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30 Sep, 2013

Islam Thrives in the Alpujarras Mountains of Spain

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 30 September 2013 (24 Dhul Qa’dah 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.


Registration Fee: ONLY US$100. Great Opportunity for Muslim Entrepreneurs: Attend the 4th Global Entrepreneurship Summit, Kuala Lumpur, 11-12 October

For only US$100, you can get a chance to hear some of the world’s best entrepreneurs, speakers, investors and policy-makers at the 4th Global Entrepreneurship Summit to be held in Kuala Lumpur between 11-12 October. More than 3,000 delegates from over 50 countries are projected to attend the event, originally initiated by U.S. President Barack Obama to create “the next generation of dreamers, creators and builders.” GES was launched as a global platform “to empower entrepreneurs with the skills and resources necessary to compete and thrive in the 21st century”. First held in Washington in 2010, it was subsequently held in Turkey and Dubai. This year’s Summit is organized by the Malaysian Ministry of Finance (MoF) under the patronage of the Prime Minister, with the theme “Empowering and Connecting Entrepreneurs”. Spearheading the Steering Committee is Tan Sri Mohammed Irwan Serigar Abdullah, Secretary General of the Treasury at MoF. “We are very excited about the 4th GES and the other events that will lead up to it,” he said. As Malaysia heads towards a developed and high income nation by 2020, Malaysian innovators and creators are the main components that will drive the economy towards this vision. The GES brings together expertise and experience in Businesses, Social Works, Women’s Issues, Public Policies and Education. President Obama is scheduled to deliver the keynote address and he will speak about the importance of entrepreneurship, particularly for young people, in driving economic progress. According to Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications (Digital News Asia, August 06, 2013), “Malaysia is a perfect venue for a global entrepreneurship summit. It has an economy that is growing; an economy that is an engine of growth for this region; and one that is increasingly connected to the global economy.”

For further info, pls click here: http://www.geskualalumpur2013.org/



The World Tourism Conference is to be held in Melaka, Malaysia, between 21-23 October 2013. The Conference covers a wide range of sectors in the global tourism industry represented by a formidable list of speakers for example the cruise sector (Ms. Christine Duffy, CEO Cruise Lines International Association), the aviation low cost carrier sector (Mr Azran Osman Rani, CEO, Air Asia X, Malaysia), the mega-events sector (Hon. Christopher Rodrigues; Chairman, VisitBritain, United Kingdom), travel technology (Mr. Rob Torres, Head of Travel, Google, USA), youth tourism (Mr. David Chapman, Director General, The World Youth Student & Educational Travel Confederation) and ecotourism (Mr Zhang Xinsheng, Chair of International Union for Conservation of Nature). The Conference which is the third in the series, is organised by the Malaysian Ministry of Tourism and Culture in collaboration with the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). As a contribution to the global tourism industry, all registered delegates are subsidised by the Organisers of which the delegate fee is only USD100 for foreign delegates and RM100 for Malaysian delegates. The conference includes 2 days of Plenary Sessions, lunches, refreshments and a technical tour either the Homestay Programme or the Heritage Walk/River Cruise. There is no delegate fee for spouses if they do not join in the Plenary Sessions. It will be a great networking event for the tourism industry as a whole. The official website is www.WTC2013Malaysia.com and registration can be made online at http://www.discoverymice.com/WTC2013MALAYSIA/registration.html


Malaysia will host the upcoming ASEAN Tourism Forum 2014, to be held in Sarawak, Malaysia from 16 to 23 January 2014. The ATF is a cooperative regional effort to promote the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region as one tourist destination where Asian hospitality and cultural diversity are at its best. This annual event involves all the tourism industry sectors of the 10 member nations of ASEAN: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Adopting the theme “ASEAN – ADVANCING TOURISM TOGETHER,” the ATF 2014 will explore the sustainable development of tourism and look at how tourism initiatives and plans can further support this decades mantra of “Tourism conserves, preserves and protects.” It will be a timely platform to think and act on implementing innovative and sustainable energy initiatives that will ensure the preservation of the natural environment for future generations. Each year, the hosting of ATF is rotated among the member countries. ATF 2014 marks the 33rd anniversary of this event since its inauguration in Malaysia in 1981. Kuching, Sarawak is all geared up to welcome over 1,600 delegates which includes some 150 ASEAN tourism ministers and officials, 800 ASEAN exhibitors, 400 international buyers, 150 international and local media as well as 100 tourism trade visitors. The ATF aims to: Project ASEAN as an attractive, multi-faceted single destination; Create and increase awareness of ASEAN as a highly competitive regional tourist destination in the Asia Pacific; Attract more tourist to ASEAN member countries; Promote intra-ASEAN travel; Strengthen cooperation among the various sectors of the ASEAB tourism industry. For the travel trade, ATF also provides a platform for the selling and buying of regional individual tourism products of ASEAN member countries, through the 3-day TRAVEX event. For further details, pls click here.

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 http://www.tourismmalaysia.gov.my

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.




Tourism Malaysia Confident Of 36mln Target By 2020

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia Sept 24 (NNN-Bernama) — Tourism Malaysia is confident of achieving its target of 36 million visitors and generating an income of RM168 billion by the year 2020 as a result of its active campaigns, Tourism Malaysia deputy director-general (Planning) Azizan Noordin said today.

“We’re now targeting tourists from Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, the Middle-east, Europe and Australia,” he said after flagging off the Malaysia Tourism Hunt 2013 at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture here.

He said the main factor for the influx of visitors was the ‘fly and drive’ promotion which worked well due to the convenient network of highways available making it easy to explore the country by car.

Azizan said the targets and achievements had also increased from year to year with 2012 recording 25.3 million arrivals and this year’s target at 26 million visitors. “Next year our target is 28 million arrivals with RM75 billion in income,” he said.

A total of 78 participants from local and regional media, tourism industry representatives and sponsors are taking part in the five night/six day 1,000 kilometre hunt from Putrajaya to Johor Bahru.

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AirAsiaX adds Maldives to its network

Borneo Bulletin – September 25, 2013 KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) – AirAsia X Bhd has added Colombo in Sri Lanka and Male in Maldives on its network which will see four weekly flights from Kuala Lumpur, respectively.

It is expected to commence the first flight into Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport and Male Ibrahim Nasir International Airport on September 28.

In conjunction with the launch of the new destinations, the low-cost long-haul carrier would offer hot deals from as low as RM219 to Colombo and from RM399 to Male on economy class.

In a statement yesterday, Chief Executive Officer Azran Osman-Rani said AirAsia X was confident the new routes would stimulate new travel demand and boost tourism and business potential for the carrier and both the new countries.

“Both places have their very own unique charm and we are pleased to offer our guests more destination choices for their travel and holiday getaways. “With the new routes, guests may opt to hop on flights to Sri Lanka or continue on to Maldives or fly direct to Maldives, and vice versa from KL hub,” he said.

Bookings are available online between Sept 23 and Sept 29 for travel between Sept 28, 2013 and March 29, 2014.

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Malaysia’s Malindo Air Flies To Jakarta And Bali

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 26 (NNN-Bernama) — Malindo Air, the Malaysian hybrid airline, has unveiled its new expansion plan with the launch of daily services to the Indonesian cities of Jakarta and Bali. “Flights to Kuala Lumpur to Bali commenced today (Thursday) while from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta commenced on Sept 23, marking its first routes to Indonesia.

“The all-inclusive one-way fares will start from RM99 to both destinations from Kuala Lumpur,” it said in a statement.

Malindo is offering daily services onboard its new Boeing 737-900ER which will provide incremental rise in the number of passengers travelling, thus further enhancing the airline’s capture of the local market.

Chief Executive Officer Chandran Rama Muthy said sales was very encouraging for its new Jakarta and Bali services since Malindo started the new routes.

“More frequent flights between Kuala Lumpur and the two cities ensure more convenient travel for both business and leisure travellers and this further reinforces Kuala Lumpur’s position as an important Asian gateway.

“We anticipate good results from these two new services as Jakarta and Bali are already well-known business and holiday destinations, respectively,” added Chandran.

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Tehran hosts international handmade carpet expo

Tehran Times – 23 September, 2013 – The 22nd international handmade carpet exhibition of Iran opens in Tehran today. Over 570 participants will be showcasing their exquisite handmade carpets. More than 200 experts, representing Germany, Japan, China, Brazil, New Zealand, Denmark, France, Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey have been invited to attend the expo. On September 15, the deputy director of Iran’s National Carpet Center, Mojtaba Feizollahi, said Iran has expanded its carpet export markets to Russia, Malaysia, South Africa, and China.

He also said that the center is planning for exporting carpets to other countries, including Qatar and the UAE, the Fars News Agency quoted Feizollahi as saying. Dispatching trade delegations to different countries and establishing commercial centers overseas are on the agenda to expand carpet sales, he said.

Iran has exported some €24.9 million worth of handmade carpets to the EU during the first half of the current Iranian year, according to Persian language Jahan Sanat daily.

Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, and the UK were the main European importers of Iran’s handmade carpets during the period, the report said.

Iranian carpets constitute 35 percent of the global carpet market share. Iran exports carpets to at least 70 countries. There is an estimated population of 1.2 million carpet weavers in Iran, producing carpets for domestic and international markets.

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Iran Eyes Greater Share Of World Trade

TEHRAN, Iran, Sept 24 (NNN-MNA) – Iran plans to increase its share in the world trade to one percent, from currently 0.5-0.6 percent, the deputy director of the Trade Promotion Organisation of Iran said. Kiyumars Fat’hollah Kermanshahi added that the world trade totals US$36 trillion annually, Iran’s Mehr News Agency (MNA) reported.

He further said that 30 plans have been developed to give a boost to the country’s non-oil exports. China, Iraq, the UAE, Afghanistan, and India were the top five importers of Iranian goods, during the first five months of the current Iranian calendar year (Mar 21-Aug 22), according to the Iranian Customs Administration.

Exports of Iranian goods to these countries amounted to US$2.540 billion, US$2.365, US$1.436 billion, US$1.188 billion, and US$915 million in the five-month period respectively. Exports to the five countries accounted for 80 percent of Iran’s total exports in weight and 70 percent of the country’s exports in value.

Meanwhile, the UAE, China, and India were the main exporters of goods to Iran during the same time. They exported US$3.214 billion, US$3.02 billion, and US$1.614 billion to Iran respectively. Rice, fodder corn, wheat, and steel ingots were the main goods exported to Iran.

Iran exported around US$43.7 billion worth of non-oil goods in the previous Iranian calendar year, and imported about US$61.8 billion worth of non-oil goods to hit the unprecedented mark of US$105 billion in annual trade.

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Indonesia to hold international art summit

Thu, September 26 2013 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Indonesian cities of Jakarta, Denpasar, Yogyakarta and Surakarta will host the 7th Indonesia Art Summit from October 8 to 25, Tourism and Creative Industry Minister Mari Elka Pangestu revealed on Thursday.

“There will be contemporary art performances, discussion and workshops. Apart from local performers, the event will also see the participation of performers from six countries, namely the United Kingdom, Austria, the United States, Germany and South Korea,” the minister said.

About 300 artists will perform at the event, whose audience is expected to touch 10,000. The event has been themed, “Contemporary Art and the Making of Its Market,” Pangestu pointed out, adding that it would aim to increase people`s awareness of contemporary art, while also discussing ways to improve competitiveness among other arts.

The performers taking part in the event are Teater Tetas and Vera Siak Dance (Indonesia), Ensamble Reconcil (Austria), Solid State Arco Renz (Germany), Korean National Contemporary Dance Company (South Korea) and Gandini Junggling (Inggris).

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China to Fund US$400 Mln For Mozambique-Zimbabwe Road-link

MAPUTO, Sept 25 (NNN-AIM) — The Mozambican government intends to invest 400 million USD in the full rehabilitation of the road from the port of Beira in the central part of the country to Machipanda, on the border with Zimbabwe. Public Works Minister Cadmiel Muthemb, announced in Beira at the weekend that the rehabilitation of the road, which is about 300 kilometres long, will begin in February 2014 with a loan from the Chinese Export-Import Bank (Exim Bank).

The independent daily O Pais quoted him as saying that the road will be substantially widened. Along its entire length, the road will be at least a four-lane highway, and will have six lanes in places such as the approaches to Beira, which serves as a gateway for both the central interior region of Mozambique as well as land-locked Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi.

“The road will have roundabouts at particularly busy areas, such as the Inchope crossroads — where the road to Zimbabwe meets Mozambique’s main north-south highway — Chimoio city, and the towns of Gondola and Manica,” said the Minister. “We want to guarantee the normal circulation of people and goods.”

Along some stretches, the road will be elevated, notably along the Pungue flats where the current road runs alongside the Pungue river. When the Pungue bursts its banks, which happens frequently during Mozambique’s rainy seasons, the road is swamped, and sometimes the flooding is serious enough to interrupt traffic to and from Zimbabwe.

Raising the road above the level of the river will certainly be expensive, but it will ensure that traffic continues to flow in all weather conditions. However, users will have to pay.

The Beira-Zimbabwe road will be farmed out for maintenance to a private company, which will charge motorists through toll gates. “Users must contribute to maintaining the roads”, said Muthemba. “We will thus have more money to guarantee the routine maintenance of the roads, thus ensuring that they last longer.”

So far, the only major road in the country with toll gates is the Maputo-South Africa motorway, operated by the South African company Trans-Africa Concessions (TRAC). At the moment, the Beira-Zimbabwe road is in a poor and dangerous condition. In order to avoid gaping potholes, motorists frequently cross into the opposite lane, risking collisions with vehicles gong in the other direction.

Emergency repairs between Beira and Inchope, which should have been finished in mid-April, are months behind schedule, and the Sofala provincial government is considering cancelling the contracts with the companies concerned.

The road is of key importance to the trade, not only of Zimbabwe, but of other landlocked southern African countries, including Zambia, Malawi and even parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The road that branches off the Beira-Zimbabwe highway at Tica and leads to the district of Buzi, is to be tarred, Muthemba announced. This is budgeted at 150 million USD, and the money will come from the Indian Eximbank. Work on the Tica-Buzi road will begin this year.

But Muthemba lamented that there was no money available to rehabilitate the road from Inchope to Caia, on the south bank of the Zambezi River. This is a key part of the north-south highway, and it needs thorough rehabilitation.

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EU Gives Uganda 112 Mln Euros For Road Projects

KAMPALA, Sept 26 (NNN-NEW VISION) — The European Union has given Uganda 112 million Euros in credit and grants to help pay for roads meant to help boost trade in East Africa. The EU has traditionally been a major source of financing for transport infrastructure for the prospective crude oil producer.

Uganda’s national budget has been squeezed since major western donors, including Britain, its biggest source of bilateral aid, suspended financial support toward the end of last year after allegations that 13 million USD worth of aid had been embezzled. The EU, however, has continued its funding.

The latest funds will help to improve the Kampala-Northern Bypass and construct the Mbarara Bypass, which would speed up the flow of cargo on a highway linking Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan to the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

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Morocco Launches Urban Development Programme for Tangier

TANGIER, MOROCCO, Sept 27 (NNN-MAP) — Morocco’s King Mohammed VI launched here Thursday the Tangier Metropolis programme to give this city’s an integrated, balanced and inclusive development as part of the royal vision for progress in northern Morocco.

The Tangier Metropolis project is to be an unprecedented urban model in Morocco and on the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. The development plan will span five years (2013-2017) and calls for a total investment of 7.663 billion dirhams (about 923 milion USD).

A strategic gateway to Europe, Africa, America and Asia, Tangier is attracting investments on the back of its industrial assets which has led to the construction of the Tangier-Med Port and attracted Renault-Nissan and Maersk to plant a foothold in Morocco.

The programme will accelerate the pace of the city’s development and turn Tangier into a hot destination. Based on an innovative approach in terms of integration and coherence of public interventions, this ambitious programme takes account of some basic elements, namely the urban environment to improve living conditions, the social environment to enhance the human potential, the economic environment to foster the city’s asset and know-how, the cultural environment to reinforce the city’s identity, openness and heritage and the religious environment to give religious practice its right place in society.

New access roads will be built to ease congestion in the city as well as a ring road to link the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. For an efficient space and economic re-organization, all community services generating road traffic will be moved in the suburbs which will free more lands.

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Royal Air Maroc Granted Five-Star Diamond Award

RABAT, Sept 24 (NNN-MAP) — The American Academy of Hospitality Sciences (AAHS) has granted its prestigious International Five Star Diamond Award to Moroccan flag carrier Royal Air Maroc (RAM). During a ceremony organized at RAM’s headquarters here Monday, the award was presented to the head of the airline company, Driss Benhima, by AAHS President Joseph Cinque in recognition of the achievements recorded by RAM in the hospitality sector while operating flights between Morocco and North America.

The American Academy of Hospitality Sciences is the world’s premiere organization for granting awards of excellence in travel, cuisine, luxury products and services. Each year, the Academy bestows its coveted International Star Diamond Awards to superlative establishments that are deemed to be of pinnacle quality.

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Islam Thrives in the Alpujarras Mountains of Spain

OnIslam.net 21/09/2013 GRANADA – Housing the remnants of Spain’s last Muslim communities, a string of tiny villages surrounded by snow-capped mountains in Alpujarras constitutes Granada’s last Muslim stronghold, where halal food attracts a growing number of tourists.

“We are about 20 families, about 100 people, and most of us converted to Islam,” Qasim Barrio Raposa, owner of Café Baraka told OnIslam.net. “We have been here for about 25 years and we are totally integrated with the people of the area.”

Everybody knows the Muslims and Café Baraka in Orgiva, he added.

Lured to Orgiva by his spiritual quest, Qasim found a close knit Muslim community in the Alpujarras region. Twelve years ago I started to have a calling for Islam and I began to study some books,” he told onIslam.net.

“I went to the mosques and came into contact with the Sufi Naqshbandi order in Spain which led me to visit the Orgiva community. Most of the Muslims there are converted people from occident – European, American – and live in the countryside,” Qasim added. “In one of these visits, I started a business with one brother from the community and we called it Cafe Baraka.”

Qasim’s journey to Orgiva led him to accept Islam and to leave his native Bilbao where he had worked in the restaurant sector. “In one year I converted to the Islam and I left my home town and came to Orgiva to live in a halalway’, because my job was always a waiter in a restaurant,” he said.

Orgiva is a cosmopolitan town with a colorful mix of nationalities living together in a bohemian atmosphere. Situated 59 km from the city of Granada, Orgiva has a population of 6,000 and sits at 450 metres. The region, comprised of fifty-odd villages, was the last stronghold of the Spanish Muslims after the Castilians took Granada in 1492.

The Muslims who refused to convert to Christianity took to the hills, settling in this remote area. In Orgiva, Qasim started a halal organic restaurant which became a popular meeting place in the celebrated Alpujarras region in the province of Granada.

Cafe Baraka is a place of meeting for the people of the Alpujarras who like natural and organic food, Qasim told OnIslam.net. “Everybody who visits us likes our ambience and our meals.”

Located in the town of Orgiva, the capital of Las Alpujarras, Cafe Baraka uses organic produce in its dishes and it supports the local producers of the area. Cafe Baraka specializes in both Spanish and eastern cuisine offering dishes such as shawarma, kebabs, cous-cous, tajin, hummus, Spanish omelet, guacamole, gazpacho, and natural juices.

An assortment of pastries are sold, as well as, teas ‘sweetened with fructose or honey from the Alpujarras.’ From May to October, homemade ice creams, milk shakes and lemonades are offered. As a Muslim, Qasim wanted his business to reflect his philosophy so he has a no smoking and no alcohol policy and he serves halal food with many vegetarian and vegan dishes. “We usually have animals like chicken or lamb and we sacrifice them according to halal standards,” said Qasim. “With a number of organic food shops in the village there is a thriving organic food scene,” Qasim added. “We try as much as possible to use locally sourced produce.”

Qasim’s restaurant quickly became a meeting place for the area’s diverse and colorful population. “The café, the architecture of the buildings, the minarets that were transformed into church towers, the irrigation system that was maintained and still used today, as well as, in the Mudaejar building, have all indicated a strong Muslim legacy is still evident in Alpujarras region.”

According to Qasim, the Muslims in the Alpujarras region are a close knit community which has been taking shape over the years. “We have a place in the cemetery,” said Qasim. “We have a big place of meeting (dergha) in the countryside and we help each other. Ramadan is very easy here because the environment is very relaxed in general and we can meet every day,” he added. “A lot of people arrive in Orgiva searching for meaning in their lives – Orgiva is famous for that – and some of them find the Islam here with our community, Al-Hamdulilaah.”

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Mastercard Survey Finds Malaysians Still Avid Travellers

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 26 (NNN-Bernama) — According to the MasterCard Consumer Purchasing Priorities survey, leisure travel remains a steady sector in the Malaysian market as showcased by Malaysians’ travel behaviour. “More than nine in 10 people were found to have undertaken domestic travel while two-thirds opted for an international holiday in the past year,” it said in a statement Wednesday.

It said Malaysians’ outlook for future travel also shows optimism, with 47 per cent saying they intend to travel more to international destinations while 50 per cent intend to do so to domestic destinations. “Hence, data suggests that travel is an important component for the Malaysian consumer,” it said.

The top three destinations Malaysians intend to visit in the next 12 months are Singapore, followed by Australia and Japan, while domestic destinations that take up Malaysians’ interest are Kota Kinabalu followed by Melaka and George Town.

MasterCard Worldwide Malaysia and Brunei Country Head Safdar Khan said this is an exciting time for travel in Malaysia with consumers showing keen interest and looking to spend leisure time both domestically and internationally.

“On a local level, this will enhance interest in tourism offerings and help boost tourism spend, ultimately contributing to the country’s economic vitality and with the increased demand, the travel sector is set for further dynamic growth and will be a key focus area to look out for,” he added.

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Uganda: Country to Be Launched as Prime Tourist Destination

New Vision – 24 September 2013 – The launch of Uganda as a prime tourist destination kicked off on Monday in high gear with hundreds flocking Boma grounds in Fort Portal; ahead of the World Tourism day on Friday.

The world tourism day is an annual exploratory and fun packed event held worldwide under different themes to promote domestic tourism and encourage all Nationals to visit the numerous attractions within their vicinity and beyond.

Speaking to New vision, Maria Mutagamba the Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities highlighted the need for Ugandans to tour local tourism destinations in their country. “For Uganda to woo International tourists to come and tour their country. It must to begin by first converting its citizens into sector.”

To match this year’s theme for the celebrations “Tourism and water, protecting our common future” the prime focus will be on Mountain Rwenzori region for it’s the biggest source of fresh water and livelihood for this pearl of Africa.

Isaiah Rwanyekiro the coordinator of the event has confirmed that, Uganda Wildlife Authority has waved off all fees on access fees to National Parks and tourism sites.

A five-day exhibition showcasing the various tourist attractions of Uganda, the ways of life of the people of Uganda, culture, history and tourism facilities and services is on at the Boma grounds.

The Tooro region is also expected to be dedicated as Uganda’s tourism city in a ceremony on Wednesday that will be marked by a tree planting exercise led by King Oyo Kabamba Iguru who happens to be the chief Host of the event.

Other planned activities include Hiking up Mt.Rwenzori, Nature walks and community tour and swimming in the five crater lakes among other.

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Uganda: Govt to Use Eclipse to Market Uganda Globally

New Vision – 25 September 2013 – Cabinet has approved a proposal pushed by the state minister for finance, Fred Omach for the government to use the eclipse event to market Uganda globally. Sources revealed that an inter-ministerial committee has been set up to spearhead undertakings for preparing Uganda to use the event to showcase the country’s beauty to the rest of the world.

The committee is headed by the minister for tourism Maria Mutagamba and it will closely work with national and international tourism companies. It has representatives from the water and environment ministry, works and transport ministry, ministry of tourism and the finance ministry.

Cabinet ministers last Wednesday spent most of their time in the cabinet meeting discussing ways through which the rare world event would mirror Uganda to the rest of the world. This idea has been mostly pushed by Fred Omach who is also the Member of Parliament Jonam County in Pakwach which will be the epicenter for viewing the eclipse.

Come November 3, Uganda will be the world’s focus center as it experiences a total eclipse. Uganda lies on the path of a Hhybrid Solar Eclipse. Pakwach in Nebbi district in West Nile has been identified as the best place to spot the eclipse alongside other towns like Arua, Soroti, Gulu and Masindi.

The eclipse is caused when the moon passes in front of the sun and casts a shadow on the surface of the Earth. The sky takes on an eerie twilight as the Sun’s bright face is replaced by the black disk of the Moon. Surrounding the Moon is a beautiful gossamer halo.

Cabinet tasked the ministry of works and transport to repair all the roads leading to the central place in Pakwach.

Speaking to The New Vision on Tuesday, the water and environment minister Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu confirmed that government has set up the committee to globally market Uganda using the event. “The eclipse is a rare occurrence historically and globally. More than any other place in the world, it is going to be sharply observed in Pakwach. The whole world will be focusing on Uganda,” Kamuntu explained.

He said they anticipate a stream of international and local tourists to flood Pakwach to watch the eclipse unfolding.

International tour companies have already started mobilizing tourists to come to Uganda to witness the event. One of these companies, Premier Safaris, said, “It is considered to be one of the most awe inspiring spectacles in all of nature which is worth traveling to go see. Uganda is well prepared for this and has a great location close to Murchison’s National park, which provides an excellent basecamp at Paraa or Chobe lodge.”

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Gambia: Eco-Tourism Investment Boosting Economic Activities

The Daily Observer – 26 September 2013 – An eco-tourism investment in the historical coastal community of Albreda in Lower Niumi, North Bank Region has since its establishment been boosting economic activities in the locality through the creation of employment opportunities, among other benefits connected to tourism; a key contributing sector to the Gambia economy.

Kunta Kinteh Hotel is providing the opportunity for the rural dwellers to have their own share of the mighty tourism cake in that those employed have since been supporting themselves and the upkeep of their respective families. It also creates informal jobs whereby people are engaged in petty trading around the area as recipe to supporting their families.

Sitting down to highlight the impact of this investment on the livelihood of the community to this reporter who was assigned to cover the annual pre-retreat of the Public Accounts and Public Enterprises Committees of the National Assembly, the proprietor of the hotel, Njie T. Cham, said the investment has since been true to its principal objectives of promoting eco-tourism, creating job opportunities and increasing the income of the local dwellers in that community. “This is a remote settlement and we want to make it as an eco-tourism facility so that the community can benefit from it, especially in encouraging the guests to buy the local products from the people,” he told the Daily Observer.

He disclosed that he started the project after being encouraged by the then director of National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Burama Sanyang, to extend his Bakau-based business to Albreda in view of the fact that the locality is highly visited by guests but yet lacked facilities to provide food and drinks for them.

“I then came to Albreda where I started with a small restaurant near the sea. From there, I then bought this land and started developing it in 1996, and in 2002, I began full operation,” he added.

Highlighting the constraints confronting the operations of the facility, Cham lamented the current state of ferry services as great hindrance. This state of affairs, he further lamented, impact on their service to the extent that they will sit for sometimes two to three weeks without having a guest. “As you can see we are supposed to have more employees, but because of the bad business, we cannot afford to keep all these people here. We have only five staff at the moment,” he lamented. While thanking the National Assembly for patronising his hotel by having its retreat there, Njie T. Cham appealed to other public institutions to emulate the former.

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Measures to Promote Tourism in Southwest Tunisia

Tunis Afrique Presse – 21 September 2013 – Tunis — A cabinet meeting held, on Friday, decided a series of measure to boost the tourism sector in the country’s southwest. According to the statement of the Presidency of the Government, these measures provides for :

The creation of a joint commission to be tasked with studying the situation of the closed tourist units, case by case. This commission whose results to be submitted, in a month period, to a cabinet meeting, will be made up of Ministries of finance, tourism, culture, justice, Social Affairs and the Central Bank of Tunisia (BCT). In this connection, the meeting underlined the need to exert efforts on the most important units, such as Dar Chrayet and propose solutions to better assist and guide the owners of these units.

The elaboration of strategies of tourist promotion per region, while highlighting its ecological and cultural peculiarities.

The examination of means to boost air transport toward Tozeur.

Boosting tourist circuits in this region in co-ordination with the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Equipment and the Ministry of Environment.

Helping the civil society and the professional of the sector to strive to the development of short and medium term tourist plans.

The organisation of an information day on “the buffer zone and its zero impact on Saharan tourism.” The cabinet meeting was held under the chairmanship of interim Prime Minister Ali Larayedh.

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First Islamic card presented in Azerbaijan

25 September 2013 – TODAY.AZ – International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA) is the first European bank to present the Qibla card which corresponds to the rules of Islamic banking. During the presentation of the card on Wednesday, IBA Islamic Banking Department head Behnam Gurbanzade said the card will be released into circulation in the near future. The cost of the card is 40 manats.

Qibla in Islam is the direction facing the Kaaba in Mecca, to which Muslims turn during the prayers and carry out a number of rituals. Qibla (orientation) is essential in the construction of mosques and other places of worship in many religions, as well as in the daily lives of Muslims, and serves as a symbol of the unity of all Muslims.

This debit card was issued in conjunction with MasterCard Platinum. It is made in an unusual design and is equipped with an electronic compass indicating the direction of Mecca. With the help of this card, the card holder will be able to cash funds in the account, as well as pay for the purchase of various goods and services.

Qibla card will be issued as a debit card, but can also be used with a limit of debt, issued by the bank. Prolongation of the limit term is discussed with the card holder at the end of the debt payment period. The debt paid by the holder is paid into card’s balance statement and the debt limit restored.

IBA started rendering Islamic banking services in 2003, becoming the first in the country’s banking market. The bank has been rendering services in this sphere at the expense of resources attracted from the Islamic Development Bank group.

Last year a consortium of Salans, KPMG, Pinsent Masons and Dar al Shariah companies was assisting IBA in the creation of a specialised structure for rendering products and services of Islamic banking.

The International Bank of Azerbaijan was founded in January 1992 and is the largest in the country. The bank’s main shareholder is the Azerbaijani government which owns a 50.2 per cent share with a 49.8 per cent of share owned by private individuals and legal entities.

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European tourists opt for Turkey

27 September 2013 – TODAY.AZ – At a time of global economic crisis, tourists preferred Turkey over Europe to spend their holidays, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) figures have revealed.

Undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism Özgür Özaslan said that while the increase in the number of tourists hovered around 4 percent in Europe, the same figure stood at around 8 percent for Turkey.

The growth in the tourism sector was expected to be around 4 percent on a global scale, he said, adding that expectations had been realized.

Stating that for developed countries the increase was 3.3 percent, for developing countries it was 4.6 percent and for Europe it was 5 percent.

“The growth rate for Turkey stood at 8.6 percent for the last 8 months. That means the growth is double that of Europe and 2.5 times more than the global figures,” Özaslan said. He also noted that the World Tourism Organization estimated growth for the 2010-2020 period to be 2.7 percent, and 1.8 percent for 2020-2030 period, but the growth would exceed that of Europe.

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Mugham: Azerbaijani music among world elites

25 September 2013 – AzerNews – Azerbaijani mugham, a unique musical and poetic phenomenon, was created on the basis of the historical and cultural traditions that have existed for centuries. It is one of the most valuable monuments of the material and spiritual culture of Azerbaijan and the greatest achievement of the musical and poetic art of the Azerbaijani people.

The multi-faceted and emotional shape, profound content and spiritual essence are closely linked to the perception of life and worldview of the people who created this genre of music. The elegance of the melodic and rhythmic mugham reminds of the rich patterns of Azerbaijani carpets, mosques with colored ornaments, national jewellery decorated to the minute detail as well as metaphoric Oriental poetry.

It is beyond the shadow of a doubt that mugham is more than just art for Azerbaijanis, it is a monumental temple of music and a national idea. This is evidenced by the fact that the secrets of mugham skills have carefully passed on verbally from generation to generation for centuries. Over the course of time, mugam has changed depending on the overall changes in the spiritual culture of the people, but has kept its true gist. This is another feature of mugham: this music genre is constantly renewed.

It is possible to improvise within a certain tradition and within a particular theory. Each mugham has a well-defined mode (“mugamin perdeleri”), its single tone (“mugamin yeri”) and one of the most crucial factors in the art of mugham is a certain cadence, which is based on the canonized frets (“ayag”).

The main musical forms that represent the genre of mugham include dastgah (vocal-instrumental or purely instrumental form), mugham (the vocal-instrumental, solo instrumental and vocal solo form), zerbi-mugham and shikeste. Mughams are usually performed by a trio, which consists of the parts of tar (long-necked, waisted instrument), kamancha (bowed string instrument) and a khananda (singer) with a daf (frame drum). Instrumental mughams are played solo on Azerbaijani folk musical instruments.

Twelve classical mugams, namely, “Ushshag”, “Nava”, “Buselik”, “Rast”, “Echak”, “Isfahan”, “Zirefkend”, “Buzurk”, “Zengule”, “Rahavi”, “Useyni”, and “Hijaz”, are used in Azerbaijani professional music to this day.

Appearing around the 10th century in the era of the so-called Islamic Renaissance, mugham finally shaped in the 17th century and reached its peak in the 19th century.

At the end of the 18th century Azerbaijani musicians among the first in the Muslim world began to perform for a broad audience, which is non-traditional for mugham, touring Europe and recording discs. Great Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibayli was the founder of the theory of the Azerbaijani national modal music of the 20th century. A new page in the history of Azerbaijani music was opened with the publication of his fundamental scientific work “The basics of Azerbaijani folk music”.

The art of mugham is an endless source of musical richness, aesthetic and stylistic basis of the composers school in Azerbaijan. Hajibayli’s “Leyli and Majnun”, the first opera in the Muslim world, which was composed and performed in 1908, revolutionized Azerbaijani music.

Such new styles as mugham opera (Uzeyir and Jeyhun Hajibayli, Muslim Magomayev, Zulfugar Hajibayli, Meshadi Jamil Amirov, Shafiga Akhundova and Jahangir Jahangirov), choral and symphonic mugham (Fikret Amirov, Niyazi, Suleyman Alasgarov, Tofig Bakikhanov, Vasif Adigezalova and Nazim Aliverdibayov), sonata-mugham (Agshin Alizade and Nariman Mammadov), jazz-mugham (Vagif Mustafazade, Rafig Babayev and Aziza Mustafazade), etc. appeared.

At the turn of the 60s and 70s a new trend based on the classical mugham music appeared in Azerbaijan. Among the key figures of this trend was Firangiz Alizade, who imitated brilliant mugham master Habil Aliyev in her play “Habilsayagi” (“In the style of Habil”), using the modern writing style. This song became a declaration of a creative credo which continues to define the search for the generation of creative ideas to this day.

It is significant that one of the last discs of Alizade, which was released with the famous American Kronos Quartet, is called “Mughamsayagi” (“In the style of mugham”). Her composition “Dervish”, released with contribution from prominent Azerbaijani musician Alim Gasimov, was part of the program of the Silk Road festival.

Currently Azerbaijan has favorable conditions for the development of mugham culture. It is part of the national program whose main objective is to preserve and study the art of Azerbaijani mugham. The International Mugham Center, Azerbaijan State Mugham Theater and a number of mugham ensembles have been created in Azerbaijan; television and philharmonic mugham contests are being held and original recordings of mugham are being restored.

The artistic value of Azerbaijani mugham and its high importance both for the national culture and to the world community have been universally recognized at the international level: in 2003 UNESCO recognized the Azerbaijani mugham as Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Surprisingly, with people’s aging the magic of mugham becomes more and more fascinating. Probably all the answers to the mystery of the phenomenon and the art of mugham are hidden here.

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60-member Malaysian business team at Expo Pakistan ‘13

ISLAMABAD, Sep 23 (APP): A 60-member strong delegation of Malaysian entrepreneurs and businessmen is set to attend the 8th edition of Expo Pakistan organized by Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) to be held in Karachi on from September 26-29, 2013. While addressing a pre-departure briefing arranged by the Commercial Section of the Mission at Pakistan House, in Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysian delegates on Monday, According to a statement of the Pakistan High Commission to Malaysia received here on Monday , Shahid M. G. Kiani, High Commissioner of Pakistan to Malaysia, stated that “The participation of such a large delegation from Malaysia which had the largest foreign representation in Expo Pakistan last year as well, is a clear manifestation of the trust and confidence the Malaysian business community has reposed in the Pakistani market and I am sure the visit would pave the way for more business matchmakings and economic collaborations.”

Dilating upon the bilateral trade ties between Pakistan and Malaysia, Kiani informed that both Pakistan and Malaysia were signatories of a Free Trade Agreement and operational since January 2008.

The FTA was Pakistan’s first comprehensive agreement encompassing trade in goods, services, investment and economic cooperation.

He pointed out that since the implementation of FTA, bilateral trade had witnessed a steady increase.

“An interesting feature of this year’s Expo is that MATRADE is also the participating in the event for the first time. MATRADE is sponsoring 30 Malaysian companies comprising about 60 businessmen.

MATRADE is setting up an exclusive Malaysian Pavilion to showcase Malaysian products and services. If we add the two sets of businessmen sponsored by TDAP and MATRADE, their combined strength would be more than 100.

I don’t recall Expo Pakistan having ever received such a large number of businessmen from any single country throughout its eight year history” said Mr. Wajihullah Kundi, the Commercial Counsellor of Pakistan High Commission to the participants during the briefing.

He added that interfacing of businessmen participating in last year’s event had resulted in the concluding of business deals worth US$ 518million, 70 MOUs having been signed between counterparts associations & chamber and participation of over 1000 buyers from 75 countries in the event which also brought over 15,000 business visitors to 355 stalls spread over 5 halls.

Mr. Kiani and Mr. Kundi also briefed the delegates on the arrangements made by TDAP on providing a business-friendly atmosphere to the Expo delegates. He thanked the Malaysian delegates for their interest in attending the Expo Pakistan, and particularly mentioned those who were attending the event for the second consecutive year.

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Women to get 50 pc loans under Small Business Scheme

ISLAMABAD, Sept 21 (APP): Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Saturday in his televised address to the nation unveiled a development package for the country’s youth through six envisaged projects, enabling the womenfolk to avail 50 per cent of loans under one of the initiatives. The Prime Minister announced that 50 per cent of the loans under ‘Small Business Loans Scheme’ would be provided to women. The scheme is for those educated youngsters, who wish to start their own business. These loans ranging from 500,000 to 2 million rupees would be given with a discounted interest rate of 8 percent. The rest would be paid by the government. Initially these loans would be provided through the National Bank of Pakistan and the First Women Bank. An amount of Rs 5 billion has been allocated for this scheme.

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SAARC handicraft exhibition kicks off in Dhaka

DHAKA, Sept 22, 2013 (BSS) – A five-day South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) handicraft exhibition kicked off in the city today. Cultural Affairs Ministry of Bangladesh and SAARC Cultural Centre, Sri Lanka have jointly organized the exhibition, an official release said here today.

Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Bhutan are participating at the exhibition. Cultural Affairs Minister Abul Kalam Azad formally inaugurated the exhibition as the chief guest at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy this morning.

Director of the SAARC cultural centre GLW Samarasinghe and deputy director of the centre Soundarie David Rodrigo also spoke on the occasion with Cultural affairs secretary Dr Ranajit Kumar Biswas in the chair. The exhibition will remain open from 11am to 8pm. Later, the minister visited different stalls of the exhibition.

The National Handicrafts Policy, which was formulated elicting opinions of all stakeholders, will get final approval by next month. Industries Minister Dilip Borua disclosed this while presiding over an inter- ministerial meeting on the policy at his ministry here today.

After a threadbare discussion on the draft policy, the minister said that formulation of the National Handicrafts Policy was one of the successes of the Awami League-led grand alliance government.

He said the policy will create a scope for exporting Bangladeshi handicraft products abroad after fulfilling demands of local buyers. Handicrafts are the part of Bangladesh’s cultural heritage and these will play an important role in brightening the country’s cultural heritage abroad, he added.

The meeting formed a committee headed by Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Industries GM Joynal Abedin Bhuiyan to finalize the draft policy by the end of this month on the basis of opinions of all stakeholders.

Industries Secretary Mohammad Moinuddin Abdullah, Additional Secretary GM Joynal Abedin Bhuiyan, senior officials of Cultural, Textiles and Jute and Civil Aviation and Tourism ministries and representatives of BSCIC, Board of Investment, Export Promotion Bureau, Bangladesh Bank, FBCCI and Banglacrafts attended the meeting.

The policy was formulated aimed at capacity building of the craftswomen and ethnic minorities in the rural areas to produce import alternatives products by using their artistry and creativity.

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Uzbekistan’s information technology business is booming

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-09-26 TASHKENT – The information technology (IT) sector is booming at an unprecedented rate in Uzbekistan. In the first six months of 2013, the market for computer programming has more than doubled – now attaining 230% of the size it reached last year, the State Committee for Statistics reported.

Developing the market for computing services could turn Uzbekistan into a high-tech country, specialists say.

“In the long term, Uzbekistan could well become the regional hub for the software industry,” German Stimban, chief engineer of the BePro programmers’ centre, said. “It is strategically important to master science-heavy programming. We have the pre-requisites, … we only have to build on them.”

To build on that, Stimban said, the country needs an overarching approach to improving things in the sector. “Making a good product requires scrupulous work from an entire group of specialists … market scientists, analysts, designers, ergonomics specialists, programmers and information security specialists,” he said.

Another improvement concerns taking advantage of the trend in creating small, convenient programmes and widgets and selling them through software stores such as AndroidMarket, he added.

Demand for IT expertise is expanding not only in Uzbekistan but worldwide, said Alisher Elmuradov, director of the SmartLab internet lab. “Programming could raise large amounts of foreign currency for government coffers and provide jobs for youth,” he said of Uzbekistan’s prospects for the future.

However, Uzbekistan’s IT training lags behind the rest of the world, observers say. “Uzbek programmers have tremendous potential,” Elmuradov said. “The most urgent problem is the present higher education system pertaining to programming. It is 15 years behind what the market requires. … Universities are graduating ‘semi-specialists,’ who still need considerable training after they leave school.”

“The nucleus of specialists in Uzbekistan now is self-taught,” Elmuradov said, as he called for creation of a university with an IT curriculum that would produce world-class graduates and would improve consistency in training.

Another problem is the lack of an Uzbek-language textbook for writing modern system software and only a few Russian-language ones, Arkady Merkulov, a freelance programmer from Tashkent, said.

Steps have been taken to address some of those concerns, said Sherzod Shermatov, deputy chairman of the State Committee for Communication, Informatisation and Telecommunication Technologies.

Plans include creating new textbooks and upgrading education in university programming departments, Shermatov said, and the authorities are devising strategies to spark more interest in programming. “At the present time, officials are suggesting ways to stimulate Uzbekistan’s software producers,” Shermatov said. “These include tax and customs duty breaks for software producers. This proposal is currently under discussion.”

Additionally, the Smartlab and Brand.Uz companies created the Ginza Programming School in Tashkent to fill the educational gap between college graduates and professional programmers.

“We are sponsoring Ginza independently,” Elmuradov said. “We are devoting our own time to it and providing the premises. We decided to act ourselves to educate specialists and see how they do with real work. It doesn’t cost them anything … we simply want these specialists to be on the market. We have worked out a curriculum and held competitions. There are five to seven applicants for every place.”

“We are now teaching software writers for the iOS and Android systems,” he said. “We have 10 students altogether. We started with 20, but 10 couldn’t keep up. If everything works out, we shall seek support for our project and develop it in the provinces, because young people are showing great interest. The IT field has its own appeal.”

Ginza’s next aim is to train professional project managers, without whom further development of the software market would be difficult.

“Project management is the main profession in the IT business,” Elmuradov said. “Specialists of this sort are not being trained anywhere in Uzbekistan. But without them connecting the programmer to the client, business can’t develop.”

Meanwhile, in early September, Uzbekistan adopted a programme to accelerate the introduction of computer technologies in education. In every district and city, one public school will become an IT school. Soon, workers will install electronic inter-active boards and other modern equipment in these schools.

They also will host training sessions for teachers from other schools, the Public Education Ministry said.

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New season starts at Turkey’s state opera and ballet

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet – The stages of the State Opera and Ballet around Turkey will open their curtains this season with exclusive concerts and operas. Istanbul State Opera and Ballet (İDOB) has announced the opening concert of its 2013-2014 season.

İDOB opens on October 6 at the Archaeology Museum. The opening concert will be directed by Naci Özgüç. The orchestra will be playing Verdi’s Giovanna d’Arco opera concert version and this will be the first time the work will be played in Turkey.

The orchestra will be conducted by Gianluca Bianchi and the choir will be managed by Emanuela Aymone. This season Istanbul opera and ballet will be staging Gioacchino Rossini’s “La Cenerantola.” The work will be staged by Yekta Kara and the orchestra will be conducted by Alessandro Cedrone.

Another work by G.F. Handel, the opera Giulio Cesare, will be staged, conducted by Paolo Villa and staged by Mehmet Ergüven. This season İDOB will be staging “The Turn of the Screw,” “The Ears Midas”, “Yusuf and Züleyha”, “The Elixir of Love,” “Hoffmann’s Tales,” “Ariadne On Naxos”, “The Barber of Seville,” “First words then music,” and “Opera Director.”

In addition, Murat Göksu’s opera “Opera, Opera” will make its premiere. “Giselle”, “Sufferings of Young Werther”, Turgay Erdener’s “Afife,” and Nevit Kodallı’s “Hürrem Sultan” opera and ballet will continue this year.

Shows will also be staged for children. “The Nutcracker” and “Mozart the little genius” are among the ballet shows to be performed for children. Samsun State and Opera Ballet opens its new season with Johannes Brahms and Sergei Rachmaninoff works. The opening will be on Sept. 21 with artistic director and conductor Lorenzo Castriota Skanderbeg. The orchestra will be playing Johannes Brahms’ Third Symphony.

The concert will host Malahat Ismayilova as piano soloist and the second part of the concert will belong to the works of Sergei Rachmaninoff, who belongs to the 20th century Russian romantic era, with his Second piano concerto. The first show in Samsun will be “Bach Alla Turca” on Sept. 26. The first premier of the season will be “West Side Story” on Oct. 12.

Amid the new premieres, Ankara State Ballet and Opera (ADOB) will also debut a number of works, as well as some that were performed last year due to their popularity. Blockbusters like “Anatolia with Sounds,” “Looking for a Tenor” and “Archine Mal Alan” would be back this year. The production “The Bat” will also be on stage for audiences this year, he said. ADOB will lift the curtains on its opening concert on Sept. 29.

As for ballet, there will be both modern and classic shows. Last season the team decided to stage Muammer Sun’s ballet, “The Love’s Worth.” This marked the world premiere. This year ADOB will have Count Dracula as a world premiere.”

Another classic ballet, “Copellia,” will also be on stage, in addition to a new one titled “Mediterranean Breeze,” which consists of tango, bolero and ballet with different tunes.

There will be a total of 30 works on stage, as well as special surprises and extra events for state holidays and religious feasts. ADOB had made special programs for children. Last year ADOB staged “The Bremen Town Musicians.”

The show became a blockbuster show. The 2013-14 season will also feature two new works for children, including the Anatolian-themed Nasreddin Hoca opera, which was prepared and staged by Mustafa Erdoğan. There will be a number of other events for children throughout the season, he said, adding that all the productions had been made in close consultation with pedagogical and education professionals.

İzmir State Symphony Orchestra (İZDSO) opens its 2013-2014 with Antonio Socias.

The concert will take place at the Adnan Saygun Culture Center on Oct. 4. This season the orchestra plans to stage a total of 34 concerts. The program will end on May 30 with Carmina Burana concert in the Ephesus Ancient City.

İdil Biret, Gülsin Onay and Cihat Aşkın will be on stage in different concerts.

Mersin Opera and Ballet opens its curtains with “Lüküs Hayat” (Luxuries Life) with Haldun Dormen’s contributions. Haldun Dormen, famous theater actor staged the show for Mersin.

The opening will be on Oct. 1 at the Culture Center of Mersin. The work will be staged in other cities such as Adana, KahramanmMaraş, Osmaniye, Gaziantep and Eskişehir.

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Old Turkish bazaar to gain former grandeur

SKOPJE – Anadolu Agency – The legendary Turkish bazaar in Skopje will undergo restoration in an effort to return it to its former glory. The bazaar was a regional commercial hub while under Ottoman rule

Though somewhat dilapidated, the historic Turkish bazaar in the Macedonian capital, Skopje, still stands, two-stories tall, with stores, fountains, inns and mosques typical of an Anatolian district. Now, however, work is set to begin to restore the market to its previous state in an effort to draw even more tourists.

Skopje, which served as a regional hub and city center after being conquered by the Ottomans in 1389, was one of the Balkans’ most important trade centers. One of the most beautiful examples of bazaars in the area, the market was one of the largest bazaars in the Balkans in the 17th century, drawing people from Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo.

During the period prior to the dismemberment of Yugoslavia, trade would also continue at the bazaar around the clock at its location on the eastern side of the Vardar River.

Bearing strong resemblance to an archetypal Anatolian district, The Turkish bazaar has stood the test of time, with artworks located inside having survived to the present day.

The Turkish bazaar, which features wares ranging from clothing to food and souvenirs, is home to a significant collection of Ottoman artwork, including works at the Çifte Hamam, which serves as an art gallery. The facility also contains the Paşa, Dükkancık, Mustafa Paşa, İsa Bey, Yahya Paşa, İshak Bey and Alaca mosques, which remain open for worship.

HDN The Turkish language is spoken in the bazaar, where artisans still remain loyal to Turkey and the Ottomans. Besides its architectural structures, the lifestyle and habits are different in the bazaar compared with traditional lifestyles and habits in Anatolia.

A number of artisanal traditions are still practiced at the bazaar, such as coppersmith, quilting and filigree work.

The bazaar fell into a period of relative neglect after Macedonia declared independence in the early 1990s and began to reshape its identity. Later on, however, crafts were revived and saddlers and sandal stores were opened in the bazaar.

Macedonia’s government has passed a law and initiated a project to conserve and revive the bazaar. Within the scope of the project, works on the bazaar’s restoration are continuing in an attempt to transform it back to its former glory and revive traditional arts. When the project is completed, it is expected that the number of tourists visiting the bazaar will increase.

In his “Seyahatname” (Book of Travels), Ottoman scholar Evliya Çelebi says he visited the bazaar when he was in Skopje between 1660 and 1661, adding that it had 2,150 stores and squares.

The traveler extraordinaire praised the cleanliness of the bazaar’s streets and pavements, while adding, “People that work there are both honest and educated.”

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“Islam awarded rights to women in 7th century”

IslamOnline 30/09/2013 New York: Islam is the religion of equality and there is no biasness in the religion as it is a false propaganda against Islam and the Muslims that Islam does not treat women equally. In fact, Islam had given equal rights to women rights in the 7th century and the women in the West acquired the same rights in the 19th and 20th centuries, living without them for almost 13 centuries.

These facts about Islam are being highlighted by the multimedia page at the website for the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, New York. It highlights the campaign for women’s rights and has created a series of at least three videos with students from the local AnNur Islamic School.

The videos provide a forum for students to say about Islam and complain about how they are treated. The students also express their beliefs about their own behavior and conduct.

One of the students said, “People think that Islam oppresses women and there’s no equality, but they’re wrong – there’s equity … 7th century A.D. Islam gave women the right to be involved in politics, the right to earn and keep her own money.”

“Islam gave women the right to work outside of the home, Islam gave women the right to own property, Islam gave women the right to divorce, Islam gave women the right to choose who she marries,” he added.

“Islam gave women a whole bunch of rights that Western women acquired later in the 19th and 20th centuries, and we’ve had these rights since the 7th century A.D., and it’s just not acknowledged worldwide,” he declared.

The Independent Journal Review commented foolishly that it’s “fantastic that the National Park Service is out there using taxpayer dollars to correct the false record against Muslims, such as the ‘moderate’ Muslim Brotherhood’s scathing backlash against the U.N.’s Declaration of Women’s Rights” or “Muslim states’ objection to ‘gay rights’ at a U.N. human rights forum.”

“Well thank goodness the National Park Service is doing the job that no one else will – defend the history of Islam’s contributions to women’s liberation!” it added.

In one of the videos, a student complains of discrimination, “A few years ago they made Eid, like a day for schools to close down and people could take a break. People were saying why should it be changed, this is a Christian country. We shouldn’t change for them. But if you look at the Constitution, there’s separation from state and church. So they’re saying if you’re going to go to an Arab country, they are not going to break for Christmas but over here we’re going to break for Eid and Ramadan and stuff. It’s actual separation from state and church and they don’t understand that and they think since the majority of the U.S. is Christian that we shouldn’t be equal to other people.”

The Women’s Rights National Historical Park, established in 1980, comprises about seven acres. It includes four historical properties, one of which is the Wesleyan Chapel, the site of the first Women’s Rights Convention.

The park says that movements seeking to end discrimination based on race, religion and sexual orientation “are all connected in the fight for civil and human rights.”

“Women’s Rights National Historical Park recognizes the efforts of not just Women’s Rights advocates, but all people who struggle to achieve civil and human rights in the United States and around the world,” it added.

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IDB plans to issue another $1 billion Islamic bond

London, Sunday, 17 Dhul Qaada 1434/ 22 September 2013 (IINA) – The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) will not go to the international markets to raise funds through a US dollar sukuk (Islamic bond) issuance again in 2013, although it may still issue sukuk through private placement, confirmed Dr Ahmad Muhamed Ali, President of the IDB.

In an interview with the Saudi Gazette newspaper in London, Dr Ali and a strong IDB Group delegation have attended the G8 Deauville Partnership with Arab Countries in Transition Investment Conference in London, which was organized by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office in partnership with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the IDB Group. The IDB issued its last sukuk offering in May this year – a 5–year $1 billion Sukuk Al Wakalah with a fixed profit rate of 1.535 percent per annum and a spread Mid-Swaps plus 30 basis points. The IDB Board of Governors earlier approved the increase insize of its Islamic Trust Certificates Issuance Program (sukuk program) from $6.5 billion to $10 billion.

The multilateral development bank of the Muslim world has come under pressure from its Board of Governors to raise funds more frequently from the international markets by leveraging its aaa/aaa/aaa ratings by the top three international credit rating agencies, Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings respectively (all with a stable outlook), and its Zero Risk Weighting for multilaterals given by the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision and the European Commission.

This as opposed to relying too much on the capital resources of its equity subscribers, of which Saudi Arabia is by far the single largest subscriber with 4,249.6 million Islamic dinars with 23.62 percent of the voting rights. The IDB sukuk strategy going forward, explained Dr Ali, “is to go to market every year with one major international issuance. In the past we were not doing that and as a result the IDB was not much known as an issuer in the global market. Next year (2014) we will go to the international markets again, hopefully with the same size ($1 billion). It is difficult to assess now the size of the issuance next year because market conditions can change very quickly. In addition we will continue to issue sukuk through private placement to complement our resource mobilization activities.”

The IDB also has an additional mandate to issue local currency sukuk in selected countries. Thus far the IDB has issued sukuk in Malaysian ringgit and Singapore dollars. It is also exploring the possibility of issuing such sukuk in Hong Kong dollars, Turkish lira and British sterling. “We have been considering issuing a sukuk in the sterling market for some time now. But the main problem has been how to utilize the proceeds from such a sukuk issuance. We are discussing this with British banks now,” he added. But has the IDB discussed this issue in its many meetings with British government ministers? “We have discussed the issue with British ministers when they come with business delegations on official visits and when we go to London. I agree with you that it is important we try to resolve this issue and a sterling sukuk will give the market especially in the UK a major psychological boost.”

Dr Ali confirmed that he and the IDB Group will participate in the upcoming World Islamic Economic Forum (WIFE) 2013, which is scheduled to be held in London at the end of October – the first time it will be held in a non-Muslim country and in the European Union, and which could be important in fostering greater connectivity between the Islamic finance industry and the global halal business sector, which potentially is worth over $1 trillion. WIFE 2013 is also a good opportunity for the Muslim countries to reach out beyond their borders to foster bilateral business and investment with other regions including the UK and Europe. On the recent issuance of its inaugural sukuk – a $490 million Sukuk Al Wakalah – by the International Islamic Liquidity Management Corporation (IILM), Dr Ali confirmed that the IDB did not participate in the offering neither as a primary dealer or as an investor. “Despite the fact that we did not participate in the IILM sukuk, we are a founder investor of the corporation. I agree that cross-border liquidity management is a major challenge for the global Islamic finance industry,” he said.

But as a founding shareholder, what would the IDB like to see the IILM do to increase capacity in more cross-border issuances to facilitate demand for short-term liquidity management instruments? “We are not quite sure about the IILM’s business model and our people are still looking at this. We need to understand more how this model works,” he added.

During a visit to Tunisia earlier this year, Dr Ali announced that the IDB was willing to guarantee a sovereign sukuk issuance by Tunisia. Unfortunately, despite this guarantee, the Tunisian government has yet to make a formal application to take up this offer and to issue a sovereign sukuk. The credit enhancement will come from the sukuk insurance policy, which has been developed and introduced by the IDB’s export credit agency, the International Corporation for the Insurance of Export Credits and Investment (ICIEC). Dr Ali recognizes that such a development is important especially to expand the universe of sovereign sukuk issuers, especially from non-traditional markets.

The IDB Group has a stated ambition of achieving a 20 percent target for intra-Islamic trade by 2015. Currently the percentage for intra-Islamic trade is about 17.5 percent. “I don’t think we may quite reach the 20 pe cent target for intra-Islamic trade, but I am confident it will be over 19 percent. We are now thinking beyond that and what we can achieve for the next 10 years till 2025. A target of 30 percent intra-Islamic trade is under consideration,” he added.

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Courses of Tatarstani history and Islam to be held in Tatarstan

islam.ru / 25 Sep 2013 – Free courses on the Tatar language, the history of the Tatars and the foundations of Islam will begin in Russian Islamic University. The project is called “Bez tatarlar” (We are Tatars).

“On the completion of studying you will know Tatar language, will read the Holy Quran in Arabic, as well as will have knowledge of Islam and the history of Tatars origin” – said the press service of the RIU reports.

The classes will begin on October 1. It will last for three months and will be conducted free of charge. Classes will be held weekly in the evening. After full lectures course everyone will be given a certificate. The organizational meeting will be held on October 1, 2013.

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Conference on “Family in Islam” to be held in Bishkek

Islam-today.ru / 25 Sep 2013 – The Public Fund “Adep Bashat”, Kyrgyz State University named after Arabaev and Kyrgyz Islamic University will organize II Nationwide Scientific Symposium “Family in Islam” in Bishkek on September, 28.

The event will highlight the issues of strengthening the institution of marriage and family from the perspective of Islamic values in the globalized modern society.

The renowned Islamic scholar Alyautdinov Shamil, Imam-Khatib of the Moscow Memorial mosque, Deputy Speaker of Republic Torobaev Zulpukarov, Jogorku Kenesha, the Mufti of Tajikistan Rahmatullah aji and public figures of the state will take part in the symposium.

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Brunei to celebrate International Week of the Deaf 2013

Borne Bulletin – September 26, 2013 – The official opening ceremony of the International Week of the Deaf will be held on September 30 followed by a seminar and presentation of working papers at the Dewan Silaturrahim of the Brunei-Muara Youth Centre. The National Association for the Hearing Impaired (OKP) will also be holding an exhibition, sales booths and other activities at the Dewan Riadah of the Brunei-Muara Youth Centre on September 29, and is open for the public to participate in.

The keynote address will be delivered by Mohammad Sazali Sha’ari, the President of the Malaysian Federation of the Deaf (MFD), and the Vice President of the Council of Rehabilitation Malaysia. OKP will also be holding a Sign Language Workshop at the Meeting Room of the Brunei- Muara Youth Centre on October 1. Registration for the workshop will be held from 7.45am with the workshop beginning at 8am.

The seminar and workshops aim to develop the potential of individuals with hearing disabilities in facing challenges and realities of life. Topics cover early intervention in hearing impaired children, education, work or career opportunities and other opportunities and challenges of the hearing impaired.

The objective is to provide an insight into the views and attitudes of society and people with special hearing needs, educate the community about the classification and level of hearing loss and early intervention information on the hearing impaired children, education and employment or career and the challenges faced by this group, and to learn tips on communicating with people with hearing problems.

The International Week of the Deaf is an annual celebration held on the fourth week of September of every year. The theme set by the World Federation of the Deaf this year is ‘Equality for Deaf People’, a series from the United Nation Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which asserts equal opportunities to Persons with Disabilities (OKU) in all aspects of life.

International week of the Deaf aims to attract the attention of people with special needs, especially those that have problems in terms of hearing, their success and issues related to education, social and equal opportunities for people with special needs in hearing, in line with this year’s theme ‘Equality for Deaf People’.

For more information, contact 8849772 or call the Youth Centre’s line at 2222900 & 2223936 Ext 216. Check out the OKP Association’s Facebook page – Persatuanokp, or their website – www.persatuanokp.wordpress.com

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Abu Dhabi: Emirati dishes to be on hotel menus

Abu Dhabi, September 26, 2013, Gulf News – Traditional Emirati cuisine could soon be on the menu at hotels in the capital following the launch of an initiative by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA.) The authority is encouraging hotel management to serve up traditional dishes — which it says tourists are keen to sample.

Khulood Atiq, an Emirati cuisine consultant and the UAE’s first female celebrity chef, will be giving sessions on how to prepare Emirati dishes.

“For many visitors to Abu Dhabi, sampling our famed hospitality and experiencing authentic Emirati cultural traditions are high on their agenda. This initiative will give stakeholders the tools and knowledge to deliver these important touch points, so they are genuinely representative of our traditions,” said Nasser Al Reyami, director of tourism standards at TCA Abu Dhabi.

Under the scheme, which starts this week in the capital, Chef Khulood will teach staff the background of many Emirati dishes which can be passed onto the visitor.

The programme is to be rolled out to all hotels soon and a special training programme prior to Ramadan will be held to teach hotel chefs how to prepare and present seasonal dishes.

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Pontianak ranks high for transparency

The Jakarta Post, Pontianak, September 27 2013 – West Kalimantan’s provincial capital, Pontianak, scored highest in the top-10 cities nationally for periodic information disclosure displayed through the municipal administration website, according to a study conducted by the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (FITRA).

FITRA, in cooperation with the West Kalimantan Representation and Analysis Forum for Budget Transparency (FAKTA), presented the results of the study in Pontianak on Thursday. They conducted a study on the implementation of transparency of financial management in 113 regencies and municipalities in five provinces in the country.

Besides West Kalimantan, home to 14 regencies and municipalities, the study was also carried out in four other provinces; East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), Aceh, North Sumatra and Central Java.

“The study was carried out to look for good governance carried out by regional administrations in promoting financial transparency in the provinces,” West Kalimantan FAKTA coordinator Didik Suprapta told The Jakarta Post.

The study, which was carried out by online tracking of regional administrations from June to September this year, assessed three components — profile information of regional administrations, information programs, activities and budgets, as well as information service systems provided by the administrations.

FITRA’s National Advocacy Secretariat coordinator, Muhammad Maulana, said in terms of periodic information transparency, two cities in West Kalimantan — Pontianak and Singkawang — were included in the top 10, together with Semarang and Surakarta, Kebumen, Pekalongan, Jepara, Klaten and Sragen regencies in Central Java and Labuhan Batu regency in North Sumatra.

“Although Pontianak ranks top followed by Singkawang in terms of periodic information transparency, in reality they are far from ideal. The highest rating is only supported by the availability of periodic information and profiles of public entities, while information from the regional budget components remain insufficient,” said Maulana.

On the score from 0 to 100, Pontianak scored 63 points for the periodic information transparency. Overall, the 14 regencies and municipalities in West Kalimantan are regarded as inadequate in budget information as well as information on governance. Maulana said six regions in the province failed to provide information on their organization’s website profile.

Whereas not a single piece of information was found on the websites of Sambas, Landak, Kubu Raya and Bengkayang regencies, while nine regions have published goods and services procurement auctions via electronic procurement.

“This indicates the mandate of the Public Information Disclosure Law has not been implemented. The House of Representatives’ Ministerial to enhance regional budget management transparency has also not been heeded,” said Maulana.

In line with a House Ministerial Instruction from May, 2012, regional administrations should publicize budgetary information through their websites by providing a special menu on regional budgetary management transparency.

Despite that, Maulana said the regional administration had provided the data in other media, such as pamphlets, leaflets, banners and billboards; thus it had not been detected.

As for Pontianak, West Kalimantan FAKTA member Lim Kheng Sia said that based on the assessment of 27 provincial agencies (SKPD), only three of them had responded to requests for information from researchers. “Every SKPD is still hesitant to provide information to the public, especially on budgets,” said Lim.

Separately, Pontianak Mayor Sutarmidji said it was not possible to implement public information transparency at once, but every item the public must know about would be uploaded on the website gradually.

“Some say we are reluctant to provide budget documents. Now, let me ask you, what is the purpose of the documents? We cannot hand them all to you,” said Sutarmidji.

An economic observer in Pontianak, Maran, said in general the transparency correlated proportionally with efficiency in managing all resources.

“With less fund leakage, more funds can be used to improve the quality and quantity of development, including spurring the economy,” said Maran, lecturer at the Widya Dharma Economic Academy in Pontianak.

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Jakarta to host another free art event to boost tourism

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, September 25 2013, Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo says the city is gearing up to present another free art event to promote Jakarta as a tourism and cultural hub. The event, dubbed the Jakarta International Performing Arts (JAKIPA) festival, is slated to take place on Sept. 28-29 at the National Monument (Monas).

Jokowi said he hoped that the festival would encourage residents to gain greater appreciation for artistic performances as well as nurturing an image of Jakarta as a vibrant tourist destination.

“Besides local performers, audiences will also get to see performers from other countries including Belarus, Germany, the United States and Vietnam,” he said at City Hall on Wednesday as quoted by tempo.co.

Among the 350 local and international performers who have confirmed their attendance at the upcoming festival are jazz musician Craig Burton; Acapella Mataraman from Yogyakarta; the Reog traditional dance group from Ponorogo; the Sakya Kitri dance group from Palembang; the Melintang traditional dance group from Lampung, and the Wayang Kampung Sebelah puppet show from Sukoharjo.

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Iranian President Cites Tourism as a catalyst for peace and friendship

Tehran, Sept 29, IRNA – President Hassan Rohani says tourism is the most effective tool for general diplomacy and Iran is ready to host tourists. In a message to a seminar to appreciate services of tourism industry activists and agents, President Rohani underlined the key role of tourism in establishing relationship among nations, bringing close different cultures, identifying different ethnic groups, establishing peace and friendship and upgrading human knowledge and creating hope and joy among citizens.

The message read that under conditions when Iran’s economy needs to use the asset of “hope” for vibrancy and growth, any efforts for using collective wisdom and prudence would be a breakthrough and praiseworthy.

He added that the requisite for the country’s sustainable development is planning, management and optimal exploitation of resources. “One of the most important factors effective in national development with regards to its cultural and environmental capacity, is the tourism industry.”

The president said while being profitable from economic points of view and in terms of job creation, tourism industry is able to safeguard national identity as well as cultural, economic, social and environmental sustainability.

“In today’s world which suffers from extremism, war and violence, all thinkers should join hands and make endeavors for peace, stability and tranquility.”

He noted that Iran’s offer to the UN General Assembly to initiate a worldside movement against violence and extremism can be a positive step towards convergence of all nations.

Tourism industry, he added, can serve as a bridge for promotion of peaceful co-existence and engagement as well as mutual understanding of cultures, traditions, and eventually helping people attain tranquility.

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Indonesian minister attends soybean grand harvest in W. Nusa Tenggara

Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara (ANTARA News) September 29 2013 – Agriculture Minister Suswono attended a soybean grand harvest in Sukarara Village, Jonggat Subdistrict, Central Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) here on Sunday.

The minister was accompanied by Food Crop Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture Undoro Kasih, NTB Governor TGH M Zainul Majidi and other relevant officials.

The soybean grand harvest covered an area of 70 hectares in one of the countrys soybean production centers in Lombok Island, NTB. On the sidelines of the harvest, Minister Suswono said that the countrys need for soybean reached 2.5 million tons per annum but its domestic production was only about 700 thousands and 800 thousand tons a year.

So, the country still lacks some 1.7 million to 1.8 million tons, forcing it to import the commodity to meet its domestic need. Therefore, the minister encouraged various regions to increase their soybean production in an effort to reduce import.

“If NTB as one of the country`s regions which are expected to serve as a national soybean production center, could produce up to one million tons per annum, the central government will provide it with significant funding support,” the minister said.

In the meantime, NTB Governor TGB M Zainul Majdi also encouraged farmers to expand their soybean plantations and increase their soybean production. He promised to absorb farmers` soybean production so that it would encourage them to develop soybean plantations.

The governor told the farmers to continue to work in expanding their soybean plantation, promising that the state logistics board Bulog and traders would buy their products.

Head of NTBs Food Crop and Agriculture Service Husni Fahri said on the occasion that his office would continue to bridge farmers and Bulog so that gamers soybean production would be absorbed.

According to Husni Fahri, Bulog would purchase farmerssoybean based on the governments sanctioned price of Rp7,000 per kg for soybean with a maximum water content of 14 percent. With such a market price guarantee, farmers would be encouraged to cultivate soybean plantations.

“Even, the price of soybean with water content of up to 20 percent still could reach Rp6,000 per kg,” he said.

He said that soybean production in NTB had been increasing from year to year. In the previous years, the province`s soybean production was in average of 70 thousand to 80 thousand tons per annum, now it has reached 120 thousand tons.

In the meantime, NTBs need for soybean was recorded at only 34 thousand tons so that there was a production surplus. The average soybean production per hectare of NTBs plantations reaches 1.2 tons to 1.4 tons. So, NTB through its district of central Lombok and Bima, becomes one of the country`s national soybean production centers.

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Chinese Haj pilgrims head for Saudi Arabia

BEIJING, 2013-09-29, (Xinhua) – A total of 290 Chinese Muslims took off in a charter flight here for Saudi Arabia on Saturday evening for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, according to the State Administration for Religious Affairs.

These passengers, coming from various regions including the provinces of Hubei, Jiangsu, Guangdong, Heilongjiang and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, marked the last group of more than 11,800 Chinese Muslims who have all left for this year’s pilgrimage, said a statement released Saturday by the administration.

The Mecca pilgrimage, also known as the Hajj, is a Muslim religious tradition that specifies that all able-bodied Muslims who can afford to travel to Saudi Arabia must visit Mecca at least once in their lifetime. According to the administration, professional medical experts were sent together with the pilgrim team to ensure the health of pilgrims.

The Chinese pilgrims are scheduled to return via 38 charter flights starting October 20.

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Saudi Govt makes room for 185,000 more pilgrims in Mina

Jeddah, 29 September 2013 (Arab News) – The move to shift government departments from Mina to a new administration complex in Muzdalifah would create 23 percent extra space in the tent city to accommodate 185,000 more pilgrims this year, said Sultan Al-Dossary, spokesman of the Makkah governorate.

The first phase of the complex has been completed on an area of 1 million square meters. Most of the non-essential government agencies would be shifted to the new facility, he said.

Al-Dossary said the project’s second phase would be implemented in due course to move the remaining government agencies from Mina within a few years. Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal would inspect the new building complex on Monday. The complex, located on Muzdalifah’s borders, will have 13 buildings with 3,200 offices and housing units in addition to a helipad and a huge water tank with a capacity of 36,000 cubic meters of water.

More than 600,000 foreign pilgrims have already arrived for Haj that begins on Oct. 13. Nearly 2 million pilgrims are expected to take part in this year’s pilgrimage.

Prince Khaled has instructed 15 government agencies to take immediate measures to prevent possible flooding of roads leading to Makkah and other holy sites during this Haj season.

“Related government departments have to deploy enough manpower with the necessary equipment to deal with floods and protect pilgrims traveling through flood-prone routes,” a source said.

The Presidency of Meteorology and Environment has predicted the possibility of light rainfall in Makkah and Madinah during the Haj season. During the month of October, from 1985 to 2012, Makkah received rain for short periods followed by floods in some years, it said.

In its weather report for October, the presidency said temperatures in Makkah during the day would be hot, with pleasant weather at night. Temperatures would range from 38 to 43 Celsius at noon and 24 to 27 Celsius at night. Humidity would drop to 14 percent at noon and go up to 87 percent at night, it added.

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A Boost for Microfinance in the Arab World

19 September 2013 (Global Arab Network) – Microfinance – defined as the access to and usage of quality financial services, including savings, credit, insurance and money transfer systems – is crucial for low-income households to manage cash flows to finance day-to-day living, manage risks, invest productively, and respond to financial shocks.

The low levels of financial inclusion in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, however, have left many with limited access to any sort of financial services. This is especially true for certain groups such as women and young people.

According to Findex, the region has the lowest percentages of adults with a formal bank account (18%) and of poor people with formal access to financial services (9%). Only 13 percent of women have an account at a formal financial institution (versus 23% of men). Only two percent of young adults (aged 15-24) had savings in a formal financial institution in 2011, compared to 9.4 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa.

As the World Bank MENA financial sector flagship report points out, the microfinance sector in the region is still small. Microcredit accounts for just 0.2 percent of the region’s Gross Domestic Product. Lending by microfinance providers reaches only 1.8 percent of the adult population, half the rate of South Asia or Latin America and the Caribbean. Even in Morocco, the country that has made most progress in developing the industry, microcredit loans barely exceed one percent of total bank credit as compared with seven percent in Latin America and the Caribbean and five percent in Africa.

While each country in the region poses unique challenges, low levels of microfinance penetration in MENA can be attributed to a lack of regulation that supports robust growth of microfinance institutions (MFIs). The inability of MFIs to accept deposits in many of the region’s markets, underdeveloped financial infrastructure, and low levels of financial literacy among potential beneficiaries all contribute to the limited microfinance outreach in the region.

The level of financial exclusion in MENA is particularly worrying given demographic and economic participation trends. As the recent MENA gender report revealed, three out of four working-age women do not participate in the labor force and constitute 80 to 90 percent of MENA’s inactive population.

While impact assessments and cases of client over-indebtedness have led to some well warranted reflections on its benefits, microfinance remains relevant for female economic empowerment. It creates opportunities for business expansion and productive investment at the household level by circumventing many of the socio-economic barriers that prevent women from participating in the economy. Similarly, microfinance can address financing gaps and help promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship among the region’s young people. This is particularly important given that youth unemployed in the MENA – at about 25 percent – exceeds that of any other region in the world.

A World Bank project was recently launched to tackle the obstacles standing in the way of the regional expansion of microfinance. The Enhancing Microfinance Amongst Women and Youth in MENA Project, financed under the MENA Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF), will focus on three key areas:

First, it addresses a critical knowledge gap. Existing microfinance beneficiaries knew where and how to access credit. Yet this relatively small number begs the question of how many more women and young people might also want access to financial services but do not know where or how to find it. Acknowledging that there has been no comprehensive analytical work done on establishing demand-side constraints to microfinance in MENA, the project will undertake a study to gauge the extent of pent-up demand in Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia.

The study will consist of:

demand-side surveys of potential microfinance beneficiaries; in-depth interviews and focus group discussions; and analysis of existing household surveys to identify and uncover barriers to accessing and using the formal financial system for women and young people. A key objective will be to gain an understanding of the financial needs of women and young people, and an understanding of the factors (e.g. geographic, gender, economic) that constrain their access and usage of financial services. The work will build on recent demand-side research initiatives such as financial diaries and finscope surveys.

Second, as enough evidence exists to indicate that financial literacy is a key impediment to accessing financial services, the project will develop and implement a financial education tool kit targeted to low-income, ‘unbanked’ women and young people in Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia. The tool kit will be developed for use by MFIs, financial service providers, and related Non-Governmental Organizations in these same three countries. The project will also train trainers so that the momentum toward expanded increased financial literacy becomes self-sustaining.

Finally, significant resources will be dedicated to enhancing the capacity of MFIs to effectively serve women and young people through targeted learning exchanges between MFIs in Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia, and leading MFIs in MENA. The learning exchanges will focus on the operational and strategic investments needed to better serve women and young people with financial services.

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Afghanistan Saffron Cultivation Extended to 26 Provinces

September 25, 2013, Kabul (BNA): The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock has cited that saffron cultivation and productions have received tangible growth this year as compare to the past.

Elaborating on the topic, Majidullah Qarar, spokesman to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MoAIL) said that the concerned ministry was succeeded to extend saffron cultivation in to almost 26 provinces of the country and also saffron established in at least 14 provinces and western Herat province number once in this field.

“The (MoAIL) has purchased saffron seeds from Herat province and dispatches to other provinces. The ministry is working on a plan to facilitate farmers received the seeds further promotion of saffron production including training course of saffron production to local farmers, the famers will also be provided saffron drying machines. Qarar said, however, he pointed out that saffron production has given satisfactory outcomes”.

Currently, saffron production isn’t in a scale to support our economy.

But, if the cultivation is extended, soon it will leave its positive impacts on Afghanistan’s economic development process as saffron production reached to 4,000 kg from 500 kg during the previous years.

Responding to a question with respect to value of Afghan saffron in world markets, Majidullah Qarar said that Afghanistan by maintaining suitable land for saffron production but in terms of production Afghanistan isn’t in a scale to complete with world largest producers of saffron same as Iran, Spain and India.

For the first time in 2013 an Afghan saffron company received an award from International Institute of Taste and Quality.

Sayed Nabi Shinwari head of the department of agricultural sciences said that Afghanistan has suitable climate for saffron cultivation.

Afghan saffron is known because of its best quality worldwide.

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Pakistan striving to exploit vast potential of renewable energy resources

ISLAMABAD,Sep 27(APP):Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Pervaiz Rashid said Friday the government was striving to exploit the vast potential of renewable energy to meet growing energy requirements of the country. Speaking at a function to launch biomass energy project here he said that biomass gasification offered the most convincing alternative energy system for industries and capable of meeting a significant proportion of our energy needs. Pakistan being an agricultural country has abundant amount of biomass resources, which have never been exploited in the past, he said.

Pervaiz Rashid said it was worth appreciation that UNIDO was putting its efforts to introduce biomass gasification technology in Pakistan which can help us to cater the present energy crisis.

Industrial sector was very important for economic development and played pivotal role in its economic uplift, raising the productive capacity of the people and generating economic opportunities, he added.

Due to energy crisis, industrial sector of Pakistan was going towards decline for many years, he said adding there was currently very little work being done regarding industrial development by utilization of renewable energy resources on a large scale.

“The project will not only result in new areas of economic growth and development for many regions of Pakistan that have plentiful biomass resources but also result in improved energy security by reducing dependence on non-renewable resources”, he said.

He said Pakistan was now focusing on renewable sources of energy like wind power, solar, biogas and biomass which offer sustainable solution. “Having the fifth largest livestock, the country coupled with agricultural base is blessed with tremendous potential for producing biomass”, he said.

Pervaiz Rashid pointed out the country was facing shortfall of five thousand megawatt electrify when the present government assumed the power. He said the government retired circular debt of about Rs 480 billion, which increased the power generation to the record 17000 megawatt.

He said steps have also been taken to remove inefficiency in the transmission system and a campaign is also continuing against those involved in gas and power theft.

The Minister said the government was also taking long term measures to ensure energy security. These measures include coal based Gaddani power project which will add 6600 megawatt of electricity to the system. Work on Neelum Jhelum hydel power project has also been expedited and this project is now expected to be completed by 2016.

He said massive theft of electrify and gas was costing the country between Rs 150 to 250 billion annually and had exacerbated the loadshedding problem.

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Oman to spend $14.8b on roads, bridges and rail

Times of Oman – 26 September, 2013 – The development of ongoing roads and bridges across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is currently valued at $ 109 billion, according to the most recent figures from Ventures Middle East, the business advisory and research firm.

Oman is investing $14.8 billion on roads, rail and bridges infrastructure in the coming few years, while the UAE, second worldwide for roads quality in the latest Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, has investments worth $ 58 billion in the pipeline for roads and bridges.

As the host of the 2022 Football World Cup, Qatar leads the 2013 boom with an allocation of $ 20 billion for roads and highways, in addition to a $ 35 billion rail network, as Saudi Arabia undertakes infrastructural improvement projects valued at $ 77 billion that includes roads, bridges and rail.

The combined share of roads and bridges projects in the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia represents more than 75 per cent of the total $109 billion pot.

The Kuwaiti budget for roads and bridges infrastructure works is currently estimated at $ 13 billion. Not to be outdone, Bahrain declared earlier in 2013 that it will spend more than $ 2.5 billion on major road, bridge, and tunnel networks.

The figures signify good news for the hundreds of transport infrastructure service providers participating at the Gulf Traffic exhibition and conference, taking place from December 9 to 11 2013 at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

“The Gulf region has been at the forefront of transport infrastructure developments for several years now, and 2013 marks another big year, where dozens of new projects have been announced across the six Gulf states,” said Richard Pavitt, exhibition director for Gulf Traffic.

“Gulf Traffic will bring together industry leaders from across the globe involved in road, rail, public transport and parking industries. Suppliers will be able to showcase new trends and technologies offering cutting edge insights and industry solutions.”

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Qatar Luxury Group Launches Qela, New Global Fashion Brand

DOHA, Qatar, Sept 26 (NNN-QNA) – Dignitaries, leaders from the fashion world and top executives attended the launch of QELA, Qatar’s first home-grown global fashion brand, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported. Discreet and exclusive, characterised by classic lines and understated Arab influences, QELA is designed for women with a sense of modesty, who value the quality of fine craftsmanship and precious materials.

QELA is part of Qatar Luxury Group (QLG), headquartered here with Qatar Foundation as its shareholder. The brand, the latest project of QLG, offers a superior level of services, with one-off pieces and unique creations made to client order. QELA’s business aspirations, to develop as an international fashion brand, are built on traditional know-how, high quality, and multicultural creativity.

A team of talented designers and skilled craftsmen has been painstakingly gathered, not only from Qatar, but from all over the world, to conceive and create QELA’s ranges of leather goods, shoes, jewellery and made-to-measure women’s couture. The new Qatari brand is poised to capture the imaginations of confident, independent, discerning women, all over the world, with its timeless style and strong references to the universal language of art.

QLG’s Managing Director and Vice Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Haya bint Khalifa Al Nassr, said, “QELA is the beginning of an exciting journey. “It is Qatar’s first home-grown global fashion brand, international in style, with understated Arab influences. We have brought together talented young designers and the world’s finest craftsmen to create modern elegance with a sense of modesty and intimacy.”

Board Director of QLG, Sheikh Ahmed bin Khalid bin Hamad Al-Thani, said that success of this fashion house will help to initiate a new fashion industry for the local up-and-coming designers and craftspeople as part of Vision 2030. The launch of QELA boutique was held on the Pearl, an artificial island spanning nearly four million square metres, here.

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Saudi Arabia investing $77bn in infrastructure projects

Arab News – 26 September, 2013 – Saudi Arabia is undertaking infrastructural improvement projects valued at $ 77 billion that include roads, bridges and rail. According to the most recent figures, the ongoing roads and bridges developments across the GCC are currently valued at $109 billion.

The UAE, second worldwide for roads quality in the latest Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, has investments worth $ 58 billion in the pipeline for roads and bridges alone. According to figures from business advisory and research firm, Ventures Middle East, Qatar has allocated $ 20 billion for roads and highways and $ 35 billion for rail network. The combined share of roads and bridges projects in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, meanwhile, represent more than 75 percent of the total $ 109 billion projects in the region.

Oman is securing $ 14.8 billion on roads, rail and bridges infrastructure in the coming few years, while the Kuwaiti budget for infrastructure works is estimated at $ 13 billion. Bahrain, meanwhile, declared earlier in 2013 that it will spend more than $2.5 billion on major road, bridge, and tunnel networks.

“The Gulf region has been at the forefront of transport infrastructure developments for several years now, and 2013 marks another big year where dozens of new projects have been announced across the six Gulf states,” says Richard Pavitt, exhibition director for Gulf Traffic. The Gulf Traffic exhibition and conference, taking place from Dec. 9 to 11 at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre, will discuss more about road, rail, public transport and related projects,” he added.

“More than 3,000 transport industry professionals and government agencies from across the Middle East will attend the event,” he added.

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Oman plans more training for local guides

Times of Oman – 24 September, 2013 – The Tourism Committee of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) plans to train additional tourist guides to promote Oman among foreign tourists.

Members of the Tourism Committee met yesterday for their fourth meeting at the OCCI building under the chair of Sheikh Ibrahim bin Said Al Nabhani, OCCI board member and head of the committee.

The meeting aimed at discussing guided tours and its impact on tourism, as well as reviewing the importance of tourist guides for the Sultanate. The committee members lauded the efficiency of young Omani professionals working as tourist guides.

For the future plans, the meeting called for the committee to hold training courses and workshops to train tourist guides so that they become qualified for professional licences. The Sultanate has 111 Omani tourist guides and 33 expatriates, said officials.

The committee members stressed the need to standardise information and data on tourism, enhance cooperation between the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Information, alternative plans to develop Omani youth and encourage them to work as tour guides, and provide them with training courses that include theoretical and practical subjects so that they become qualified to obtain licenses.

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Dubai Plans First Islamic Economy Award

Khaleej Times – 21 September, 2013 – The rulers of Dubai have endorsed the launch of the Islamic Economy Award, with the aim of acknowledging efforts made by business leaders in innovating the best solutions globally that comply with Islamic Shariah.

The award comes under a directive of Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. It was announced by Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council.

According to the announcement, “The launch of the Islamic Economy Award highlights our commitment to enhancing and promoting the Islamic economy sector, in accordance with His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s vision to establish Dubai as the capital of the Islamic economy. The award also serves as testament to the role played by Dubai as the capital of the Islamic economy initiative, in promoting this sector, through the launch of a series of strategic initiatives and programmes, which aim at incorporate the various entities and individuals involved in this sector.

“His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s vision has helped us realise the importance of nurturing a culture that promotes creativity and innovation in all sectors, especially those directed at serving and further developing the business community. Therefore, committing to the highest standards of innovation is a prerequisite to maintain the accomplishments and gains that have been attained over the past few years,” Shaikh Hamdan said.

Mohammad Al Gargawi, UAE Minister for Cabinet Affairs and chairman of the Higher Committee for the development of the Islamic Economy sector, said: “The launch of the Islamic Economy Award is in-line with Dubai’s ambition to become the capital of the Islamic economy while acknowledging efforts made by the leaders of the Islamic economy sector, and to act as a catalyst to further develop and grow this sector.”

The Islamic Economy Award in collaboration with Thomson Reuters will recognise a mix of regional and global leaders from 14 Islamic economy sectors, which have all demonstrated significant business and social impact. In addition, an overall Lifetime Achievement Award will be awarded to a distinguished individual.

Meanwhile, Abdul Rahman Saif Al Ghurair, chairman of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and member of the Higher Committee for developing Islamic-compliant economic sector, views the Islamic Economy Award as a catalyst that will complement the on-going efforts to cement Dubai’s position as capital of the Islamic economy, through supporting the culture of excellence and motivate businessmen and institutions alike, in a bid to flourish Islamic services, in addition to commending their successes and accomplishments.

“The award underlines the Emirates’ commitment to act as a catalyst for the business community to introduce new Islamic products and enhance already existing products and services. The award will also enhance investors’ and the business community confidence levels in a work environment that promotes competitiveness and promotes innovation. It is without a doubt that we are able to introduce to the world a new and enhanced model of the Islamic economy, with Dubai as its capital.”

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Tourists throng urban heritage sites in Riyadh

Arab News – 24 September, 2013 – Hundreds of residents and expatriates in Riyadh and its suburbs visited areas of historical importance in the Kingdom’s capital on the occasion of the 83rd National Day. Riyadh is host to a number of heritage sites reflecting the country’s extensive history. Massive efforts were made by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) to promote tourism in the region.

The SCTA implemented major restoration projects of prominent heritage sites under the Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA), which has created huge demand for city tour operators.

Nasser Al-Sulaiman, a Ministry of Health supervisor at King Khalid International Airport, said: “I planned an educational trip with my family to national heritage sites to mark the occasion.”

Haya Tours, a licensed tour operator in Riyadh, conducted trips for local residents and foreigners to different tourist destinations in the Kingdom. The tour operator embarks on the “Riyadh City Tour” between 4:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

“The tour is packed with participants interested in learning about Saudi Arabia’s diverse culture and architectural bounties,” said Salwa Hamad Al-Qunaibit Haya, tour operations manager. “This year, we took tourists to residential palaces belonging to King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud.”

One of the city’s major attractions is the Qasr Al-Hoqm district, an important historical landmark in the capital that includes the 19th century Al-Masmak fort, the Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque and the “Qasr Al-Hoqm,” or the Governorate Palace.

Many found it interesting to witness reconstructed old city walls at the Al-Dukhana and Al-Thumairi Gate intersecting the Ad-Dirah Souk known for commercial markets and traditional buildings famous for gold market, carpets, “oud” Arabian incense and antiques in the Qasr Al-Hoqm district.

In addition, the King Abdul Aziz Historical Center, which contains the King Abdulaziz Memorial Hall, the Murabba Palace and the 100-palm park below the water tower along King Saud Street and in which the Riyadh Municipality exhibited various cultural shows, was also visited by many.

People also showed a keen interest in the National Museum that includes eight galleries packed with information on ancient culture, artifacts and photos of King Abdul Aziz.

The old Dirrayah, the capital of Saudi Arabia between 1744-1818, is currently being renovated to restore the old wall and the national flag circle in the historical district.

“I have visited the places many times before, but revisiting the fascinating Qasr Al-Hoqm district and the King Abdulaziz historical center and other tourist destinations in a group that shares similar interests in the Kingdom’s glorious past was an exciting way to celebrate,” says Aaliah Al-Aali, graphic designer with besaudi.com

Aaliah said: “The government has invested a great deal to uplift and restore our country’s golden past, but there is a need for organized promotional and awareness programs to reach remote villages in Saudi Arabia.”

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RAK Airways launches flights to Saudi capital

Saudi Gazette – 24 September, 2013 – UAE’s RAK Airways is set to launch its flights to Saudi capital Riyadh, increasing the airline’s footprints in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The inaugural flight to Riyadh will be on Sept. 25 from Ras Al Khaimah International Airport.

RAK Airways will operate three flights a week to the Saudi capital at 7:30 a.m., UAE local time. The weekly flights are scheduled for Monday, Wednesday and Friday till Oct. 28, 2013.

For the Winter schedule, i.e., from Oct. 29, 2013, RAK Airways will increase its frequency to four flights a week. The scheduled operation for winter will be on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday and the flight from Ras Al Khaimah International Airport will be at 8:30 a.m., UAE local time.

RAK Airways began its 2013 destination launches with entry into Islamabad and its first entry into Levant with the launch of Amman.

On Oct.10, 2010 RAK Airways made its first entry into Saudi Arabia by opening 4 weekly flights into Jeddah. With steady demand in passenger numbers for RAK-Jeddah-RAK and from the airline’s network, RAK Airways increased its frequency from 4 weekly flights to daily, in the last quarter of 2012.

Speaking of the launch of the 12th destination of the airline, Sheikh Salem Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairman of Department of Civil Aviation and Vice Chairman of RAK Airways, said “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a major contributor of tourism into the United Arab Emirates and it is with great joy that we fly into the capital Riyadh from Ras Al Khaimah, the Northern Emirates of the United Arab Emirates.”

For booking from United Arab Emirates call +97172075000 and if booking from Saudi Arabia, call Amikan Travel and Tours at +966112494865/+966112469186.

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Dubai’s flower, plant trade blossoming

Khaleej Times – 21 September, 2013 – Dubai’s flowers and plants business is estimated at over Dh140 million and continues to amass a sizeable chunk of a GCC flower market estimated to be worth around Dh970 million.

According to experts, the UAE’s plant and flower market is expected to achieve an annual growth of 20 per cent, driven by factors such as strong economic growth. Dubai in particular has blossomed into a bustling trading hub for flowers, live trees, seedlings, roots and bulbs.

Growth opportunities, industry trends, and the best technologies and practices surrounding the thriving flowers and plants trade of Dubai and the entire Arab world will be revealed during the 2013 International Plants Expo Middle East, or IPM, the only international horticultural trade show in the Middle East.

The eighth edition of IPM will run from November 17 to 19 at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

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25 projects to develop Jeddah next year

Arab News – 22 September, 2013 – Jeddah’s municipality has announced the tender of more than 25 projects for 2015.

Hani Abu Ras, mayor of Jeddah, revealed that several service projects in Jeddah, Al-Qunfudha, Al-Laith and Al-Kamil have been awarded to national companies.

The new projects, which have been launched, include public parks and children’s play grounds across numerous villages and centers in the Al-Kamil governorate.

In addition, municipal yards in Al-Qoz in Al-Qunfudha governorate have been awarded, as well as a municipal service center in the south of the Al-Aradiyah in Al-Aradiyat governorates and project to name and number streets in Al-Laith governorate.

Abu Ras explained that the first stage of developing the southern part of the Corniche in Jeddah was tendered upon the completion of the executive plan and the landscape designs. The mayor indicated that further stages to develop the entire strip of the southern Corniche would follow with aims of making it one of the most beautiful tourist attractions in the city.

The flagpole project in the former ship roundabout will be implemented by the sponsoring entity and will be completed by the beginning of 2014.

He said that the Jeddah municipality has granted construction permits for the Ministry of Housing to implement numerous residential projects, which will be built in the southern housing area and in the northern airport scheme.

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Five luxury hotels set to open in Bahrain

Gulf Daily News – 22 September, 2013 – Hundreds of millions of dinars are being invested in Bahrain’s tourism industry with five new luxury hotels set to open in the next six months. Adding to the 14 already in existence, they are all expected to be fully up and running by April and will create hundreds of jobs across the country.

The Four Seasons Hotel and Resort, in Bahrain Bay, is thought to represent a substantial investment in Bahrain’s tourism industry, although the exact costs of the property have not been made public. The five-star, 201-metre-tall, 50-storey hotel complex is due to open in the $ 2.5 billion Bahrain Bay waterfront development in April, creating 700 permanent jobs.

The Ramee Grand Hotel & Spa, in Seef, has already opened to guests and will be officially launched next month. The luxury multimillion dinar five-star hotel boasts a spa and wellness centre spread over an entire floor.

The 318 room five-star Renaissance Bahrain is due to open in Amwaj Islands in January, while leading international hotel chain, Rotana, also plans to build a new five-star hotel in 2014 following the opening of the BD22 million dinar Majestic Arjaan in Muharraq earlier this year. The new Rotana Hotel will be built near Bab Al Bahrain.

The Swiss-Belhotel International will also open next March and is a four-star hotel promising to offer good value for money luxury accommodation. Marriott International is also building Bahrain’s first JW Marriott Hotel in Bahrain Bay. The 50-storey property will have 274 rooms and suites and 102 residences and is set to open in 2016.

The luxury Domain Hotel opened earlier this year in the Diplomatic area. The sleek 36-storey boutique hotel includes nine different social spaces and has the most expensive suite in the country, from between BD2,500 to BD4,230.

According to Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry tourism committee chairman Nabeel Kanoo, the growth of the five-star hotel market is a sign things are looking up economically after the recession and political unrest of the last few years. “The feeling was that things had to get better eventually and developers would carry on with their plans to build these luxury hotels, no matter what,” he said. “Despite the troubles, the belief was, things should carry on as normal.

“The events of February 2011, in the minds of many people, were just a small blip and although it did put visitors off at first, things are starting to get better now. The numbers of people visiting from neighbouring GCC countries are increasing; it may take a while for that to filter through to the rest of the world as we get negative Press which doesn’t help but it is all a matter of time.

“For the hotel companies I suppose it is a bit of a gamble at the moment, most of them are not being filled to capacity and before February 2011 most of the hotels were getting packed out during the weekend and holidays, but the fact that they are up and running can only be a good thing in the long-term as things begin to improve. We have to plan for the future and the good times that are ahead.”

Salvatore Ramano, managing director of the recently opened Ramee Grand Hotel and Spa in Seef, said he was confident that his new five-star hotel, which boasts the country’s biggest hotel room at more than 45sqm, would attract plenty of customers.

“The Ramee Grand has 18 years of experience in the hotel industry in Bahrain and we know exactly what our clients are looking for,” he said. “We have something special and unique to offer and that will always attract guests, whatever the climate, if you have a good name for yourself then people will come to you. In the last year there have been a lot of developments in Bahrain, people are investing and we are starting to see a return to how it was in 2005, 2006 and 2007.”

Five-Star Hotels executive committee chairman Abdulnabi Daylami said there had been a 35 per cent improvement in the occupancy of the seven five-star hotels under the umbrella of the committee, which includes the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa and the Sheraton Hotel.

“Compared to last year we are faring much better. The current year so far has been much better than 2012 going by the occupancy levels of these hotels which we monitor on a daily and monthly basis,” he said. “As well as weekenders and travellers from other parts of the GCC we are getting more conventions and seminars taking place in Bahrain. More companies are using Bahrain as a place to conduct business. This means they are not just occupying the rooms but there are also restaurants and outlets so our five-star hotels are doing well.”

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Archives to exhibit Oman’s history

Times of Oman – 23 September, 2013 – The National Records and Archive Authority of Oman is planning an annual exhibition to be held on the National Day at the Omani Society for Fine Arts in Qurum. The Senior Head of Private Records, Hamood Salim Al Hinai, told the Times of Oman in an exclusive interview that the exhibition would display reproductions of some documents the National Archive of Brazil presented to the Omani delegation during their visit to Brazil last month.

Established in 2007, the National Records and Archives Authority of Oman has already collected at least 100,000 records related to the Sultanate after visiting a number of countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Tanzania, and Turkey. He added that archives received from other countries such as India, Holland, and France would also feature in the exhibition.

During the Omani delegation’s visit, Arquivo Nacional do Brasil (National Archives of Brazil) uncovered an interesting collection of documents, which date back to the Portuguese colonial era in Oman.

Speaking to the Times of Oman, Renata Willam Santos do Vale, lead researcher of National Archives of Brazil, said the documents revealing Portugal’s colonial era in Oman were a rare find. “It took a team of eight people — five researchers and three trainees — who worked round-the-clock for three months looking for records related to Oman,” she told in an exclusive interview.

The documents found include maps, an illustration of the fortress of Ormuz (Hormuz) at the time the Portuguese invaded the Strait of Hormuz, letters, and a book with registration of some Omani ships that arrived in Brazil in the early 16th century.

Abdulmohsin Said Al Hinai, General Director of Records Organisation, said they were very pleased with their visit to Brazil, during which their hosts extended warm hospitality. The Omani delegation invited the Director of the National Archives of Brazil, Jaime Antunes da Silva, and his colleagues to visit Oman and explore the historical archives in the Sultanate.

The National Records and Archive Authority of Oman is planning to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Archives of Brazil, in which both countries will decide on the terms of cooperation that would facilitate sharing and copying of documents and information related to both the countries.

It may be mentioned that the National Records and Archives Authority has already signed several MoUs with the national archives authorities of Portugal, the United Kingdom and France.

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