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4 Nov, 2013

Blockbuster Islamic Expo “1001 Inventions” Now Showing In Malaysia

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 04 November 2013 (01 Muharram 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.




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 ASEAN 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.


Indian, Pakistan Young Entrepreneurs Seek Business Deals, Bridge Ties

ISLAMABAD, Oct 29 (NNN-Bernama) — A group of 25 young Indian entrepreneurs is exploring business and investment opportunities in Pakistan in what is also a bid to improve ties between both countries.

The group arrived at the Wagah border on Sunday dressed in white as a symbol of peace amid continued tensions at the border, Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.

The aim of the four-day visit is to enable youths from both countries to get together to share common values and seek means to enhance personal and business ties to realise the immense potential India and Pakistan provide in working together.

“It is a great opportunity to know each other and bring youths of both countries closer apart from looking at business opportunities. The group will meet Pakistani entrepreneurs and get a feel of what we are doing here,” said Shaban Khalid, president of Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ICCI).

The Indian delegation is led by Commonwealth Asia Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs (CAAYE) founder-president Rahul Mirchandani.

During their visit, the Indian entrepreneurs will attend the Pak-India Young Entrepreneurs Bilateral Summit organised by the Young Entrepreneurs Forum (YEF) of the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Young Indians (YI) and CAAYE.

They will also interact with the Lahore University of Management Sciences, Arfa Karim Software Technology Park and Pakistan Fashion Design Council, and meet students at ROOTS School, Islamabad and prepare a business case study by analysing the success story of Pakistan’s Bahria Town.

“The focus area is IT, education and fashion. They will visit Bahria Town since it has become a role model in itself,” said Fawab Abbasi, partner at one of Pakistan’s leading architect firms Suhail and Fawad architects.

Last year, a similar summit hosted by the Young Indians (YI) was held in Mumbai, India with Pakistan represented by a 15-member group under the banner of Young Entrepreneurs Forum.

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2nd OIC Tourism Fair in Tunisia, April 2014

The Islamic Centre for Development of Trade (ICDT) and the Tunisian Company “Advertising & Marketing Publishing» ( MAP) will organise under the aegis of the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Tunisia , the Second Edition of the Tourism Fair of the OIC Member States from 23rd to 26th April 2014 in Tunis, Tunisia , under the theme ” ITF Civilisation and Modernity .”

The objective of this fair is to strengthen cooperation and partnership between the OIC Member States in the tourism sector, to promote the historical monuments and tourist sights of Member States and to encourage investment and partnership in this sector.

This fair is open to all Member States, Muslim communities and organizations wishing to develop their cooperation with the OIC Member States and promote their tourism in the Islamic world.

It falls within the framework of the efforts aiming at promoting trade and investment among the OIC Member States in order to achieve the objectives of the Ten Year Programme of Action of the OIC, adopted by the 3rd Extraordinary Islamic Summit Conference of the OIC, held in December 2005 in Jeddah – Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, particularly the objective of raising the share of intra-OIC trade in the overall trade of Member States to 20% by 2015.

Further details:

Afif KCHOUK, Director General M.A.P, Tél.: 00 216 71 89 32 15, Fax: 00 216 71 78 40 13, E-mail: direction@tourisminfo.com.tn, Web: www.oictourismfair.com, Web: www.icdt-oic.org

Dr. El Hassane HZAINE, Director General ICDT, Tel: 00 212 522 314 974, Fax: 00 212 522 310 110. E-mail: icdt@icdt-oic.org

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Conference to Promote Islamic Finance for Asia

(Asian Development Bank media release) 4 November 2013 Manila, Philippines – The Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will today host a Conference on Islamic Finance for Asia: Development, Prospects and Inclusive Growth.

The conference aims to create greater awareness of the opportunities brought about by Islamic finance to the Asian region and will explore issues related to further developing the Islamic financial services industry, its current state of progress and challenges, while also seeking to create greater opportunities for interaction and cooperation among the members of IFSB and ADB.

The Conference will examine the experiences of selected Asian countries in Islamic finance, with a focus on the regulatory requirements and other pre-conditions needed to establish and sustain the industry’s orderly development. It will also identify the benefits of Islamic finance. The sessions and discussions will draw upon the perspectives of market opportunities and challenges, global and national regulatory requirements, and facilitation of cross-border investment flows.

Topics to be discussed at the conference include:

(+) Islamic Finance for Asia: Innovation, Inclusion and Growth

(+) Islamic Finance: Stability, Resilience and Regulatory Issues

(+) Islamic Banking: Financial Inclusion as a Core Concept

(+) Islamic Capital Market: The Role of Sukūk for Development

(+) Implementation of the IFSB Standards

(+) Panel Discussion on the Way Forward – A Roadmap for Asia

Following the conference, a roundtable session for regulators will be held, with the aim to provide a unique opportunity for regulators to discuss and share their experiences, issues and challenges in developing an Islamic finance regulatory regime and in supervising the Islamic financial services industry.

Among the issues to be discussed at the roundtable are the legal and regulatory issues for Islamic finance post-crisis and the role of governments and private sectors in undertaking initiatives for Islamic finance.

ADB and the IFSB are also jointly implementing a regional technical assistance to help improve access to Islamic finance in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan, with a $750,000 technical assistance (TA) grant, approved by ADB in October 2012.

The TA grant will be used, amongst others, to develop an e-module platform to build capacities on prudential standards developed by IFSB. The TA grant is funded by the Government of Luxembourg’s Financial Sector Development Partnership Fund and the Republic of Korea e-Asia and Knowledge Partnership Fund, both to be administered by ADB.

The IFSB is an international standard-setting organization that promotes and enhances the soundness and stability of the Islamic financial services industry by issuing global prudential standards and guiding principles for the industry, broadly defined to include banking, capital markets and insurance sectors. The IFSB also conducts research and coordinates initiatives on industry-related issues, as well as organizes roundtables, seminars and conferences for regulators and industry stakeholders. Towards this end, the IFSB works closely with relevant international, regional and national organizations, research/educational institutions and market players.

The members of the IFSB comprise regulatory and supervisory authorities, international inter-governmental organizations and market players, professional firms and industry associations.

For more information about the IFSB, please visit www.ifsb.org.

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Islam Gave Me Happiness: NZ Rugby Star

OnIslam & News Agencies Sunday, 27 October 2013 WELLINGTON – Preparing for world cup, a New Zealand rugby Muslim star has said that Islam has made him a new man after a successful spell playing union where he won the World Cup with the All Blacks.

“I wouldn’t be half the man I am today without my faith,” New Zealand’s Sonny Bill Williams said in a BBC video.

Four years in union, including a World Cup win, six professional victories as a boxer, William’s conversion to Islam have seen him return to league a new man.

“I think I’ve become a better person. When I play, I play well,” Williams said. “I get a lot of love, a lot of respect,” he added.

New Zealand are looking to retain the title they won in 2008, with Williams seeking to become the first player to win a World Cup in both codes of the game.

Born in 1985, Williams a top-notch rugby star in New Zealand. He reverted to Islam in 2008 after attending prayer services at a Sydney mosque.

The superstar is the first Muslim to play for the All Blacks rugby team. Williams’ younger sister Niall Williams is a New Zealand international touch football player, and won gold at the Youth World Cup in 2005 and silver at the 2011 Touch Football World Cup.

“Islam has given me happiness. I don’t go around preaching or anything. It is like something that’s just with me,” Williams said in another video posted on YouTube last September.

“What it has done for me on my inside I can’t really explain. But obviously it’s helped with my footy, cause I don’t drink or anything like that anymore and I try to live a lot cleaner lifestyle and things like that, but essentially it’s just made me a lot happier.”

Turning from league’s most hated player, New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney said that international rugby league fans will see a new player.

“He’s been fantastic. He’s been really good,” Kearney said of the 28-year-old, who won the NRL with the Sydney Roosters earlier this month, told 3News website on Sunday, October 27.

“He’s light years away from where he has. He was always a special talent but he’s five years on, wiser and more mature. He’s different.

“He has got to know himself. He’s measured himself, he’s grown and is a man now. We all need time to do that. At the time he was a 22-year-old, a big fish in the pond and some of us don’t handle that.”

The south-pacific island country of New Zealand is home to 36,000 Muslims, according to the 2006 census.

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New Saudi tourism law approved

Saudi Gazette – 29 October, 2013 – The Council of Ministers approved on Monday the tourism law that gives more powers to the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) in managing the Kingdom’s public tourism spots and ensuring the best possible services to customers at affordable rates.

The new tourism regulations were endorsed by the Cabinet, chaired by Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz, Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense, at Al-Yamama Palace in Riyadh.

Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Abdulaziz Khoja said in a statement to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) following the session that the Cabinet entrusted SCTA to advertise through its website and other media outlets the prices to be fixed by the licensed tourism operators for tourist accommodation facilities as well as for various tourist activities and services.

The Cabinet took the decision after reviewing the Shoura Council resolution and recommendations of the Standing Committee of the Supreme Economic Council in this regard.

Dr. Khoja said the new law aims at managing tourism facilities and services. According to the law, SCTA will propose which tourist spots are to be identified as the public tourist places in coordination with the relevant authorities.

SCTA will also work out the executive regulations of the law so as to govern tourist activities.

Public tourist places are protected by the new law, and it is not allowed for any private party to own them. The State will use them or make investments in them directly or lease them to the private sector through a public bidding.

Under the law, SCTA will monitor the list of prices for tourist residential units as well as for their activities and services. Similarly, the law entrusts SCTA staff with the right to control and inspect tourist accommodation facilities. They also have the right to receive complaints from consumers.

At the outset of the session, Dr. Khoja said, Crown Prince Salman thanked all those who participated in making this year’s Haj operation an overwhelming success. He also appreciated cooperation extended by Muslim countries, as well as Saudis and expatriates to the new arrangements made for Haj by reducing the number of pilgrims due to expansion projects at the Grand Mosque and the holy sites.

Dr. Khoja said the Cabinet emphasized the significance of reforming the United Nations Security Council so as to enable it to effectively carry out its duties and responsibilities with regard to maintaining international peace and security.

The Cabinet renewed the Kingdom’s demand to the Security Council to abide by its historical, humanitarian and moral responsibilities so that the world does not lose its hope in maintaining peace, as well as its confidence in the ability of global institutions for continuing their collective work. While reiterating the commitment to work for protecting and promoting human rights, the Cabinet stressed that the Kingdom would reject politicization of human rights and adoption of double standards.

The Cabinet named seven members to the Council of Cooperative Health Insurance and renewed the membership of three others, and appointed two members to the Board of Directors of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority. All these appointments were for a period of three years.

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New live channels during Etihad flights

Khaleej Times – 31 October, 2013 – Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, is set to transform in-flight entertainment options with the introduction of eight live television channels that will broadcast live news and sport, including this weekend’s Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The new live channels are BBC World News, BBC Arabic, euronews and Sport 24, which are available from November 1. CNBC, Japan’s NHK World Premium and CNN will be introduced during November, whileSky News Arabia will follow in the coming months.

The highlight of the sports coverage are the final three races of the Formula 1 season with the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to be held this Sunday at Yas Marina Circuit, as well as the US Grand Prix on November 17 and the Brazil Grand Prix on November 24.

Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways’ chief commercial officer, said: “We are delighted to broadcast this weekend’s Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on many of our aircraft, ensuring that passengers who are flying on race day won’t miss any of the action.”

In addition to the Formula 1, passengers can also watch a wealth of live top sporting action this November including the ATP World Tour Finals, English Premier League and German Bundesliga matches, and Euroleague Basketball.

The sports coverage continues in 2014 and includes major events.

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Cathay Pacific plans daily Bahrain service

Gulf Daily News – 30 October, 2013 – Cathay Pacific, one of the first airlines to fly into Bahrain nearly 40 years ago, along with BOAC and Qantas, when the kingdom was the hub of Middle East aviation, is planning to resume its daily service next year.

The airline currently operates four flights a week between Bahrain and its hub in Hong Kong.

In an exclusive interview with the GDN, Thomas Bellamy, the airline’s newly appointed country manager for Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Offline Middle East, said Bahrain’s economy and regional activities were on the upswing and they had experienced more bookings, which has led to discussions on expansion in service.

“I can say that globally Cathay Pacific has load factors of more than 80 per cent,” Mr Bellamy said, “although I will not be able to give you details on our Bahrain service.”

Two of the airline’s weekly flights from Bahrain to Hong Kong are via Riyadh and two are direct.

The country manager reiterated Cathay Pacific’s long-term commitment to the kingdom and the local community.

“Together with Cathay Pacific’s and our sister airline Dragonair’s extensive network to China and Asia, we will bring Asia one step closer to the community in the Middle East.”

Unitag Group founder, chairman and chief executive Jamil Wafa, a doyen of the aviation business and the man responsible for getting the airline to fly to Bahrain, welcomed the move.

Mr Wafa said it took a lot of convincing to get the authorities to grant Cathay Pacific landing and traffic rights into Bahrain International Airport as they were apprehensive about the impact on Gulf Air, which was established then as the flag carrier of Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Abu Dhabi.

“I was invited to meet two senior Cathay Pacific executives at the Hilton Hotel, who were in Bahrain on a fact-finding mission to operate their flights into one of the Gulf states three times a week. Cathay was looking for a stopover for its Hong Kong to Bahrain and return flights. I encountered further problems when CX approached us to obtain traffic rights for their daily Bahrain-London-Bahrain service.

“I strongly recommended Bahrain and managed to convince the administration here that the only way to position Bahrain as a hub was to allow more airlines to fly in and get connected with the world.

It is worth noting that Bahrain International Airport gave Cathay the gateway to operate into Europe and the Gulf region. This could not have happened if the Bahrain government had not opened the door for them, said Mr Wafa.

Having seen regional aviation go through turbulence and clear skies for more than 60 years, he feels that aviation in the Gulf has become increasingly fragmented over the years.

“The industry has changed a lot and it cannot be run the way it used to be.

“With fuel prices going up, landing fees, handling fees, catering, salaries, all components are increasingly difficult to manage.

“If an airline has to do well in this difficult environment, it will need a fully knowledgeable person in aviation who understands all aspects of the business, a true blue aviation professional, who has learnt the ropes to steer it.

“In the halcyon days of Gulf Air, it was the flag carrier of Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Abu Dhabi, then each country wanted its own airline and now there are low cost, no-frills airlines also, all in the fray for traffic which has not grown so much.

“Does the Gulf need so many airlines? This is a question that people need to be asking.”

According to him, the more united aviation in the region is, the better it will be.

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Campaign To Grow More Coffee In Northern Uganda

KAMPALA, Oct 28 (NNN-NEW VISION) — A campaign to increase coffee production in Lango and Acholi sub-regions in northern Uganda has kicked off with the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) pledging to raise 100 million coffee seedlings to distribute to farmers in these areas.

UCDA officials say the campaign is to more than double exports of coffee from the current two million bags to 4.5 million bags in the near future. “We have a target to plant 100 million seedlings starting next year. The seedlings will be given free,” said Mike Maliro, the UCDA regional manager during an exhibition at Lira Mayor’s Gardens on Friday.

He added that the UCDA would establish a coffee factory in Lira to boost the production of high quality coffee for the world market.

Col. Bosco Omure, one of the potential coffee farmers, said under the Presidential initiatives, farmers in northern Uganda would be given two million seedlings for planting. Other items to be promoted include citrus growing and cattle and pig rearing to fight poverty.

Omure, a resident of Abwoli Olil village in Amac sub-county OF Lira district, was appointed by President Yoweri Museveni as the co-ordinator of the anti-poverty programme in the region.

He said Aswa ranch would be used as cattle multiplication centre while Awere, Agago, Atiak and Ngetta would be for seedlings growing.

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Exhibition of rare Islamic objects opens in Spain

AP, Monday 28 Oct 2013 – A private museum in southern Spain is opening an exhibition of rare Islamic art and scientific objects that highlight the use of light in decoration and studies in the Arab world.

The exhibition, “Nur: Light in art and science in the Islamic world,” is sponsored by the energy company Abengoa and has gathered 150 pieces from collections such those of the Bodleian Library at Oxford University and private collectors from around the world.

Curated by Sabiha Al Khemir, a Tunisian writer and expert in Islamic art, the exhibition opens on Saturday at the Focus-Abengoa Foundation’s gallery in Seville.

From there, it travels next year to the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas, where it will be open to the public from March 30 to June 29.

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Air Arabia Launching Flights To Chinese Cities In 2014

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Oct 29 (NNN-WAM) – Air Arabia will start flying from its home base, Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to several cities in China next year.

Air Arabia group chief executive, Adel Abdullah Ali, said, the airline had received permission to fly to several Chinese cities, but did not reveal their names, Xinhua news agency reports, the UAE daily, The National, as saying.

Local media said, the carrier is expected to focus on destinations in the West and central-West of China, such as Chengdu.

The UAE has intensified trade and tourism relations with China in recent years, as there are some 200,000 Chinese citizens living in the Gulf state.

Air Arabia earned a net income of 134 million dirham (US$36.54 million), in the first six months of the year, representing a 17 percent increase over the same period last year.

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Blockbuster Islamic Expo “1001 Inventions” Now Showing In Malaysia

The award-winning blockbuster exhibition, 1001 Inventions, which is about the achievements of Muslim Civilisation in science and technology, has opened at the National Science Centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It will be open until 28 February 2014, allowing people from around the ASEAN region to see the true history, culture and scientific discoveries of the Islamic world.

Recognised as the world’s best touring exhibition by the Museum and Heritage Excellence Awards in London in 2011, the ground-breaking 1001 Inventions show has already received more than three million visitors during record-breaking residencies in London, Istanbul, New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC and the Middle East.

The Malaysian tour of 1001 Inventions is produced in partnership with Science Discoveries Sdn. Bhd., which has previously brought several science exhibitions to the Malaysian market in partnership with the London Science Museum.

1001 Inventions : Kegemilangan Tamadun Muslim is the Malaysian version of the groundbreaking production that has wowed audiences across Europe, North America and the Middle East.

1001 Inventions brings to life pioneering men and women from the history of science whose achievements have had a huge but hidden influence on the way we live our lives today. These role models serve as an inspiration for young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics thanks to the modern, engaging and highly interactive 1001 Inventions experience.

Science Discoveries Sdn. Bhd. is bringing this internationally acclaimed show to Malaysia for its Asian debut. Science Discoveries Sdn. Bhd. has a proven track record for showcasing science exhibitions in the region and the launch of 1001 Inventions in Malaysia continues our tradition of supporting the national objective of encouraging the development of a knowledge economy in our home territory. More than three million people have already visited the exhibition in the last three years and 1001 Inventions Malaysia will continue that success.

The 1001 Inventions initiative has received recognition from industry leaders, statesmen and academics from around the world including public messages of support from HRH Prince Charles (UK), Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

1001 Inventions is a family-friendly educational brand supported by an international network of academic experts, which ensure that the content of 1001 Inventions productions is of the highest possible academic standard.

The content of all 1001 Inventions productions has been researched by academic experts and then peer reviewed by a network of specialist academics from respected Universities and Museums around the world. In addition, the Science Museum in London employed a panel of renowned experts to review and verify the content of the 1001 Inventions exhibition prior to its six-month residency there.

The Malaysian version of the exhibition features more than sixty exhibits providing visitors of all ages with a hands-on, interactive and state-of-the-art family-friendly experience. Different zones dedicated to Engineering, Medicine, Astronomy, Mathematics, Geography and Agriculture will highlight the many ways in which Muslim Civilisation helped lay the foundations for the European Renaissance and has had a profound impact on the modern world.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is a 20 foot-tall replica of the 13th century “Elephant Clock”, invented by Master Engineer, Al-Jazari, which incorporated technologies from many ancient civilisations and pioneered the concept of automation.

Al-Jazari also serves as the central character in the exhibition’s orientation film, “The Library of Secrets”, which stars Oscar-winner Sir Ben Kingsley and won more than 20 industry awards including “Best Film” recognition in Cannes, Los Angeles and at the New York Film Festival. To date, the movie has been downloaded more than 20 million times.

More details available from www.1001inventions.com.my


Duration: 6 months (ends 28th February 2014)

Opens 9am-5pm daily

FREE ENTRY to Pusat Sains Negara with every purchase of 1001 Inventions tickets

Adults @ RM20/=

Child (7 – 17yrs)/Students ( +ID) @ RM15/=

Snr Citizens @ RM15/=

Families (2Adults + 2Child) @ RM60/=

Pre-School (4 – 6yrs) @ RM6/=

Group Package

(minimum 30 paid tickets + 2 complimentary passes)

OKU/Handicapped – Free Entry

PSN Membership Card Holder Only – (Adult/Child) RM2/= discount,

(Family) RM4/= discount

*Ticket Price is valid for PSN venue only.

Incentives for schools (PSN venue only)

RM5,000 for the school that brings the most number of paying students

RM2,000 for the teacher that brings the most number of paying students

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United Airways opens Dhaka-Ishwardi flight

DHAKA, Oct 30, 2013 (BSS) – United Airways (BD) Ltd, a private airline of the country, started its flight on Dhaka- Ishwardi route here today.

Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Lt Col (retd) Faruk Khan inaugurated the flight at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA), said a release.

Home Minister Shamsul Haque Tuku, lawmaker Shamsur Rahman Sharif, managing director of the United Airways Captain Tasbirul Ahmed Chowdhury and high officials the Civil Aviation Authority, Bangladesh (CAAB) were, among others, present on the occasion.

Initially, weekly two flights from Dhaka to Ishwardi airport will be operating from November 18 on Saturdays and Mondays with a 37seater DASH-100 aircraft.

The one way fare for Dhaka-Ishwardi will start from Taka 4,000 and two-way fair will be Taka 8,000 (including all taxes).

Alongside operating flights on international flights, the United Airways, first public limited company in the country’s aviation sector, is also operating flights to all major domestic routes.

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Top Malaysian Designer Showcases Wedding Trends in Brunei

Borneo Bulletin Online 02 November 2013 – Bandar Seri Begawan: Top Malaysian fashion designer, Hatta Dolmat, is no stranger to the fashion industry due to his acclaimed sense of style and exquisite designs. He recently set up a wedding dress booth at the Dream Wedding Exhibition at the Times Square Shopping Centre.

“For the latest designs and top trends during the wedding season, the use of lace and 3D designs are among the in-demand styles,” said Hatta.

Speaking to the Bulletin, Hatta highlighted that it takes about three to four weeks to finish designing a wedding dress especially when headings or crystals are included in the artistic design.

Most of the wedding dresses are infused with a modern and classic touch, which emphasises on grandeur and extravaganza. He also added the master touches to his design collection with patching techniques using diamonds, pearls and laces to give the wedding dress a fresh new look.

“The most expensive dress I created was worn by celebrity Erra Fazira during the Anugerah Bintang Popular,” said the top young designer.

Hatta Dolmat has been in the entertainment-fashion industry since 2005. Since then, the top designer has gained much experience and enhanced his designs to create dresses for Malaysia’s most famous celebrities.

Couples looking to tie the knot can definitely turn to Hatta Dolmat Couture. It is a perfect boutique that offers a variety of wedding collection.

The exhibition on the ‘Dream Wedding’ will conclude tomorrow, November 3. Members of the public can meet the top Malaysian fashion designer to create their very own wedding dress.

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California Mosques Welcome Non-Muslims

CALIFORNIA, OnIslam & News Agencies Sunday, 27 October 2013– In a bid to correct misconceptions about Islam and Muslims, California mosque opened their doors on Sunday, October 27, to welcome non-Muslims, offering them insights on Islam and Muslims’ culture.

“The tragedy of 9/11 has manifested in so many ways to so many people, including Muslims, of course,” Shakeel Syed, executive director at the Islamic Shura Council, was quoted by Southern California Public Radio.

“The desire and curiosity in the society at large to learn about Islam, to learn and know about Muslims, has never been more. It only increases.”

The event commemorates the 10th anniversary of the Open Mosque Day which was first organized 10 years ago by the Islamic Shura Council at mosques across Southern California.

During the Open day, Visitors will make a tour inside a mosque, meet Muslims and eat cultural food.

“Most importantly of all, (visitors will) figure out ways in which people of all faiths and traditions can work together for the common and the greater good in their respective cities,” Syed said, who will be hosting the event at the Culver mosque.

Held between 11 am and 3 pm on Sunday, the event tackles solutions to common community issues. Mosque officials will also be present to answer attendants’ questions.

Though mosques always welcome comers at anytime, Open Mosque day is deemed as a more ‘formalized’ setting, Syed stated.

“People of faith, people of conscience, can come together and figure out a way — what are the things we can do to make sure our children and grandchildren are safe,” Syed noted.

US Muslims are estimated between six to seven millions. A recent Pew research found that American Muslims are the most moderate around the world.

It showed that US Muslims generally express strong commitment to their faith and tend not to see an inherent conflict between being devout and living in a modern society.

The open mosque event was praised for offering better opportunities to highlight similarities among the different cultures.

“For a lot of people, it’s the first time they’ve gone to a mosque, and they have all these questions in their mind based on incorrect things they’ve seen on the media or incorrect things that they’ve heard from people who may be bigoted,” said Vicki Tamoush, a Tustin resident and a member of the Episcopal Church.

Attending the Open Mosque Day for several years, Tamoush stated that such activities are needed ‘now more than ever’.

“I’m sure I would be welcomed, but I think I would feel shy,” Tamoush explained why she didn’t like to walk into a mosque at random.

“But, on Open Mosque Day, I know that all people visiting there are there to learn and understand, and I know that all the people who go to that mosque are there to answer me honestly.”

A US survey has revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.

A recent Gallup poll, however, found 43 percent of Americans Nationwide admitted to feeling at least “a little” prejudice against Muslims.

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Slovak Muslims Voice Dreams & Challenges

OnIslam & Newspapers Monday, 28 October 2013 CAIRO – Surrounded by a relatively small Muslim community, Jozef Lenč, a Slovak political science teacher at university, was able to discover his own road towards Islam.

“I’ve found belief by myself,” said Lenč, 34, who converted to Islam when he was 25, told The Slovak Spectator on Monday, October 28.

“When I was visiting my grandmother, I used to go to a Catholic church, but I missed something, especially from the historical point of view. Christian dogmas were accepted later, step by step, with the strong involvement of politics and other interests.”

Finding a book about Islam, Lenč tried to study more about the faith. “I knew a lot about Islam, I already tried fasting during Ramadan, so it was just a small step to become a Muslim,” said Lenč, mentioning that his family and friends did not have a problem accepting it. “My mother even stopped cooking pork when I come for lunch.”

After years of finding Islam, Lenč admits that the general opinion of Muslims is largely negative in Slovakia.“People can’t understand how Islam has freed me,” Lenč said. “I really don’t have any addictions. I don’t drink.”

In Slovakia, the relatively 4000-5000 Muslim community was basically from immigrants who came to study in the European country in the 1990s and decided to settle.

Mohamad Safwan Hasna, 43, the head of the Islamic Foundation in Slovakia and a translator, first came from Syria in 1991 for study.

“We finished studies here and were not members of General Union of Muslim Students in Slovakia anymore, so we decided to establish a new organization,” he said.

With increasing numbers of Muslims, the community formed the foundation in 1999 to be the first representative for Muslims. Later in 2009, the Cordoba Centre for Intercultural Dialogue – generally considered to be the central Islamic institution in Slovakia – opened in Bratislava.

The foundation’s activities include common prayers, exhibitions and educational courses about Islam. It publishes a newsletter, hosts programs for children and takes collections for the poor.

Despite integrating well in the community, Slovak Muslims have complained from the state’s failure to recognize Islam as an official religion.

In 2007, the Slovak parliament changed the law so that at least 20,000 members are required for recognition, making it impossible for a Muslim community of 5,000 people.

“The law has begun to be misused by various speculative organizations,” Ján Podmanický, an MP for the Smer party and one of submitters of the new law, told The Slovak Spectator.

The case was very much different in the neighboring Czech Republic, where just 300 members are enough to constitute a religious community.

There are 34 registered religious communities, as compared to 18 in Slovakia. Some of these 18 religious communities were automatically registered after the formation of independent Slovakia, but 13 of them would not meet the new rules since they have fewer than 20,000 members, according to the 2011 census.

Podmanický is convinced that since freedom of religion is guaranteed in the constitution, no one can prevent Muslims from practicing their faith.

“But it’s not the role of the Slovak Republic to provide state support and funding of religion which has no mass support of the population and is also not a traditional religion in Slovakia,” Podmanický said.

Hasna is convinced that the law was targeting Muslims. For them, state recognition can help promote their activities and ensure legal protection.

“We will survive, but it could improve our position in the eyes of Slovaks,” Hasna said. “I suppose that we are well integrated, so I don’t see the point of this rejection.”

The absence of mosques constituted another problem for Slovakia Muslims who found no place for their prayers and gatherings.

Living in the only European country without a single mosque, officials at the Islamic Foundation have tried to obtain a permit to build a mosque in Bratislava, but had its application rejected.

“It would be nice if there was one mosque in Bratislava,” said Azim Farhadi, a 39-year-old native of Afghanistan. “It is fine to have three places to pray, but I would prefer unity.”

Media coverage for Muslims, associating them with terrorists, was also spreading anti-Muslim concerns. “Older people are not as informed as younger ones; they acquire information mostly from the media,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a shame what the Slovak media is doing.”

Farhadi has produced a program about the integration of foreigners for Slovak television. He cited his fellow journalists’ choice of the word Islamist to refer to religious extremists.

In the eyes of the public, the word becomes closely associated with Islam itself. Elena Gallová Kriglerová, director of the Centre for the Research of Ethnicity and Culture (CVEK) in Bratislava, agreed with Farhadi’s criticism of the media.

“The media is creating a sense of fear out of Islam,” she said. “Usually they don’t do it consciously, but the prejudice of journalists plays a significant role here.”

Conducting several surveys about the opinion of Slovaks on minorities and religions, CVEK found that nearly 70 percent of respondents disapproved of the state allowing Muslims to practice their faith.

Half agreed that Islamic religious and cultural centers in Slovakia should not be permitted.

“People are afraid that if we’ll allow a mosque here, Muslims will start to move here in droves, then they will try to turn us to Islam and they will dominate here,” Kriglerová said.

Kriglerová attributes some of the prejudice to history or strong Christian conservatism.

“One hundred years ago, under the Bratislava Castle, you could find the Catholic St Martin’s Cathedral, a Jewish synagogue, the Orthodox Church and there was a mosque as well – next to each other,” she said. “Today only Catholic and Orthodox churches remain on that place.”

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Top Portuguese architect to assist in Madinah expansion

Arab News, 1 November 2013 – A top international architect is currently visiting Madinah to provide advice on the expansion plans for the Prophet’s Mosque and surrounding area.

Paolo Portoghesi is an Italian architect, theorist, historian and professor of architecture. Khalid Taher, the mayor of Madinah, had invited him to visit the city.

Portoghesi designed the Grand Mosque of Rome, the Grand Mosque in Strasburg, France, and various buildings in Italy, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom.

Taher told Arab News recently that Al-Amanat, the company overseeing the development, wants to draw on the experience and skills of world-class architects to work with Saudi consulting firms.

Taher said there are huge investment opportunities in the city for local and regional investors. He said there has been a steady flow of investment into the city for years.

“Portoghesi’s visit is very important for us because he is a renowned architect who admires Islamic culture. He has proposed an overview of the architecture in Islamic countries,” the mayor said.

He said such exchanges of expertise and visits would help planners add to the city’s “architectural diversity.” He said Portoghesi’s work blends classical and modern styles.

“We had a discussion on various matters with special reference to the grandeur of Islamic architecture.” He said the Saudi government wants to ensure the expansion meets the needs of visitors.

The mayor said his office works closely with various government agencies to ensure projects are completed on time and meet quality standards. He said there would be financial compensation for the owners of buildings making way for the expansion.

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Qatar, PSG in tourism initiative

Gulf Times – 31 October, 2013 – Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), in a new initiative, has tied up with one of the richest football teams in the world, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), to promote the state in a big way to European audiences.

“This partnership links QTA and Paris Saint-Germain for the long term, providing an opportunity for Qatar to capitalise on the power and reach of sports to promote its numerous tourism assets,” said a QTA statement.

No financial details of the deal were disclosed.

Over the past few years, Qatar has been investing heavily in tourism development. QTA has recently established a tourism office in Paris.

Qatar as a destination provides “a unique and authentic experience to regional and international tourists,” QTA said. “Besides the ideal conditions and impressive facilities, Qatar has a fascinating cultural heritage, splendid landmarks, 563km of sandy coastline, museums hosting some of the region’s most impressive art collections and an array of world-leading sports events.”

Qatar also holds leading sports events each year: among them are the ATP and WTA tennis tournaments, the cycling Tour of Qatar and the MotoGP.

In 2015, Qatar will host the Handball World Championship, in 2016 it will play host to the Cycling World Championships and in 2022 the FIFA Football World Cup.

“To realise its immense tourism potential and translate it into tangible social and economic benefits for the country, Qatar has chosen to develop a global outreach strategy, tailor-made for each market, and supported by coherent investments, which includes sports as a major component,” the QTA statement said.

“To reach France and other European markets, Paris Saint-Germain seemed a natural partner. Being associated with one of the best clubs in Europe and indirectly with Paris as a destination is an ideal opportunity for QTA to promote Qatar.”

Rashed al-Qurese, director of Marketing and Promotions at QTA, said tourism promotion was critical for Qatar to promote its economy, cultural heritage and offerings as a destination.

QTA’s association with Paris Saint-Germain will promote Qatar as a tourist destination to millions of the club’s fans.

For Paris Saint-Germain, the partnership with QTA opens up new markets to the club and provides access an even bigger audience, in line with its global development strategy. The association also allows the club to access world-class training facilities in Qatar such as the Aspire Zone during their annual Winter Tour.

From November onwards, several full size outdoor billboards, located in key spots around Paris, will highlight Paris Saint-Germain players in front of iconic Qatar landmarks – uniting the club and the country under the banner “Partners in Dreams”.

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QTA showcases Qatar’s tourism attractions at ITB Asia

The Peninsula – 28 October, 2013 – Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) showcased Qatar’s thriving tourism and hospitality sector at the recent ITB Asia, the largest travel show in Asia. QTA led Qatar’s delegation at the annual business-to-business travel trade show and convention, which took place from Wednesday to Friday at Suntec Singapore International Convention Exhibition Centre.

The major developments in Qatar’s tourism infrastructure and the growth in tourism were among those highlighted to key travel industry stakeholders at the event.

QTA showcased Qatar as a unique and leading MICE destination, offering state-of-the-art venues with a harmonious blend of upscale leisure and cultural attractions.

“Asia is a significant tourism market for us; it represents Qatar’s second largest source market for tourists behind the GCC region. We believe Asia provides substantial opportunities for further growth,” said Hamad Al Abdan, Director of Exhibitions at QTA.

“With culture, heritage, sight-seeing and leisure on the agendas of travellers, Qatar is an ideal destination; while for business travellers, through its superior MICE offerings, Qatar is a leading high-end destination, situated centrally between Europe and Asia,” added Al Abdan.

The trade show attracted around 8,500 delegates, including more than 750 buyers. Attendees were largely from the Asian region, but were drawn from more than 90 countries. QTA focused on holding buyer meetings and interacting with counterparts in the Asian tourism industry during their stay to raise interest in Qatar as a destination for business and leisure travel.

The Qatari delegation also included the Ministry of Culture, Katara and Qatar Museums Authority (QMA). Six hotels also joined in the exhibition namely Sharq Village & Spa, Best Western Hotel, La Cigale Hotel, Wyndham Grand Regency Doha, Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels Doha, and Intercontinental Doha The City, in addition to three tour operators including Arabian Adventures, Discover Qatar by Qatar Airways, and Regency Travel and Tours.

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Dubai opens second airport after delay

The Peninsula – 28 October, 2013 – Dubai officially launched passenger services at its new Al Maktoum International airport yesterday after a delay of nearly four years, with three airlines agreeing to operate from the facility for now.

The airport, Dubai’s second, officially received its first commercial flight by budget carrier Wizz Air, which brought passengers from Budapest.

Since 2011, tourists have flocked to Dubai, a regional safe haven, at a time of political unrest elsewhere in the Middle East, which helped the emirate’s economy emerge from a crippling debt crisis.

Dubai is now reviving stalled infrastructure and housing projects in expectation of a tourism and economic boom.

“The opening of this facility signals the historic beginning of a long-term plan to build the largest airport in the world to accommodate tremendous passenger growth,” Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the chairman of Dubai Airports said in a statement.

The plan, if successful, is to expand the new facility in phases to eventually accommodate up to 160m passengers each year in the next decade.

Al Maktoum’s passenger terminal was initially slated to launch in 2009, but it was pushed back after Dubai’s debt crisis. Cargo operations started there in June 2010.

Jazeera Airways, another low-cost carrier, will follow suit on Thursday with daily flights to and from Kuwait, while Bahrain’s national carrier, Gulf Air, will begin operations on December 8.

No other airlines have announced intentions to use the new airport, which lies some 50km south of Dubai International, one of the world’s busiest hubs for air passengers.

The airport can currently handle 7m passengers a year, compared with the nearly 60m that pass through the old Dubai International airport.

Dubai’s flagship carrier Emirates and state budget carrier flydubai have not shifted to the new airport, Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai Airports, which operates both, told reporters after the opening ceremony.

“Emirates needs a hub that is capable of allowing it to grow its business,” he said. “This airport right now can only handle 7m passengers, but we have incremental plans to increase that capacity.”

Dubai has also expanded its existing airport to include a new terminal dedicated strictly to the Airbus A380 superjumbos, which makes a shift out of the facility impractical.

Backed by state-sponsored mega airports and aggressively growing airlines, Gulf cities such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha have gradually been taking over as global hubs from traditional hubs in Europe.

Qatar is building a $ 15bn airport in Doha, which is expected to open early next year.

Abu Dhabi is constructing a new $ 2.9bn terminal, less than a hour’s drive from Dubai’s new facility. “I think hubs will continue to develop in the region and replace hubs in Europe,” Griffiths said. “I don’t see any problem in having more airport capacity in the region.”

The new airport is situated in Dubai World Central, an economic zone the government hopes to turn into what it calls an “aerotropolis”.

It is built next to Dubai Jebel Ali Free Zone and its port, which is one of the world’s largest man-made harbours, and a major containers terminal. The new airport is not aimed at replacing Dubai International, where expansion work is continuing, at least not for the time being, according to Griffiths.

“If DXB (Dubai International) is to close, it isn’t a decision we have to make probably for the next 30, 40 years,” he told reporters.

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Airport plans taking off

Gulf Daily News – 28 October, 2013 – Bahrain Airport is to be expanded to handle 13.5 million passengers a year, the Cabinet heard yesterday. A new airport is also on the way.

The Premier said that the major development would meet demands expected by 2030. Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa chaired the Cabinet session in the presence of Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Premier.

Ministers discussed and approved a memorandum presented by the Transportation Minister. Plans include a comprehensive upgrade of the current departure building and all its facilities. The new second airport was also discussed.

Two locations near Fasht Aljarem and North of Diyar Al Muharraq have been reserved as potential sites for the new airport.

The Cabinet commissioned the ministerial committee for services and infrastructure to complete technical and environmental studies related to this in co-operation with the authorities concerned.

The Premier praised King Hamad’s speech during the inauguration of the fourth session of the third legislative term regarding the continuation of reform, development and improvement towards achieving a better life for every citizen.

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Omanis get UK visa exemption

Oman Tribune – 28 October, 2013 – The British government has decided to exempt Omanis from requiring visa in cases of medical treatment and tourism, while they need to apply for visa to enter the country for study and work.

Omanis who want to travel to the United Kingdom for tourism or treatment has to send an email to the website of the British embassy in Muscat and wait for approval within 48 hours. Then he/she has to take a copy of the approval paper which will be considered as a visa to enter the United Kingdom. While arriving at any of the UK airports, fingerprint is required for Omanis.

This new facility is also applicable for citizens of Qatar, UAE, and Kuwait.

In this regard, Meshal Al Modef, the Kuwaiti counsel at the Embassy of Kuwait in United Kingdom, said that the Sultanate of Oman will be the first country to be included in the list followed by UAE and Qatar.

Kuwait will be the last country to be included in the list as the number of Kuwaitis visiting UK is the biggest among the four countries.

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Aviation to play key role in Dubai Expo 2020

Gulf Today – 29 October, 2013 – The Middle East regional aviation industry is expected to propel the growth of the UAE, especially Dubai if the emirate wins the bid to host the World Expo 2020, experts in the industry said.

At the same time, Al Maktoum International airport that was inaugurated on Sunday will give the emirate a strong boost taking into consideration that the newly unveiled airport will be rated as the world’s largest when all the phases are completed.

Chief executive officer for Dubai Airports, Paul Griffiths is optimistic that the Al Maktoum airport is definitely a boost to the country’s economy as it is forecast to receive a huge influx of 25 million tourists during the mega event.

The emirates second major airport at the Dubai World Central (DWC) is conveniently located adjacent to the proposed World Expo 2020 venue, and therefore is no doubt Dubai’s airport of the future.

A fundamental element of the airport’s master plan is being designed to accommodate the tremendous passenger growth.

No doubt though, Dubai Expo 2020 will be a platform for connectivity to help pioneer new partnerships for growth and sustainability.

It will seek out and attract forward thinkers and innovators to showcase great achievements, to promote new models for growth, to advance new ideas for connectivity and to share roadmaps for progress.

It therefore goes without saying that unrivalled connectivity; superb logistics and world-class infrastructure are at the heart of Dubai’s Expo bid slated for November 27 in Paris.

The rapid development of the UAE and Dubai shows what’s possible here in today’s highly interconnected world.

Dubai is set to harness the same energy and enthusiasm in microcosm at the Expo site, which is adjacent to the world’s largest airport facility within the DWC.

The new airport at Jebel Ali has the capacity to handle 160 million passengers and 12 million tonnes cargo per year and consists of five runways.

With sophisticated cargo facilities, driverless metros and an increased take-up of new technology, Dubai is one of many cities adopting innovative transport strategies for a future world.

The UAE is the world’s third largest re-export market, exerting a strong influence on global trade flows and acting as a gateway to an international business community.

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Int’l expos on urban services, textile industry underway in Tehran

Tehran Times – 29 October, 2013 – Two international exhibitions on urban services and public transport, and textile industry, opened on Monday at the Tehran Permanent International Fairgrounds.

The 11th international exhibition on public transport and urban services is hosting more than 400 Iranian and foreign companies.

Companies from 18 countries, including Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, Britain, France, Italy, Turkey, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Netherlands will take part in the 4-day event.

Different kinds of public transport vehicles, subway transport systems, road building machinery, rail transport equipment, urban development systems, and waste recovery systems will be on display in the exhibition.

The 19th international exhibition on textile industry and related machinery is hosting 132 Iranian companies and 92 foreign companies, mainly from Germany, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, China, Italy, Turkey, Japan, Finland, and India.

The exhibition will be open till Thursday.

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SR17bn for Saudi airport, road and railway schemes

Arab News – 30 October, 2013 – Kuwait Financial Center “Markaz” recently published the executive summary of its report on Saudi Arabia Roads and Railways. In this report, Markaz examines and analyzes the current status of Saudi Arabia Roads and Railways sector. The report highlights the market structure, growth trends, investments and current and potential projects in Saudi Arabia Roads and Railways sector.

The report also presents a SWOT analysis of Saudi Arabia Road and Railways sector. According to the report, Saudi Arabia’s budget for 2013 has allocated a sum of $ 17.3 billion for Infrastructure and Transportation sector, an increase of 16 percent from previous year.

About $ 8 billion of this budget would be used in development of 3,700 km of roads, up gradation of existing and construction of new ports and airports.

The total value of projects that would be completed during 2013-2017 stands at about $ 25.5 billion.

From 1990 to 2011, the total length of asphalted and paved agricultural roads implemented by Saudi Ministry of Transport has grown by 11.22 percent per annum

Saudi Arabia being the largest nation in the GCC also has a well-developed road and railways network. Saudi Arabia has in all 59,000 km of asphalted roads. When compared to developed economies Saudi Arabia’s roads seem a bit more congested.

The massive increase in traffic, an outcome of the Kingdom’s industrial and agricultural development, has made road upgrade a necessity.

Saudi Arabia’s railways sector is in the phase of massive expansion. Saudi Railways organization is responsible for construction and maintenance of Railway networks. The existing Saudi railway network connects the port city of Dammam to the capital Riyadh.

The two lines currently operational are the 556 km–long single track line for the sole purpose of transporting freight, and the 449 km–long single track line for passenger trains.

Riyadh has maximum number of passengers either arriving to or departing from its station. A large share of freight tonnage has been in transit between Damman and Riyadh state capital. The total investment in railway sector from 2007-2013 amounts to around $ 7.9 billion.

The investments in Railways sector was predominantly on Railway Transport infrastructure and Rail Stations. The investments on Rail station transport terminals form about 4 percent of total investments in Railways projects. The remaining 96 percent is in Railway Transport infrastructure.

Some large railway projects that are being planned or executed in Saudi Arabia are the Land Bridge, the Haramain High Speed Rail Project, ADA — Riyadh Light Rail Transit (Riyadh Metro), MOT-Jeddah Metro: Orange & Blue Line, Madinah Municipality — Medina Monorail, SRO

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Malaysian Railway Initiatives Would Boost Tourism

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Oct 26 (NNN-Bernama) — The government’s initiatives to build a double track railway from Ipoh-Padang Besar to Johor Bahru and upgrade railway tracks in the country would impact positively on the nation’s economy.

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak’s Economics lecturer Profesor Dr Shazali Abu Mansor said the measures would not only render the railway services more systematic, they would also reduce transportation costs for the services and manufacturing sectors.

“The problem in Malaysia is the high transportation costs even though the manufacturing cost may be cheap,” he said when contacted by Bernama here today.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said while tabling the Budget 2014 that five measures would be implemented to provide better quality public transport services including building the Ipoh-Padang double track up to Johor Baharu and upgrading the railways and tracks in the country on a budget of RM2.9 billion.

Meanwhile, China-Malaysia Tour Association secretary general Tai Toh Kim oting that the tourism sector was among the country’s main economic contributors, said a good transport system would boost tourism.

“Trains particularly, is a good mode because it is comfortable and much cheaper than by air. The railway service from Ipoh (Perak) to Padang Besar (Perlis) till Johor Baharu is an opportunity for Malaysia to draw more tourists,” he said.

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Declaring 2015 As ‘Year Of Festival’ Will Generate More Revenue – MATTA

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 25 ( NNN-Bernama ) — Declaring 2015 as the ‘Year of Festival’ in 2014 Budget is expected to generate more revenue and attract more tourists to this country.

Deputy president of Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) Jeffri Sulaiman said the initiative to organise more world class festivals will boost the tourism sector.

“The influx of foreign exchange by tourists and tourism players will enhance the sector’s growth via cultural activities and festivals,” he said when contacted by Bernama.

Prime Minister Najib Razak also announced the extension of Pioneer Status and Investment Tax Allowance for three years until Dec 31, 2016.

Jeffri said the ‘Year of Festival’ would spur tourists to stay longer in Malaysia to shop and travel due to the diverse products available at the festivals.

The initiative to create a RM2 billion special fund for tourism infrastructure would create more investments in the industry, both from local and abroad.

He said it is laudable and confident it can continue to enhance the tourism sector and enhance healthy competition among industry players to provide the best tourism services.

The fund provides soft loans with low interest rates of between 4 and 6 percent with 2 percent government subsidy to finance the construction of hotels, resorts and theme parks and buy new equipment.

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Sabah’s Tourism Revenue To Reach Rm5.7 Bln This Year

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Nov 1 (NNN-Bernama) – Sabah state’s tourism revenue is expected to reach RM5.7 billion this year from RM5.17 billion in 2012, due to an influx of tourist arrivals from China, said state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Masidi Manjun.

He said the state anticipates over 3.2 million visitors this year, an increase from 2.9 million previously.

“Based on our January-July figures, 49 per cent of the tourist arrivals in Sabah came from mostly China,” he told reporters after witnessing the signing of a collaborative agreement between Nestle Malaysia and Sime Darby Foundation here today.

Masidi said despite the incursion earlier this year by an armed Filipino group in the eastern coast of Sabah, the state experienced a double-digit increase in tourist arrivals from Europe, Japan and Australia.

“The quality of products in Sabah’s tourism sector overrides every other consideration. We also market the sector in areas where we have good air connectivity as 94 per cent of Sabah’s foreign tourists arrive via flights,” he added.

Meanwhile, the agreement signed today calls for both companies to jointly undertake “Project RiLeaf”, an initiative to reforest critical riparian reserves along the Kinabatangan River in Sabah.

The project aims to provide a natural buffer to filter the river of pollutants, mainly soil sediment and chemical fertiliser run-off, thereby giving it a chance to repair itself over the course of time.

It will also engage local communities and oil palm smallholders to adopt sustainable practices through awareness and knowledge sharing programmes,as well as supporting capacity building of local communities there, namely the Komuniti Anak Pokok Kinabatangan.

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Islamic trade has growth opportunity: KFH report

Kuwait News Agency – 26 October, 2013 – The strong capabilities for commercial growth of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries, especially Middle East and the GCC ones, along with interest in Islamic finance, enable Islamic trade finance sector to be a promising sector in the near future, showed a report by Kuwait Finance House (KFH).

But, Islamic trade finance in its current state is still a small sector compared to global trade finance industry as a whole, the KFH-compiled report entitled: “Reality and Growth Opportunities”, said.

The Islamic finance focuses on supporting concrete economic businesses, and commercial finance is one of business sectors that fit with the principles of Sharia (Islamic law), so Sharia-compliant banks are in a good position to take advantage of financial flows from the OIC, it indicated.

The geographic composition of world trade has shifted to reflect the divergent growth performance of the developed and emerging economies. Emerging countries are now an increasingly significant part of the global economy as these economies grow wealthier, entailing shift towards higher domestic demand. Within the emerging markets, OIC member countries and in particular Middle East and North African (MENA) region countries are also gaining importance in the global trade sphere, it added.

The MENA region is expected to experience an impressive 131 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) increase in trade during the period 2012-2026. The corresponding figure for the increase in global trade during the same time period is 86 percent. In addition, intra-OIC trade rate is targeted to be 20 percent by 2015, it suggested.

As per market estimates, total trade financing amongst the OIC member countries, including Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Turkey stood just under USD 4 billion in late 2012, the report noted.

In MENA and OIC in general, the Islamic trade finance sector has been supported by Islamic Development Bank (IDB), a leading multilateral development agency. A major IDB initiative for promoting Islamic trade financing is the setup of International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (IFTC). As per ITFC 2013 statistics, it has approved Islamic trade transactions worth USD 4.4 billion in 2012, reflecting a 47 percent increase from USD 3.03 billion in 2011, the KFH report concluded.

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Kuwait to finance three new projects in Lebanon

Kuwait News Agency – 26 October, 2013 – The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) Arab Regional Director Marwan Al-Ghanem announced here on Friday that KFAED is to finance three new projects in Lebanon under the framework of Kuwait’s support of economic and developmental projects in the country.

Al-Ghanem’s announcement came following conclusion of a three-day official visit by a KFAED delegation, headed by Director General Abdulwahab Al-Bader, during which they inaugurated an avenue named after Lebanese President Michel Suleiman.

He stated to KUNA that the three projects are included in a loan agreement with the Lebanese government, represented by the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR), through which KFAED will finance a drinking water project for the city of Zahle in Beqaa Governorate, a slaughterhouse project in Tripoli and a sanitation project in Sarafand, South Lebanon.

Also, Al-Ghanem indicated that the total cost for all three projects is KD 37 million, noting that KFAED will provide soft loans for financing of these projects with a percentage of no more than 50 percent.

In addition, he affirmed that KFAED has agreed to provide soft loans to Lebanon in order to finance the Zahle project, noting at the same time that KFAED is waiting necessary procedures of Lebanese government to sign the loan. The loan for this project is around KD 60 million, equaling 48 percent of its total costs.

Al-Ghanem expressed satisfaction by the KFAED delegation towards work progress of implementation of Kuwait’s projects in Lebanon, noting that most of Kuwaiti financed projects in Lebanon, total of 54 and worth USD 300 million, had been accomplished as the rest are currently under achievement.

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Islamic Finance To Be Highlight Of Second Day Of WIEF

LONDON, Oct 30 (NNN-Bernama) — Islamic finance will be the “talk of the town” today with several central bank governors as well as industry players converging here for the second day of the 9th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF).

A panel comprising Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) Governor Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Oman Central Bank Executive President Hamood Sangour Al-Zadjali, Nigeria Central Bank Governor Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and United Arab Emirates Central Bank Governor Sultan Nasser Al Suwaidi will discuss harmonisation of global standards in Islamic finance.(BNM is Malaysia’s Central Bank)

The session will be followed by a discussion on internationalising Islamic finance by several bankers who are experts in Islamic finance from Malaysia, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

At noon, Prime Minister Mohd Najib Tun Razak is expected to attend a consultation meeting with Maybank Islamic Bhd on the Middle East

Development Strategy, followed by a luncheon meeting with the WIEF International Advisory Panel.

Later, several companies including iGENE London Ltd and Platinum Nanochem Sdn Bhd are expected to make presentations to the prime minister on their products and services.

Najib is also expected to flag off the 1Malaysia World Endurance Ride participants at Dorchester Hotel, followed by bilateral talks with Kazakhstan Deputy Prime Minister Asset Issekeshev.

Later at night, the prime minister will meet the Malaysian Indian community in London for early Deepavali celebrations.

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Britain unveils int’l Islamic finance, investment group

Kuwait News Agency – 31 October, 2013 – Building on the Prime Minister’s announcement that Britain would become the first non-Muslim country to issue an Islamic bond, Financial Secretary to the Treasury Sajid Javid unveiled the Islamic Finance and Investment Group at the Ninth World Islamic Economic Forum (9th WIFE) here on Wednesday.

The Group, chaired by the Rt. Hon Baroness Warsi, will include members from key Islamic finance centres, including Chief Executives and Central Bank Governors from Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, the UK and Malaysia, according to a statement by HM Treasury.

The Group will meet regularly to identify and address the critical factors that will drive the global Islamic finance market over the next five years. Bringing together senior experts and practitioners from industry and governments the group will meet for the first time in January 2014 to consider the issues surrounding Islamic finance and how best to work together to promote its development. Drawing on London’s experience as a leading global financial centre, the group will play an important role in helping to grow the Islamic finance market going forward.

Javid said: “I am delighted that the government is establishing this Group. We are competing in a global race and it is crucial that we, as a country that is open for business, know what we need to do to take advantage of the Islamic finance opportunities that are out there.” “The Islamic Finance and Investment Group will be perfectly placed to pick up on developing trends and will have the expertise to help Islamic finance grow globally, as well as developing London as one of the world’s leading Islamic finance centres,” he went on.

Final scope and membership will be confirmed at the Dubai Global Islamic Economy Summit next month Javid added. Chaired by Tun Musa Hitam, chairman of WIEF Foundation, the 9th WIFE opened yesterday and will conclude tomorrow. Kuwait is represented by Finance Minister Sheikh Salem Abdulaziz Al-Sabah

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Malaysia Willing To Work With Britain To Promote Islamic Finance

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Nov 1 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia is willing to work with Britain to promote Islamic banking and positioning London as the capital for Islamic finance and investment, says Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, the prime minister said London City be in the best position to do so because of the linkages with the Muslim world, especially in Europe.

He said London also has the expertise in banking particularly in conventional banking. The prime minister was in London to attend the Ninth edition of the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF), the first to be held outside Islamic countries.

The three-day annual event from Oct 29 drew a record attendance of 2,800 participants from 128 countries, with 10 heads of state and government also attending.

Explaining what is Islamic finance to Amanpour, Najib said: “Islamic finance is based on sharing risk and it’s more asset-based. Therefore, it’s fairer and more equitable. Islamic finance offers a very concrete model in a world that is full of uncertainties and certainly conventional finance, which is large, is based on speculative considerations,” he said.

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Cameron wants London to become an Islamic finance hub

London, 24 Dhul Hijja 1434/ 29 October 2013 (IINA) – The British Prime Minister David Cameron wants London to ‘stand alongside Dubai’ as an Islamic finance hub, and is today expected to launch two initiatives to tap into the burgeoning sector.

An Islamic Market Index is set to be launched on the London Stock Exchange, while Britain is to become the first country outside the Muslim world to launch a sukuk, or Islamic bond, AFP reported. “I don’t just want London to be a great capital of Islamic finance in the Western world,” Cameron is due to say today, according to the Associated Press. “I want London to stand alongside Dubai as one of the great capitals of Islamic finance anywhere in the World.” London is already the “biggest center for Islamic finance outside the Islamic world”, according to a release of a speech Cameron is due to deliver today.

The proposed Islamic Market Index would track Shariah-compliant investments, while the UK Treasury is working on the issuance of a sukuk worth around £200 million ($322 million), AFP reported. Cameron’s announcements are expected to be delivered at the World Islamic Economic Forum, which starts today in London. It is the first time the forum is being held outside a Muslim country. Dubai this month unveiled plans to become the capital of the global Islamic economy, with a focus on financial services, food products, education and tourism.

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Central Asia To Boost Regional Trade

ASTANA (KAZAKHSTAN), Oct 28 (NNN-ADB) — The 10 members of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) program will develop key new road and rail routes linking Central Asia to China and South Asia between now and 2020 to realize the huge trade potential between the three regions.

“To increase trade outside the region, CAREC will need to align its corridors to new routes, and develop long distance multimodal transport services combining road and rail,” said Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Takehiko Nakao, who gave the keynote address at the 12th meeting of CAREC ministers here.

The plan endorsed by the CAREC ministers involves road, rail, logistics, and border facilities projects in priority corridors and requires an investment of $38.8 billion in the coming seven years.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the ministers echoed Nakao by calling for a more integrated approach to transport and trade. This means improving logistics services to support manufacturing networks, more modern and integrated customs and border controls, and linking roads and railways to key ports.

The members of the CAREC are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

The program, supported by ADB as the secretariat, promotes regional connectivity in trade, transport, and energy to boost economic growth in the region.

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SR581bn for solar power projects

Arab News – 28 October, 2013 – The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are set to invest $ 155 billion (SR581.25 billion) for the construction of energy generating plants from non-traditional sources, notably solar energy, local media reported quoting a specialized energy report.

However, the drive of energy firms from the private sector to renewable energy projects is still under the required level while the government-owned companies have big capitals to invest in this type of activity, which sometimes falls within “sovereign decisions,” the report, released by Abu Dhabi-based Crescent Petroleum, said.

Availability of funding ways to develop energy sources is among the major challenges facing both public and private sector companies in this regard, the report said.

In particular, the private sector firms bear the brunt of challenges to get the required funding and, if attained, could give them the ability to participate in energy decision-making processes and acquire an increasing share of investments, the report said.

The report said both the public and private sector companies had to jointly consider the possibility of going into joint stock companies, which would bring positive results at the level of companies, new stockholders, financial markets and the energy sector as well.

This tendency is hoped to provide financial flows at reduced costs with a view to boosting long-term investment activities, the report said. Accordingly, the step will allow (GCC) governments direct spending to activate and promote other productive sectors at the least costs with high efficiency, it added.

The report emphasized the growing tendency toward the IPO (initial public offering) for energy firms in light of inability of the current financial regulations and legislations to directly fund the expansion of energy projects, notably the establishment of a regional oil exchange market.

Experts say the six GCC countries have already envisioned solar installation projects which will generate more than 84 GW of power when complete in a three-year period.

Saudi Arabia, in particular, hopes to double its installed electricity capacity by building 54 GW of renewable energy by 2032, of which 41 GW will be obtained from the sun. Abu Dhabi also seeks to generate 7 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

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MATRADE To Hold Malaysia Services Exhibition In Iraq

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Oct 28 (NNN-Bernama) — The Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade) is organising the Malaysia Services Exhibition (MSE) 2013 in Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq on Oct 28-31 with a total of 17 participating Malaysian companies and 32 business representatives.

MSE Erbil, the 16th in the series of MSEs by Matrade since 2008, is an avenue to showcase the expertise and capabilities of Malaysian services companies, as well as to network and secure potential joint ventures and partnerships with Iraqi companies.

“The three highlighted sectors are construction and its related services, oil and gas services and building materials,” Matrade said in a statement today.

Matrade has pre-arranged 158 business meetings for participating Malaysian companies.

The Malaysian exhibitors in the construction and its related services cluster are offering architectural membrane structures, installation and commissioning of material handling, materials testing equipment, and security and surveillance solutions.

Meanwhile, in the oil and gas services cluster, highlights include insulation materials, maintenance, repair and inspection services for the oil and gas, industrial solutions and equipment.

For the building materials cluster, exhibitors provide industrial lightings, energy-saving lamps, power distribution track, integrated hygiene system, energy-efficient and eco-friendly light-emitting diode (LED) outdoor luminaries, laminated flooring, adhesives, sealants and coatings, precision sheet metal products, cable and cable management system, stainless steel products and high-capacity sectional tanks for residential and commercial use.

Matrade Dubai Senior Trade Commissioner Mohd Mustafa Abdul Aziz said the Iraqi government has allocated US$4 billion for the construction of residential housing projects over the next four years and recently announced US$250 billion to US$275 billion five-year infrastructure investment plans.

“Malaysian companies and firms are encouraged to tap and leverage on these opportunities,” he said.

Erbil, a semi-autonomous region of Iraq, recorded an impressive economic growth of 12 per cent in 2012, largely driven by the country’s oil and gas industry.

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Alexandria’s Graeco-Roman Museum to reopen within 18 months

Al-Ahram, Wednesday 30 Oct 2013 – Next week restoration work at the Graeco-Roman Museum in Alexandria is to restart after an eight-year pause.

In 2005, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) (now the Ministry of State of Antiquities – MSA) closed the Graeco-Roman Museum in Alexandria and took it off the tourist track for restoration. According to the plan at the time, both buildings of the museum and its library were meant to be consolidated and restored while the showcases at the museum would be improved to ensure a better display of the artifacts.

But due to lack of finances and expertise, and the 2011 revolution, the whole project was put on hold until yesterday when Minister of State for Antiquties Mohamed Ibrahim and Italian Ambassador to Egypt Maurizio Massari signed a memorandum of understanding on restoring the museum, the North Cemetery in Saqqara outside Cairo, and Medinet Madi archaeological site in Fayoum.

Ibrahim said that funds would be provided by the Italian government and from a debt swap programme and the Italian development agency. Funds allocated amount to $6 million and €2 million respectively.

The museum’s restoration works, Ibrahim added, are to be carried out in collaboration with Universita della Tuscia based in Viterbo in Italy for the coming 18 months, including restoration of the building itself, the replacement of showcases, installing new lighting, ventilation and security systems, as well as renewing the overall display layout.

According to the new restoration plan, said Hisham El-Leithy, general director of scientific publications at the MSA, the museum will include halls for the permanent display of the museum’s treasured collection, a section dedicated to archaeological study and research, and a museum for children. Italian architects, said Ibrahim, will use state of the art techniques to make the museum more environmentally friendly.

“Finally, the restoration of the Graeco-Roman Museum comes true,” Ibrahim told Ahram Online. “The museum will not only be another tourist attraction, but it will provide 1,000 jobs, which in turn will contribute to the economic growth of this community.”

According to Massari, the agreement is testament to the health of ongoing institutional cooperation between the two countries, and to Italy’s role in cultural heritage conservancy, the benefits of which go far beyond Egypt. ”There is a very clear link between culture and economic development, tourism and job creation. This is not just about culture as an end in itself, but also about improving socio-economic conditions. Egyptian citizens will be the first to benefit,” Massari explained.

The Graeco-Roman Museum houses a large number of Egypt’s antiquities from the period roughly 300BC to the Arab Conquest in the 7th century. It was built in 1895 by Italian archaeologist Giusepe Botti and has been renovated several times along the span of its history. It was last restored almost 20 years ago.

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ASEAN-China center to promote Indonesia

Tue, October 29 2013 Beijing (ANTARA News) – The ASEAN-China Center plans to promote investment opportunities and tourism destinations in Indonesia to boost relations and cooperation between China, ASEAN member countries and Indonesia.

The ACC secretary general, Ma Mingqiang, told Antara here on Tuesday that he would visit Indonesia, along with two groups from China Central Television (CCTV), next week.

“This will be my official visit to Indonesia to increase cooperation and good relations between China and Indonesia, which is one of the most important countries in ASEAN,” he said.

Ma Mingqiang said, while in Indonesia for one week, that he would meet with government officials from the ministry of foreign affairs, the Investment Coordinating Board and a number of the country`s businessmen.

Along with two CCTV groups, he will also visit Yogyakarta in central Java and Medan in North Sumatra to create a documentary film on local foods and tourist destinations in the country.

“The film will later be screened on CCTV, at home and abroad, lasting for about 70 minutes,” he said.

Ma Mingqiang said the ACC focuses on improving relations and cooperation between China and members of the Associations of Southeast Asian Nations, especially in investment, trade, education, culture and tourism.

“China is encouraging reliable and credible investors to invest in ASEAN, including in Indonesia. We are also encouraging Chinese tourists to travel to the region,” he said.

The ACC has always included potential investment and tourism destinations in its program for promotion, not only in China but also among ASEAN member countries.

“We can conduct promotion by bringing along Chinese businessmen and journalists to ASEAN member countries and taking ASEAN businessmen or officials to China to conduct promotion in China,” he said.

He added that ACC has promoted Cambodian tourism by broadcasting programs on CCTN network for five to seven minutes over 65 presentations. “The result last year was that the number of Chinese tourists visiting Cambodia rose to 1.8 million, from only about 1.2 million earlier,” he said.

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Garuda plans flights from Bali to new destinations

October 30 2013 Denpasar, Bali (ANTARA News) – PT Garuda Indonesia said it would serve regular flights to the airports of Komodo, Labuhan Bajo, Ende and Tambolaka in East Nusatenggara (NTT).

“Starting December, we would make maiden flights from Bali’s Ngurah Rai International airport to the Komodo, Labuan Bajo and Ende airports,” a Vice President of the countrys flag carrier Ari Suryanta said in Labuan Bajo on Wednesday.

The state airline would serve regular flights everyday between Ngurah Rai and the three airports, Ari, a vice president for domestic flights, said. He said the routes are potential for tourist flights and growing number of people are traveling between East Nusatenggara and other regions especially Bali and Java.

Tourist destinations in the regency of Manggarai Barat such as the Komodo National Park and Batu Cermin began to attract many tourists, he said. “Garuda would provide higher quality services than provided by other airlines which already serve the routes ,” he said.

He said Garuda will use its ATR-70/600 to serve the routes. The flights by Garuda to start on December 3, are expected to draw more tourists to NTT especially to the regency of Manggarai Barat, he said.

Deputy Regent of Manggarai Barat Maximus Gasa said the district administration welcomes the plan of Garuda to serve regular flights to that district as it would give the local people more alternatives in using means of transport.

“The plan is expected to contribute to faster development of the economy of the district,” Maximus said. There have been other airlines serving flights between Manggarai Barat and Bali but more often departures and arrivals are not as given in the flight scheduled, he said.

“The airlines could not guarantee a fixed hour of departure. The passengers often have to wait for hours or cancel flights,” he added. He said Garuda is expected to change the condition and give the passengers greater flight convenience.

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Kyrgyzstan to develop alpine skiing industry

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-10-30 JALAL-ABAD – Kyrgyzstan should develop its wintertime tourism industry, government officials and tourism insiders agree.

“Establishing a high-quality alpine skiing industry complex would mean building comfortable hotels and a network of roads in the mountains, which all cost more than in the flatlands,” said Mikhail Halitov, director of the NGO Mountain Cluster Association, an umbrella group of travel agencies specialising in alpine tourism.

Kyrgyz tourism has traditionally been a summertime matter restricted to the Lake Issyk-Kul area, which accounts for more than half of the country’s annual tourism business, a recent study found.

A lack of investment has kept the country from taking advantage of its splendid mountainous landscape and other natural potential, specialists say. Difficulties and high build-out expenses notwithstanding, winter tourism has great prospects in Kyrgyzstan, Halitov said.

“Already today, one can say for certain that some would-be projects should pay off in nine to 10 years, which is pretty fast,” he said. “But compared to summer tourism, winter tourism – specifically, downhill skiing – has lagged behind. It has so far developed on its own; various market mechanisms haven’t worked (for us).”

He has called on the Council on Business Development and Investments to urge the Tourism Department to form a working group on the idea of creating a cluster of ski resorts, he added.

With good support, Kyrgyz winter tourism could catch up to summer tourism in terms of the number of visitors, tourist revenues and taxes paid, Deputy Culture, Information and Tourism Minister Maksat Chakiyev, who also heads the Tourism Department, said.

“The problem is that the summer and winter tourism officials give their own side of the story,” he said. “Both sides complain they’re neglected.”

The country has nine alpine skiing resorts, and the city of Karakol won international recognition as an alpine skiing centre. “And we’ve developed a ‘Visit Kyrgyzstan’ programme that will promote winter tourism as a separate brand,” Chakiyev said.

The government and the private sector are seeking to work together to improve tourism to the satisfaction of both sides. This is why, at the First Eurasian Conference on Alpine Skiing Resorts, “New Trends in Winter Tourism Development” (held in Almaty, Kazakhstan), in early October, Kyrgyz business and government, respectively, sent Halitov and Chakiyev.

The forum also attracted foreign tourism executives. For example, Geode of France and ILF Consulting Engineers of Austria participated in discussing the prospects of developing tourism in Kyrgyzstan, building modern ski resorts and making the resources put into ski resorts match internationally accepted standards.

“If the state applies international standards to mountain tourism, both domestic and foreign investors will start putting money into the industry,” Halitov said. “The state plays a major part in this; much depends on it, and the business community has already voiced its ideas, so now we’ll wait and see.”

Residents of the areas with ski resorts are interested in promoting winter tourism instead. Indeed, boosting alpine skiing would help even the region around Lake Issyk-Kul and its population – the centre of Kyrgyz tourism – to make economic gains, Karakol resident Esen Esenaliyev said.

“The active tourist season in summer lasts for only 60 days; many (Issyk-Kul) locals have to make enough money during that period to support themselves year-round,” he said. “Meanwhile, the winter tourist season lasts for 120 days. Rain can spoil a summer, but there’s always plenty of snow for downhill skiers.”

“There are many ski resorts operating around the world; this market has grown and developed at a fast pace, becoming truly international,” World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Secretary-General Taleb Rifai told the Almaty conference on skiing. “The development and growth of tourism mean earning higher profits and improving the quality of life. Our task is to make sure its growth and development don’t harm the environment. Let’s apply these principles here in Central Asia.”

The industry is bound to develop steadily, Chakiyev said. “We won’t be a second or third Switzerland,” he said. “We in Kyrgyzstan have our own distinctive traits. There’s no point in comparing us and Switzerland today. Give us some time, and we’ll be in the same class (with Switzerland).”

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78 films to be screened in first Baku tourism film festival

31 October 2013 – AzerNews – The first Baku International Tourism Film Festival (BITFF) will include 78 films by 74 directors from 31 countries in its contest program. The Festival will be held in Azerbaijan on November 20-24.

The non-profit cultural event, organized by the Culture and Tourism Ministry, aims at promoting films on tourism and endorsing the development of domestic and international tourism, as well as encouraging the movies’ authors . The screenings will be held on November 20-24 at the Nizami cinema center in Baku.

The Festival will open on November 20 by a film starring the world-famous French actor Gerard Depardieu, “Return to the Caucasus”.

About 215 films by 140 directors from 38 countries were sent to the festival. The contest program also includes films by 14 Azerbaijani directors.

Films from the U.S., Germany, Austria, UAE, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Georgia, Croatia, Iran, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Turkey, Ukraine, and Greece will participate in the contest program.

Winners will be determined in seven categories, including cultural tourism, nature tourism and ecotourism, commercial tourism, sports tourism, marine tourism, as well as tours and expeditions.

No restrictions are set for the length of the films. About 15 films are presented in the “Country, Region, City” category, 16 films are presented in the “Culture, Traditions” category, 9 films will compete in the “Extreme Tourism” category, 13 films are presented in the “Ecotourism” category, 10 films are presented in the “Advertising Films” category, and 15 films will compete in the “TV Films” category.

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

The event also seeks to emphasize the tourism potential of Azerbaijan as one of the international centers of a historical and cultural heritage. The holders of the top three places in each category will be awarded with money. The best film of the festival will be presented with the Grand Prix and a money award of 4,000 euros.

Movies will be evaluated by an international jury, consisting of cinematographers as well as tourism experts. 45 foreign guests, including the directors of the films presented in the contest program and heads of the tourism films festivals held in different countries were invited to the Festival which is expected to become an annual event.

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

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Azerbaijani musicians to take part world music festival

01 November 2013 – AzerNews – Azerbaijani musicians will take part in the 13th Porta World Music Festival, Latvian media reported. The festival, held in Riga on November 7-9, will be dedicated to Eastern culture and melodies.

The festival’s concert and movie program includes meetings with talented musicians from Azerbaijan, India, Israel, Russia, and Latvia. The event will also feature the screening of documentary movies.

The Porta World Music Festival is a contemporary traditional music festival, which brings together various cultures, experience, and eras.

The festival aims at educating the audience and also the musicians, because there are many creative impulses in the world of music that can serve as unexpected sources of inspiration and information. The festival’s diverse program introduces the new trends in the world of music to the audience.

The program also includes movie screenings about world music, providing a deeper insight into the diverse cultures of the world.

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Greater Baku Plan to see full readiness by this year-end

01 November 2013 – AzerNews – The Greater Baku Regional Development Plan for the period up to 2030 will be completed by the end of this year, Head of International Relations and Information Department of the State Committee for Urban Planning and Architecture Jahangir Gojayev told journalists.

“Currently, the work on the plan is under way,” he said. “This has been included in the State program of the socio-economic development of the regions in 2009-2013. We are conducting studies and the plan will be developed by the end of the year, and then we will submit it for approval to the relevant authorities.”

Gojayev said that this is the first time such a project has been taken up in Azerbaijan.

“Until now, there was no master plans for separate regions; but time has shown us that the Absheron Peninsula firstly requires a comprehensive approach, because the socio-economic problems of Baku have got rather complicated due to its nearby cities of Sumgait and Khyrdalan,” Gojayev said.

According to Gojayev, Azerbaijan has a number of architects, but there is a shortage of qualified professionals in the field of urban planning.

“For this purpose a tender was held, following which a number of international companies from the U.S., Australia and other countries got involved. Also a company from Spain which will deal with the environmental aspects of the project has been involved,” he said.

According to the head of the department, the issue of ecology has become the most important one for all major cities of the world, and Baku is not an exception. Talking about air pollution, and other factors that leave a negative effect on the ecological situation of the city, Gojayev said that the invited companies will prepare a comprehensive package of measures aimed at combating and eliminating these negative factors, as well as making plans for the general improvement and landscaping of the city.

Azerbaijan and the World Bank signed a loan agreement to develop the Greater Baku Regional Development Plan in 2007. The plan has been developed through coordination with Baku State Design Institute.

According to preliminary estimates, the average cost of the Greater Baku Regional Development Plan may reach 4-5 billion manats (up to over $6.3 billion).

Under the Plan, the streets and roads of the city will increase by hundreds of kilometers, the number of polluted lakes will be significantly reduced, and parks and public gardens will be created in an area of 34,000 hectares.

The Plan envisions the future development of the city with its 11 surrounding areas, Sumgayit, the country’s third largest city, and the entire Absheron Peninsula till 2030.

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$1.3 million worth of art auctioned for Syrian refugee children

Beirut, Sunday, 22 Dhul Hijja 1434/ 27 October 2013 (IINA) – An estimated $1.3 million worth of art from more than 130 artists, mostly from Syria and Lebanon, is being auctioned at below-gallery prices in Beirut to raise money for Syrian refugee children.

“This is first time that you have so many artists from the Middle East mobilize for a cause,” said Noura Jumblatt, president of the Lebanese Beiteddine festival and wife of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. “We had more offers but we had to limit ourselves,” she told Reuters in her office, which was filled with thousands of dollars worth of bubble-wrapped art ready for a live auction on November 8th in Beirut. About half of Syria’s two million war refugees are children, according to the United Nations. At least 100,000 people have died in nearly three years of conflict.

Many have fled to Lebanon and live in appalling conditions – in tents or abandoned buildings, with limited food, medicine, clothing and education. Artists donating work include the Lebanese Nabil Nahas, who regularly exhibits in New York, and Ayman Baalbaki, who has given a broad-brush painting of a man wearing a red and white headscarf. Iraqi, Egyptian, Iranian and European artists have also joined the effort. Much of the work is now being auctioned on Paddle 8, a U.S.-based auctioning site, with reserves that are below gallery prices, Jumblatt said.

Paddle 8 spokeswoman, Sarah Goulet said the art work is estimated at $1.3 million but their online benefit auctions on average exceed their estimates by 20-30 percent. A total of $250,000 was bid in the first two days of the two week auction, she said in an email. “Bidding has been extremely brisk,” she said. Paddle8 takes a 5-7 percent commission on benefit auctions. The Baalbaki piece had a bid at $9,000 on Saturday but he sold an acrylic painting at Sotheby’s this April for $377,000. Others are rising in price – Nahas’ piece, which depicts a Lebanese cedar tree, had a bid at $60,000 on Saturday, rising by thousands throughout the week.

The auction also spotlights some of Syria’s emerging and most established artists, many of whom have been influenced by the revolt and ensuing war. Youssef Abdelke, a renowned artist from the northeast city of Qamishli who was arrested by government forces in July this year and later left Syria, has donated. Syria’s best-known political cartoonist Ali Ferzat, who had his fingers broke in 2011 by men he said were Assad’s henchmen, also donated original sketches. Other participating artists have been less open about their political views on the Syria war, which has divided Syrians and caused sectarian hatred among the country’s many religions and ethnicities.

Jumblatt, whose husband has an anti-Assad stance regarding the conflict, said she choose the plight of children refugees so the exhibition could be apolitical. “We have not gotten into this,” she said. All funds will go towards food, clothing, medical supplies and schooling through humanitarian organizations like UNICEF and Save the Children International.

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Turkey opens tunnel linking Europe and Asia

Istanbul, 25 Dhul Hijja 1434/ 30 October 2013 (IINA) – Turkey has for the first time connected its European and Asian sides by opening a railway tunnel that fulfills a vision first proposed by an Ottoman sultan about 150 years ago.

The tunnel is 13.6km long, with 1.4km running under the Bosporus, the strait that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, and divides Istanbul between Asia and Europe. Turkish officials say that at more than 55-metres down, it will be the deepest submerged railway tunnel of its type in the world. The government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan hopes that, with 1.5 million passengers a day, it will ease some of Istanbul’s chronic traffic jams, particularly over the two bridges that currently connect the two sides of the city.

Tuesday’s opening ceremony on the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic was attended by Erdogan and other officials, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose country was heavily involved in building and financing the project. The project started in 2005 and, though scheduled to be completed in four years, it was delayed by important archaeological finds, including a 4th century Byzantine port, as builders began digging under the city.

“Turkey will celebrate two feasts together,” Transport Minister Binali Yildirim said earlier this month. “We will mark the 90th anniversary of the republic on October 29 and also realise a one-and-a-half century dream of a major rail tunnel project in Istanbul.”

The tunnel has raised fears that it could be vulnerable to earthquakes in a region of high seismic activity. But Yildirim said that it was designed to withstand a massive 9.0 magnitude quake and called it “the safest place in Istanbul”.

Ottoman Sultan Abdulmejid is said to have first proposed the idea of a tunnel under the Bosporus in around 1860. One of his successors, Abdulhamid, had architects submit proposals in 1891, but the plans were not carried out. The tunnel is one of a number of large infrastructure projects proposed by Erdogan’s government that have helped boost the economy but also have provoked a backlash of public protest. They include a separate tunnel being built under the Bosporus for passenger cars, a third bridge over the strait, the world’s biggest airport, and a massive canal that would bypass the Bosporus. The projects have provoked charges that the government is ploughing ahead with city-changing plans without sufficient public consultation. Those concerns fuelled protests that swept Turkey in June.

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SR570 million project to link Jamrat with Haram Mosque

Makkah, Saturday, 21 Dhul Hijja 1434/ 26 October 2013 (IINA) – Undersecretary of the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Supervisor of the Central Projects in the Holy Sites Habib Zain Al-Abideen has revealed that a proposal to link the western courtyards of the Jamarat Bridge with the northern courtyards of the Haram Mosque has been submitted for royal approval.

The project, which is expected to cost SR570 million, comprises tunnels and bridges with a total length of 3 kilometers. If approved, the project will be completed before the next Haj season. The project aims to reduce crowding in the tunnels leading to the Grand Mosque, such as Mahbas Al-Jinn Tunnel. It will facilitate the movement of pilgrims on foot. It will also reduce the congestion of vehicles in areas surrounding the Grand Mosque, particularly outside its southern courtyards.

Zain Al-Abideen said another project, whose study has been completed, involves constructing a pedestrian road and connecting it to the pedestrian road in Mina to facilitate the pilgrims’ journey to the Mount of Mercy (Jabal Al-Rahma) in Arafat.

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Sunken vessels draw diving fans to Turkey

ANTALYA – Doğan News Agency – The Mediterranean coasts draw thousands of diving aficionados ever year thanks to its archaeological treasures. Antalya boosts it popular diving sites, which happens to contain a number of sunken ships and crashed planes, hosts some 400,000 professional and amateur divers.

Kaş, Manavgat, Kemer and Alanya coasts are among the most popular diving centers, with artificial reefs as well as sunken ships and planes.

Antalya Culture and Tourism Director İbrahim Acar said that summer tourists in the city mostly preferred diving among other activities. He said that their aim was to show tourists the underwater richness of the city.

“Sunken ships and artificial reefs in the region made diving tourism more attractive and accelerated tourism when the season ends; (we hope to reveal) the relevant figures. We don’t want people to spend time in their hotels only but to see our underground richness and historical richness.”

Acar said that this year 132 diving points were launched by the Antalya Municipality but only 72 of them were authorized to do so. He said, “We look for certain conditions in diving centers. The most important issue is to provide safety and security. All types of diving tools should be up to standard.”

A sunken French military transportation ship at the entrance of the Port of Antalya is submerged in the water at 20-32 meter deep. It belongs to a French war ship which sank in 1942 during the war. Most of the ship’s load was removed during works between 1946 and 1974. The ship draws attention from divers.

A sunken ship named Pati is off the Kiriş Aquarium Cove in Kemer and it is very available for experienced divers. The 15-meter long Georgian flagged ship divided into two on a stormy night in 2001. It completely sank in 2004. Some types of fish such as groupers and morays and sometimes tuna fish can be seen around the ship.

Another sunken ship close to Kaş is the ancient Uluburun ship. The 3,400 year old ship was found in 1984 brought to surface. The sunken ship and remnants discovered within it are currently being displayed at the Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Museum. A Uluburun replica, which was constructed in 40 days, is one of the most popular diving places in Kaş’s Limanağzı area.

A sunken coastguard vessel, which is located 400 meters off Kleopatra beach, is popular among underwater photographers. The submerged vessel is in 28 meters in depth and home to various species.

The ancient sunken Gelidonya ship, which was discovered in 1954, is in 26-28 meter deep, dating back to the early Bronze Age, according to surveys. It is estimated that it sank in the end of 13th century. A lot of the ship had been eaten by sea wolves.

Interest in sunken planes

A cargo plane, which was sunk for testing purposes in Kemer’s Tekirova, also draws interest from divers. The plane, which was made in 1942, can be observed up-close tourists diving under professional supervision.

Among the range of underwater bodies include an American war plane, which was shot down in 1944 after bombing a target over Romania and an Italian warplane that lies completely underground bar its motors, with the details of how it managed to reach its current position still yet to be uncovered.

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New Central Asian railway revives historical ‘Silk Road’ – minister

29 October 2013 – TODAY.AZ – Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project has revived the historical “Silk Road”, Turkish Minister of Transport, Shipping and Communications Binali Yildirim said, TRT Haber reported on Tuesday. According to him, this is not the first global project being implemented in Turkey.

The Marmaray rail tunnel that connects the Eastern and European parts of Turkey is being commissioned on October 29.

The official opening ceremony was attended by Turkish President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Minister of Transport, Shipping and Communications Binali Yildirim, Azerbaijani Transport Minister Ziya Mammadov and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as well as representatives of the governments of Afghanistan, Georgia, Bulgaria and Romania.

According to the statement, the length of the tunnel is 13.6 kilometres. Trains will depart every two minutes. The transport capacity for each direction will be about 1.2 million passengers per day.

The statement also said that this is the only project of its kind allowing the transport of both passengers and cargo through one tunnel.

After commissioning the tunnel, the volume of rail transport in Istanbul will increase by 20 per cent, up to 28 per cent of the total transit volume. Earlier, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Marmaray project will be one of the most powerful projects in the region.

In addition, it was reported that Turkish Minister of Transport, Shipping and Communications Binali Yildirim said that the Marmaray tunnel will contribute to the development of not only Turkey, but neighbouring countries.

According to him, the Marmaray project is a new rail Silk Road. The minister also stressed that this is not the first global project implemented in Turkey. He said besides the Marmaray tunnel, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project is one of the country’s global projects.

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Project to boost the production of greens

Borneo Bulletin Online – November 02, 2013 – AS PART of efforts to support the government’s initiatives in developing the agricultural industry, a local company has begun a Research and Development Project (R&D) on vegetable production in Bengkurong Masin.

AE Asia Agri-Mart Sdn Bhd, under Asia Enterprise, will identify suitable imported vegetable seeds for local production.

According to company president Chai Yum Fatt, the project was aimed at assisting the government and food producers in the country.

Should the research succeed, the company would train farmers in a bid to boost production to meet the domestic market.

The project, involving four skilled workers from Brunei and neighbouring countries, is ongoing at a five-acre farm in Bengkurong.

It involves five different types of vegetable seeds imported from Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia and other Asian countries. The project will also identify a variety of vegetable plantations suitable for the allocated soil, fertilisers and other aspects related to plantation.

“Currently, we are conducting this project manually. But in future, the company will utilise high-tech equipment.

“In the mean time, a green house has been built to accommodate the research while allowing organic vegetable production,” he said.

The company also invites officers from seed production companies to share their expertise on effective vegetable production and management.

Chai hoped the project would accelerate the development of local agriculture and assist in local food production, particularly vegetable farming.

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Thomson Airways to commence Dreamliner flights to Maldives

Sun.mv – October 31, 2013 – Thomson Airways has decided to commence the flights on Boeing’s Dreamliner 787 aircraft to the Maldives.

World’s largest charter airline, Thomson Airways, which carries tourists to Maldives from Europe, will operate the first flight on Dreamliner on Monday at 9:45 a.m.

Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) has planned a special ceremony to mark the commencement of Dreamliner to Maldives.

Managing Director of MACL Bandhu Ibrahim Saleem said that Thomson will operate flights on Dreamliner aircraft until the end of this year’s tourist season, and that this is likely to increase tourist arrivals.

He said that it would not be a problem to land Dreamliner aircraft at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

“We can accommodate larger aircraft, Boeing 777 for example. This aircraft is different from all other aircraft,” he said.

Dreamliner was introduced two years ago, and currently is the most fuel-efficient aircraft in the world. It has 244 seats in economy class and 47 in premium class. It is also capable of flying 8,000 nautical miles non-stop.

Thomson Airways commenced operation of Dreamliner flights in May 2013, and currently conduct flights on these aircraft to Florida and Mexico. Thomson Airways is also the first UK airline to use Dreamliner aircraft.

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