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22 Jul, 2013

Visually Impaired Indian Student Memorises Holy Quran Through Braille

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 22 July 2013 (14 Ramadan 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



Ramadan Mubarak. May the Almighty accept all our sacrifices and prayers during this Holy month.



Visitors to Malaysia will now be able to download a free application for their smart phones that puts a complete guide of Malaysia in the palm of their hand. This application called “The Malaysia Trip Planner” gives travellers personalised, inspiring and practical information on Malaysia, and all you can see and do. Its main features include: Detailed information on local attractions to explore; A complete schedule of events; A description of places and must-see attractions; A nifty way of planning your itinerary. Dato’ Mirza Mohammad Taiyab, Director General of Tourism Malaysia says, “Mobile platforms are an excellent way to showcase a country’s diverse tourism offerings. Tourism Malaysia is proud to launch this mobile app to meet the demands of today’s travellers.” The app organises travel plans into an itinerary that has all of the visitor’s trip details in one place. Moreover, it provides extensive information on Malaysia’s various attractions and enables quick and easy sharing with friends via Facebook and Twitter. “The app was designed to create a portable, engaging, motivational experience for users. It’s a great tool to enhance the experience of exploring Malaysia,” says Zaleha Asmahan, Director of IT Department of Tourism Malaysia. The ‘Malaysia Trip Planner’ app is available for use on iPhone and Android phones in their respective app stores.

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.





Visually Impaired Indian Student Memorises Holy Quran Through Braille

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, Kerala state, India July 20 (NNN-PTI) — A visually impaired student in a leading Islamic studies centre in southern India has memorised the Holy Quran in the Braille script.

Twenty-one-year-old Twaha Mahboob’s feat is being considered as rare by Islamic scholars. Mahboob is a student of Tahfeelul Quran under Ma’din Academy in Malappuram district of Kerala state.

Mahboob came in for praise from a gathering scholars and students when he recited verses from the Quran at a conference on the campus recently. Though it is not rare for blind people to memorise Quran, learning the holy text through the Braille script is rare.

“Visually impaired persons normally learn Quran by listening to a recital by instructors. But it is a rare case when somebody memorises the holy book entirely with the help of Braille,” an Islamic scholar told PTI. Mahboob took three years to memorise the Quran with all its 114 Surahs (chapters) and 6666 verses and he can now recall and explain any verse in any part of the holy book.

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Syrian artist reproduces entire Holy Quran in embroidered calligraphy

July 20, 2013 Gulf News – Dubai: It’s unique, it’s magical and it’s monumental. A Syrian businessman in his 50s has come up with a new form of art that’s a blend of calligraphy and embroidery and, interestingly, he has used his skills to script the world’s first Quran entirely in embroidery.

Without the aid of technology or any margins and lines, Mohammad Mahir Hadri uses an ordinary sewing machine, silk yarn, velvet sheets and his extremely skilful hands to create Arabic words, verses from the Quran and calligraphic designs.

Currently exhibiting his works at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, as part of the Dubai International Holy Quran Awards (DIHQA) exhibition, Hadri’s work has attracted a lot of attention and acclaim.

“This is the first time I’m exhibiting the entire Quran. Previously my works have been exhibited in several countries but only in parts. I’m really grateful to Almighty Allah for bestowing this talent on me which I could use in His cause,” said Hadri of his unique ability.

From two-metre long frames displaying chapters of the Quran and wall hangers with words of wisdom to scrolls and booklets containing selections of the Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) sayings, Hadri has come up with a wide range of work that demonstrate his skills. But the tome of all his efforts is the 12-volume reproduction of the Quran done in embroidery and velvet that took eight years to make.

“I realised my potential around 14 years ago and started creating small items like wall hangers, scrolls and booklets. When friends and family saw the work they appreciated and encouraged me to do more. I thought there was no better thing to try my skills with than the words of Allah and hence I began my work on reproducing the Quran,” said the artist, who ran an embroidery and garments business before the war broke out in Syria.

A trained calligrapher and embroider, Hadri creates his works in five popular scripts – Diwani, Sulus, Riqah, Naskh and Osmani – and he has done his magnum opus in the Osmani script which is the most popular of all.

The embroidered Quran contains 426 pages, weighs 200 kilogrammes and is worth 5 million euros (Dh24 million). The artwork, which is verified for authenticity and approved by three government-appointed Syrian scholars, is the only copy of the Quran in the world done in this unique style and Hadri is willing to offer it to any interested art lover.

“I created it because I wanted to do something new and different and I spent my own money to fund the project. My idea was not to sell it when I created it but if anybody is willing to offer its true worth, I may think of striking a deal,” said Hadri, who also sells small items he has created such as scrolls, booklets and wall hangers.

Asked if he is planning to impart his talent to others who are willing to learn, he said: “What I have is a gift from Allah. The work requires a lot of hard work, patience and dedication and it won’t be easy for anybody to learn but if somebody is willing then why not.”

The artwork, along with a live demonstration of Hadri’s skills can be seen at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce every day between 10pm and 12 midnight until the end of this month.

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Filipino uses Ramadan to build school out of bottles

Dubai, Saturday, 04 Ramadan 1434/ 13 July 2013 (IINA) – A music store employee with a plan to build affordable schools in Guatemala will be using Ramadan as a time to prepare for his charity mission by selling as much stock as possible.

Jonathan Defante, a 24-year-old Filipino who works for Virgin Megastores in JBR, was nominated as a United Nations Citizens Ambassador in 2011 based on his vision to build schools out of recycled bottles filled with non-biodegradable waste, The National newspaper reported.

The idea calls for hooking the bottles onto chicken wire before covering them with plaster. “Most classrooms in my country and Guatemala don’t look like classrooms,” he said. “In my country, they usually conduct classes under a tree because schools can’t accommodate every child. Many of the rural areas don’t get the government support the cities do and the schools are very poorly maintained,” he explained. This month, Virgin Megastores will be donating five per cent of book sales to his bid to raise $6,500 for the school and funding for his flight to Guatemala.

Defante will work with a charity called Hug it Forward when he gets to the Central American republic, where the UN says 58 per cent of people live in extreme poverty. “Hug It Forward builds a new school that can be sustained,” he said. The charity also gets the community involved in the building, which making them feel a part of the project.

“This means the kids are more motivated to go to school as they feel as sense of attachment. Most schools are many miles from the homes of these kids in both Guatemala and the Philippines so non-attendance is very common.” Varto Basmajian, head of music, video and books at Virgin Megastore, said Ramadan was the ideal opportunity to show support for Mr Defante’s cause.

“We’re very proud of Jonathan and his initiative. You don’t see many young guys doing these kinds of things,” said Mr Basmajian. “He’s been working on this for around a year now and we wanted to help him achieve this. Ramadan is the month of giving so it makes sense to use this time to help his project.”

Once he has built the school in Guatemala, Mr Defante hopes to make the idea work back at home. Unicef has estimated that 12.8 million children under the age of 15 live in poverty in the Philippines – a number that is rising. “My dream is to take this to the Philippines once I’ve been to Guatemala and gained the experience on how to organize such communities,” he said. “The main challenge in both countries is getting the government support.”

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Dhaka’s 100-year old Iftar market comes alive during Ramadan

DHAKA, July 19 (Xinhua) — There is a festive atmosphere before sundown in Chawkbazar market here as makeshift stall owners and itinerant vendors sell food items to customers during the month of Ramadan.

Every day since the beginning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a time for Muslims to abstain from eating, drinking and other sensual pleasures from sunrise to sunset which began in Bangladesh on July 11, thousands of people from all walks of life have been crowding the market to buy food items for Iftar, the evening meal when Muslims break their fast.

The market, located in old Dhaka’s Chawkbazar area, carries more than hundred-year-old tradition of being Dhaka’s largest and most popular market for items for Iftar. In the afternoon of each day during the Ramadan, makeshift shops in the Chawkbazar market sell unique and traditional Iftar items like giant slices of beef, chicken roasts, marinated minced meat and mutton.

Various types of seasonal fruit and local drinks are also being sold at the Chawkbazar market. To dwellers in this old part of the city, it is part of their family tradition to buy every day at least a few Iftar items from this market.

Najmul Islam, one customer who religiously follows the family tradition, told Xinhua that without an item from Chawkbazar, his family does not feel like having Ifter. “I come here every afternoon to buy some delicious Iftar items since this is already a part of our heritage,” said Islam.

Hundreds of Iftar sellers display a great variety of items, almost all of them taken from beef, mutton and chicken.

Ali Akbar, a middle-aged stall owner, said that his family has been selling Iftar food items for several generations now.

Akbar sells the most popular Iftar delicacy, locally called Boro Baper Polay Khay, a mixture of chickpeas, beef-mutton brains, minced-meat, potato, flattened rice, eggs, chicken, spices and butter. “I have to deal with about 300 customers every day. I can sell Iftars worth more than 30,000 takas (about 400 U.S. dollars) a day,” Akbar said.

Chawkbazar is also well known for fried snacks locally called Beguni (Fried Eggplant Fritters), Piaju (onion lentil fritter), Alur Chop (Potato Fritters), and other Muslim delicacies.

Haji Abdullah, another makeshift shop owner, said that this year’s business is better than last year. He said that despite an increase in the price of almost all the items, their sales did not go down.

Abdullah said that their customers come to their stall every Ramadan because their Iftar items are of high quality besides being delicious.

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Maldives invites bids for development of resorts on six islands

Sun.mv – July 15, 2013 – The Ministry of Tourism has announced the public tendering for the lease and development of tourist resorts on six islands. The islands are Noonu Kunnamala, Raa Kudafushi, Raa Fasmendhoo, Thaa Vanabadhi, Thaa Kani, Gaafu Alifu Dhigudhoo and Seenu Ismehela Hera.

Ismehela Hera was also included in the three the islands for which the ministry invited bids in April. The ministry did not say why Ismehela Hera was included in the list again.

Tourism Ministry said that the islands will be leased for a period of fifty years, and interested parties may purchase the bidding documents from the ministry from today until Sunday, 28 July 2013. The announcement states that a pre-bid meeting to provide information for interested parties shall be held at 12:00 hrs on Sunday, 22 July 2013.

Tourism Ministry invited expression of interest for Meemu Madifushi, Gaafu Alifu Keradhdhoo and Seenu Ismehela Hera in April. Seven parties expressed interest for the development of tourist resorts in these islands. It is not known how many of them were given the opportunity to submit proposals.

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Trans Sumatra road project to be accelerated to improve connectivity

July 16 2013 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Sumatra is one of Indonesia’s significant economic gates given the fact that its location is very strategic and the island is rich in natural resources.

The island which spans more than 1700 km and is about 473,606 sq. km, is the second largest in Indonesia after Kalimantan and the sixth largest island in the world after Greenland, New Guinea, Kalimantan, Madagascar and Baffin Island (Canada).

Having ten provinces, namely Lampung, South Sumatra, Bangka Belitung, Jambi, Bengkulu, West Sumatra, North Sumatra, Riau, Aceh Darussalam, and Riau Islands, Sumatra is among the country`s major producers of palm oil, rubber, coal, tin, steel, liquified natural gas (LNG) and oil.

Therefore, Sumatra has been designated as a “center for production and processing of natural resources and as the nations energy reserve" in the first economic corridor of Indonesias Masterplan for Economic Development Expansion and Acceleration (MP3EI).

Of the total investment required for the MP3EIs six corridors amounting Rp. 4,012 trillion, the Sumatra Corridor will receive Rp. 714 trillion (18 percent of the total investment) and almost half of the funds will be used for infrastructure projects such as the constructions of highways and railway lines which are crucial to improve the connectivity of Sumatras cities.

Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Hatta Radjasa said the government has decided to speed up the implementation of Trans Sumatra toll road construction that will connect all provinces in Sumatra island.

The 2,700 kilometers-long road will cover 23 routes and connect the ten provinces starting from Aceh in the northern-most of Sumatra to Lampung in the south, the minister said. He added that state-owned contractor PT Hutama Kaya will be in charge of building the whole construction of the toll road which will cost around Rp300 trillion.

“The government decides to accelerate the construction of Trans Sumatra toll road which is expected to start this September. The government has allocated Rp2 Trillion from the State Budget to finance the first phase of the project,” Minister Rajasa said after chairing a coordinating meeting on the development of Trans Sumatra Toll Road and Sunda Strait Bridge projects in Jakarta, on July 11, 2013.

The first phase of the Trans Sumatra Toll Road project, which will be built starting September this year, will cover four routes expanding 323.8 km long. The four routes are Medan-Binjai route (16.8 km), Pekan Baru-Dumai route (135 km), Indralaya-Palembang route (22 km) and Bakauheni-Terbanggi Besar route (150 km).

The funds allocated for the construction of the four routes will be amounting to Rp31.5 trillion, consisting of Rp2 trillion for the construction of Medan-Binjai route, Rp14.7 trillion for Pekan Baru-Dumai route, Rp1 trillion for Indralaya-Palembang route, and Rp13.8 trillion for Bakauheni-Terbanggi Besar route.

“The Medan-Binjai route is the first and urgent one that will be constructed soon,” the minister said, adding that the other urgent routes are Riau-Kualanamo, and Palembang-Lampung.

The Trans Sumatra toll road has been stipulated in the Presidential Regulation No.86/2011 on the Strategic Area Development and Sunda Strait Infrastructure. The Presidential Regulation contains those who will handle the project, with the requirements stating among other things that it will be done by state-owned enterprises whose shares are 100 percent owned by the government.

State Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan said that the groundbreaking ceremony of Trans Sumatra toll road project`s first phase is expected to be held in late September 2013.

“It will be decided soon, if possible the groundbreaking will be in late September,” Minister Dahlan Iskan said after attending the coordinating meeting. The toll road will not use existing roads and will not need relocation of houses, according to Subagyo, a director at the public works ministry.

The cost will be cheaper as it would use lands belonging to state plantations and unused lands, Subagyo added. “Plantation companies would be more than eager to offer a small part of their land for the project as it would greatly facilitate the transport of their commodities,” he said.

Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto said a feasibility study on the Trans Sumatra toll road project has been completed.

“The feasibility study has been done and we find out that all sections of the road are economically feasible but not financially feasible,” Minister Djoko Kirmanto said. For the long term, however, the toll road, which is expected to be fully ready by 2025, will significantly help boost Sumatra`s economic development, the minister stated.

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Arabic domain boost for internet users

Gulf Daily News – 16 July, 2013 – Arabic speaking Internet users around the world will be the first to experience the next evolution of the Internet, it has emerged.

This comes after Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the global regulator of web addresses, officially entered into a contract with dotShabaka Registry for the world’s first Arabic new top-level domain (TLD).

Surpassing almost 1,900 other applicants from around the world, dotshabaka, which translates to .web in English, will provide Arabic speaking Internet users with an alternative to non-Arabic Internet namespaces such as dotcom, dotnet and dotorg. The domain will be available within a few months to everyone wanting an Arabic online presence.

Bahrain-based information technology expert Dr Jassim Haji said it is an unprecedented and huge step toward effective Arabisation.

“dotShabaka with the Arabic TLD will enable a true Arabic experience in a previously English-dominated realm, and open a new door for people not conversant in English,” he told the GDN. “Moreover, this will be a good opportunity for people to buy their own and local domains, especially with unique Arabic letters that are not available in English such as dh, kh and a’a.

“And from a marketing perspective, this is more appealing to the wide body of Arabic-speaking business customers and easier to address. After all, Arabic is the fourth most spoken language in the world,” Dr Haji added.

“It will have a global audience, with over 20 countries in the Middle East and North Africa which use Arabic as an official language – a region that comprises over 380 million people,” dotShabaka Registry general manager Yasmin Omer said.

“dotShabaka Registry’s vision is to build an Internet that facilitates end-to-end communication and collaboration for every user utilising only their native tongue,” Ms Omer said.

Joining dotShabaka Registry in this opportunity is GoDaddy, the world’s largest domain name and web hosting provider.

“The dotshabaka domain name extension marks a meaningful change for the Arabic Internet, with tremendous opportunities for new businesses to grow and flourish in the Arabic language,” GoDaddy chief executive Blake Irving said.

“This partnership between our two companies is in line with our strategy to expand the GoDaddy brand into international markets and is a significant step in the Internet’s evolution,” he added.

dotShabaka Registry is seeking local partners and is ready to work closely with businesses within the region to promote local participation, a statement said. The company has contracted ARI Registry Services for the provision of software and infrastructure systems.

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GCC hotel revenue poised to hit $ 25 billion by 2016

Khaleej Times – 19 July, 2013 – Hotel revenue in the GCC is expected to soar to $ 25 billion by 2016 from $ 17.83 billion in 2011, driven by a projected surge in international tourist arrivals.

At a compound annual growth rate of 6.93 per cent, the revenue jump reflects the region’s steadily improving business prospects as well as leisure tourist demand, Kuwait Financial Centre, or Markaz, said in its GCC Hospitality report.

The average occupancy rate for GCC, which was 68 per cent for the year 2012, is expected to reach an average occupancy of 73 per cent by 2016, said the report.

“The GCC is home to high percentage of luxury hotels and its pipeline is also dominated by many high profile projects,” it said.

STR Global in its Construction Pipeline Report for June 2013 said that the Middle East/Africa hotel development pipeline comprises of 491 hotels totalling 120,795 rooms.

Dubai, region’s key market reported the largest number of rooms under construction with 10,391 rooms. Five other markets reported more than 1,000 rooms under construction: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (5,598 rooms); Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (3,727 rooms); Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (2,213 rooms); Cairo, Egypt (1,744 rooms); and Amman, Jordan (1,547 rooms).

Markaz report said the Average Daily Rent (ADR) for the year 2012 is estimated at $ 204, which is relatively on the higher side in comparison with other regions. “While issues like political unrest and oversupply affected the OR and ADR in the past, the forecast for both these metrics is positive with increasing business as well as leisure tourist demand.”

The report argued that although there were several growth factors driving the hospitality industry in the GCC, international tourism has to be the most significant one.

“The GCC region is home to some of the finest hotels in the world and people visit the region for niche tourism offerings such as cultural, religious tourism as well as sports and event based tourism. The region is increasingly seen as a Mice destination.

“The improving economic condition, government’s support to the private sector, the strategic location of the GCC as an ideal transit point along with the better reach from the airline industry fosters well for the hospitality industry,” said the report.

Markaz pointed out that skewed supply of hotel rooms towards upscale and luxury segment is a key trend in the hotel industry. “These hotels provide services including spa and gymnasium facilities for which the demand is on the rise. Also, some of the big international hotel chains are increasingly showing willingness to form tie-ups with local players and the latter are being recognized for their remarkable and novel services. Service apartments have grown in the GCC region with the rise of business travellers and expatriates who look for longer stays at reasonable prices.”

The report, however, cautioned that the possibility of a negative shift in the socio-economic and political instability of countries in the Middle East could impact the revenues of the region’s hospitality industry. Other issues like oversupply in countries like UAE, Qatar and some parts of Saudi Arabia affected the OR and ADR values in the region.

“The high employee turnover and the labour laws in the region are a cause of concern for the hoteliers. The rising cost of construction coupled with stringent lending policies is some of the other key challenges in the industry,” it said.

Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi hotels posted significant growth in gross operating profit per available room (GOPPAR) this year, the latest HotStats survey reveals.

Tourist arrivals in the UAE are forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.3 per cent between 2012 and 2022, with hotel supply also expected to increase from the current 96,992 hotel rooms in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, to a total of 125,383 hotel rooms in 2016.

The latest Ernst & Young Middle East Hotel Benchmark Survey shows that Dubai’s hospitality market witnessed positive growth on all key performance indicators through the first quarter 2013 compared to the same period last year. During 2012, approximately 3,500 new branded hotel rooms were added to Dubai’s hotel supply.

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Flydubai to start Madinah flights on July 25

Arab News – 19 July, 2013 – Dubai-based carrier flydubai will begin operating flights to Madinah on July 25, making it the 65th destination for the airline and 15th addition this year.

Ghaith Al-Ghaith, flydubai’s CEO, said: “Ramadan is a perfect time to start flights to Madinah and we are most grateful to Saudi authorities for their support and assistance in enabling us to establish a direct air link from Dubai.”

Flights to Madinah will operate between Terminal 2 of Dubai International and Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz Airport in Madinah. The new route will provide GCC residents and pilgrims from the region with fast and convenient access to Madinah.

“At the same time, the new route will benefit Madinah residents who may wish to visit friends and family during the last two weeks of Ramadan or spend Eid Al-Fitr in the UAE,” Al-Ghaith was quoted as saying in a statement.

The airline already operates flights to Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Abha, Qassim, Hail, Tabuk, Yanbu and Taif in the Kingdom.

Return fares from Dubai to Medina start at SR 1,230 and return fares from Medina to Dubai start at SR 1,250. Fares include one piece of hand luggage weighing up to 7kg and one small laptop bag or handbag. Extra luggage allowance can be purchased on flydubai’s website.

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Air Seychelles, Etihad Airways expand codeshare to Kuwait

Khaleej Times – 19 July, 2013 – Air Seychelles, the national airline of the Republic of Seychelles, recently announced an expansion of its codeshare partnership with Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, for travel to Kuwait over Abu Dhabi.

The newly added codeshare destination will see Air Seychelles and Etihad Airways offer 10 seamless return flights per week from Kuwait to the Seychelles, including a daily service. The agreement will see Air Seychelles place its ‘HM’ code on Etihad Airways flights between Kuwait and Abu Dhabi.

Cramer Ball, chief executive officer of Air Seychelles, said: “We are thrilled to offer Kuwait to the traveling public, thanks to our equity partner Etihad Airways. Kuwait is one of the richest per capita countries in the world and home to a growing and developing outbound leisure market. Guests can now purchase flights to Kuwait on one ticket, making for a simpler and more seamless journey.”

“Visitor arrivals from the Gulf are up 23 per cent from last year, so it is natural we should target the region for expansion. We are confident these new flights, with sub-two hour connectivity over Abu Dhabi, will stimulate further growth from the region, providing a new source of revenue for the airline as well as the local tourist economy,” added Ball.

Jöel Morgan, minister for home affairs and transport and chairman of the Air Seychelles Board, said: “With this latest addition, Air Seychelles now offers codeshare flights to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman for a collective 64 connections per week to the Gulf Region, bolstering the visibility of both our national carrier and the Seychelles in one of the fastest growing markets to our archipelago.”

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‘Zamzam is best water on earth’

Arab News – 17 July, 2013 – Makkah’s Zamzam Well has the best drinking water on the face of the earth. Pilgrims at the Grand Mosque make sure they drink as much as possible and buy containers to take home to friends and family.

There is abundant Zamzam water despite huge consumption by Haj and Umrah pilgrims over the years. The water was a gift from Allah to Prophet Ismail, peace be upon them, when he cried of thirst as his mother Hajar looked for water by running between the hillocks of Safa and Marwa.

She did this until Allah, in His graciousness, ensured that water started gushing out from under his feet, and Hajar started moving the sand to protect the water, saying “Zamzam, Zamzam, Zamzam, Zamzam,” according to a report carried by the Saudi Press Agency.

Since then, it has become a tradition to protect the well, to ensure it continues to supply residents, pilgrims and visitors.

This is the function today of the project set up by King Abdullah in the Kadi area in Makkah. The project provides 5,000 cubic meters of Zamzam water and 200,000 plastic 10-liter containers on a daily basis. The plant was built at a cost of SR 700 million in Ramadan 2010 and has 42 distribution points running from its headquarters. As a result, Zamzam water containers are available on a 24-hour basis.

The project’s state-of-the-art system can produce up to 5 million liters of water through a linear filter. It has a principal storage tank with a capacity of 10 million liters, with four pumps to the Grand Mosque’s square through a 200 mm stainless steel line.

The production factory was built on 13,405 square meters and consists of several buildings with air compressors, a warehouse and production lines. It has 10MW electrical generators and works on the SCAD system, which allows for control and monitoring of all phases of the project including pumping water from the well and packaging.

The project also has a central warehouse with air conditioning and warning and fire systems worth SR 75 million. There are 15 levels of storage and distribution of 1.5 million 10-liter containers. The factory is linked through lines and bridges to ensure easier production and distribution between buildings.

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Metro system to lead facelift of Madinah

Arab News – 18 July, 2013 – Madinah will have a major facelift shortly as plans have been made for its comprehensive development by implementing a number of projects including a metro system to meet the requirements of the city’s growing population and visitors.

Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman held talks with Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf along with Madinah Development Authority’s council members to develop the city’s public transport system.

“The governor has instructed to complete the project study quickly in order to present it to higher authorities for approval,” a senior official said. “The transport project is an important component of a comprehensive development plan for Madinah,” he added.

The transport system includes a metro network and speedy bus services, in addition to parking facilities, fuel stations, maintenance centers and smart systems. It is designed to provide quick access to the Haramain Railway that links Makkah and Madinah.

“The transport project will be carried out by phases following international standards,” said the official.

King Abdul Aziz Road, Hijrah Road and Al-Salam Road will also be developed as part of the project, which coincides with the Prophet’s Mosque expansion project.

Prince Faisal and the council members also discussed matters related to the mosque expansion project, especially the acquisition of land and demolition of hotels and buildings near the mosque, stressing the need to make alternative arrangements to meet shortage in housing facilities.

The council was weighing various options, including quick implementation of the newly planned pilgrim city to be established on an area of 1.6 million square meters along Hijrah Road with a capacity to house 200,000 pilgrims.

State-owned Public Investment Fund will finance the pilgrim city project, which includes a railway and bus station, offices of government agencies and a 400-bed hospital.

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Saudi Arabia, Bahrain plan $ 10 billion rail link

Khaleej Times – 12 July, 2013 – Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have assigned five firms to study the construction of a railway bridge parallel to the King Fahd Causeway.

In a statement to the Bahrain News Agency, Bahrain’s Minister of Transport Kamal bin Ahmed said the project will be linked to internal networks in both Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and then connect to the projected causeway which will link Bahrain with Qatar.

The rail project study is part of the 2,177km GCC rail link, which will run from Kuwait to Dammam, to Bahrain via the causeway, and thence to Qatar across a new causeway to be established between the two countries. There is to be an additional branch line between Dammam and Qatar via Salwa. While the main line from Dammam will continue to the UAE through the Batha crossing point heading to Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and then to Oman via Sohar, terminating at Muscat.

The feasibility study to link Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to the GCC railway project is expected to be completed by first quarter of 2014. The project will help reduce pressure on the current transportation and boost trade cooperation among the Gulf countries.

Bin Ahmed said that preliminary studies indicate the project cost to be about $ 10 billion and that GCC leaders have projected the year 2018 as the completion date. The GCC railway project is expected to cost $ 100 billion.

He pointed out that the Gulf states have already approved technical specifications to connect the six Gulf countries and they are currently conducting technical meetings to develop a legal framework for the establishment of the Gulf links.

Construction of the railway infrastructure will be carried out in accordance with the highest international standards, and will be designed to allow rolling stock to travel at speeds in excess of 200kph.

Bin Ahmed called on all parties to expedite the implementation of the project in order to take advantage of its contribution to strengthening integration, the economy and aspects of the socio-economic and political relations between all of the Gulf states.

In his statement, the minister also addressed the issue of current obstacles to shipping goods between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain by road, saying that his country is seeking cooperation with Saudi authorities to develop procedures and systems for transporting goods across the King Fahd Causeway in order to reduce the accumulation of trucks and provide space for the storage of goods.

In the UAE, Etihad Rail is also making rapid progress to launch stage one of its $ 11 billion rail project by year-end. Upon completion, the Etihad Rail network will extend approximately 1,200km across the emirates, catering to both freight and passengers service to facilitate trade, open up communication channels and foster economic development.

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Qatar Airways launches ticket office at Harrods

Gulf Times – 13 July, 2013 – Qatar Airways has launched its flagship high-street ticket office at the Harrods department store in Knightsbridge, London.

Hosted by Qatar Airways Chief Commercial Officer, Marwan Koleilat, the event was attended by representatives from the Qatar embassy, including deputy Ambassador Fahad al-Mushairi, and senior members of the Harrods team led by Raj Assan, director, business development.

“London is one of our most important gateways,” said Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar al-Baker. “We opened our ticket office in central London at Harrods as it is a place that not only reflects the high level of service we offer, but is where our most discerning customers can be found. Harrods customers can now experience our unrivalled five-star service in-store and on-board.”

“Harrods is an iconic institution in London, and one commonality in this partnership is that Harrods and Qatar Airways are all about the customer experience – from start to finish,” he added

The five-star airline’s new central London location offers personalised booking service for discerning travellers to visit over 128 destinations across six continents. For Qatar Airways customers travelling to London on one of its five daily flights, the convenient Knightsbridge location provides Five-Star personalised service to meet most travel needs.

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Saudia draws up new strategic plan for Jeddah airport

Arab News – 14 July, 2013 – Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) Director General Khaled Al-Molhem has approved a new strategic plan for Jeddah’s new airport, which is aimed at providing all the operational and marketing needs to achieve a quantum leap in its services.

Al-Molhem stated that Saudi Arabian Airlines remains the main operator of the new airport as a national carrier. “There is a huge responsibility on the part of Saudi Arabian Airlines to provide a service that meets the needs and status of the new King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah.”

A special task force has been formed to work on the overall marketing, and commercial and public relations plan, said Abdul Qadir Attiah, who assists the director general on the airline’s strategic projects.

“The plan is simple and sustainable,” Qadir said, adding that the airline’s human resources will be upgraded for providing excellent customer service. The Saudi Arabian Airlines and the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) will together meet all the operational requirements.”

The new airport in Jeddah, whose work is under way, is considered one of the most important ones in the world. It is targeting to serve more than 30 million passengers annually in the first phase by 2014. The second phase of the project will serve 43 million passengers, and in the third and final stage it will be able to serve 80 million passengers.

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Malaysia Airlines relaunches Dubai service

Khaleej Times – 14 July, 2013 – Malaysia Airlines has announced the relaunch of its service to Dubai starting August 5. The daily Dubai-Kuala Lumpur return services — MH163 and MH162, using a Boeing 777-200 aircraft — offers a total capacity of 282 seats in each flight, equivalent to 3,948 seats weekly.

In conjunction with the re-introduction of service after a gap of 18 months, Malaysia’s national carrier is offering attractive promotional fares that start from only Dh1,765 for an all-inclusive economy-class return travel. Business class starts from as low as Dh7,265 for an all-inclusive return journey. Bookings for the promo fares are open until July 22 and applicable until September, the airline said in a statement.

Beginning August 6, flight MH163 will depart Dubai daily at 4:10am to arrive at Kuala Lumpur at 3:25pm. The return flight, MH162, departs Kuala Lumpur daily at 11:30pm and will arrive in Dubai at 2:20am the next day.

Malaysia Airlines group chief executive officer, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said: “Dubai was one of the routes that were suspended in our route rationalisation exercise in January 2012. We continuously monitor market demand, and are happy to be able to add back Dubai into Malaysia Airlines network to extend our reach and strengthen our offering to customers,” he said.

Malaysia Airlines offers direct non-stop service to Malaysia with connectivity to others such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand from Dubai. The carrier received its five-star airline certification at the Skytrax World Airline Awards 2013, joining an elite group of airlines for their truly consistent and high quality of product and service.

Malaysia Airlines has been steadily growing its reach and capacity in the past year. The introduction of the A380 fleet in July 2012 now sees the new aircraft put on thick routes to London, Paris and Hong Kong.

The carrier’s network footprint has also been deepened with increased frequencies, daily and weekly, to key business and leisure cities around Asia. In addition, the network is expanded through its various code share agreements and its membership in the oneworld airline alliance since February 2013. Al Rais Travel & Shipping Agencies is the general sales agent for Malaysia Airlines in the UAE.

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Iran unveils 12 domestically produced medicines

Tehran Times – 15 July, 2013 – Iran unveiled 12 types of domestically produced medicines, including nine anti-cancer drugs, during a ceremony held at Pardis Technology Park in Tehran on Sunday. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a number of other officials attended the ceremony.

According to ISNA, Bortezomib, Cytarabine, Capecitabine, Erlotinib, Vorinostat, and Irinotecan are some of the drugs which were unveiled.

Health Minister Mohammad Hassan Tariqat-Monfared told the ceremony that Iran was previously importing the nine anti-cancer drugs at a cost of 2 trillion rials (more than 80 million dollars) but it has now succeeded in producing these medicines at home by spending just 20,000 rials (over 800,000 dollars) on medical research.

He also said that Iranian researchers had succeeded in producing an influenza vaccine in the country. In addition, President Ahmadinejad delivered a speech during the ceremony and said that only six countries were able to produce the influenza vaccine.

Ahmadinejad also defended his administration’s performance in the areas of science and technology over the past eight years.

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nasair flies B747 between Riyadh, Jeddah to serve Umrah passengers

Saudi Gazette – 15 July, 2013 = For the first time, the Saudi national carrier nasair is operating Boeing 747 flights between Riyadh and Jeddah with a capacity of 470 seats.

The giant Boeing 747 aircraft is serving Umrah passengers throughout the holy month of Ramadan is as part of nasair’s strategic plan to cater to the growing demand for Umrah trips during the month, demonstrating the airline’s commitment to serve domestic customers.

Last week, nasair announced the arrival of four new Airbus A320s, part of an order for 10 aircraft for delivery in 2013 – increasing the company’s fleet of Airbus planes to support the continuing growth of nasair services in the Kingdom.

Since its launch in 2007, nasair has carried more than 12 million passengers, rapidly winning the trust of customers with a schedule of 950 flights a week to 88 domestic and international destinations.

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Accord to boost tourism in Qatar

Gulf Times – 16 July, 2013 – Qatar has taken a solid step forward in its quest to become a quality leisure destination by signing an agreement with the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to chart the framework needed to develop facilities that meet international standards.

The 17-month agreement will see UNWTO update and create benchmarked processes within QTA. Based on international benchmark standards, the UNWTO and QTA shall develop “a consistent and locally-relevant monitoring and quality control system across the wide range of tourism activities described under Law 6 of 2012”, as the Tourism Law.

Qatar is expanding the level, diversity and quality of its tourism offerings. While progressing to ensure a successful World Cup in 2022, the UNWTO partnership shall further ensure that Qatar has a well-planned, quality and reliable tourism industry meeting the expectations of the international travel trade.

While the country tourism sector thrives, QTA’s agreement with UNWTO seeks to align the travel boom with Qatar’s 2030 Vision, ensuring that tourism is also sustainable.

Commenting on the initiative, Qatar Tourism Authority chairman Issa bin Mohamed al-Mohannadi said: “QTA has been hard at work creating an ambitious strategy to solidify Qatar’s position as a leading tourist destination and enhancing the quality and standards of international tourism for the nation. However, we are conscious of the importance of environmental sustainability for tourism development and as the regulator of industry standards and codes, we are taking the lead in ensuring sustainable growth and development of Qatar’s fast-growing tourism sector.”

UNWTO secretary-general Taleb Rifai welcomed the agreement as “an important step forward in developing Qatar’s tourism policies, legislative framework and institutional capacities”. He pointed out that the agreement reflected the strategic priority afforded by the Qatar government to tourism as a driver of socio-economic development.

QTA’s overall tourism development strategy is aimed at lowering Qatar’s carbon footprint, energy and water consumption, and so also at protecting Qatar’s natural habitats, its wildlife and its marine reserves. “We see these natural assets as forming important future tourist attractions in a well regulated and professional industry,” al-Mohannadi said.

The phased approach includes creating a policy framework for the institution of regulations, standards, and codes of conduct for all activities and businesses related to tourism products and services; creating a policy framework, sustainability indicator instruments, and tourism environmental impact assessments which guide development planning and implementation of environmental sustainability practices in Qatar; and implementing guidelines for the creation of foreign and direct financial investment codes and policies for tourism in Qatar.

The initial phase will cover five major areas of tourist activities: desert safaris and camps; tour guides; tourism investment, event management companies; retail, wholesale, DMC (destination management) and both inbound and outbound travel agencies and theme/ amusement parks.

Phase two will cover destination marketing themes, hotel energy systems and related sustainability areas.

Qatar’s tourism sector grew 13% in the first quarter of 2013 compared to 2012, fuelled by a hotel boom. The hospitality sector plays a crucial role in the growth of tourism and Qatar’s hotel sector is growing at an incredible rate – 110 hotels were under construction last year, which when finished will offer 19,931 rooms to visitors.

Last year, hotels in Qatar had a total capacity of 13,407 rooms. “It is not only the number of rooms that is important, but also the quality, eco-sustainability and the diversity of choices across all grades and price levels,” al-Mohannadi said. As per industry reports, hospitality and leisure is the third largest area of consumer consumption of carbon after homes and transport closely tracked by retail.

“Hospitality has a significant foot print, which makes sustainability a key priority for QTA. Following our meeting with the UNWTO secretary general in March, we engaged the first UNWTO consultant last week to operate as per our agreement and the timetable developed. Within a month, we will be starting a series of development programmes specifically aimed at hotel energy solutions. Over the next six months QTA, with the UNWTO, shall introduce a wide range of environmental issues, topics and proposals to the industry,” al-Mohannadi said.

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IDB approves $ 790m for development projects

Arab News – 17 July, 2013 – The Islamic Development Bank’s board of executive directors has approved new finances worth $ 790 million to carry out different projects in member countries. The board, which met at the IDB headquarters in Jeddah, discussed the decision taken by IDB governors to increase the bank’s capital from $ 45 billion to $ 150 billion.

“The meeting also discussed arrangements to celebrate the bank’s 40th anniversary, which coincides with the next meeting of its board of governors in Jeddah,” the bank said.

The board agreed to give $ 220 million to the renewable energy program of the Development Bank of Turkey and $ 200 million for an electricity project in Damietta, Egypt. The new finances approved by the board will also benefit Morocco, Uganda, Pakistan, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Yemen, Togo, Jordan and Mali. It has also agreed to provide grants to educational projects for Muslim communities in Kenya, Nepal and Congo.

The board meeting, which was chaired by IDB President Ahmad Mohamed Ali, agreed to give $ 140 million for a water project in Agadir, Morocco and $ 120 million for a road project in Uganda.

Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Larayedh, who was on a visit to Saudi Arabia during the period, attended the opening session of the board meeting. The IDB president welcomed the prime minister and underscored the cooperation between Tunisia and the IDB over the past years.

The board passed a $ 35 million loan for Pakistan to finance reconstruction of schools destroyed by the floods. Another loan worth $ 19.8 million will go to a water supply project in Ouahigouya, Burkina Faso. The board also approved $ 15 million for an integrated rural development project in Yemen.

The rest of the approvals included $ 8 million for Niassa electrification project in Mozambique, $ 7 million for an energy project for rural communities in Togo and $ 23.7 million to finance Mali’s food program. A grant of $ 200,000 was extended to Jordan for capacity building of rural producer organizations.

The bank decided to increase its capital during a meeting of its board of governors in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe last May to meet the growing development requirements of its 56 member countries and carry out its development mission in a more efficient manner.

The Dushanbe meeting also increased the bank’s subscribed capital from 18 billion Islamic dinars to 50 billion Islamic dinars. The decision reflects the bank’s strong financial position.

IDB also announced it would immediately tap the financial market with a $ 1 billion offering of sukuk or Shariah-compliant bonds. The five-year offering is rated Triple A by each of the three major rating agencies (Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch), and will be dually listed on the London Stock Exchange and Bursa Malaysia.

The benchmark $ 1 billion offering comes amid strong demand and limited supply of the highest quality fixed-income securities, in part because a number of large governments have recently lost their Triple A status. There has also been a growing demand for Shariah-compliant investments.

“The tenets of Islamic banking have stood the test of time,” said Ali. “Our emphasis on equity, risk-sharing and partnership enforces discipline on the financial system, allowing us to lift more of our people out of poverty,” the IDB president added.

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France Returns Stolen Artefact To Nigeria

ABUJA, July 17 (NNN-ALLAFRICA) — The Government of France has returned a valuable artefact, Esie statute, stolen from Nigeria in 2011 and seized by Customs officials at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. The statue, which originated from Kwara State is said to be between 500 to 900 years old.

The Ambassador of France to Nigeria, Jacques Champagne de Labriolle, at a symbolic handover ceremony to mark French National Day in Abuja Sunday night, said the artefact was returned in line with France hardline stance against trafficking in art works and historical items.

He also handed over the restitution documents to the Director General of the National Museum and Monuments Commission, Dr. Abdalla Usman.

Labriolle described the statue as one of great antropologic value, while he recalled that five items of Nok origin were returned to Nigeria in February this year by the French government.

Speaking on bilateral issues between Nigeria and France, the envoy disclosed that the trade volume between the two nations reached about $6 billion annually.

He added that Air France, which commenced direct flights between Abuja and Paris in 2012 had recorded so much success on the route that it had converted to use larger aircraft.

“French businessmen would visit Nigeria in October this year to access the potentials for their business. I have no doubt they would be interested provided the appropriate environment is guaranteed,” he said.

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“Tourism & Water” Expo to be held in Uganda

KAMPALA, July 15 (NNN-NEW VISION) — Over 100,000 exhibitors and visitors from different parts of Uganda and overseas are expected to participate in 2013 Buganda Tourism Expo. The expo which is to run on July 29-Aug 4 is organized under the theme “Tourism and Water”.

It is aimed at celebrating and promoting the protection of the environmental sources across the country. The expo is organized by the Buganda Kingdom and Ministry of Tourism. The event targets exhibitors including individuals and companies of both local and international genre.

Addressing journalists at Bulange Mengo , the kingdom’s minister for tourism, Ritah Namyalo Kisitu said this year’s tourism expo is to coincide with the Kabaka’s 20th Coronation celebration as part of the activities to mark the celebrations. The Coronation anniversary is to take place on Aug 3, at Lubiri Palace, in Mengo, Rubaga Division.

Namyalo said Kabaka Ronald Mutebi will be the chief guest on the event on Aug 3. “We have received requests from several people locally and internationally who want to showcase their items in at the expo. We expect about 100,000 exhibitors and visitors who will come to witness the event,” he said.

She said participants will have an opportunity to network and establish contacts with new people from across the world.

The event will include the exhibition of wild animals by the Uganda Wildlife Authority for people to have a glimpse of their live totems, display of herbal medicine, Buganda clan exhibition, art and crafts and international cultural exhibitions.

Other events include a simulation of the Kabaka’s coronation ceremonies at Nagalabi, a week long boat regatta at the Kabaka’s lake, launch of the royal mile and tree planting basing on Buganda totems (clans) and launch of the “Tourism Buganda Magazine”.

Namyalo said they have also arranged a massive cleaning exercise for the Kabaka’s lake in Ndebba on July 19 and 20. She said the expo is aimed at promoting a spirit of the tourism enterprise and encouraging people to engage in tourism as an economic activity without destroying the environment.

Other guests expected include the Nnabagereka Slyvia Nagginda, religious leaders, ministers from local government and MPs.

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Nine International Tourism Events In Malaysia Throughout Sept

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia July 17 (NNN-Bernama) — Tourism Malaysia is set to offer a series of exciting sports and cultural events throughout September. There will be nine events lined up for the local and foreign tourists in the country namely the Digi Teluk Chempedak Run 2013, a 10-kilometre run which will be held on Sept 1 at Teluk Chempedak, Kuantan, Pahang.

Next is the Sarawak Regatta 2013, the Dragon Boat Race with the theme ‘Race for Harmony’, involving 44 boat races including five races under the international events to be held from Sept 6 to 8 at the Kuching Waterfront, Sarawak

The Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge 2013, the annual offshore catch and release eco-friendly fishing competition, witnessing the active migration of the billfish passing through the Rompin area to Australia, will be held at Pantai Lanjut, Rompin, Pahang from Sept 13 to 15.

For gliding enthusiasts, the Kokol International Paragliding Race 2013 will be organised at Kampung Kokol, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah from Sept 16 to 18 where they will enjoy the panoramic view of the coastal area in Sabah.

In Kuala Lumpur, the 1Malaysia Lantern Tourism Festival 2013 or also known as the Mooncake Festival, will take place on Sept 19 at the Central Market. The festival will also be held at Kampung Sungai Keling, Labuan from Sept 19 until 21.

For tennis fans, the ATP World Tour’s Asian leg will begin at the Malaysian Open Kuala Lumpur 2013 at Putra Stadium, Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur from Sept 21 to 29. The Labuan Arts Festival 2013 will be held at Labuan International Seasport Complex from Sept 27 to 29. The Gunung Jerai Mountain Bike Challenge 2013 which tackles a 48-kilometre course will be held at Gunung Jerai, Kedah from Sept 28 to 29.

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Courteous Taxi Drivers Will Lure More Tourists To Visit Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia July 18 (NNN-Bernama) — Taxi drivers who are courteous and disciplined can become significant contributors to the tourism industry and will lure more foreign tourists to visit Malaysia.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said this is in line with the government objective to ensure that the public and tourists enjoy a world class taxi service. “Excellent taxi service is not only because of the ‘beautiful’ vehicles. The drivers also need to be ‘beautiful’ in terms of behaviour and character.

“When carrying passengers, smile and become courteous taxi drivers. Saythank you after getting paid. These are the ingredients of good taxi drivers,” he said in his speech at ‘Majlis Janji Ditepati – Pemberian Lesen Teksi Individu’ here, today.

Najib said the distribution of 500 individual taxi licences marks the fulfillment of another pledge made by the Barisan Nasional (BN) government. It is another government effort to recognise the role of taxi drivers and improve the quality of public transport services nationwide.

Recollecting the function held in Putrajaya in March, he said: “I remember announcing a plan to give individual taxi licences to 1,000 taxi drivers. I gave out 200 licences and SPAD gave another 300 licences in April.

“This is a starting point in government efforts to jump start the taxi industry by focusing on individual taxi licences and determine the appropriate standards.”

The prime minister said each driver who received individual licence are required to purchase and use the Proton Exora as a taxi. The 1Malaysia People’s Foundation (YR1M) gave individual licensees grants of RM5,000 each to purchase the Proton Exora.

“This is another government commitment to ensure taxi drivers provide suitable vehicles for the convenience and comfort of passengers especially foreign tourists.”

Taxi drivers will also enjoy vehicle price exempted from sales tax and customs duties, no deposit, rate of two per cent loan from Bank Simpanan Nasional, maintenance package at market price and comprehensive motor insurance scheme for the first year.

In line with the government agenda, SPAD had introduced the Taxi 1Malaysia programme (TEKS1M) to give a new image to the taxi industry and make TEKS1M as a benchmark for the industry in future. TEKS1M is an initiative implemented through collaboration between SPAD and Proton under the 1Malaysia People’s Taxis (TR1MA).

Najib hopes Malaysia will become popular because of the Exora Taxi that provide the best taxi service like those in big cities such as London and New York. “SPAD will require all taxi drivers to undergo an accreditation programme to ensure the quality of taxi service provided to the public in accordance with set standards.”

He called on taxi drivers nationwide to provide the best service in order to improve the image of the country in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2014. At the event, Najib presented replica keys for Proton Exora TEKS1M to five taxi drivers and opened the SPAD new headquarters in Bangunan Platinum Sentral, KL Sentral.

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Malaysia Expects 1.7 Million Chinese Tourist Arrivals In 2013

BEIJING, July 19 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia is confident of registering the targeted 1.7 million Chinese tourist arrivals this year, encouraged by the 26.4 per cent rise in arrivals in the first quarter compared to the corresponding period last year.

A total of 493,249 Chinese tourist arrivals was recorded in the first quarter, up from 390,256 in the 2012 period, said Noran Ujang, director of Tourism Malaysia’s Beijing Office. In March this year, Chinese tourist arrivals rose 30.5 per cent to 168,118 from the 128,795 recorded in March last year.

Noran told Bernama that Chinese visitors remained the third largest group of tourist arrivals to Malaysia after those from Singapore and Indonesia. Malaysia had 1,558,785 Chinese tourist arrivals last year, up 24.6 per cent year-on-year from the 1,250,536 recorded in 2011.

It had been reported that the number of Chinese outbound travellers surpassed 83.18 million in 2012, a 18.41 per cent increase year-on-year, with total overseas spending hitting the US$102 billion (RM326 billion) mark.

The number is expected to reach 94.3 million this year, a year-on-year increase of 15 per cent, while spending is targeted to hit US$117.6 billion (RM376 billion).

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KLIA2 To Be Malaysia’s First Hybrid Airport

KUALA LUMPUR, July 12 (NNN-BERNAMA) — The KLIA2 will no longer be a low cost terminal, but Malaysia’s first hybrid airport with upgraded business class services, alongside total international passenger segregation, said Deputy Minister of Transport, Ab.Aziz Kaprawi.

The upgraded business class services at the under construction airport, is as per the request of AirAsia. “KLIA2 has an inbuilt segregation of arriving and departing international passengers and from two storeys, the building has become three, contributing to the increase in construction cost to RM4 billion.

“The segregation is also to strengthen safety and address the human trafficking issue,” said Aziz.

He told the media this after officiating community airline Firefly’s inaugural ATR72-600 commercial flight to Johor’s Senai International Airport from Subang Friday. The ATR72-600 is Firefly’s thirteenth aircraft and had arrived in Subang from Toulouse, France, earlier this week.

“We are proud to finally operate our new ATR72-600. The turboprop is no longer a thing of the past, but the future, for short distance air travel. It will help us further improve guest experience and most importantly, safety of passengers,” said Firefly’s chief executive officer Ignatius Ong.

“The new aircraft will be used to add frequencies to existing routes in order to increase total passenger capacity,” he added. The ATR 72-600 is the first of 20 such aircraft ordered in 2007 by the Malaysian Airlines subsidiary from the manufacturer in France.

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Government To Revive Uganda Airlines

KAMPALA, July 15 (NNN-NEW VISION) — Plans are underway to reinstate the defunct Uganda Airlines, in a move geared at boosting tourism and trade.

The draft proposal on how the airline will conduct its business is being discussed by experts in the transport ministry, according to sources. The document will soon be discussed by Cabinet.

Among the issues experts want Cabinet to consider is whether Uganda Airlines should be 100% government-owned or be under a public-private partnership.

Experts argued that Uganda Airlines can operate like Ethiopian Airways, Air Tanzania, Rwanda Air and British Airways, which are government-owned, or Kenya Airways, which is a joint-venture between the Royal Dutch Airlines, KLM and the Kenyan government. The proposal also highlights internal and external routes, which Uganda Airlines will use.

Sources revealed that private operators are seeking partnership with the Government to re-establish a national airline. Works and transport minister Abraham Byandala confirmed that the matter was being discussed within his ministry.

“I will soon present to Cabinet the viability proposal of Government to engage in the airline business. Members will have to discuss and pass it,” Byandala said.

He, however, declined to comment on when Uganda Airlines would resume business or how long it would take for the airline to start operations after a Cabinet approval.

One of the experts in the transport ministry, who preferred anonymity, said the Uganda Airlines project was near fruition and could materialise before the end of the year.

“The political will is enormous. Most Cabinet ministers will back it once it is presented before them. They are even blaming us for taking long to handle the issue. They say Uganda Airlines is a symbol of national pride,” a source said.

Byandala told Saturday Vision that the Government had embarked on expanding and renovating airfields in Kasese, Arua and Gulu for internal operations. Recently, works state minister Eng. John Byabagambi said the Government must consider a national carrier not just as a business, but as infrastructure, like a road commuting through the air.

On whether Uganda Airlines would retain the cargo handling operations at Entebbe Airport, now managed by Entebbe Handling Services (Enhas), Byandala said he did not think it was necessary. Not all airlines handle cargo, he said. “It may not handle cargo. The decision also lies with the Civil Aviation Authority, the regulator,” Byandala said.

He added that the airline still owns its international routes and refuted earlier reports that the Government sold the routes to Kenya Airways. “Uganda Airlines will reclaim its external routes. Last week, I was in Ethiopia discussing issues related to routes,” he revealed.

About staffing, Byandala said they had pilots and engineers and that three years from now, the airlines would have recruited staff.

Uganda Airlines collapsed 13 years ago due to bankruptcy and debt. Since 2008, the Government has been planning to revive the national carrier. Experts say the airline collapsed due to Government’s failure to support it to develop Entebbe International Airport as its hub, and the sale of its ground handling business to Enhas.

To start a hub, experts say Uganda needs to set up five aircrafts, three of which would ply regional routes, while others take longer ones.

Attempts to privatise the airline to revive its profitability and competitiveness failed. Initially, Air Mauritius, Inter Air, Kenya Airways and Sabena expressed interest, but later declined to submit bids. This left only South African Airways (SAA) by 1999, which also lost interest, forcing the Government to liquidate the airline in 2001.

Uganda Airlines was formed after the collapse of the East African Airways in 1976, due to political squabbles among the East African Community leaders. Member states were forced to start national carriers. Uganda Airlines and Kenya Airways started operations in 1977.

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Bangladesh Keen To Tap Into Malaysia’s Garment Market

NEW DELHI, India July 15 (NNN-Bernama) — Bangladesh is keen to tap into Malaysia’s garment market via a three-day fair in Kuala Lumpur, said a report.

“Malaysia might become one of the biggest markets for Bangladeshi garment items, if it is properly explored,” the vice-president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), SM Mannan Kochi, was quoted as saying by news daily, The Daily Star.

“Almost all globally renowned garment retailers and brands have operations in Malaysia. Bangladesh has a good opportunity to grab the Malaysian market via the fair,” he added.

Organised by the BGMEA, together with the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) and Headmaster Events from Aug 14-16, the fair will be held at the Putra World Trade Centre.

According to the report, the fair will also showcase products from the country’s real estate, tourism, handicrafts, jute and jute goods, banks and insurance companies, in a bid to narrow the trade gap between the two countries.

Bilateral trade between the two countries is tilted in favour of Malaysia at present. Malaysia’s exports to Bangladesh in 2012 stood at US$100 million with imports at US$1.57 billion, according to BGMEA. Of the US$100 million worth of exports, garment products alone accounted for US$69.19 million.

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Jakarta City To Convert Regional Microbuses

JAKARTA, July 16 (NNN-Bernama) — The Jakarta Provincial Government plans to convert the microbuses (mikrolet) to minibuses that will serve the regional and residential areas, Indonesia’s Antara reported.

“We plan to convert the microbuses with medium-size buses, which will only be operating in certain areas,” Jakarta’s Vice Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama said here on Tuesday.

Basuki said that three units of microbuses would be converted to one mini bus. However, before making the change, preparation and coordination with the state-run Djakarta Transportation Bus Company (PPD) will be carried out.

Basuki said the state-run Djakarta Transportation Bus Company will provide low cost of maintenance services to bus owners as well as training of the drivers.

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Azerbaijan To Launch Direct Flights To Beijing

BAKU, Azerbaijan, July 16 (NNN-Bernama) — Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL) is planning to open direct flights on the Baku-Beijing/Beijing-Baku route, Azerbaijan’s AzerTAc news agency reported. The flight, initially planned to be opened in May, has been temporarily postponed due to new requirements set for the airline by the Chinese side.

Baku-Beijing flights will be operated by Airbus A-340 and Boeing 767 twice a week – on Tuesdays and Fridays. The lowest fare for the economy class ticket on the route will be 473 Euro (RM1,965.76).

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Egypt: Cameroon to Benefit From Egypt’s Tourism Experience

Cameroon Tribune – 19 July 2013 – Cameroon and Egypt are fine-tuning strategies through which they could cooperate for a win-win development of tourism in the two countries. The Secretaries General of the Ministries in charge of Tourism of the two countries and other stakeholders began meeting in Yaounde yesterday July 18, 2013 within the framework of the first tourism sector by sector meeting of their bilateral cooperation.

Angeline Florence Ngomo, Secretary General in Cameroon’s Ministry of Tourism and Leisure is leading the country’s delegation while her counterpart of Egypt, Wessam Hamed Mohamed, accompanied by the Director of Tourism Development in Egypt, Salah Eldin Mohamed, is representing their country.

Through the cooperation, Egypt’s experience in tourism is expected to be felt in Cameroon’s tourism infrastructural development, rehabilitation of tourists sites and the training of stakeholders for efficiency and profitability of the sector in the country.

According to Mrs Wessam, over 11.5 million tourists visited Egypt in 2012 fetching over 10 billion in revenue for the country. The situation was even better in 2010 when 14.7 million tourists visited Egypt bringing in over 22 billion in foreign revenue. The sector represents 11 per cent of economic activities in Egypt with attractive sites like Giza pyramids, the Great Sphinx, the ancient temples of Luxor as well as the Coptic Monasteries of the Eastern Desert.

According to Mrs Ngomo, Cameroon has 300 priority tourism sites to be rehabilitated, over 200 ethnic groups, 12 national parks and other interesting tourism sites that are yearning for modernisation.

Through the cooperation, actors in the hotel and tourists sites will be given adequate training, 100 police officers will be trained per year, exchange visits of tourism stakeholders, studies on the development of long-term tourism infrastructure as well as the invitation of Egypt’s business class to invest in tourism in Cameroon are in view.

This will boost in quality and quantity the 534 lodging infrastructure with 14,886 rooms and 22,329 beds that Cameroon has as well as the 377 restaurant establishments in the country. The least of which will not be good roads, railways and airport infrastructure to enhance movement within the country.

Cooperation between the two countries, the officials said, date back to 1960 but gained momentum in 2010 after the April 21-22 grand mixed commission between the two countries. The materialisation of ongoing discussions, they said, will fire the relations to the skies. Participants of the ongoing meeting are expected to undertake an excursion to the Mefou national park this Saturday to round off their discussions.

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Uganda: Mobile APP to Sell Uganda to Tourists

The Observer – 16 July 2013 – Pearl Guide Uganda, a local media platform magazine, has launched Uganda’s first mobile guide destination application.

The “Uganda Guide app”, the first of its kind in Uganda, will feature information about Uganda’s tourist destination sites, maps of how to get there, contacts of service providers in the tourism industry and other vital information that visitors might need.

Speaking at the launch of the app at Serena hotel, the American ambassador to Uganda, Scott DeLisi, hailed it as a great example of private sector involvement in tourism. “Someone in Tbilisi or Tokyo can sit and have his or her coffee and use the app to take a tour of the pearl of Africa,” DeLisi said.

In her speech, Maria Mutagamba, the minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, also welcomed the development of the app. Statistics last year showed that more people used smart phones and computer tablets to access the Internet than the more traditional forms such as laptops and desk computers. This is what partly motivated Pearl Guide to develop the app, according to Rutare Rutahigwa, the marketing manager.

“We wanted to find an innovative way of promoting and helping people to know more about Uganda. And since many people all over the world use smart phones and tablet PCs, we developed an app to tap into this market,” Rutahigwa said.

Close to 5,000 people have downloaded the app, which is currently available for free both on the Google Android play store and Apple App store.

Pear Guide will soon begin charging hotels and other service providers that list on it.

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Kenya Airways to Commence Direct Flights to Abuja, Nigeria

The Star – 17 July 2013 – Kenya Airways will soon commence direct flights to Abuja in Nigeria to encourage frequent exchanges in the tourism and trade sectors, President Uhuru Kenyatta has said. The President said the recent review of Bilateral Air Services Agreement between the two countries was an important milestone that allowed Kenya airways to fly direct to Abuja.

Speaking during a meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan at State House Abuja, the President pointed out that tourism was an untapped potential area in the bilateral relations between the two countries. He said that the Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the field of tourism under consideration by the two countries will also offer other avenues for exchanges in this important sector.

The President said, “Nigeria has a large middle class population, which would enjoy the numerous tourist attractions in Kenya. We want to see Nigerians stopping in Kenya for business and tourism not just transiting through Nairobi.”

In this regard, the President encouraged Nigerian entrepreneurs to take advantage of the attractive investment opportunities available in Kenya to conduct businesses. He further called for closer interaction between business communities from both countries through the respective chambers of commerce and relevant trade and investment institutions to facilitate and expedite trade and investments.

Saying trade is the key driver of economic growth and poverty alleviation, the President stressed the need for the two countries to take charge of their economic destinies through increased intra-African trade.

“Whereas I am encouraged by the growth of trade between our two countries, the potential for investment and trade is still largely under exploited” President Uhuru said.

He added that the new chancery and ambassador’s residence in Abuja which he officially opened earlier in the week is the largest Kenyan diplomatic establishment in Africa and a clear testament of the country’s longstanding commitment to strengthen and consolidate its bilateral relations with Nigeria.

The President said the two countries enjoyed cordial and fraternal relations nurtured over the years through friendly interaction in various spheres. He added that the bond between the two countries was amply demonstrated by the presence of the Nigerian leader during his recent inauguration as President of the Republic of Kenya.

President Goodluck, on his part, assured President Uhuru that his Federal Government will do everything possible to enhance the bilateral relations existing between the two countries. In attendance were Cabinet Secretary Amb. Amina Mohamed and her Nigerian counterpart Mr.Olugbenga Ashiru among senior government officials from the two countries.

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Maldivian commences charter flights to Kazakhstan

Sun.mv – July 16, 2013 – Maldivian has commenced charter flights to Kazakhstan. Head of Administration of Maldivian Ali Nashath said today that Maldivian conducted the first flight carrying 80 people to Almaty, Kazakhstan, last night, and the flight will return at 16:25 today to Male’.

“We got this flight through our tour operator. If it’s a good market, it’s likely that we conduct more flights in the future,” said Nashath.

Nashath said that the second flight to Kazakhstan, also a charter flight, has been scheduled for 23 July. Maldivian has also decided to conduct a flight on 21 July on its 154-seat Airbus A320, to take a group of Maldivians for Umra pilgrimage.

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Hayy Festival brings Arab singers to Cairo for Ramadan

Ahram Online, Sunday 14 Jul 2013 – The organisers, Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafy (Cultural Resource), one of Egypt’s most dynamic cultural agencies, has a solid mission to support artistic creativity in the Arab world and foster rich cultural exchange in the region.

The nonprofit also participates in developing young talents and artists locally and regionally.

The Hayy Festival takes place in the open-air El-Genaina Theatre inside Al-Azhar Park. The venue, which was designed by the Young Arab Theatre Fund and inaugurated in 2005, has hosted many of Al-Mawred’s festivals and performances.

Alongside Ramadan’s Hayy Festival, El-Genaina Theatre also hosts seasonal festivals that feature Egyptian and regional, Arab performers.

The first edition of the Hayy Festival took place in Ramadan 2005, with a diverse line-up of artistic events, including music performances, Sufi chanting concerts, poetry recitals, circus and puppet shows and more, setting the tone for a series of dynamic and evolving editions over the following years.

The annual festival celebrated Ramadan with artistic events that reflect the multi-layered nature of Egyptian cultural heritage, featuring acts from Cairo, the Nile Delta, Upper Egypt, Suez, among others. Hayy also became an opportunity for regional and international artists to perform a variety of genres, including jazz, rock and classical music for a local audience, effectively expanding the scope of the Egyptian audience’s cultural experience.

Evolving over the years, Ramadan’s Hayy Festival turned towards showcasing female musicians.

Mauritanian musician, Noura Mint Seymali, kicks off the festival on Thursday 18 July. Seymali formed an ensemble that relies on traditional instruments, such as the lute, harp, bowl drum and Western bass and drum kit. Her songs, which tackle pertinent topics such as the role of music in Islamic society, economic development and terrorism, feature influences from reggae, blues and hip hop music.

Franco-Tunisian artist Nawel Ben Kraiem is featured the following Thursday. The singer mixes multiple languages (Arabic, French and English) and is influenced by pop, electronic and tribal music. Ben Kraiem also acted in Indignados, a movie by famed French filmmaker Tony Gatlif. She is currently working on her first album.

On Friday 26 July, Palestinian singer Sanaa Moussa, returning to the Hayy festival for a second time, is scheduled to bring her contemporary folk tunes to El-Genaina. Inspired to delve into classical Arab music and Palestinian folk by her father, who was a popular musician and singer, Moussa strives to preserve folkloric music and pass it on across generations. Moussa’s music gives a voice to Palestinian women and the struggles they face under occupation.

Iraqi singer and dancer Baidar Al Basri will perform on 1 August. Al Basri, who sings in Arabic, Dutch and French, studied ballet and singing in Syria and learned opera singing at the Royal Conservatoire in the Netherlands, where she currently resides.

The festival’s big finale is on 2 August with a performance by Moroccan artist Khansa Batma. The popular singer (who is also an activist and model) mixes folkloric Moroccan tunes with rock and international music.

Director of El-Genaina theatre Charles Akl told Ahram Online that choosing the line-up of artists this year was challenging due to security concerns. “A few artists regretfully backed out and had to be replaced,” he said. “Nevertheless, I insisted that there should be a geographical variety in the programme to bring a broad spectrum of musical riches.”

Commenting on possible security threats due to the ongoing unrest in Egypt following the ouster of president Morsi on 3 July, Akl said that the festival will be held despite the risks and challenges. “Even if there were only two people in the audience, we will go on, as long as it does not challenge the safety of the audience and musicians directly,” he said.

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Tunisian parliament approves Islamic sukuk bond issues

Reuters, Thursday 18 Jul 2013 – Tunisia’s parliament has passed a law that will allow the state to issue Islamic bonds, or sukuk, a move that could help narrow a gaping budget deficit and boost foreign currency reserves, which have fallen to critically low levels.

Finance Minister Elyess Fakhfakh told parliament that his ministry planned sometime in November or December to issue a sovereign sukuk to raise $700 million. The government is keen to develop Islamic finance, which was neglected by the autocratic secular regime for ideological reasons before the 2011 revolution. A Tunisian sukuk issue could potentially attract large amounts of Islamic-oriented funds from the wealthy Gulf.

The bill received 102 votes in favour in the vote in parliament, held in a closed session late on Wednesday. “Tunisia’s financial difficulties require the mobilisation of all resources, including Islamic sukuk,” Fakhfakh said.

Tunisia is running a large state budget deficit, which it has projected at about $3.2 billion this year, and political tensions are hurting its ability to finance itself.

The assassination of opposition figure Shukri Belaïd in February sparked the worst political crisis since Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was toppled as president more than two years ago. The crisis ended with the resignation of the government and the formation of a new one headed by the Islamist Ali Larayedh.

The North African country, which has also signed a $1.7 billion standby loan agreement with the International Monetary fund (IMF), is struggling with rising inflation and a big external deficit as well as its uncertain political outlook

A slide in foreign reserves could push it into a balance of payments squeeze resembling the crisis in Egypt. Tunisia’s foreign currency reserves last month fell for the first time below the level the central bank considers adequate, at just 94 days of import cover.

Ferjani Dogman, chairman of the parliamentary Finance Committee, said Islamic bonds would help to diversify Tunisia’s funding sources, but were “not aimed at Islamisation of the economy”. The Islamic Ennahda Party heads the government in coalition with two secular parties after winning Tunisia’s first free election in 2011.

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Novel public transport, airport envisaged within Greater Baku project

17 July 2013 – AzerNews – The Greater Baku Regional Development Plan involves the introduction of new types of public transport, head of the group executing the Greater Baku development project, Novruz Eldarli, said on July 15.

“Currently it is necessary to effectively implement new types of public transport in Baku – light rail, skytrains, metrobuses, etc. Road construction within the city and beyond is proposed, particularly from Baku to the Heydar Aliyev International Airport, Sumgayit and Alat (a settlement near the capital city),” Eldarli said.

He also believes that it is appropriate to implement commuter trains. “Commuter trains can run on average distances so that people would be able to commute with intermediate stops. For example, a line from Sumgayit to Alat may have Alat-Sangachal-Lokbatan-Hyrdalan-Sumgayit stations. Getting off at these stations, the person can get wherever he or she wants by using the local transport. They will be similar to the existing trains, but they must be more high-speed and comfortable,” Eldarli said.

According to Eldarli, the project envisions the development and modernization of public transport, the expansion of its network, improving its quality, convenience, and improved access to it. “Daily use of a car should be a disadvantage at distances of up to 20 kilometers. A car is irrelevant within the city today. A car should be a means of transport for middle and long distances (25 kilometers or more),” Eldarli said.

The project also provides for the development of the road network in Baku. According to Eldarli, it is necessary to work not only to expand the roads, but also to create new alternative routes by increasing their number. The Greater Baku Regional Development Plan also envisions the construction of a new international airport near the Azerbaijani capital.

According to Eldarli, it is proposed to build a new airport to the south of the Alat settlement.

“In the future, Alat will be the new logistics, trade, oil and gas center of Azerbaijan. The geographical location of this settlement is favorable for the main transportation lines of the country to pass through it. Currently an international trading port is under construction in this area, and the Sangachal oil and gas refining complex will be built, as well as the production of petrochemicals will be launched in the coming years. The region has good potential for the creation of enterprises producing construction materials, as well as for the development of the food and textile industries, fisheries, etc. We propose to turn Alat into a dynamically developing satellite city,” he said.

In addition, the implementation of plans on the construction of artificial Khazar Islands near Alat as well as establishing residential and entertainment facilities on their territory will boost tourism in this area.

The development of this area brings to the forefront the question of building a new international airport, as the current Baku airport – Heydar Aliyev International Airport – is quite far from Alat.

Azerbaijan and the World Bank signed a loan agreement in 2007 to develop the Greater Baku Regional Development Plan. The plan has been developed through coordination with Baku State Design Institute.

According to preliminary estimates, the average cost of the Greater Baku Regional Development Plan may reach 4-5 billion manats (up to over $6.3 billion). Under the plan, the street and road network of the city will increase by hundreds of kilometers, the number of polluted lakes and urban pollution will be significantly reduced; parks and public gardens will be created in an area of 34,000 hectares.

The Plan envisions future development of the city with its 11 surrounding areas, Sumgayit, the country’s third largest city, and the entire Absheron Peninsula until 2030. The project is currently being discussed by relevant government agencies. The final version will be approved in the next few months.

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Azerbaijani documentary to be screened at Faito Doc Festival in Naples

16 July 2013 – TODAY.AZ – “Koc” (“Camping Ground”), a documentary by the Russian director and producer of Azeri decent, a laureate of international film contests Rodion Ismayilov will participate in the “Faito Doc Festival” in Naples, Italy.

The festival honours new and cutting-edge foreign independent films in several competition categories. Partnering with notable film industry companies, film educators, directors, producers, and writers, competition provides a forum for talented filmmakers to be recognized for their work, creativity, and achievements.

The Faito doc Festival opens its doors to all the documentaries, long and short, from road movie to more experimental films but with a clear and now confirmed preference for poetic films, with interesting testimonies and writers-directors sensitive towards their characters, with an acute and original point of view, but also where you can feel a lengthy investigation and a thorough research work. The Festival will select 30 different interpretations of the word “movement” that, we are sure, through different perspectives and points of view of authors in Europe and overseas.

The 52-minute film was shot in summer of 2010 in Azerbaijan. The shooting took place in the country’s Tovuz, Goygol and Dashkesan districts.

Rodion Ismayilov was born in the Kohnagala village of Tovuz region and graduated from the State Cinema and Television University of St. Petersburg in 1998. At present, he is a director of “DS film” producer centre in Moscow.

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Azerbaijan’s Ganja city launches exhibition to mark 4000th anniversary

20 July 2013 – TODAY.AZ – Ganja, Azerbaijan`s second largest city, has hosted an exhibition marking its 4000th anniversary. Ancient carpets and metal works, paintings, illustrations of Mahsati Ganjavi’s rubais, copies of Khamsa manuscripts of Nizami and archaeological artifacts were demonstrated at the exhibition.

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Azerbaijan to build resort worth €500 million in Montenegro

17 July 2013 – AzerNews – Azerbaijani investors will build a new luxury resort worth €500 million in Montenegro, Russian media reported referring to the Montenegrin government. The statement was made following a meeting of Montenegro Prime Minister Milo Dukanovic with businessmen on July 12.

The resort with the area of 25 hectares will be located on the shore of the Bay of Kotor on the site of the old barracks in Kumbor town. It is planned to build here a hotel with apartments and villas and a mooring for common and mega yachts, pier for fishing boats and fish market, some 70 shops, cafes, restaurants, a tennis center, a heliport and other facilities.

A tender for the lease of the former military facility for a 90-year period was held in Montenegro in 2012. Azerbaijan’s State Oil Company SOCAR, represented by Triangle Investments and Development Limited, won the tender. Azerbaijan established Azmont Investments LLC to realize the project in Montenegro.

Azmont initially was to invest €250 million in the project within eight years. However, later a decision was made to increase the amount of investment up to €500 million. The new facility will include a network of One&Only resorts, focused on the very wealthy clients. This hotel in Montenegro will become the first of the network in Europe.

The owner of One&Only network, Southern African billionaire Sol Kerzner, said “this place is ideal for our first European resort”.

Earlier in May, Prime Minister Milo Dukanovic met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Podgorica, Montenegro. According to Dukanovic, relations between the two countries have been developing dynamically, which resulted in concrete projects in tourism and investment sectors.

The project related in Kumbor is the greatest Azerbaijani investment project in tourism outside the country.

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Bangladesh to introduce Tourism Satellite Account

DHAKA, July 18, (BSS) – The country is going to introduce Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), first of its kind, to get tourism related updated data to give a big boost to the potential tourism and hospitality industry, officials said here today.

In doing so, a TSA consultant of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), now in Bangladesh, is holding meetings with concerned bodies and departments involved in providing tourism related information.

TSA is a statistical framework which acts as the instrument to measure the size and impact of tourism industry. It represents direct and indirect effects and contribution to a country’s GDP.

“Bangladesh has low profile in the international tourism destination due to lack of adequate data. The country would be able to know exactly the contribution of tourism sector to the country’s economy once the TSA is introduced,” Jim Fletcher, the TSA consultant, told a workshop at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel.

Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Lt Col (retd) Faruk Khan addressed the function as the chief guest while Secretary of the Ministry Khurshed Alam Chowdhury, Chief Executive officer of BTB Akhtaruz Zaman Khan and officials from Bangladesh Bank (BB), Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) and law enforcement agencies, and private sector tour operators attended the workshop.

Presenting the keynote paper, Jim Fletcher said Bangladesh has the potential to project the country as an attractive tourist destination. In this regard, he mentioned an example of mellifluous sea beach in Cox’s Bazar. “We all feel that the world’s longest beach has value but we could not have tangible measure of the value,” said the expert.

Citing findings of his mission, he said available tourism related data is extremely limited while institutional cooperation is not up to the mark. Tourism sector appears to have low recognition and low priority for the government, he said.

Jim Fletcher recommended establishment of an inter-institutional committee (IIC) and direct liaison among special branch, BTB and BBS for ensuring free flow of information related to tourism industry.

He also favoured introduction of an international visitors’ exit and carrying out expenditure survey with UNWTO technical assistance.

Speaking on the occasion, Faruk Khan said it is unfortunate that concerned agencies have failed to cooperate with each other to provide tourism related information. “Concerned agencies related to tourism should not blame each other with regard to providing information,” he said adding that special branch and other departments including BB and BBS should work together.

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Pilgrim center in Madinah to be ready before Haj

Madinah, Wednesday, 08 Ramadan 1434/ 17 July 2013 (IINA) – Work on a pilgrim center at Prince Muhammad International Airport in Madinah is progressing well and will be ready before Haj. It can accommodate 2,400 pilgrims at a time.

The center will serve nearly three million Haj and Umrah pilgrims annually, said Haj Minister Bandar Hajar after visiting the project site. It is spread on area of 8,400 sq.m. including the main lounge with 22 fiberglass tents. Muhammad Al-Baijawi, director of the ministry’s office in Madinah, briefed Hajar on the plan to open the rest house for Haj pilgrims this year.

The minister instructed the contractor to complete the project on time. He highlighted Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman’s support for the project, adding that the governor had been keenly following the work. “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah ordered the project to improve services being extended to the guests of God who visit the Prophet’s Mosque,” he said. The rest house will have offices of the Haj Ministry and various service agencies and a health center with modern facilities.

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Performers converge on Khorog for Roof of the World festival

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-07-12 KHOROG, Tajikistan – A folk music festival annually gives foreigners a window into the lofty Pamir range in Tajikistan and the folkways of the Pamiri people. The Sixth Roof of the World International Festival of Folk Music took place in Khorog, capital of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) July 5−7. The Pamir Mountains and their hospitable dwellers welcomed folk musicians from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Pakistan and all parts of Tajikistan, as well as from the Caucasus.

“Our festival is shared in by all its participants and everyone living in Khorog,” Samandar Pulodov, festival director, said.

“It’s an amazing journey into the world of Pamiri music and the music of other peoples. This festival’s slogan was ‘Culture and nature are the foundation of our life and our future prosperity.’ Its main aim is to set a shining example of the friendship of peoples, pluralism and tolerance among different ethnic groups; create a platform for displaying the folk culture of the Pamiris and also develop tourism in the GBAO.”

Pulodov, a Tajik musician who plays “Sufi punk,” founded the annual festival. It was one of the few international events held in the GBAO this year following last summer’s fighting between insurgents and government troops.

“The festival audience is steadily growing. About 10,000 spectators came,” Pulodov said, crediting the “magic of Pamiri music.” The event took place in Khorog Central Park, a favourite recreational spot for Khorog dwellers. Top performers included Tajik stars such as Temursho Imatshoyev and the Shams and Samo bands. In addition to the musical programme, the festival included an exhibition of applied folk art and inventions and also a showing of documentary films about Pamiri culture.

“Central Park, with its special acoustics due to the surrounding mountains, has become the location for traditional folk exhibitions and also for alternative music, poetry and local arts,” Pulodov said. “One of the exhibitions showed ‘green’ power generation equipment and various systems to make life much easier for the Pamir dwellers, such as solar-powered (housewares and appliances). Visitors also became acquainted with the local cuisine and received booklets showing tourist routes to holy places and to interesting sights. They learned about white-water rafting in the mountains.”

Afghanistan is also a participant in the event.

“We (Afghans) believe that our life very much depends on culture. … Folk music and songs are the most ancient part and most sought-after part of Afghan culture,” Dawood Pazhman, a musician from Badakhshan Province, Afghanistan, said.

“With the help of folk music, you can understand what people feel and how a nation experiences grief and joy. … Badakhshan has retained a pure Afghan song culture.”

Roof of the World will do much to attract tourism to the GBAO, organisers said. “The festival is becoming more beautiful every year,” Kirill Kuzmin, project manager of the Bactria Cultural Centre, one of the festival partners, said. “The organisers are becoming more professional. This year they built a modern stage and brought in professional sound equipment.”

“Unfortunately, there has not so far been much support found in embassies (in Dushanbe) and in international organisations to increase the number of countries sending musicians,” he said. “Nevertheless, the Pamirs represent a legendary tourist brand, and Roof of the World is a very attractive event for tourists. Many came this year just for the festival.”

“Roof of the World is also unique in that hardly any events, particularly ones with live music, happen outside the capital,” Kuzmin said. “This festival is the only event of its kind, helping it attract a great number of people.”

Deficient infrastructure hinders ambitions of making the festival a world-class event, guests said.

“It is only 520km from Dushanbe to Khorog, but it takes two days by car,” Zarina Mansurova, a festival attendee from Dushanbe, said. “We set out at 5am from Dushanbe and were only halfway there by 8pm. We were forced to spend the night in one of the villages. … We’re glad that highway repairs have begun.”

“There are excellent hotels in Khorog itself, and you can be really comfortable, enjoying the magnificent natural beauty and the amazing hospitality,” Marcin Kowalski, who came from Poland, said. “But it’s quite difficult to reach – aircraft and helicopters from Dushanbe fly irregularly, depending on the weather, and it’s hard to get tickets, because demand is so great.”

The festival will overcome its challenges, Pulodov predicted. “Our festival, along with our people, has been through many changes in six years. The festival is changing globally together with the people. And during these changes, it is very important to preserve our culture, traditions and heritage but at the same time to keep in step with the rest of the modern world.”

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Turkmenistan builds up textile industry

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-07-17 ASHGABAT – Turkmenistan, where the textile industry holds a place of honour along with the oil and gas industries, plans to open three cotton-spinning factories in Kunya-Urgench, Turkmenabat and Seydi.

These factories will provide more than 1,500 jobs, according to the ministry. “Their total capacity will be 14,000 tonnes of cotton yarn per annum, and the Turkish firm Norsel, the general contractor, will bring them into operation as soon as February,” ministry spokesman Batyr Kadyrov told Central Asia Online.

These are a continuation of the textile expansion that saw four cotton-spinning factories and one textile complex be built over the past three years in various parts of the country, he said. The country now has more than 70 major cotton, weaving, sewing and knitting enterprises, up from less than 15 two decades ago, according to the Turkmen State Statistics Committee.

“The number of factories is less gratifying than their export of 70-80% of their production,” Osmon F., an economist at the Ministry of Textile Industry, said, adding that although Turkmen textiles have not yet established themselves in Europe, they are selling well in the post-Soviet countries.

“To manufacture an end product … is very much more profitable than simply selling raw cotton,” Kadyrov said, adding that textiles trail only oil, gas and chemical products in the amount of foreign currency they earn.

Turkmen textiles consist of 100% natural materials made with imported new equipment and stand out for their high quality, Firudin Daimov, a Kyrgyz businessman buying goods in Turkmenistan, said.

Many enterprises, like the Ashgabat textile and ginning complexes and the Kaakhka and Abadan cotton-spinning factories, meet international standards for quality, environmental protection and workplace safety, he said.

Major international retailers like Ikea buy Turkmen textiles, but ordinary citizens also take them abroad as gifts or for sale, marketing analyst Selbi Khojamyradova said. “I personally know more than 10 female ‘shuttle’ traders who buy up football jerseys, shorts, jeans and bed linen in small batches and take them to their own regular customers in all the countries served by Turkmenistan Airlines,” she said, adding that probably many others she doesn’t know are doing the same thing.

Many Turkmen women – who have struggled to find work – are pleased by the prospect of new factories.

“I have two daughters who have left school and a daughter-in-law sitting around at home because they can’t find work,” Bibikhajar Satybaldyeva of Kunyaurgench District, Dashoguz Oblast, said. “I very much hope that at least one of them will be hired at the new spinning factory.”

Women are pinning their hopes on the new company, which rumour says will employ up to 300 women. “Of course the factory won’t take everyone … but it’s still a good thing when something is built in the countryside,” Satybaldyeva said.

More than 30,000 women work in the textile industry, 10 times as many as when Turkmenistan gained independence in 1991, Kadyrov said.

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Showcase of rare collection on centenary of Bangladesh national museum

DHAKA, July 12, 2013 (BSS) – To celebrate its 100th anniversary, Bangladesh National Museum (BNM), has arranged a two-year special programme featuring exhibitions, publication ceremony, discussions and seminars. As part of the celebration, the museum has arranged a month long display of its rare collections at Nalini Kanta Bhattasali Gallery of the museum.

The exhibition was inaugurated by President Abdul Hamid on July 8. Cultural Minister Abul Kalam Azad, vice-chancellor of Dhaka University AAMS Arefin Siddique and director general of BNM Prakash Chandra Das were also present.

A total of 223 collections of metal and wooden sculptures,replicas, gold, silver and copper coins, paper currency of Pakistan period, paintings, jewelries, ivory-work, muslin and jamdani sari has been displaying from four curatorial departments — History and Classical Art, Ethnography and Decorative Art, Contemporary Art and World Civilization and Natural History.

Prakash Chandra Das said, “It is an especial opportunity for the visitors to enjoy our (museum’s) rare collections which are normally preserved in store due to lack of space.” He urged the youth to visit the exhibition that preserves the country’s century-old museum history and tradition.

Rumana Islam, a visitor told BSS, “It’s a great chance to get pleasure and make ourselves richer with historical knowledge from the collections. I’m very much pleased to see the ‘Hussaini Dalan’ (made by silver of 19 century) and sculpture from Egypt (head of Nefartiti).

BMN, one of the largest museums in South Asia was established as Dhaka Jadughar on August 7 in 1913. The Dhaka Jadughar turned into Bangladesh National Museum on September 20 in 1983.

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Conference on Islamic Economics and Finance to be held in Istanbul

The Ninth International Conference on Islamic Economics and Finance (ICIEF) will be held between 09-11 September 2013 in Istanbul.

Recovery from the global financial crisis and subsequent economic downturn remains fragile. Persistent risks to financial and economic development include sluggish growth in developed countries – which is now spilling over into developing economies as well; increasing income and wealth inequalities; and still-unrestored financial, economic and political stability in many regions.

High poverty and unemployment rates, large macroeconomic imbalances, deteriorations in sovereign credibility, increasing food price volatility and food shortages, and lack of access to basic infrastructure further intensify and magnify these risks – particularly for the underprivileged segments of the world population. As a result, for many countries it has become even more challenging to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the United Nations.

The existing structure of the economic and financial system is also continuing to be questioned at the highest level of intellectual and political discourse. The growing emphasis on ethics and morality in economic and financial transactions highlights the structural problems undermining the confidence in the current system and, in turn, the pressing need for more durable alternatives.

To highlight some and more of these issues, the Ninth ICIEF is being jointly organized by the Statistical, Economic & Social Research and Training Centre for Islamic Countries (SESRIC), a subsidiary organ of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group through its Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI), the International Association for Islamic Economics (IAIE), and the Qatar Foundation’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University through its Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies (QFIS), with the support of other stakeholders. The Conference will be held for three days on 9-11 September 2013, in Istanbul, Turkey, under the theme “Growth, Equity and Stability: An Islamic Perspective”.

=The First Conference in the series was held in Makkah Al Mukaramah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1976 under the auspices of King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah and it marked the start of development of Islamic economics and finance as modern scientific disciplines. The Second Conference was held in Islamabad, Pakistan, in 1983 under the auspices of the International Islamic University, Islamabad. The Third Conference was held in 1992 at the International Islamic University, Selangor, Malaysia.

The Fourth Conference was held in 2000 at Loughborough University, Loughborough, U.K. The Fifth Conference was held in Bahrain under the auspices of Bahrain University, Bahrain in 2003. The Sixth Conference was held in 2005 in Jakarta under the auspices of the Indonesian Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Indonesia. The Seventh Conference was held in Jeddah under the auspices of King Abdulaziz University in 2008. Finally, the Eighth Conference was held in 2011 in Doha, State of Qatar.

For more information please visit the official website through: http://9icief.sesric.org/

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Palestine’s Population almost 4.5 Million, says Statistics Bureau

RAMALLAH, July 11, 2013 (WAFA) – Marking the International Population Day, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) said in a report issued Thursday that the estimated population of Palestine at mid-2013 was about 4.42 million, divided into 2.24 million males and 2.18 million females.

It said that the estimated population of the West Bank was 2.72 million, of which 1.38 million males and 1.34 million females, while the estimated population of Gaza Strip totaled 1.7 million, of which 864,000 males and 837,000 females.

The urban population in mid-2013 was estimated at 73.8 percent of the total population, while the population in rural areas was 16.8 percent and refugee camps 9.4 percent. The figures were based on estimates prepared by PCBS according to the results of the Population, Housing and Establishment Census of 2007.

Data revealed that the population of Palestine is a young population; the percentage of individuals aged 0-14 years constituted 40.1 percent of the total population of which 38 percent in the West Bank and 43.4 percent in Gaza Strip.

The elderly population aged 65 years and over constituted 2.9 percent of the total population of which 3.2 percent in the West Bank and 2.4 in Gaza Strip.

While Palestine in general had a high population density at 734 people per square kilometer, the Gaza Strip had a very high density at 4,661 people per square kilometer compared to 481 people per square kilometer in the West Bank.

Fertility rate in Palestine had declined to 4.4 births in 2008-2009 compared to 6 births in 1997 and crude birth rate in Palestine is expected to drop from 32.6 births per 1000 in 2013 to 31.9 births in 2015.

Crude death rate is also expected to decline from 3.8 deaths per 1000 of the population in 2013 to 3.6 deaths in 2015. The data also showed that about one fourth of participants in the labor force, 23.9 percent, were unemployed in the first quarter of 2013, divided into 20.3 percent in the West Bank and 31 percent in Gaza Strip. Unemployment rate reached 35.3 percent among females compared to 21.2 percent among males.

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Garuda Indonesia and Liverpool FC Launch Frequent Flyer card

Jakarta, Indonesia, July 19, 2013 – (ACN Newswire) – As part of the implementation of Garuda Indonesia and Liverpool FC’s Global Partnership, PT Garuda Indonesia (Persero) Tbk and Liverpool FC launched the Garuda Frequent Flyer – Liverpool Football Club (GFF-LFC) Edition Card in Jakarta.

Garuda Indonesia President and Chief Executive Officer, Emirsyah Satar presented the “GFF-LFC Edition Card” to two Liverpool FC players, Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson, to symbolically mark the card’s launching, as Indonesia’s Minister of State-Owned Enterprises Dahlan Iskan and Chief Commercial Officer Liverpool FC Billy Hogan looked on.

The “GFF-LFC Edition Card” is an exclusive card dedicated to loyal customers of Garuda Indonesia and Liverpool FC fans. As well as the regular GFF card, the “GFF-LFC Edition Card” consists of four levels of membership, namely Blue, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Compared to the regular GFF Card, the newly launched card has a number of distinct advantages, among them:

An exclusive membership card design for old and new GFF members;

Attractive offers for Liverpool FC merchandise, available at the Garuda Indonesia & Liverpool FC Experience counter at Senayan City, Jakarta;

Special offers for trips to Anfield;

An opportunity to watch an Barclays Premier League Liverpool FC game at Anfield;

The chance to receive autographed merchandise by an Liverpool FC player.

Garuda Indonesia’s customers, both existing and new GFF members, who wish to have this limited edition card will be able to apply for the card on the website gff.garuda-indonesia.com or at Garuda Indonesia sales offices, free of charge, during this period: 19 July 2013 – 31 December 2013.

President and CEO of Garuda Indonesia Emirsyah Satar said that the launching of the “GFF – LFC Edition Card” is important to both companies as it will surely be beneficial and provide added value to Liverpool FC and Garuda Indonesia’s loyal customers as well. “To broaden our market on a global level, especially in this competitive era, it is important for global companies or brands to work together and develop mutually beneficial partnerships,” he added.

On the other hand, Liverpool FC has over 65 million followers in Indonesia and the card’s launching is one of the efforts carried out by Garuda Indonesia to improve service towards its customers who are also Liverpool fans.

Meanwhile, Billy Hogan, Chief Commercial Officer at Liverpool FC said “We are delighted to be visiting Indonesia for the first time as part of the Club’s 2013 pre-season tour. Our fans gave us the most amazing welcome when we landed and we are thrilled to be partners with Garuda who have helped bring the Club closer to our Indonesian LFC family through various activity. The launch of the GFF – LFC card is another step in connecting with fans to the club through our official airline partner Garuda. Together with our fans and partners we are the world’s greatest football family,” he said.

The “GFF – LFC Edition Card” launch is part of the agreement signed in July 2012 between Garuda Indonesia and Liverpool FC, whereby Garuda Indonesia has taken up the role as the club’s “Official Global Airline Partner”.

During their “Pre-Season Tour 2013”, Liverpool will fly onboard the special Airbus 330-300 wide body aircraft, which has a seat capacity of 257 passengers, consisting of 42 seats in the executive class and 215 in the economy class. The aircraft also sports a customized logo of Liverpool FC, the famous Liverbird displayed on the the airplane’s tail and the slogan “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, which is synonymous with the team.

The A330-300 airplane has carried Liverpool FC’s team manager Brendan Rodgers and the club’s first team squad, including the likes of their captain Steven Gerrard and new signing Luis Alberto from Liverpool to Jakarta (stopping over in Abu Dhabi), and will continue to transport them onwards to Melbourne (Australia) and Bangkok (Thailand) as part of the “Liverpool FC Pre-Season Tour 2013”.

During the “Liverpool FC Pre-Season Tour 2013”, Liverpool FC will play a pre-season game against Indonesia’s national team on Saturday, 20 July 2013 at the Gelora Bung Karno (GBK) Stadium, Jakarta.

Garuda Indonesia’s partnership with Liverpool FC is also part of the airline’s strategy to increase its “brand awareness” in the international market through “marketing communications” program, specifically a “co-brand” program and joint “channel” between Garuda Indonesia and Liverpool FC.

As part of the agreement with Liverpool FC, Garuda Indonesia has the opportunity to carry out various marketing campaigns in conjunction with the team. This includes Garuda advertisements on electronic advertising hoardings around the edge of the Anfield pitch during home games, which are broadcasted by top TV networks to international viewers all over the world.

In addition, Garuda Indonesia has also been given access to reach over 12 million fans through Liverpool’s official Facebook account and 1.7 million of Liverpool’s Twitter “followers”. On the other hand, the partnership between Garuda Indonesia and Liverpool FC is in line with the airline’s transformation and expansion program through “Quantum Leap 2011-2015” and its strategy to become a “Global Player”.

In February 2013, Garuda Indonesia and Liverpool FC officially opened the “Garuda Indonesia and Liverpool FC Experience”, the only co-branding area with Liverpool in the world. Besides offering official Liverpool merchandise, the “Garuda Indonesia and Liverpool FC Experience” area invites Garuda Indonesia customers to experience the unique sensation of being at Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium. A photo booth complete with a “make up kit” and “face painting” tools is also available so that customers appear as if they are posing with Liverpool players and lovely Garuda attendants as die-hard Liverpool fans.

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