including more scholarships for Bangladeshi students.

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Azerbaijan-Kazakhstan business forum opens in Aktau

20 June 2013 – TODAY.AZ – An Azerbaijan-Kazakhstan business forum has today started in the Grand Nur Plaza Hotel, Aktau. Azerbaijan’s delegation at the event is led by Minister of Economic Development Shahin Mustafayev, while Minister of Economy and Budget Planning Yerbolat Dossayev heads Kazakhstan`s delegation. The business forum aims to expand relations between Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, particularly involve Azerbaijan in projects on free trade zone at the Aktau port on the Caspian Sea.

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Azerbaijani music by foreigners at Stanford University

21 June 2013 – AzerNews – A well-attended concert of Azerbaijani music was performed by the students of the course “Azerbaijani Music and Culture” of the Stanford University, which is one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

The students, guided by the course’s instructor and the outstanding Kamancha master Imamyar Hasanov, presented Azerbaijani Mughams “Chahargah” and “Heyrati” as well as Azerbaijani folk songs “Gubanin agh almasi”, “Sari Gelin” and “Lachin” accompanying on Azerbaijani music instruments Tar, Gaval, Ud, as well as on piano.

Furthermore, famous Azerbaijani Tar master Rufat Hasanov and Mugham singer Sabuhi Ibayev joined the concert via a video broadcast and played with the students various Azerbaijani songs. The concert was attended by Stanford students, faculty and staff, and had a huge success and received multiple standing ovations.

“Azerbaijani Music and Culture” course has been launched in the Music Department of the Stanford University in April 2013. It is the first course in the history of Stanford fully dedicated to Azerbaijani music and culture.

“We have an interest in increasing our offerings in non-Western music,” said Anna Schultz, an assistant professor of music (ethnomusicology). “It’s a treat and a privilege to work with a master musician like Imamyar Hasanov, who is at the top of his field. One of the things that is so wonderful about the World Music Festival is the innovative, multimedia approach they take toward presenting music and educating, and that is a phenomenal boon to our students and will really enrich their experience.”

During the course, the students have learned much about Azerbaijani culture, especially its rich musical culture, practical and theoretical aspects of Azerbaijani Mughams as well as practiced playing Azerbaijani music in various instruments.

Stanford University, founded in 1885, is recognized as one of the world’s leading research and teaching institutions, with one of the most renowned faculties in the nation. Research and teaching stresses interdisciplinary approaches to problem solving. Areas of excellence range from the humanities to social sciences to engineering and the sciences. Stanford is located in California’s Bay Area, USA, which is one of the most intellectually dynamic and culturally diverse areas of the world.

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Azerbaijan Art Festival reaches Azerbaijan’s Sheki city

25 June 2013 – AzerNews – The sixth art exhibition has opened at the State Art Gallery in one of Azerbaijan’s most beautiful cities, Sheki. The art exhibition, shown in the country’s regions within the Azerbaijan Art Festival-2013 project, is organized by the Baku Creative Center with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The exhibition features about 40 works.

During the opening ceremony it was noted that the main goal of the Azerbaijan Art Festival-2013 project is to increase public interest in art, to explore the existing potential and to support creative youth. On June 24 Erkin Alekberli, a participant of the project, will hold an art master class at Sheki Art School.

Participants of Azerbaijan Art Festival-2013 are Novruz Mammadov, Mammad Rashidov, Erkin Alekberli, Faraj Rahmanov, Gulnara Alinova, Bahruz Kangarli, Anar Huseynzade, Alekber Mammadov, Anar Ismayilzade, Lala Aghayeva, Mehriban Efendi, Gunel Ravilova, Ayten Shirzadova, Pernisa Asgerova and Aysel Amirova.

The Azerbaijan Art Festival-2013 project envisions arranging mobile exhibitions and master classes in the cities including the capital Baku as well as regions of the country. Earlier, Salyan, Saatli, Shirvan, Kurdamir, and Mingachevir hosted the mobile exhibitions and master classes. Gakh, Ismayilli, Khachmaz and Sumgayit are the following destinations.

The main purpose of the Baku Creative Center is to promote Azerbaijani culture beyond the country, to formulate a PR strategy for the realization of advanced ideas and to help people materialize their creative ideas. The general sponsor of the event is Nar Mobile cellular operator. Trend Life provides media support for the event.

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Days of Azerbaijani Culture to happen in U.S in 2014

26 June 2013 – TODAY.AZ – The United States will host the Days of Azerbaijani Culture next year as Paul Michael Taylor, Director of the Smithsonian Institution Department of Anthropology, Asian Cultural History Program, is on a visit to Baku to discuss preparatory issues. The visit is taking place under a cooperation program with the Nizami Ganjavi International Center. Among other issues the visit saw Mr. Taylor discuss the possible opening of the Washington branch of the Nizami Ganjavi International Center.

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“Carpet revolution” by Iran

27 June 2013 – AzerNews – For the first time in the world, Iran has invented an anti-stain carpet, without using nanotechnology, Fars news agency reported. The carpet has been invented by Ali Jadi in the Iran’s city of Kashan. The carpet is resistant to oil, water, acids. “I have invented a special carpet-weaving machine, that is able to weave 4,800 meters of carpet in a day,” Jadi said, without revealing any details of the machine.

In May, IRNA news agency reported that Iran earned about $400 million in 11 months of the past calendar year (started on March 21) for exporting domestically made carpets to various countries. The director of Iran’s National Carpet Center, Mohammad Bagher Alikhani said that Iran earned the above mentioned revenue from carpet exports to 70 countries. “45 percent of overall carpet exports went to Asian countries, 43 percent to the European countries,” he said.

Alikhani added that because the sanctions did not affect Iran’s carpet exports too much, Iranian carpets are now known all over the world. Further on he said that currently Iran is exporting its carpets to China and Brazil, while possibilities of exports to South Africa and Vietnam are being considered.

He also added that about 8 million people in Iran (about 10 percent of the overall population) are involved in the carpet industry in the country. In February, the managing director of the Iran Handmade Carpet Producers Cooperative, Abdollah Bahrami said that Iranian handmade carpet exports showed a 17 percent decrease in the first 11 months of the current Iranian calendar year in comparison to the same period of last year.

Last year, Iran exported $500 million worth of handmade carpets.

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Doha to host international conference on Qur’an contemplation

Doha, Tuesday, 16 Shaaban 1434/25 June 2013 (IINA) – The first international Conference on Contemplating the Qur’an will be held in the Qatari capital of Doha on July 2.

Prominent scholars and thinkers in Qur’anic topics will take part in the conference to discuss how to coordinate efforts to revive Qur’anic teachings in society, alQuran.ma website reported. The event is organized by the World Society for Quran Contemplation in cooperation with Qatar’s Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, Tadabbur (contemplation) Studies Center, Imam Shtaebi Quranic Studies Foundation and Ajadeh Qur’anic Center. Titled “Contemplating the Qur’an and tts role in the life of Islamic Ummah”, the conference also aims to discuss ways to use contemplating the Qur’an in promotion of peace and spreading awareness about the issues of contemporary Muslim world.

“Contemplating the Qur’an, meaning, objective, and method”, “role of Qur’an contemplation in progress of Muslim Ummah” and “contemplating the Qur’an, and means for investigating contemporary issues” will be the main themes of the gathering. There will also be sideline forums on “role of media in promoting the concept of contemplating the Qur’an”, and “plans and methods for promotion of the culture of contemplating the Qur’an”. Those interested can refer to www.tadabbor.com website to get further information about the conference.

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India’s biggest rail tunnel opened in Kashmir

Banihal, Kashmir, 18 Shaaban 1434/ 27 June 2013 (IINA) – Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday opened the country’s longest railway tunnel during a rare visit to troubled Indian Kashmir, which has been marred by one of the deadliest militant attacks on soldiers in years. Singh inaugurated a stretch of line that runs through the 11-kilometer (6.8 mile) long tunnel, part of an ambitious multi-year railway project in the region, as he wrapped up his first visit to the region in three years.

“It took seven years to complete,” Singh said of this section of the project, during a speech in the town of Banihal, some 110 kilometers from the main city of Srinagar. It is the first time the premier has visited the Indian-controlled part of the divided Himalayan territory — which has been the scene of two wars with Pakistan — since June 2010 and comes less than a year before India goes to the polls.

The tunnel and railway stretch have been added to a train line running through the valley, part of a 20-billion-rupee ($470-million) project that will eventually link Kashmir to the rest of India’s vast railway network. Sections of the track have been drilled through the Himalayan mountains, and Singh said it was a “national dream” to link Kashmir with the network by 2018.

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Kyrgyzstan to build Bishkek-Osh highway

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-06-18 BISHKEK – The Kyrgyz government is discussing the construction of a Bishkek-Osh highway connecting the country’s south and north. The existing highway between the cities was poorly built and is unable to meet traffic needs, Nikolai Chuikov, an analyst with the government’s economic and strategic development unit, said.

“The new road is to go through mountainous areas where there are no roads at all and where construction of new hydro-power stations, big and small, is planned,” he said. The road also will link Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev told the National Council on Sustainable Development in May. The second highway will also serve as an alternative route, Chuikov said.

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

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

But others said the link is too vital to put off, and other countries have expressed support for the upgrade. “I can tell you in advance: Kazakhstan is ready to support this project,” Atambayev said told the National Council in May. And the interest goes beyond Central Asia, as Japan has conducted preliminary talks with Kyrgyzstan about helping with financing.

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

“To be able to attract investment, we will need a very good feasibility study,” Chuikov said. Once the feasibility study is complete, Kyrgyzstan will present the project to the Japanese government, Satybaldiyev said. Kyrgyzstan also will also be able to use that study to borrow from the Asian Development Bank and World Bank, he added.

Having money is not enough, Transport and Communications Ministry Secretary of State Maksatbek Dyykanov said. “We need to find a conscientious road-building company.” Pavement on some sections of the Bishkek-Naryn-Torugart highway already has cracked, Dyykanov said, accusing the foreign company of neglecting its contractual obligations.

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

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

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

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

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

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Turkey aims to reach 48.5 million tourists

ANKARA/ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency – Turkey aims to reach around 48.5 million tourists annually between 2014 and 2018, a 4.6 percent increase over the 2007-2012 period, and increase tourism income per visitor $932, a 2.3 percent increase, in accordance with the targets in the latest economic development plan. Tourism representatives say Turkey could easily reach these targets as soon as the negative outlook resulting from the countrywide antigovernment protests and harsh police action recovers.

The new economic development plan sets a series of strategies to reach the mentioned targets, such as more investments in winter tourism, cruise tourism, gold tourism and culture tourism. The number of foreign tourists who visited Turkey between 2007 and 2012 increased by 8.2 percent annually, providing $29.4 billion yearly revenue.

The Gezi Park protests have however cost Istanbul tourism 54.7 million euros, as almost 216,000 overnight stay reservations have been canceled since the beginning of the incidents, although the tourism in Anatolian cities has not affected yet, according to a report released by Turkey’s Touristic Hotels and Investors Association (TUROB).

“If Turkey could give the message that things are normal now, I believe we, as tourism representatives, will not be affected negatively. I can say that the incidents have calmed down. The tourism sector can easily suffer from any social or economic incidents, but Turkey’s tourism sector has the capacity to overcome such crises,” TUROB President Timur Bayındır said.

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Old Istanbul hamam to host art project

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News – As a parallel event of the 13th Istanbul Biennial and part of Meating – Italian Excellences program, Istanbul’s Kuçük Mustafa Paşa Hamam will host an installation by Roman artist Angelo Bucarelli.

From Sept. 15 to Oct. 13, the oldest Ottoman Turkish bath of Istanbul, Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hamamı (1477), will host “Water. Like Tears of Love,” the site-specific installation by Roman artist Angelo Bucarelli, curated by Laura Barreca. It is the main event of the Italian cultural program in Istanbul, as Italian Ambassador in Turkey, Gianpaolo Scarante said at the presentation of “Orizzonti Italiani.”

The installation is organized as a parallel event of the 13th Istanbul Biennial and it is part of the Meating – Italian Excellences program. The title “Water. Like Tears of Love” is freely inspired by a verse written by Tursun Bey, Ottoman historian and poet at the court of Mehmet II, also called Fatih, in which he shows his emotion in front of the abundance of water and gardens in the newly conquered Constantinople.

Continuing his research on the concepts of identity and words as the basis for human beings’ fundamental needs to relate to their peers, Bucarelli discovered in water the essence of Byzantium / Constantinople / Istanbul’s identity and chose it as the focus of his artistic intervention.

“Water is the existence and the essence of Istanbul. From the water and through it, it was born. It gave the power, lost and then regained. Through the water Istanbul fed on other civilizations repaying them with its intelligence and beauties. In its lack of water within the walls, it found genius and development. As thought the water seeps and springs, escapes and disappears. It gives growth and death. Like the tears of love it joins together and separates,” the artist says.

As a location, Bucarelli chose one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, Cibali and Fatih, and an old hamam, the epicenter and the symbol of social civilization, where water is a protagonist. He involved the local community and handicrafts to expand the role of his art. As usual for him, his work refers to different materials such as iron, glass, as well as fabrics and embroidery, integrating them all with photography, his passion. The light that penetrates the hamam from the openings of the dome, the largest one among all public baths, gives rise to bright lively colors and silences that will be the intimate, yet spectacular, counterpoint to the ancient walls and spicy flavors of eastern markets.

The Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hamamı is a beautiful complex, which was closed in the 90s and the subject of a meticulous restoration project. It was built in 1477 during the reign of Fatih Sultan Mehmet, 24 years after the conquest of Byzantium by the Ottomans.

It is located in the Cibali in Fatih area, the most ancient part of Istanbul, between Sultanahmet and the Byzantine walls, a short walk from the south coast of the Golden Horn. Cibali and Fatih are neighborhoods full of authenticity, the subject of rediscovery and renovation; in this context, Bucarelli’s project acts as the main catalyst for a new awareness of the cultural richness of a part of Istanbul still poorly known.

During the exhibition, meetings, lectures and workshops will study in depth the themes suggested by the artist, as well as the value of the building and neighborhood in which it stands.

The Küçükmustafa Paşa Hamamı, which dates back to the 15th century, with the high central dome, the discreet niches, the circular and welcoming spaces, hosts in the main chamber that traditionally marks the entrance of men, a semicircular structure that interacts with the architecture. The installation “Rain of Glass Words” will recreate the form of a large globe, from which hang, like drops of water, precious Murano glass sculptures that repeat the Ottoman calligraphy.

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