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14 Oct, 2013

First phase of Haram Mosque expansion opens for Hajj

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 14 October 2013 (09 Dhul Ḥijjah 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.


Wishing all readers a blessed and peaceful Eid Ul Adha.


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


Read Imtiaz Muqbil’s columns in Lookeast Magazine

Imtiaz Muqbil writes two columns a month in Lookeast magazine, one of Thailand’s leading consumer travel publications. Here are some of the recent columns:

Thammasat University – A Must-see Destination

Russian Visitors To Thailand: Women Outnumber Men

China is Now Dominant Force in Thai Tourism

Take Advantage of the Rail-tours

10 Fascinating “Factoids” about Thailand

The Next Big Thing: Northeast Thailand

Chiang Mai, North Thailand Set to Boom

Top 10 Reasons to Hold Your Next MICE Event in Thailand

Thailand’s Big Spenders

Phuket grows as Thailand’s Second Most Important Gateway

10 Reasons to Pursue Further Studies in Thailand

Promoting Sustainable Tourism Via ‘Designated Areas’ in Thailand

Japanese Market Rebounds After Four-year Slump




Delegation To Promote Visit Malaysia Year 2014 In North America

NEW YORK, Oct 5 (NNN-Bernama) — A high-powered delegation from Tourism Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, led by Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, is visiting the USA and Canada. The 10-day visit is aimed at promoting the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 and attracting tourism traffic from North America to Malaysia.

The visit included Los Angeles (Oct 6-9), Vancouver (Oct 9-12) and New York (Oct 12-15), will include senior officials from Tourism Malaysia such as its deputy director-general, Azizan Nordin, and director for international promotion for the Americas, Normasila Musa.

Ahmad Johanif Mohd Ali, the director of Tourism Malaysia’s New York office, said in an interview with Bernama, that the delegation’s visit would underscore the importance of the North American tourism market for Malaysia, besides highlighting the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 which would be used to attract larger tourist arrivals in the country. “Our minister will meet the captains of the travel and tourism industry in the three cities.

In special seminars organised during his visit, the minister will explain to tour operators our strategy and goals to increase tourism arrivals from the North American region, and also hear their views on the subject. “The minister will also meet with the Malaysian community, including students,” said Ahmad Johanif, adding that North America was geographically, a very big region and Malaysia offered all kinds of attraction to tourists from this region.

He also revealed that his office was going to collaborate with New York’s Bronx Zoo to promote Malaysia whose scenic landscape combined with flora and fauna could exude a magnetic appeal to many Americans. The Bronx Zoo maintains a large database of zoo visitors, their families and friends who make an ideal constituency to draw tourism traffic.

Tourism Malaysia’s New York office plans to use the zoo’s website to promote Malaysia as a destination. While the average American business traveller frequently travels abroad for business purpose, the leisure market has a huge potential to tap.

Last year, some 240,000 visitors from the United States were clocked in Malaysia; during the first half of this year (January-June), 127,221 people from the United States visited Malaysia, a 6.4 per cent increase over the corresponding six months of the previous year.

“The minister will also meet with the Malaysian community, including students,” said Ahmad Johanif, adding that North America was geographically, a very big region and Malaysia offered all kinds of attraction to tourists from this region. He also revealed that his office was going to collaborate with New York’s Bronx Zoo to promote Malaysia whose scenic landscape combined with flora and fauna could exude a magnetic appeal to many Americans.

While the average American business traveller frequently travels abroad for business, the leisure market has a huge potential to tap. Last year, some 240,000 visitors from the United States were clocked in Malaysia; during the first half of this year (January-June), 127,221 people from the United States visited Malaysia, a 6.4 per cent increase over the corresponding six months of the previous year.

Seminars with the participation of the local travel and tourism trade will be held in the three cities to promote the VMY2014.

The Visit Malaysia Year 2014 Seminar in New York, the last leg of the visit, will be the “cherry on the icing”, as some tour operators are privately saying, that will cap the visit.

A special 18-member dance troupe from Kuala Lumpur will also provide colourful dances depicting the diverse Malaysian culture.

However, an interesting feature of the promotion campaign to promote the VMY 2014 will be a promotion film that will be screened four times every hour of the day, lasting for about 30 seconds each time, for a duration of 12 weeks until the end of the year; the film will highlight Malaysia’s rich culture, and the adventure and nature segments of its tourism sector.

The film will be screened on a giant screen at a strategic location at New York’s Times Square, just next to the NASDAQ tower, and will be viewed everyday by several thousands of New Yorkers and tourists from around the world who flock to get a glimpse of Times Square and are a common sight here.

However, the film’s grand finale, as it were, will be on New Year’s Eve when hundreds of thousands of visitors, both from within and outside the United States, throng to the Times Square to witness the countdown to the arrival of the New Year and the departure of the old one. “Hundreds of thousands of people gathered at Times Square will view the film about Malaysia’s tourist attractions. Indeed, this will be an appropriate finale for promoting the VMY 2014,” said Ahmad Johanif.

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Malaysia Expected To Reap Rm168 Bln From Tourism By 2020

LOS ANGELES, Oct 9 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia is expected to earn RM168 billion from the targeted 36 million tourist arrivals by 2020 under the Malaysia Tourism Transformational Plan (MTTP), said Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz. He said tourism was the second largest foreign exchange earner and seventh largest contributor to the economy, contributing RM47.2 billion to Gross National Income (GNI) in 2012.

Last year, Malaysia had welcomed 25 million foreign tourists, placing it firmly as the 10th most popular tourism destination in the world, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), and ranked 13th in international tourism receipts of RM60.6 billion.

“We are targeting high net-worth tourists and continue to welcome arrivals to our high-end world’s best hotels and resorts,” Nazri said when addressing guests including Malaysian students currently studying in western American universities and Malaysians residing here. He said 2012 saw the opening of Gaya Island Resort in Sabah and Grand Hyatt in Kuala Lumpur.

“In the coming years, travellers will be spoilt for choice of luxury hotels as more will be opening doors to them including the St. Regis in 2014, The Regent in 2015, Four Seasons Place Kuala Lumpur and W Kuala Lumpur in 2016, and the seven-star Harrods Hotel KL in 2018.

Nazri said shopping was second highest next to accommodation in tourist expenditure of RM18.6 billion, an increase of 6.3 per cent from the previous year and 30.7 per cent of Malaysia’s total receipts. He said spa and wellness vacations, golfing holidays, weddings and honeymoon, duty-free shopping sprees and helicopter tours were among events laid out for tourists this year.

December 2011 saw the arrival of Southeast Asia’s first Premium Outlet Centre with up to 65 per cent in savings from over 80 designer brand stores, firmly positioning Malaysia as a preferred destination to visit, shop, dine and relax, he said.

Nazri also said that Tourism Malaysia’s three annual events – 1Malaysia Grand Prix from March to April, 1Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival from June to September and the 1Malaysia Year-End Sale from November to January had attracted shoppers from home and abroad.

He said Malaysia’s duty-free waiver since January 2011 on certain imported goods excluding cars, glassware, cigarettes, alcohol and chocolates which were available nationwide not just in the duty-free zones, had also increased the country’s popularity as a shopping destination.

“Apart from being the fourth best shopping city in the world after New York, Tokyo and London, in a CNN global news network survey, Kuala Lumpur has also been ranked the second best shopping destination in Asia-Pacific in a Globe Shopper Index survey.

“Forbes Online has recognised Malaysia as the 10th friendliest country in the world, while Malaysia’s Perhentian Kecil Island in Terengganu, Juara Beach in Pahang’s Tioman Island and Tanjung Rhu Langkawi in Kedah are on CNN World’s 100 Best Beaches list,” he noted.

Nazri reminded students here of their role as “tourism ambassadors for Malaysia” in western US and to also assist in promoting the country’s Malaysia My Second Home Programme (MM2H) at their universities.

He said Malaysia was ranked third in the World’s Top Retirement Haven in Internationalliving.com’s annual global retirement index 2013. Next year with the Visit Malaysia Year 2014, Nazri said, the country would be abuzz with over 200 exciting tourism events including colourful parades, carnivals, festivals, Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival and Malaysia International Tourism Night Floral Parade.

He said Malaysia would continue to prosper and generate many benefits for Malaysians from its vibrant tourism industry.

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“Day of Open Mosques” held in Germany

Islam-today.ru / 8 Oct 2013 – On October 3, mosques and Islamic cultural centers of Hesse were opened to all comers. Tourists from different parts of the world came to Germany to learn the culture of the Muslims, with their customs and traditions.

This action called an open day was held in the European country with the goal of developing tolerance to different faiths. 7 Muslim religious institutions invited to visit them in the district of Marburg – Biedenkop. Tours to mosques, lectures, discussions and exhibitions were held in Kirchhain, Marburg and Stadtallendorf.

It should be mentioned that the “Day of Open Mosques” was first held in 1997 on the initiative of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany. This date is not accidental,the day of German unity. It expresses the fact that German Muslims feel part of society.

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First phase of Haram Mosque expansion opens for Hajj

Makkah, 07 Dhul Hijja 1434/ 12 October 2013 (IINA) – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah yesterday ordered the opening of Phase I of the expansion project of the Haram Mosque, including the ground and first floors, the first and second mezzanine of the building as well as the northern, southern and western yards of the project and its affiliates to accommodate an estimated 450,000 worshipers, out of the targeted additional capacity of one million people, Saudi Press Agency reported.

Upon full completion of the project in about 10 months, the capacity of the Grand Mosque will increase to 1.6 million worshippers.

In implementation of the King’s orders, as many as 10,000 ablution places out of a total of 20,000 were completed together with the provision of cold potable water inside the expansion building and its courtyard, the operation of escalators to facilitate traffic between the ground and first floors as well as the first and the second mezzanines of the new building as well as escalators providing access to underground water circulation area, the operation of air-conditioning, lighting, audio amplifying, closed circuit control and fire systems.

The King also ordered the opening of Phase I of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques project to upgrade the capacity of mataf (circumambulation of the Kaaba area) that includes the following: The central area can now hold 20,000 pilgrims per hour, the ground floor can accommodate 5,000 perambulators per hour, first floor — 15,000 perambulators per hour, rooftop — 30,000 perambulators per hour and the temporary mataf area at a capacity of 2,000 perambulators per hour.

The Expansion Project is the largest ever as it incorporates an additional area totaling 1,300,000 sq. meters that accommodates 52 gates, four minarets, a movable key tomb, 120 elevators in addition to the security and health services as well as transport stations, tunnels and other key infrastructure associated with the mosque.

Arab News reported:

About 1.325 million pilgrims were transported to the holy sites on Friday, according to the General Car Syndicate (Naqaba). The ascending (taseed) and descending (nafra) committee had completed preparations to execute the plan for pilgrims moving to holy sites following instructions of Haj Minister Bandar Hajjar.

Pilgrims ascend to Mina as per a plan that guarantees all pilgrims who want to spend the night there are able to do so easily and without delays. The buses transporting them are provided with guides who will deliver the pilgrims to their camps.

Marwan Zubaidi, the syndicate’s secretary-general and spokesman, said the shuttle bus service covers 563,000 pilgrims from Turkey, Europe, southeastern Asia, non-Arab Africa and Iran. The regular bus service serves South Asian and Arab pilgrims that number 750,000. About 500 buses are stationed in Arafat to assist in case of delays.

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Megaprojects transform Mecca, but not all are happy

Aljazeera.com – Mecca, the birthplace of Islam, is in the midst of a massive transformation. The government of Saudi Arabia has launched a multibillion dollar renovation project to provide more space for the millions of pilgrims who visit the holy city every year.

Saudi officials say Mecca will have state of the art infrastructure and one of the best transport systems in the world.

Some pilgrims, however, are unhappy with the changes. “I am here to walk around the Kaaba and enjoy the spiritual side of the pilgrimage but unfortunately the whole area has been invaded by tall buildings,” Kusayla Zayani, a pilgrim, said.

“I understand the need to build places for pilgrims but cannot just bulldoze monuments. It seems Saudi Arabia isn’t attached to preserving historical sites.”

Ossama Al Bar, the Mayor of Mecca, said those concerns are unfounded. “We are committed to preserve the cultural and spiritual identity of Mecca. This is a top priority for us.”

Click here to see the pictures: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2013/10/pictures-megaprojects-transform-mecca-20131011135537770550.html

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Zamzam plant produces over 55 million water bottles

Makkah, 04 Dhul Hijja 1434/ 09 October 2013 (IINA) – A project to pump “Zamzam” holy water in the Saudi city of Makkah has produced more than 55 million water bottles since the project’s inception around three years ago, the Saudi National Water Company said yesterday.

The company also said it had launched early preparations for this year’s Haj season – which began this month – by increasing the producing capacity in order to meet demand. Pilgrims at the Grand Mosque make sure they drink as much as possible from Makkah’s Zamzam Well and buy containers to take home to family and friends. The company also said that these preparations aim to increase its daily production capacity by 50 percent in order to meet the pilgrims’ demands. More than 1.1 million foreign pilgrims have arrived in Mecca for the annual hajj, which all physically and financially able Muslims are required to perform once in their life.

The Zamzam project provides water for more than 6,000 customers a day, that’s five customers every minute. According to Islamic tradition, Prophet Ibrahim’s wife Hajar ran between the hills of Safa and Marwah seven times in a bid to find water for her baby Ismail. After a frantic search, a spring of water gushed forth, known as Zamzam. She did this until God ensured that water started gushing out from under his feet, and Hajar started moving the sand to protect the water, saying “Zamzam.”

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Afghanistan Qualifies For 2015 Cricket World Cup

October 8, 2013, Kabul (BNA) The Afghanistan Nation Cricket Team by winning three consecutive matches against the Kenyan Team made its way to 2015 Cricket World Cup which is scheduled to be held in Australia and New Zealand.

Afghanistan National Team in a fifty over match defeated Kenya and succeeded to qualify for 2015 Cricket World Cup. This was the third match between Afghanistan and Kenya. Afghanistan won its first game against the United Arab Emirate in Sharjah.

It’s quite significant to mention that Afghanistan played T20 World Cups two times first one in 2010. Afghan team by losing only three players chased the target of 94 runs easily.

Afghanistan contested in the matches with full courage and determination which finally helped them to win great titles for the country. In matches, Afghan players Hamid Hassan and Kareem Sadiq took two wickets each while Nabi Essa Khail and Hmaza Hootak took three Kenya wickets each.

The Afghan captain Mohammad Nabi Essa Khail scored 48 runs while Hashmatullah Shahidi scored 13 runs and Nawroz Mangal 19 runs. This was the third match between Afghanistan and Kenya which were played in the United Arab Emirates (EU).

On the final match, the Kenya team by losing all players set a target of 89 runs to Afghanistan. In the first T20 match between the two teams in Sharjah on 30th September, the Afghan players scored 162 runs while the Kenyan team after facing major attack form the Afghan bowlers scored only 56 runs.

Following entry of Afghanistan to 2015 Cricket World Cup, residents across the country flooded into the streets and celebrated the historic win. “I congratulate this historic win to the nation and I hope that Afghanistan cricket team continues winning major titles in the future as well, I appreciate the national traders and the government of Afghanistan for providing financial supports to Afghan team,” a cricket fan, Haidar said.

This came after Afghanistan National Football Team defeating several team gained the SAFF championship in Nepal.

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Afghanistan Exhibition to Mark Eid ul Adha

October 09, 2013, Kabul (BNA) – Ministry of Commerce and Industries and Afghanistan Exports Promotion Agency held an exhibition titled ‘Eid’ in Afghanistan Exports Information Services Center here in Kabul. Mohammad Amin Tarakhil, head of the exhibition said, “Domestic products are to be put for exhibition in 20 outlets.”

Deputy Minister of Commerce and Industries Muzammel Shinwarai talking related to the exhibition said, “The exhibition is good for marketing and boosting domestic products and can play effective role in improvement of the country’s economy. He asked investors and traders to pay attention to the quality of products of the country.”

The exhibition was opened by the Ministry of Commerce and Industries and Afghanistan Exports Promotion Agency with participation of government and non-government officials, diplomats of foreign embassies to Kabul and officials of foreign and domestic organizations.

It is said the exhibition is to be open for six days to all visitors.

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OPIC to boost Pakistan portfolio to build on gov’t measures

WASHINGTON, Oct 12 (APP): The Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a U.S. development finance institution, is expected to double the size of its program in Pakistan. This was conveyed to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who met with OPIC President Elizabeth Littlefield as a follow up to her recent visit to Pakistan, an aide to the visiting Pakistani senator said.

The finance minister informed Littlefield and her team about the government’s steps aimed at kick-starting national economy. These measures have restored investors’ confidence in Pakistan’s economy.

The president OPIC congratulated Finance Minister Dar on successful approval of IMF Program which had revived US investors’ interest in projects in Pakistan.

She informed the Finance Minister that OPIC had a portfolio of about $400 million in Pakistan. However, after the approval of the IMF program and the introduction of investor-friendly policies, the size of program was expected to double in near future.

The OPIC, she said, was considering projects in Pakistan in the fields of wind energy and food processing.

Finance Minister Dar assured Littlefield that the investors would be provided maximum facilitation and infrastructure support and no project would be delayed because of lack of ancillary support.

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Pakistan calls for action to boost regional connectivity

ISLAMABAD, Oct 10 (APP): Federal Minister for Planning and Development, Prof Ahsan Iqbal on Thursday urged upon the developing partners from World Bank, Asian Development Bank, USAID and DFID to join hands in carrying forward the agenda of regional connectivity for improving trade and economic growth. He stated this while presiding over a meeting of the development partners—World Bank. ADB, USAID and NFID— over Regional Integration here.

The minister appreciated the role and contribution of development partners in the economic growth of Pakistan over the past years. He said, Pakistan was facing serious economic crisis and, as a frontline state in war against terror, Pakistan had paid heavy human and economic cost. It alone cannot afford huge burden of its development needs and restructuring the economy.

He said, therefore, external resources in the form of grants, debt swap, concessional loans from friendly countries and international agencies were highly appreciated. He urged upon the developing partners from World Bank, ADB, USAID and DFID to join hands in carrying forward the agenda of regional connectivity for improving trade and economic growth.

He highlighted that Pakistan is a member of SAARC, ECO, CAREC and actively participates in ASEAN and SCO, but has not utilized the potential in a significant way.

He explained that failure to develop infrastructure and protocols for large-scale overland trade and similarities in the trade structure, together with absence of comparative advantage in the capital intensive and high value-added products (which are mostly imported in the region) are some of the reasons for this lack of success.

He was of the view that trade complementarities can be developed in the region if the countries in the region are able to achieve vertical specialization through production sharing arrangements.

He added that vertical specialization would not only allow the regional trading partners to strengthen their trade ties but also enable them to carry economies of scale by concentrating upon a specific production process in the value addition chain.

Therefore, enhanced regional connectivity through establishment of Regional Transit and Economic Corridor between Pakistan and China is now being pursued vigorously by the present government. The federal Minister explained the purpose of the meeting as expansion of regional trade and economic cooperation.

He asked the Forum to focus on the issues in economic cooperation by creating regional markets by removing barriers in trade of goods and services, enhancing connectivity between people and economic sectors and opening access to finance as a means to facilitate financial risk mitigation.

On this occasion, the Federal Minister also dilated upon the future plans of the government adding that the government has started work on preparing documents of Vision 2025 and 11th Five Year Plan (2013-2018) that will be finalized by the end of this year.

He explained that the government has identified seven key pillars of Vision 2025 which are: Energy, Security, Sustained and inclusive growth, Resource mobilization, Investment, Exports, Private sector-led growth, Modernization of infrastructure, Institutional reforms and governance,Social capital and Strategic regional initiatives.

Ahsan Iqbal said Regional integration is an important element of our government’s vision. Pakistan, he said, is located in the centre of three engines of growth in Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and China. The Prime Minister has a vision to make Pakistan hub of regional trade and a regional bloc comprising these areas has a population of over 3 billion people.

Ahsan Iqbal said that the economic corridor project with China will be a milestone project, and transform the region by bringing opportunities of trade and jobs for millions of people in the region”.

He said, “Regional connectivity projects in the fields of rail, road, energy and telecommunication are being perused by the government with great speed.

“Pakistan appreciates the support of its development partners. However, our strategy is to increasingly rely on domestic resources by focusing on the tax reforms, promoting investment and exports”, he remarked.

He said, “We want to create an environment in which private sector can be a lead role in development of the country. To fully harness regional economic potential, it is important that political environment of the region improves. It is our hope that the Indian leadership will whole-heartedly support the peace process, so that lives of people in South Asia can be freed from poverty, malnutrition and illiteracy,” he added.

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Indonesia angklung show held in Christchurch

September 30 2013 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – An Indonesian puppet show and “angklung” (Indonesian bamboo music instrument) ensemble staged a 30-minute performance for a community in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Saturday. Led by Djoko Sulilo, a lecturer at the Otago University, the puppet show in English had a live and interactive angklung ensemble, which had attracted widespread attention from the Christchurch community, Indonesia’s Chief Representative in Wellington PLE Priatna told the press.

Along with the performances, batik, food (chicken satay, meat ‘rendang,’ meatball ‘bakso,’ and fish cake ’empek-empek’) and traditional dances were also promoted at the Indonesian Fair held on Sept. 28. Not less than 650 people attended the event, which was open for four hours only, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. local time.

“We are proud to have made Christchurch residents more aware of Indonesia and its culture,” Priatna stated. Christchurch’s Indonesia Fair was organized by the Indonesian Embassy in Wellington in cooperation with the Canterbury Indonesian Society (CIS) and the Indonesian Student Association in Christchurch, which aims to bring Indonesia closer to New Zealand, and offers business opportunity to the two countries.

“The promotion of Indonesia in Christchurch is a window for bringing Canterbury, Christchurch, closer to Indonesia. The Canterbury area is a rich region that is supported by outstanding universities and an international airport with access to the South East Asia region,” Priatna pointed out.

Some prominent New Zealand residents also attended the event, such as former Head of New Zealand’s Parliament Sir Kerry Burke, Chairman of the Waimasi Community Council Jimmy Chen and Vice Rector of Canterbury University Prof. Paul Flemming.

The committee has also set up a charity box, which will be given to Christchurch’s Cathedral to garner support for the quake victims in February 2011.

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Madinah named most economically prosperous city

Arab News – 06 October, 2013 – Madinah is one of the most prosperous Saudi cities, with numerous investment opportunities that have contributed to the growth of its trade, industry, tourism and agricultural sectors.

Madinah’s religious status has made it one of the most prominent tourist cities thanks to the high volume of visitors and pilgrims, in addition to its natural and mineral wealth. This has helped in fostering a commercial atmosphere, especially with regards to demand on consumer products.

Commercial registrations are expected to increase to more than 39,000 according to the research center at the Madinah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

More service and transportation projects are expected to be established in the future. Industrial cities have 201 factories, with a metal factory in the lead at 25.4 percent and foodstuff production accounting for 20.4 percent of investment, making the city an attractive investment venue.

Statistics from the Chamber show that the city’s religious, historical and cultural status has made it a distinguished economic location. According to statistics, the number of factories has increased by 6.3 percent during the first half of 2012. The total volume of financial services reached SR70.4 billion, accounting for 13.6 percent of industrial finances. This figure is expected to rise by more than 4 percent of the Kingdom’s productive factories.

The most prominent industries in Madinah include non-metallic mineral products, which account for 25.4 percent of production with 51 factories and 8,333 workers, who make up 29 percent of the total number of factory workers in the area.

The center has also said that chemical factories rank first in terms of funding, with a value of SR29 billion, or 41.2 percent of total funding expenditure. Chemical factories have 22 percent of the labor force in Madinah, while coal production and refined petroleum products have 32.5 percent.

The chamber’s research center said the number of commercial registers is on the increase and are expected to reach more than 39,000. There were 1,284 documented registers during the first half of 2012, an increase of 21.4 percent from the same period last year and a 10.2-percent increase from the same period in 2010.

The center also stated that Madinah Province has 159 hotels, equivalent to 16.7 percent of the Kingdom’s hotels. There are 18 five-star hotels, 11 four-star hotels and 46 three-star hotels. The city also owns 23 residential units. The city’s religious status and geographical location, in addition to archaeological sites in governorates such as Ola, Khaibar, Yanbu and Badr further increase its touristic value.

Major projects to be implemented in Madinah will contribute to the growth and development of the area’s economy. These include the expansion of the Prophet’s Mosque, which is being implemented over three stages to accommodate more than 1.6 million worshippers. The Madinah Economic Knowledge project spans 4.8 million sqm, which aims to attract more than SR25 million in investments.

The project will provide 20,000 job opportunities, in addition to the Al-Haramain train, which connects Makkah and Madinah through Jeddah, spanning 480 km and accommodating more than 3 million passengers.

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Art Exhibition at Brunei International Airport

Borneo Bulletin Online – October 10, 2013 – With ‘Give them A Sofa’ Art Exhibition now taking shape at the Brunei International Airport, BAKAT Arts Productions is taking the opportunity to express its appreciation to all the sponsors that have contributed to making the project a success.

Realising the talented team of youths, the project has managed to garner assistance from local businesses who recognised the potential and the creative minds that the country has to offer, a press release stated.

“Setting up such a unique art exhibition within the arrival hall of an international airport requires a lot of planning as well as logistics and it was very important that we acquired the co-operation of private companies that would take a genuine interest in this national project and offer hands on support in this endeavour,” said a spokesman for BAKAT Arts Productions.

One of the key objectives behind the “Give them A Sofa” Art exhibit is to utilise 75 per cent recycled materials as part of their artwork and the artists and students were able to source freely from Daikyo Environmental Recycling Sdn Bhd, whose transportation and manpower to collect and deliver the required materials has been provided by Archipelago Group.

Another key objective behind the exhibit is to encourage an entrepreneurial mindset within the creative industries as this can greatly contribute to the economical infrastructure of the country if it is given the tools and the avenues to develop and grow, as well as realise the business potential that art has to offer.

“It is one thing to develop creative youth and creative industries but we also need to allocate a niche in the local market for these highly skilled and talented individuals,” BAKAT Arts spokesman added.

“And by showcasing the various art and installation pieces, as well as the amazing craftsmanship and skills of the Nakhoda Ragam Vocational School we are hoping to achieve just that. Promoting art as entertainment is one thing, but ensuring that it is recognised as an important local resource is another. Art and the economy should work hand-in-hand.”

With the following Asean Summit this month, the next few months will see a great deal of visitors coming in to Brunei Darussalam and it is also a chance for them to witness and enjoy the variety of themed galleries on display.

“We not only want to welcome international visitors to Brunei Darussalam but we also want to showcase and share our national identity and heritage through the medium of art and this is a great opportunity to do so whilst also re-enforcing the message of ‘Our People, Our Future Together’.”

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Tehran to host int’l exhibition on public transport, urban services

Tehran Times – 06 October, 2013 – The 11th international exhibition on public transport and urban services will open in Tehran on October 28.

Some 350 Iranian and foreign companies will participate in the exhibition, IRNA reported. The 4-day event will host companies from Germany, Poland, Denmark, Belgium, Spain, Britain, France, Japan, Italy, Turkey, South Korea, China, and Taiwan. Kinds of public transport vehicles, vans, subway wagons, as well as road building and urban services machinery will be on display in the exhibition.

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‘Hadafi’ women entrepreneurship skills training program launched

Saudi Gazette – 08 October, 2013 – Potential.com, the leading international business development company, recently launched in the Kingdom “Hadafi”, the new women entrepreneurship skills training program. The program aims to empower Arab women starting in Saudi Arabia and extending next year to the entire Middle East and North Africa region, was launched in partnership with Zain KSA & Harvey Nichols KSA and Intel Corporation as the official sponsors of this initiative.

“Hadafi, a Massive Online Open Curricula (MOOC), a 4-month long free program aims to reach out to women who would like to turn their passion into a business and support in enhancing their existing business skills through a series of weekly webinars, startup tools, exposure, prizes and financial support,” Shadi Banna, Managing Partner of Potential, told the Saudi Gazette.

“We are very excited as we launch this program in Saudi Arabia to support Women in gaining essential business skills and knowledge, I would like to thank our generous partners Zain KSA and Harvey Nichols KSA that have enabled us to provide such a program for free,” he added. “We believe that the region has huge untapped potential that is represented in Women who are not active yet in the economy and through this program we aim to empowering them to succeed in their career as entrepreneurs or employees,” he further said.

On the sidelines of its participation, Saleh Hasanain, Head of Brand Communication, Zain KSA, stressed the importance of supporting & empowering the youth in starting up their business, which is considered the most important act of social responsibility. “Young people need to enhance their economic knowledge & business skills which are essential in the entrepreneurial journey .We have participated in this great initiative to help increase the knowledge among the target audience during the 4 months period and witness the initiation of new business, which will inspire women across KSA to play a significant role in the society,” he said.

Patricia Ghawi, Marketing Director, Harvey Nichols Riyadh, a brand of Alfa International, said on behalf of Princess Reema Al Saud, Chairwoman of Alfa: “We are extremely proud to be part of this wonderful initiative. Having had a consistent history of supporting women empowerment in Saudi Arabia, we believe it is our responsibility and privilege to seek every opportunity to shape the future of our society whilst extending our knowledge, expertise and support all the way. We are confident that this program will be a success and are delighted to be part of it.”

In addition to Zain and Harvey Nichols KSA, local and international organizations such as Al Nahda Society, 3eesho, All World, Aramex, GloWork, Qotuf, have also joined.

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Kuwaiti logistics group to offer services at three Afghanistan airports

Kuwait News Agency – 09 October, 2013 – Agility, a Kuwaiti logistics group, said on Tuesday that it will provide services to airports in Afghanistan, as part of a joint venture which will generate revenues of USD 200 million over ten years. The contract covers Kabul, Kandahar and Herat airports, said a statement by the company issued on the Kuwait Stock Exchange website. Agility will have a 51 percent stake in a joint partnership. Details of the contract on behalf of Agility are currently being hammered out with Afghani authorities through Agility’s subsidiary NAS Holding Co. Agility is one of the world’s leading providers of integrated logistics with more than 22,000 employees in over 500 offices and 100 countries. It was established in 1979 and is listed on the Kuwait Stock Exchange.

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Dubai Properties to proceed with Culture Village

Khaleej Times – 09 October, 2013 – Dubai Properties Group (DPG), a member of Dubai Holding, and master developer of destinations and districts including Business Bay, Dubailand and The Walk at JBR, has confirmed it is proceeding with the development of Culture Village; a creek side destination which aims to capture the culture and heritage of Dubai.

The Arabic themed development will be interconnected by 3.8km of promenade walkways, landscaped features, a retail souk and mixed-use complex overlooking the creek. An operator will shortly be appointed to design, build and manage a centrally located marina which will accommodate up to 60 boats with mooring and access points along the promenade directly connected to Dubai Creek.

Culture Village will also feature an innovative art center developed by Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives, which will be a place for Jameel Art Collection and the Jameel Prize. The center will aim to support local and regional creative businesses and provides a platform for creative ideas and encounters.

The development is already home to a number of residential projects and will also feature “Manazel Al Khour” a luxury residential development by DPG, with three and four bedroom luxury apartments offering panoramic views of the creek. This latest addition will further add to the appeal of DPG’s latest key creek side destination for Dubai.

Leisure, hospitality and residential projects already underway in Culture Village include the luxurious 6 star Palazzo Versace Hotel due to open next year and the nearby D1 Residential Tower scheduled for completion in 2014.

Speaking about Culture Village, Khalid Al Malik, Group CEO of Dubai Properties Group, said: “Culture Village has been created to capture the strong heritage and cultural diversity of Dubai. It will be a key destination to add to our growing portfolio of destinations and districts alongside Business Bay.

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SR54.3m loans for women’s enterprises in Saudi Arabia

Arab News – 11 October, 2013 – The Saudi Credit and Savings Bank (SCSB) has extended credits worth SR54.3 million to fund 450 women’s projects during the past 20 months, a bank official told local media.

The SCSB fully acknowledges the role of women in pushing the wheel of development in the Kingdom and, therefore, the bank is keen to support projects that commensurate with women capabilities and potentials, SCSB spokesman Ahmed Al-Jibrain said.

The SCSB is currently financing Masarat Program for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the social loans program for low-income categories (marriage, home repairs, family), he said.

Since its inception, the SCSB has financed 21,473 SME projects valued at SR3.2 billion and extended SR55.13 billion fin the form of social loans up to the end of H1-13, he said. On training program for Saudi nationals, he said the SCSB is keen to provide all facilities to entrepreneurs who are applying for loans to their SME projects.

He said the SCSB is also offering non-financial services, either directly or through the Bank’s executive arms which have recently signed deals with certain bodies such as the National Entrepreneurship Institute (Entrepreneurship), the Supreme Commission for Tourism, the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu (RCJY), the Centennial Fund, in addition to Badir Program for Technology Incubator (BPTI).

These entities are playing a series of roles such as training, conducting feasibility studies and other related services, he said.

The SCSB has also adopted the “Empretec” Program, an affiliate of the UNCTAD, which is aimed to support entrepreneurs on how to upgrade their businesses and make them more competitive at local and global levels, he said.

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Kuwaiti govt coordination on railway, metro routes

Kuwait Times – 05 October, 2013 – Coordination is in place between thirteen different state departments in order to outline the routes for the railroad and metro subway projects; two mega projects included in Kuwait’s development plan and aim to improve the country’s public transportation services.

This confirmation was given by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Sheikh Salem Al-Abdul-Aziz Al-Sabah in response to inquisitions made on that regard by MP Adel Al- Khurafi. “These departments include the Ministry of Public Works, the Kuwait Oil Company, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Electricity and Water, the Kuwait Municipality, the Public Authority of Housing Welfare, the Customs General Department, and the Ministry of Planning and Development”, Minister Al-Sabah was quoted by Al-Jarida daily yesterday.

The Finance Minister also indicated that a joint team between the Kuwait Municipality and Municipal Council is working on addressing any obstacles that could stand before the two projects.

He added on that regard that while his ministry did not receive any reservations regarding the metro project’s route, coordination was launched to address routes for the railway projects which go through allocated areas including farms in Al-Wafra. The two projects are being carried out by the Ministry of Communications with 2020 set as the tentative date for the start of operating. MP Al-Khurafi also asked about the latest updates regarding the Khairan Power Plant project, to which the minister responded by indicating that an alliance led by BNP Paribas was awarded a tender to serve as consultant for the mega project.

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Financial Education To be Included in Malaysia School Curriculum

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 7 (NNN-THESTAR) — Financial education will be incorporated into Malaysian school curriculum in stages, beginning next year. Bank Negara (Central Bank) Assistant Governor Abu Hassan Alshari Yahaya said Monday the central bank, in collaboration with the Education Ministry, would introduce it to Year 3 students next year and secondary school students from 2017.

In fact, he said that part of the financial education elements had been introduced this year in Bahasa Malaysia (National Language) and Mathematic subjects, ahead of the targeted date. “Financial education needs to be inculcated continuously from young to adulthood as this will instil a high level of discipline and increase their financial management skills,” he said during the Financial Literacy Month 2013 on Monday.

Abu Hassan said the curriculum on financial education in schools would include topics on money management, planning, savings and investments, credit and debt management and insurance for students at various levels of education.

Fomca’s Consumer Research and Resource Centre found in its survey that many young Malaysians were living beyond their means, were carrying too high personal debts and had too low savings.

They were also not budgeting or carrying out financial planning and had low levels of financial knowledge. Fomca president Dr N. Marimuthu said that household debt at the macro level and financial problems at the individual and household levels seems to be worsening.

According to the Finance Ministry, Malaysian household debt stands at 83% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, possibly one of the highest in the world. He said that Insolvency Department showed that 103,827 bankruptcy cases between 2005 and November 2011, with the majority, 32.3% were between ages 35 to 44. About 60% of individuals seeking financial help were below age 40, while 15% were those in their 20s, he said.

“One of the most significant cause of financial problems was the mismanagement of the use of credit cards. According to the Employees’ Provident Fund, Malaysians were not adequately preparing for their retirement. In a 2003 survey, 50% finished their retirement savings within five years while 70% within 10 years.”

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Algeria Records Double Investments In First Half Of 2013

ALGIERS, Oct 8 (NNN-APS) — Investments reported in Algeria have more than doubled during the first half of 2013 to reach 856.7 billion dinars (about 11.2 billion USD) from DZ 411.6 billion in the same period of 2012, recording an increase of 108 percent, according to the Algerian Agency for Investment Development (ANDI).

The agency, which attributed the good performance during the period to the improvement of Algeria’s business climate, said in a report seen here Monday that the number of investment projects reported during the half-year rose 14 per cent to 4,756 projects from 4,183 projects during the same period of 2012.

The new projects are able to create 75,075 jobs compared with 45,503 jobs for projects proposed in the same period last year, an increase of 65 per cent, stated the ANDI.

This substantial enhancement of investments is mainly the result of improved business climate, thanks to various measures and incentives undertaken by the authorities to encourage investment and entrepreneurs, especially in the High Plateaus and southern regions of the country, ANDI chief executive officer Abdelkrim Mansouri told APS.

Local investments, which represent 90 per cent of the total investments, are involved in 4,725 projects in the first half of 2013 (up 13 per cent) and amounted to DZD 628.25 billion (up 67 per cent). They are expected to generate 67,690 jobs (up 58 per cent).

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Malaysia: Special Fund To Promote Youth Entrepreneurship

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Oct 11 (NNN-Bernama) — Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak today announced a special fund to promote entrepreneurship among young people under the 1Malaysia Entrepreneurship Programme (1MET), details of which to be further unveiled in the tabling of Budget 2014 on Oct 25.

The announcement made during a question-and-answer-session at the launch of 1MET, drew thunderous applause from the 5,000-strong crowd at the event, hosted on the sidelines of the 4th Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) here, today. United State Secretary of State John Kerry joined Najib at the event where they spent about 30 minutes interacting with the participants. The session was emceed by Finance Ministry Secretary-General Dr Mohd Irwan Siregar Abdullah.

1MET, a series of boot camps organised with StartupMalaysia to guide and help young entrepreneurs will also be held annually.

Earlier, Najib said young people with great ideas and big dreams are very infectious. “They got wonderful ideas. Ideas that can be a game changer and this is just a beginning. We believe in young people but I don’t want this to be just a mere rhetorical statement. We must channel the young people in the way that we can help them change their dream into reality,” Najib said. The prime minister also encouraged the youth to dream big and be ambitious. “We just announced the setting up of MaGIC (Malaysian Global Innovation and Creative Centre) in Cyberjaya. The US will also initiate a new programme that will support and train half a million entrepreneurs in 1,000 cities around theworld, including in Malaysia, over the next few years,” Najib said.

Meanwhile, Kerry told the crowd not to hesitate but instead come forward to collaborate with the US entrepreneurs. “Anybody want to work and collaborate, please don’t hesitate to call our embassy, our economic people. I just announced today on behalf of President (Barack) Obama that we’re creating a new centre which will work with young entrepreneurs throughout the region.”

Kerry said the centre would be led by the US Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker, who herself is an entrepreneur. “She will be in charge to working with you to make this happen,” Kerry added.

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Sabah Confident Tourist Arrivals From China Will Exceed 200,000

KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia Oct 4 (NNN-Bernama) — Sabah state is confident that tourist arrivals from China will exceed last year’s 200,000 despite China’s new tourism law whichputs some restrictions on its travellers to overseas tourism destinations. Sabah state Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Pang Yuk Min, said the new law will not likely affect tourist arrivals from China.

The law, approved in April, came into effect Oct 1. Apart from promoting sustained industry growth, it also covers the rights of outbound travellers in their dealings with Chinese tour companies. “The outbound tour operators in China are uncomfortable with the new law … they do not know how it is going to be implemented, so initially they are very nervous. I believe in the long run it will be good for Sabah,” he told reporters after witnessing the signing of the memorandum of understanding by MASwings, Star Cruises and Airworld Travel here today.

Pang represented Minister of Tourism, Culture and Enviroment, Masidi Manjun, at the function.

MASwings Chief Executive Officer, Capt Mohd Nawawi Awang, said the airline, in collaboration with Star Cruises and Airworld Travel, will offer two new tourism products — ‘Fly and Cruise’ and ‘Manila Sojourn’. The products offered guests unique holiday packages that included air travel, sea travel onboard a luxury cruise and a ground tour in Sabah and Sarawak, he said.

Mohd Nawawi said the airline took a bold step to design and offer new and extraordinary travel packages for Sabah and Sarawak.

“We are delighted to work closely with Star Cruises Travel Services and Airworld Travel to bring our guests a complete and innovative travel experience,” he said.

He said under the new tourism packages, MASwings would charter flights for guests.

“The charter business allows MASwings the flexibility to venture into new destinations beyond our turbo-prop ATR’s economic and flying range.

“There is a possibility, in the future, that MASwings may even have its own aircraft solely dedicated for charter,” he said.

Going forward, he said, MASwings would study plans to introduce more charter services to popular destinations in China, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan should there be market demand.

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President Yudhoyono opens APEC Summit

Mon, October 7 2013 Nusa Dua, Bali (ANTARA News) – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono opened the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Nusa Dua, Indonesia’s tourist resort island of Bali, on Monday. The APEC economic leaders began their summit session after Russian President Vladimir Putin, who arrived in Bali on Monday noon, joined his counterparts.

Upon arriving at Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport, Putin was directly driven to the APEC summit venue, where he received a big surprise from other APEC leaders on his 61st birthday. The birthday song was sung for Putin, accompanied by the rendition on the guitar by President Yudhoyono.

In his opening address, President Yudhoyono stressed the importance of APEC’s role in the development of the region’s economy amid the uncertain economic conditions. “APEC is increasingly playing an important role in the economic recovery of the Asia-Pacific region. The Asia-Pacific economy will maintain the global economic growth,” said the president.

He quoted IMF’s data that economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region is estimated to grow by 6.3 percent in 2013 and 6.6 percent in 2014.

APEC is an economic cooperation forum with 21 member economies in the Asia-Pacific region. It aims to promote free trade in the region. The forum was first opened in 1989.

The Bali summit is the second of its kind hosted by Indonesia. Indonesia hosted the APEC summit in Bogor in 1994. Earlier, President Yudhoyono, who was accompanied by First Lady Ani Yudhoyono, officially greeted the leaders of the 21 APEC member economies on Monday at 8:20 a.m. local time.

The APEC leaders present at the meet and greet included Australia’s Tony Abbott, followed by Brunei Darussalam’s Hasanal Bolkiah, the President of Chile Sebastian Pinera, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong China C.Y. Leung, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the President of Peru Ollanta Humala, the President of Mexico Enrique Pena Nieto, the Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper, the President of China Xi Jinping, New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key, and the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Peter Charles Paire O’Neill.

In addition, President Yudhoyono also welcomed Philippines’ President Benigno S Aquino III, the Prime Minister of Thailand Yingluck Shinawatra, the Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong, the President of Vietnam Truong Tan Sang, the President of South Korea Park Geun-hye, and China Taipei’s Representative Vincent Siew. The United States was represented by Trade Minister Penny Pritzker during the greeting session.

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Gambia’s Tourism Minister to Open Akwaaba African Travel Market

The Daily Observer – 4 October 2013 – The Gambia’s minister of Tourism and Culture is to officially open this year’s 9th Edition of Akwaaba African Travel Market (AfTM) 2013, slated to take place from the 27th to 29th October in Lagos, Nigeria. A former president of Africa Travel Association (ATA), Minister Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie, in her capacity as the guest of honour, is expected to deliver an inspiring speech at this high-level travel exposition. Ikechi Uko, organiser and publisher of ATQnews, described The Gambia’s Tourism and Culture minister as one of the “hardest working” of her kind in Africa. He told the Daily Observer that The Gambia Tourism Board, which is under the tutelage of The Gambia’s Ministry of Tourism and Culture, has since registered its readiness to participate in this year’s expo.

Uko expressed hope that the GTBoard would use this opportunity to intensify its marketing campaign to ensure that The Gambia becomes an all-year-round tourism destination. “To sell the destination beyond imagination during the expo, the delegation will also organise a ‘Gambia Day’ on 28th October. The Day is set aside to showcase what Destination Gambia has to offer including its national dishes such as ‘benachin’ and domoda,” he explained.

Akwaaba African Travel Market expo is the only West Africa travel market that has for the past nine years been serving as an important platform for tourism development, attracting around 7,000 to 10,000 visitors from over 20 countries. The expo provides a rare opportunity for various travel and tourism enterprises such as airlines, hotels, travel agencies, tour operators, amongst others, to promote their products and services. The Gambia’s participation in the last edition was crowned as the “most outstanding performance” since it stated to show up at the expo eight years ago. That edition saw The Gambia voted as the ‘Leading and Best International Stand’ out of the over 20 countries that exhibited their products.

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Cameroon Prepares for African Travel Association Conf

Cameroon Tribune – 8 October 2013 – Preparations are under way in Cameroon ahead of the 38th congress of Africa Travel Association (ATA) billed for Buea from October 16-20, 2013. Stakeholders in the Ministry of Tourism and Leisure are working tooth and nail to render the event hitch-free so that at term, the rest of Africa and the world would have better understood the tourism potentials of Cameroon and possibly created networks that could boost the sector.

A preparatory meeting held at the Ministry of Tourism and Leisure on Monday October 7 and the various committees created are already fine-tuning strategies on how to hit the target.

Information on ATA’s website shows that the World-classed Buea congress provides a networking, learning and agenda-shaping platform for 300-500 travel professionals from around the world. It will address timely industry topics and offer professionals development opportunities. There will equally be roundtables for tourism ministers, an African Bazaar for buyers and sellers, networking events, host country day(s), and pre- and post- country tours.

According to a tentative timetable, the conference will serve as an opportunity to sell Cameroon’s tourism potentials, hold discussions on new markets as well as carry out media trips in the Littoral and South West Regions for the first and Littoral and Centre Regions for the second. Besides selling Cameroon’s tourism destination to the rest of the world with the view of improving the number of tourists who visited Cameroon from 817,000 in 2012, the Buea ATA confab will also be an opportunity to seek ways of attaining the objectives of the 1975 association in promoting travel, tourism and transport to and within Africa, as well as in strengthening intra-Africa partnerships. ATA advocates Africa as a leading global travel destination, raises awareness of Destination Africa’s diverse travel products, promotes positive news on Destination Africa, develops and promotes travel programmes to and across Africa and assists country and private sector members with marketing and promotions.

It also serves as a liaison on tourism matters in Africa between member countries, presents opportunities for members to market and showcase their products and services, offers members continual education, training and learning opportunities, helps members increase business through exposure, networking and referrals, organises events where tourism stakeholders meet to discuss issues of common interest and concern as well as conducts research with partner organisations on tourism matters in Africa.

ATA partners with the African Union Commission to promote the sustainable development of tourism to and across Africa. Its annual events in Africa and the United States like the one in Buea, bring together industry and government leaders to shape Africa’s tourism agenda.

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Mozambique: Facim to Host International Tourism Fair

Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique – 8 October 2013 – Maputo — The premises of the Maputo International Trade Fair (FACIM) is to host the first international tourism fair “Discover Mozambique”. The event will run between 10 and 13 October at the FACIM site at Ricatla, in Marracuene district, about 30 kilometres north of Maputo.

Speaking at a ceremony to launch the fair, the Chairman of the National Tourism Institute (INATUR), Jose Tomo, said that 77 exhibitors have signed up to participate in event, which will have at least ten thousand visitors.

He stated that there are exhibitions from the country’s eleven provinces. Exhibitors from South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe are also participating. Tomo explained that the event grew out of an initiative set up by FACIM in 2010. This was discontinued over the next two years while FACIM moved from its previous home in Maputo to Ricatla.

The Director of INATUR, Hiuane Abacar, said that the international tourism fair would provide a forum for businesses and tourism institutions from Mozambique and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

He added that INATUR wants to promote its brand and strengthen its commercial relations. The event will also be a place where partnerships are established and experiences shared. “Discover Mozambique” is free to enter, and will host exhibitions from hotels, lodges, tour operators, travel agencies, airlines and restaurants. Over the four-day event, there will be workshops, seminars, talks and cultural presentations.

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Azerbaijani ‘magnetic man’ enters Guinness Book of Records

07 October 2013 – TODAY.AZ – An Azerbaijani living in Georgia’s Borchali region, Etibar Elchiyev Budagli, known as Magnetic man, has entered the Guinness Book of Records 2014. APA’s Georgia correspondent reports that Etibar Elchiyev ranked 5th and became the first Azerbaijani to enter the Book. The magnetic man was announced as the Record-holder of the year in Georgia. He was awarded with certificates and medals in Italy, Germany and Beijing. E. Elchiyev told that he hit record four times and was seriously prepared to hit for fifth time: “I’m preparing more seriously. I intend to raise nearly 150 kg of weight with my body”. According to tradition, Guinness Book of Records is prepared a year ago and its presentation is held as the new year starts.

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Azerbaijan introduces its natural dyeing tradition in France

08 October 2013 – AzerNews – Lectures about natural dyes in new Azerbaijani archaeological and ethnographic researches and dyeing used in Azerbaijani carpet weaving have been presented in France. The 32nd international conference “Dyes in History and Archaeology”, held in La Rochelle on October 2-5, aimed to familiarize the wider scientific community with new researches on the history, chemistry and organic pigments’ characteristics of the natural and synthetic dyes.

Azerbaijan was represented by the Chairman of the Cultural and Heritage Study Support Public Union, Miras, PhD in History Fariz Khalili, fine art restorer Vugar Guliyev, photographer Mammad Rahimov and translator and researcher Shola Bayramova. Azerbaijani culture and history were also presented at the event.

Speakers noted that a paint shop featuring pottery jars with dyes was found during archaeological excavations in the medieval city Agsu in 2010. These dyes, studied under the supervision of Professor Recep Karadag of the Marmara University in Turkey, turned out to be madder.

Moreover, Azerbaijani madder export in the 18th century was reflected in a number of official documents. A half of taxes paid by the medieval Agsu population came from natural dyes. The Basgal village in Azerbaijan’s Ismayilli region was specially named as a place where people historically were engaged in dyeing.

Reconstruction of a dyeing workshop and the creation of a little Silk Road museum have been carried out in Basgal as part of a natural dyeing development and profit yielding project launched on a public initiative. Basgal masters are using smoketree plant to dye the local textile product kelaghai, which is traditional headwear of Azerbaijani women.

The conference in La Rochelle was attended by representatives of France, Britain, China, Japan, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Turkey, Greece, Poland, Nigeria, the United States, Romania, and Israel.

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Tk 18,000cr mega plan to modernise Bangladesh railways

DHAKA, Oct 4, 2013 (BSS) – Railways Minister Mujibul Haque today said the government has taken a Taka 18,000 crore mega plan to modernize the much neglected railway. “We’ve taken 38 projects involving Taka 18,000 crore to modernise railway,” he told a seminar in connection with inauguration of a four-day trade show in the city.

Bangladesh Engineering Industry Owners Association (BEIOA) and Bangladesh Electrical Merchandize Manufacturers Association (BEMMA) jointly organised the ‘Industrial Engineering, Electrical and Solar Products Machinery Trade Show’ at the city’s BICC.

President of Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed addressed the function as the chief guest. BEIOA President Abdur Razzaque and BEMMA President Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, among others, also spoke. Mujibul said railway sector is neglected for long although it is the comfortable means of transportation compared to other modes.

Keeping the potentiality of the sector, he said, the government has taken short and long term plans to bring dynamism in the oldest transportation system. Kazi Akram said light engineering industry has the potential to grow and fetch huge foreign exchange like multi-billion dollar Readymade Garments (RMG) industry.

He said railway can use huge volume of local made light engineering and electrical products to reduce its dependence on import of spare parts. FBCCI chief said, “But it is unfortunate that our railway officials are reluctant to take local products even after examining those from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET).” And it is a major barrier to flourishing local industries, he pointed out.

BEIOA President Abdur Razzaque described the light engineering products as import-substitute ones and said the potential industry is neglected for long mainly due to policy support. “We can supply huge volume of our engineering products and spare parts for railway but it is not possible due to bureaucratic red tape,” he said.

Apart from host Bangladesh, a total of 120 companies from foreign countries including India and Korea are displaying products in the show, which will remain open for all from 11 am to 7 pm every day.

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Skill development project to give jobs to people in N.Bengal

DHAKA, Oct 07, 2013 (BSS) – Skill Development and Sustainable Livelihood Generation Project will provide training and jobs to the people of North Bengal for the next two years. The project will also give training to the employees of Gazipur readymade garment factories.

A trainee will get certificate as Junior Machine Operators after a three-month training and subsequent skills assessment.

The project was initiated for Gazipur and remote North Bengal’s poorest people, as they are now being employed in the readymade garments sector.

The project is a partnership one among East Knitting and Dyeing Industries, IDLC Finance, the ILO Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Reform Project, Gazipur Technical School and College, Care Bangladesh and Shiree.

The first batch of 22 people was graduated from the programme yesterday and the second batch of 26 people are now undergoing training.

“Bangladesh has made great progress in recent years. Giving them the skilled employees for future employment will be a key to Bangladesh’s success. “, said William Hanna, EU Ambassador to Bangladesh.

The project was conceptualized by the IDLC and the ILO and funded by the European Union. The same model is also being used in Chittagong Women’s Polytechnic Institute and five institutions in the wider Dhaka region will begin using it by the end of 2013.

The project is jointly sponsored by Fareast and IDLC. Gazipur Technical School and College, under the Directorate of Technical Education, Government of Bangladesh, is providing the training.

CARE Bangladesh and Shiree are sourcing participants from North Bengal.

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Regent Airways launches Dhaka-Bangkok flight

DHAKA, Oct 9, 2013 (BSS) -Regent Airways, one of the country’s private airlines today launched flight to its second International destination in Bangkok, Thailand following its first maiden international operation to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia from 15 July, 2013. Regent Airways will operate four flights (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday) between Dhaka-Bangkok-Dhaka weekly.

The maiden flight RX 780 departed from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 9:20 am (local time) and arrived at Bangkok International Airport, Bangkok at 12:40 pm (local time).The return flight RX 781 departed Bangkok at 14:00 pm (local time) and arrived in Dhaka at 15:25 pm (local time).

Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Lt. Col. (Retd) Muhammad Faruk Khan was present at the flight launching event as the chief guest. Civil Aviation Chairman Air Vice Marshal Mahmud Hussain, Regent Airways Managing Director Mashruf Habib and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Abdul Momen were also present.

Passengers can purchase economy class ticket at Tk 20,707 (round trip) and business class ticket at Tk 35,487 (round trip) inclusive of all govrnment taxes from authorized travel agents,Regent Airways sales offices and Regent Airway’s website www.flyregent.com. The airline will operate flights with its newly acquired two Boeing 737-700 aircraft with 114 economy class and 12 business class seats.

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Kyrgyz economy shows shades of green

Centralasiaonline.com, 2013-10-10, OSH – An economy that sustains the environment can flourish in Kyrgyzstan, specialists say. Alternative technologies like solar power, which are taking root in the country, can reduce environmental risks while helping bring prosperity to the Kyrgyz people, they added.

“A green economy is a completely realistic and achievable aim for Kyrgyzstan,” Vladimir Grebnev, co-ordinator of the UNDP Environment Protection for Sustainable Development programme in the Kyrgyz Republic, told Central Asia Online.

As he sees it, a green economy consists of a combination of technological solutions being introduced in specific economic sectors that will enable the country to transition to a sustainable economy. It sprouts up when consumers have tangible proof of how alternative technologies work in their own communities and helps them trim household expenses like utility bills.

He offered solar panels as an example. When panels installed in a remote village start turning on lights and television sets, that is the introduction of a green economy, Grebnev said. These new technologies are becoming available around the country.

In Osh, workers built an energy-efficient school last year. Recently, they also built a greenhouse that enables year-round flower cultivation.

“Our country’s government has decided to pursue three tracks in developing the green economy: water, power and environmentally pure agricultural produce,” Baktiyar Kudayberdiyev, chief of the Public Services and Green Economy Combined Department in the Osh mayor’s office, told Central Asia Online.

Toward that end, many entrepreneurs see prospects for profits in energy-efficient technologies, he said. “The total area of a farm greenhouse is 300sq. m,” Kudayberdiyev added. “It can be used to produce three or four harvests a year. Building the (new Osh greenhouse) cost 850,000 KGS (US $17,350), and we hope that it will pay for itself, given the modern ways to use new technologies.”

Workers are building such hothouses in other parts of Kyrgyzstan, Vyacheslav Kvak, director of the Osh Oblast Agro-Industrial Eco-Complex, said. “The idea of introducing such hothouses was born several years ago,” he said. “After analysing the situation, we concluded that in the period between growing seasons, a very high proportion (almost 90%) of the fruits and vegetables we consume come from Uzbekistan (and other countries). Chemically fertilised GM (genetically modified) produce is entering our country. And we thought we could arrange to build some hothouses, so that the population could grow environmentally pure produce.”

Three categories of hothouses have been available to the public since the start of the year, he said: industrial, farm and weekend cottage.

A green economy is one where the country is transitioning away from a traditional economy that produces goods and services but pollutes the environment, Evgeniia Postnova, national co-ordinator of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme, said.

“That means that we are switching to a more environmental, cleaner way to obtain goods and services,” she said. “At the same time, we are taking into account the potential access of the next generation to natural resources, both in Kyrgyzstan and globally,” she told Central Asia Online.

The GEF is working closely with communities that are interested in solving environmental problems while reaping benefits (such as by installing solar-powered water-heating plants), Postnova said. Such endeavours can be profitable, she said.

“Deposits of coal, oil and gas are finite, so change is inevitable,” she said. “And for this to work well in Kyrgyzstan, we need to start showing small communities that the use of renewable energy sources is fully achievable, bearing in mind that we have 300 sunny days a year.”

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Ishaq Dar invites American entrepreneurs to invest in Pakistan

WASHINGTON, Oct 11 (APP): Finance Minister Ishaq Dar Friday invited American entrepreneurs to make use of lucrative investment opportunities existing in Pakistan, as he held out Islamabad’s commitment to good governance and transparency to facilitate business and economic activity.

Speaking to members of the US-Pakistan Business Council, Senator Dar particularly underlined the vast investment potential the county offers in the fields of energy, gas and oil exploration. “Transparency, merit, due process, good governance are going to be hallmarks of the government,” he stated. Dar also pledged security for foreign investors in Pakistan.

“We are implementing reforms and policies — we mean business, and Pakistan will be a good host,” he told the gathering of prominent business leaders. The new government, he said, is focused on addressing three inter-related problems including energy, economy and extremism.

On steps towards meeting Pakistan’s exponential energy requirements, the minister spoke of the Dasu and Diamber Bhasha dams and added completion of these projects would help ensure smooth flow of energy. In the immediate context, he said, the government has paid off the circular debt of around Rs 500 billion to spur supply of power.

He said the investors could avail a lot of opportunities in the energy sector as Pakistan has proven reserves of coal and gas and a number of hydro power projects were under way as well. He appraised the business and corporate leaders of the reforms and measures the government had taken to check inflation, curb fiscal deficit, attract foreign investment, bolster revenues, step up tax collection.

He said as a result of the new government’s steps, the international business and financial institutions’ confidence in the country’s economic development potential had increased tremendously. The minister, who is heading a Pakistani delegation to annual IMF-World Bank meetings, is accompanied by Finance Secretary Dr Waqar Masood Khan, Governor State Bank Yaseen Anwar and Secretary Economic Affairs Division and Ms Nargis Sethi.

Earlier, Esperanza Jelalian, Executive Director of the Council, welcomed the Minister.

In her opening remarks, Carolyn L Brehm, Vice President of the US Pakistan Business Council, spoke of the great economic potential of Pakistan and its advantageous geographic location. “Our members see value in Pakistan’s geographical proximity — it has a talented workforce,” she said, noting that a number of companies are running profitable businesses in the country.

“We are delighted that President Barack Obama will welcome Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the White House later this month,” she said, expressing hope that both governments would be able to finalize an agreement on bilateral investment treaty. She welcomed the fact that the new Pakistani government’s has dramatically increased its outreach to businesses.

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Almaty Zoo poised for upgrade

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-10-08 ALMATY – Big changes are in store for the Almaty Zoo. New animals from distant corners of the planet are taking up residence at the zoo, and it is about to undergo a 6-billion KZT (US $38.9m) reconstruction, officials say.

City authorities, the zoo administration and various benefactors vow to transform the 76-year-old zoo into an ultra-modern facility.

“Within the next two years, the zoo will become one of the city’s main attractions, a favourite leisure place for Almaty residents and out-of-town visitors,” Kayrat Kulbayev, head of the city’s Culture Administration, said. “A public oversight council has already been set up, including biologists and donors from among Kazakhstan’s entrepreneurs.”

The project will take four years but the zoo will stay open during renovations, officials say. The future zoo will consist of three geo-zones, which group species of animals by geographic origin. For example, fauna from Kazakhstan will be concentrated in the first zone. And animals from the Northern and Southern hemispheres will live in the second and third zones, respectively.

In addition, all of the animals will be taken out of cages and housed in open enclosures, which are meant to recreate their natural habitats as closely as possible, Raimbek Batalov, a businessman and member of the zoo’s oversight council, said.

The Almaty Zoo opened in 1937 and now houses 6,000 animals representing 340 species.

The price of a ticket has stayed the same for many years and is considered reasonable for Kazakhstani families. It costs 100 KZT (US 70 cents) to admit a child, and 500 KZT (US $3.24) for adults.

“We come here with our children three or four times a year, and we never get bored,” Almaty resident Dmitri Chernovolov said. “We come whenever we learn of new arrivals. Our family album includes photographs of me taken here in 1986. And now I am being photographed again with my children and grandchildren.”

The zoo’s population represents all of the main animal species. The zoo’s denizens include many birds of prey, including steppe eagles and golden eagles, as well as more-docile birds like swans, ducks and cranes.

In September, the zoo welcomed some new arrivals: three capybaras, two pumas and a tapir. “The animals arrived on exchange from various zoos; this is a widespread practice,” Yerbulat Mukashev, the zoo’s deputy director in charge of development, said. “Here they will live in extremely comfortable conditions.”

The capybaras, who always stay together, have adjusted to their new home quickly. They live on the bank of a pond and swim in the company of pelicans and cormorants.

The pumas – a male and a female – are known as Thomas and Sheba. The tapir’s name is Martin, and he came to the zoo from South America. For those not familiar with the tapir, this mammal looks like a cross between a pig and an elephant.

Last month, the zoo also welcomed some another new arrival – a zebra born last week on the premises. Since the beginning of the year, the park also has been a birthplace for lynxes, wolves, llamas, ponies, fallow deer, wild sheep, oryxes, and a giraffe named Alatau.

Birds of prey protected by a European species preservation programme reproduce in captivity at the Almaty Zoo, Sergey Sklyarenko, director of the Centre for Conservation Biology at the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Kazakhstan, noted.

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Istanbul Modern Museum’s new season starts for youth

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News – Istanbul Modern Museum announces its new workshops and ateliers programs for youth and children, which focuses on creation and vary in different disciplines, such as performance to visual arts

Istanbul Modern launches a new youth and children education program in collaboration with the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The program gathers performance and visual arts as a new education event.

Previous workshops included The Bird Hidden in the Stone, Beneath the Moon, The World I Touch, Playful Things, Matisse-Picasso, Wet-in-Wet Watercolor Workshop, The Magic of Light, Design Workshop, Art Circus, Art Factory, Module Home, Blobterre and Mecacollages. The program will run until Jan 19. Young Istanbul Modern provides children with the opportunity to learn about artists, understand the mysteries of artistic creation, discover the functions of objects, what they evoke, what they make one feel and acquire new experiences through interactive games.

This month the museum also hosts the Garanti Youth Workshops which provide the young audience with the opportunity to express themselves through art, to meet artists, to discover diverse techniques and to get an idea about the creative process.

In its “Istanbul Echo” workshop, young participants talk about the sounds of Istanbul, discuss the music of different cities, produce sound designs for the music of the city and at the end of each workshop prepare a musical piece. The workshop is open to all young participants interested in music, whether or not they play an instrument and whether they can sing in tune or not.

In the “Graffiti Workshop” activities involve creating graffiti on the museum’s exterior space. Graffiti is now recognized as street art throughout the world. Its nature and characteristics, which differ from region to region, will be introduced in this workshop and young participants will be encouraged to develop new styles for themselves.

The Outdoor Sculpture Workshop is carried out in two stages. The first stage is a seminar in which basic concepts related to sculptures such as space, volume, surface and mass are examined alongside contemporary examples of sculptures in public areas in Turkey. The second stage of the workshop involves experimenting with the process of creating sculptures in public areas. At this stage, participants create a collective installation from the sculptures they will make with materials offered in the workshop, using the oldest and most widely diffused techniques of cutting and carving.

This workshop includes a brief presentation on the art of animation followed by creating sequences using stop-motion techniques. The program begins with the introduction of basic animation, after which participants create characters out of materials such as cardboard, fabric and foil, write scripts, and complete their animations with storyboards and layout work.

Through educational programs accompanying the collection exhibition “Past and Future,” the museum aims to help children reinforce what they learn in school and develop their creativity by learning new possibilities of expression through art. In this program, which aims to render accessible the unique possibilities offered by museums that provide the opportunity to work directly with objects, children experiment, compare, research, explore, discuss and study exhibits. Titled “My Museum Bag,” focuses on art’s relationships with other disciplines.

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Waterfall in Bursa invites nature lovers

BURSA – Hurriyet – Largely unknown to the outside world, Bursa’s district of Mustafakemalpaşa boasts unspoiled natural beauty in the form of waterfalls and lakes that local authorities hope will soon attract more tourists.

“Suuçtu Waterfall, which is a hidden paradise and offers a different beauty in every season, is not known well enough. We want this place to be promoted to the world and host tourists from all around the world,” Mustafakemalpaşa Mayor Sadi Kurtulan recently told Anadolu Agency.

Kurtulan said the waterfall, which is in a beech-tree forest, was one of the most beautiful spots in Turkey, adding that the area was a haven for nature aficionados, nature sports lovers and photographers, particularly during the fall. The waterfall, which is created by an earthquake, is made up of the Karadere River which emerges from the Çataldağ and Kavalıyayla rivers and the merging of the side tributaries of these rivers.

The rivers also meet the water needs of Mustafakemalpaşa and the 15 villages within the district. The river, which is about 30 meters – stretching to 50 meters in winter with flooding – offers people the natural beauty of beech, oak and larch forests, some 17 kilometers away from the center of the district.

Mustafakemalpaşa district is 84 kilometers away from the provincial center of Bursa, while the waterfall is close to the area’s Muradiyesarnıç village. It was formed with the collapse of a fault line and also features a small lake that appears in winter.

Suuçtu is a popular resort area to visit during the weekends, especially for those from Istanbul and Balıkesir. The area is known as an oxygen depot among the beech trees. Besides being a natural air-conditioning unit, the Suuçtu Waterfall also has natural walking routes and a trout production center.

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Turkey has large presence at world’s biggest book fair

FRANKFURT – Hurriyet – The meeting point of world literature, the Frankfurt Book Fair, opened its doors yesterday to book lovers for the 65th edition with participating publishers from around the world, including Turkey.

According to a written statement made by the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry, the International Book Fairs Turkey National Organization Committee has prepared a rich program for the world’s biggest fair.

Turkey is being represented in the fair on an area of 350 square meters, 48 square meters of which is devoted entirely to children’s books. Nearly 3,000 books from 200 publishing houses will be on display at the fair.

The Turkish National Stand will also be actively working for the TEDA project, which was initiated by the Culture and Tourism Ministry in 2005 to translate Turkish books into other languages and promote Turkish arts and culture abroad. Books translated within the scope of the project are being displayed in the Turkish stand, and talks have been organized with foreign publishing houses for the project.

The program also includes panel discussions, talks and the presentation of traditional Turkish cuisine. Also, the Turkish National Stand is hosting an exhibition titled “Piri Reis: The father of the Mediterranean – Mystery of 500 Years” as well as a panel on the celebrated Ottoman explorer.

More than 7,000 exhibitors are in the fair city, which annually hosts the five-day showcase of international publishing and its cross-over into film, video games and merchandising.

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Turkey lifts decades-old ban on headscarves

Ankara, 04 Dhul Hijja 1434/ 09 October 2013 (IINA) – Turkey lifted a ban on women wearing the headscarves in state institutions on Tuesday, ending a decades-old restriction as part of a package of reforms meant to bolster democracy.

The ban, whose roots date back almost 90 years to the early days of the Turkish Republic, has kept many women from joining the public work force, but secularists see its abolition as evidence of the government pushing an Islamic agenda. The new rules, which will not apply to the judiciary or the military, were published in the Official Gazette and take immediate effect in the majority Muslim but constitutionally secular nation. “A regulation that formally intervened in freedom of clothing and lifestyle – a source of inequality, discrimination and injustice among our people – has become history,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said on his Twitter account.

The debate around the head scarf goes to the heart of tensions between religious and secular elites, a major fault line in Turkish public life. Critics of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan see his Islamist-rooted AK Party as seeking to erode the secular foundations of the republic founded on the ruins of an Ottoman theocracy by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923. Erdogan’s supporters, particularly in the country’s conservative Anatolian heartlands, say he is simply redressing the balance and restoring freedom of religious expression to a Muslim majority.

The lifting of the ban, based on a cabinet decree from 1925 when Ataturk introduced a series of clothing reforms meant to banish overt symbols of religious affiliation for civil servants, is part of a “democratization package” unveiled by Erdogan last week. The reform program – in large part aimed at bolstering the rights of Turkey’s Kurdish community – included changes to the electoral system, the broadening of language rights and permission for villages to use their original Kurdish names. An end to state primary school children reciting the oath of national allegiance at the start of each week, a deeply nationalistic vow, also took effect on Tuesday.

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OIC honors Prince Al-Waleed

Riyadh, Thursday, 05 Dhul Hijja 1434/ 10 October 2013 (IINA) – Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, Chairman of Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation-Global was awarded with an honorary plaque by Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), during a ceremony in Riyadh on Tuesday.

Several ministers, princes, dignitaries, community, business and charity leaders, and journalists attended the function held at Kingdom Hall at Four Seasons Hotel. Prince Alwaleed was honored in recognition of his humanitarian and philanthropic efforts in the Islamic world through his eponymous foundations.

To mark the occasion, Prince Alwaleed said: “This honor is a tribute to the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundations and their charitable and humanitarian activities that reached more than 80 countries worldwide, including the OIC member states. This expression of appreciation is certainly something to be proud of.”

Alwaleed, one of richest people in the world, is consciously and widely involved in philanthropic activities, not only in the Kingdom, but also regionally in Arab and Islamic countries, and globally.

To institutionalize his activities and run in efficient and professional manner, Prince Alwaleed has set up and chaired Lebanon registered “Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation-Global”, the philanthropic arm of himself and his group of companies. Since its establishment, the foundation has been involved in a wide spectrum of humanitarian and philanthropic activities in more than 80 countries.

This year, Prince Alwaleed met two prominent Islamic leaders to discuss prospects and aspects of the Islamic charitable work in the Muslim World. In January, the prince discussed with Ihsanoglu the ways of cooperation between OIC and the foundation in humanitarian programs in the OIC member states.

During the talks, the Prince noted that his foundation had conducted a comparative analysis on humanitarian action in Somalia which underlined the importance of cooperating with the OIC in this respect. In May, the Prince met Dr. Abdullah Abdulmohsen Al-Turki, secretary general of the Muslim World League who thanked the Prince for his efforts in humanitarian work all over the world, particularly in the Muslim World. The latest charitable work of the Prince, announced on Monday, is his foundation’s partnership with WAMA Foundation in Tanzania. The foundation has completed the construction of six classrooms, two dormitories and 12 staff houses at WAMA Nakayama Secondary School for disadvantaged girls, reaching more than 200 direct beneficiaries and 530 indirect beneficiaries.

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ADB studies potential for commercial harbour in Thilafushi

October 8th, Sun.mv – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has conducted a feasibility study to determine the business opportunities surrounding the establishment of a commercial harbour in Kaafu Thilafushi. ADB stated that in July this year, the Maldivian government asked the bank for Project Preparatory Technical Assistance (PPTA) to build a commercial harbour in Thilafushi and to develop the existing commercial harbour in the capital Male’. However, ADB said that the bank had decided to provide Capacity Development Technical Assistance (CDTA) instead.

The regional development bank’s CDTA undertakes institutional and organizational capacity development and supports implementation, operation and management of ADB-financed projects.

In its preliminary feasibility study, the bank notes that Male’ Commercial Harbour is currently the primary international port serving Maldives and that cargo demand is estimated to grow by at least three times in the next twenty years, fuelled by growth in tourism and construction.

“However, expansion of the existing port is limited by physical constraints. Separately, although cruise ferries are currently attracted to Male’, there are no international cruise passenger facilities,” the report read.

The report also states that the on-going master-plan study recommends segregation of cargo and passenger movements around Male’ and relocation of port operations from Male’ to Thilafushi. The most recent physical upgrade of the Male’ Commercial Harbour was in 1998, when ADB assisted in reclamation and expansion of the harbour.

An official from the Ministry of Finance and Treasury said today that they will soon call for bids for the Thilafushi harbour development project, and that approximately 70 hectares of land have been reserved for the project, in addition to 50 hectares designated for storage and warehouse facilities.

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Eight parties interested to develop airport in Maafaru

Sun.mv – October 10, 2013 – Eight parties have submitted Expression of Interests to develop a domestic airport in the island of Maafaru in Noonu atoll, north of the Maldives.

A senior official from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture revealed that period for the EOI to a tourist resort in a separate island in Noonu atoll, in conjunction with the airport project, expired at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday.

Kuwaiti company, International Holding Company and a local company, I & T Management expressed interest for the Maafaru airport project earlier this year. Both companies later recalled their proposals.

The Tourism Ministry official said that the EOI’s will be evaluated during next week.

“It is a long holiday after today. But we will evaluate the proposals very soon and invite the parties who qualify to submit RFPs. We want this to progress swiftly,” the official said.

The government called for EOIs for the Maafaru airport development project on 22nd September. In 2008, the government terminated its agreement with Noonu Hotels for the development of an airport in Maafaru.

The project was announced again on 4 February 2013, after the people of Maafaru staged protests against the delay in commencement of the project, claiming that they were being denied basic needs. Then acting Minister of Transport Mohamed Nazim was summoned to the Parliament Committee on Oversight of the Government over the protests

Noonu Hotels was also given an island for resort development in conjunction with the Maafaru airport project. According to the government, the company paid $7 million as advance rent for the island.

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Madonna reveals she is studying Qur’an

Los Angeles, Monday, 02 Dhul Hijja 1434/ 07 October 2013 (IINA) – Madonna revealed this week she has been studying the Holy Qur’an, a practice which has come alongside her efforts to build girls’ schools in Islamic countries.

“I am building schools for girls in Islamic countries and studying the Holy Qur’an. I think it is important to study all the holy books,” the U.S. pop icon said in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar published on Friday. Madonna added that she agrees with what one of her friends tell her; that a good Muslim is a good Jew, a good Jew is a good Christian, and so forth.

The “Material Girl” recently got her fans talking after posting a picture on Facebook from a photo shoot in which she wore what looked like a chainmail niqab. The picture was accompanied by the words: “The Revolution of Love is on…Inshallah (Arabic for ‘God willing’).” Speculations over the singer’s interest in Islam have sparked in recent years after the star began dating Brahim Zaibat, a Muslim of Algerian descent.

Last year, Madonna was pictured in Turkey with Zaibat as she wore a headscarf to visit a mosque in Turkey, according to news reports.

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Post-Umrah tourism will begin after Haj season

Rome, Sunday, 01 Dhul Hijja 1434/ 06 October 2013 (IINA) – President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) Prince Sultan Bin Salman said here on Saturday that after this year’s Haj season the Kingdom will allow post-Umrah tourism in cooperation with the ministries of interior, foreign affairs and Haj.

He made this announcement during a visit to the Cultural Days Exhibition being held in the People’s Square in Rome. Last year, SCTA approved more than 30 tourist companies to provide post-Umrah tourist services. The post-Umrah tourism program will make it possible for Muslims who come from overseas to remain in the Kingdom after completing Umrah rituals to tour the Kingdom’s archeological sites. Commenting on the term religious tourism, Prince Sultan said that the Kingdom does not use this term officially as a concept for tourism used internationally. He said people adhere to their religion and perform their religious rituals.

Prince Sultan said the Kingdom spares no effort to provide the best services to the visitors of the Two Holy Mosques. “We are servants of the Two holy mosques and we carry out this duty without boasting. Allah blessed us with this honor to serve Islam, Muslims and the two holy mosques,” he added. Prince Sultan said the Kingdom enjoys distinctive relations with the majority of countries. He said the relations between the Kingdom and Italy are strong in the political, economic and cultural aspects.

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India’s leading Islamic weekly celebrates golden jubilee

New Delhi, Monday, 02 Dhul Hijja 1434/ 07 October 2013 (IINA) – Indian Muslims’ weekly magazine Radiance celebrated its golden jubilee recently at India Islamic Cultural Centre, which was attended by a large number of its readers and well-wishers.

A special issue of the magazine, containing the gist of its coverage on the various issues confronting the nation and the community since its inception, was released on the occasion. Besides launching a new website (radianceweekly.in), a documentary CD on the 50-year journey of the magazine was also released. Recognizing the services of its former Deputy Editor, Syed Ausaf Saied Vasfi, and some former journalists, the publishers honored them with mementos. Vasfi was conferred with Lifetime Achievement Award along with a citation. It was an emotional moment as Vasfi’s association with Radiance in various capacities spanned five decades.

Speaking on the occasion, Syed Shahabuddin, former president of All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat, said that over the years, Radiance has become the mouthpiece of the community. “I have found Radiance to be more trustworthy than other newspapers and magazines that I get in the office and I read Radiance the most. The noteworthy point of Radiance is that it does not fuel the fire of sectarianism and communalism but rather it has followed the path of tolerance in its approach and contents.”

Shia leader Kalb-e-Sadiq stressed the need to build greater unity among Muslims by putting an end to all kinds of sects and differences. Zafarul-Islam Khan, editor of The Milli Gazette, said despite all achievements, a lot more is required to be done by the community or existing Muslim media to make their voice heard. Syed Jalaluddin Omari, president of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, said the remarkable and unique feature of Radiance is that it covers every issue in Islamic perspective. The magazine’s current editor Sikandar Azam presented vote of thanks.

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Doha Showcases Hajj Through Art

OnIslam, 10 October 2013 CAIRO – Exploring the art revolving around the world’s largest human gathering, a special exhibition about hajj “Journey Through Art” has launched in Qatar, offering audiences a local interpretation of the Muslim pilgrimage to Makkah.

“Exhibitions such as this have traditionally been the purview of European and North American museums,” Aisha Al Khater, Director of Museum of Islamic Art, Doha (MIA), said in a press release obtained by OnIslam.net.

“MIA is dedicated to shedding light on our past to inspire future generations, and we believe the power of art is essential to bringing the story of our cultures to life. We have every confidence that this exhibition will do just that,” she added.

The exhibition, the Journey Through Art, is the first exhibition held in the Muslim world to explore the art revolving around the pilgrimage of hajj.

Inaugurated on Wednesday, October 9, it would run through 5 January 2014. The exhibition presents artworks from MIA and objects from Qatari collections, many of which have never before been displayed in public.

It also offers audiences a local interpretation of the pilgrimage by focusing on the routes taken from Qatar to Makkah, gifts brought back by local pilgrims and oral histories of Qatar. Organized in collaboration with the British Museum, the exhibition will be supported by a full educational program which includes art and calligraphy workshops, special tours and classroom materials for schools.

Lectures would also be offered by a number of experts including Tim Mackintosh-Smith, and a panel discussion with three of the contemporary artists involved in the exhibition: Ahmed Mater, Walid Siti and Khalifa Al-Obaidly.

Along with local artworks, the exhibition hosts international photographers including Peter Sanders (Britain), Reem al-Faisal (Saudi Arabia), Kayuzoshi Nomachi (Japan), Juliette Sawyers (Australia) and Khalifa Al-Obaidly (Qatar).

“We are very proud of the work we have done to provide a truly unique vision of Hajj and offer a local lens through which to view it,” Mounia Chekhab-Abudaya said. “Using objects from our own collection and those of a number of generous local contributors, we bring to light the breath-taking artistry that has revolved around Hajj since the beginnings of Islam and continues to this day. This is a perfect example of the continuation of Islamic artistic traditions.”

The exhibition is not the first international event to feature Muslims hajj journey. In 2012, the British Museum hosted a major exhibition on the Muslim hajj to educate non-Muslims about one of the five pillars of Islam. The UK exhibition, billed as the world’s largest on hajj, traced some of the main routes Muslims have followed over the centuries to get to Makkah.

Muslims from around the world pour into Makkah every year to perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam. Hajj consists of several ceremonies, which are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family.

Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime.

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Palestinian Youths Launch “Al-Quds Week”

11/10/2013 RAMALLAH – Defending Islam’s third holiest shrine, a coalition of Palestinian activists has announced week-long activities to protest the increasing Israeli attacks targeting Al-Aqsa mosque in Al-Quds (Occupied East Jerusalem).

Backing Al Aqsa Deterring settlers Inflaming Intifada, the slogan of week-long activities read in the flyer posted by the Intifada Youth Coalition (IYC-PAL) on its Facebook page on Saturday, September 28. “Your stones would oust settlers” IYC statement said.

The Intifada Youth Coalition (IYC-PAL) has called for “Day of Anger” on next Monday, against the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, as a part of the week-long activities. IYC urged all the Palestinian youths and students to mass at Al-Aqsa mosque to prevent the occupation army and settlers from desecrating the holy site.

To guarantee a wider impact, the coalition asked all student unions in the West Bank universities to halt the study on Monday. The week-long activities included an invitation by cyber-activists to all Palestinian youths and university and school students to block all the roads leading up to the Israeli settlements and protest in front of “humiliating” Israeli barricades.

Al-Quds is home to Al-Haram Al-Sharif, which includes Islam’s third holiest shrine Al-Aqsa Mosque, and represents the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Jews claim that their alleged Temple of Solomon exists underneath the Muslim holy place and want to destroy it to build their temple.

Al-Aqsa complex is controlled by the Islamic authority known as the Waqf, which allows Jews’ entry to the site only through one portal, the Mughrabi Gate, where Israeli police monitor visitors. Over the past few weeks, a growing number of Israeli politicians and rabbis have been leading visits to Muslim controlled Al-Aqsa mosque.

Developing into bloody confrontations, at least 75 Palestinians have been injured when the Israeli police stormed Al-Aqsa mosque and fired a barrage of pepper gas canisters towards Muslim worshippers inside the mosque earlier this month.

Earlier attacks occurred when Israeli police forces stormed Al-Aqsa mosque, firing tear gas and arresting scores of Palestinian worshippers over the Temple mount clashes.

Israel Police statistics show visits by people identified as Jews rose to 8,247 in 2011 from 5,792 in 2010, then dipped slightly last year. The figure is on track to top 2011’s total this year, with 5,609 Israelis coming through July.

In 2000, a visit by Ariel Sharon, then Israel’s opposition leader, accompanied by 1,000 police officers, set off the second intifada, which lasted for years.

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French Campus Trains Muslim Imams

OnIslam Tuesday, 08 October 2013 PARIS – Preparing a new generation of native French Muslim imams, Turkey has announced its plans to establish the first Muslim campus in Strasbourg to attract hundreds of young French Muslims willing to serve the growing community.

“It will become the standard for Islam in France and Europe,” Saban Kiper, socialist councilor in the Strasbourg municipality told Libération, ANSA reported on Tuesday, October 8. Providing France’s future Imams with an intensive Arabic curriculum, the project will serve as a theology college with a five-year course of studies and a Muslim secondary school based on the Turkish imam hatip.

“The secondary school will be a nursery ground for recruiting future students of theology,” Kiper, said. Supervised by Diyanet, the Turkish religious affairs service, the Turkish funded project will coats nearly 15 million Euros to accommodate France’s Muslim community of Turkish origins.

The new campus will be hosting religious courses for at least six hours on a weekly basis.

Though the campus is still under construction, several different structures were purchased in 2010 and are currently undergoing renovation.

The new campus is expected to fill a void in France where only two private institutes offer imams’ training, including a school created by Paris’s Grand Mosque and the other is set up by the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF).

Earlier in 2013, France has expelled several imams in recent months on claims of preaching hatred in the country. In October 2012, a Tunisian imam was expelled on claims of spreading anti-Semitic views.

Imams were also barred from entering France under former president Nicolas Sarkozy, including prominent scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the president of the International Union for Muslim Scholars.

In February 2013, a group of Muslim imams have visited Holocaust site in France in an effort to dispel public misconceptions about the sizable community and their religion. With retreated salaries and a tally of two thirds reported ‘unpaid’, French imams depend mainly on donations from mosques-goers and volunteers.

“Imams depend on mosques, mosque-goers and public authorities,” sociologist Romain Sèze told Libération. The double anguish of being ‘unpaid’ or getting law salaries averts France’s young Muslims from being Imams.

France’s young Muslims are generally not attracted to this work since it “is badly paid, there are few social protections in place and there is no work contract,” Sèze said. “While the private institutes in existence do accept a certain quantity of students, few of them want to become imams.”

France is home to a Muslim minority of six million, Europe’s largest. French Muslims have been complaining of growing restrictions on their religious freedoms. The French government had held a national debate on the role of Islam in French society.

Paris had also outlawed Muslim street prayers, a sight far-right leader Marine Le Pen likened to the Nazi occupation. Muslims have also complained of restrictions on building mosques to perform their daily prayers.

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Islamabad to Have Science Museum Soon

By Daily Times / 8 Oct 2013 – The Pakistan Science Museum will be established at Shakarparian for promotion of research in the country. Summary for approval had been submitted to the Ministry of Science and Technology, while allocation of land by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) is under way, an official said.

The PSF will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the University of Rome, National Science Foundation, Turkish Academy of Sciences and ECO- Institute of Environmental S&T Iran for collaboration.

Rs 2.17 billion has been allocated in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2013-14 for the project. Around 15 collaborative proposals with organizations in Turkey, Argentina, European Union, Uzbekistan, Mexico and Russia were submitted, he said.

Besides, the project also encompasses the establishment of Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) science centre and another museum at University of Karachi. According to official sources, the PSF will also establishment five scientific centers in different Pakistani cities.

The project will handle motivational programs for students to engage in creative activities, as well as coverage of scientific lectures, and meetings, in addition to reports in media. According to a governmental Pakistani official, the PSF is unfortunately facing shortage of funds.

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Heads turn at new owl species discovered in Oman

Al Arabiya / 8 Oct 2013 – A new owl breed has been discovered in the remote Jebel Akdhar mountains in Oman, ornithologists working in the Gulf state reported this week.

The Scottish wildlife sound-recordist, Magnus Robb, wrote “Strix Omanensis” officially exists from Oct. 4 on the website of “The Sound Approach,” an international project aiming to record and understand bird sounds.

“Shaped like a strix owl, it (the new breed) lacked ear-tufts and appeared slightly smaller-headed than a tawny owl,” Robb described the exotic owl on the project’s website.

Robb first recorded the bird’s unfamiliar hoot during an unexpected discovery in March this year.

“I was listening through my headphones, when Isuddenly heard something completely different (to the owl species I was there to record),”he told BBC News.

He added: “I know the other Arabian owl sounds quite well, and this was clearly something that didn’t fit.”

Robb and his colleague René Pop searched thoroughly to find the mystery bird again the next night, but no avail. “It was only on the last night of our trip that we heard it again. We had to leave for the airport with the unseen owl hooting up on a cliff.”

But after more research trips and critical analysis, the Sound Approach concluded that the new owl was the first bird species to be discovered in the region since 77 years. “It seems unimaginable that this owl could have led a secret existence until now, but I was in a remote location and I guess not many people have thought to go there at night,” Gulf News quoted Robb as saying.

The observations already published in the journal Dutch Birding. Robb and his colleagues so far found only seven of the birds in a single valley in the desolate, mountainous area. Robb will return to Oman later this year to learn more about the owl.

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Pakistan, OFID $50m loan pact to support Neelum Jhelum project

WASHINGTON, Oct 11 (APP): Pakistan and the OPEC Fund for International Development entered into a loan agreement here Thursday, under which the OFID would provide $50 million for completion of Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Plant Project. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Director General OFID signed the agreement. The objective of the original project is the construction of a hydroelectric power plant, involving the diversion of the Neelum River through an underground tunnel system. The project is aimed at meeting growing electric power demand through improved access to electricity and reliable power supply while boosting the share of hydro-generated power in the overall mix of electricity generation of Pakistan. The OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) is the development finance institution established by the Member States of OPEC in 1976 as a collective channel of aid to the developing countries.

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