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19 Aug, 2013

Brunei to Host ASEAN Expo, Oct 26-30

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 19 August 2013 (12 Shawwala 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.


WORLD ISLAMIC TOURISM MART (WITM) 2013, 4-5 September, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (MATTA) will be organizing the World Islamic Tourism Mart (WITM 2013) from 4-8 Sept 2013 in conjunction with the MATTA FAIR SEPT 2013. WITM 2013 will comprise of a International Conference from 4-5 Sept 2013 to be held at Hotel Istana and a TRAVEX and Travel Fair from 6-8 Sept 2013 at PWTC, Kuala Lumpur. Message from Dato Mohammed Khalid Harun, Chairman, WITM 2013: We have several key speakers at our WITM 7th InCoMTHU Conference on 4 & 5th September. This is something no member engaged in Islamic tourism can afford to miss. WITM 7th InCoMTHU Conference focuses on Islamic travel and we have speakers who are specialists in the subject from various countries in the region. Do come and learn about – Syariah Tourism from the Vice President of Tourism from Indonesia; – Medical Tourism which is Syariah compliant; – How a country like Japan is dealing with halal requirements; – How to create a Muslim travel package, and lots more interesting topics that will help to grow your Islamic travel business. Even Malaysian inbound players should attend this as you will have Muslim travellers who expect syariah compliant travel. You will become more aware of the Syariah requirements and how Malaysia is coping with the ever increasing numbers of Muslim travellers especially from the Middle East. We look forward to meeting you at the WITM 7th InCoMTHU Conference. Please register www.witm2013.matta.org.my.

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

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

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


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




Dubai to host first ‘Global Islamic Economy Summit’, Nov 25-26

Khaleej Times – 13 August, 2013 – Industry experts will focus on six major pillars of the Islamic economy — Islamic Finance; Halal Food; Halal Lifestyle; Halal Travel; SME Development; and Islamic Economy Infrastructure — during the forthcoming ‘Global Islamic Economy Summit’ in Dubai.

Following the launch of ‘Dubai: Capital of Islamic Economy’ by Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in partnership with Thomson Reuters, is organising the summit on November 25 and 26, 2013. It will gather leading thinkers, policy makers and stakeholders from around the world to lead a discussion on the future of the $ 4 trillion Islamic economy.

With a consumer base of 1.6 billion Muslims, much has been said about the promise the Islamic world holds for economic growth and profitability. Yet very little transformative dialogue has been undertaken to assess the scale of opportunities and challenges within the global Islamic Economy. The Summit will initiate critical dialogue on the development of the integrated sectors of the Islamic Economy, covering Islamic financial services, halal manufacturing and related lifestyle sectors.

Islamic Finance will cover: Islamic banking, Islamic asset management, takaful and retakaful, sukuk and capital markets and Waqf endowments; Halal Food: agriculture, ingredients and manufacturing, retail, logistics, research and product development and food services; Halal Lifestyle: cosmetics, personal care, pharmaceuticals, fashion, entertainment; art and design and media; Halal Travel: hospitality, tourism, meetings incentives conferences & exhibitions (MICE), healthcare and Hajj/Umrah; SME Development: technology and innovation, venture capital financing, incubation and training; Islamic Economy Infrastructure: training and education, compliance, standardisation, research, Muslim consumer marketing and research and government services. The event will feature the launch of several innovations relating to the Islamic economy, including ground-breaking market studies and announcements from Dubai: Capital of Islamic Economy.

Commenting on the launch, Mohammed Abdullah Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and Chairman of the Executive Office of Shaikh Mohammed said: “As part of the ‘Dubai: Capital of Islamic Economy’ initiative, the Global Islamic Economy Summit 2013 offers that one point of focus highlighting a world of opportunities in the Islamic economy. And there’s no better place to do it than Dubai, the geographic and economic nexus of the Islamic world and a melting pot of citizens from hundreds of countries and dozens of cultures.”

Abdul Rahman Saif Al Ghurair, chairman, Dubai Chamber, said: “As a growing global business and leisure destination, Dubai is an ideal choice to become the capital of the Islamic economy. The UAE is already one of the biggest markets in the region for Islamic banking and we see major opportunities to enhance the halal food industry, develop trade policies and commercial laws, and Islamic tourism among other sectors. The Global Islamic Economy Summit will be the ideal platform to explore these ideas and begin a constructive dialogue for future growth and development.”

Russell Haworth, managing director, Middle East and North Africa, Thomson Reuters, said: “The emergence of an Islamic Economy as a definable economic paradigm opens up a new horizon of opportunities that, if nurtured, can bring tremendous benefits for societies all over the world.”

Sayd Farook, Global Head of Islamic Capital Markets, Thomson Reuters, commented: “In the current global economic climate, the search for new underserved markets has brought a fresh spotlight onto the Muslim world, and especially with regard to Islamic Finance and the Halal food and services sectors. The convergence of these two Shariah compliant industries is likely to be a new engine of growth that engages both the Muslim and non-Muslim world.”

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14th OIC Trade Fair to be held in Tehran in October

Tehran, Iran – the 14th Trade Fair of the OIC Member States is to be held between 28th October- 1st November 2013 in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran.

The fair will be organised by the Islamic Centre for Development of Trade (ICDT) and the Islamic Republic of Iran International Exhibitions Co. (IIEC) under the auspices of Iran’s Ministry of Industry, Mines and Trade at Tehran Permanent Fairground.

This fair has become a biennial crossroads of businessmen, Trade Promotion Organs (TPOs), Professional associations in the Islamic world and a platform for Member States to display their products and services. The price per square meter of exhibition space has been set as follows: Equipped square meter (shelf scheme): 190 US$; Not equipped square meter (indoor bare space): 175 US$.

For more comprehensive information on this Fair, kindly contact Islamic Republic of Iran International Exhibitions Co. (IIEC); Tel : (+9821) 22 66 28 29, Fax : (+9821) 22 66 26 97 E-mail: office@iranfair.com Web Site : www.iranfair.com

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New Rail Link To Connect Kenya, Uganda And Rwanda

KAMPALA, Aug 12 (NNN-NEW VISION) — Three East African countries — Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda — are implementing a joint 13 bILLION usd project for a Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) from Mombasa via Kampala to Kigali.

The project, to be jointly financed by the three countries, is expected to be completed by 2018 when it promises to ease trade and reduce road traffic.

Each member state will meet its loan liabilities differently.

Ugandan Works Minister Abraham Byandala says Kenya is already ahead of Uganda and Rwanda since the country charges 1.5 per cent of the railway cargo value for financing the project.

Speaking at a media briefing on the development of the project here recently, he said the preliminary designs for the Mombasa-Nairobi part of the project had been completed and the ground-breaking was expected by November this year.

The feasibility study and preliminary designs for the 511-km Nairobi-Malaba section from the Kenyan capital to the border with Uganda was being undertaken in-house by Kenya Railway Corporation, with support from local experts and was expected to be ready by December this year.

Byandala said the designs for 250-km Nakuru-Kisumu section within Kenya was also expected by December 2013.

For Uganda, the preliminary engineering designs for 250-km Kampala-Malaba SGR was being undertaken by a consultant and was expected to be ready by October this year. — NNN-NEW VISION

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Brunei to Host ASEAN Expo, Oct 26-30

Brunei Bulletin, August 18, 2013 – POISED to be the biggest SME Expo in the country, the international-scale Asean Expo 2013 – to be held from October 26 until 30 in BRIDEX Hall – will be a platform for local businesses to cooperate with the international community to expand their business overseas.

In the run up to the much anticipated event, Dato’ Jack Ting, organising chairman with Sheikh Jamaluddin Sheikh Mohamed of SHJ Consultant as the event consultant held a press conference to give updates on the event.

Sheikh Jamaluddin said, “Organised by Cityneon Displays and Construction Sdn Bhd, the theme of the Asean Expo 2013 is ‘Towards building a sustainable trade community’. And the idea is to provide a good platform for local entrepreneurs to sell and promote their products not only to locals but also international buyers. International participants in the expo are also expected to look at appointing local partners to import their products into the country.”

He added, “We are happy to provide the platform for the business community. The expo is also to coincide with Brunei Darussalam being the chair of Asean this year.”

Local and foreign businesses can get together in the key activities during the expo like business matching which involves the setting up of one-on-one business meetings for exhibitors with international buyers or networking opportunities for local or foreign trade buyers and exhibitors.

In addition to business matching and networking there will also be a business forum but keynote speakers are yet to be confirmed.

Meanwhile, Dato’ Jack Ting, the organising chairman said, “We will divide the hall in BRIDEX to Brunei Hall and International Hall, a total of 400 booths are available covering 20,000 square meters.”

Some of the confirmed participants from Brunei are Hengyi, Concept Computers, Padian.com and from MIPR are a selected group of SMEs to grab the opportunity to showcase their products to reach out to international exhibitors. Invitations will also be extended to cooperatives and companies under BINA, companies under BEDB and AITI to join the expo. Oil and gas companies are also invited. “We already have positive response from the invitees. Intracorp has signed up on more than 100 square metres.”

While for international participation, he revealed, “Some 30 companies from Taiwan have already confirmed and we are expecting some 60 companies. There already are Chinese companies confirmed and more are registering. From the Philippines and Malaysia as well as Indonesia, there are good responses. ”

Sheikh Jamaluddin added that there are also interests from the Japanese renewable energy sector to join the expo and may showcase electric vehicle.

Not to miss out on the opportunity to take part in the expo, Dato’ Jack Ting said that the rate for a standard booth is $2,000. However, there is currently a discount rate at $1,750 ending on September 28. The expo is open to any sectors under agriculture, tourism, electronics, education, oil and gas, infrastructure, services, ICT enabled services, food and beverage as well as lifestyle.

For further information on the Asean Expo, log on to ae2013.cityneon.com.bn

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Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: The “King of Qawwali” and his divine intonations

DAWN.COM, 2013-08-16, ISLAMABAD: Today marks the 16th death anniversary of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. “The King of Qawwali,” was born on October 13 in 1948 in the city of Faisalabad, Pakistan. Khan’s father Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, was a musicologist, vocalist, instrumentalist, and Qawwal.

Khan’s first public performance was at a studio recording as part of an annual music festival organised by Radio Pakistan, known as Jashn-e-Baharan.

Khan sang mainly in Punjabi and occasionally in Persian, Brij bhasha and Hindi in his early years. However, after his collaboration with Peter Gabriel, when he became immensely popular among urban areas of South Asia and fans of World Music, he increasingly started singing in Urdu.

Khan brought to the world audience Qawwali, a form of music performed at the shrines of the Sufis of South Asia for centuries. Qawwali has a system of progression of its own when it is performed with an intricate link to rituals which help transform the experience of listeners.

Listen to the song composed and sung by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan for the film Bandit Queen:

The San Francisco label Six Degrees, that released the Qawwali legend’s dub-laced collaboration with London producer-composer Gaudi in 2007, says of the legend,

Dubbed by many as the “Elvis of the East” and the “Bob Marley of Pakistan” these titles are not without foundation. Some have claimed he has sold more albums than Elvis, and he has reached as many hearts and souls and crossed as many cultural and spiritual boarders as Bob Marley with his unique mix of poetic eastern spiritual and western musical themes.

Khan was one of the rare performers of an ancient musical tradition refined with delicate elements of generations of Qawwals through centuries. Taking the universality of its devotional appeal, he fused it into a style that was flexible enough to be adopted by an international audience.

Watch Farjad Nabi’s award winning film ‘Nusrat has Left the Building…But When?’:

He teamed with Peter Gabriel on the soundtrack to ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ in 1985, and with Canadian musician Michael Brook on the albums ‘Mustt Mustt’ (1990) and ‘Night Song’ (1996) and with Pearl Jam lead singer, Eddie Vedder in 1995 on two songs for the soundtrack to Dead Man Walking.

Peter Gabriel said at the time of Nusrat’s passing: have never heard so much spirit in a voice. Nusrat was a supreme example of how far and deep a voice can go in finding, touching and moving the soul.

Khan also contributed to the soundtrack of ‘Natural Born Killers’. And his album ‘Intoxicated Spirit’ was nominated for a Grammy award in 1997 for best traditional folk album.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan holds the world record for the largest recorded output by a Qawwali artist-a total of 125 albums as of 2001.

Nusrat Fateh Ali dominated the Qawwali scene across the late 1970s-1990s, selling albums in rural Punjab and across Pakistan and India, and later playing to packed audiences around the world.

He took ill with kidney and liver failure on August 11, 1997 in London, England. While, on the way to Los Angeles to receive a kidney transplant, he died of a sudden cardiac arrest at Cromwell Hospital, London, on Saturday, August 16, 1997 at the age of 48.

TIME magazine’s issue of November 6, 2006, “60 Years of Asian Heroes”, lists Nusrat as one of the top 12 Artists and Thinkers in the last 60 years. Five documentaries have been made on him.

British novelist, music journalist, and biographer, Chris Nickson said: There are great singers, and then there are those few voices that transcend time. The late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan could not only transcend time, but also language and religion. There was magic when he opened his mouth, a sense of holy ecstasy that was exciting and emotional. It wasn’t uncommon even for Western listeners, who didn’t understand a word he was singing or follow his Sufi traditions, to be moved to tears upon hearing him.

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Bangladesh: World Bank Support To Improve Water Supply In Chittagong

DHAKA, Bangladesh Aug 18 (NNN-BSS) — The World Bank (WB) is providing about US$170 million to the government to support improving water supply in Chittagong metropolis where nearly five million people suffer from inadequate water supply and poor sewerage system.

The government will fund the rest of the project, cost of which is estimated US$185.4 million, a WB press release said today.

The WB said it supported the Chittagong Water Supply Improvement and Sanitation Project (CWSISP) aims to increase the supply of safe potable water by constructing selected water production, transmission and distribution network facilities in Chittagong. Currently, the city’s water production capacity is only able to cater to 40 percent of the total estimated demand.

In a recent review of the progress, the World Bank urged Chittagong Water and Sanitation Authority (CWASA) to expedite the implementation of Modunaghat Water Treatment Plant and associated transmission pumping facilities.

The CWASA has already signed the consultancy contract for the Modunaghat Water Treatment Plant and completed the technical proposal evaluation for the distribution network design consultancy. These steps when implemented would play crucial role to increase water production as well as to address the widening gaps between water demand and production in Chittagong.

The project went through some initial delays and needed more time than originally envisaged to establish a strong project management unit, identify all technical assistance needs, and procure the technical assistance consultancies to prepare detailed engineering designs and bidding documents for the major works.

Half-way through its original five-year implementation period, the project has less than two years to end.

The government and the World Bank will review the progress and implementation status again in December 2013 to determine the scope of project restructuring.

In the meantime, CWASA is fast-tracking the implementation of Modunaghat Water Treatment Plant, new water transmissionmains, rehabilitation of existing booster stations, and rehabilitation and expansion of the distribution network.–NNN-BSS

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Malaysian Tourists To Bali Increase

DENPASAR, Bali, Indonesia Aug 16 (NNN-Bernama) — The number of tourists from Malaysia to Bali rose in the first six months of the year compared with the same period last year, Indonesia’s Antara news agency reported.

Malaysia has become the fourth largest in number of visitors to Bali from the fifth earlier, Head of Bali Central Statistic Agency (BPS) I Gede Suarsa said here on Friday.

“The number of visitors from Malaysia is larger than those from Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Britain,” Suarsa said, noting that around 92,410 Malaysians visited Bali in the first half of the year, up 11.35 per cent from the same period last year.

According to Antara, the number made up 6.19 per cent of the total number of 1,493,020 foreign visitors to the world famous resort island in the January-June period this year.

Suarsa however said a decline was recorded only in the number of visitors from South Korea and Britain.–NNN-BERNAMA

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Suriname: All Set For Carifesta Xi

PARAMARIBO (Suriname), Aug 17 (NNN-CMC) — With a price tag of five million US dollars, and most of the contingents already in the country, Suriname is set to stage the most spectacular opening of the 11th Caribbean Festival of Arts and Culture (CARIFESTA X1) later on Friday.

While construction workers and decorators were completing the stands and stages and sound engineers tweaking their equipment, hundreds of school children and dancers were doing a dress rehearsal on the main stage.

President Desi Bouterse, Education Minister Ashwin Adhin and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General Irwin Larocque will address the opening ceremony.

This year’s theme of the Caribbean’s most prominent cultural event is “Culture for Development: Celebrating our diversity and promoting the central role of culture in economic, social and human development”.

With the historic Presidential Palace as the background on Friday night, locals will present Suriname’s rich multi-cultural heritage including drama, music, dance and martial arts woven together into a kaleidoscope of music and color backed by a dazzling laser show.

Officials said that most of the 7,000 tickets for the opening ceremony at Independence Square had been distributed by mid-morning and for those who failed to secure tickets, several widescreens have been erected at different locations across the capital, Paramaribo. — NNN-CMC

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Bruneians attend Khatam Al-Quran to mark Sultan’s birthday

Brunei Bulletin, August 18, 2013 – A TOTAL of 1,072 participants comprising members of the Mukim and Village Consultative Councils, and an additional 536 students under 12 years old from religious schools took part in the Khatam Al-Quran at Istana Nurul Iman, marking the end of 67 times Khatam Al-Quran being held throughout the country in conjunction with the 67th birthday celebrations of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.

Dayang Hajah Masnah binti Abdul Rahman from Kg Mumong took part in the Khatam Al-Quran in conjunction with Sultan’s birthday celebrations for the third time this year.

In the interview, she said it has been an event that she wouldn’t want to miss and if given a chance, she will join again next year. She said besides enjoying it as a religious event joining many others, it also symbolised the thankfulness of the rakyat for the blessing of Allah the Almighty under the just and pious leadership of His Majesty. She hoped Brunei will continue to be peaceful and blissful for many more years and she prayed for the good health and longevity of His Majesty. She added that she is very proud and thankful to have His Majesty as the Wali al-Amri (leader) of the nation.

Meanwhile, Dayang Hajah Norlizawati binti Hj Mohd Ali Rashid from Kg Sungai Liang said it was her first participation and she loved it. It was a chance to participate in the Khatam Al-Quran with others and to be part of the 67 times Khatam in conjunction with the birthday celebrations of His Majesty.

She said this is a unique event for Muslims, where the rakyat (residents) of the country organise Khatam Al-Quran with the number of times equal to the age of their beloved king. She added that she was very proud to be a part of it, to be a citizen of the country and a subject of a benevolent ruler.

A welfare officer at the Arabic Preparatory School, Awang Haji Ahad bin Haji Juna from Mukim Lumapas, said performing Khatam Al-Quran is his obligation and he felt very proud to have done it several times and to be part of the event for the 67th birthday celebrations of His Majesty. The event showed how Islam played a significant part in the nation and he hoped such an event cemented strong awareness towards the role of Islam in the country among younger generation. Such event also provided opportunities for the communities to participate in a religious event.

A new Muslim convert, Awang Mohd Mohaimin bin Mohd Zulkifli, said it was a very useful occasion for him to be part of the Khatam Al-Quran and to be part of the religious event taking place nationwide in conjunction with the birthday celebrations of His Majesty.

Awang Iskandariah bin Ismail, a religious officer from Kg Sibulu, said he was happy and proud to be part of such a national event and such a religious ceremony in conjunction with the 67th birthday celebration of His Majesty. He said he would like to congratulate His Majesty and pray to Allah the Almighty for his continuous good health and for the peace and prosperity of the nation to remain blissful under the benevolent leadership of His Majesty.

Muhd Izzul Izwan bin Zainal Ariffin from Pengian Anak Puteri Norain Religious School, Tutong told the Bulletin he was very happy to be selected as part of the event. He said it was the best gift he can afford to give to His Majesty at this time. He added that he was also proud to be a citizen of Brunei under the leadership of His Majesty the Sultan.

Ak Mohammad Al-Faez bin Pg Hj Nor Jaidi, 11, from Sungai Akar Arabic School, representing Brunei-Muara District said he too was very happy and proud to be selected as part of such a national event at Istana Nurul Iman.

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Saudi Arabia’s Jazan University undergoes SR3bn expansion

Arab News, Sunday 18 August 2013 – Jazan University (JU) is currently undergoing a SR3 billion expansion project, in which a number of new colleges are to be constructed, according to Ibrahim Abu Hadi, public relations and information supervisor.

The expansion will witness the establishment of four medical colleges, a college for business administration, a number of support projects and an electrical conversion station, according to Abu Hadi.

The expansion work is the second phase of the project, which Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah laid the foundation stones for.

The expansion is also in line with the government’s push for quality education and training as key components of the Kingdom’s nonoil related budget, with 25 percent of total spending, according to a Saudi Press Agency report.

The university has drawn up a new strategy for the future by designing and implementing a strategic plan with the help of the SRI International (formerly the Stanford Research Institute).

The strategy maps out the future development scenarios for JU, such as its establishment as a modern university and aligning its operations, processes and resources to achieve such a vision.

This project is intended to transform JU into an outstanding university characterized by continuous investment in knowledge creation, research excellence and community service. The university is expecting the strategic plan to contribute specific direction and guidance to many activities.

“Our community must be patient and cooperative with the strategic planning team, as the design and implementation of activities will require time, resources, new processes, and operational changes,” said JU Rector Muhammad A. Hiazea.

He said the process will be broad reaching, and it will only be successful “if you are invested in it, actively participate, and incorporate it into your strategy. I strongly encourage you to be forthcoming and open to the strategic planning activities.”

He added that he was thankful that the university has the opportunity to chart a new course to meet the future, building on its strengths and tradition. “I look forward to Jazan University playing a leading role in higher education within the Kingdom in the coming years,” he said.

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Pan-Borneo Highway 93% complete

Kota Kinabalu, 16 August 2013, Insight Sabah – Deputy Minister of Works Datuk Rosnah Shirlin today gave an update on the progress of the upgrading works done on the 2,239 kilometre-long Pan-Borneo Highway.

The Pan-Borneo Highway was built in 1986 to link the two East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak. It begins in the district of Sematan in Sarawak, and passes through Kuching, Serian, Sri Aman, Sarikei, Sibu, Bintulu, Miri, Limbang, Lawas, Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Tawau. As of today, the Pan-Borneo Highway is 93 percent completed, with a remainder of a 50-kilometre missing link from Kalabakan to Serudong.

Through the Highway Network Development Plan Phase 2, the Ministry of Works plans to upgrade the whole stretch of the Pan-Borneo Highway to dual carriageway in stages at an estimated cost of RM22 billion. Upgrading works began in 2011 and is estimated to be completed by 2025.

Speaking at a press conference, Rosnah disclosed that the Pan-Borneo road is fully tarred, with a total of 284.65 kilometres already upgraded to dual carriageway.

1,166 kilometres of the Pan-Borneo Highway is located in Sabah. Approximately 9.5 billion of the RM22-billion allocation will be spent to upgrade the highway in the state.

Currently, two main upgrading projects are underway in Sabah – the Petagas-Putatan-Lok Kawi Phase 1A and 1B road and the Donggongon-Papar Phase 1 road – costing over RM369 million. The Ministry expects that the upgrading works on these roads will completed in a little over two years’ time.

Other projects currently done on the Pan-Borneo Highway in Sabah include addressing the black spot problems in certain areas, repairing roads and slopes, and the upgrading of roads in areas that are prone to flooding. There are 86 projects of this nature in the state, incurring a cost of RM277 million. Of this number, 70 projects have already been completed.

The Ministry faces many challenges in completing the Pan-Borneo upgrade, including the problem of heavy vehicles carrying loads that exceed the 38-tonnes load limit, which frequent the Pan-Borneo highway. This causes the roads to become damaged prematurely, thus incurring high maintenance costs.

Rosnah explained that this is a concern of her Ministry. To tackle the issue, the Ministry is in talks with other authorities including the Road Transport Department to find a lasting solution to the problem. The feedback has so far been positive, she said.

“The government is committed to complete and upgrade the Pan-Borneo Highway to increase access to areas of economic growth as well as to cater to the well being of the people,” she said. – Insight Sabah

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Emirates to fly to Sialkot, 5th route in Pakistan

Khaleej Times – 14 August, 2013 – Emirates, one of the world’s fastest-growing airlines, on Tuesday announced that it is to launch services to Sialkot, its fifth route to Pakistan.

The service will commence from November 5 with four weekly flights operated by an Airbus A330-200 aircraft in a two-class configuration — 54 seats in business class and 183 in economy class. The aircraft can carry up to 17 tonnes of cargo, giving a boost to trade opportunities.

Sialkot is the capital of Sialkot District located in the north-east of the Punjab province in Pakistan. Situated around 125 kilometres north of Lahore, it provides customers with a convenient alternative gateway to the Export Triangle of Pakistan — the area encompassing Gujrat, Sialkot and Gujranwala.

The area is famous for producing and exporting sports goods and clothing, gloves, surgical instruments, cutlery, ceramics and leather garments, while imports to the region focus on the supply of raw materials for manufacturing those products.

“Pakistan was the first country on our route network when we launched services to Karachi in 1985,” said Barry Brown, Emirates’ divisional senior vice-president for Commercial Operations East. “With the addition of this fifth destination, the airline will operate 63 flights a week between Dubai and Pakistan. Twenty-eight years since our first flight, this new service to Sialkot continues to demonstrate the strong ties between the two countries and reinforces Dubai as a conveniently located hub for onward travel on Emirates’ network of 134 destinations.”

Sialkot International Airport, which opened in 2007, boasts the longest runway in Pakistan at 3,600 metres and was wholly-funded by the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce.

“As the first privately-funded airport in Pakistan, we welcome Emirates’ decision to commence operations to the city,” said Shaikh Abdul Majid, president of the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce. “Sialkot will be able to offer Emirates’ passengers another point of entry into Pakistan in a modern, conveniently located and accessible airport.”

Emirates flight EK620 will depart Dubai at 4:15am and arrive in Sialkot at 8:20am on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. The return flight, EK621, will leave Sialkot at 9:45am, arriving in Dubai at 12:35pm. All times are local. Tickets for Sialkot are now available to purchase via Emirates.com or through preferred travel agents.

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92,861 visit Dhofar for Eid holidays

Oman Daily Observer – 14 August, 2013 – Latest statistics released by the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Royal Oman Police (ROP), for surveying khareef Salalah visitors, pointed out that the number of visitors to the Governorate of Dhofar during Eid al Fitr holidays (August 9-12) stood at 92,861.

Omanis constituted the bulk of the visitors to the governorate with 55,965, followed by visitors from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with 24,959, Saudi Arabia at 4,199 and Indian visitors at 3,978.

In terms of country of residence, the statistics pointed out that 64.5 per cent of the visitors are residents in the Sultanate and 27.7 per cent are residents in the UAE. The statistics added that 94.2 per cent of the total visitors arrived in the Governorate of Dhofar by road.

The number of visitors to the governorate on the first day of Eid stood at 13,262 whereas they hit 26,014 on the second day and 23,392 on the third day. The fourth day of Eid witnessed the largest number of visitors as they reached 30,193.

The total number of visitors to the Governorate of Dhofar in 2013 since the beginning of khareef season from June 21 to August 12 stood at 184,910 compared to 134,437 during the same period last year, an increase by 37.5 per cent.

This year, for the Salalah Tourism Festival, the Ministry of Tourism has set up seven tourist information centres in Dhofar Governorate in selected locations at the main Shell petrol filling station in the Wilayat of Adam, Shell petrol station in the Wilayat of Haima, Traveller’s Oasis, Festival Square, Salalah Airport, Salalah Gardens Mall and Al Mughsayl beach.

Besides provision of tourist information relating to hotel bookings, the centres will also offer other services to tourists including distribution of brochures and maps.

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Non-stop flights from Abu Dhabi to Salalah

Gulf Today – 14 August, 2013 – Rotana Jet has announced 23 return flights during the month of August and September between Abu Dhabi Al Bateen Airport and Salalah.

Following on introducing flights between Dubai and Sir Bani Yas Island and Abu Dhabi Al Bateen, the addition of Salalah demonstrates the airline’s commitment to expand to diverse destinations worldwide.

The charter flights are in agreement with Tour Operators promoting the destination. The Salalah Tourism Festival (also known as the Khareef Festival) will start with the Eid festivities this year.

The Khareef season officially began in the Governorate of Dhofar and will continue until late September.

For travellers from the capital, flights will operate between Al Bateen Airport in Abu Dhabi and Salalah on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The Abu Dhabi – Salalah flights will depart Abu Dhabi Al Bateen Airport at 1530 hrs and arrive in Salalah International Airport at 1730 hrs. The return flights will depart Salalah International Airport on the same days at 1815 hrs and arrive in Abu Dhabi Al Bateen Airport at 1955 hrs.

“As a customer-driven airline, Rotana Jet is glad to facilitate this much needed connectivity between Abu Dhabi Al Bateen Airport and Salalah. Non-stop flights to Salalah offers passengers travelling from UAE with yet another unique holiday option to experience and we believe will create a wide range of new options for the tourism and business sectors. Rotana Jet is gearing up for an year of expansion with new routes steadily opening up, keeping in line with our commitment to provide passengers with choice and great value,” said Rajendran Vellapalath, Rotana Jet’s Commercial and Planning Director. Passengers to Salalah will travel on a 50-seat Embraer Jet aircraft.

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City of Arabia theme park project on track

Khaleej Times – 14 August, 2013 – Construction work on Dubai’s newest entertainment facility, the IMG Worlds of Adventure (IMGWOA), is on-track as a mega space frame has already taken shape on-site.

Rides for the theme park and entertainment facility are being constructed at various sites as shipments are expected to arrive later this year. The facility owned by the Ilyas & Mustafa Galadari Group is situated within City of Arabia, on Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Road.

An official from Ilyas & Mustafa Galadari Group said: “With the structural columns in place, we have entered a new phase of development. IMG Worlds of Adventure is one of the most anticipated developments in the region offering a number of world firsts which will position Dubai and the UAE on the global map as a themed entertainment capital.”

IMG Worlds of Adventure is a multi-faceted themed entertainment facility comprising of four zones including; MARVEL, Cartoon Network, Lost Valley and IMG Entertainment Zone. The park will be in excess of 1.5 million square feet overall in its first stage and will be the largest temperature controlled indoor themed entertainment destination in the world.

The City of Arabia development features an impressive collection of commercial, residential and accommodation. The development will cater to millions of visitors planning to visit IMG Worlds of Adventure.

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Hotel Show in Dubai to address industry issues

Saudi Gazette – 13 August, 2013 – Now in its 14th year, The Hotel Show 2013, to be held on Sept. 28-30 at Dubai World Trade Centre, will once more maintain its position as the leading hospitality and supplies show in the MENA region, bridging the gap between industry leaders, investors and stakeholders to look forward and work towards the next twenty years of growth for the UAE and wider Middle East.

The three-day program will cover diverse topics such as security, architecture and design, investment, sustainability, emerging markets and leisure, as well as the latest trends and forecasts for the leisure and hospitality industry. This year, a new feature at the event is the Vision Conference, with the region’s most prominent and knowledgeable professionals from the leisure and hospitality industry.

With six keynote speeches from some of the industry’s strongest leaders and experts such as Jeff Strachen, formally of Marriott, and global architect Steven Miller, FAIA, RIBA, thirty sessions involving heads of industry from Jumeirah Group, Scotland Yard and Facebook and open networking sessions, the Vision Conference is also expected to reveal key trends and forecasts.

To be interviewed on Day 2, Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General of DTCM, is expected to go into further detail of the significance of the tourism and hospitality industry in Dubai’s Tourism Vision for 2020, and the importance of industry collaboration to achieve the broad objective of welcoming 20 million visitors per year by 2020.

He said: “2012 saw us achieve the landmark figure of 10 million visitors for the first time, and now we have been set the ambitious but achievable target of doubling this by 2020. In order to achieve this target we must harness the collective power of our partners in the tourism and hospitality industry, and I look forward to discussing the Vision with many of them during The Hotel Show.”

Commencing the conference program on 28th with a keynote speech on where the hospitality and digital industries are heading, Alexander Barder, Regional Director of Business Development MEA, SABRE will share his insights on the growth of digital technology from marketing and promotional benefits, as well as revenue management and more efficient communication between hotels, their partners and their guests via digital and social media channels.

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Tourism – Uganda’s Dormant Goldmine

9 August 2013 – The Independent – Tourists at the Murchison Falls in Murchison Falls National Park in Masindi. A new report shows that national parks are operating way below capacity.$25 million World Bank loan to drive five-year tourism development strategy

On August 1, Maria Mutagamba, the minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, was supposed to preside over the launch of a new ground-breaking report titled, ‘The Economic and Statistical analysis of Tourism in Uganda,’ at the Kampala Serena Hotel.

However, guests representing the tourism industry stakeholders as well as donors and NGOs and government officials waited for hours but she was a no show. The reason given for her not showing up was that she, along with her state minister, had been forced to remain in Parliament – hardly 100 meters away for an “important matter.” To many, this action was a clear demonstration of the manner the government has always tended to treat the tourism sector as a by the way.

As a follow up on an earlier survey, the Tourism Expenditure and Motivation Survey 2012 (TEMS), the context for the new report is the growing recognition, both outside and within Uganda, of the country’s tourism potential.

Earlier endorsements by high-profile publications such as Lonely Planet and National Geographic Traveler in 2012 of the quality of the tourist experience in Uganda would have been a good motivation.

Indeed, “the need for government leadership in developing the sector” is cited by the report as one of the challenges facing the sector along with shortage of skills and investment in the parks and other protected areas, and for a much stronger marketing effort for Ugandan tourism.

These according to the report, have made Uganda to lag behind her regional counterparts. Quoting from the World Travel and Tourism Council, the direct impact of tourism expenditures is lowest in Uganda, amounting to 3.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2012, which is significantly lower than Tanzania’s 4.8% and Kenya’s 5.0%, which ironically are less endowed than Uganda. The trick, for Kenya and Tanzania and even Rwanda, is the high level of political will to drive the sector.

The report, which was compiled by UBOS and the World Bank and funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), focused on the impact of tourist expenditures on the economy.

It did find that what every stakeholder outside government already knows really – that tourist dollars are indeed ‘exports’ that are important contributors to the development of the Ugandan economy, increasing foreign exchange earnings, and improving the balance of payments. It shows that the linkages of the tourism sector to the Ugandan economy are “quite strong.”

Roughly 500,000 foreign tourists spent at least one night in Uganda in 2012, and nearly 75,000 of these were leisure or cultural tourists. Their total expenditures totaled to Shs 1.1 trillion and generated Shs 2.7 trillion of GDP – equivalent to 38% of exports and 5.6% of 2012 GDP, including revenues to government from indirect taxes of 0.5% of GDP. The potential according to the report is still massive.

Policy simulations show that attracting just 100,000 additional leisure tourists to visit Uganda would add 11% to exports and 1.6% to GDP. Similarly, if each tourist visiting Uganda stayed one additional night, imports would rise by 7% and GDP by 1%.

The latter finding is important because the TEMS survey shows that only 30% percent of tourists visiting on business, for meetings, or to visit friends and relatives; go ahead to visit any natural sites outside of Kampala.

Crucially, on their trip to Uganda, over 40% of foreign tourists said they also visited Kenya (visited by 20% of all Ugandan tourists), Tanzania (12%), and Rwanda (10%), which means that the countries that know the value of tourists will always make them stay longer. The portfolio of tourists should give policy makers some food for though.

At least 32% of tourists come for business reasons, 11% for meetings or conferences, 17% for leisure, 20% for family, 5% for spiritual/religious purposes, and 2% for cultural tourism; the remaining tourists come to Uganda for research, nongovernmental organization (NGO) work, or education.

The Uganda Tourism Board is supposed be the vanguard of marketing the country abroad through the various channels. However, only 5% of all tourists used its website as their main source of information – a clear indication that the institution is not playing its role.

Apparently, the Uganda Wildlife Authority, which essentially is supposed to be a regulator, has turned into a policy maker and a competitor of sorts with the tour companies and other industry players.

Local transport in Uganda and insufficient visitor information were the most frequently cited reasons for dissatisfaction and suggested areas for improvement, according to Alex Asiimwe, a policy analyst at the ministry.

Also, the quality of customer service is still an issue. Kirk Hamilton, an expert from the World Bank, suggested that going forward, there are two basic ways to make tourism’s contribution to the Ugandan economy grow – attracting more tourists and persuading those who turn up to spend more money while in the country.

Part of government’s failure to act pro-actively was blamed on lack of information and data. Consequently, key donors to Uganda, including the World Bank, UNDP, Germany and France among others have resolved to form a Donors Working Group for the tourism sector.

Moses Kibirige, the private sector development specialist at the World Bank, said to that effort, the World Bank has offered a $25 million loan to drive the development of the sector. Some of the money would be devoted to marketing efforts by private players through a matching facility. Also, a 5-star hotel will be set up in Jinja as a training facility for the hospitality sector.

“Tourism is a sleeping giant that has woken up,” he said. If or not the politicians and government bureaucrats and technocrats will share his optimism is what remains to be seen.

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Tunisia Tourism Sees Modest Gain

12 August 2013 – Magharebia – Tunis — Tunisia’s tourism industry is picking up after a post-revolutionary slump, officials say. A new tourism plan unveiled on August 6th calls for promoting Tunisia as a new beach destination and opening new markets – notably in the Persian Gulf and Asian countries – while keeping a focus on the traditional European market.

As many as 7 million tourists could visit Tunisia in 2013, Tourism Minister Jamel Gamra said last month. “The plan that I have adopted includes a change in priorities for organising the sector, variation of the tourism product and the use of new technologies in marketing,” Gamra told Mosaïque FM.

According to the Tunisian National Tourism Office (ONTT), at least 2.6 million tourists entered the country in the first half of 2013. The figure marks a 4.8 per cent increase from last year. Revenue from tourism also grew by 1.3 million dinars (581,181 euros) – or 0.2 per cent – compared with the same period in 2012, the ONTT reported.

Gamra said he expected tourism revenue to keep growing because of the pace of hotel bookings. Tunisian tourism workers welcomed the news, expressing relief that the numbers pointed to a long-awaited recovery. Many said they hoped that the trend would continue and that national stability and security would allow their industry to bounce back fully.

“Thank God we have the influx of tourists this year and did not record any vacancies during the month of July, as the percentage of bookings for the month of August has reached 80 per cent up until now,” Hamammet hotel worker Jaber Al Hilali told Magharebia.

“We rejoiced with the return of tourists to our country,” Tunis travel agency employee Zahra Obeidi said. “We receive daily demands to visit our country, especially from European countries. This indicates the return of security, and we are very optimistic. ”

And with the summer season under way, Tunisia is again seeing visitors. “We followed all the hot events that occurred in Tunisia but that did not make us afraid. Everything is at its best and we are enjoying our time,” said Ibrahim al-Qabali, who came with his family from Algeria for the holiday season.

Tunisian tourism, however, has yet to return to levels seen during the Ben Ali era. The industry has shrunk by 14.2 per cent since the revolution.

Tourism is one of Tunisia’s largest generators of foreign currency income and the second largest employer behind agriculture. It represents about 7% of the gross national income (GNI) and employs 350,000 people. Another two million jobs are tied indirectly to the industry, which covers 60% of the Tunisian trade deficit.

The Tunisian government recognises that the tourist industry has far to go on the road to recovery. Officials have assured the sector that marketing campaigns aimed at promoting Tunisia’s new image would help bring back tourists.

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Nigeria: Calabar – the Beauty, Thrills

Daily Trust – 11 August 2013 – From all perspectives, a recent tour of Calabar was very delightful, justifying the tourists’ assumption that the ancient city is always a tourist delight.

Although the visit was for the National Conference and Annual General Meeting of the Nigerian Library Association (NLA), it gave the conference’s participants the opportunity of knowing more about Calabar’s tourist sites and their potentialities.

The Cultural Centre, Calabar, the venue of the conference, displayed some of the tourist expectations of the rich cultural values in other parts of Cross River state.

The well-paved roads leading to the centre were beautified and they showcased some elements of the abundant tourist attractions in the state.

The conference of librarians also attracted exhibitors, publishers and friends of the association.

During the conference, 14 papers were presented, while three celebrities, including Gov. Liyel Imoke of Cross River, Gov. Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom and Chief Emeka Ofor, a prominent businessman, were honoured with NLA Merit and Eminent Personality Awards.

The participants savoured the aesthetics of the neat and well-planned city but their ecstatic mood switched into to a sombre mood when they visited some places.

They visited some places of interest such as the Marina Slave Museum and Tinapa Business Resort, among others.

The visit to the museum brought back the memories of the horrific Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, which was then perpetrated by European slave traders and their African collaborators.

The visitors walked in a single file formation to re-enact the way the slaves were forced to move in chains to “their destinations of no return”.

Viewing some of the antiquities and artworks was quite emotional and, in fact, some of the visitors broke down in tears.

Some of the artworks reflect the slaves’ voyage to faraway places, during which they were forced to lie down in a way that made it virtually impossible for them to communicate with one another.

In the artworks, the weak and sickly slaves were isolated from the healthy ones, while some were thrown into the sea.

The emotions of the visitors could have lingered for a longer time if they were allowed to take pictures of the revealing artworks.

One of the chambers of the museum contains the chains and shackles used in tying up the slaves to prevent them from escaping.

The visitors were told that the slaves were exchanged for valueless items such as guns, hot drinks and mirrors, while each of the items could be exchanged for ten human beings.

Another chamber contains the slave-masters’ rods, which were used for stamping identification marks on the slaves.

Some of the artworks contain images such as white men flogging fleeing slaves and bull dogs, used by the white slave-masters to hunt down slaves.

One of the artworks depicts slaves groaning under the yoke of heavy chains, while working on sugarcane plantations.

Some of the artworks provoked strong feelings in the tourists, as some of them, who could no longer control their emotions, burst into tears, recalling the striking instance of man’s inhumanity to man.

Some of the visitors asked thought-provoking questions such as: “How could the people who brought Christianity to us unleash this kind of bestial acts on our people?

The visitors, however, found solace in a chamber of the museum in which the statues of Rev. Samuel Ajayi Crowther, a former slave who later became the first African Anglican bishop in Nigeria, and William Wilberforce, who fought for the abolition of slave trade, are erected.

At the Tinapa Business Resort, a magazine — Waka About Africa — carried a cover story, “Badagry: A Walk Through The Slave Route”, which caught the attention of the visitors.

The publication argued that before Africans could blame Europeans for the atrocities of the slave trade, they should first investigate the involvement of various community leaders, who searched the hinterland and captured the slaves for the European slave merchants.

The magazine, however, noted that after the proclamation that made slave trade illegal, the trade stopped in British West Indies in 1863 and in Brazil in 1818, while Africa followed in 1870.

It noted also that long after the abolition of slave trade, the inhuman trade in persons still flourished in Badagry until 1886.

The general consensus among the visitors is that other forms of slavery still exist nowadays, citing human trafficking and child labour as examples. They underscore the need for governments and relevant agencies to make concerted efforts to eradicate any form of modern-day slavery.

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Iran Ups Exports Of Agriculture Products To Russia

TEHRAN, Aug 12 (NNN-FNA) — Iran has increased export of its agricultural products to Russia, a senior Russian official announced. “Iran’s exports to Russia in the field of agricultural products, including fruits and vegetables, has increased,” Russia’s Consul General in Rasht Maxim Baranov said in a meeting with Head of Gilan Chamber of Commerce Hadi Tizhoush on Sunday.

He noted that Iran and Russia have great economic and commercial potentials which can be used for increasing the volume of their trade balance.

Baranov pointed to his meeting with Gilan governor-general, and said, “Gilan governor-general in the meeting said that Iran is the biggest producer of kiwi which is exported to Russia via Turkey while it can be directly exported to Russia from the province.”

Tizhoush, for his part, pointed to the good track record of trade cooperation between Iran and Russia, and called for further facilitating trade between the two countries.

Iran and Russia have vast cooperation in different fields, specially in political and economic spheres. The two also enjoy special position on the international scene and have long held constant consultations on key regional and global issues.

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Malaysian Company Bids For 3 Monorail Projects In India

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 12 (NNN-Bernama) — Scomi Engineering Bhd, the engineering arm of Scomi Group, is participating in the bidding process for three monorail projects in India that will add an additional order book value of up to RM1 billion to the company.

Scomi Engineering Chief Executive Officer Kanesan Veluppillai said the bidding process for the projects, namely Kerala, Chennai and Delhi Monorail, will be over in the next few months and the company hoped to know the outcome by this quarter and next quarter.

“We will do it (monorail construction) as a consortium just like the Mumbai Monorail project. Our portion will be about RM1 billion maximum (for three projects),” he told Bernama in an interview recently.

According to industry analyst, the projects in Kerala and New Delhi involve a total of 33 km of rail lines while in Chennai, India’s fifth most populous state, the monorail project would involve a 57.1 km line.

Meanwhile, on the Mumbai Monorail Line 1 project, he said the project would commence its maiden commercial operation, consisting nine kilometres line, on Sept 15 as planned. He said the company has already deployed 10 monorail cars to India, of which nine is currently undergoing integrated testing.

“The progress is very good. We have completed critical testing as of June 1 and the commercial operation will go on as planned on Sept 15. We are doing testing in the worst possible condition. It is the monsoon season now and our cars are being put through a very severe test under this condition,” he said.

Scomi bagged the RM1.85 billion Mumbai Monorail project in 2008 in joint venture with India’s Larsen and Toubro Ltd. The Mumbai job was the first monorail project for Scomi outside Malaysia before it bagged two monorail jobs in Brazil worth a combined RM5.6 billion three years later.

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Malindo Air To Strengthen Domestic Network

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 12 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysian hybrid airline, Malindo Air, plans to strengthen its domestic network. Chief Executive Officer Chandran Rama Muthy said the airline will increase daily flights to Penang and Langkawi, effective today, from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), in addition to those from Subang.

“We are also offering 50,000 one-way tickets for all domestic flights at RM50, including the KLIA-Penang/Langkawi route, to celebrate the fifth successful month since inception,” he said in a statement. The booking period for the promotion is Aug 11-17, with the travel period being Aug 20, 2013 to May 31, 2014.

The airline will also enhance its international network with the introduction of a daily flight to and from Dhaka, Bangladesh, effective Aug 28, from the KLIA. The Dhaka flight will be followed by that to New Delhi, India, around September or October this year.

Chandran said Malindo Air plans to further increase travel ease and the fluidity of flight connectivity for foreigners, as KLIA is a renowned transit hub in Asia. Malindo Air, the first airline to use the brand new B737-900ER in Malaysia, aims to have 100 aircraft over the next decade, while offering customers competitive low fares, on-time flights and excellent customer service.

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Iran’s 4-Month Non-Oil Exports Exceed US$12.5b Despite Sanctions

TEHRAN, Aug 12 (NNN-MNA) — The Islamic Republic of Iran has exported over $12.5 billion of non-oil goods in the first four months of the current Iranian calendar year (started March 21) despite the U.S.-engineered sanctions imposed on the country.

Iran exported $12.536 billion of non-oil commodities during the four-month period, marking an 11.5-percent rise in weight and a five-percent decline in value compared to the corresponding period last year, IRNA reported.

The export of industrial, mining and agricultural products, rugs and handicrafts rose by 3.5 percent in comparison with the same period a year earlier. Iran also imported $12.909 billion worth of goods weighing 9.120 million tons in the first four months of the current Iranian calendar year.

The figures show a 27.5-percent decline in weight and a 26.5-percent fall in value in the import of non-oil commodities.

Iran exported 3.29 million tons of gas condensate valued at $2.918 billion from the Pars Special Economic Energy Zone (PSEEZ) in the first four months of the current Iranian calendar year, marking a 48-percent rise in weight compared to the corresponding period last year.

Director General of the PSEEZ Customs Department Ahmad Pourheidar said on July 31 that condensate export from the zone also rose by 80 percent in value during the four-month period.

He said gas condensate accounted for 55 percent of the weight and 61 percent of value of the entire commodities exported from the PSEEZ, adding that the main export destinations for the Iranian condensate were China, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, India, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Turkey, Romania, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Afghanistan.

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Iraq Receives First Boeing 737

BAGHDAD, Aug 14 (NNN-KUNA) — Iraqi airways will receive on Wednesday a Boeing 737-800, the first of a total of 30 aircraft to be received up until 2017, the carrier said Tuesday. The new Boeing 737-800 includes 12 first class seats and 150 economy seats, said Iraq Airways assistant director general Majeed Al-Amri in a statement. The purchase, he added, was part of Iraq Airways’ plans to acquire new planes from Beoing and Airbus. Iraq signed the 30 Beoing 737-800 aircraft deal in 2008.

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Iranian Automaker To Increase Daily Production Output To 2,000 Cars

TEHRAN, Aug 14 (NNN-FNA) — Iran’s largest carmaker, Iran-Khodro Company (IKCO), has considerably increased its production output, its president Javad Najmeddin announced on Tuesday. “The daily production output of Iran-Khodro products will hit 2,000 cars by Aug 22,” Najmeddin said.

He said that the carmaker’s daily production output currently stands at 1,700 cars. He said that his company would manufacutre a total number of 550,000 cars by the end of the current Iranian year (March 20, 2014), and stressed that IKCO would export 50,000 cars during the said period. He also pointed out that Iran-Khodro will introduce six new products by the end of the current year.

IKCO, founded in 1962, is the Middle-East’s largest car manufacturing company. IKCO has paved the way for broad presence in global target markets by designing and developing new modern cars, raising the quality, safety and fuel efficiency of products as well as decreasing their environmental emissions.

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World Bank Forecasts Uganda’s Economy To Grow At 6.5 Pct In 2014

KAMPALA, Aug 14 (NNN-NEW VISION) — Uganda’s economic growth could accelerate to 6.5 per cent in 2014 from a projected 5.0 percent this year, boosted by macro-economic stability and increased public investments, the World Bank says.

The east African country, which has crude oil reserves in its western region estimated at 3.5 billion barrels, has been spending vast sums of money on a raft of infrastructure projects including roads, bridges and hydro-electric power dams ahead of commencement of crude production in 2016.

In a report on the economy received here Tuesday, the World Bank urged the country to diversify its economic production and process more of its raw produce locally to be able to absorb the growing number of unemployed youth.

Headline inflation, which hit an 18-year high of above 30 per cent at the end of 2011, has since dropped to hover around the central bank’s medium-term target of 5.0 per cent.

In July, the central bank revised its forecast for the country’s economic growth in the 2013-2014 (July-June) fiscal year to 6.0 per cent, from an initial forecast of 5.1 per cent.

The World Bank said Uganda had the potential to become a middle-income economy by 2040 “if the government can ensure economic stability to support the implementation of long-term fiscal and structural policies”.

The labour force was growing at above 4.0 per cent annually, the World Bank said, adding that Uganda would likely add about 10 million potential workers into the labour market by 2020.

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Saudi Arabia’s construction projects valued at $ 875 billion

Arab News – 14 August, 2013 – The total value of ongoing projects in the GCC region currently stands at $ 2.62 trillion, with the Kingdom accounting for $ 875 billion.

The Kingdom’s strong construction market is being driven by government spending and high oil prices, according to a recent Global Investment House report.

For 2013, the Kingdom budgeted $ 219 billion for spending, up by 18.8 percent, year-on-year, from 2012. Out of this, almost $ 76 billion has been set aside for capital expenditure on investment projects, the report added.

“The Kingdom remains focused on investing in road, railway, power and housing projects. Moreover, the introduction of a new mortgage law is expected to contribute to the growth of the residential sector in the coming quarters,” said Faisal Hasan, CFA and researcher for the report.

These promising industrial data gain significance as Dammam, the Kingdom’s industrial hub, is hosting the 2014 edition of the largest heavy equipment exhibition across the GCC region when the Construction Machinery Show opens its doors to traders and the public, from Feb. 16 to 20, 2014.

Raz Islam, publishing director at CPI Media Group that organizes the event, said: “In 2014, the Construction Machinery Show is teaming up with leading Saudi exhibition organizer, Dhahran International Exhibitions Center (DIEC)”.

The show will run in conjunction with BUILDEX, the 16th Saudi International Building & Construction Exhibition. Both events will attract worldwide industry experts, investors and buyers to the largest trade show in the Eastern Province.

The 2014 event will host over 10,000 sqm of live demonstrations of the various construction and heavy equipment on display, Raz said, adding that Dammam is considered the industrial hub of the Kingdom and a major entry point into the booming market.

It is also the center of the oil and gas industry with nearby Al-Ghawar, which is home to the world’s largest conventional oil field. Much of this wealth is being reinvested into infrastructure and construction, Raz added.

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US to access Americans’ GCC finances

Arab News – 13 August, 2013 – The United States Internal Revenue Service is inching toward implementing a tax law targeting US taxpayers holding unreported foreign financial assets. The law will have a far-reaching impact on American expatriates who have accounts with financial institutions in the GCC.

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010 and which becomes effective on July 1, 2014, is intended to find US citizens avoiding their tax obligations by requiring foreign financial institutions to report their bank details.

Saudi Arabia has already signed agreements with accounting firms Ernst & Young, Pricewater-houseCoopers and KBMG to participate in the implementation.

The law requires that foreign financial institutions report the name, address, account number and financial activity of US taxpayers who have assets exceeding $ 50,000 to the IRS. Foreign banks and other financial institutions that do not sign the agreement will have a 30 percent tax withheld on US-source income deposited in their accounts.

US expats earning income from foreign employers and living at least 330 days out of the year in a foreign country already pay income taxes, although some exemptions apply. However, FATCA requires all foreign financial institutions to provide full financial details of any foreign-employed American living abroad to the IRS.

There have been unintended consequences for some expats.

Adnan Yousef, a member of the Union of Arab Banks, told the Arabic-language daily newspaper Al-Eqtisadiah that at least one Gulf bank terminated the accounts of two Americans. The details of the account closures were not provided. However, some foreign financial institutions — identified as banks, insurance companies, brokerage firms, trust companies, mutual fund companies and retirement plan administrators under the new law — rather close Americans’ accounts than provide customer data because of the costs incurred to comply with the regulations.

One American expatriate civil engineer living in Jeddah said he was denied an account at Saudi financial institution. “They said it was too much trouble to open an account because my government had too many regulations and demands,” said the engineer who asked not to be identified.

Yet most GCC banks are ready to comply with the IRS regulations. Yousef said he expects the UAE will be the chief source of tax collections due to the large number of Americans earning high wages. Saudi Arabia has the second highest number of earners followed by Bahrain and Kuwait, he said.

In all, an estimated SR1 billion could be collected as taxes from American expats, he said.

“Gulf banks will apply the new law to subject the accounts of US citizens to gradual tax detection to make sure US citizens do not evade any taxes on his income in any state,” Yousef told Al-Eqtisadiah.

A US expat in the aviation industry said he is not worried about the new law. “I already report my income and I have nothing to worry about,” he said on the condition of anonymity. “The ones who should worry are the guys who are investing a lot of money in Saudi Arabia, using offshore accounts to keep their money, and not reporting it as income.”

Meanwhile, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency advised the Kingdom’s financial institutions to prepare to implement the new regulations.

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Oman tourism festival held

Oman Daily Observer – 10 August, 2013 – The annual event Salalah Tourism Festival begins today amid pleasant weather and Eid jubilations. The festival venues are all set to display cultural and artistic shows confirming the status of Dhofar Governorate as a major tourism destination not only in the country but also in the wider region.

Today the Ateen plain will be illuminated with eye-catching fireworks which will last for 43 minutes symbolising the 43rd Renaissance anniversary. Shaikh Salim bin Aufit al Shanfari, Chairman of Dhofar Municipality said the Salalah Tourism Festival highlights the Sultanate’s constant endeavour for international solidarity and civilization harmony through its varied activities and exhibitions.

Public and private establishments will be participating through 30 pavilions. The event will also see a pavilion for international shopping and the visitors will have a chance to enjoy shows by traditional troupes at the circular stage in the heritage village. The Ministry of Tourism has set up seven tourist information centres in Dhofar Governorate in selected locations.

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FIFA World Cup ’22 expected to trigger business boom in Qatar

Kuwait News Agency – 11 August, 2013 – Qatar will be the first Arab nation to host the FIFA World Cup 2022 which would propel the country to greater heights and new opportunities, said Kuwait Finance House here Saturday.

A report by KFH said that Qatar has placed more than USD 65 billion of infrastructure development spending plans as part of the National Development Strategy (2011-2016) The World Cup will ensure that these massive projects and strategies will be implemented accordingly as this event will show case Qatar to the world. All the catalyst which has been mapped out will offer unexploited potential for investors globally particularly in the real estate market.

The government has identified three key pillars in hosting a successful World Cup and has committed to investing billions on putting the required infrastructure in place.

Connectivity is at the forefront of current planning and USD 44 billion has been earmarked to equip the country with a world class network, with a new port and airport that can process 50 million people a year and a fully integrated USD 35 billion rail network in the planning stages as well as the Bahrain-Qatar causeway.

According to Government statistics, 1.69 million people currently reside in Qatar which continues to drive demand for residential accommodation. The increase in population is due to recruitment of foreign workers by new and expanding businesses. As stipulated in the chart below, the supply of residential apartment is primarily focused within the Diplomatic District and The Pearl estimated around 18,000 units in 2013.

Occupational rates in residential apartment in these two areas are expected to be strong with 95 percent occupancy rates expected throughout 2013.

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August 15 declared Aceh Peace Day

Wed, August 14 2013 Banda Aceh, Aceh (ANTARA News) – The Aceh government will soon announce that August 15 will be observed annually as peace day in Indonesias western-most province. "The Aceh governor will issue a regulation setting forth Acehs peace day,” Aceh administration spokesman Nurdin F Jos said here on Wednesday.

He noted that the peace day had its root in the peace agreement between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in Helsinki, Finland, on August 15, 2005, which was signed to end a decades-long bloody conflict.

“Soon after observing the eighth anniversary of the Helsinki peace deal this Thursday, the Aceh provincial secretariats legal affairs bureau will draft a gubernatorial regulation on Acehs peace day,” Jos revealed.

The eighth anniversary of the peace deal will be commemorated at Baiturrahman Grand Mosque in Banda Aceh, capital of Aceh province, he continued. “Starting at 4pm local time, after Ashar prayers, the event will include joint prayers that will be led by Ibnu Sa`dan, the head of the Aceh provincial office of the Religious Affairs Ministry,” Jos stated.

The Aceh governor, local government officials, social figures, and the public are expected to attend the joint prayers, he said. “The home affairs minister has also been, but we have yet to receive a confirmation on whether he will come himself or he will send his representative,” Jos added.

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Azerbaijani movies bidding for Oscar

14 August 2013 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijani movie directors Shamil Aliyev and Ramiz Hasanoglu are bidding for the key world film award, the Oscar. Aliyevs Steppe Man (Cholchu) and Hasanoglus “Sunrise Messenger” have been included in the preliminary list in the Best Foreign Film nomination of Academy Awards.

The feature film Steppe Man has an exciting plot. It is about a young steppe man who lives far from the cities, closely communicating with nature. He is taught by his father Ulu all the tricks of the prairie life. Shortly after his father’s death, a new chapter begins in his life, and he meets a girl who came from the village. For him the acquaintance with her is a step into a large and therefore unknown life…

Creative work for the movie has been done by script writer Vidadi Hasanov, director of photography Rafig Guliyev, production designers Rafig Nasirov and Ibrahim Khalil Aminov, composer Rauf Aliyev, and producers Mushvig Hatamov and Azer Guliyev.

The film stars Bahruz Vagifoglu, Vidadi Hasanov, Javidan Mammadov, Salome Demuria, Vusal Mehraliyev and others.

Steppe Man was presented at the XXI Open Film Festival of CIS countries, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, Kinoshock 2012 (Anapa, Russia), at the VIII Eurasia International Film Festival (Almaty, Kazakhstan in 2012), was awarded a diploma at the V International Film Festival Didor (Dushanbe, 2012); it was among the bidding entries at the XVI International Festival in Tallinn, Dark Nights (2012), was presented at the 35th Cairo International Film Festival (2012), the 13th Tbilisi International Film Festival (2012), 24th Ankara International Film Festival (2013), and the International Film Forum “Golden Knight 2013” in Khabarovsk, Russia.

The other film, “Subhun safiri” (Sunrise Messenger), directed by Hasanoglu, is devoted to the 200th anniversary of writer and enlightener, founder of drama in the East Mirza Fatali Akhundzade.

The realistic-enlightener view of Akhundzade, who lived in 1812-1878, played a particular role in the development of Azerbaijani literature and created a solid basis for the development of the genres of modern Western literature such as drama, novel, tale, short story, narrative, epic poem, etc. in Azerbaijani literature. His first six dramas, created in 1850-1855, formed a new literary school in the literature of the Middle East.

Akhundzade was not only a writer and a poet, but also a philosopher, a public figure, who saw the purpose of his creative work in supporting the happiness of his people. Akhundzade was also a supporter of alphabet reform. He was the first intellectual mentioning the necessity to substitute the Arabic script with the Latin one and called for a change of the Arabic script.

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Railink to double carrying capacity of Kualanamu Airport railway

August 12, 2013 Medan, North Sumatra (ANTARA News) – The seat capacity of passenger train between Medan and its new Kualanamu Airport will be doubled to 172,000 after two more sets of new coaches are put into operation in September.

Two sets or eight railway coaches have been in operation since July 25 to coincide with the operation of the new international airport replacing the old Polonia airport of Medan.

The additional two new units or 8 coaches would be put in operation early next months, Bodhas Swara Setiawan Jusri, the general manager of PT Railink, said here on Monday.

PT Railink , a joint venture between two state companies , railway company PT Kereta Api Indonesia and airport operator PT Angkasa Pura. Jusri said the new train with a seat capacity of 172 will give greater convenience for travelers between the airport and Medan.

The management of Railink plans to increase the frequency of services to 13 trips everyday from 10 trips at present. With the capacity of 172 passengers in 13 trip per day, the train could transport between 3,000 to 4,000 passengers per day or 1 million to 1.3 million per year.

The new airport has the capacity of handling 8.1 million air passengers per year, and Railink hopes that 25 percent of the air passengers will use railway transport to Medan, which is around 20 kilometers away.

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Muarojambi temple attracts increasing numbers of Lebaran revelers

Sat, August 10 2013 Jambi (ANTARA News) – Muarojambi Temple in Muarojambi Distict, Jambi province, has become a favorite tourist spot for Idul Fitri or Lebaran revelers, according to a local tourist guide. Tourist guide Muhammad Havis, alias Ahok, age 35, said here on Saturday that the Muarojambi temple site had attracted about 2,000 visitors per day during the holiday.

“The number of visitors is even increasing on the third day of Lebaran festivity. The influx of visitors has caused congestion on the access road to the Muarojambi shrine,” Ahok said in Sengeti, the district capital of Muarojambi.

He added that visitors to the temple had continued to increase every month since 2012. The average number of visitors reached 6,000 holiday tourists, most of them being local residents.

“The government should pay attention to this development. The people have had a positive response to the temple site and visited it. Facilities there should, therefore, be developed so that visitors would be content to spend their vacation,” Ahok said.

Ida, age 30, one of the visitors, said that she was visiting the Muarojambi temple with her family to spend her vacation there.

“We are living and working in Palembang, (the provincial capital of South Sumatra). But we also have family members and relatives in Jambi. So, while we are having a family reunion, we took the opportunity to visit the temple,” she said.

She said that Jambi has a few natural tourism spots, such as Muarojambi temple. “The location of this temple is good, as it is cold and on a river bank,” she said.

The temple site is only about 30 km from the city and can be reached in about 30 minutes by motorcycle or car. Its location on the Batanghari River bank makes it a favorite natural and historic tourism site.

Sitting on an area of about 12 sq km, the Moarojambi temple houses 82 temple spots of various sizes. All temples there are now under the preservation of Jambi`s Ancient Heritage Preservation Agency (BP3).

The site spans 7.5 km from the east to the west on the Batanghari river bank. In the past, this site was not much known, except by local people.

The site began to be known to the public after S.C. Crooke, a British officer, was assigned to visit the Batanhari rural areas in 1820.

Also, a Dutch scholar, F.M Schnitger, conducted an expedition in Sumatra between 1935 and 1936. Since, then the Muarojambi temple site became known to the public. Since 1976, various studies have been conducted by archaeologists at the site and it is now being preserved.

The area contains not only temples, but also various ancient artifacts such as statues, beads, ancient currencies and other artifacts. There are eight temple complexes inside, ancient wells and more than 60 mounds containing the ruins of ancient buildings. Ancient canals made by primordial men, called Parit Sekupang, Parit Johor and Parit Melayu, are also located there.

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Osh disabled youth receive grants for own businesses

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-08-13 OSH – Five disabled Osh youths August 12 received US $200 (9,800 KGS) grants to run their own businesses, K News reported August 12.

The charitable project “We’ll Learn Together,” operated by the NGO Ulybka and funded by the Global Fund for Children, offered courses on business planning for disabled youth and their parents. The five recipients won a contest.

One of the winners, Rakhmatillo Artykov, plans to make ornamental boxes for cakes and pastries.

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Grand Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations in Rangpur, Bangladesh

RANGPUR, Aug 11, 2013 (BSS) – The holy Eid-ul-Fitr, greatest religious festivity of the Muslims, was celebrated with huge enthusiasm, religious fervour, gaiety and solemnity everywhere in Rangpur division on Friday last.

Tens of thousands of musollis attired in traditional Eid dresses participated in the Eid congregations held in between 8 am and 11 am at the local Eidgahs, mosques, fields and grounds in the cities, district and upazila towns and rural areas in the division.

They offered special munajats seeking divine blessings and eternal peace for departed souls of dearer and nearer ones, continuous peace, progress and prosperity of the country, its people, the Muslim Ummah and humanity as a whole in Eid congregations.

The law enforcement agencies including members of police and RAB took adequate measures to ensure peaceful holding of Eid jamaats in festive atmosphere everywhere.

The important government buildings and mosques were colourfully illuminated and the main streets of the cities and towns decorated with various colorful flags bearing inscriptions ‘Eid Mubarak’ giving charming looks from Thursday all around.

The National flag was hoisted atop all government and private buildings and improved diets were served among inmates of different hospitals, jails, shishu paribars, orphanages and vagrant welfare centres in all districts in the division.

In Rangpur divisional city, the main Eid-ul-Fitr congregation was held at the Central Collectorate Eidgah where the high dignitaries including the officials and politicians offered their prayers at 9 am.

Divisional Commissioner Muhammad Delwar Bakht, Deputy Commissioner Farid Ahammad, Panel Mayor of Rangpur City Corporation (RCC) Abul Kashem, its Chief Executive Officer Alhaj Ruhul Amin Khan, Jatiyo Party Presidium Member Alhaj Moshiur Rahman Ranga, public representatives and elite participated in the main congregation.

Deputy Director of Islamic Foundation Bangladesh (IFB), Rangpur Alhaj Saidur Rahman Sayeed today told BSS that the holy Eid-ul-Fitr congregations were held at 1,010-Eidgah grounds in all eight upazilas of the district.

The other Eid Jamaats were held at Rangpur Zila School, Police Lines ground, Karamotia Jam-e-Mosque, Sadar Hospital Jam- e- Mosque, Nasirabad Ekramia Jam-e-Mosque, Munshipara Eidgah, RCCI School and College, Shalbon Mistripara Eidgah, Kamal Kachna Jam-e- Mosque, Robertsonsganj Eidgah, Mahiganj College Mosque, Satmatha Jam-e-Mosque, Jummapara Eidgah, Kellabond Eidgah Maidan, Pakar Matha Jam-e- Mosque, Kamal Kachna Jam-e- Mosque, Baharkachhna Jam-e-Mosque, Nurpur Eidgah, Rangpur Medical College, Khasbag Eidgah, Mulatol Madrasha, Dhap Mohammadpur Jam- e-Mosque, Alamnagar Wakf Mosque, Central Bus Terminal Jame Mosque and Nachnia Jam-e- Mosque.

Besides, hundreds of Eid Jamaats were held in the local Eidgahs, mosques and grounds in the rural areas in all eight upazilas as per locally fixed time schedules in the district.

Similarly, the main Eid congregations were held at the main Eidgahs and grounds in Dinajpur, Panchagarh, Kurigram, Gaibandha, Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat and Thakurgaon district headquarters in the division, official sources said.

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4-day photo exhibition on “history tells” in Bangladesh

DHAKA, Aug 12, 2013 (BSS) -A four-day photo exhibition on “history tells” began in front of the Bangabandhu House at Dhanmondi here today.

As part of the month-long programmes to observe the National Mourning Day commemorating the 38th anniversary of martyrdom of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on August 15, Awami Shecchasebok League arranged the exhibition.

Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University Professor AAMS Arefin Siddique inaugurated the exhibition as the chief guest through candle lit. Chaired by President of Awami Shecchasebok League Molla Mohammad Abu Kawser, the inaugural ceremony was also attended, among others, by General Secretary of the organisation Pankaj Devnath, Freedom Fighter Affairs Secretary Rafiqul Islam Liton and President of Awami Shecchasebok League Dhaka South Unit Debashish Biswas.

A total of 460 photographs on Bangabandhu’s memories have been displayed at the exhibition. The exhibition will remain open from 10 am to 10pm. Professor Arefin Siddique said the government has to bring back six fugitive killers of Bangabandhu to execute verdict of the court, as they are accused of the brutally murder case.

He urged the government to complete trial of war crimes immediately to free from stigma of the nation.

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Singapore firm launches in-flight iPhone app alerting

Singapore, Tuesday, 06 Shawwal 1434/ 13 August 2013 (IINA) –A Singapore-based company has launched an iPhone app alerting Muslims when to pray and in which direction they should face even when they’re 35,000 feet in the air.

Travelers input the flight details and are provided with prayer times during their journey, as well as the direction of the Muslim holy city of Makkah. Crescentrating, a firm that gives “halal” or Islam-compliant ratings to hotels and other travel-related establishments, plans to make the free app, called Crescent Trips, available to Android smart-phones within months, chief executive Fazal Bahardeen said.

The app also includes audio clips of prayers Muslims — required to pray five times daily at certain hours — recite when they travel. “The Muslim traveler is probably the largest untapped market in the travel industry today,” Crescentrating chief operating officer Dany Bolduc said. “It really isn’t catered to as well as it should be given the immense size and potential of this market.”

Spending by Muslim tourists is growing faster than the global rate and is forecast to reach $192 billion a year by 2020, up from $126 billion in 2011, according to a study released last year by Crescentrating and DinarStandard, a US-based firm that tracks the Muslim lifestyle market.

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Muhammad most popular name for babies in London

London, Tuesday, 06 Shawwal 1434/ 13 August 2013 (IINA) –Muhammad is the most popular name for baby boys in London for the first time, the Daily Mail reported on Tuesday.

Combined spellings of the Muslim prophet’s name have topped the list of names for newborn boys in England for the past three years, but now the single spelling Muhammad has ranked highest in the capital with 768 registered births last year, ahead of Daniel with 666.

The most popular name in England was Harry, with 6,893 boys being given the name. However, when the various spellings of Muhammad (18th nationally), Mohammed (25th) and Mohammad (58th) were combined, the name beat Harry with a total of 7,032 babies. Since 1999, the number of babies called Muhammad, however spelled, has increased by more than half in the UK, the newspaper reported.

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All Saudi mosques to be linked online

Riyadh, Wednesday, 07 Shawwal 1434/ 14 August 2013 (IINA) – The Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah, and Guidance is going to implement an online system to allow imams of mosques all over the Kingdom to connect with each other on the Internet, an Arabic language daily quoted a source as saying on Tuesday.

The system will allow the ministry to closely monitor all its programs focusing on mosques, pilgrims, and expatriate communities, the source said. The ministry’s recent statistics showed that there are 90,000 mosques all over the Kingdom. Linking all these mosques with one online system will make it possible for the ministry to know the status of each mosque, its shortcomings and its needs.

Sheikh Talal Al-Aqeel, adviser to the Minister of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Dawah and Guidance, said the ministry will introduce sweeping technology changes to system. All forms of coordination with the imams of mosques will take place online. “The ministry seeks to keep up with latest technological developments which help Muslims all over the world to learn about Shariah and its teachings,” Sheikh Al-Aqeel said.

Abdullah Al-Huwaimil, ministry’s undersecretary for administrative and technical affairs, said the new system will include detailed information about mosques, imams, Dawah activities, etc.

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Istanbul’s airports hit all-time record

ISTANBUL – Doğan News Agency – Istanbul’s airports have broken their all-time air traffic records on the last day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday. Atatürk Airport broke its air traffic record Aug. 11 when a total of 1,245 planes took off and landed at the transportation hub, according to the General Directorate of State Airports (DHMİ).

A total of 1,245 planes landed and took off between midnight Aug. 10 and midnight Aug. 11, bringing 145,000 passengers to the terminals. Atatürk Airport’s last air traffic record was on Aug. 2 with 1,216 planes landing and taking off, carrying 138,000 passengers.

However, Sabiha Gökçen Airport, located in Istanbul’s Asian side, also broke its air traffic record Aug. 11 when a total of 553 planes took off and landed, bringing 71,200 passengers to the terminals.

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Maldives: Presidential candidate pledges new airport in two years

Sun.mv – August 12, 2013 – Presidential candidate of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Abdullah Yameen has said that an airport will be established in Kulhudhuffushi within the first two years of a PPM government.

Addressing the people of Kulhudhuffushi, Yameen said that PPM would make Kulhudhuffushi the pivot of development in the north, and by the end of the first 24 months of a PPM government, a domestic airport would have been established in Kulhudhuffushi.

“It’s not enough that there is an airport in Hanimaadhoo in this region. So our government, god willing, will establish a domestic airport in Kulhudhuffushi within the first 24 months. Ease of transport is the main basis of development,” said Yameen.

He said that three islands have been leased for resort development near Kulhudhuffushi but these projects have not been completed, and that PPM would settle the legal problems associated with these islands and ensure that the project are completed.

Yameen said that as part of the party’s efforts to facilitate employment opportunities for the youth, four out of the ten islands announced yearly by the government for resort development would be in the region of Kulhudhuffushi.

“Based on our calculations, in a PPM government, by the end of five years, 30 percent of islands will be in the region of Haa Alifu, Haa Dhaalu and Shaviyani atolls. Within five years, we will open 15 new resorts and create 7,500 jobs. About MVR 75 million will be earned by this region as salary alone,” he said.

Yameen also promised to dedicate some islands in the region for industrial work.

“Kulhudhuffushi has a population of more than 9,000 people, and if we include the people who travel to Kulhudhuffushi from nearby islands to live here or to visit the island, the population is more than 12,000,” said Yameen.

He said that Kulhudhuffushi had been determined as the regional centre of the north by the government of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and that the island has plenty of excess land.

“Kulhudhuffushi has the strength and capability of having a population of 20,000 people, and there is unity among the people of Kulhudhuffushi. Our government plans to make Kulhudhuffushi the centre in the north, and if we were to make two islands other than Male’ regional centres, Kulhudhuffushi will be one of them,” he said.

He said that on PPM’s development map, Kulhudhuffushi is the developmental pivot after Male’ and Seenu Hithadhoo. “We are talking about things that we want to do. We are not saying this to get votes,” he said.

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