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7 Oct, 2013

Chinese President Visits Indonesia, Malaysia; Launches New Era of Bilateral Relations

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 07 October 2013 (02 Dhul Ḥijjah 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



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.



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

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

Let’s Hear It for Whistle-Blowers

2002: The Year TIME Magazine Recognised Whistle-blowers

Ex-White House Spokesman Exposes “Culture of Deception”

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

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

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

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

Beware the new colonialism

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

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

“War on Terror” is a War Without End

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

Shouldn’t ‘Never Again’ Apply to All?

Globalisation Will Make Religion Even More Relevant

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

Acts of God Show the Wrath of God

Weighing the causes and costs of global wars and conflict




Indonesian National Park Refuses Transfer Of Sumatran Rhinoceros To U.S

EAST LAMPUNG (Indonesia), Oct 2 (NNN-Bernama) — The administrator of Way Kambas National Park (TNWK) has refused the transfer of several Sumatran rhinoceri from the Rhino Preservation Area (SRS) to United States’ Cincinnati Zoo, Indonesia’s Antara news agency reported.

“We are not supporting the transfer of several rhinoceros to a foreign country,” said Chief of Public Relations at TNWK, Sukatmoko, on Tuesday.

According to TNWK officials, the transfer plan arose after the breeding centre successfully bred a baby rhino called ‘Andatu’ and the discovery of a wild baby rhino in the area of TNWK, Lampung.

The preservation area in TNWK is a natural habitat of Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), a creature that can breed naturally.

“Indonesia should learn from the bad experience in the 1980s when at least 18 Sumatran rhinoceri died in England and the US, as they could not adapt to the new habitat,” Sukatmoko said.

He urged the Indonesian government to evaluate the transfer programme of Sumatran rhinoceros to the US.

Meanwhile, Director of the Indonesia Rhinoceros Foundation (Yabi), Widodo S Ramono, said the Sumatran rhinoceros is an endangered species, although the agency has found two new baby rhinos.

Ramono however appreciated the efforts of Cincinnati Zoo, sharing its knowledge on rhino breeding.

He added that if the international community is concerned about the Sumatran Rhinoceros, it should step up efforts to build the SRS.

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New Airbus Customer Services Will Put Malaysia On International Map, Says Pm Najib

SEPANG, Oct 2 (NNN-Bernama) — The new Airbus Customer Services facility will put Malaysia on the international map as a centre for specialised aerospace engineering services, Prime Minister Najib Razak said Wednesday.

The centre to be located adjacent to the Sepang Aircraft Engineering (SAE) facility represents an expansion of the manufacturer’s global network of offices providing 24/7 specialised major aircraft engineering and repair services. Existing offices offering these services are located in Toulouse, Hamburg, Wichita and Beijing.

Speaking at the construction of a second hangar at the SAE facility in Sepang, Najib said Malaysia is among the three leading countries in the Asia Pacific for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) centre for services.

The hanger is a joint venture between Airbus and SAE, and marking an expansion of its footprints in South East Asia.

Najib said: “We have been able to stay competitive because of the sheer volume of business in this region, coupled with our advantage of an early foray into the sector and an edge in quality human capital at far more competitive rates.

“Our superior cost position is powerfully attractive to airline customers. Malaysia has thus identified the MRO business as one of the sectors in the Business Services Entry National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs),” he said.

The Prime Minister said the NKEA represents an important catalyst for Malaysia’s development towards high-income nation status in 2020.

The MRO sector is projected to grow by 10 per cent annually and new projects are expected to create 20,000 jobs in the country, he said.

“This year our Entry Point Projects’ target is RM380 million in revenue from fleet technical management and RM2.4 billion from airframe MRO,” he said.

Najib said several initiatives were already underway to develop the MRO ecosystem.

He said there was greater development of Malaysia’s airport infrastructure, the availability of land and the creation of more conducive operating environment through improved tax and civil aviation regulations.

“These we are confident will continue to make Malaysia as a preferred MRO destination.

“The aspiration is to capture five per cent of the world market share in the MRO business. Thus, the government will be most supportive of any efforts to part take in this journey,” added Najib, who is also the Finance Minister.

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Chinese President calls for closer ties with Malaysia

(Xinhua), October 05, 2013 – Visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping called Friday for efforts to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Malaysia.

Xi said China-Malaysia economic and trade cooperation will benefit not only the two countries but also the whole region.

He proposed that the two countries boost bilateral trade, increase investment, step up cooperation in the sectors of finance, agriculture and fishery, and jointly improve regional cooperation.

Xi made the remarks while addressing the China-Malaysia Economic Summit, which was attended by more than 1,000 businessmen and government officials from the two countries.

The Chinese president said that the mutually beneficial cooperation has been furthered since the two countries established diplomatic relations 39 years ago.

China has been Malaysia’s largest trading partner for four consecutive years, while Malaysia has been China’s largest in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for five years in a row.

Although Asia remains the most dynamic region with the greatest potential in the world, Asian countries face arduous tasks to develop economy and improve people’s livelihood, Xi said, adding that the deep impact of the international financial crisis has not ended.

He called on Asian countries to focus on development and carry forward the Asia spirit of unity, cooperation and pulling together in times of trouble, so as to safeguard long-term stability and development in Asia.

In his speech at the summit, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak hailed the development of Malaysia-China relations.

“The bonds between our nationals were forged in the past, but grow stronger in the present,” Najib said, adding that by committing themselves to further cooperation in pursuit of common goals, the two countries can drive development and progress not just in themselves, but in the region and the wider world.

“China’s dream and Asia’s promise can be fulfilled together in an age marked by prosperity and stability in equal measure,” he added.

The prime minister said more should be done to deepen and promote monetary cooperation and encourage investment.

Malaysia welcomes technical collaboration with Chinese automotive companies, and looks forward to new areas of cooperation, he said.

China and Malaysia saw bilateral relations gain momentum in recent years. In 2012, two-way trade soared to a record high of 94.8 billion U.S. dollars, nearly a quarter of China’s total with ASEAN.

During a meeting earlier Friday, Xi and Najib agreed to lift bilateral ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

Xi is in Malaysia for a state visit, the second leg of his maiden trip to Southeast Asia since he assumed presidency in March.

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China, Malaysia lift bilateral co-op to new level

KUALA LUMPUR, (Xinhua), 2013-10-05 – China and Malaysia have moved to a new level of bilateral cooperation by lifting their ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership, according to a joint statement issued here Saturday.

The statement, issued as Chinese President Xi Jinping ended a state visit to Malaysia, said the upgrade marked a new level of the bilateral cooperation in such sectors as trade, investment, tourism, education, financial service, infrastructure development and defense.

The two sides reaffirmed their shared desire to maintain close high-level contacts, deepen friendly exchanges and cooperation in all fields and promote new development of the China-Malaysia relationship.

China and Malaysia, the statement noted, also inked a five-year program for economic and trade cooperation, announcing to expand annual bilateral trade to $160 billion by 2017.

The program will add impetus to the already vibrant economic cooperation, it said.

Besides, the two countries agreed to continuously enhance bilateral people-to-people exchanges and local-level cooperation, the statement said.

They decided to take the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of China-Malaysia diplomatic relations, due next year, as an opportunity to promote exchanges and cooperation in such fields as education, culture and tourism.

On China-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ties, the statement said China and Malaysia agreed to push forward the conclusion of a treaty of good neighborliness and friendly cooperation between China and ASEAN countries, and elevate the cooperation level of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area.

The statement said it is very important for China and ASEAN to collaborate extensively in promoting peace, stability, mutual respect and confidence building in the Southeast Asian region as a whole.

China and Malaysia also pledged to safeguard peace and stability of the region, maintaining that disputes should be resolved through peaceful and friendly dialogues and consultations, according to the statement.

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China, Indonesia aim for 80 bln dollars in bilateral trade by 2015

JAKARTA, Oct. 3, (Xinhua) — Leaders of China and Indonesia have agreed to achieve 80 billion U.S. dollars in bilateral trade by 2015, a joint statement said here Thursday.p The statement, issued by visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Indonesian counterpart, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said the goal is expected to be realized through putting more emphasis on strong, balanced, sustainable and steady growing two-way trade.

China is now Indonesia’s second largest trading partner, with bilateral trade standing at 66.2 billion U.S. dollars last year, four times that of 2005. Two-way trade in the first half of 2013 hit 33.84 billion dollars, up 4.6 percent from the same period of last year.

In the statement, the two leaders agreed that two-way investment cooperation has potential for growth. China will continue to encourage Chinese enterprises to increase direct investment in Indonesia, it said.

The two leaders agreed to actively implement the China-Indonesia Five-Year Development Program for Trade and Economic Cooperation.

Both leaders also recognized the importance of strengthening financial cooperation between the two countries, said the document.

Recognizing the importance and mutual benefit of deeper industrial cooperation, both countries supported and welcomed the establishment of Indonesia-China Integrated Industrial Parks by Chinese enterprises in Indonesia, according to the document.

Such cooperation would inject new vitality into bilateral trade and investment cooperation, said the document.

The Chinese president reaffirmed Beijing’s readiness to continue encouraging and supporting Chinese enterprises participating in Indonesia’s infrastructure development, particularly those covered in the Master Plan for Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia’s Economic Development 2011-2015, said the document.

Yudhoyono welcomed and encouraged China’s greater investment in and contribution to the infrastructural connectivity in Indonesia, such as railways, bridges, highways, seaports and airports.

The two leaders agreed on the need to enhance connectivity between the two countries through establishing direct links by sea, air and digital communication. Both sides agreed to explore possible cooperation between industrial zones, seaports and airports of the two countries, said the document.

Xi on Thursday wrapped up his two-day state visit to the Southeast Asian country and left for Malaysia. He will later travel to the Indonesian resort island of Bali for an APEC meeting.

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ICBC Leasing, Garuda Indonesia reach aviation deal

Beijing, 2013-10-04, (chinadaily.com.cn) – ICBC Financial Leasing signed an operational leasing agreement worth $1.7 billion with Garuda Indonesia, a move showing the deepening economic and trade ties between China and Indonesia, according to an announcement from the leading Chinese financial leasing company on Thursday.

According to the terms of the deal, ICBC Leasing would lease five Boeing B777-300ER wide-body jets and six Airbus A320-200 narrow-body jets to Garuda Indonesia, the country’s largest state-owned airline.

ICBC Leasing CEO Cong Lin said the company seeks to make itself a world-class financial leasing company, and the deal with Garuda will help ICBC Leasing explore the Asian market and strengthen its global competitiveness.

ICBC Leasing is a company entirely owned by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. The company focuses on leasing business within areas such as aviation, shipping, energy and power, transportation, engineering and machinery.

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$50 million sought to save Lahore Fort

LAHORE, Oct 4 (Dawn.com): Unless we, the people of Lahore, ourselves contribute to conserve and save our own heritage, no one is going to come to do it for us, says Lahore Heritage Foundation (LHF) Chairman Syed Babar Ali.

Presiding over the second meeting of the foundation here on Friday, he said: “I have great faith in Lahorites, they will donate to save our city, their city. This we cannot leave to the government to do.”

The meeting approved to launch a $50 million plan to save the Lahore Fort from utter ruin.

“First we must put our money where our mouth is, then others will have the confidence to support us. We cannot leave it to foreign governments and agencies. We have lived and will die in Lahore, and we owe it to this great city to save it from further ruin,” he said.

The meeting discussed ways of interacting with the Lahore Walled City Authority whose Director General Kamran Lashari also attended the meeting as a special guest. Ways were also discussed on how to better work with Aga Khan Trust for Culture, a world leader in conservation who has just completed Humayun’s tomb in Delhi.

“Our Lahore Fort is among the finest in the world, and we must save it from further ruin. Every child must contribute, no matter how little, and every businessman must open his heart and purse,” he said.

Syed Babar Ali himself made an initial contribution of Rs10 million over three years, the initial amount of which is already in the foundation accounts.

The meeting also set up its office in the Naaqsh School of Arts inside Bhati Gate, next to the Haveli Mubarak Begum. Other business persons also pledged contributions and the fund to begin work on the main project, as well as other smaller projects to save as many historic buildings inside the Walled City was set going.

LHF Secretary Majid Sheikh described the initial steps being taken to help the government save the Punjab Public Library, which has one of the finest collection of books in the world.

“We now just cannot afford to leave conservation work to the government. We must save what is our heritage. Merely talking about the damage is not enough. We must act and act without wanting to take credit for it”, he said.

The foundation has set up a website with the assistance of Wolfson College of the University of Cambridge, in which everything about Lahore will be digitalised. The site has the ability to take one million hits at any given time.

“We plan to make it the finest website on Lahore,” said Majid Sheikh.

A special research fund has also been set up to finance scholars who research the history of Lahore. A discussion on training conservation workers was initiated by Ms Yasmeen Cheema, who has done a considerable work in this field.

The foundation will also be seeking younger scholars to assist in their advocacy programmes.

Among those attending the meeting were Mrs Yawar Ali, Shahid Husain, Nayyar Ali Dada, Shahid Malik, Mrs Naheed Rizvi and Qasim Jaffery.

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Saudi woman starts all-female restaurant

Saudi Gazette – 29 September, 2013 – Um Muaath started a women’s restaurant as soon as she graduated from university. The restaurant, run by an all-female team of employees who are paid handsomely, offers a variety of traditional Saudi dishes.

Um Muaath started the restaurant when she could not find a job. She said she also wanted to give the public an alternative to restaurants run by expatriate workers, who are not committed to maintaining hygiene. She believes women are better equipped to offer Saudi meals to customers.

Um Muaath said in addition to meals, the restaurant offers appetizers in the late afternoon and light snacks for children. She believes her restaurant has the capability to start outdoor catering for parties while she has plans to supply meals for schools canteens.

The restaurant does not receive customers indoors, but only provides takeaway and delivery services.

Um Muaath said Saudi women employees do all the cooking and cleaning at the restaurant, and there are 11 Saudi women currently on her payroll.

She said any worker that is proficient in preparing a certain meal gets a percentage of the sales of that meal. She insists that all her workers should have cooking knowledge, be educated and maintain hygiene. She said she has received good cooperation from the concerned authorities, who have provided her with all necessary facilities.

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Australia Hosts Muslim Fashion Exhibition

IslamOnline 01/10/2013 CAIRO- Combining fashion and modesty, an Australian exhibition will feature stylish Muslim women couture that applies to the needs of pious women needs, filling a void in the growing market of Islamic fashion.

The clothes I’ve designed are for women who like to follow fashion but want to feel comfortable they are easier for women to wear,” Dima Kattan, a fashion designer who will participate in Islamic fashion exhibition with her own label Dima G, told the Herald Sun on Thursday, September 26.

The Immigration Museum exhibition Faith, fashion, fashion: Muslim Women’s Style in Australia is scheduled to from October 10 to July 9. Held in a bid to fulfill the needs of Australian fashionable Muslim women, the exhibition aims to promote the ‘MODEST’ Muslim couture by featuring various works for Muslims fashion designers.

Many of these labels were founded by Muslim Women whose own experience of finding fashionable head scarves was either limited or non-existent and that led them to start designing and making their own clothes, Padmini Sebastian, Immigration Museum manager said.

Targeting different market segments, the exhibition will present both modern designs that fit both Muslims and non-Muslims. This includes a designer who creates high-end dresses inspired by pop star Rihanna, to the swimwear designer who created the one and only Burquini.”

The exhibition, which interweaves Islamic faith with modern fashion, was held for the first time in April, 2012.

Being in Australia for more than 25 years, Kattan, a Palestinian immigrant started to wear hijab eight years ago. “Before I started wearing the hijab, no-one could tell if I was Italian or Muslim but now people know straight away,” she said. “Every now and then someone might make a bad comment but I find most people are very friendly people in Australia understand.”

She added that the new trend of Islamic fashion has attracted non-Muslims across the country.

Recently, Kattan started her own label Dima G for the fashionista or, more appropriately, hijabista. She expressed great enthusiasm to participate in the upcoming exhibition. Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.

Islam is the country’s second largest religion after Christianity.

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Indonesia woos Qatar travellers to visit Jakarta

Gulf Times – 27 September, 2013 – Indonesia is wooing Qatar’s residents to visit its capital city, which offers a variety of tourism packages for travellers from the Gulf region.

During a roadshow called “Enjoy Jakarta” yesterday, promotion director Cucu Ahmad Kurnia told reporters that fewer than 1,000 locals from Qatar visit the Southeast Asian city annually.

“That is the reason why we launched this roadshow. We want to establish linkages and do networking between tourism stakeholders from Qatar and Jakarta,” he said. A short cultural show by Indonesian performers was held before the start of the press briefing.

In his presentation, he noted that about 2mn foreign tourists have visited Jakarta. Travellers from Malaysia topped the number of visitors followed by China, Japan and Singapore. Based on the records of Jakarta City Government Tourism and Culture Office, the number of people – including locals – who visited the city last year totaled about 30mn.

Cucu said they are planning to launch a number of tourism programmes, roadshows and cultural performances in Qatar next year. These include organising traditional events such as Indonesian culinary programmes that showcase the talents of their local chefs.

While Thailand is known for medical tourism, Indonesia’s top attractions include golf (courses) and shopping malls. Besides 30 golf courses, Jakarta also has 274 conservation and historical buildings featuring astounding architectural designs.

Tourism officials and stakeholders also hold 47 international music events annually. The city alone has 170 shopping centres that house various international brands, offering products that range from the high-end to affordable. Tourists can dine in the many restaurants that serve international and local cuisines. They can also stay in the 108-island heritage area to experience “sun, sand and sea” adventures, including water sports and fishing.

“The Jakarta tourism sector will continue to grow rapidly and become a lucrative business area,” said Arie Budiman, head of the culture and tourism office of Jakarta, in a press statement.

Dr Hasiyanna Ashadi, chairperson of the Association of the Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies, said an average tour package costs around $ 1,400 with airfare and accommodation for 4-5 days.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Ambassador to Qatar Deddy Saiful Hadi welcomed the “Indonesian Trade and Investment Update (ITIU) 2013” delegation yesterday at Hilton Doha.

It included 17 business delegates, including the mayor of South Halmahera, Dr Mohamed Hasan Kasuba. Chayo Purnomo from the Indonesian Investment Promotion Centre in Abu Dhabi briefed participants about the overall situation related to investing in Indonesia.

Some 15 Qatari businessmen and representatives from the Qatar Chamber of Commerce attended the trade meet.

In his speech, Hadi noted that the total trade between the two countries has increased from $ 649mn in 2010 to $ 683mn in 2011. It further rose to $ 1.68bn in 2012. He believes that bilateral and trade relations between Indonesia and Qatar will continue to grow.

“The Indonesian embassy is committed to providing some sort of platform to both parties – Indonesian and Qatari businessmen – to meet and engage with each other and explore any possible co-operation in future,” he added.

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Mena hospitality, tourism revving up IT resources

Khaleej Times – 28 September, 2013 – The Middle East and North Africa region’s hospitality and tourism sector is rapidly enhancing its IT infrastructure in order to meet the digital demands of guests, according to industry specialists.

Regional tourism has high growth potential, according to the World Bank, and is especially strong in Gulf countries, with industry growth projected to increase from $ 19.2 billion in 2011 to $ 28.3 billion by 2016, according to a report from investment bank Alpen Capital.

Guests are also increasingly connected, as 65 per cent of global travellers take their smartphones and 54 per cent take their computers with them, according to a recent survey from Visa.

To integrate guests’ devices, the hospitality and tourism industry can find the latest IT solutions at The Hotel Show 2013, being held from September 28-30 at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

Alifiya Sura of Omnix International said: “We’ve seen a tremendous increase in the demand from the hospitality and tourism sector in the Mena region upgrading their IT infrastructure. The sector is enhancing their IT systems in order to integrate their services with guests’ own mobile devices. As a result, these properties can deliver services such as TV and video-on-demand on handled devices as well as videoconferencing, and interactive features including room management and AV control systems.”

Omnix International, based in Dubai, is an IT systems integrator, who is partnering with at-visions, an Austrian-based IT services company, on attending The Hotel Show 2013.

Omnix International has extensive regional expertise in working with the hospitality and tourism sector, having designed, installed, and maintained audiovisual systems at two of Dubai’s marquee hotels: the Burj Al Arab Hotel and the Atlantis Hotel.

Roman Kirisits, chief executive officer, at-Visions, said: “Guests in the Mena region are among the most tech-savviest in the world, and properties need to meet and exceed their technology needs. Using cutting-edge technology, they can enable guests to view their mobile devices’ content on the in-house TVs, and access the hotel’s services from their mobile devices. Hotels need to upgrade their technology now, in order to anticipate the rise in guests bringing smart devices with them in the future.”

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Mengzi–Hekou Railway Expected Completion By 2013

KUNMING (China), Oct.1 (Bernama) — The Mengzi–Hekou Railway, the east line of Trans-Asia Railway Network (TAR) which connects Southwest China and Southeast Asia by rail, is expected to be completed by year-end, said Yunnan foreign affairs office (international regional cooperation office) deputy director-general Jin Cheng.

Construction of the Mengzi–Hekou Railway or Menghe Railway began on Jan 1 this year, he told Southeast Asia journalists at a press conference here Sunday.

The railway is part of the east line of TAR, which connects Kunming with Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

It runs from Mengzi City in southern Yunnan to the Hekou Yao Autonomous County on the border with Vietnam and involves a total distance of 141km, with a designed speed of 120km per hour.

The Chinese Government has spent total investment amounting to 69.3 billion yuan (US$11.26 billion) in the railway construction. The TAR network was mooted by former Malaysian prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad during the Asean summit in 1995.

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Thailand To Set Up Halal Industrial Park In Pattani

BANGKOK, Thailand Oct 3 (NNN-Bernama) — The Thai government has announced several development initiatives to be implemented in its southern region provinces, including a proposal to acquire a piece of land to develop a halal food industrial estate in Pattani.

Deputy Government Spokesperson, Sunisa Lertpakawat, said the Committee for the Implementation of Policies and Strategies to Solve Problems in Southern Border Provinces will propose to the Cabinet to spend 21.95 million baht to acquire 26.5 hectares for the halal food industrial estate.

“The committee, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister, Gen Pracha Promnok, held its meeting yesterday.

“It also approved 252 million baht to dredge the shallow Pattani canal to improve navigation for cargo ships,” she told a media briefing here today. Another 83.97 million baht was approved for the continuation of the local force volunteers project in 2014, she said. “The project has encouraged the local people to participate in the resolution of the problems,” she said.

Sunisa said the committee also approved compensation for 51 victims of the Takbai incident in 2009 on the proposal by the Southern Border Administrative Centre (SBPAC). The allocation will be provided for in the SBPAC 2014 budget, she said.

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1.5 Million Indonesian Tourists Expected To Visit Johor This Year

JOHOR BAHARU, Malaysia Oct 3 (NNN-Bernama) — About 1.5 million tourists from Indonesia are expected to visit Johor state this year compared to 1.3 million last year. Johor state Tourism, Trade and Consumerism exco Tee Siew Kiong said as of August, 813,916 Indonesian tourists had visited the state.

“In the past Indonesian tourists only knew about Melaka but with new tourism products in Johor such as the Legoland and Hello Kitty theme parks and Johor Premium Outlets, the flow has shifted here.

“Support from local tourism agencies has also helped to enlighten tourists on our products,” he told reporters here today after welcoming 32 tour operators and journalists from Pekan Baru, Indonesia who are here on a familiarization trip.

Meanwhile, Firefly state marketing manager Khairul Anuar Daud said the direct flight between Johor Baharu and Pekan Baru which was launched last August, received encouraging response from tourists of both destinations. “There has been an increase in sale of tickets since Firefly launched the service in August and if the good response continues, we might provide daily flights instead of just three times a week,” he said.

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Moroccan King Launches Tangier Metropolis Programme

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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Malaysia-Pakistan Bilateral Trade To Soar In Next 5 Yrs

KARACHI, Sept 27 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia-Pakistan bilateral trade is set to accelerate in the next five years, Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) Chairman Mah Siew Keong said.

He attributed the growth to the various emerging sectors and greater economic cooperation between both countries in economic development and trade business relationship.

Trade between the two countries has increased significantly to nearly US$2 billion annually, a remarkable success for the two countries, reflecting the complementary nature of the two economies as well as opportunities created by investments and joint ventures in various sectors, Pakistan’s “Daily Times” reported, quoting Mah as saying at the 8th Expo Pakistan which opened Thursda.

He said businessmen from the two countries should benefit from facilities and incentives from the Free Trade Agreement signed by Pakistan and Malaysia in 2008 to explore further market potentials and emerging sectors that existed in both countries.

Mah said the two governments should create greater awareness in each other’s countries with more interactions among the business fraternity and the private sector on the unlimited opportunities of investments and trade in the two friendly states.

He also said Pakistan and Malaysia could establish long-term business relations through partnerships and joint ventures as the two countries shared similar cultures, consumers’ preferences, food and also the service industries.

The mutual business projects would strengthen the two countries through exchange of technology and knowledge in different sectors in which Pakistan and Malaysia are rich and competitive in innovative products and services. Malaysia has set up the biggest exhibitors’ pavilion with 30 companies from various sectors along with 63 delegates at the event.

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Soekarno-Hatta Airport gets clean toilet award

September 27, 2013 Tangerang, Banten (ANTARA News) – Jakarta`s Soekarno-Hatta airport in the Tangerang district of Banten Province, has received the second prize in a clean public toilet competition organized by the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, an airport official revealed.

Soekarno-Hatta senior General Manager Bram Bharoto Tjiptadi said on Friday that the assessment was based on seven parameters, known as “Sapta Pesona,” which tested seven attributes, namely safety, cleanliness, orderliness, comfort, beauty, hospitality and enchanting memories to attract tourists.

“The success of the airport in getting the award is inseparable from the contribution of janitors, their technical partners, and the prospective passengers who care for cleanliness,” Tjiptadi pointed out.

He noted that the award was expected to motivate and bring about an improvement in services in terms of cleanliness for the comfort of prospective passengers.

He further stated that the number of airplane passengers at the Soekarno-Hatta airport had continued to increase every year. Tjiptadi said the number of passengers at the airport in 2012 was pegged at 57 million, although it only had a capacity to accommodate 22 million passengers.

The criteria for assessing the public toilets at the airport included hygiene, completeness, appropriateness, ease-in-use, and the management, which was in accordance with the general standards of cleanliness.

A team of jurors involved in the assessment were chosen from the Indonesia Toilet Association, the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry, the Transportation Ministry, the Health Ministry, the State Enterprises Ministry, the Indonesian Consumers Foundation and toilet observers.

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Indonesia Fashion Star to Debut in Paris Fashion Week

Mon, September 30 2013 Jakarta, Indonesia, Sept 28, 2013 – (ANTARA) – On September 28, 2013, at the Place de la Concorde in Paris, Tex Saverio, the rising star of Indonesia’s fashion world, will debut his ready to wear line, which is expected to be consistent with the dramatic, intricate and fantastical characters of his main bespoke line.

Tex first won global attention when he rocked the runaway of the Jakarta Fashion Week (JFW) in 2010, and when he was selected as one of the year’s best designers by Indonesia’s top fashion magazine, Dewi, published by Femina Group, the same company which runs the JFW. Pictures of his collection at the time, entitled “La Glacon”, captured the attention of global fashion editors as well as singer Lady Gaga and her stylist Nicola Formichetti, who then commissioned Tex for a dress.

Lady Gaga and the dress were eventually featured on the fashion pages of the American edition of Harper’s Bazaar. More recently, Tex is known to have created the wedding dress worn by Katniss Everdeen, the character played by actress Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Many mainstream media initially believed that the dress was designed by much more established Western fashion houses.

Tex Saverio is now set to embark on to the global fashion stage. Earlier in the year, Tex participated in an intense, year-long, incubation program called Indonesia Fashion Forward, which is organized by the JFW, British Council and Indonesia’s Ministry for the Creative Economy and Tourism. The program also enrolls the technical expertise of the London based Centre of Fashion Enterprise.

“Tex is clearly one of the most hopeful examples of the success of the capacity building program called the Indonesian Fashion Forward which we at the Jakarta Fashion Week set up with the support of the Indonesian government. Both we and the government invest a lot of resources into this effort, to create a sustainable Indonesian fashion brand which can compete in the global arena. So we look forward for Tex to make his global breakthrough and we are confident that he will deliver,” said Svida Alisjahbana, the Chairman of the organizing committee of the JFW.

The theme of his ready to wear collection is called Fantasy Made Reality. Though the collection clearly has the DNA of Tex Saverio, it will consist of looks made from separates with some pieces that can be actually worn in two different ways. If in the past one would never associate intricately made fashion with versatility; in Tex Saverio’s universe, it’s his fantasy made into our reality.

Jakarta Fashion Week (JFW) is held annually and aimed to provide directions to the Indonesian fashion industry as well as a vehicle to demonstrate its wealth in talents and creativity. Ultimately, the goal is to turn Jakarta as a major fashion hub in the region and the world. The sixth Jakarta Fashion Week will be held October 19th-25th at the Senayan City shopping mall in Jakarta in collaboration between the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, Ministry of Trade, the Municipal Government of Jakarta, major stakeholders of the fashion industry as well as the media.

More than 200 Indonesia’s leading designers will partake in the event. Many of them will present collections inspired by the country’s rich heritage in different types of traditional fabrics while simultaneously keep their eyes on the present and future. The JFW is organized by event management company Azura Activation (www.azuraactivation.co.id), part of the publishing company Femina Group, which since its founding in 1971 has been active in promoting the Indonesian fashion industry through various editorial initiatives as well as events.

For more information refer to www.jakartafashionweek.co.id, www.facebook.com/jakartafashionweek, www.twitter.co/JKTfashion or www.instagram.com/jfwofficial

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Jakarta to hold Trade Expo Indonesia

Tue, October 1 2013 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Jakarta will host Trade Expo Indonesia (TEI) 2013 at the Jakarta International Expo (JIExpo) on Oct. 16-20, where trade transactions are expected to reach US$2 billion, Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan said.

“Entering its 28th year, Trade Expo Indonesia is set to return better than ever this year. TEIs theme this year isRemarkable Indonesia`; it was chosen to illustrate the diversity of Indonesian products that add value, are of a high quality, and are ready to be exported,” stated Minister Gita Wirjawan at a press conference on Tuesday.

He noted that 7,112 international buyers from 92 countries have registered for TEI 2013, and he expects this number to rise to 10 thousand people by the time the exhibition opens.

This year, 60,000 square meters of space is available, and 89 percent of it is already occupied by exhibitors. The Minister stated that this year`s expo was targeting transactions worth a total of US$2 billion for goods and services.

“We are quite optimistic because we are targeting not only transactions made during the exhibition but also trade contracts signed for the long term,” he acknowledged.

The Trade Minister explained that the registered international buyers have shown interest in value-added finished goods, such as textiles and textile products, furniture, processed food and beverages, and paper and rubber products.

“This marks the start of a shift from (raw) commodity exports to exporting value-added goods. We hope this will increase the value of Indonesian non-oil exports,” he said.

Chief Executive of TEI 28 Gusmardi Bustami added that this year`s expo will also offer several skilled-labor production services that meet international standards.

“The competitiveness of Indonesia`s production services is quite high, given that many Indonesian workers have highly valued skill sets that are priced competitively,” he explained. Production services that will be showcased at the exhibition include skilled-labor services, mining services, and banking and insurance services.

In addition to the expo, the Ministry of Trade, in cooperation with other ministries, such as the Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM), will roll out events such as the Trade and Investment Forum, one-on-one business meetings, business clinics, and company visits.

According to Gusmardi, peripheral activities are no less important than the expo itself. “Through these activities, Indonesian businesspeople can learn the conditions of the target export markets, examine the opportunities and challenges of entering a particular market, meet directly with potential trading partners, and enjoy many other benefits,” he added.

TEI has attracted qualified buyers from around the world to participate in the expo. But its role is not isolated from that played by the Indonesian Representative Office abroad, including the Commercial Attache and Indonesian Trade Promotion Center (ITPC), which has marketed the event to overseas buyers through road-shows and promotions.

This year`s expo will also feature the TEI Export Development Pavilion, which will exhibit various products such as strategic industrial products (aircraft, ships, defense equipment, radar telecommunications); biotechnology, downstream agricultural products, plantation, and mining; automotive products; creative products and information technology; skilled labor services (nurses, operators); professional and consulting services; and products created by small and medium enterprises.

TEI 2013 is also organizing a series of exhibitions, including Jakarta Fashion Week 2014, which will be held on Oct. 17-25, preceded by Buyers Room activities on Oct. 17-19 at Senayan City, Jakarta, the Yogyakarta Trade Expo 2013 on Oct. 18-22 in Yogyakarta, and the Bali World Seafood Show to be held on Oct. 22 and 23 at the Bali International Convention Centre, Nusa Dua Bali.

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Kuwait to loan Egypt $106 million to develop railway

Ahram Online, Thursday 3 Oct 2013 – Egypt will receive a $106 million loan from the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) to fund a project that will develop the railways between the four governorates of Qalubiya, Sharqiya, Ismailiya and Port Said, Kuwaiti news agency KUNA reported on Wednesday.

Through this project, the Egyptian government seeks to improve the efficiency and safety of the 192 kilometers of railway between these governates, in addition to automating the control and signals systems. The total cost of the project is estimated at $333.5 million.

The Kuwaiti loan is to be repaid over 25 years, according the KUNA. The first five years will be free of interest, after which the interest rate will be set at 2.5 percent.

The KFAED loan was initially approved by the Egyptian government in June during the tenure of now-deposed president Mohamed Morsi and his cabinet, led by Prime Minister Hisham Qandil.

KFAED has lent Egypt a total of roughly $2 billion with 35 different loans to finance projects in several sectors. It has also offered Egypt eight fiscal grants worth roughly $6.7 million.

In late September, Egypt’s central bank received a $2 billion deposit from Kuwait as part of the $4 billion pledged by the oil-rich nation to bolster the flailing Egyptian economy following Morsi’s ouster in July.

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Tutankhamun’s replica tomb to be re-erected in Luxor

Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 1 Oct 2013 – A committee administering Egypt’s antiquities decided Tuesday to re-erect a dismantled replica tomb of King Tutankhamun, placing it beside the former residence of discoverer Howard Carter on Luxor’s west bank.

Secretary-general of the Ministry of the State of Antiquities (MSA), Mostafa Amin, told Ahram Online that the replica tomb will provide tourists with a better picture of how Carter lived during his excavation work at the Valley of the Kings in the early 1920s.

Tourists can already visit the Carter Rest-House in Luxor, which has been restored and developed into a museum displaying the tools and instruments he used during his excavations. The re-erected tomb will stay in Luxor until the completion of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) overlooking the Giza plateau, where it will eventually be transferred.

The re-erection of the replica tomb is a gift to Egypt from the Factum Foundation in Madrid, the Society of Friends of the Royal Tombs of Egypt in Zurich and the University of Basel, in order to promote the EU Task Force Conference – which took place in Egypt almost a year ago – as well as to mark the 90th anniversary of the beginnings of Howard Carter’s work in Luxor.

British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb at the Valley of the Kings on Luxor’s west bank on 22 November 1922. The tomb was then dismantled and stored in one of the MSA’s archaeological galleries. Work on the tomb was instigated in 1988 by the Society of Friends of the Royal Tombs of Egypt, with the full support of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) – now the MSA.

The first phase of re-construction included the three tombs that are in danger from high numbers of visitors: Tutankhamun, Nefertari and Set I.

The concrete production of Tutankhamun’s replica tomb started in 2009 and was completed in October 2012. The Madrid-based Factum Arte used high-tech 3D scanners to facsimile the actual tomb.

Director and Chief Engineer of Factum Arte Michael Ward said that Tutankhamun’s replica tomb took three years to complete and involved the invention of a new technology to record every inch of the tomb and perfectly replicate it.

The ministry has long supported the idea of building replicas of the royal tombs that are currently closed, or need to be closed to the public for their protection, at Theban Necropolis, according to president of the Factum Foundation James Macmillan-Scott.

Macmillian-Scott explained that the replica tombs will provide another opportunity for visitors to admire the ancient Egyptian royal tombs and learn the history of their discovery.

They will also encourage the necessary conservation of the original tombs and promote Egypt among nations utilising specialist technology and the manual skills required for their reconstruction.

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Life-size statue of king Ramses II found in Sharkiya

Nevine El-Aref , Thursday 3 Oct 2013 – A German-Egyptian excavation mission in the Nile Delta town of Tel-Basta unearthed today a life-size statue of the nineteenth dynasty king Ramses II carved in red granite.

The statue, at 195cm high and 160cm wide, was found accidently during a routine excavation carried out by the joint mission. It was discovered in the so-called Great Temple area’s eastern side, inside the temple of cat goddess Bastet in Sharkiya’s Tel-Basta.

Antiquities minister Mohamed Ibrahim explained that the newly-discovered statue depicts king Ramses II standing between the goddess Hathor and the god Petah. On its back, Ibrahim continued, a hieroglyphic text and the cartouche of the king are engraved.

Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, head of the Ministry of State of Antiquities’ (MSA) Ancient Egyptian department, added that the mission uncovered another statue carved in sand stone which depicts a yet-unidentified New Kingdom top official. A hieroglyphic text offering the statue to the goddesses bastet and sekhmet and the god horakhti is engraved on its back. This statue is 35cm in height and 25cm in width, according to Abdel Maqsoud.

“This is a very important discovery that sheds light on the history of Tel-Basta in general and on this area in particular,” Abdel Maqsoud told Ahram Online. He added that the discovery, in addition to previous finds in the area, suggests that Tel-Basta was once home to a New Kingdom temple dedicated to King Ramses II, which might be uncovered in the future.

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Azerbaijan’s tourism potential in foreign spotlight

01 October 2013 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijan’s tourism potential has been widely promoted through foreign mass media in nine months of the year, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Tourism Department at the Ministry said they had arranged a number of press tours for representatives of foreign media outlets and organizations, including MTV, Turkish Beyaz TV and World Travel Channel TV, Japanese Ishii Brothers company, and Belgian Glocal Communications SPRL.

“A total of 12 info and press tours have been organized in nine months of this year for foreign tourism companies from Germany, Austria, Kuwait, Italy, Russia and Ukraine,” said sources in the Department.

They also said promo videos highlighting Azerbaijan`s tourism potential had been broadcast by CNN, Euronews, TV5 Monde, France 24, TV Berlin as well as leading Russian TV channels.

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Turkey pioneers for Islamic finance research center

01 October 2013 – TODAY.AZ – The first Islamic Finance Research Center will open in Turkey, the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Istanbul Stock Exchange Ibrahim Turhan said, Turkish Zaman newspaper reported on Thursday. According to Turhan, the first Islamic finance research center to be opened in Istanbul.

Islamic banking is a way of doing banking affairs, which is consistent with the religious rules of Islam. The essence of Islamic economics, above all, is to eliminate interest payments and futures transactions. The rules by which the Islamic bank operates are the general prohibition on lending rates and speculation.

Today, there are over 150 Islamic banks in Muslim world. The size of deposits in the accounts of these banks range from 80 to 120 billion dollars.

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WB finances new agricultural project in Azerbaijan

02 October 2013 – TODAY.AZ – The Board of Directors of the World Bank (WB) has approved Agricultural Competitiveness Improvement Project in Azerbaijan, the head of Bank’s Baku office Larisa Leshchenko told Trend on Wednesday.

According to her, the total cost of the Agricultural Competitiveness Improvement Project will amount to $53.25 million, of which $34.5 million will be allocated by the World Bank. The project will be financed through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).

The project aims to facilitate access to markets for agricultural producers by improving sanitary and phytosanitary services, the provision of financial services to agricultural enterprises and so forth. The project will contribute to the further development of agribusiness and the food industry through the provision of loans for the improvement of technology, increase of production volume and the modernization of phytosanitary and veterinary services. The project will also contribute to the improvement of the regulatory and institutional framework in the field of food safety and quality.

Implementation of the second phase of the adapted program of development and agricultural lending in Azerbaijan, the loan agreement for which was signed in the autumn of 2006, was completed in February. This project served to increasing the income of farmers and agricultural productivity.

The second project “Azerbaijan Rural Investment” (AzRIP-2) entered into force at the end of last year. This project is based on the results of the first project, which has helped to increase revenues of 600,000 farmers, improve irrigation services for 700,000 people and provide quality drinking water to 150 villagers. The project will cover five main areas – plain Shirvan, Mugan-Salyan, Nakhchivan, the northern and north-western areas.

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Baku to take in int’l tourism film festival in November

01 October 2013 – AzerNews – The first Baku International Tourism Film Festival (BITFF) will be held in Azerbaijan in November, the Culture and Tourism Ministry said.

The non-profit cultural event to be held on November 20-25 and organized by the ministry, aims to promote films about tourism and to stimulate the development of domestic and international tourism, as well as to encourage the movies’ authors.

The festival will also draw the attention of the world community to Azerbaijan’s tourism potential. The festival is expected to help the films gain a wider international audience.

The event also seeks to emphasize the tourism potential of Azerbaijan as one of the international centers of the historical and cultural heritage.

Winners will be determined in seven categories, including cultural tourism, nature tourism and ecotourism, commercial tourism, sports tourism, marine tourism, as well as tours and expeditions. There is no restriction on the film length.

The committee in charge of selection has included 250 films from 41 countries.

The holders of the top three places in each category will be conferred awards and money rewards. The best film of the festival will be awarded with the Grand Prix and a money award of 4,000 euros.

Movies will be evaluated by an international jury consisting of cinematographers as well as tourism experts

Along with contests and non-competition screening, the festival program will include workshops, discussions and experience exchange among the movie authors, tourism experts and media representatives.

It is also planned to hold the festival not only in cinema, but also in the open air. The festival is expected to become an annual event.

The festival is sponsored by Garant Holding, Nar Mobile and JW Marriott Absheron.

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Egypt: Luxor Capital of Tourism Worldwide

Egypt State Information Service – 30 September 2013 – During the German tourist media forum held in Luxor on Monday, Volkhard Windfuhr, Chairman of the Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Egypt, said that Luxor was chosen as the capital of tourism worldwide.

During that forum, Tourism Minister Hisham Zazou handed a check worth EGP 3mn to people who have been negatively affected by a decline in tourist rates in Luxor and Aswan.

For his part, Luxor governor Tareq Saad El-Din said that the governorate is keen to support those, who have been negatively affected by a decline in tourist rates.

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Uganda: Schools Told to Promote Tourism

New Vision – 4 October 2013 – Schools have been urged to form wildlife clubs, among other academic clubs in an effort to conserve environment and wildlife to promote the tourism industry. This, according to the Wildlife Clubs of Uganda (WCU) chairman board of trustees, Prof. Eric Edroma will help increase the foreign exchange earnings.

“Tourism is the fastest growing sector and foreign exchange earnings of different economies of the world. This is our chance since Uganda has been rated as the number one tourism destination in the world,” Edroma said. “If only at-least 60% of all the schools in Uganda had wildlife clubs by the end of next year, it would help alleviate the challenge of poaching and environmental degradation,” he added.

He made the remarks on Wednesday during the 7th annual Wildlife convention celebrated in commemoration of the UN World tourism day 2013 at Entebbe SS. A total of 17 schools from across the country participated.

They included; Air Force SS, Kawempe Moslem, Mbogo High School, Masaba SS, Ryakasinge Centre for Higher Education from Sheema District and Kitante Hill School.

Others were Jinja SS, Wanyange Girls, Kisasi College School, Baptist High School, Comprehensive SS, Jinja College, St. Mark’s College Namagoma, Makerere University-Wildlife Club, Nkumba University-IDEAS and Entebbe SS.

Dr. Chris Bakulata, the chairperson governing council WCU also encouraged youth to start appreciating issues of environment and tourism because they are significant to the development of any country. Bakulata also said there is need for government to review the teaching syllabus to cater for the tourism subjects where students will be able to appreciate the importance of tourism sector to the development of the country.

“Students cannot manage the environment well when they are not empowered and exposed to it through such activities of the clubs. Let peripheral things not stop you (students) from joining clubs because you are the primary beneficiaries,” Bakulata said.

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Egypt: Tourism Minister 12 Countries Lift Travel Ban to Egypt

Egypt State Information Service – 2 October 2013 – In a press conference on the sidelines of Al Mal GTM conference on Tuesday, Hisham Zazou said that after Poland had lifted travel ban to Egypt, 12 European countries lifted the travel ban result of the efforts made by the Ministry of Tourism in that regard.

He added that the tourism would be back on the right track, noting that Hurghada Airport has received 1,000 Germans over the past few hours reflecting a return in German tourism to Egypt.

Zazou pointed out that the revenues of tourism declined by about $1 billion, as from January till August tourism revenues reached about $5.3 billion compared to $6.2 billion in the corresponding period last year.

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Gambia: Tanji Bird Reserve Eco-Tourism Camp, New Paradise Found

The Point – 4 October 2013 – The camp, a community-owned edifice, is the product of hard work and a long process of sustainable forest management that brings together over 350 bird species and countless wildlife in an area, totally serene and viable for any holidaymakers.

The Tanji Bird Reserve Eco-tourism Camp, located in the TDA and the only eco-tourism camp in the country with a beach, is co-owned by the communities of Brufut, Tanji and Madiana.

Speaking in an interview with Point Entertainment and Lifestyle on Monday, Haddy Jow, General Manager of the Camp, said they are well prepared to do the expected surprise by offering the most palatable and hospitable environment.

Haddy Jow said one of the surprises the eco-tourism camp is offering to holidaymakers this year is the Dawn Chorus (bird and breakfast), adding that this is a trip to that unspotted island for birdwatchers and nature lovers.

GM Jow added that the Bijoul Island is considered to be a paradise for over 350 different species of birds and breeding place for endangered turtles.

“The early morning trip takes you to the Brufut fish landing site where you will embark on a slow cruise to Bijoul Island, as the sun rises and the natural world awakes to the fabulous dawn chorus,” she explained.

Concluding, the general manager said: “I can be reached via email ecocamptanjibirdreserve@yahoo.com or through facebook Tanjibirdreserve-ecocamp.com.”

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PM welcomes Lebanese investment in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Oct 4 (APP): Welcoming the Lebanese business delegation, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Friday appreciated the keen interest shown by Lebanese businessmen to invest in various projects in Pakistan particularly in plastic pipe manufacturing. He assured the visiting delegation that the present government has embarked upon an investors-friendly policy to facilitate foreign investors.

The Prime Minister said this during a meeting with a Lebanese business delegation, which led by Fuaod Makhzoumi called on him here at the PM House.

Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar, Minister for Petroleum Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Chairman Board of Investment Muhammad Zubair and Pakistan’s Ambassador in Lebanon, Ms. Rana Rahim attended the meeting.

The Prime Minister further said that Pakistan attaches importance to the traditional relations with Lebanon and is desirous of increasing and fully exploiting the huge potential of bilateral trade.

It may be noted that Pakistan-Lebanon mutual trade amounted to US $ 30.6 million during the financial year 2011-12. Exports from Pakistan to Lebanon includes cotton fabrics, yarn, carpets, rice, leather, surgical equipment, sports goods, furniture, cutlery and ceramics while Pakistan imports electrical parts, copper and paper products from Lebanon.

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Nigeria: Benue to Develop Herbal Village

Daily Trust – 27 September 2013 – Makurdi — Plans are underway by the Benue State government to develop a herbal village as a means of preserving its rich cultural and tourism endowments. Commissioner for Culture and Tourism Barrister Comfort Ajene disclosed yesterday at a ministerial press briefing. He said the village is among key areas mapped for development to promote tradition in the state. Ajene expressed optimism that if the herbal village is fully developed, the state would generate more revenue. “This will also create jobs for indigenes of the state and reduce poverty,” he said.

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Fergana Valley inter-cultural dialogue ramps up

Centralasiaonline.com – 2013-10-02 OSH, Kyrgyzstan – Activists and government officials are trying to prevent and solve disputes in a crowded corner of Central Asia. Civil society and local officials are working together to promote peace-making projects in the Kyrgyz-Tajik border zone of the Fergana Valley, the densely populated 124,200-sq.-km area where more than 11.3m residents of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan co-exist.

“The aim of our innovative programme is to increase our efficiency in using (information technology) to build peace and solve disputes,” Samagan Aitimbetov, co-ordinator of the Generation for Peace programme, told Central Asia Online.

The prevention of conflicts in the region remains one of the key tasks of civil society and government in the affected countries, observers say.

After a May conference in Bishkek, where participants discussed ways to advance peace-making in the Fergana Valley, five projects took shape. Activities within these projects will follow two tracks, Aitimbetov said. The first is educational work to strengthen co-operation between NGOs and the media. The second covers the development of new media in promoting inter-ethnic harmony and tolerance.

One template is a Tajik-Kyrgyz effort, Social Media for Social Solutions project, being conducted by the We and Civil Society NGO in Dushanbe and Valley News Media Holdings, a privately owned news agency in Osh.

“We are working in border-zone communities in Sughd Oblast (Tajikistan) and Batken Oblast (Kyrgyzstan), where we are teaching young people how to use social networks and mobile technologies to facilitate dialogue and to solve local problems,” Shokhrukh Saipov, the CEO of Valley News Media Holdings, told Central Asia Online.

The Kyrgyz and Tajik partners, he said, held a summer school for 20 socially active young citizens, who underwent instruction in Khujand (Sughd Oblast) and Isfana (Batken Oblast).

“Those attending the summer school discussed questions connected to such everyday problems as the shortage of irrigation water or clashes between young people during weddings,” Saipov said. “To solve them, the trainers asked each participant to create a blog on a free website so that he or she could tell of such events and thus aid the prevention of inter-ethnic problems.”

Authorities also set up a web portal for the project, he said, adding that participants’ blog entries automatically go out as SMS text messages and on Twitter and other social media. Thus, young bloggers can act as journalists to inform border zone dwellers about news that matters to them.

The need for inter-ethnic dialogue is undeniable, one initiative participant, said Guzel Maitdinova, director of the Centre for Geo-political Research at Russian-Tajik Slavonic University in Dushanbe, adding that such efforts could help solve problems and defuse social tensions.

Another peace-making project trained local journalists this summer in southern Kyrgyzstan. That Conflict-Sensitive Journalism project was meant to raise reporters’ professionalism in covering any kind of conflict, Alla Pyatibratova, co-ordinator of the Osh Media Resource Centre, told Central Asia Online.

The participating journalists were taught that stories about any conflict need to adhere to basic international standards of balance, accuracy and responsibility, she said.

Local authorities commended such peace-making programmes. “Such projects are necessary for minimising conflicts, which often arise in the border zones of the Fergana Valley,” Kyrgyz State Border Service spokeswoman Gulmira Vorubayeva told Central Asia Online in an interview.

The high population density in the Fergana Valley causes squabbles over land and irrigation water, Vorubayeva said. To prevent such flare-ups, citizens need to know the law and have an understanding of problems that can arise from such actions as grazing cattle on foreign soil or crossing the border in an unauthorised location, she said.

“We have to teach our citizens from childhood on; only then can such teaching work,” Vorubayeva said. “The key thing is to conduct these peace-making programmes in collaboration with local governments and to invite citizens of neighbouring countries to take part.”

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Uzbekistan marks Teachers’ Day

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-10-03 TASHKENT – When Uzbekistan marked Teachers’ Day on October 1, talk again rose about the nationwide teacher shortage and the need to raise the profession’s prestige.

The country has 550,000 teachers, but 6% to 8% of its teaching jobs are unfilled, with the provinces particularly short-handed. This year, the government plans further measures to attract more teachers, the Public Education Ministry said.

To improve teachers’ image, authorities September 30 awarded the title of People’s Teacher to several teachers. They have also run public information campaigns in various cities about the importance of a teacher’s work. The ministry plans to meet with groups of high-school graduates and college freshmen to encourage them to become teachers, Bakhriddin Shaivaliyev, a Public Education Ministry spokesman, said.

“The schools of Uzbekistan soon will take under their wing about 7,000 young teachers beginning their careers,” ministry official Faizulla Akhmedov said. “This … profession enjoys particular honour and respect in Uzbekistan. We say in Uzbekistan, ‘Honour your mentor as you do your father.’ In Uzbekistan, five teachers’ colleges give out bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and there are almost 10,000 schools operating in the country.”

In particular, the country needs to find enthusiastic young teachers to work in remote villages, Akhmedov said. “Last year I taught my first 4th-grade class,” Zarifakhon Mamatkhojayeva, a teacher of early grades at Tashkent School No. 62, said. “I am very happy with my choice of profession. There is nothing better than seeing passion for knowledge in the eyes of grateful pupils.”

One of the ministry’s principal innovations this year is the programme for improving the acquisition of foreign languages by future teachers (a foreign language will become a compulsory subject in teacher-training departments, hours of instruction for future teachers will increase and study trips abroad will become possible).

“Our aim is that every college graduate should speak a foreign language fluently,” Shaivaliyev said.

Shaivaliyev also noted the teacher shortage in the countryside.

“Special pay raises to encourage foreign-language teachers to work in rural locations will come into effect this year,” he said. “A teacher who has decided to work in a remote school will be able to earn 30% more than in a town. The state budget has set aside about 30 billion UZS (about $11m) per year for this purpose. Furthermore, we are setting up conditions to enable teachers of other subjects to study foreign languages.”

If a teacher agrees to work in the countryside, the government will help him or her move there as part of its effort to aid young rural teachers, he said.

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London halal food festival a boost for fast growing industry

London, Wednesday, 27 Dhul Qaada 1434/ 02 October 2013 (IINA) – The world’s largest halal food festival was held in London recently, reflecting the fast growing halal market in Britain. The three day event, which concluded at the Excel Centre in east London on Sept. 29, offered a chance to explore the diversity of the halal food market and its potential.

Fans of halal food and drink – haloodies – have come from as far away as Australia to see what the growing, multi-billion dollar industry has to offer. Haloodies are people who come from any background, profession, race or religion and simply enjoy consuming halal food and drink. There were live cookery demonstrations, celebrity chefs, cooking classes as well as restaurant and street food exhibitors. The facts and figures for the halal food market supported the concept of a festival, which was the idea of a couple from London.

The need for halal goods in the UK has prompted many supermarkets and chain restaurants to recognize the importance of Muslim communities and their dietary needs. Rosie Boycott, food advisor and chairman of the London food Board, said the Halal market is a hugely important part of our food economy. “In London, the food market is worth about £17 billion ($28 billion), we employ about 300,000 people, we consume 25,000,000 million meals a day, the Muslim community makes up over a million of our London population of 8.5 million and that is growing.”

Halal meat accounts for about 15% of the meat that comes in the market as well” said Rosie Boycott said. Over 100 exhibitors from across the globe showcased different types of halal food and drinks at the event. The event director Noman Khawaja explained the concept by saying: “Muslims go to food festivals and they cannot eat some the beautiful food that’s there, we have just replicated that model and we brought it to halal food.” One gastronomic invention that may also be of interest to those who can eat non-halal food is a chocolatier’s claim that he has created the lowest calorie truffle in the world.

Exhibiting at the halal food show, he claims that his chocolates are between 43 and 48 calories each, nearly 50 percent lower in calories than other available versions but with the same ingredients of cocoa and sugar. Other culinary treats were available for a try-out, such as a range of cocktails, including a lemon and chilli drink.The multi Michelin star-winning chef Jean Christophe Novelli showed off some of his cooking at the festival.

According to the latest census, there are 2.7 million Muslims in the UK with a spending power of over £20 billion. The population is rising. London Mayor Boris Johnson, whose great-grandfather was Muslim, is supporting the festival. “The halal food industry is worth millions to our economy, and it is entirely right that this event should be taking place in London, home to so many Muslim communities from all over the world,” he said.

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Madinah to have Mideast’s first eco-friendly airport

Madinah, Wednesday, 27 Dhul Qaada 1434/ 02 October 2013 (IINA) – A metro station and a public bus station will be established at the newly constructed Prince Muhammad International Airport (PMIA) in Madinah, Mamdouh Tarabishi, CEO of the airport, has said.

The SR4.5 billion expansion project will be completed by 2015. He said the metro and rapid bus transport system would facilitate the transport of pilgrims from the airport to the Prophet’s Mosque. “The two transport systems will also be linked with the Haramain Railway that connects Makkah and Madinah,” he added. Tarabishi described PMIA as the first environment-friendly airport in the Middle East. “It will be designed in the form of palm trees, one of the special features of Madinah,” he said, and added that he expected more flights to be operated to and from Madinah following the project’s completion.

“The airport’s tarmac is designed to receive modern aircraft,” the CEO said, adding that the airport would receive flights of 45 airlines during this Haj season. The airport will have 16 air bridges for passengers to board the aircraft. He said an airport fee of SR80 would be imposed on passengers using the airport. “The old airport will be used for support services following the completion of the new airport.”

In a related development, Najran Gov. Prince Mishaal bin Abdullah said the new Najran Airport was ready to receive international flights. Aviation authorities have already licensed an airline to operate international flights from the airport. The airport has parking bays for six aircraft and three air bridges.

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Omani woman nominated for World Sailor Award

Muscat, 28 Dhul Qaada 1434/ 03 October 2013 (IINA) – Raiya al-Habsi, of Oman, was the first Arab woman to be nominated on Tuesday for the Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards, a global prize for achievement in sailing.

The 25-year old sailor is among four other women nominees from New Zealand and the United States, the world governing body for sailing, the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) has announced. Habsi who has only learnt how to sail two years ago when she was selected to join Oman Sail Women’s Sailing Program, was the first Omani woman to compete in Britain’s world famous Rolex Fastnet Race.

“It is a first for an Arab woman and I hope it will greatly contribute towards encouraging more women in the region to take up sailing and realise there are no boundaries to what they can achieve. I hope it will also encourage more Arab families to support their daughters, sisters and female relatives to get involved in sailing,” said Habsi.

Launched by ISAF in 1994 to recognize the highest achievers in the sport, the 2013 World Sailor of the Year Awards takes into account achievements by sailors across the globe from 1 September 2012 and 31 August 2013 in male and female categories.

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Kazakhstan enters fray to host 2022 Winter Olympics

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-09-27 ALMATY – Almaty has the ambitious goal of hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics. In July, the Kazakhstani National Olympic Committee (NOC) announced that Almaty submitted a bid for the games. Kazakhstani observers assess the city’s chances as above average because it and Astana already have facilities that were built for the Asiada, the Seventh Asian Winter Games held in 2011.

The bid is only the first step in the process, NOC Vice-President Pavel Novikov said. “At this stage, the bidder submits information about the city’s potential and fills out a … questionnaire. We’re not concerned about this stage.”

The second stage involves more detailed work on the application, after which surviving bidders prepare a presentation on their countries and their sports facilities. Oslo, Barcelona, Munich, Kraków, Toulouse, Harbin and Lviv are among other cities that have shown interest in hosting the 2022 Winter Games. The competitive bidding process isn’t new for Kazakhstan, which previously competed for the 1994 and 2014 Games.

Some observers link the 2022 bid with the government’s strategic plan to improve Kazakhstan’s world image. The Almaty Olympic bid and the victorious Astana bid for a 2017 world fair called Expo 2017 (the Bureau International des Expositions awarded that bid in 2012) are links in the same chain, political scientist Nursen Ayaktolbai, an instructor at Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, said.

“After the (2010) OSCE summit in Astana and the Asiada in 2011, the government, officials and general public suddenly realised that everything was possible, that Kazakhstan had been noticed … and was even highly esteemed by some countries,” Ayaktolbai said. “Of course there were a few rough patches, but on the whole, the country coped well with holding such large-scale events.”

Staging the Olympics is a tremendous chance to attract investors and technology and to develop the country’s infrastructure, he added.

Almaty is “practically ready” to hold such lavish events already, Erlan Kozhagapanov, chairman of the Kazakhstani Agency of Sports and Physical Training Affairs, said. “We need only to finish building a few sports facilities and to touch up existing ones. Competing at home will be helpful to Kazakhstani athletes. Victory lies ahead.”

Almaty will also be hosting the biennial Winter Universiade in 2017, and more facilities linked to that are in the works. Having up-to-date venues on hand should earn the country a serious look for hosting the 2022 Games, Almaty Mayor Akhmetjan Yesimov said.

The country’s political situation also should help, as Kazakhstan has demonstrated stability in recent years, he said. Kazakhstan’s athletes support the idea of being the home team in 2022.

Winning the bid would strengthen “the general sense of civic pride and unity,” Olga Shishigina, the gold medallist in the women’s 100m hurdles in the 2000 Summer Olympics, said. “The prestige of the winning city will be tremendously enhanced, as will that of the host country.”

Valery Tikhonenko, a Meritorious Master of Sports of Kazakhstan and of the USSR, put the importance of the quadrennial games in athletes’ terms “There’s no point in going in for sport if you’re not aiming for Olympic medals!”

The skill of Kazakhstani athletes and the quality of the sports facilities will enhance the country’s prestige and make the city a big international draw, he said. “The main thing is that the (International) Olympic Committee should believe in us.”

However, not everyone is overjoyed about bidding for the 2022 Games. Events on such a scale unduly burden Kazakhstan’s budget, sportswriter Aleksey Kashchayev said. “Officials are saying that we can get by without spending too much, because some of the infrastructure is already in place,” he said. “I remember how (officials) promised us a cheap Asiada. It ended up suffering cost overruns, just like the Vancouver Winter Olympics!”

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Qur’an Courts Relief India Muslim Women

OnIslam.net 01/10/2013 NEW DELHI – Voicing complaints about male-dominated Shari`ah courts, a leading activist women group has established new Qur’an courts for Indian Muslim women, offering legal aid and speedy justice to disadvantaged, poor women. “We shall try to ensure that the women get justice,” Saifia Akhtar of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Sangathan (Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan BMMA), told OnIslam.net.

“These courts will administer free, fair and speedy justice in the matter of marital and family discord based on Qur’anic principles. Justice eludes aggrieved women as the Qazis and Muftis (Islamic clerics) often give verdict against them. Therefore we felt the need to set up women’s court to address the concerns of Muslim women suffering from marginalization.”

Receiving grievances from Muslim women from different parts of the country regarding unilateral divorce and total refusal by husbands to given any maintenance or support, the BMMA decided to step in and offer a helping hand.

Therefore, BMMA established the new Shariah courts for women in three Indian states to offer a speedy justice for women. According to BMMA, these courts are for women who are extremely poor and who cannot afford the court fees and who do not get justice from Shariah courts run by men.

The decisions of the women’s’ court will be based on the rights of women enshrined in the Qur’an and will try to curb practices such as triple talaq (divorce), polygamy and non-payment of maintenance.

The need to address such complaints has been felt by thousands of women in different parts of the country.

Bhopal’s Tabassum (not her real name) was one of the women who find help in the new courts. Being given unilateral divorce by her husband, she approached Qaziat (Qaziat gives approval for the dissolution of Muslim marriages)who upheld the divorce. Tabassum had no option except to accept the verdict. But now Tabassum plans to take this issue to women’s Shari`ah court.

I hope my point of view will be appreciated in the women’s court and I’ll get justice, she told OnIslam.net. Falling victims to a discriminatory law based on misinformation about Shar`iah and Qur’anic tenets, Muslim women believe that women are equally well-equipped to administer justice and legal aid.

Shari’ah laws are universal, applicable on both women and men in equal measure, Islamic Scholar Rasheed Kidwai told Onislam.net.

Interpretation of sharia laws by muftis and qazis need to be strictly as per sharia instead of any patriarchal or matriarchal tilt.

Patriarchal/matriarchal tendency is against spirit of justice. In Islam, women are entitled to be muftis/qazis so their presence is welcoming along with advocacy for gender sensitivity is welcoming, he added.

The new courts will include a national bench comprising eminent scholars and activists who will give opinion on complex matters of Muslim Personal Law to safeguard the interests of women and children.

At present Muslim women courts have been established in three states. In the second phase, similar courts will be set up in all states to enable all Muslim women to get justice.

In India, divorce and marriage issues are dominated by All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), the single largest religious body consisting of scholars of different schools of thought.

The AIMPLB was formed in 1973 to protect and apply Muslim Personal Law in marriage, divorce, succession and inheritance.

Over the past year, Indian scholars have issued a group of laws to protect the rights of Muslim women.

In February 2012, a group of Muslim scholars and activists announced plans for a draft of personal law that would ban triple talaq (divorce) and restrict polygamy among Indian Muslims.

In March, hundreds of Muslim scholars granted women the right to dissolve marriage in case of serious breach of agreement between the couple during an international Islamic jurisprudence seminar organized by Islamic Fiqh Academy (India).

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Go Turkey in five languages

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency – Turkey’s official tourism portal “Go Turkey” has begun broadcasting in five languages. The portal, which was previously publishing in English for foreign tourists only, is now available in Turkish, French, German and Russian.

Coordinated by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, “Go Turkey” aims to promote the natural, cultural, artistic and historical values of the country in a digital environment and share its diverse heritage with the world.

According to the information on the website, besides promoting Turkey’s beauty, the portal broadcasts announcements of events, organizations and archaeological excavations. It also operates as an information center for visitors. The blog, where visitors can share their experiences and impressions of different locations and sights, is monitored at all times.

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Saudi woman runs for Jeddah’s Chamber of Commerce board membership

Islam.ru – 4 Oct 2013 – Not so many women in Saudi Arabia are commonly known for holding leading positions in the kingdom’s booming business sector. But one young Saudi woman is aiming straight for the top. Rania Salama has launched a campaign to be elected to the board of Jeddah’s Chamber of Commerce, and currently serves as the chair of the Young Businesswomen Committee at the chamber.

Salama said that by running for the chamber’s board, she is seeking to help match Saudi women with the opportunities that men commonly enjoy.

“We really need to bridge the gap between women and opportunities,” Salama told Al Arabiya News.

She also emphasized that her campaign for the board aims to spread awareness of the chamber’s uses amongst voters.

It is also aimed at “raising awareness and having more people participate in the elections,” she said.

“If the person is active and wants to search for their rights in public sectors, the chamber of commerce should play its role unexceptionally,” she added.

The young businesswoman proved her business credentials by launching in 2000 the Arabiyat Magazine – an online feminine, social and cultural publication.

Salama pledges voters in a campaign video to help advance the use of technology to facilitate business service and consolidate partnership with the public sector to overcome challenges that Saudi businesses are facing.

She said her goal is to also find “a comprehensive service system for business pioneering and achieving sustainability for productive families program.”

There are 63 candidates running for the board of Jeddah’s Chamber of Commerce, which has 12 seats. However, only six members will win seats via the elections, while six will be appointed by authorities.

Anyone who holds a commercial registration in Jeddah is entitled to vote, she added.

Winning the board’s elections may not prove easy for Salama as a woman.

Only one other woman, Lama al-Sulaiman, currently serves on the board. Sulaiman was elected deputy chairwoman of the chamber in December 2009, becoming the first woman to occupy this post in Saudi Arabia’s history.

Salama is not alone in her bid. Rawda al-Yousef, a woman activist, leads a campaign called “My Guardian Knows Better.”

Yousef argues that it is “not essential for a woman to participate in governmental sectors due to her religious and cultural perspective.”

Commenting on Yousef’s campaign, Salama said: “it is beautiful to see both sides of the story,” adding that a response to such a campaign would be based on actions and not words. “The society will only be ready for such a step when they become aware” of the importance of the chamber and its uses for business development, Salama noted.

Basmah al-Omair, CEO of Khadija bint Khuwailid Center for Businesswomen, stressed, however, the important role Saudi women can play in business and on their “ability to influence decision making.”

“Since women first took part in the chamber’s 2006 elections, they were able to influence decision making,” Omair said.

“The Saudi woman was able to prove that she is capable to confront economic issues and to propose solutions and is able to make decisions that others can benefit from. We hope that this success will continue and the number of the female board members will increase,” she added.

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Free Qur’an app ‘Recite it Right’ at Apple Store

Islam.ru – 2 Oct 2013 – A new Qur’an application to help people read the holy book correctly is now available at the Apple App Store. The application called “Recite it Right” was developed by the Qur’an Recital and Memorization Society in Jeddah and launched recently by Minister of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Call and

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Guidance Sheikh Saleh bin Abdulaziz bin Mohammed Al Al-Sheikh.

Abdul Aziz Hanafi, chief of the society in Jeddah, said Apple was cooperative and welcomed the software. “It is now available free at the company’s app store, to be used on the iPad, iPhone and iMac computer. Any person can use the software,” he said.

He said the software lets users recite a section of the Qur’an, which is then sent to the society’s website, where a teacher reviews the recital and offers advice. The user receives feedback within about 30 minutes.

The software is available only in Arabic. “We intend to expand the app into many languages and onto various platforms shortly. It will be available in English, Urdu, Tagalog, Burmese and Turkish.

It will also be available on the Android platform, so it can be downloaded on other smartphones from Samsung, Nokia and Sony,” he said.

Hanafi said that the organization was honored to select Crown Prince Salman as this year’s Person in the Service of the Qur’an.

In an interview with Arab News, he said 1,000 people recently graduated from its courses. “Our society is an umbrella organization that comprises 170 other societies in various parts of the Kingdom and within some universities,” he said.

The society is known as “khayrukum,” Arabic for “the best among you.” The phrase is taken from a well-known tradition of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) who said: “The best amongst you are those who learn the Qur’an and teaches it to others.”

He said the organization teaches 53,000 students nationwide including 15,000 to 20,000 expatriate children who cannot speak Arabic.

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Art exhibition showcases 1908 Hajj trip from Egypt

Saudi Gazzete / 3 Oct 2013 – Not long ago, the adventure of riding ships from Egypt was a normal way to reach the other side of the Red Sea coast to perform Haj. Dar Al-Hekma College recently organized an exhibition showcasing pictures of the hajj trip from Egypt in 1908.

A total of 53 pictures were on display with captions to portray the different stages that pilgrims had to go through during their trip.

The photographs show the pilgrims on ships, arriving in Makkah and moving on camels from one holy site to another. They also illustrated a number of officials who were in charge of the Hijaz region prior to the unification of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The photographs document the 1908 (1325 Hijra) pilgrimage that started in Egypt and culminated in Makkah and Madinah. Haj photographs are very rare.

Furthermore, these were taken before the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was unified and show the holy places before they underwent massive expansions. The photographs were found in the Dominican Institute for Oriental Studies (IDEO) archives in Paris, France.

The collection is the original work of Muhammad al-Hussayni, a photographer who worked for the British Consulate in Jeddah.

Aside from the 53 photographs documenting the 1908 Haj trip, another 50 paintings were displayed at the exhibition to shed light on the Holy Ka’aba through the ages.

Two lectures were presented during the exhibition; one was themed “Haj and the Universal Order” and the second “Prophetic Monuments in Hijaz and Makkah.”

Dar al-Hekma organized the exhibition in cooperation with al-Turath Foundation and the French Consulate General in Jeddah.

Osamah Al-Gohary, director of Al-Turath Foundation, said: “As part of our efforts to preserve the heritage in all forms, we supported the Pilgrimage to Makkah 1908 Exhibition with the cooperation of the French Consulate.

“The 53 pictures we provided for the exhibition are a rare documentation of Haj and serve as an opportunity for researchers to further study the subject.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Suhair al-Qurashi, president of Dar al-Hekma College, said: “it is such a pleasure to be part of this experience and to be able to facilitate the opportunity for women in my country to enjoy these heartwarming photographs.”

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Bahrain ready to host Middle East Takaful Forum

Gulf Daily News – 03 October, 2013 – More than 250 leading players, key regulators and thought leaders in the regional Islamic insurance industry will gather on Monday and Tuesday, at the Gulf Hotel, for the second Annual Middle East Takaful Forum (METF 2013).

The theme of the forum is ‘Adapting to Change: Fresh Thinking to Boost the Efficiency, Profitability and Scale of Islamic Co-operative Insurance Players’ .

It is being held under the patronage of the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) and will provide a high-profile platform to discuss and assess new strategies for capitalising on the key growth drivers for the regional Islamic insurance industry and efficiently tackling the challenges posed by rising competition in the industry.

“Global takaful industry has been experiencing double-digit growth rates, with the GCC and Malaysia being the major drivers,” METF chief executive David McLean said.

“A critical factor that will determine success in taking the industry to the next level of development will be the readiness of industry players to formulate and execute successful strategies in response to new market conditions and rapidly adapt to capture new emerging opportunities that will reignite growth levels.

“It is becoming increasingly imperative that takaful players in the Middle East get to grips with managing the challenges of an increasingly competitive takaful market, drive operational efficiencies and financial performance improvement in their business, and successfully shift to sound sustainable underwriting profitability – to build the capacity, capability and scale to profitably compete.”

The second annual METF will be officially inaugurated on Monday with a special keynote address by CBB executive director for financial institutions supervision Abdul Rahman Al Baker.

Confirming his participation in the event and commenting on the CBB’s support for METF, Mr Al Baker said, “the GCC takaful market remains at the forefront of the global Sharia-compliant insurance industry.

“The latest industry data reveals that the GCC contributes more than 60 per cent of the gross takaful premiums globally and industry estimates project that the global takaful market will hit the $ 20bn mark by 2017.

“However, achieving these projected growth levels requires the industry to address some of the fundamental challenges including competitive pressures, a lack of suitable Sharia-compliant investments, the shortage of expertise, and evolving regulations,” said Mr Al Baker.

He also went on to say that “the operators in the region must adapt their business to manage and stabilise their cost-profit situation and that maximising the industry’s growth potential calls for the industry players, market participants and regulators to immediately address these challenges so that the industry can sustain its growth momentum and achieve further successful development.”

“The CBB is once again delighted to host METF, which plays a key role in facilitating such dialogues,” he said.

A key highlight of METF 2013 will be the highly-interactive power debate session which will focus on building capacity and capability to enable takaful and co-operative insurance operators to compete profitably.

The power debate led by Ernst & Young’s Ashar Nazim, and featuring Medgulf Takaful executive director Ayman El Hout, SABB Takaful chief executive Adrian Flowers, Al Hilal Takaful chief executive Amer Daya and Solidarity General Takaful’s Nandakumar Duraiswamy will discuss the key strategies that leading takaful players in the Middle East will need to adopt in order to overcome the barriers to sustained growth and long term profitability for the takaful industry in the Middle East and step up to the next level.

Ernst & Young will also be providing a preview of their upcoming Global Takaful Insight 2013 at the event.

METF 2013, which builds on the 10 years successful history of the Middle East Insurance Forum, is set to gather more than 250 high-level senior decision-makers from the regional insurance industry for discussions that will seek to ensure the long term profitability and stability of the takaful industry in the Middle East.

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Middle East carriers best globally

Khaleej Times – 03 October, 2013 – Middle East carriers recorded the world’s strongest year-on-year traffic growth at 15.1 per cent in August, far exceeding the global traffic growth of 6.8 per cent for the month, the International Air Transport Association, or Iata, said on Wednesday as it predicted big surge in demand for flights across the world during the rest of 2013.

“The Middle East’s performance was positively biased from the timing of the holy month of Ramadan, which occurred a month earlier in July. Capacity expansion was held to 10.8 per cent which pushed up load factor 3.1 percentage points to 82.0 per cent. The strong demand trend is expected to continue, with August data showing solid progress in non-oil producing sectors in countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” the Iata said in statement.

Globally, August recorded a strengthening of the healthy demand trend of the last few months. Total revenue passenger kilometers rose 6.8 per cent compared to August 2012. Capacity increases over the year-ago period lagged demand at 5.6 per cent. This pushed the load factor to match the record high of 83.4 per cent set in July 2011.

“August was a positive month for passenger travel. Strong demand and capacity discipline saw load factors match the previous record high of 83.4 per cent. The solid performance was also supported by a stabilisation of emerging market weakness and renewed confidence in Europe and North America. Trading conditions are still tough with high oil prices, stiff competition and regulatory hurdles. But demand growth remains a bright spot with most indications pointing towards an acceleration in the fourth quarter,” said Tony Tyler, Iata’s director-general and chief executive officer. In August, international passenger demand was up 7.5 per cent compared to the year-ago period. Capacity rose 5.6 per cent versus August 2012 and load factor climbed 1.5 percentage points to 84 per cent. All regions recorded year-over-year increases in demand.

Asia-Pacific carriers recorded an increase of 8.6 per cent compared to August 2012, the strongest performance among the three biggest regions. Market indicators for emerging regional markets have been weak. But downward pressure on growth appears to have eased, at least with respect to China, where latest indicators show an improvement in new export orders. With capacity up 6.3 per cent over August 2012, load factor rose 1.7 percentage points to 81.6 per cent.

European carriers’ international traffic climbed 5.4 per cent in August compared to the year-ago period, on a 3.7 per cent rise in capacity, pushing load factor up 1.4 percentage points to 86.4 per cent. Modest economic improvements and rising consumer confidence are supporting the growth in demand. Business confidence is also strengthening with increased manufacturing and export activity.

North American airlines saw demand rise 5.1 per cent over a year ago, the slowest growth for any region but still close to double the year-to-date increase of 2.7 per cent. This is consistent with indicators of a more supportive business environment, although manufacturing activity remains below the average seen at the start of 2013.

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Solar energy takes center stage in Riyadh summit

Arab News – 02 October, 2013 – Saudi Arabia is very keen on exploring, developing and implementing solar energy in the Kingdom. Many local and international experts deliberated the development policy and framework at the 3rd annual Solar Arabia Summit on Monday, as the Kingdom targets 41 GW of solar energy by 2032.

The second day of summit began with a panel discussion featuring leading regional and international experts discussing the key aspects of the development and implementation of policies. The panel also focused on nurturing energy resource diversification.

Speaking on the recent developments and mandates released earlier this year, Robert Bradley, senior adviser of directorate of energy and climate change at the UAE ministry of foreign affairs, said: “We are at the threshold right now where Saudi Arabia is really showing how serious they are.”

Abdullah Al-Shehri, governor of Electricity and Co-generation Regulatory Authority (ECRA), said: “In Saudi Arabia, one of our primary objectives is the reduction of energy consumption and increase of energy efficiency. If we just switch the current inefficient window style air-conditioning with more efficient models, our research shows that we can save up to 4 GW of energy.”

During the course of the previous two days’ discussions, it has also been emphasized that while the focus of Saudi Arabia’s national energy plan is to generate new power, the creation of jobs and development of the local economy is of equal importance.

Hartwig Westphalen, CEO of SunEnergy Europe, echoed these aims saying: “Forming partnerships to incorporate local content is a key aspect of our business model as well. Not only does it prove to be more favorable when looking to do business with local companies, it is also more financially viable.”

As a result, leading international solution and service providers are the summit looking to set up local joint ventures to set up local manufacturing and production units.

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RCJY signs five contracts to develop cities’ infrastructure

Saudi Gazette – 02 October, 2013 – Prince Saud Bin Abdullah Bin Thunayan, Chairman of the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu (RCJY), has signed five new contracts with total cost of SR862.443.000 to develop the infrastructure of Jubail, Yanbu, and Ras Al-Khair, Saudi Press Agency reported Monday. The contracts focus on introducing sweeping developments to these three cities in order to attract more investors.

A global security system will be installed to monitor Jubail 2 while all buildings and facilities in Jubail and Yanbu will be developed.

The first contract, which focuses on designing and installing the afore-mentioned security system, will be implemented in two years and two months. The second contract’s scope of work focuses on developing Ras Al-Khair’s Zone (B). This includes excavation work, road networks, rain and flood drain system, electricity and telecommunications projects as well as landscaping. The contract will be completed in three years.

Under the third contract sewage and electricity systems in addition to road networks will be installed in three years.

The RCJY’s buildings and facilities in Jubail will be undergoing sweeping maintenance which will also cover some neighborhoods in this industrial city. Service works will take five years to be completed. The fifth contract provides operation and maintenance services to buildings and facilities in Yanbu. The score of work includes overall maintenance for all electrical equipment and air-conditioners. It will also be executed in five years.

So far the RCJY has attracted investment worth SR154 billion for Jubail 2 and Yanbu 2 projects alone.

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Qatar to spend $ 100 billion on roads, railways projects

Kuwait Times – 03 October, 2013 – Kuwait Financial Centre “Markaz” recently published the executive summary of its report on Qatar Roads and Railways. In this report, Markaz examines and analyzes the current status of Qatar Roads and Railways sector. The report highlights the market structure, growth trends, current & planned investments & projects in Qatar Roads and Railways sector. The report also presents a SWOT analysis and key learning points for the Qatar Road and Railways sector.

According to Markaz report, Qatar had already planned to invest around $ 100 billion on infrastructure projects as a part of the National Vision 2030. The plan aims to reduce the number of accidents and build the capacity of roads. Low prices of petroleum, absence of railways, and high number of motor vehicles per 1,000 people have led to high number of road accidents per year. In 2010, Ashghal, the Public Works Authority that oversees all infrastructure related projects in Qatar, declared its plans to spend $ 20 billion up to 2015. Qatar’s roads development plans got fresh catalyst when it was awarded with the responsibility of hosting the FIFA 2022 World Cup. It is expected that 30 highway projects valued at around USD 27 billion are going to be awarded to build adequate roads capacity. Some of the big projects, which are in construction or planning phase include Doha Expressway, Dukhan Highway – Eastern section, Lusail Expressway and Orbital Highway.

There is no railway network in Qatar currently. However, witnessing high congestion and huge number of traffic accidents every year, Qatar is now planning to build railways in the country to overcome these problems. For this purpose, Qatar Railway Development Company (QRDC) was formed for the development of railways in the country and almost $ 41 billion worth of rail projects are in execution or planning phase.

Qatar Integrated Rail Project consisting Doha Metro, Passenger Rail and Freight Rail, is estimated to cost $ 37 billion. Some other big projects include West Bay people mover and Lusail light rail transit. Moreover, no less than half a million people are expected to visit Qatar during the FIFA World Cup in 2022, which boosted the urgency to speed up railways projects. The GCC has historically focused its transportation investments in building roadways, thus ensuring high quality roads across most of the region. Almost 100% of the roads in the GCC are paved roads; compare this high percentage to the average in other emerging countries, which is below 75%. Though the quality of roads is significantly better than other emerging markets, there is concern over the current capacity.

The increase in both population and propensity to purchase an automobile has led to clogged roads across most of the major GCC cities. Currently, the majority of the GCC rank high in terms of traffic density. Most of the GCC countries do not have significant railway networks. However increasing population and high congestion on roads have forced governments to think about an alternative mode of transport in the form of railways. In 2012, $ 4.9 billion worth of road projects were awarded in the GCC region. Approximately $ 160 billion worth of railway projects are either in construction or planning phase in the region.

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Malaysia invites Saudis to participate in INTRADE 2013

Arab News – 01 October, 2013 – Malaysia has extended an invitation to Saudi companies and businessmen to participate and visit International Trade Malaysia (INTRADE 2013) Exhibition and Business Matching Program scheduled from Nov. 26-28 in Kuala Lumpur.

The invitation has been given through Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE), which is organizing the 7th series of INTRADE exhibition, an annual international trade exhibition, which aims to promote exports, enhance networking, business matching, exchange of ideas and knowledge among the business communities from different countries, especially those seeking to venture into the global market.

For INTRADE 2013, the focus industry sectors are building materials, electrical and electronics (E&E), information and communications technology (ICT), and manufacturing support and lifestyle.

Each of these industries is a strong contributor to the world’s economy and possesses positive growth potential.

In conjunction with INTRADE 2013, MATRADE has invited Saudi companies and businessmen to meet Malaysian manufacturers and exporters in one-on-one business meetings at Menara MATRADE, Kuala Lumpur, on Nov. 25.

Past INTRADEs were very successful, with INTRADE 2012 had achieved encouraging results, the organizers stated. The 2012 trade show’s highlights include 10,000 sqm of exhibition space, 435 exhibitors comprising 377 companies from 15 countries, 8,472 visitors from 59 countries and $ 264.61 million in sales generated.

Also, the Incoming Buying Mission (IBM), held in conjunction with the exhibition, had attracted 583 foreign companies from 56 countries to attend the one-to-one business meetings with more than 500 Malaysian companies, which generated $ 189.58 million total sales.

INTRADE 2013 is part of the continuing efforts to strengthen trade relationship globally.

It is an ideal platform for exhibitors to launch and market new products and services and explore new markets on a global level. It is also an important place where importers can source their products and services, the statement added.

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Hotel Show opens doors, sees strong response

Khaleej Times – 29 September, 2013 – The Hotel Show, which is welcoming more than 560 regional and international companies, witnessed a strong response on the first day, according to its organiser.

Shaikh Ahmed, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing director-general Helal Saeed Almarri and other officials at the inauguration of The Hotel Show in Dubai on Saturday. — Supplied photo

The show, which spreads across seven halls covering 26,000sqm, was inaugurated on Saturday by Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Department of Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman of Emirates airline, Chief Executive of the Emirates Group and Chairman of Dubai Airports.

This year’s show also features more than 16 international pavilions including five new countries — Austria, Belgium, India, the Philippines and the US — adding to the global appeal of the trade event.

“We are honoured to have had Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum inaugurate the show that opened for the first time in its history on a Saturday. So far, the response has been tremendous and the show already has a real buzz and we are delighted that day one has gotten off to such a strong start,” event director Christine Davidson in a statement. A new feature of this year’s show, the Vision Conference, welcomed 16 of the industry’s strongest leaders and experts on Day 1, led by keynote speaker Alexander Barder, regional director of Business Development for MEA at Sabre, whose session revealed the top five global digital trends for the Mena hospitality industry. The “An Industry in Flux, Hospitality Goes Digital” session stated the importance of a clear and consistent strategy to support convergence of sales, guest profitability, channel engagement and business intelligence in supporting the hospitality industry through digital engagement. The following session was hosted by Dan Cross, territory manager for Mena at TripAdvisor for Business, in which he revealed some of the key ways hospitality companies can take advantage of its diverse platform.

Also speaking at the Vision Conference on behalf of Facebook in the Mena region, Walid Driss reiterated the company’s support for the development of digital advancements in the hospitality industry. “As with any innovation, it takes time to adopt new technologies and master the craft of a new cutting-edge practice with a real ability to deliver results, but we are looking forward to supporting the industry and its digital growth, as we work to establish our local presence further.”

Delegates to the show had the opportunity to meet and network with talent acquisition and HR managers from Marriott International, Ritz Carlton and IHG, as well as others as part of the Careers Day, a new feature of this year’s show available throughout all three days. More than 14 leading hotel groups are attending the career zone with the intention of acquiring talent.

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Dubai’s hotel industry to broaden four and three star offering

Khaleej Times – 30 September, 2013 – The hotel investment industry was recently granted a financial incentive to develop more mid-range hotels in Dubai, in a move to swell the emirate’s supply of four and three star properties. Eligible hotels will be granted a concession on the standard 10 per cent municipality fee which is levied on the room rate for each night of occupancy.

The initiative is designed to incentivise hotel owners to bring forward their construction timelines, creating more three and four star hotel rooms in Dubai more quickly. It is the result of collaboration between government partners Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) and Dubai Municipality and part of the DTCM’s strategy to achieve Dubai’s Tourism Vision for 2020, which aims to attract 20 million annual visitors to Dubai by 2020.

Helal Saeed Almarri, director general of DTCM said: “In order to achieve our headline objective of 20 million visitors per year by 2020, we need to both increase the overall stock of hotel rooms in Dubai and widen the range of options for visitors. In recent years the number of three and four star establishments has increased, but it’s vital that we continue to engineer the growth of this range.”

“A number of hotel properties are either under construction or in the planning stages in Dubai and this incentive has been designed to bring those properties to market sooner,” added Almarri.

Investors in new hotels will be granted a waiver on the fee for a period of four years from the date the permit to construct is granted and provided that this date is between October 1, 2013 and December 31, 2017.

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SCTA to preserve Islamic sites

Arab News – 30 September, 2013 – The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities has begun on a strategic program to preserve the Kingdom’s Islamic historical sites as part of its efforts to spread the message of Islam, said Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the SCTA.

He described the Islamic sites as an important element of the Kingdom’s history and identity. “These sites will be preserved for people to learn lessons and strengthen their link with Islam,” he said.

He said the preservation of Islamic sites was not aimed at promoting tourism but at underlining their religious value. “The SCTA intends to bring citizens closer to their country through the historical sites.”

Prince Sultan said the commission would give priority to the preservation and development of historical sites related to Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) life and history to use them for educational and “dawa” (proselytizing) purposes.

The program, to be carried out in collaboration with the Ministry for Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Dawa and Guidance, aims at appointing professional and qualified guides at these sites to give accurate information to visitors on the historical events that had taken place there.

Prince Sultan recently visited the historical region in Yanbu, including homes in Al-Babteen and Al-Jabarti that have been restored to their original state. Musaed Al-Saleem, mayor of Yanbu, and Yosif Al-Mozayin, SCTA’s executive director in Yanbu, accompanied the prince.

The project’s contractor, who was assigned to develop and transform the area and its quarters into a tourism destination, briefed Prince Sultan on the progress of work in the historical region. Prince Sultan urged the contractor to complete the work on time to high quality standards.

He also visited the Yanbu anchorage, which is developed by the Saudi Ports Authority, and was briefed by Abdullah Al-Zamie about the commercial and industrial projects in the city. The projects, estimated to be worth SR105 million, will be carried out in 20 months.

Prince Sultan said the projects would transform Yanbu into a tourism landmark. He also commended the efforts of the Saudi Ports Authority.

The SCTA chief then headed to Al-Shona, an old warehouse that was used as a food storage facility in the past. Located in front of the passenger terminal at the Yanbu Commercial Port, Al-Shona is a landmark site. Tenders will be invited shortly to preserve Al-Shona.

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Aerial trips give added thrust to Sharjah tourism

Gulf Today – 30 September, 2013 – Sharjah’s growing stature as a major tourist destination in the region is set to get a further boost as tourists can now enjoy an aerial sightseeing excursion across Sharjah, known for conserving the cultural heritage, along with the unforgettable thrill of flying in a seaplane.

The service was launched on Sunday by Seawings, the UAE’s luxury seaplane operator, in association with the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq).

Speaking on the occasion, Shurooq COO Ahmed Obaid Al Qaseer said that the launch of this new aerial sightseeing excursion across Sharjah is in line with the strategy to highlight the emirate as a unique tourist destination, and to boost its position on the world tourism map.

“We believe that the addition of seaplane tours to Sharjah’s arsenal of exceptional tourist attractions and facilities will only offer tourists a whole new view of the emirate and its outstanding offerings,” he added.

The operator has introduced the customised charter service from the bustling Al Majaz Waterfront to 25 destinations within the UAE including all major airports, Al Ruwais, Sir Baniyas Island and many more.

Seawings will also provide regular sightseeing tours called Heritage Arabia along with the seaplane charter service, which will cost Dhs1,195 per person. The 30-minute tour will depart from Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club and will end at Al Majaz Waterfront.

The culture trail begins with a trademark Seawings flight over popular tourist attractions in Dubai like Port Rashid, Palm Jumeriah, Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa and the historical Dubai creek. In Sharjah, guests can soak in panoramic views of the Lagoon, Buhairah Corniche and the coastline of Mamzar before landing at the Al Majaz Waterfront.

The scenic flight is followed by an open-deck bus tour for guests to soak up the sun as well as the magnificent sights of the bustling city, including Al Qasba, Sharjah Aquarium, the Noor Mosque and the museums.

Seawings COO Dr Nigel Rea said that the seaplane tours give passengers a unique perspective of the Arab culture and heritage on display in the cities of the UAE. The unique experience of flying in a seaplane, combined with the convenience and flexibility offered by their network, makes a Seawings charter a coveted inclusion in any group or MICE itinerary, he added.

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