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12 Aug, 2013

China Hosts 6th UNWTO Conference on Silk Road Tourism

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 12 August 2013 (05 Shawwal 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.



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

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

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

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


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




Redesigned Dining At World’s First Underwater Restaurant

2013-07-30 – Have you ever wondered what you’d come up with if you were asked to create a menu for an underwater restaurant? That’s the challenge that executive chef Ayyoub Salameh faced recently when he was asked to design the menu for Ithaa undersea restaurant at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island which is launched this month.

Created by executive chef Ayyoub Salameh, the contemporary European menu showcases the finest luxury ingredients such as caviar, foie gras, and truffle.

“At Conrad Maldives, we feel that excellent food is an essential part of a luxury holiday. In fact, part of our philosophy is to offer our guests the widest variety of dining experiences in the Maldives,” said Ayyoub Salameh, executive chef, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. “The challenge with creating the new menu at Ithaa undersea restaurant was to offer something that’s spectacular enough to match such an incredible location. For that reason, I chose to focus on using luxurious ingredients.”

The seven-course set-menu shows a definite influence of contemporary European cuisine with an emphasis on luxury ingredients. The dinner menu is priced at US$320 per person.

Ithaa, the world’s first all-glass under-sea restaurant, opened its doors on April 15, 2005 and is one of eleven restaurants and bars at the six-star resort. An icon in the country, Ithaa sits three metres below the waves of the Indian Ocean surrounded by a vibrant coral garden. Encased in 12.5mm thick clear acrylic, the restaurant seats up to 14 guests. A lighter, four-course set menu is offered at lunch time, while the merely curious can visit the restaurant for cocktails.

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Uganda: Single Tourist Visa to Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya

Rwanda Focus – 2 August 2013 – Delegates from Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya agreed on Friday to begin issuance of a single tourist visa, aimed at easing and promoting tourism among the three states. It is the latest of several decisions the three countries are finalizing without their two other EAC members, Tanzania and Burundi.

Earlier last week, RRA boss Ben Kagarama announced that Rwanda will implement a Single Customs Territory (SCT) with Uganda and Kenya where all customs on incoming goods to any of the three countries will be handled once at the port of entry, Mombasa.

The resolution to issue a single visa to tourists came after a two-day meeting held in Kigali from 1 – 2 August and attended by delegates from the three countries.

Delegates agreed to charge $100 (Frw 60,000) per tourist intending to visit the three countries for up to 90 days in any of the three countries. It would be paid at the point of entry into any of the three countries.

The arrangement goes into effect in January, 2014. A meeting next month will discuss the design of the special visa.

New Minister to East African Community Affairs, Jacqueline Muhongayire, explained that the $100 will be applied to foreigners from outside the three states who are intending to tour more than one country.

For tourists only interested in visiting Rwanda only, the fee will remain at $50 for Uganda and Kenya, $30 for Rwanda.

Each of the three states will claim $30 from the Single Visa fees while the balance of $10 will be set aside for technical operations.

Commenting on the absence of Burundi and Tanzania to the meeting, Muhongayire said, “It has to be clear that these two countries weren’t and are not excluded. They can decide to join whenever they would find the decision significant for them “.

According to James Musoni, Minister of Local Government, “The single tourist visa will enhance social cohesion among the three states.”

“We’ve been striving to harmonize tourism related hindrances since 2006. Today, we’ve finally reached our objective and for us as Kenya, we’re committed to make this dream the reality,” said Joseph Ole Lenku, Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government of the Republic of Kenya.

And Shem Bageine, the chairperson of the EAC council of Ministers and Uganda’s Minister of State for EAC said, “I appreciate the idea of our heads of state who thought of the single tourist visa; after seeking solutions to harmonize the tourism sector for so long, we’re happy that we’re done with it. Everything is possible.”

Rica Rwigamba, the head of tourism and conservation at RDB, urged the private sector to grab the opportunity and invest in tourism, an industry that earned Rwanda over $280 million USD in 2012 and targets over $315 million this year.

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Eid extravagance is ‘unIslamic’, say scholars

JEDDAH: Arab News, 12 August 2013 – Scholars have condemned the lavish spending by some Muslims to celebrate Eid and during the weeks following the holidays, noting that it is forbidden in Islam. They said that spending activities during the past three days have gone “beyond the limits.”

“Running behind materialism is haram in Islam,” said Musaddeq Al-Amri, an Islamic scholar. “On special occasions, especially during the Eid festival in Saudi Arabia, the rich spend lavishly on expensive clothes, food, gifts and so on to show off their wealth. This is unacceptable in Islam.”

Al-Amri said that after paying Zakat, helping the poor and fulfilling one’s fard (Islamic term for religious duty), when a rich person wishes to spend on something important for himself, not with the intention of showing off his wealth, then it is acceptable. “We are taught as Muslims to be happy with what we have,” said Al-Amri. “Eid is an occasion when most people —irrespective of their class — want to be known as having the best.”

Al-Amri quoted an incident where he was invited for lunch on the Eid day with friends whom he usually meets at the mosque.

“The feast was extremely grand, although the host was not very rich. There was a huge crowd invited, numerous dishes were served and to add to that, waiters were hired to serve the guests.”

He added: “Later, while we were talking, the host revealed that he had borrowed some money from a colleague to organize the feast and that he has time to repay it. Upon hearing this, I got a shock and I figured what my topic will be for my next sermon at the mosque.”

Scholars denounce the habit of borrowing money in order to spend for petty reasons.

“An Eid celebration with new simple clothes, little food and loved ones around is very much appreciated and accepted by the Almighty. It is not a necessity to spend abundantly to show off or compete with others,” said Mohammed Ghassan, imam at a mosque.

“A verse in the Qur’an teaches us to live our lives according to our means,” said Sheikh Riyad Hakim, another Islamic scholar. “There is no harm in aiming for the sky, but if you cannot afford it, don’t go for it.”

Hakim advises that one must not compare oneself to those higher than one, rather than those lower than one. “An example is the famous advice: If you don’t have shoes, look at those who don’t have feet and be grateful to the Almighty.”

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SR2.5bn Uqair tourism project to be launched after Eid

Arab News – 09 August, 2013 – The SR2.5 billion Uqair tourism development project in the eastern city of Al-Ahsa would be launched after Eid Al-Fitr, Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) announced on Thursday.

“Domestic tourism in Saudi Arabia has achieved substantial growth in recent years, despite the lack of infrastructure facilities,” he said, adding that it achieved a growth rate of 12.5 percent in 2013 with 2.1 million traveling to enjoy Saudi tourist attractions last June.

Quoting statistics provided by SCTA’s research center MAS, Prince Salman said the total tourism expenditure this year rose to SR3.4 billion from SR3 billion last year. The number of Saudis going out of the Kingdom for tourism reached 2.3 million in June compared to 2.1 million during the same period last year.

The spending on foreign tourism grew from SR6.9 billion to SR7.5 billion.

He described Uqair as a major tourism project in the Kingdom, adding that it would contribute to attracting tourists from other Gulf countries. The formation of a tourism development and investment company would boost tourism projects in the country, he said.

Tourism has already created more than 189,000 jobs for Saudis by 2012 and they account for 27 percent of workers in the sector. “The tourism is expected to witness big progress in the next two years,” he added.

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Malaysian Airports Registers 12.0% Net Profit Growth

SEPANG, 23 July 2013 – Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (“MAHB”) recorded a revenue of RM2,005.4 millionfor the six months ended 30 June 2013 (“1H13”), representing a growth of 36.8% compared to RM1,465.5 million in the corresponding period in 2012 (“1H12”). Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (“EBITDA”) grew 8.2% to RM452.6 million, from RM418.5 million in 1H12. Profit after tax (“PAT”) grew 12.0% to RM227.8 million in 1H13, compared to RM203.4 million recorded in 1H12.

In line with the adoption of IC Interpretation 12: Service Concession Arrangements (“IC 12”) effective 1 January 2012, MAHB recognises the construction revenue and costs in accordance with FRS 111: Construction Contracts by reference to the stage of completion of the construction works of klia2 and Penang International Airport, which are construction works on public sector infrastructure assets and services currently being undertaken by MAHB.In 1H13, MAHB recognised the construction revenue and costs in relation to the aforesaid projects amounting to RM841.4 million and RM804.9 million respectively.

Excluding the effects of IC 12, revenue for 1H13 was RM1,164.0 million, which was 12.4% higher than the RM1,035.6 million registered in 1H12. PAT for 1H13 was RM191.3 million, which was 4.3% higher than the RM183.4 million registered in 1H12.

The increase in operating revenue was attributed to stronger results from the airport operations segment, driven by strong air travel demand especially in the Asia Pacific region. MAHB recorded passenger growth of 13.6% in 1H13, outpacing the expected passenger growth rate of 7.1% for 2013, with a total of 37.0 million passengers having passed through MAHB’s 39 airports in Malaysia. Both international and domestic passenger movements recorded strong growth at 14.4% and 12.8% respectively. The total passenger movements in KLIA increased by 15.5%, whereby both KLIA-MTB & LCCT recorded positive growth of 19.7% and 11.2% respectively. All other airports recorded an aggregate growth in total passenger movements of 10.8%.

Total aircraft movements grew 10.4% to 350,532 aircrafts, with the international sector recording a higher growth of 11.8% compared to the domestic sector, which recorded a 9.5% growth.

The revenue generated by airport operations segment improved by 13.5% to RM1,102.2 million, mainly driven by aeronautical revenue which had improved by 17.7% on the back of strong increase in passenger and aircraft numbers. The increase in revenue was also attributed to the implementation of the new landing and parking charges with the increase of 9% and 18% respectively (compounded annually effective 1 January 2012, 1 January 2013 and 1 January 2014).

The PAT growth was however dampened by higher total costs mainly attributed by higher user fee, staff costs, repair and maintenance costs as well as utilities costs. Previously, the amount of user fee that has been recognised in the income statement represents half of the total user fee payable to the Government of Malaysia, while the other half is to reduce the amount due for the Balance Residual Payment arising from MAHB’s restructuring exercise which was completed in February 2009. Upon the full settlement of the Balance Residual Payment in April 2013, the user fee is now fully recognised in the income statement.

The non-aeronautical revenue recorded a growth of 9.3% to RM523.6 million on the back of improved performance in the retail and rental businesses. MAHB’s own retail business grew 9.7%, driven by increase in passenger volume and higher retail spending by passengers. Revenue from rental of space, advertising and other commercial segments grew 8.8% to RM240.3 million, contributed mainly by higher rental royalty resulting from the higher sales at KLIA and increased car park revenue due to higher number of air passengers and airport visitors.

The non-airport operations segment recorded revenue of RM61.8 million in 1H13, representing a decrease of 4.3% from RM64.6 million recorded in 1H12mainly due to lower revenue recorded in agriculture and horticulture segment as well as the hotel segment. The agriculture and horticulture segment registered lower revenue of RM11.8 million in 1H13which was 45.3% lower than the RM21.5 million registered in 1H12due to lower price attained for fresh fruit bunches coupled with a lower production volume for the period (2013: RM464/25,612MT vs. 2012: RM639/39,097MT). Similarly, the hotel segment revenue dropped by 17.7% to RM32.3 million, mainly due to the lower occupancy rate (2013: 61%, 2012: 65%) pursuant to the rooms renovation exercise which had been completed on 4 April 2013. However, the decline was offset by contribution from the project, repair and maintenance segment which recorded a higher revenue of RM17.7 million in 1H13.

With regards to the construction of klia2, it was announced on 18 June 2013, that UEMC-Bina Puri JV, the contractors for the terminal building have confirmed that the completion date will be 30 April 2014 inclusive of securing the Certificate of Completion and Compliance (“CCC”) and Operational Readiness & Airport Transfer (“ORAT”) as per the contractual obligations. Based on the revised completion date by the contractors, MAHB is targeting to open klia2 for operations on 2 May 2014.

MAHB continues to benefit from the entry of new airlines and expansion of local carriers in 1H13, Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia Group contributed strongly to passenger growth while Malindo Air has registered a competitive load factor. Malaysia Airlines’ entry as a full member of oneworld in February 2013 has significantly increased the market outreach across continents and will continue to provide critical support for passenger growth. Furthermore, the additional seat capacity offered by various airlines and the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 campaign launched early this year will further support the growth trend.

Notwithstanding the recent downward revision in 2013 global GDP forecast by International Monetary Fund, we remain optimistic with our 2013 forecast. This is evidenced by our stable past performance, whereby we have been able to sustain a growth of 5%-7% even during relatively poor economic conditions in the past. MAHB through its marketing efforts have been aggressively pursuing airlines globally through its various marketing initiatives. The recent entry of foreign carriers like Air France, Philippine Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Zest Airways and Thai Smile bode well for MAHB’s passenger growth in 2H13, hence MAHB is optimistic to achieve its Headline KPIs in 2013.

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MAS Starts Flying To Dubai

SEPANG, Aug 6 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia Airlines’ (MAS) began its daily flights to Dubai, with its inaugural flight taking off from the KL International Airport (KLIA) at 11.30 pm on Monday.

MAS Commercial Director Dr Hugh Noel Dunleavy said: “Dubai is a tourism, trade and logistics hub which has earned itself the reputation as being the gateway between the east and the west.”

He said home to just over 2 million people of more than 200 nationalities, Dubai is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.

“With world-class shopping and leisure facilities, Dubai is a popular destination for business and leisure,” he told Bernama after a simple send-off reception at the KLIA.

“As we expand our network, we want to prepare our products and services to serve our guests better each time they fly with us. Our focus is ultimately customer satisfaction.” he added.

In the meantime, MASholidays, the travel and tour arm of MAS, is also offering two tour packages to Dubai in conjunction with the national carrier’s commencement of services to the United Arab Emirates’ capital.

Customers can choose from two packages of either group or individual departure.

The five-days and three nights package are priced at RM3,499 and RM2,840, respectively, for inaugural date departures.

The package would bring guests to experience several iconic landmarks in Dubai including the famous Burj Khalifa.

A two-class configured Boeing 777-200 aircraft would be operated on this Kuala Lumpur – Dubai – Kuala Lumpur route and it would offer a total capacity of 282 seats in each flight, equivalent to 3,948 seats weekly

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Arab Centre For Islamic Research To Be Set Up In Constantine, Algeria

CONSTANTINE, ALGERIA, Aug 8 (NNN-APS) — An Arab Centre for Islamic Research and Studies will be set up in Constantine, 431 km east of the Algerian capital, Algiers, as part of the celebration of the “Constantine, Capital of Arab Culture 2015” event.

Algeria’s Director of Religious Affairs Youcef Azzouza said Wednesday that the centre, the first of its kind in the country, would be built near the city’s Grand Mosque of Emir-Abdelkader to promote research about the Muslim world and to spread scientific knowledge about Islam.

He said the specifications for the launch of the consultation stage of the project were “being developed”. The Religious Affairs sector had also developed a special programme for the rehabilitation and development of mosques and zawyas in Constantine, he added.

Azzouza underlined that five mosques of the Constantine old town, like Sidi-Lakhdar, Sidi-Abdelmoumen and Sidi- Mimoune, would be rehabilitated in addition to two zawyas, namely Tidjania and Aissaouia.

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China Hosts 6th UNWTO Conference on Silk Road Tourism

(UNWTO media release) – On 1-3 August 2013, Dunhuang (Gansu, China) hosted the 6th UNWTO International Meeting on Silk Road Tourism, an event jointly organized by UNWTO, China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) and Gansu Province of China. The Meeting was also organized in collaboration with the China Chamber of Tourism, the members of which are China’s major tourism operational and investment companies.

The 6th UNWTO International Meeting on Silk Road Tourism brought experts in the fields of tourism, marketing, investment and heritage management together to discuss how to raise the profile of Silk Road tourism and drive development that is sustainable, responsible and internationally competitive. The Meeting also looked at how stakeholders could leverage from the Silk Road’s positioning and help rebuild the world’s most important travel route.

Topics addressed at the Meeting included:

(+) World tourism trends and outlook for the Silk Road region

(+) Creating a stronger environment for business growth and investment

(+) The important role of Silk Road cities

(+) Developing and enhancing the Silk Road product

(+) Facilitating travel to strengthen the Silk Road’s extensive network of destinations

(+) Addressing environmental concerns and safeguarding heritage

Gansu is home to many ancient monuments along the Silk Road including temples, monasteries, pagodas, towers and ancient palaces. The architecture, crops and attractions of Gansu still have the influence of the people who settled and passed by during the time of the ancient Silk Road.

Furthermore, the Silk Road has been listed as the number one route of the top 12 routes in China by the China National Tourism Administration. With its rich cultural and natural attractions, Gansu is rapidly establishing itself as one of the world’s top Silk Road destinations.

All presentations can be downloaded FREE by clicking here

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Nigeria: NTDC to Build Tourism Centres Across Nigeria

This Day – 4 August 2013 – As part of efforts to rapidly develop domestic tourism destinations, the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) plans to build sixe tourism centres across the six geopolitical zones in the country. The Director-General of NTDC, Mrs. Sally Mbanefo made this declaration while addressing members of Management and staff in an interactive session at the tourism village in Abuja during the week.

Mbanefo emphasized that the core of her administration remains a comprehensive development of Nigeria’s local tourism attractions hence the need for the tourism centres across the geopolitical zones.

According to her, the NTDC also plans to introduce information desks at major airports in Nigeria with the aim of supplying tourists and visitors relevant information on areas of interest, a directory on places to visit, the activities of NTDC and the tourism industry in general. During the meeting, the DG noted that NTDC will work with stakeholders and professionals on strategic imperatives aimed at growing its revenue base while restructuring the corporation and repositioning it to better finance its activities.

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Popularity of Islamic Art Changes Museums’ Attitudes toward Textiles

(Islam Online) 08/08/2013 – According to Marika Sardar of New York’s Institute of Fine Arts, under the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal dynasties, carpet weaving was transformed from a minor craft based on patterns passed down from generation to generation into a fine art medium with patterns created in court workshops.

In this period, carpets were fabricated in greater quantity than ever before. They were traded to Europe and the Far East where, too precious to be placed on the ground, they were used to cover furniture or hung on walls. Within the Islamic world, especially fine specimens were collected in royal households.

In Western museums, textiles have been treated as artifacts (objets d’art) and not as examples of fine art. This attitude is changing worldwide, thanks to the increased importance of Islamic art, and developments like the Louvre’s new Islamic Art wing and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s recently opened Islamic galleries.

These new galleries had to be planned to accommodate the demands of carpets and textiles, fundamentally sifting the design and use of gallery space.

In response to these developments, the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California is hosting a lecture: “Carpets, Textiles and Islamic Art: New Museum Practice in the 21st Century” by Professor Walter B. Denny.

Dr. Denny is Professor of Art History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Senior Consultant in the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The lecture will include the planning and implementation of the new galleries at Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and will concentrate on the enhanced displays of carpets and textiles. Professor Denny will also discuss the role of textiles and carpets in other new or renovated Islamic art departments and museums, including the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, the Louvre in Paris, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the David Collection in Copenhagen, and the forthcoming Aga Khan Museum in Toronto.

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10-day Eid Expo in Oman

Oman Daily Observer – 09 August, 2013 – The Oman International Exhibition Centre is set to dazzle with a big range of products and cultural events as the 10-day Eid al Fitr Shopping Exhibition, featuring products from over 20 countries, begins tomorrow.

This Eid Exhibition, annually held in the capital city, attracts a huge visitor turnout, bringing diverse communities, families and friends together to celebrate Eid al Fitr. The Eid Expo (August 10-19), organised by Global Exhibition & Conference LLC, includes innovative products from many countries such as Iran, Egypt, Syria, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan, Thailand, Pakistan, India, China, Korea, Bangladesh and Bahrain.

The exhibition, adding to the bonhomie and happy environment of the Eid, generally features live folklore music performance by popular Omani artists, traditional Arabic singing and drawing competitions, a variety of skill games, magic shows, face painting and henna. More than 400 exhibitors from over 20 countries at the Eid Expo will offer ample choice and variety for those who want to buy Eid gifts. Post-Eid shopping gains momentum from the second or third day as rush of families especially women and children picks up at the exhibition. Since the Eid al Fitr holidays continue till August 13, the hustle and bustle of Eid shopping is set to reach its peak in the exhibition during the first week.

The success of the exhibition could be judged from the fact that last year on the very first day there were not less than 18,000 visitors at the exhibition, say sources. The reason for the influx of people is not far to seek. This consumer exhibition has been organised year after year and the shoppers have faith in the quality of the products and their price. August 13 is exclusive only for women in the morning and families in the evening.

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Dubai SME to host UAE’s first World Entrepreneurship Forum

Khaleej Times – 05 August, 2013 – Dubai SME, the agency of the Department of Economic Development (DED) in Dubai mandated to develop the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the World Entrepreneurship Forum to host the UAE chapter of the Forum to promote entrepreneurial idea exchange and networking in the region.

Dubai will be the first city in the Middle East to host a local chapter of the World Entrepreneurship Forum in December 2013 and Dubai SME will be responsible for co-ordinating the local chapter through co-shaping policy ideas with regional key stakeholders to influence change and advancing entrepreneurship as a core strategy for socio-economic development.

The Forum brings together key actors of the entrepreneurial ecosystem from a pool of entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, stakeholders, service providers, experts, academics, and politicians selected for their contribution and impact to society. The local chapter of the World Entrepreneurship Forum aims at bringing together all stakeholders in any given country to contribute to the Forum’s mission: “Promote and Accelerate Entrepreneurship locally as a way to create wealth and social justice, to prepare the world of 2050.”

Building on Dubai’s position as a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship, Dubai SME and the World Entrepreneurship Forum will work towards putting together a well-rounded local chapter that will advance the Forum’s mission and help entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa move to the next level.

Abdul Baset Al Janahi, chief executive officer of Dubai SME, said: “Dubai has seen major strides in growing into a modern entrepreneurial hub recently in the spheres of policy and strategy. Integrating fast-evolving economic and financial knowledge into our rich entrepreneurial traditions is essential to the success of our efforts. The World Entrepreneurship Forum will be a perfect fit with Dubai SME’s efforts in this direction.”

Tugrul Atamer, executive chairman of the World Entrepreneurship Forum, added: “Our local chapters have the very important mission to source successful entrepreneurs, academics, experts and policy makers, and identify best practices to be showcased at an international level. Dubai happens to be an excellent place to gather all key stakeholders of the region”.

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Unique Economic laws of Islam

Author: K M Zubair

Khaleej Times – 05 August, 2013 – The meticulous care with which Islam has distinguished between right and wrong in respect of the means of earning wealth is not to be found in any other legal or social system existing in the world.

It condemns as illegal all those means of livelihood, which injure, morally or materially, the interest of another individual or of the society as a whole. Islamic law categorically rejects as illegal the manufacture and sale of liquor and other intoxicants; adultery, professional dancing and obscenity; gambling; speculation; races and lotteries; transactions of speculative, imaginary, fraudulent or controversial nature; business transactions in which the gain of one party is absolutely guaranteed and assured while that of the other party is left uncertain and doubtful; price manipulation by withholding the sale of necessities of life; and many other similar transactions which are detrimental to the interest of the community.

If we examine this aspect of the economic laws of Islam, we will find a long list of practices declared illegal and most of which can make and are making people millionaires in the capitalistic system. Islam forbids all these unfair means and allows freedom of earning wealth only by those means through which a person renders some real and useful service to the community and thereby entitles himself to a fair and just compensation for it.

Islam accepts the rights of ownership of an individual over the wealth earned by him by legitimate means but even these rights are not unqualified. A man can spend his legitimate wealth, only in legitimate avenues and by legitimate means. Islam has imposed restrictions on expenditure so that while one can lead a decent life, one cannot wastes one’s riches on luxurious pursuits. A person cannot transgress the prescribed limits of exhibiting his status and affluence and behave as a super being vis-à-vis other people. Certain forms of illegal wasteful expenditure have been clearly and unequivocally prohibited while some others, though not expressly banned, may be prohibited at the discretion of the Islamic state.

One is permitted to accumulate wealth that is left over after meeting his legitimate and reasonable requirements and these savings can also be used in producing more wealth but there are some restrictions on both of these activities. In the event of accumulation of wealth he will, of course, have to pay Zakat at the rate of two and a half per cent per annum on the accumulation exceeding the specified minimum.

If he desires to invest it in business he can only do so in what is declared as legitimate business himself or to make his capital available to others on profit-loss sharing basis. It is not at all objectionable in Islam if, working within these limits, a man becomes even a millionaire; rather this will constitute a divine favour.

But in the interest of the community as a whole Islam imposes two conditions on the individual: first, that he should pay Zakat on his commercial goods and Ushr (1-10) of the value of agricultural produce; secondly, that he should deal fairly and honestly with those whom he brings into his partnership in trade, industry or agriculture, with those whom he takes in his employment and with the state and the community at large. If one does not do justice to others, particularly his employees, of his own accord, the Islamic state will compel him to do so.

Then again, even wealth that is accumulated within these legal limits is not allowed by Islam to be concentrated at one point or place for a long time. By means of its law of inheritance Islam spreads it over a large number of people from generation to generation.

Islam has made a law under which the wealth accumulated by a person in his lifetime is distributed among all his near relatives soon after his death. If there are no near relatives then distant relatives are to benefit from it in the proportion laid down by the law for each one of them.

Under this law the creation or continuance of any big family of capitalists or landlords becomes impossible. If in spite of all the restrictions and conditions stated above, any shred of evil subsists along such accumulation of wealth in one’s lifetime then, this last stroke brings an end to that and the society flourishes under a system which allows private property and freedom of enterprise but safeguards collective interests and establishes social justice. – From Islamic Way of Life by Sayyed Abul Ala Maududi

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RAK Airways flies to Islamabad

Saudi Gazette – 05 August, 2013 – RAK Airways officially will open the Islamabad route today, Monday (Aug. 5) from Ras Al Khaimah with its first flight RT 567 taking off at 2030 hours (UAE local time) for Islamabad from Ras Al Khaimah International Airport on A320 aircraft with 150 passengers.

Islamabad is RAK Airways’ third entry point into Pakistan. In 2011, the airline made its first entry into the country with two-weekly flights to Lahore and Peshawar. In the first half of 2013, the airline increased its frequency to Lahore and Peshawar from two to three flights a week to meet passenger demand.

Speaking to Saudi Gazette a day before the launch, Murabit Al Sawaf, President and CEO of RAK Airways, said “this is our first entry into the capital of Pakistan and we are proud to say that our bookings on our weekly two flights look very encouraging. We are aspiring to see a significant rising curve of our passenger numbers with the introduction of Islamabad.”

On July 2, Al Sawaf said at a press briefing at Hilton Resort and Spa in Ras Al Khaimah that RAK Airways ambitious growth plan underlines 40 destinations by 2015.

Four weeks later the airline announced its launch into two capitals – Islamabad and Amman in August 2013 and the expansion of its current fleet.

With the introduction of Islamabad, RAK Airways, the full service carrier flying out of Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE has spread its route map to 10 destinations – Jeddah, Doha, Chittagong, Dhakka, Peshawar, Lahore, Kathmandu, Cairo, Calicut and Islamabad.

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Saudi Governor Khaled Al-Faisal’s 101 lessons in tourism

Saudi Gazette – 06 August, 2013 – When Prince Khaled Al-Faisal became Governor of Assir region, back in 1971, he immediately recognized the real potential of the culturally and naturally rich region — tourism. At the time, the only modern way to reach there was a primitive airport. The road to that airport was the one and only main asphalt road in Abha, the capital, and to Khamis Mushayt city. Assir was then a poor farming area with little else to produce or export.

In his 37 years, the Western-educated prince has changed the civil face of the region beyond recognition. Having the full support of the government, he oversaw the building of a sophisticated infrastructure and superstructure. It was getting easier to open up the inclusive, remote region with an international airport, mountain highways to major cities and regions, plus networks of roads that connected even small villages to sophisticated metropolitans, services and facilities.

The poetic prince’ dreams, however, were to face many obstacles. The most important, I believe, was the refusal of parts of the conservative society to accept the concept of tourism. For them, the idea itself is foreign and dangerous. They dread corruption of their “purest” culture and irrevocable change to their way of life. Tourists, especially foreigners, but also locals from more liberal towns, might bring unwelcome openness to their society, they feared.

The road to success was hard and long, but eventually most people saw the economical, social and cultural benefits of tourism and appreciated the fact that their region became a major summer holidays destination. Visitors now come from all over the country and the Gulf region to enjoy the cool weather and many natural and cultural attractions. Tourism became not only a major source of income and jobs, but also of fame and pride to the Assirians.

Education does work. Al-Faisal worked on that part steadfastly for four decades. He used the media to get his message across, as well as festivals, cultural, and sports events. He established Prince Sultan College for Tourism and Administration in Abha in 1999, then in Jeddah (2007), as part of Al-Faisal University. He seems to drive the idea into the hearts and minds of the public. He also aimed at training and preparing a new generation to support the implementation of that idea.

Other projects founded include the Literary Club of Abha, the Abha Singing Festival, the Abha Prize for cultural excellence, and the Al-Miftaha Visual Arts Village situated in the ancient quarter of Abha. The village includes artists’ studios and their accommodation, exhibition galleries, shops and a bookstore. Al-Faisal also built one of the largest theaters in the country seating 3000 spectators.

In response to my article “Emir of Jazan, Prince Sultan promise white gold in Tehama,” July 16, Professor Rasheid Small (Prince Sultan College for Tourism and Administration, Jeddah) writes about the experience of his country, South Africa, with tourism and compares it with ours.

He says: “In any country and society that is rich in history and culture, the value of tourism and its contribution to the informal economy of the region is often undervalued and ignored. Like your article infer, that often tourism is judge against the backdrop of the “westernized” concept of tourism.

“As in Africa, and especially South Africa where ecotourism, sport tourism, medical-tourism, cultural tourism and urban tourism have become economic drivers for the sustainability of many entrepreneurs and communities which would normally not form part of the mainstream tourist packages. These offshoots of tourism has not only promoted pride in the culture and environment of the region among its inhabitants, but has also become one of the major job creating sectors especially for people who has little higher education experience.

“Some examples are similar to what you have discussed, viz. the number of Bed & Breakfast enterprises established in the family home setting where tourist come to experience the culture and lifestyle of the communities has become a major tourist attraction in Cape Town, the food-tasting trips for tourists in the Bo-Kaap (Malay quarters) where tourist can share meals with families is an indication of the hospitable nature of the Muslim people in South Africa.

“The benefit of these tourism offshoots is that it developed the knowledge of the history of the area among community members, improved the knowledge of the environment and the responsibility to preserve the environment, but more importantly it develops the inter-personal and softer skills of the people involved in the industry.

“Yes, I therefore wholeheartedly support the initiatives in Saudi and Jazan as you mentioned, and congratulate the people responsible for driving the initiatives. I am of the opinion that Saudi with the nature of generosity and hospitality together the with rich history and diverse environment has the ability to expand this area of tourism into a flourishing informal business sector.”

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New Iranian airline to start operation

Tehran Times – 07 August, 2013 – A new Iranian airline will start operation by the next two weeks, an official with the Iranian Civil Aviation Organization announced on Monday. Mohammad Khodakarami told ISNA that the airline owns three planes and will launch flights by the next two weeks.

Applicants, who want to establish airlines, should be able to buy at least three planes with less than 10 years of age, he added.

In May, Iranian Civil Aviation Organization head Hamidreza Pahlavani announced that two new Iranian airlines will start operation in the current Iranian calendar year, which began on March 21.

A number of planes will be added to the national fleet in the current year, he said, adding that 19 planes were added to the fleet last year, the Mehr News Agency quoted Pahlavani as saying.

In March, Pahlavani said that Iran has added two Airbus 340 planes, three Fokker 100 planes, and two other planes of different model to its national air fleet.

He added that currently 18 airlines are in operation in Iran. In April 2012, the Fars News Agency reported that Iran plans to increase the number of aircraft and replace 25 outdated planes with new ones.

The Civil Aviation Organization will remove 25 planes with over 30 years of service from the fleet, most of which are Boeing 707 and Boeing 727 models, according to the report.

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Turkish Airlines luring GCC tourists to Istanbul

Saudi Gazette – 03 August, 2013 – Turkish Airlines, the national carrier of Turkey, is promoting the fascinating traditions and spiritual experience celebrated across the cultural capital of the country throughout the holy month of Ramadan with its new ‘Ramadan in Istanbul’ campaign.

Paying homage to the famed religious sites and traditions from the magical Ottoman era, the campaign is now extremely popular among GCC residents, with the airline recording significant growth in tourist arrivals from the region.

Passenger numbers from the Gulf were highest from Saudi Arabia in June this year followed by UAE, Kuwait and Qatar. Turkish Airlines is further building on the appeal of Turkey to GCC tourists as a popular year-round destination, which offers a unique blend of Eastern and Western cultures with the new campaign.

Positioning the country as the must-visit and inspiring destination during the holy month, ‘Ramadan in Istanbul’ underlines Turkey’s historic traditions and monuments, complemented with state-of-the-art hospitality provided by the airline and the country.

Ziya Taşkent, Senior Vice President for Marketing & Sales of the Turkish Airlines, said: “Istanbul continues to be one of the most preferred vacation and leisure destinations for residents in the Middle East. The ‘Ramadan in Istanbul’ campaign builds on the popularity and increased number of visitors witnessed in the holy month last year, especially as Turkish Airlines offers attractive fares from across the Middle East region to the capital as part of the annual travel promotion.”

Istanbul, famed for its historic architectural splendor, is home to a rich Ramadan culture tracing back to the Ottoman era through holy scripts, paintings and an inherited tradition celebrated by the Turkish people. While seeped in history, the city also exudes a cosmopolitan vibe with an abundance of shopping opportunities, particularly for Ramadan gifts.

The mosques of Istanbul are celebrated throughout Ramadan, with over 3,000 in the city. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, famed worldwide as the ‘Blue Mosque,’ features greetings for the holy month with its minarets being brilliantly illuminated. Other notable masterpieces and places of worship are the Suleymaniye Mosque and Eyüp Sultan Mosque. During the Ottoman period, ‘Tarweeh’ night prayers were performed in the palace with hymns and this is upheld in the city’s larger mosques.

Istanbul’s natural splendor can be enjoyed with a sunset Bosphorus cruise, a refreshing end to fasting with vistas of the historical palaces. As fast breaks each day, the city becomes alive with culinary delights of Ramadan infusing the streets including “pide’ bread, rosewater, “gullac” pudding, olives and dates, particularly renowned for restoring energy. A culture of charity, the essence of Ramadan, flourishes with an abundance of Iftar dinners reflecting the friendly and hospitable nature of the Turkish people

Architectural masterpieces on any visitor’s list should include the Tokapi Palace and the Hagia Sophia, steps away from the Blue Mosque. The latter is now a museum and like other historical highlights these are open, in varied hours, throughout Ramadan. The Chamber of the Holy Mantle is highly valued as a place where rare artifacts belonging to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) are on display.

Shopping havens, including the Grand Bazaar and Egyptian Spice Market, pulsate with tourists and residents seeking traditional gifts for families and friends during the holy month.

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Travellers to get speedy exit at Abu Dhabi airport

Khaleej Times – 03 August, 2013 – Abu Dhabi International Airport’s arrivals hall will be relocated this month to allow easy and faster access for visitors to parking lots and taxis – making them seven times closer to get to.

The hall, according to Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC), will be relocated to the lower level of Terminals 1 and 3 from August 6.

“Guests receiving their arriving passengers should head to the new lower level entrances of the building to use the fast drive-by lane, or park in the allocated car parks and walk into the new Arrivals Hall to greet them,” ADAC announced on Friday.

“Through the new facility, travellers are now able to access parking, taxis and limousines just 20 metres away from the customs lounge through the new tunnel that is now completed and connecting the customs area with the new Arrivals Hall.

The relocation of the Arrivals Hall of Terminals 1 and 3 is part of ADAC’s multibillion dirham expansion project that includes a new midfield terminal and expansions of existing terminals.

The centre-piece of ADAC’s multibillion-dollar investment programme is the Midfield Terminal Complex, which will provide a full terminal building, passenger and cargo facilities, and duty-free shops and restaurants for a total capacity of 27 to 40 million people a year.

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China Southern expects new travel policy to promote traffic from Gulf

Khaleej Times – 02 August, 2013 – Foreign nationals from 45 countries, including the UAE, holding a third-country visa and onward airline ticketing can now stay in Chinese province of Guangdong up to 72 hours without an entry visa to China, China Southern Airlines said.

China Southern Airlines, which is operating daily flights to Dubai, said with the new move starting from August 1, Guangzhou joins Beijing and Shanghai as 72-hour border visa-free cities.

Rayomand Kasad, assistant sales manager of China Southern Airlines said foreign nationals from 45 countries and regions holding valid passports as well as connecting passenger tickets with set travel dates, are now qualified to depart Baiyun International Airport Guangzhou without needing a Chinese visa and will have free and unfettered access throughout Guangzhou Province during the 72-hour transit period.

“Eligible foreign passengers may apply with their carrier airline, which then will declare to its border control authorities at the airport of departure and may temporarily enter Guangdong upon meeting the conditions by the frontier inspection authorities,” he said at a Press conference.

Kasad said implementation of this policy is expected to substantially promote tourist traffic from the Gulf countries to China. China Southern Airlines has been one of the active promoters for the 72-hour transit visa facility at Baiyun International Airport Guangzhou. As a Guangzhou-headquartered company, China Southern Airlines has ramped-up its international strategy by actively promoting the Guangzhou brand as it works to built Guangzhou into an international aviation hub.

Currently, China Southern Airlines operates 44 international routes from its Guangzhou hub, with service to 37 countries and regions and more than 90 domestic flights. China Southern Airlines’ Guangzhou hub has raised the number of transit passengers of all international routes, accounting for 50 per cent of all passengers.

In 2012, China Southern Airlines carried 340,000 international arrivals in Guangzhou and in the first half of 2013, the sixth traffic rights passengers transported by China Southern Airlines at it’s Guangzhou hub has reached 210,000 arrivals, an increase of 41.5 per cent year-on-year.

With the implementation of the new policy, the airline can expect transit passengers by China Southern flights will exceed 500,000 arrivals in Guangzhou.

In conformity with this new 72-hour visa policy, China Southern Airlines has specifically designed a series of customized services and products, providing transit passengers with one-stop professional quality services, Kasad said.

In addition to its substantial daily route services, China Southern Airlines will put its latest aircraft available for its Guangzhou departures. The airline is currently stationing its new Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliners for international flights departing from Guangzhou, providing exceptional First and Business Class cabin facilities.

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Malaysia To Open Natural Resources Research Hub In Langkawi

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 6 (NNN-Bernama) – Malaysia’s King, Tuanku Abdul Halim Mua’dzam Shah, is to open a natural resources research hub in Langkawi soon. Called “Langkawi Research Centre”, it is a collaborative effort between Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Langkawi Development Authority (LADA).

The centre will be transformed into a natural resources hub for Langkawi’s eco-tourIsm development.

“It will also serve as a field station in the north of Peninsular Malaysia to give a boost to researches on natural resources research development.

“Langkawi is endowed with very rich geological resources and has become a field station for undergraduate geoscience students since the 1970s,” said UKM in a statement to Bernama.

The university said the centre would have the resources to venture into exploration of other natural resources.

Under a memorandum of understanding between UKM and LADA signed in 1996, the university will provide the fund for the centre’s infrastructure, while LADA will offer a suitable site for its development.

Under the smart partnership cooperation, UKM and LADA have agreed that the centre will focus on three niche areas — geological resources and landscape, biological and marine resources and local cultures and traditions.

“The centre is also responsible to adopt the geopark approach to promote sustainable development of eco-tourism in Langkawi,” it said.

The geopark approach stresses on preservation of natural resources and environment besides developing socio-economic well-being of the local community, it added.

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Maldivian Airline Expands Routes To Sri Lanka

COLOMBO, Aug 6 (NNN-Bernama) — Maldives’ national carrier Maldivian Airlines is commencing new routes with direct flights to Colombo from capital Male and Gan Island in the southernmost of the Maldives, the company said Tuesday.

The new flight services will begin on August 7 and are mainly targeted at medical tourists and the business and leisure segment, Xinhua news agency reported.

The airline expects an increase in tourist arrivals to Colombo and Maldives with introduction of the new routes.

“Our twice-weekly flight will operate from Colombo to Gan on Mondays and to Male on Fridays. Flights to Colombo will be operated using an airbus A320 aircraft with a capacity of 14 business class and 138 economy class seats,” the airline said in a statement.

Maldivian Airlines expanded its operations beyond Maldives to Trivandrum, India in 2008 and since adding A320 aircraft to its fleet, Maldivian has included Chennai, Dhaka and Chongqing in its network.

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Tourism Generates One Billion Usd Revenue For Uganda

KAMPALA, Aug 6 (NNN-NEW VISION) — Tourists visiting Uganda are generating on billion USD (about 2.7 trillion SHILLINGS) in revenue for the country annually, according to a recent World Bank study on the tourism sector.

Their spending amounts to 38 per cent of Uganda’s exports and generated 5.6 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2012, making it the biggest source of income for the country, according to the report on Economic and Statistical Analysis of Tourism in Uganda.

“Policy simulations show that attracting an extra 100,000 tourists to Uganda would add 11% to exports and 1.6% to GDP, which would further boost the country’s efforts to reduce poverty and boost its development prospects,” said Kirk Hamilton, a lead economist at the World Bank. “If each tourist visiting Uganda stayed one additional night, then exports would rise by 7.0 per cent and GDP by 1.0 per cent.”

The study conducted in 2012 by the Tourism Ministry in partnership with the World Bank and Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID), collected data from tourists leaving Uganda on how much they spent, how long they stayed, where they went and surveyed their levels of satisfaction and suggestions for improving tourism.

The survey found that 32 per cent of foreign visitors and tourists came for business reasons, 11 per cent for conferences, 17 per cent for leisure, 20 per cent to visit friends and family, 5.0 per cent for spiritual/religious purposes, and 2.0 per cent for cultural tourism.

The survey also found that tourists were for the most part highly satisfied with their trip to Uganda; however, respondents identified transport, insufficient visitor information and the quality of customer service as major challenges.

The main policy intervention areas proposed by the study included investing in natural assets and management of national parks that drive Uganda’s tourism, improving road and transport access to areas of high tourist interest and other infrastructure services. Others are increasing supply or tourism services through private investment, and marketing Uganda as a tourist destination.

“Investing more in infrastructure, particularly roads, can lower the cost for tourists to visit the natural areas of Uganda. Reforms of the concession policy for tourism operators to increase transparency and security of tenure will boost private investment in the sector,” says Tourism Minister Maria Mutagamba.

“Closing the skills gap in the sector will increase visitor satisfaction,” she adds.

The data show that leisure and cultural tourists spend 30 to 100 per cent more than other types of tourists. These tourists are, therefore, an attractive target in government efforts to increase the economic contribution of the tourism sector.

“To attract more tourists, the Government has to adopt stronger branding of the country, use new media, strengthen links with travel agencies in source markets and attract high-profile foreign operators,” said Ahmadou Moustapha Ndiaye, the World Bank country manager.

Going forward, the new Competitiveness and Enterprise Development Project that the World Bank board approved will support Uganda’s tourism sector by building a skilled tourism labour force through the rebuilding of Hotel and Tourism Training Institute in Jinja. It will also improve destination planning, product development and expand global promotion.

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Coalition – Health Bill Will Make Nigeria Health Tourism Centre

This Day – 9 August 2013 – The Health Sector Reform Coalition (HSRC) has said the passage of the National Health Bill (NHB), which has failed to see the light of day since 2006, would not only be able to meet the health needs of the country but also become a hub of health tourism.

That way, the current practice of many Nigerians going abroad for medical treatment would be drastically reduced if not reversed, thus saving the billions of naira lost in foreign exchange annually.

These facts were disclosed at a press briefing in Abuja, by the Executive Secretary of Health Reform Foundation (HERFON), Dr. Muhammed Lecky, on behalf of HSRC.

With him were Dr. Segun Tunde, Executive Director, Evidence for Action; Dr. Amina Aminu, Director of Service Delivery, Partnership for Transforming Health Systems, PATH2; and Dr. David Olayemi of Save the Child.

Considering that it affects everybody one way or the other in terms of providing affordable healthcare for all Nigerians, the coalition urged all citizens to join in putting pressure on the National Assembly to pass the National Health Bill as a New Year gift to them.

HSRC comprises several organisations, including Save the Children, NAWOJ, Federation of Muslim Women, Medical Women Association of Nigeria, and Federation of Women Lawyers, among others.

Lecky, who expressed sadness at the decision of the Senate to shoot down the bill at the third reading, appealed to Nigerians to join hands in asking the lawmakers why they were not passing the proposed legislation.

Although he commended the Senate Committee on Health and its chairman, Ifeanyi Okowa, the coalition noted that there was urgent need to pass the bill into law as soon as possible to save the countless lives of the most vulnerable such as children under five years, expectant mothers and adults above 65 as well as people living with disabilities.

Also to benefit are 60 per cent of Nigerians living in hard-to-reach rural communities who would receive primary healthcare.

“It would appear that the two per cent consolidated revenue as provided by the National Health Bill is the major cause of the setback. It is believed that the two per cent consolidated revenue of the federal government is about N60 billion ($380 million) for primary health care each year,” he said.

According to him, “The fund will guarantee provision of free medical care for the most vulnerable, establishment of minimum healthcare services package for selected groups…”

He said the bill targeted universal coverage with at least basic services and establishes National Primary Healthcare Fund.

The Fund, he noted, would be financed from the consolidated fund of the federation (an amount not less that two per cent of its value), grants by international donor partners, and funds from any other source.

“We as a nation must and can do something. The passage of the NHB is critical to arising to the challenges of our health status in Nigeria.

“There is need to drum up support for the bill from various stakeholders. These include National Assembly, Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), market women, media, Eminent Persons Group, traditional and religious groups, etc.,” the coalition said.

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Comoros Reopens Trade, Economic Centre In Iran

TEHRAN, Aug 6 (NNN-FNA) — Comoros reopened its trade and economic center in Iran in a ceremony attended by Comorian Vice-President Nuroddin Borhan on Monday.

“Certainly, the two friendly and Muslim countries of Iran and Comoros enjoy abundant commonalities for economic cooperation,” Borhan said, addressing the attendants at the ceremony.

“The Comorian government is ready to pave the ground for the effective and favorable presence of the Iranian companies in Comoros and for increasing these capacities in the South African region,” he added.

Borhan, who traveled to Iran to participate in Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s inauguration ceremony on Sunday, also expressed the hope that the new government in Iran would pave the ground for the further expansion and strengthening of cooperation between the two countries.

Promotion of bilateral relations with African states is a priority of Iran’s foreign policy and the country has in recent years striven hard to maximize relations with the African continent.

Iran is also an observing member of the AU and has shown an active presence in previous AU summit meetings.

The country is considered as one of the AU’s strategic partners along with India, Japan, China, several South American states and Turkey, while Tehran is also believed to be prioritizing promotion of its economic and political ties with the African states.

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Uganda: Tourism Minister Launches ‘Tourism Week’

The Independent – 3 August 2013 – Maria Mutagamba, the Ugandan Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities has officially launched tourism activities that will lead to the celebrations of Tourism Day come Sept. 27.

The activities to mark the day include; domestic tourisim launch dinner set for Aug.29, King Oyo Empango celebrations for Sept. 7, Mt. Rwenzori Royal mountain climbing challenge for Aug.8, tourism exhibition to be held at Booma Grounds, Fortportal from Sept. 24 to 27 among other activities.

Speaking to journalists in Kampala on Aug.2, the minister said, the sector is one of the major contributors to economic growth and urged the youth to get involved in ventures related to the sector. “It is a source of employment and that means earning money,” she said. She said government is committed to financing the sector as more developments in it are realized.

Uganda has been named a top tourist destination many times across the world and this has given the country hope that more could be gained out of the sector. The National Geographic puts Uganda among the top 20 global tourism destinations in the year 2013.

The National Geographic is an international travel channel affiliated to the National Geograpic Society. Official data says Uganda earns Shs 2.7 trillion as revenue from the sector annually.

The pride of Uganda’s tourism lies in the undisturbed green nature. There are many tourist features in Uganda including bird species, wildlife, and the rare mountain gorillas among others.

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Egypt: 1.6 Billion Pounds For Projects in Sharm El-Sheikh

Egypt State Information Service – 5 August 2013 – South Sinai Governor Major General Khalid Fouda said that the South Sinai would witness a quantum leap in tourism.

He added that the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Tourism would coordinate the governorate to carry out environmental and tourism projects.

He also pointed out that the Sharm El-Sheikh Investors’ Association would carry out tourism projects with the aim of bolster tourism.

Those projects would be carried out with an initial cost of about LE1.6 billion, he added.

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Mozambique: Wild Juice Factory Opens in Manica

Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique – 1 August 2013 – A processing factory to produce juice from wild fruits, tubers and roots will soon be opened in the central province of Manica. This will be the first of its kind in Mozambique.

The factory is being set up in Mpunga, in Sussundenga district, by the MICAIA Foundation as part of the community project “Ndzou Camp Lodge”.

Ndzou Camp is in the heart of the Moribane Forest Reserve, which is part of the Chimanimani Conservation Area.

The districts of Gondola, Sussundenga, Manica and Chimoio have an abundance of plants and fruit, and the factory will specialise in processing juice from the “madumbe” root which is thought to be highly nutritious. The factory will also use locally grown bananas.

These facts were revealed by the Executive Director of MICAIA, Milagre Nuvunga, during a visit to Ndzou Camp by the Minister of Tourism, Carvalho Muaria.

Nuvunga explained that the construction of the processing unit was completed last month following a six month delay. They are now waiting for the arrival of the machinery.

Ndzou Camp was opened in November 2010. As well as a lodge, it has a campsite and rondavels for visitors. Its main emphasis is on informing visitors about the biodiversity of the Moribane Forest and the local community. One of the key attractions is walking safaris to see the forest elephants.

It is a joint venture between MICAIA and Associacao Kubatana Moribane (the local community association). Funding for the project has come from the World Bank as part of its Transfrontier Conservation Area programme.

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Turkic Council to hold next summit in Azerbaijan

07 August 2013 – AzerNews – Azerbaijan will host the Third Summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States (Turkic Council) on August15-16, Turkish Council Secretariat reported on August 6.

The Third Summit of the Turkic Council, an international organization established by the Nakhchivan Agreement signed among Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkey in 2009, will be held in Gabala.

Within the scope of the Summit, the Council of Foreign Ministers will convene on August 15 while the Council of Heads of States will meet on August 16. Besides, the senior officials of the Foreign Ministries will meet on August 14.

A Cooperation Protocol is expected to be undersigned among Foreign Ministries during the Summit. Secretary General of the Turkic Council will hold a press conference on August 16 to announce the Summit outcomes.

The Summit is an institutionalized continuation of the Summits Process that took place from 1992 to 2010. Each year the Summit is hosted by a different member state and has a different main theme. This year the Summit will concentrate on “transportation and connectivity”.

Since its establishment, the Turkic Council has taken concrete steps to promote cooperation in the Turkic world. For the first time in history, different ministers responsible for different spheres of cooperation came together within the framework of the Turkic Council.

During the past year the Turkic Council Secretariat carried on its results-driven work and organized more than twenty meetings in various cooperation spheres. For instance, the Directive for the Establishment of the Turkic University Union and its Higher Education Area was adopted at the meeting held in Bishkek in May 2012. Thus the Turkic University Union, which will expand cooperation in the sphere of higher education, encourage student/scholar exchange, and utilize comparative advantages of the universities, was established within the Turkic Council. The Union is comprised of fifteen founding universities from four member countries.

The Terminology Committee comprised of experts from countries held its first meeting in November 2012 in Istanbul. The Committee discussed a number of issues related to developing common Turkic terminology including such projects as publishing various dictionaries as well as Turkic toponymic atlas.

Ministers and Heads of Government Agencies responsible for diaspora issues gathered twice in Baku and Ankara in the first half of 2013. Ministers approved the Joint Action Strategy drafted by the Contact Group. The First Forum of Turkic Diaspora Organizations was held in Baku on 21 June 2013 with the participation of more than 600 representatives from 50 countries. Cooperation among diasporas will contribute to defending common interests and promoting the image of member countries.

As for cooperation in the sphere of transportation which will be the main subject of the upcoming Summit, after meetings of the Working Groups and discussions between Baku and Aktau Port Administrations Transport Ministers met in Baku last July for the first time.

A Cooperation Protocol among Transport Ministers was signed during the meeting. In addition, sister ports relations were established among Baku, Aktau, and Samsun Ports after signing a Memorandum of Understanding. Parties also agreed to establish a Coordination Council consisting of Deputy Ministers as an intermediary organ which will deal with potential problems. Encouraging multi-modal transportation through Caspian Sea within the East-West Corridor will serve common interests of Member States through expansion of mutual trade and realizing their transit potential.

Additionally, Heads of Customs Administrations of Member Countries met twice in Nakhchivan and Istanbul. The Working Group on Customs Cooperation is currently working on simplification of customs procedures via implementation of such practices as “Single Window” and “Authorized Economic Operator”.

The aforementioned decisions as well as the outcomes of other meetings held throughout the past year will be presented for approval to the Presidents of the Member States at the Gabala Summit.

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TV Berlin broadcasts documentary on Azerbaijani jazz and Mugham

05 August 2013 – TODAY.AZ – German TV Berlin channel has broadcast a documentary highlighting jazz tradition in Azerbaijan and its rare synthesis with Mugham.

Entitled “Yellow bride – a bride with golden hair. Jazz-mugham in Azerbaijan”, the documentary was shot by producer Klaus Bernhard.

It features the history of jazz and Mugham in Azerbaijan, and features interviews with esteemed artists, including Alim Gasimov, Salman Gambarov, Rain Sultanov, Farhad Badalbayli and Isfar Sarabski.

The documentary also provides an insight into Azerbaijan’s history and culture. It says that Shusha, the cradle of Azerbaijani music, and Nagorno-Karabakh, the motherland of eminent Azerbaijani musicians, are under occupation of the Armenian armed forces.

The film was produced jointly by Azerbaijan Ministry of Culture and Tourism, German production company Das-Apartment and Azerbaijani film studio Salname. It was supported by the German-Azerbaijani Forum, German company E.ON, State Oil Company of Azerbaijan and the country’s embassy to Germany.

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Azerbaijan participates in Edinburgh Festival Fringe

05 August 2013 – TODAY.AZ – My Favourite Madman by esteemed author and playwright Elchin Afandiyev has been staged at Gryphon Venues theatre as Azerbaijan has for the first time joined the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Co-organized by London-based Azerbaijan Intercultural Society (AZICS) and ALOFF Theatre, the staging was sponsored by Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Speaking before the launch ceremony, AZICS director Sanan Aliyev provided an insight into the play, and highlighted Elchin’s life and career.

My Favourite Madman, set in Baku city in 1995, is a roller-coaster ride of anarchic fun. The farcical element of the different characters, all in their own reality of the abnormal and suicidal, challenges the functioning of the whole. The play will be staged till August 10.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival. Established in 1947 as an alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival, it takes place annually in Scotland’s capital in August.

The Fringe is a showcase for the performing arts, particularly theatre and comedy, although dance and music are also represented.

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Shusha ensemble to partake in int’l folklore festival

05 August 2013 – TODAY.AZ – A song and dance ensemble of Shusha, an Armenia-occupied Azerbaijani town, will participate in the 13th International Folklore Festival due to take place in Gyongyos, a Hungarian sister city with Shusha.

The 25-man ensemble will give concerts in Gyongyos and Budapest on the sidelines of the festival.

The festival will bring together local artists, music and dance ensembles from Serbia, Brazil, Georgia, Panama, Poland, Greece, Indonesia, Colombia, China and France.

Azerbaijan’s Shusha and Hungarian Gyongyos signed a memorandum to become sister cities this May.

Shusha, the cultural center and capital of the historical Karabakh Khanate, fell victim to the Armenian aggression on May 8, 1992, when 290 sq. km of Azerbaijan’s territory went to the control of the Armenian invaders.

As a result of the occupation of Shusha, 195 civilians were killed, 165 others wounded, 22,000 displaced and 68 taken hostage by the Armenians. Their fate is unknown to this day.

Armenia occupied over 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent regions, after laying territorial claims against its South Caucasus neighbor that had caused a lengthy war in the early 1990s. The UN Security Council has adopted four resolutions on Armenia’s withdrawal from the Azerbaijani territory, but they have not been enforced to this day.

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Tutankhamun’s sticks to be restores in Grand Egyptian Museum

Al-Ahram – Monday 5 Aug 2013 – Eight sticks of King Tutankhamun’s collection have been transferred to Egypt’s restoration department at the planned Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), overlooking the Giza Plateau, in a first step towards restoring and relocating all of the boy king’s treasured collection from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Tutankhamun’s treasured collection will be among the Grand Egyptian Museum’s permanent display, due to open in 2015, along with the valued collection of King Khufu’s mother Hetep Heres, Khufu’s twin solar boats and the jewellery collection, to mention a few, according to the GEM exhibition organisers.

Director General of the GEM Hussein Abdel Bassir told the Ahram Online that the transferred artefacts included eight wooden sticks out of the 132 of Tutankhamun’s original collection.

The sticks came to the Grand Egyptian Museum only for restoration and will return back to its original location at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo after the work is done, Abdel Bassir said.

The whole Tutankhamun collection as well as other compilations will be transferred and put on display at its new location once the construction work at the Grand Egyptian Museum is finished.

Abdel Bassir pointed out that the sticks are carved in wood gilded with gold and its tops are decorated with heads embellished with coloured precious stones. All the sticks bear Tutankhamun’s cartouche. These sticks were used by the king in his daily life activities as well as in rituals and religious ceremonies.

Tutankhamun’s collection is the most complete royal treasure ever found, consisting of more than 3,850 artefacts. The most spectacular of them are the king’s gold mask embellished with precious stones and the three-mummy shaped coffins; one made of pure gold and the two others of gilded wood.

This collection was kept intact in Egypt to show how royal tombs were provisioned. The assortment includes everyday artefacts, such as toys and games, chairs, stools and beds, wine jars and boxes of food, bows, arrows, swords, and boomerangs as well as guardian statues, ritual statues of deities, and magical objects to protect and assist the king in the afterlife.

The Tutankhamun collection shows how kings practiced their personal life, especially for the mysterious boy king. It shows his love of hunting, his happy marriage to his wife, Ankhesenamun, and his relations with high officials who provided him with inscribed shabtis (statuettes) intended to perform work in place of the deceased in the underworld.

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Central Java local govt organizes free homebound travel for Eid

August 3 2013 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – More than 10,000 Idul Fitri homebound travelers aboard 190 free buses left Jakarta for various destinations in Central Java on Saturday.

Central Java Deputy Governor Rustriningsih saw off the homebound travelers at Purna Bhakti Pertiwi Museum in the Indonesia-in-miniature park (TMII), East Jakarta.

Also present were chief of the Central Java community’s advisory board Wiranto, chief of the Indonesian Democratic Party – Struggle (PDIP)’s central executive board Yanti Sukamdani, and a number of Central Java provincial officials.

The free buses were made available by the Central Java provincial government, in cooperation with 35 district and municipal governments in the province and Central Java government-owned Bank Jateng.

“About 10,260 Central Java residents in Jakarta are traveling on the free buses,” she said.

She expressed hope that homebound travelers would be able to create jobs in their hometowns and reduce Jakarta’s population.

Wiranto, who is also chairman of the People’s Conscience (Hanura) Party, said the free Idul Fitri homebound travel would help alleviate the financial burden of the homebound travelers.

“As chief of the Central Java community’s advisory board, I express my gratitude to all parties,” he said. He also asked the homebound travelers not to return to Jakarta with their relatives.

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Indonesia’s Quran paper has export quality

Mon, August 5 2013 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Industry Minister Ms Hidayat said Indonesia had to develop its Quran Paper (QPP) because it had export quality and the Quran printed with the OPP could last for 100 years.

“Indonesia should continue to develop its export products which have added values,” the minister said here on Sunday. The minister made the remarks in connection with the donation of 100 thousand copies of the Quran by pulp producer Asian Pulp and Paper (APP) as a form of its social responsibility in the current fasting month.

Minister MS Hidayat said he hailed the company’s donation of 100 thousand copies of the Quran. “Building the nation in various aspects, including in the mental and spiritual aspects, is a shared responsibility. Therefore, I appreciated the APP’s step to donate copies of the Quran as a form of its social responsibility,” the minister said.

The copies of the Quran which were donated by the APP were printed using domestically produced QPP by PT Indah Kiat Pulp and Paper in Tangerang, Banten.

The Quran Paper is claimed to have a special print and texture quality which is light, soft, strong and could last for 100 years if the Quran is used in normal way.

About 80-90 percent of this paper production is exported, particularly to the Middle East countries, such as Egypt, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon which are centers of Quran printing for the world.

Corporate Affairs Director of APP Suhendra Wiriadinata said APP had the initiative to donate copies of the Quran to help people who needed them.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs predicted that the people needed some two million copies of the Quran in 2011.

But up to now, the national printing capacity of the Holy Book only reached about 50 thousand to 60 thousand copies.

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Holy heritage on display at Istanbul’s Sultanahmet

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News – A new exhibition opened on Aug. 2 at Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Madrasah is displaying 99 Mushaf-ı Şerif (handwritten copies of the Quran) from between the ninth and 18th centuries. The exhibition titled “Mukaddes Miras” (Holy Heritage) is being organized under the artistic consultancy of Mimar Sinan University Faculty of Fine Arts member Associate Professor Ali Rıza Özcan.

The exhibition includes 99 copies of the Quran written by famous calligraphers such as Hafız Osman, Mehmet Emin Üsküdari, Mahmud Sivasi, Hafız Yusuf and Derviş Mehmed in the whole Islamic geography from China to Mongolia and from Abbasis to Emevis.

Also in the exhibition are the hüsni-hat calligraphy works by significant names like Şeyh Hamdullah, Sami Efendi, Mahmud Celaleddin, Yesarizade Mustafa İzzet, Ömer Vasfi Efendi, Hulusi Yazgan, Kamil Akdik and Mehmet Şefik.

For the exhibition “Mukaddes Miras,” which is reported as Turkey’s largest Mushaf-ı Şerif exhibition so far, all of the works have been gathered from private collections. Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Özcan, who closely followed the organization of the exhibition, said that the works were from a wide Islamic geography, led by the Ottoman Empire.

He said that Qurans with a rich content were on display in the exhibition, adding, “There was an exhibition in Hagia Sophia, titled ‘Hattı Sultanları’ (Master of Calligraphy). The Islamic Culture and Arts Platform organized it and they proposed us to help for the organization of this exhibition. We have been inspired by the 99 names of God and put 99 works in the exhibition. We planned one Quran for each name.”

Unique works

Özcan said that he had chosen the unique works for the exhibition from the Bilal Sütçü collection. “We also display works by Şeyh Hamdullah, who is known as the father of calligraphy. The center of calligraphy moved from Baghdad to Istanbul with him. Those following him have created significant works. This is why this exhibition is very important,” he added.

Speaking at the opening of the exhibition, the sponsor of the event, Yıldız Holding Executive Board Chairman Ali Ülker said, “Rare works are on display in the exhibition. It will be useful for visitors of the exhibit to get a catalogue and make search on the Internet. These are very valuable works and they are not open to public all the time. As Yıldız Holding, we collect works from time to time but mostly display them in our workplace. We have previously organized a Quran exhibition and a Hilye-i Şerif in its 1400th year. This time we sponsor our traditional arts.”

The exhibition will run through Sept. 2.

Calligraphy works in Istanbul

World-famous Iranian calligraphy artist Amir Ahmad Falsafi’s exhibition “The Magic of the Pen and Calligraphy” opened in Istanbul July 18.

The Istanbul Classic Arts Center and the Islamic History, Art and Culture Research Center are supporting the exhibition at Dolmabahçe Art Gallery. The exhibition features many works of calligraphy by the artist.

Speaking at the exhibition, Falsafi said he was very content to see the interest in calligraphy art. There are many joint artistic and cultural values between Iran and Turkey, Falsafi said. “Not only religion, but also art makes the two countries collide.” Falsafi has become established as a master of nestaliq calligraphy. He has dedicated 30 years to calligraphy and has also spent 22 years teaching at the Iranian Society of Calligraphers. His published works include: “Divan-e Baba Tahir,” 1984; “Sa’di’s Gulistan and Divan-e Hassanzadeh Amoli,” 1985.

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Ottoman life, society and customs revealed in new book

ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency – A new book published by Kültür AŞ titled ‘100 customs of Istanbul,’ sheds light on Ottoman urban life and customs, enlightening the traditions and exposing the habits of the society during Ottoman times. The book provides insights into Istanbul’s customs, urban life, traditions and also Bayrams

A recently released book, “100 customs of Istanbul,” sheds light on the cultural and social way of life during Ottoman times.

According to the written statement made by Kültür AŞ, the book provides insights into Istanbul’s customs, urban life, traditions and also Bayrams. The bayram traditions and daily customs are revealed in the book and also how the sultans celebrated their bayrams.

The book examines some of the longest-surviving traditions and customs of Ottoman urban life, and its social and cultural customs. For example, the book takes a look at the traditions of what people did when someone bought a new house in Ottoman society or during the wedding and birth. The traditions and customs that people practiced to bring luck and joy are described in the book. These traditions are generally carried out by women and created by women in the society.

The traditions are described in the context of the relations that they have with each other.

A 40-volume book project focusing on Muslim judges’ registration and verdicts during Ottoman times, part of the Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture initiative, was unveiled at a press conference yesterday. The book is a significant source of information on the political, social and cultural life of Istanbul under the Ottoman state.

Istanbul mayor Kadir Topbaş said at the press conference that the conquest of Istanbul ushered in a new era, opening the world to Fatih Sultan Mehmet’s innovative management approaches that effected global judgment.

The book includes the registrations of 15th and 16th-century districts, such as Suriçi, Üsküdar, Galata and Eyüp. “Thanks to the registrations we can now learn of the historical developments in those four districts and analyze them. Once all the registrations have been analyzed there will be a wealth of information that will not fit in just one library,” Topbaş said, adding that these books would also answer questions concerning how judges and courts approached the solving of civil problems and events in the past.

According to Topbaş, there were not very many court incidents recorded at the time: “This tells us the incidents were held (and resolved) between families, neighbors … The book also informs us of how trade, management and relations affected society in the past and also reveals the city’s cultural and collective memory.”

These books would enlighten society and be an important primary source for scientists and researchers from abroad who come to explore Ottoman history more in depth, Topbaş added.

Within the scope of a project titled “Recovering Cultural Heritage in the Balkans,” experts from Turkey are transferring Ottoman manuscripts into a digital environment in Macedonia, home to the largest number of Ottoman manuscripts in the Balkans after Bosnia Herzegovina.

Gazi University Turkish Research and Application Center (TÖMER) Director Professor Yaşar Aydemir said that it was an initiative of the Yunus Emre Institute. He said that they had started to transfer the world into the digital environment in Bosnia Herzegovina, and were continuing with Serbia, Albania and now Macedonia.

As well as religious works in the Arabic language kept in the St. Kliment Ohridski Macedonia National University Library in Skopje and 3,743 books in the fields of medicine, law and agriculture, they were also transferring the works at the Macedonia Archive and Islamic Union Faculty of Theology Library into the digital environment.

Director of St. Kliment Ohridski Macedonia National University Library Mile Bosheski said that they had gathered those works during a process lasting 50 years. “The damaged works will also be restored,” Bosheski said.

The project, directed by Aydemir, Yıldız Technical University member Professor Cihan Okuyucu, Süleymaniye Library former director Nevzat Kaya and Gazi University member Professor Nurettin Ceviz, is set to be finished in 18 months.

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‘Digital Cappadocia’ draws attention

NEVŞEHİR – Anadolu Agency – Cappadocia is to become a 4K digital technology-supported area. A team from South Korea has visited the area and made a documentary on Cappadocia and the documentary, over a period 10 days. The director of the documentary Yang Seung Duck and the producer Kim Kyung-il said the documentary was titled “The city of Gods.”

The fairy chimneys and the environment of Cappadocia were shot during a hot air balloon journey. The documentary will be a 4K digital television presentation. Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Kim Kyung-il explained that 4K cameras used 3D technology, but that the visual quality was far better.

He said, the government gave support to make the technology usable and also develop the system and that they had chosen Cappadocia to present the technology. Kim said 3D/4K cameras used the latest technology to produce pictures that were four times better than full HD.

“The South Korean government supported us for the development of 3D technology and we chose Cappadocia for the shooting,” he said, adding that the film would be shown all around the world for the promotion of 4K televisions.

He said Cappadocia was suitable for 3D shootings. “We shot the Cappadocia region from the air on a balloon. Our pilot, Halis Erdoğan, provided us a great opportunity to shoot the valleys. We also shot some footage in Göreme, Uçhisar, Avanos, Zelve, Paşabağı, Aşk Vadisi, Kızıl Vadi and Yunak Houses. The works will be completed in October and the footage will also be sent to film festivals and technology fairs.”

A film is to be made for the first time aiming to promote Turkey’s 37 cultural highlights including those featured on the UNESCO World Heritage List and the nominees. The Tourism Promotion Platform (TUTAP) is behind the plans for the film, in a bid to boost Turkey’s promotion abroad and increase tourism revenue.

“If we promote the places on the UNESCO World Heritage List well, we will host not 30 but 50 million tourists,” said TUTAP President Fikret Yıldız, speaking about the project.

Yıldız said that they had launched a large-scale promotional activity, and that the film, which will feature 11 places on the UNESO list, 37 nominees and 10 other cultural heritage sştes in Turkey, would fill a big gap in Turkey’s promotion abroad. He also said that the making of the film would begin on May 15 in Antalya since it has many places on the list, and was expected to be finished in five months, after passing through 30 cities. Yıldız said they had planned a comprehensive promotional film, adding that they had talks to collaborate with TRT Turk channel and in this way the film would also be screened on television.

“We think that a big deficit in Turkey’s promotion abroad will be met with this film because lots of promotional films have been made so far but our places included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List have not been promoted. I hope that we will be a leader and many films like this will be made after that,” Yıldız said. A team from Thailand has made a documentary about Cappadocia. The team also focused on the southeastern province of Gaziantep’s Zeugma Mosaic Museum, as well as the ancient city of the same name.

Documentary-making firm Talent Massmedia gathered seven people and prepared an exclusive documentary on Zeugma and its ancient past.

The team documented all the artifacts that were saved from the excavations. Talent Massmedia General Manager Naruchit Rochananond said they had come to Turkey to document Istanbul, Cappadocia, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa and Van.

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Kuwaiti tourists arrive in Bursa on first flight

BURSA -Doğan News Agency – Freebird Airlines carried 180 Kuwaiti tourists on the first direct flight from Kuwait to the Yenişehir Airport in the northwestern province of Bursa. The airplane was welcomed with the bouquets of flowers by representatives from the airport and Perpax tourism agency, which organized the reciprocal trips between Kuwait and Bursa.

A total of 14 reciprocal flights are planned in August and September; one flight from Bursa to Kuwait every Tuesday, and one from Kuwait to Bursa early every Wednesday. The flight calendar will be scheduled in winter upon demand.

“Kuwait has been ranked in second place among the countries from which the most tourists visit Bursa. There is no obstacle to transportation between Kuwait and Bursa, so we can expect more Kuwaiti guests now,” Perpax tourism general manager Turabi Aydın said.

He added that there was similar demand for direct flights to Bursa from some other Middle Eastern countries.

Turkey has recently become a popular destination for Arab tourists, and Bursa is one of their favorite spots in Turkey. Figures from the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism show bookings from the Arab world, specifically Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, have increased over the last decade.

Tourism sector representatives point out the important role of Arab tourists in the potential rise of tourism revenues. European tourists spend approximately 800 dollars a week in Turkey, although Arab tourists spend four times that amount, ranging on average between 3,000-3,500 dollars, the sector figures show.

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New International Muslim Media Award Launched

(Islam Online) 08/08/2013 – A groundbreaking new awards ceremony, The Music of Muslim Origin & Media Awards 2013 (the MOMOs), will celebrate the achievements of Muslim artists, entertainers and media professionals later this year.

With categories such as “Best Nasheed”(Islamic vocal music), “Best Muslim TV Show” and “Best Muslim Presenter” the awards will put a spotlight on global Islamic talents.

The MOMOs were launched by the GNA Academy, a Muslim music and media event organizer based in the UK, and the ceremony will be held in British city of Manchester in December 2013.

But a few nominations for the awards have already been decided.

The awards ceremony will celebrate not only UK talent but the best Muslim performers from across the globe.

Among those slated for recognition at the MOMOs are Maher Zain, a Muslim Swedish singer of Lebanese origin, and South African-born Zain Bhikha, both internationally renowned artists nominated for “International Male Solo Artist of the Year.â€

Critically acclaimed Denmark-based group Outlandish has been nominated for the “Best Nasheedâ€ category.

Many other prominent Muslim artists and media professionals have been nominated in categories ranging from TV and radio presenters to “Spoken Word” artists from the UK and abroad.

The initiative is the brainchild of Esharat Nasar-Ahmed, who said: “There has been little or no opportunity to showcase or celebrate the huge achievements Muslims have and are making to the music and media industry.

“This inspired me to create the MOMOs in order to create a universal platform that will bring Muslim talent to the forefront. Not only to celebrate and showcase but to also educate and raise awareness of Muslim contributions throughout history,â€ he added.

AsiansUK, the official media partner of the MOMO awards said: “AsiansUK Magazine feel honoured to be the media partners of the exceptional MOMO Awards. The commitment and passion is set to ensure a platform where achievements of Muslims in music and media from across the globe are celebrated in a manner never seen before.”

An awards ceremony to recognize Muslim talent is unprecedented, Zain Bhikha said in a post on the MOMOs Facebook page: “I’m very honored to be recognized as a nominee in this groundbreaking MOMO Awards event. I think we need creative works to bring people together and share ideas that will ultimately join heart and make this world better.â€

The awards ceremony also includes categories to celebrate Muslim media, including “Best Muslim TV Showâ€ and “Best Muslim presenter.â€ The public are invited to nominate their favorites in all 19 categories.

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London Firm Develops Innovative Platform for Islamic Insurance

(Islam Online) 09/08/2013 – London-based firm Cobalt has developed a sharia-compliant insurance platform that uses a syndication model to help spread risk across a panel of underwriters, a novel format that could boost capacity in the sector.

Operators in the takaful (Islamic insurance) sector, which has its core markets in the Gulf and southeast Asia, have been limited in their ability to take on large commercial risks, partly due to a lack of scale.

“Once you get beyond small commercial risk, takaful doesn’t work. We have created a multiple-insurer platform to provide the sort of capacity the industry needs,” said chief executive Richard Bishop,

The platform will allow Islamic insurance to work on an unprecedented scale. Essentially, multiple insurers pool their capacity and each can subscribe to the desired level of risk though individual Islamic windows, Bishop said.

“We are syndicating the risk across a panel of insurers. What we are about is developing an Islamic alternative in London for Islamic insurance,” Bishop said.

Cobalt aims to address capacity constraints in the takaful (Islamic insurance) industry, which is based on the concept of mutuality; where a company oversees a segregated pool of funds contributed by all policy holders.

In their investments, takaful firms must follow religious guidelines such as a ban on interest and pure speculation.

Global takaful contributions were expected to reach $12.4 billion in 2012, according to a report by consultants Ernst & Young last April.

The new platform allows each insurer to have a takaful window, where policyholder funds are segregated from conventional funds, without affecting their rating levels and helping price the risk competitively, said Bishop.

“It is essential to our offering that all security is of at least an A rating in order to satisfy the requirements of both buyers and their financiers,” he said.

The risk is priced by a lead insurer and other firms must then subscribe under similar terms, a similar approach to the subscription model used in London’s insurance market.

Cobalt has secured underwriting capacity from XL Group to insure property risks with capacity of up to $300 million.

Cobalt would seek to underwrite large transactions of no less than $30 million in value while it is also seeking to expand capacity into the construction sector, Bishop said.

In the long term, further capacity could be added for other risks including trade finance, Islamic finance institutions, energy and aviation, he added.

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Facebook Launches Islamic Hijri Calendar for Muslim Events

(Islam Online) 09/08/2013 – Social networking site Facebook has launched the Islamic Hijri calendar as a new feature for birthdays.

The calendar will be available as an option alongside the Gregorian version. The Hijri calendar is based on twelve lunar months and is 11 days shorter than the Gregorian year.

It will be offered first in Saudi Arabia before being rolled out to other countries with Islamic populations.

Facebook’s Middle East and Africa head Jonathan Labin said the new tool would allow Saudi users to better facilitate their social communications with friends and family.

People who use Facebook in Saudi Arabia will be notified about the Hijri calendar option by means of ‘€˜megaphone’, giving more information about the feature and offering the option to add their birthday to the ‘€˜about me’ section. The information can be hidden or made visible in accordance with personal preference.

“We believe this feature will gain great momentum in the weeks and months ahead, and as we test the response in Saudi Arabia, we are confident that rolling out in other countries across the Islamic world will become eminent,” he said.

Facebook has 1.1 billion users worldwide and launched its regional Middle East and Africa operation in Dubai last year to boost its presence in the region.

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Thousands of Saudi mosques host communal iftars

Riyadh, Tuesday, 28 Ramadan 1434/ 06 August 2013 (IINA) – Since the start of the fasting month of Ramadan, communal Iftars have been taking place in thousands of mosques across the Kingdom, most notably in the Haram Mosque in Makkah, the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah and several large mosques in Riyadh.

Free meals offered at Iftar (breaking of the fast) to people fasting during the holy month is an Islamic tradition that comes in response to a recommendation by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Prophet said any Muslim who helps break the fast of a fellow Muslim will earn twice the reward — one for his own fast and the other for feeding another Muslim at the fast-breaking time. Iftar tents are erected outside mosques in almost all neighborhoods. In the capital city alone, more than 1,500 mosques out of a total of 4,000 offer communal Iftars, benefiting approximately a quarter of a million fasting Muslims every day.

Around SR75 million would be spent on communal Iftars by the end of the month, at an average daily cost of SR2.5 million. Typically, Iftar meals include anything from rice and a quarter piece of chicken to samosas, yogurt, water, juice, dates and soup. Over the past few days, Saudi Gazette toured some communal Iftar locations in Riyadh and spoke to participants about their experiences and why they were eager to attend these Iftar meets. The majority of attendants were expatriate workers and Saudis were mostly present as organizers.

Abdulmateen, a Bangladeshi janitor, said he has been attending communal Iftars in a nearby mosque for the past 15 years. “It happened that my job was in a building near the mosque, therefore it was convenient to attend. Also, at the same time I help set up the Iftar with the organizers,” he said. A Canadian Muslim lawyer who has been a resident of the Kingdom for seven years, said he started attending communal Iftars two years ago. “It started when my family was away or I was not invited elsewhere. Also, I used to bring my young son because I want him to appreciate the communal Iftars and see how much time, effort and money it takes to provide these meals,” he said.

Segu Noordeen, an Indian housing units marking specialist, has been attending communal Iftars in the Kingdom for 19 years. “This is because I am single and happened to live near the neighborhood mosque. It is a nice experience to attend these meets because we feel a sense of brotherhood after the long fasting day. Also, it is a good way to make friends,” he said. For the most part, Saudis do not attend communal Iftars and when they do, they tend to sit separately.

At one mosque in Riyadh, the imam, muezzin and some guests opened their fast inside the mosque away from others sitting outside. In one case, a young Saudi man who helped set up the communal Iftar tent, joined others. “I am a neighbor of the mosque and I prefer to have my Iftar here with these Muslims and serve them at the same time especially since my family does not need me at home because I have brothers who can help out at home,” said high school student Omar Abdulaziz. “My family is complementing the typical Iftar meals brought by caterers by cooking traditional Indian dishes for guests, the majority of who are from the Indian subcontinent,” he added.

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Uzbeks give back during Ramadan

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-08-06 – TASHKENT – Uzbekistan is giving back during Ramadan. “I carefully make all donations mandated by the holy Koran and help the needy,” Ayubitdin Pirmukhammedov, a farmer from Tashkent Oblast, said. “This money goes to good causes, and I see the result right away.”

“It’s traditional for us to help our neighbours and loved ones,” he added.

Uzbeks typically focus their generosity on individuals whom they know, observers say, adding that charity brings people together.

“Ramadan is the month of mercy,” Abdulkhafiz Urolov, imam-hatib of the Usmonbim mosque in Tashkent, said. “As one of the hadiths said, ‘The gates of mercy are open wide during Ramadan.’ The Islamic holiday requires Muslims to try to sacrifice daily in the name of Allah.”

Some Uzbeks described how they helped the poor during the holy month.

“I gathered together a few needy people in our mahalla (neighbourhood), arranged an iftar for them and gave each of them a little bit of money,” Nurullo Paimov, an engineer from Tashkent, told Central Asia Online. “I also bought school supplies for their children, since September is just around the corner. I think that it is much better to help out rather than give money away to some random imams or organisations that pretend to be charitable.”

Organisations are working on a larger scale to help the needy. Charitable initiatives help bring people together and increase both tolerance and peace, observers say.

“During the entire month, the Mehr Nuri foundation is teaming up with other non-profit organisations in holding the nation-wide Iftorlik charitable initiative,” Mehr Nuri spokeswoman Farangiz Razakova said, referring to an effort to help families in need of social and financial support.

“This initiative, which is expected to help roughly 6,500 people this year, has taken place during Ramadan for eight years in a row,” Razakova said. “Its essence … is simple: after evening prayer, we serve iftar to those who can’t arrange it themselves. Local businesspeople are getting involved. These events help people think that society cares about them and to live in harmony.”

This year, during the first 10 days of Ramadan, the first of such initiatives took place in the Fergana Valley and the cities of Fergana and Andijan.

“Iftorlik events are needed to keep society positive, to make the poor feel needed in society,” Fergana businessman Temurmalik Ochilov said. “Having Iftorlik in our city will unite people in fighting social problems.”

The Administration of Muslims of Uzbekistan also has been helping.

“During this Ramadan, the administration … has organised charitable aid for the needy, including orphans and the disabled, with a total of $80,000 (168.9m UZS) in aid rendered,” spokesman Zukhriddin Islamiddinov told Central Asia Online. “We remodelled almost 200 worship sites and about 4,000 cemeteries.”

However, Uzbeks work to prevent their generosity from filling the pockets of confidence artists.

“I have heard, especially in the Fergana Valley, how there are some Muslims during the month of Ramadan who have come across (so-called) ‘imams’ who go door to door trying to convince people to pay them zakat, because they supposedly represent the true faith,” Pirmukhammedov said. “I think if you encounter such false preachers, you need to go straight to the police.”

Islamiddinov said he has also heard about these solicitors and is informing the public that his agency has not sent anybody out to collect donations. Such men are swindlers and need to be reported to police, he said.

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Tajik health care attracts ‘medical tourists’

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-08-07 DUSHANBE – Three years ago, Rajab Khalimov of Dushanbe took his 3-year-old son Behruz abroad for an urgent heart operation.

Khalimov scraped together US $15,000 (71,200 TJS) for the procedure.

They did not do that sort of surgery in Tajikistan at the time, “and … they told me it couldn’t be done (in any event) until he was 3,” he said. “After the operation, he began walking immediately. I was told the operation should have been done when he was 6 months old. I was shocked.”

Now, though, Tajik surgeons have the equipment they need. They will perform the fourth stage of Behruz’s surgery, which won’t cost the family more than US $6,000 (28,500 TJS).

Improvements help Tajiks, lure foreigners for care

The government, foreign donors and wealthy Tajik business owners all contribute to buying medical equipment.

The government will allocate 17.4m TJS (US $3.7m) this year for medical equipment and research, compared to 16.2m TJS (US $3.4m) last year, according to a Health Ministry report issued in June.

Hospitals and doctors in Tajikistan have acquired so much new equipment and expertise that Tajiks no longer need go abroad for operations, Health Minister Nusratullo Salimov said.

“Previously, every one of them, if they needed serious operations or treatment, went to Germany (or other countries),” Salimov said. “But now hardly anyone does. All those who go outside Tajikistan for treatment now are those who have the money and want to have the operation in some developed country. We can do practically any operation now.”

The investment should also attract patients from abroad to Tajikistan, Deputy Health Minister Sokhibnazar Rakhmonov said.

“We’ve been sending our specialists (abroad) for training. We’ve already begun to operate on our own citizens here, so they can save money and start treatment sooner,” Rakhmonov said.

A kidney transplant in Tajikistan costs US $10,000 (47,500 TJS), he said, compared to about three times that rate in Turkey. “So Kyrgyz and Kazakhstanis are now coming to us for surgery,” Rakhmonov said.

The medical turn-around isn’t complete, though, some observers say. Only oblast hospitals are receiving this modern equipment, and it’s out of the question to imagine district hospitals receiving it anytime soon, Dr. and Prof. Alamkhon Akhmedov, a former health minister, said.

“The money allocated isn’t enough to fully equip all our medical institutions, of which we have about 3,000,” Akhmedov said. “Doing that would cost US $3 billion (14.2 billion TJS).”

Updating all of Tajikistan’s medical equipment is an impossible ambition because something new comes out almost daily, Salimov said. “We’ll equip all our clinics step by step as best as we can,” he said.

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Bangladesh’s July Remittances Surge Over Eid

DHAKA, Bangldesh Aug 5 (NNN-Bernama) — Millions of non-resident Bangladeshis sent home US$1.23 billion in July, up 17 percent from the previous month. “We received US$1.23 billion remittances in July as Bangladeshis sent more money to their relatives to enjoy Eid-ul-Fitr,” a senior Bangladesh Bank (BB) official told Xinhua news agency on Monday.

Muslim majority Bangladesh will celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, one of the largest religious festivals celebrated after Ramadan, on or around August 9.

The BB official said the flow of inward remittances from nearly 9 million

Bangladeshis living and working abroad in the last month surged nearly 3 percent year on year.

The inflow of remittances by millions of non-resident Bangladeshis in the

2012-13 fiscal year concluded in June reached a record high of nearly US$15 billion, about 13 percent higher than the same period a year ago.

Most remittances came from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, U.S.,

Kuwait, Britain, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Singapore, Bahrain, Italy and Australia.

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Malaysia Can Be World’s Second Largest Holy Quran Printing Centre

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Aug 5 (NNN-Bernama) — Najib Tun Razak today expressed optimism that Malaysia can become the second largest Holy Quran printing centre after Saudi Arabia with the establishment of the Mushaf Al-Quran Printing Centre in the federal capital.

The prime minister said the printing centre was the outcome of collaboration between Percetakan Nasional Malaysia Berhad (PNMB) and the Restu Foundation.

“I am obliged to express gratitude to the Restu Foundation which sparked the idea for the setting up of the integrated Mushaf Al-Quran printing centre in this country.

“I am convinced that this consolidation between the Restu Foundation and PNMB can achieve the objective of making Malaysia the second largest Holy Quran printing centre in the world,” he said in his speech at the launch of the Mushaf Al-Quran Printing Centre at the PNMB headquarters in Jalan Chan Sow Lin, here.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom and Deputy Finance Minister Ahmad Maslan, who is a trustee of the Restu Foundation, were also present at the event.

Najib said the launch of the printing centre could be regarded as a manifestation of the government’s tireless determination in enhancing the eminence of Islam.

“As we all know, the Holy Quran is the only miracle that has remained in the hands of Muslims to this day. Let us express our thanks and feel honoured to have been favoured with the ‘sweetness of faith’ by way of the Holy Quran,” he said.

Najib called on Muslims to make the present generation as the generation of theHoly Quran through the appreciation and exploration of the contents of the Holy Quran by reading and understanding verse by verse.

“Make reading the Holy Quran our culture; hopefully we will acquire blessings and guidance,” he said.

Najib said that though the process of printing the Holy Quran was not much different from the printing of other books, it required the highest level of care and expertise.

“This is very important to avoid misprints. It has to be remembered that theHoly Quran is a holy book whose authenticity is guaranteed,” he said.

Najib said millions of copies of the Holy Quran were being printed nowadays, so much so that it was not possible for the Holy Quran to disappear altogether from the world; even the reading of the verses of the Holy Quran are heard via recording devices, computers and mobile phones, he said.

He said the Mushaf Al-Quran was now produced beautifully, neatly and in a

user-friendly manner to draw the interest of Muslims to own and read it.

“It is human nature to be interested in something beautiful and lovely. Accordingly, the writers in the past created various types of calligraphy to further beautify the holy verses of the Quran,” he said. – NNN-BERNAMA

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Arab pop star joins calls for peace in Palestine

The Observer, Saturday 10 August 2013 – An incredible voice is invariably the key to success in any TV talent show. But not many singers choose to use theirs like Mohammed Assaf, the 23-year-old Palestinian who shot to prominence across the Middle East and north Africa in June by winning the hugely popular Arab Idol.

Assaf’s pitch-perfect renditions of regional classics from across the Arab world attracted an audience of up to 100 million for the show’s final. Exuberant idealism may have been the hallmark of his performances but, like those who achieved so much in the early months of the Arab spring revolutions of 2011, Assaf knows romanticism alone will not sustain his ambitions. In the buildup to Palestinian-Israeli peace talks which resume in Jerusalem this week, there is no doubting his growing political influence. “I have a great responsibility to my people,” said Assaf, after performing at a new stadium near Hebron in the West Bank to thousands of ecstatic fans. Nationalist songs such as Ya Tair al-Tayer (Oh Bird in Flight) provided solace to those yearning for full Palestinian independence, but Assaf is convinced that real change is possible.

“I am confident that I will see a free Palestine in my lifetime,” he said. “I sing about popular themes but they centre on the hopes of my own people – dreams of independence for the West Bank, for Jerusalem and for Gaza. We’ve been under Israeli occupation for decades.”

Born in Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya and growing up in Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip, Assaf embodies the struggles of a generation who, two years ago during the pro-democracy revolutions, used every modern tool available to put their problems on the worldwide agenda. The internet and live satellite TV broadcasts were crucial to the Arab spring in an increasingly interdependent, media-driven world, but Assaf is also a passionate believer in the power of both popular music and celebrity to galvanise people.

“There are many ways to make a difference in life, but my way is as an artist,” said Assaf, a graduate of Palestine University who has just become a UN youth ambassador. “I’ve always wanted to make my voice heard around the world, to sing about the occupation, about the security walls between communities, and about refugees. My first ambition is a cultural revolution through art. Palestinians don’t want war – they are tired of fighting.”

Assaf is, more specifically, calling for a return to Palestine’s 1967 borders, as well as articulating peace demands which include guaranteed security from attack, freedom of movement, an end to illegal Israeli settlements and the return of prisoners and refugees. “The subject of peace is massively complicated,” said Assaf. “The Palestinians want independence and freedom, just like everyone in the world. Thousands of us are professionals – teachers, doctors and lawyers. We all want our dignity and rights.”

Assaf’s principal message is that the Palestine question is being lost in the realpolitik speak of international negotiators such as Tony Blair. The former British prime minister, who is now the Middle East peace envoy for the Quartet of the UN, US, EU and Russia, has, like many others, lost touch with the human catastrophe on the ground, Assaf believes.

A mass expression of what people want is Assaf’s preferred route to effective political change. He cites the ousting of dictators such as Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, who were ultimately deposed by popular movements after decades in power – exits that would have appeared inconceivable a few years ago.

Last weekend Assaf strolled through Bethlehem with Barcelona footballers, who were also on a “peace tour”. Among them was Lionel Messi, perhaps the most popular player in the world, who posed happily for photographs with the singer, as did Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian National Authority.

It was Abbas who, a few days later, successfully applied to the Israelis to allow Assaf unrestricted movement in and out of Gaza, along with members of his family. Assaf was allowed to move to the less volatile West Bank. The very fact that a potential global singing star needs permission from Israel to relocate to the West Bank is something that few of Assaf’s growing number of international fans would have known about.

“These are the kind of issues I want to highlight,” he said, pointing to the harsh restrictions which govern ordinary life for some 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza. Assaf is also concerned at the division between Abbas’s Fatah, which runs the West Bank, and Hamas, the Islamist movement that administers Gaza.

“Unity is the key – Hamas and Fatah should come to an agreement,” said Assaf. “It’s insane that we effectively have two governments at the same time as being colonised by Israel. It’s hugely frustrating for me, and for all Palestinians.”

Expressing scepticism about the short term, Assaf added: “To be honest I have no trust in Israel at the moment. If they give us our land and our rights back, I will sing in Israel, but they have to do something positive. It’s up to them. They have made no effort to dismantle their illegal settlements, for example – quite the opposite.”

One of Assaf’s greatest talents is the ability to sing different genres of music from across the Arab world. During one of his Arab Idol performances he also sang I Want It That Way by his favourite US band, the Backstreet Boys. There are plans for him to be at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, too, perhaps duetting with Colombian superstar Shakira.

Such versatility has made Assaf “very keen indeed” to perform in Britain, to the Arab diaspora but also to a more cosmopolitan audience in cities like London. Referring to the original British pledge of a Jewish homeland, Assaf said: “Britain has a great role to play in the peace process. It was there at the inception – it created problems, and it has a responsibility to try to sort them out.”

Assaf’s spoken words are as direct and passionate as his singing. The popular entertainment that is Arab Idol may have put him on the world stage, but he now intends to use his vaunted position in the limelight to promote justice and a mass movement for change in the world’s most intractable conflict.

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Emirati artist sets Umm Al Quwain’s first world record

Dubai, Gulf News, Aug 11, 2013 : An Emirati artist has set Umm Al Quwain’s first Guinness World Record with her largest display of handmade paper dolls at a single venue.

Paper artist Amnah Al Fard, a resident of Umm Al Quwain, succeeded in setting a new record for her 1,145 dolls made entirely of paper.

“This record is for the largest display of handmade paper dolls at a single venue. For the purpose of this record, a doll is described as a model of a human being, often used as a toy for children made only from paper. Each doll is three-dimensional, made from paper as part of a display,” Talal Omar, Guinness World Records country manager for the Mena region, told Gulf News.

The 1,145 different dolls, which measured between two to three inches in height, were displayed at the Maraya Art Centre in Sharjah on July 7. They were made using the quilling technique, otherwise known as paper-rolling or filigree. Quilling is an ancient art form that could be traced back to the 16th century when artists rolled pieces of thin strips of paper on a feather, or quill.

Amnah, who is currently abroad for a quilling competition, said she is happy to have set a new world record. “It is now official that this is a new Guinness World Record, the first of its kind around the world, the first in the field of paper quilling and the first from an Umm Al Quwain citizen,” Amnah said in an e-mail.

The army of three-dimensional dolls is the result of Amnah’s two years of hard work. One doll approximately took three hours to complete and one whole day to dry. Amnah said she spent a total of 3,435 hours on the project and used about 30,000 inches of paper and 4.5 kilograms of glue.

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More Saudi families celebrate Eid in neighboring Arab countries

JEDDAH: 12 August 2013 Arab News – During the last days of Ramadan, many Saudi families were looking for hotels and flights to different destinations around the world and especially Arab countries. Many of them say they enjoy Eid outside the Kingdom more while others say they are making up for not traveling during the summer.

“This year summer was in Ramadan and my family and I like to spend this holy month among family and friends. We decided to travel after Ramadan to Beirut,” said banker Ahmed Hamouda. “It is the last trip before school starts and I feel sorry for my children who did not do anything during this summer so we decided to spend ten days celebrating Eid in Lebanon,” he added.

Traveling to Egypt after Ramadan is an annual tradition for dentist Wael Mahmoud and his family. Security issues there have urged them to look for an alternative holiday location this year. “We have been following the news about Egypt for months now and I don’t think it is a good idea to visit Cairo this Eid. I fear for my family’s safety,” he said. “We explored different options and decided to visit Istanbul and Adana in Turkey because we heard so much about it from family and friends who have been there,” he added.

Businesswoman Manal Khalifa has been waiting for her baby to older so she could visit her mother in Casablanca. This Eid the time has come. “My husband and I agreed to spend the first three days of Eid with his family in Riyadh and then fly to Morocco. Sadly I found the flights fully booked which made us book a transit flight via Dubai,” she said. “This shows that many Saudis are spending their Eid in Morocco. It will be impossible to find a hotel there,” she added.

Hatema Sayed, a stay-at-home mother, could not find a flight available to Dubai. “I was very disappointed to see fully booked flights and hotels in Dubai but that did not stop me from booking a hotel in Sharja.

From there I can drive to Dubai every day,” she said. “As for the flights, I decided to take an adventurous road trip with my husband and children to Dubai. We will be passing by Riyadh and the Eastern province where we will stay in hotels to rest until we reach there.”

Jeddah based travel agencies said many Saudis went to Turkey this Eid. “We have booked many trips to Istanbul this year with our special offer including a four star hotel. Guests pay for five nights and get the sixth for free. This package was fully booked,” said Mohammad Salah, one of the agents. “We also booked many trips to Dubai where people specifically asked to stay downtown next to Dubai Mall but it was mostly fully booked so we reserved different locations in the nearby area.”

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Celebrating Eid Ul Fitr, the Afghan Way

Kabul (BNA) August 9, 2013 – In Afghanistan, Muslims are fully joyful as per their culture and ritual Eid-ul-Fetr has significant importance, which they celebrate if for 3 days after the holy month of Ramadan ends. Eid Mubarak or Blessed Eid is a most common salutation that is exchanged among them in the Islamic Republic.

Eid is famous among community that speaks Dari calling it Eid-e-Ramadan while those speaking Pashto, call Kochni Akhtar, Afghans began to prepare for this festival from 10 days before by cleaning their home.in Dari, this practice is famous as Khana Takani (cleaning the house).

Afghans to local bazaars for buying new sweets, snacks and clothes with some of special threats that they serve during festival Eid are Shor-Nakhod made from chickpeas, Cake and candies or a simple cake like a pound cake and jelibi.

On Eid-ul-Fetr, Afghans first offer Eid prayers. Then they gather at home along with families greeting each member saying “Eid Mubarak” meaning “Happy Eid” may God accept your prayers and fasting and you might be selected among others who in future go to Hajj-pilgrimage.”

Elders of very family give gifts and money to their children. Also it is a common practice that every family visits other families and friends. It is difficult for them to do this during other times in a year.

At this occasion children go to entrance of each home in their locality or maybe further and saying happy Eid:. In return to their greeting they get cookies to eat, which they enjoy very much.

But, there are some customs highly frustrating majorities of people with poor economics condition compelling them pay much money even-indebt to provide clothes and other overwhelming essentials by the groom household for the house of bride.

They have to buy many things in addition to some meal traditionally usual among the Afghans as school teacher Anusah blamed it to undermine the broke families’ economy when the two Eids arrive.

She said the tradition should be removed from the Afghan society as it is not only a slap to the people’s economy, but also against the holy Islamic teachings which had cautioned the followers to avoid expenses beyond need.

Another Kabul citizen and education ministry’s employee, Massoud said that he was pleased of the Eid arrived as he want to go to their relatives and friends’ house and meet them congratulating the for the great Islamic festival.

Fulad who had come to a cloth market said he want to purchase a reasonable cloth for themselves and his household members to have a great and joyous Eid-ul-Fitr, but condemned the Afghan traditions to spend money even by taking loan beyond their economic ability during the ritual days.

A Kabul university student Fulad said he has come to market to buy some dried fruits, candies and cakes to welcome hid guests during the forthcoming Eid days.

But he said want to buy a pair of cloths with reasonable of price of only 500 af to wear them during the Eid, as he said he can’t afford those of expensive with 1,500 to 2,000af.

There are many traditions used among the Afghans mostly used during the two days with religious ritual, while the religious scholars rejected them as Israf (expense beyond need) and a custom are not tolerated by many broke households.

“Islam want ease for the people (believer) not hardship”, said Qari Mohammad-u-Allah, a religious scholars and Imams of Khalid Ibne Walid Masjed (Mosque) for seventh Kabul district.

He said the people are ignorantly deepening themselves into the darkness of sin and fault.

“They are not aware of the Islamic teaching and neither asks those with Islamic knowledge to instruct them.

They do what they want, mostly against the Islamic values”, Mohammad-u-Allah said.

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Afghan Musicians Participate in Asia-Pacific Arts Festival

Kabul (BNA) August 11, 2013 – Artists of Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) participated in Asia and Africa Performance Arts festival held in Seoul and another festival on the occasion of national day of the countries held in Suncheon city.

Afghanistan’s artists were the openers of the festival and attracted the attention of hundreds of Koreans by performing musical instruments and singing songs.

Related to the festival, Dr. Nasir Sarmast, head of music national institute of Afghanistan said, “Artists of the institute this time were invited by South Korea and participated in the festival held first in Seoul city and later in Suncheon.

He said the aim of the artists’ participation in the festival was to launch concerts and to introduce Afghan music and culture to the world, adding the institute has been set up for renovation of classic and local music and to further improve modern music in the country.”

At the beginning of the concert, Mohammad Younus Farman, Afghan ambassador to South Korea appreciated the host country for providing facilities to the institute’s artists, asking for its further cooperation in movements of classic music of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan ambassador to South Korea recalled good relations of Afghan-Korea and asked for consolidation of the bilateral relations.

According to a source from Afghan Natinal Institure of Music , the institute established in 2010 in the framework of ministry of education by Dr. Nasir Sarmast son of deceased Ustad Saleem Sarmast. Presently 175 students including 35 females are attending Afghan National Institute of Music.

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