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25 Nov, 2013

India Inaugurates “The Mughals: Life, Art & Culture” Exhibit

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 25 November 2013 (21 Muharram 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.



Wrap up 2013 with more exciting events before Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014:

Unforgettable shopping spree at the 1Malaysia Year-End Sale 2013? Shopping paradise like Suria KLCC, Pavillion Kuala Lumpur, and Bukit Bintang will be thronged with shoppers and discount hunters seeking the best deals, especially with Christmas and New Year just around the corner. Date: 8 November 2013 – 5 January 2014.
Venue: Nationwide

The annual Sabah Open Dancesport Championship is back for the 13th edition! Come and witness the grace and agility of ballroom dancers from all over Asia Pacific including Taiwan, Australia and Brunei as they rumba, cha-cha and jive their way for a dazzling display of dance!
Organiser: Imperial Ballroom Dancing School
Date: 7 December 2013
Venue: 1Borneo Ballroom, 1Borneo Hypermall, Kota Kinabalu
Contact: +6 088 238 785 (Anthony Keung)

In conjunction with Visit Terengganu Year 2013, the Rainforest Challenge (RFC) is proud to return to its “home” to face the unpredictable north-east monsoon. With the ultimate aim to complete this off-road adventure, competition and expedition event in 10 days, four wheel drive enthusiasts from more than 30 countries will work together to overcome the mud, rain soaked steamy jungle, insects and creatures of the night.
Organiser: RFC International Sdn. Bhd.
Date: 30 November – 9 December 2013
Venue: Kemaman, Dungun, Tasik Kenyir, Terengganu
Website: www.rainforest-challenge.com
Contact: +6 03 2163 5908/6908 +6 012 211 7080 – Luis J.A. Wee
Email: jawee@rainforest-challenge.com, info@rainforest-challenge.com, luiswee@yahoo.com

All information is correct at time of publication. Visitors are advised to contact the event organiser for the latest updates.



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.



Saudi Haj ministry upgrades website in seven languages

Makkah, Saturday, 19 Muharram 1434/ 23 November 2013 (IINA) – The Ministry of Haj has upgraded its website (www.haj.gov.sa) to allow visitors to browse it in seven languages: Arabic, English, French, Indonesian, Turkish, Persian and Urdu, Al-Madinah Arabic daily paper reported.

This move has put the ministry ahead of other ministries and government agencies. Minister of Haj Bandar Hajjar said Umrah performers and visitors can now read about the necessary procedures they should follow when they want to visit the two holy mosques. They can also get an idea about the facilities the government has provided for all visitors. The ministry’s website is linked to all ministries and government agencies as well as local Umrah and Haj companies.

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Langkawi Naturally Magikal Kedah Festival Aims for 500,000 Tourists

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Nov 17 (NNN-Bernama) — The Langkawi Naturally Magikal Kedah festival which will be officially launched on Dec 19, is targetted to attract 500,000 local and international tourists to the jewel island, said Kedah state Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) Mukhriz Tun Mahathir.

He said in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014, the 18-day festival will be officially launched in Langkawi to provide activities for tourists who visited the island, especially during that time of year.

“There will be plenty of entertainment and spectacular events such as laser and firework displays, dancing fountains, concerts and many more,” he told reporters at the launch of Langkawi Naturally Magikal, Kedah, here, yesterday.

The festival, was a result of a strategic alliance between the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, the Kedah State Government, Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) and Naturally Magical Sdn Bhd.

He said the festival was in response to feedback from tourists on the lack of activities during their visit and to further diversify the events held there. “This festival will contribute to the growth of the tourism sector in Langkawi and turn it into a popular and unique island destination for tourists,” he said.

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Libya’s Message At World Travel Market: We Are Welcoming Visitors

By Karen Dabrowska (The Tripoli Post UK correspondent)

London, 16/11/2013 – In an amazing triumph of hope over experience Libya mounted an impressive stand at this year’s World Travel Market in London. A black and white postcard with a solitary figure in Arab dress gazing over the sand dunes had a clear message: the country is the place where immensity, solitude and the horizon meet.

Promotional materials included books showcasing Libya’s rich cultural heritage, as well as a new DVD just produced by the Ministry of Tourism. This 45-minute film shows much of Libya with more than 1,000 miles of pristine Mediterranean beaches, magnificent Roman and Greek ruins, palm-fringed oases and Saharan troglodyte caves.

The Marriot and Sheraton Hotels are expected to open soon and Afriqiyah the country’s state airline has added Paris to its European destinations Rome, London and Dusseldorf. It will also extend its services to Lagos and Dakar.

The Minister of Tourism Ikram Bashimam never tired of giving interviews as journalists flocked to the stand. Presenting Libya to the world through human interaction is her philosophy.

The priorities are domestic tourism and developing the infrastructure for international tourism. She is convinced that tourism will be the second largest revenue generator after oil.

“Libyans have to visit their country,” Bashimam told The Tripoli Post. “The people from the north like to go to the desert and vice versa. The west and the east are very different geographically. It is very important for all generations to know their history and be proud of the different cultures of Libya.”

With a wave of the hand she rejected talk of separation even though Cyrenaica has just declared its own government. “We work on Libya, we do not work on a divided country or divided areas.”

The ministry of tourism is preparing development plans for 15 areas with potential for tourism including the famous Roman ruins at Leptis Magna, the green mountains and the rock art sites of Tadrart Acacus a rocky massif with thousands of cave paintings in very different styles, dating from 12,000 BC to AD 100.

Mass tourism is not expected for five years but the minister insists that it is possible to get a tourist visa “as long as people follow the process” which will become easier in the long term.

She is confident that the jobs which tourism inevitably generates will help solve the problem of youth unemployment in Libya and ‘give the people with weapons something to do’.

Bashimam is concerned that the media is exaggerating concerns about the security situation. But the kidnapping of the Prime Minister from the luxurious Corinthia Hotel dealt a massive blow to her public relations campaign.

Libya has signed an agreement with the World Tourism Organisation for the development of its tourist industry and is a founding member of the STEP programme (sustainable tourism for eliminating poverty).

“We are in a hurry to develop tourism but we have to take wise and clear steps,” Bashimam emphasised.

While the minister’s enthusiasm knew no bounds Wesam Al Ghagigi of Asfar Alharoj admitted that at present 99 percent of tourism is outgoing and travel agents are organising trips for Libyans who are travelling on business or for medical treatment. Except for visits by businessmen, the press and representatives of NGOs there is no inbound tourism

“We are here to show that we want things to be better. We have partners overseas and we have to be in touch with them. We can’t just disappear. We are not expecting tourists next year but hopefully in the next three years.

It’s a big battle to establish tourism. If a travel agent came to me and said I want to send a group of tourists right now I could not guarantee their safety. They should be alright in Tripoli and the surrounding areas but in the dessert it is a risk. We need to have a good army to secure the borders.”

In 2014 Libya will be in Nicholas Wood’s political tours, which currently include North Korea. A tour planned for November this year was cancelled due to the security situation but Wood is keen to introduce visitors to different brigades and ordinary families so they can get a first hand experience of life in the post-Gaddafi era.

The dictator has gone. The future is uncertain. But Libyan tour operators are determined to welcome visitors and ensure the industry thrives. “What else can we do asks Al Ghagigi. “Go and open a fruit shop.”

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Turkish Airlines announces “Invest on Board” Business Venture

NEW YORK-November 18, 2013-(BUSINESS WIRE)–Turkish Airlines recently announced its latest high-flying business venture, Invest on Board. With the new worldwide initiative, investors can now meet startups while onboard sitting in their seats.

Starting this December, Invest On Board will fly 11 startup ideas into the skies via Turkish Airlines in partnership with eTohum, a program which aims to introduce entrepreneurs into the marketplace. Using Turkish Airlines’ in-flight entertainment system ‘Planet,’ which offers films, short programs, music, radio channels, games and live flight information to passengers on an interactive touchscreen, investors will also be able to browse video pitches to discover the next big idea. These pitches will be updated on a monthly basis.

Away from their busy offices and regular workdays, Invest On Board gives investors the opportunity to encounter the next big business in an easy, accessible format, and startups get a chance to grow without having to individually search for the perfect backer. The campaign aims to further promote the entrepreneurial spirit of Turkey in a fresh and unique way through an unconventional, distinctive and modern program.

The project will be online at InvestOnBoard.com, where new startups can apply to be included in new video pitch releases. Turkish Airlines looks forward to matching startups and investors in the skies through Invest On Board.

To watch the introduction video, please click on the link below: www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AhJLEKIN3w

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Historic Baku 2015 European Games Logo Unveiled

ROME, November 23, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Azerbaijan’s Minister of Youth and Sport, Azad Rahimov, today unveiled the official logo for the first European Games, which will be held in June 2015 in Azerbaijan’s capital city, Baku.

“We are honoured to host the first-ever European Games and to welcome athletes and visitors from throughout Europe for this historic event in 2015,” said Minister Rahimov. “Our logo reflects the pride of our nation in its sporting heritage, our commitment to hospitality and welcoming our guests, and our position as an emerging center for sport, business and tourism in Europe and beyond.”

Logo designer, Azerbaijani Adam Yunisov, said: “I wanted to reflect the passion and aspirations that the people in Azerbaijan have and share for these first ever European Games, to be innovative and inspirational in spirit and in sport. This is a celebratory logo which embodies that vision.”

The logo was launched at the 42nd European Olympic Committees General Assembly in Rome and represents another important milestone in preparing for the Games, according to EOC President Patrick Hickey.

“Europe, for the first time, will have its own continental multi-sport event. For many European athletes, this event will be an important step on the journey to one day wearing their nation’s colours as a competitor in the Olympic Games,” Hickey said.

The first European Games in Baku in 2015 will see more than 5,400 athletes from all of the 49 Olympic nations of Europe compete in 18 sports, including new formats and disciplines featuring for the first time at a major European sports event, such as basketball 3×3.

Athletes from the host nation of Azerbaijan immediately embraced the new logo. Speaking at a celebration of the logo launch in Baku, Farid Mansurov, an Azerbaijani wrestler who won gold at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, commented: “Baku 2015 promises to provide career-defining opportunities and moments for athletes, high-quality sporting action for fans and inspiration for young people. To wear this logo is to be a part of shaping the future of European sport.”

Zemfira Meftakhetdinova, a sport shooter who won two Olympic medals in skeet, including Gold in Sydney 2000, added: “As an Azerbaijani sportswoman, this is a logo that makes me feel proud of our country’s emergence as a European centre for sport, business and tourism.”

The rapid progress in planning for the Baku 2015 European Games has impressed international event specialists and members of the European Games Coordination Commission, which conducted an inspection visit last month.

“The pace and scale of the planning behind Baku is a tribute to the commitment of the Government of Azerbaijan, the Organising Committee, local Baku communities and companies, and the European Olympic Committee under President Hickey’s leadership,” said Jim Scherr, COO of the Baku European Games Operating Committee (BEGOC). “Baku will be ready to welcome the athletes of Europe in 2015.”

The logo was unveiled during Baku’s first progress report to the EOC General Assembly as host city for the European Games. Conceived by 35 year-old Azerbaijani Adam Yunisov, the new logo brings together five core elements that have shaped the host country’s ancient and contemporary culture and aspirations, including Flame, Water, the mythical Simurgh bird, Carpet and Pomegranate.

Yunisov’s logo design, which followed an open public competition, depicts the nation’s natural beauty, culture and heritage, and the vibrancy of Baku, one of Europe’s fastest-growing economies and cities.

Minister Rahimov said the legacy benefits from the European Games will be significant and transformational. “For young people, athletes, National Olympic Committees and Sports Federations, Baku 2015 will provide a new world-class centre of sports venues and facilities that will help to shape the future of sport in Europe and, for the communities of Azerbaijan, bring new urban, transport and economic benefits and infrastructure,” the Minister said.

Europe’s newest sports logo will make its debut this evening, adorning player shirts of Atlético Madrid, in the La Liga home match against Getafe CF at Vicente Calderon Stadium. The game will feature the Baku 2015 logo to show the Spanish Club’s support for the first European Games as a part of its strategic alliance with the country of Azerbaijan.

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Indonesia as Hub of Excellence for Biological Products

Jakarta, Indonesia, Oct 23, 2013 – (ACN Newswire) – The 4th Conference of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Ministers of Health and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Strategic Health Programme of Action (OIC-SHPA) was held in Jakarta on October 21-24, 2013. The Conference was attended by 57 Islamic countries.

The first session of the OIC Ministers of Health was held in Malaysia in 2007. It was agreed then that the conference would be held every two years: in Tehran, Iran in 2009; Astana, Kazakhstan in 2011; and Jakarta in 2013.

The agenda of the OIC-SHPA 2013 will be conducted with a view to a 10 year period of time (2013-2022), with priority on at least six thematic areas: Health System Strengthening; Disease Prevention and Control; Maternal, New-born and Child Health and Nutrition; Medicines, Vaccines and Medical Technologies; Emergency Health Responses and Interventions; Information, Research, Education and Advocacy.

Related to the vaccine discussion, Indonesia, as an OIC country, is encouraging members of the OIC to realize self-reliant pharmaceutical products production, especially the areas of high quality and affordable vaccines.

Bio Farma Indonesia is a vaccine manufacturer that has fulfilled the pre-qualification standard of the WHO (World Health Organization). Hence, Indonesia is ready to assist members of OIC countries in the supply of material/intermediate products (bulk), and expanding expertise in the downstream/fill and finishing processes.

According to Iskandar, President Director of Bio Farma, “Self Reliant Vaccine Production is one of the visions of the OIC, with Indonesia as the hub of vaccine technology. The new Pentavalent (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Hepatitis B & Haemophilus Influenza type B) vaccine which is manufactured by Bio Farma is an actual result. This vaccine was launched in August 2013 by the Minister of Health to be used in the National Immunization Program.”

Iskandar added, “Bio Farma as the vaccine manufacturer in Indonesia owns experience in the global forum, such as being the Organizer of TCTP – Third Country Training Program, Executive Committee and President of DCVMN – Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturer Network, GAVI Alternate Board, and others. Certainly Indonesia has the competence and expertise to be appointed as a leader and a Center of Excellence towards Biological Products for the Islamic countries.”

Since its establishment in 1890, PT Bio Farma (Persero) has been active in supplying high quality vaccines and serum for people. Currently, Bio Farma is among the largest vaccines manufacturers and suppliers in the world. The need for EPI vaccines in Indonesia has been supplied solely by Bio Farma.

Bio Farma has existed for a century and proven its strength and experience world wide. The company has also grown and developed to become a vaccine and serum manufacturer of international reputation. This can be seen from its qualifications and ability to acquire WHO prequalification for all of its EPI Vaccine products. For more information, please visit www.biofarma.co.id.

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Indonesian Govt to Auction RP1 Trillion Islamic Bonds

JAKARTA, Nov 20 (NNN-ANTARA) — The Indonesian government plans to auction Islamic bonds (sukuk) worth Rp1 trillion on Nov 26 to meet part of its financing target in the 2013 state budget.

The bonds up for the auction will consist of series SPN-S27052014 which is new issue and series PBS004, PBS005 and PBS006 which are reopening of existing issues, the Directorate General of Debt Management at the Finance Ministry said in a press statement released on Wednesday.

The series SPN-S27052014 due on May 27, 2014 will be issued at a discount yield and use state land and buildings as underlying assets.

The series PBS004 due on February 15, 2037 will be issued at a yield of 6.10 percent, the series PBS005 due on April 15, 2043 at a yield of 6.75 percent, and the series PBS006 due on September 15, 2020 at a yield of 8.25 percent.

The underlying assets used for the issuance of the project-based sukuk will come in the form of projects and activities in the 2013 state budget, the statement said. The four series of sharia-compliant bonds will be put to an open auction using a multiple price method. The statement said the government has the right to sell the four series of sukuk at higher or lower prices than the indicative target.

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Indonesia, Netherlands Cooperate To Develop Horticulture

JAKARTA, Indonesia Nov 22 (NNN-Bernama) — The Indonesian Horticultural Seed Producers Association (Hortindo) and the Netherlands have agreed to cooperate in developing horticulture in Indonesia, Indonesia’s Antara news agency reported an official as saying.

“For us, cooperation is very important because the Netherlands is the world’s second-largest exporter of horticultural products,” Hortindo spokesman, Glenn Pardede said here on Wednesday.

Glenn made the statement after the signing of two memoranda of understanding (MoU) on cooperation between Indonesia and the Netherlands in the presence of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, at Merdeka Palace, the official residence of Indonesian President.

He noted that although the Netherlands has limited farmland with an unsupportive climate, the country has been able to produce more horticultural products. Glenn stated that in a preliminary discussion, the Netherlands had shown interest in investing in the development of horticulture in Indonesia.

“The Dutch investors want to develop potato and large yellow onion plantations in Indonesia,” he added.

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Exhibition on heritage sites gets good response

Oman Tribune – 16 November, 2013 – The Mobile exhibition of the Group of 77 and China being hosted by the Department of Heritage and Culture in the North Al Batinah Governorate is drawing a good response from visitors.

The exhibition featuring pictures of sites listed on the World Heritage list, with the participation of the Unesco, in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Convention for the Protection of Cultural and Natural Heritage of 1972 and in embodiment of cooperation of the Sultanate with international institutions for the protection of the heritage will continue until Monday.

The exhibition has four sites from the Sultanate that are classified by the World Heritage list, namely Bahla, Al Khatm, Al Ain and Ardh al Luban (Frankincense Land).

The exhibition is held in all governorates of the Sultanate in rotation to enhance social awareness and appreciation of the values of cultural heritage.

It aims to encourage local community institutions to help protect and develop archaeological sites and opens up new prospects for long-term interest in archaeological sites and publicising those listed on the World Heritage list and highlighting the human heritage.

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India Inaugurates “The Mughals : Life, Art & Culture” Exhibit

21-November-2013 (Press Information Bureau) – The Vice President of India Prof Dr M. Hamid Ansari inaugurated an exhibition “The Mughals : Life, Art and Culture”, an exhibition of rare paintings, manuscripts and maps organised by Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) and British Library in association with Roli Books here today. It will be open for public viewing from 22nd November – 31st December 2013.

The exhibition, a facsimile edition of the much-acclaimed original Mughal India : Art, Culture and Empire curated by Dr. Malini Roy, showcases the British Library’s extensive collection of illustrated manuscripts and paintings that were commissioned by Mughal emperors and other officials and depict the splendour and vibrant colour of Mughal life.

The exhibition showcases the British Library’s extensive collection of illustrated manuscripts and paintings that were commissioned by Mughal emperors and other officials and depict the splendour and vibrant colour of Mughal life. The artwork cover a variety of subject matter; from scenes of courtly life including lively hunting parties and formal portraits of emperor to illustrations of works of literature which manage to convey the complex storylines in a single image, and dramatic panoramas of Indian landscape.

Many of these works have never been published until now. Some of the rare exhibits on display include Shah Jahan’s recipe book, ‘Notebook of Fragrance’, an 18th century manuscript ‘Book of Affairs of Love’ by Rai Anand Ram Mukhlis, ‘Reminiscences of Imperial Delhi by Metcalfe and illustrated by the studio of Mazhar Ali Khan, a route map from Delhi to Qandahar, the earliest Indian atlas, a map of Delhi, and some of the most extraordinary portraits of the Mughal emperors. Being in a library and not a museum, most of the objects are kept in storage and are rarely seen. This exhibition provides a unique opportunity for Indian viewers to be a part of their own history.

Mr Salman Khurshid, Minister of External Affairs was the Guest of Honour at the opening. A new publication by British Library curators and printed by Roli Books will accompany the show. For the British Library publication, Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire by J.P. Losty and Malini Roy, please click here.

Events accompanying the exhibition include:

22 November, 5.30pm John Falconer, Lead Curator of Visual Arts (British Library)

India in Focus: Photographs from South Asia

23 November, 5.30pm William Dalrymple, Author

Painting in Late Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857

27 November, 5.30pm Dr. Pushpesh Pant, Author, Historian

Food, Culture and the Mughals

29 November, 5.30pm M.J. Akbar, Journalist, Author

Akbar: The Many Dimensions of Mughal India’s Greatest Emperor

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Nigeria: Arik Air Wins Security, Safety Award

Daily Trust – 20 November 2013 Lagos — Arik Air has won two awards at the 10th Security Watch Africa Awards held in South Africa last week.

First, Arik bagged the Best Security and Safety Conscious Airline in West and Central Africa Award while the Airline’s Chief Security Officer, Francis Okafor won the Best Aviation Security Manager in Nigeria Award.

A statement from Arik said this is the third consecutive year the airline will be winning the award instituted in 2003 by Africa’s foremost security and safety news magazine, Security Watch Africa.

In the citation, before the award was presented to Arik Air’s Senior Vice President, Standards and Special Projects, Rodger Whittle, the organizers acknowledged the airline’s exemplary commitment to security and safety standards. It commended Arik Air for operating safely without any crash or incident since 2006, the statement said.

Responding, Rodger re-stated the airline’s commitment to safety, security and quality service.

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Egypt: Tourism to Improve As States Lift Travel Ban

Egypt State Information Service – 21 November 2013 – Tourism Minister Hisham Za’azou expects tourism to improve in November since several countries have already began lifting their travel ban to Egypt after security conditions have become better.

Addressing the opening session of a five-day conference of the Association of Travel Journalists (FIJET), he noted that the Russian ambassador in Cairo has told him that Russia decided to lift its travel ban on all parts of Egypt as of today, adding that several countries have already lifted their travel warnings against the Upper Egypt governorates of Luxor and Aswan.

Tourism suffered a sharp drop in September and October that reached 55 per cent due to negative incidents carried out by Brotherhood elements in streets, he said.

He added that dispersing Brotherhood sit-ins in Rabaa el-Adaweya and Nahda squares was an exigency and a public request because protesters attacked citizens and the strikes affected the Egyptian economy and traffic on streets.

He noted that the ministry has a short-term plan for activating tourism, noting that the ministry and the Egyptian Tourism Authority (ETA) cooperated with travel agents and manipulated the internet and social networking services to promote for Egyptian tourist hubs.

He added that the ministry will also launch in the coming period a campaign entitled “Thanks” to activate Arab tourism in Egypt. The campaign is meant to express appreciation to Gulf states which backed Egypt in such sensitive stage.

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Garuda opens new routes to Jayapura and Lombok

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Nov 22, 2013 – Garuda Indonesia has opened a new route to Jayapura, Papua from Makassar, South Sulawesi as part of its network expansion to the eastern part of the archipelago.

The Makassar-Sorong-Manokwari-Jayapura flight will be available once a day using Bombardier CRJ 1000 NextGen aircraft, which offers 12 executive seats and 84 economy seats.

“Hopefully this new service will boost the number of tourists and businesspeople coming to Sorong and Manokwari in West Papua and thus increase those cities’ economy,” said Garuda Indonesia Commercial Director Erik Meijer in a press release on Nov. 21.

The national flag carrier will also provide new routes from Denpasar, Bali to cities in West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara.

Starting Dec. 3, it will open Denpasar-Bima-Lombok and Denpasar-Labuan Bajo-Ende routes using ATR72-600 aircraft, which can accommodate up to 70 passengers

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South Lampung develops agroforestry park

November 17 2013 Kalianda, Lampung (ANTARA News) – The Administration of South Lampung District, Lampung Province has started developing the Agro forestry Park around the Grand Elty Kalianda Resort which was aimed to lure more tourists to visit the region.

“The Agro-forestry concept is the combination of crops, forestry and livestocks, relating to environmental education,” said South Lampung Administration Secretary Sutono here, Sunday.

He said agro forestry is a combination of forest science, education and economy sector by developing forestry business with crop production to create balance between agricultural intensification and forest conservation.

The Agro forestry Park also aimed to create a combination system of agriculture, plantation, farming and forestry tourism activities. He said the park is built to attract the domestic and foreign tourists to come to the region.

“We are planning that the park building will be completed within four years by planting several crops and a number of rare plants from Indonesia such as sandalwood, aloes, ironwood, ebonies, rasamaya, poska, merbau, walnut and peace trees,” he said.

He said the plants will be brought from IPB National Breeding Center and Bogor Botanical Garden. “We will develop an education center with 27 hectares wide and 27,000 plants,” Sutono added.

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Four Indonesian scientists win top research awards

November 20 2013, Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Four Indonesian scientists on Tuesday were presented with the 2013 Habibie Awards by the Habibie Center for their contribution to the development of science in Indonesia. “Today, four Indonesian academicians were presented with the Habibie Award XV,” Executive Director of The Habibie Center Rahimah Abdulrahim said here on the 14th anniversary of the Habibie Center on Tuesday

The first award winner is Dr. Anto Sulaksono, an expert on basic science and theoretical nuclear physics at the University of Indonesia. Sulaksonos research has helped provide answers to key questions in the fields of nuclear structure and material, and neutron stars.

The second recipient is Irwandi Jaswir, a professor of medical science and biotechnology. Jaswir is a pioneer of halal science and has published 63 studies in international scientific journals. Jaswir was also one of the recipients of the 2010 Asia Pasific Young Scientist Awards.

The third winner is Prof. Dr.Mohammad Nasikin, an expert on engineering science. The professor at the Chemical Engineering Department of the University of Indonesia has published numerous scientific works in international journals. Nasikin is also the inventor of the patented BioPower, an additive substance for diesel oil that reduces diesel oil consumption by 10 percent.

The fourth recipient is Prof.Dr. Abdul Hadi Wiji Muthari, a professor of religion and philosopy at Paramadina University. Muthari is known as an eloquent speaker on Islamic culture and its relation with society and other cultures.

The Habibie Center was established in 1999 by former Indonesian President B.J. Habibie and his family as an independent non-governmental organization. Its vision is modernization and democratization based on morality and cultural integrity in Indonesia. Some of the Habibie Centers main programs are the National Violence Monitoring System and the ASEAN Studies Program.

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Pakistan holds conference on Vision 2025

ISLAMABAD, Nov 19 (APP): Federal Minister for Planning, Development, and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal said on Tuesday a national consultative conference on the Vision 2025 programme would be held here on November 22 to work out a united agenda for transforming the country into a strong economy.

Addressing a press conference here, he said the conference would likely to be attended by over 1,000 professionals and experts from public and private sectors, business community, politicians, members of civil society, academia and media professionals. Iqbal said the participants would put forward their recommendations and inputs to the government regarding the Vision 2025 for making the country self-reliant and economically strong.

He said Prime Minister Mohammad Nawaz Sharif would inaugurate the conference. He added similar conferences would be organized at the provincial levels, chambers of commerce, and universities across the country to get their useful inputs regarding the Vision 2025.

“The Vision 2025 programme and the 11th 5-year plan will be finalized by December 31 and after its approval from the National Economic Council, it will be implemented from January next year,” he said. Iqbal said that the main focus of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and PML-N government was on making the economy stable and sound.

He said invitations had been sent to all the political parties asking them to actively participate in the conference for a consensus and show the world that all were united on the agenda of national interest and making the country economically stable and strong.

He hoped that politicians belonging to different shades of opinion would participate in the conference and adopt a united stance on the Vision 2025. Expressing his concern over the Rawalpindi incident, he said Islam was a religion of peace and tranquility. He called for sectarian harmony to frustrate the evil designs of the enemies of Pakistan and Islam.

He also called for political stability and continuity of policies to attract foreign direct investments for the prosperity of the country. He said the PML-N government was committed to provision of better health, and education services to the masses, besides providing them better job opportunities for poverty alleviation in the country.

He added the government was also making efforts to promote tax culture as Pakistan had the lowest tax to GDP of 9 percent. “We want to enhance tax to GDP ratio to 15 percent for the development of the country”, he remarked.

Ahsan Iqbal said that by making Pakistan a hub of regional integration through regional connectivity projects, we can create three billion new markets in Asia comprising of South Asia, China, and Central Asia with great opportunities for global economy.

He said Pakistan 2025 Programme will develop strong knowledge links with leading universities and research centers of the world to benefit from leading edge research. We will make data open for researchers, businesses, and technology entrepreneurs to make citizen applications”.

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US University honors Pakistani English language poet Ejaz Rahim

WASHINGTON, Nov 18 (APP): The Confucius Institute at the University of Toledo, Ohio, held an academic symposium on prominent Pakistani poet Ejaz Rahim’s English language poem. Rahim, a former cabinet secretary, has published 15 books of English poetry and enjoys international reputation.

His poem I, Confucius discusses governance and frailties of human beings in the backdrop of ancient Chinese history and teachings of Chinese sage and philosopher Confucius (500 BCE). Dr. Jocelyn Marinescu, professor of Chinese History at the University of Toledo, called Rahim’s creation an epic poem. Ejaz Rahim was invited by the University of Toledo to inaugurate the Education Week and to read from his poem I, Confucius.

The president of the University of Toledo, Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, paid rich tributes to Rahim’s works and quoted from his poetry and drew parallel between him and some of the ancient and contemporary famous poets.

At the symposium, Rahim was introduced by a noted Pakistani-American writer, Dr. S. Amjad Hussain, who holds an emeritus professorship in cardiovascular surgery at the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences. The Confucius Institute distributed Rahims poem and its Chinesetranslation at the symposium.

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Kyrgyzstan strives to save snow leopard

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-11-21 BISHKEK – The snow leopard’s dwindling population in Kyrgyzstan has the country looking for ways to keep the species flourishing. In October, the Global Snow Leopard Conservation Forum took place in Bishkek, drawing participants from the 12 countries comprising the snow leopard’s habitat, biologists and environmentalists. One of their major concerns was the animal’s fate in Kyrgyzstan.

“The threat of its extinction needs to become a priority for the international community and its preservation our collective responsibility,” Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev said during the forum about the animal, which Kyrgyzstan and the International Union for Conservation of Nature have put on their respective lists of endangered species.

About 4,080 to 6,590 snow leopards exist in the wild, with Kyrgyzstan having 150 to 500, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Its population in Kyrgyzstan, though, has shrunk by half in 20 years, Atambayev said.

At the conclusion of the forum, participants approved a 2014-2020 global programme, with a projected budget of US $190m (9.2 billion KGS), for preserving the snow leopard habitat in the 12 countries. The countries are expected to contribute more than half of the funding with the rest coming from international organisations.

Forum attendees approved a Global Environment Facility (GEF)/UNDP project to open a future Khan-Tengri National Park. The 187,000ha projected park will be next to the Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserve, home to about 25 leopards. Environmentalists regard a holistic approach, rather than one focused narrowly on the snow leopard, as the solution.

“The snow leopard stands at the very top of the food chain,” Olga Pereladova, director of the WWF Central Asian Programme, said. “The presence and development of its population are indicators of the sustainability and normal existence of the entire biosystem. Joint work … will protect more than 40% of the snow leopards in Kyrgyzstan.”

Kyrgyz officials have a complementary approach, too. “Kyrgyzstan has approved a national strategy for the preservation of the snow leopard over the next 10 years, as well as a plan of action for its implementation, which will require political will,” Vice Prime Minister Tayyrbek Sarpashev said.

Azat Alamanov, Bishkek environmentalist and consultant to the WWF, said the national strategy contemplates changes to the law, co-operation with communities that co-exist with the snow leopard, and the creation of sanctuaries and reserves. He also pushed for hunting regulations.

“It’s essential to impose a legal moratorium on hunting trophy species that snow leopards eat,” Alamanov said. “Hunters are allowed to take 70 Marco Polo sheep per year nationwide, which provides 3.6m KGS (US $72,000) in hunting license fees. A moratorium wouldn’t be a terrible fiscal loss but would be a great step forward in preserving the snow leopard.”

Poachers also need to be stopped. The Kyrgyz fine for killing a snow leopard is almost 500,000 KGS (US $9,950), but poaching continues because the animal’s habitat is vast, mountainous and hard to patrol.

Saving bio-diversity is key to saving the species, Alamanov said, though money is still short. “The (park-opening) project’s budget during 2013-2015 is US $950,000 (46.1m KGS),” he said. “That’s enough to cover the essentials and to solve basic problems. But we still have to work with local communities and carry out scientific observations. We need to find the resources for that.”

“Protecting wildlife is a systemic process,” Mukhtar Musayev, director of the Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserve, said, who urged national authorities to work with local communities. “You won’t solve the problem with fines alone. With the help of international organisations, we tried to create different ways for locals to make money … like raising yaks and other animals.”

Preserving the endangered species is a task for all countries with snow leopards and for international organisations, Mikhail Rogozhin, author and director of the film Hope for Survival, which chronicles the efforts to restore the snow leopard’s population, said.

“This is a beautiful but endangered creature,” he said. “It needs to be saved at any cost. Hopefully, the efforts by organisations like the GEF and WWF and by rangers, scientists and nature lovers will not be in vain.”

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Pakistan works on bridging gender gap

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-11-15 LAHORE – Pakistan, recently named the second-worst country in terms of gender equality, is working to improve its image in terms of women’s right and equal opportunity. Of 136 countries listed, Pakistan ranked second only to Yemen in terms of gender bias issues, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2013, which was published October 26.

The index focuses on the economic, political, educational and health sectors and provides country rankings that allow for effective comparisons across regions and income groups and over time.

“Women’s empowerment is not a sudden phenomenon,” Dr. Waqar Masood Khan, federal finance secretary, told Central Asia Online while commenting on the report. “It might take longer for these girls to taste empowerment at home, but the economic prospects created by their hard work ultimately revealed the value of their labour.”

Encouragingly, Pakistan ranked 64th when it came to political empowerment of women, having a history that includes a female prime minister, the late Benazir Bhutto. One way to boost the country’s gender-equality index is through improving education for girls, advocates said.

“Education is the need of the time,” Punjab School Education Department Secretary Abdul Jabbar Shaheen said. “No nation can develop without investing in girls’ education because they constitute half of the human resources and skills of the country.”

While talking about the report specifically, which tagged Pakistan as the eighth worst in terms of equal access to education, he pointed out to recent progress in the field, particularly in Punjab and Sindh.

Lahore has 20,001 boys’ schools, 18,040 girls’ schools and 1,564 mixed schools, educating more than 2.1m boys and almost 1.8m girls, he said, citing a 2012 Lahore primary school census. “The local and federal governments are working to provide better education facilities,” he said. “Since 2003, they’ve provided free textbooks and a monthly Rs. 200 (US $1.86) stipend for girls in classes 6 through 10 in 15 low-literacy districts,” he said.

Pakistan has much to be proud of in terms of women’s political power, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon said, noting its ranking in that arena. The women’s parliamentary caucus, a bipartisan group of woman parliamentarians, is trying to pass legislation that would set aside 10% of seats in parliaments and union councils to female candidates, he added.

A number of laws meant to harness the economic potential of half of the country’s population and to improve women’s standing in society have taken effect. They include the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Bill. It prohibits depriving women of their inheritances and forcing them to marry someone or a copy of the Koran simply to settle a dispute.

The Protection against the Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act 2010, National Commission on the Status of Women Bill 2012 and an amendment to the Criminal Law Act (section 509) all provide additional safety nets for women, Memon added.

More than 9m women have entered the workforce during the last decade, Waqar said. “Young girls from the lower and lower middle classes are exposed to a new world when they come to work,” he added. For the government, the Millennium Development Goals remain a top priority, as do other international commitments on women’s empowerment that it is pursuing, he said.

The government is striving to develop the economy, enable Pakistanis to live better lives and foster gender equality, Waqar said, citing the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2012-13.

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Izmir hosts 500,000 cruise ship tourists

ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency – The Aegean İzmir will reach over 500,000 cruise passengers by the end of the year, said the head of Turkey Cruise Platform Ekrem Demirtaş via written statement. The city hosted some 2.6 million cruise tourists between 2004 and 2012, and annually aims to reach 2 million cruise tourists.

“We were questioning as to why cruise ships were not visiting Turkey a decade ago. We found that city tolls and port fees were incredibly high. We have worked a lot to make the Alsancak Port more passenger friendly with the contribution of our Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım,” he said.

Then, the cruise company Costa brought its newly built ship, Coast Mediterranea to İzmir in 2004. “This was huge for us. İzmir has hosted over 2.6 million cruise tourists between 2004 and 2012,” he said, adding the city’s target was to reach 2 million cruise tourists annually.

The number of cruise ships visiting Turkey was 887, carrying a total of 582,000 passengers in 2003. The figures hit 1,623 cruise ships, carrying 2.2 million passengers as of the end of 2011. Cruise ship tourism, which attracts people of high income, has grown about 10 percent every year.

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SR1bn aviation academy to be set up in Riyadh

Arab News – 21 November, 2013 – An aviation academy is to be set up in Riyadh at a cost of SR1 billion. The Riyadh-based Infinity Support Services and Flight Safety International Company signed an agreement for the construction of the academy on Monday. Obaid Al-Mozainy, CEO of Infinity Support Services, signed the accord on behalf of his company.

Khalid Al-Khaibary, official spokesperson of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), told Arab News that the academy would be run by the private sector. GACA has given official approval for this academy, which would benefit a large number of Saudi and Arab youths who are interested in joining the aviation industry. The institute, which will specialize in the field of aviation, will be built on an area of 50,000 square meters.

Al-Mozainy said that the region would need 20,000 pilots during the next 10 years based on recent studies conducted in the Middle East. “The growing demand for 2,000 pilots a year underlines the need for technically qualified people in the aviation sector,” he said, adding that the new academy would attempt to fulfill these needs by training people across all sections of the aviation industry.

He added that the academy is the only one of its kind in the Kingdom, which would offer a high-tech blend of the latest aircraft and simulation tools to ensure students and navigators get the best training.

Meanwhile, GACA has signed an agreement with the Alpha Star Aviation Services to set up a private aviation center in Riyadh. The facility is to be built on an area of 40,000 square meters as part of GACA’s program to encourage the participation of the private sector.

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Oman Endurance Tour to kick-off in February 2014

Times of Oman – 20 November, 2013 – Oman Endurance Tour will kick-off in February 2014. The five-day tour will be organized by the Royal Cavalry at the Royal Court Affairs (RCA) in the South A’Sharqiyah Governorate, starting from the Wilayat of Bidiya and ending in the Wilayat of Ja’alan Bani Bu Hassan.

Abbas bin Abdullah al-Bahrani, Director of Financial Affairs at RCA, Head of the Main Committee of the Oman Endurance Tour pointed out, at a press conference held at the Royal Opera House (ROH) Muscat today, that organizing such sport events for the first time in the Sultanate is “an achievement”. He added that this event will provide a unique experience in endurance in the desert of Oman, saying that France, the United States of America, Germany, Italy and Belgium, in addition to the Sultanate will take part in the event.

On his turn, Brigadier Abdul Razak bin Abdul Qader al-Shahwarzi, Commander of the Royal Cavalry, Deputy Head of the Main Committee and Executive Director of the Oman Endurance Tour said that the idea of the tour came from the French to have a horse tour similar to the endurance race, which is a challenge to the desert. He affirmed that a number of horses and participants would be the largest and most famous in the world.

He added that the horse riders would cross into the quicksand for a distance of 180 km for five days from “Al Raka” in the Wilayat of Bidiya to “Jidima” in the Wilayat of Ja’alan Bani Bu Hassan with 110 horse riders from inside and outside the Sultanate.

The event aims to highlight the Sultanate as an equestrian-supporting state in the world, discovering its tourist landmarks, promoting tourism in the Sultanate and disseminating touring sport culture.

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Oman’s travel, tourism sector outlook ‘bright’

Saudi Gazette – 21 November, 2013 – Experts gathered at the regional briefing on Oman organized by the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference say the country’s tourism industry is poised for an annual growth rate of between 6 to 8 percent until 2017, highlighting a serious commitment from the government and private investors to develop the sultanate as a vibrant tourism destination.

Filippo Sona, Director and Head of Hotels in MENA for Colliers International, citing a study published by his company titled “Oman, Muscat: Economy Hotel – Market Gap”, said Oman continues to develop as a tourist destination by investing in large scale projects- primarily in Muscat- which contribute to building the “Oman Brand.”

“The majority of economy hotels in Oman are either locally branded or unbranded, many of which are not purpose built and of a limited size. Due to the fragmented nature of the market, hotel apartments and guest houses tend to compete with the economy hotel market, as there is a lack of differentiation between the two products from a consumer standpoint,” Sona further said.

However, the announced forthcoming supply of hotels across Oman only consist of 4- star and 5-star properties which, according to Sona, will only serve to further widen the existing gap in the market for branded economy hotels. Based on the Colliers Econometric Model for the period 2013-2017, the Muscat market could potentially absorb an additional 985 economy hotel rooms over and above forthcoming supply.

Joining Sona in the discussions of the development of Oman’s economy and mid-market hotel segments were Hussain Al Rakhis, Business Development Manager of Action Hotels, the Owners & Operators of ibis Muscat and Holiday Inn Muscat-Al Seeb and Hala Matar Choufany, Regional Managing Director of HVS Hospitality Services.

In the opening session, Philip Wooller, Area Director for the Middle East & Africa of STR Global, presented a look at hotel performance indicators and the development pipeline, highlighting planned global and regional developments and then zoned in on Oman.

He said “the charm of the Sultanate of Oman is undeniable – its people, rich history and culture, nature and activities all combine to offer a wonderful leisure experience. The Omani government forges ahead with the vision for 2020 with considerable inward investment and with the new airport in Muscat due to open in late 2014 demand for hotel rooms in likely to grow dramatically. In 2013 demand continues to outstrip the new supply which is an encouraging indicator – demand is up for hotel rooms by 23.3 percent while supply is up 9.7 percent; hotel revenues grew by 27 percent.”

In an update on the Hotel Investment Market in Oman by Chiheb Ben-Mahmoud, Head of Jones Lang LaSalle’s Hotels & Hospitality Group – Middle East & Africa, he said “Oman is a well-established destination on the world travel and tourism landscape with a unique offering combining exotic heritage, unique natural sites and a tourist friendly culture as well as opening the Arabic peninsula on the Indian ocean world. With such a unique offering, the hospitality industry is a strong value creator for private investors and economic development contributor for the country as a whole.

The partnership between the public and the private sectors in Oman has been playing a big role in driving the hotel investment in the Sultanate. While Oman, as a tourism destination, has very strong attributes, it could well be expected as the same time to benefit from the exceptional growth that tourism has been witnessing throughout the GCC region.”

Latest industry figures show 6,616 hotel rooms and service apartments are currently in the pipeline for Muscat in the next five years as confirmed by hotel developers. All of forthcoming hotel supply, however, is in the 4 and 5 stars segments.

There has been a influx of large scale projects such as The Wave, Imagine Project, Muscat Plaza and the Seeb Seafront in Muscat which will act as catalysts to stimulate inbound demand. AHIC 2014, which is organized by MEED and Bench Events, will take place at the Madinat Jumeirah on May 4-5, 2014.

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Saudi Arabia, China reach technology transfer accord for ‘Made in Makkah’ project

Arab News – 18 November, 2013 – Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) Chairman Talal Mirza confirms that the chamber is moving forward on the “Made in Makkah Project” and has signed agreements with several authorities in different countries worldwide to gain the necessary technology required to run the project.

The MCCI, which is working in partnership with the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), is expected to adopt the logo design for the project soon. The MCCI has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chamber of Commerce and Projects for Muslims Organizations in the Chinese city of Xian, Mirza said.

Currently, the MCCI is also seriously considering a suggestion to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to study a proposal of establishing a specialized body to design logos for Makkah crafts, in addition to overseeing of an industrial zone specializing in industries and different products targeting the markets of the holy city during the Haj and Umrah seasons.

The memorandum of understanding recently signed was based on the sincere desire to consolidate and strengthen the bonds of friendship and economic cooperation between the two countries within the limits of the laws and regulations of each country and the international agreements that govern them, he said, adding that both countries are also seeking to effectively promote and further develop bilateral trade.

“From this agreement, which comes during our work with the JCCI to complete the Made in Makkah project, we aim to develop means to transfer technology and human resources for the benefit of the project,” he said. “We also aim to find a real environment for the establishment of joint ventures in the two countries to help achieve a common benefit for all.”

He added: “The agreement will explore ways of cooperation in organizing and establishing common events such as conferences, seminars, and trade fairs. Such cooperation would enhance and strengthen the economic relations between the two parties.”

Meanwhile, a trade delegation of top manufacturers in Makkah and Jeddah is being prepared to visit the Chinese city of Xian at the end of the first quarter of next year 2014. The delegation will have access to new mechanisms to help in producing high quality Saudi products efficiently at low prices and tools to help achieve the goal of working families and artisans that produce gift items in Makkah.

According to Mirza, official statistics confirm that the craft products in the domestic market bring in SR1.5 billion a year in sales profits, an amount that could potentially expand. The project will benefit from the presence of some 350,000 producing families in the region of Makkah, with estimated 170,000 of them in Jeddah alone, he added.

Abu Bakr Cheing Cheng, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Projects for Muslims Organization in Xian, said: “We aim through this agreement to build together a new bridge of connection and reach higher levels of exchange in the fields of economy, trade, industry, agriculture, construction, and enterprise development. We also aim to increase the exchange of culture, arts, education and vocational training.”

Cheng confirmed that the chamber, which was established in 2008, has enjoyed the support of the Chinese government since its inception, and has achieved significant accomplishments over the past five years. At this time, the chamber is seriously working to strengthen and deepen cooperation with Arab and Islamic countries by participating in numerous conferences and exhibitions.

Members of the chamber has undergone some business visits in different locations, through which they have presented products that are produced by entities that fall under their chamber, and worked on marketing such products internationally. Based on the positive responses, the chamber was able to reach agreements that will contribute to exporting large quantities of Chinese products to those countries.

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Royal Jordanian, Oman Air ink codeshare deal

Times of Oman – 18 November, 2013 – Royal Jordanian (RJ)and Oman Air have signed a free sale codeshare agreement, offering passengers seven weekly flights between Amman and Muscat. Under the terms of the agreement, which became effective from October 27, the flights are operated by Oman Air and marketed by both the carriers.

The move follows RJ suspending its operations to Muscat in November 2012, whereas Oman Air now operates seven weekly flights between Amman and Muscat.

The Royal Jordanian President/CEO, Amer Hadidi, said: “Oman Air and Royal Jordanian enjoy a strong relationship. This cooperation will further enhance the partnership between our two companies, particularly since it allows RJ to sell unlimited number of seats on Oman Air between Amman and Muscat, based on the signed free sale agreement.”

He added that due to the keenness of both the airlines to provide superb on-board and on-ground services, RJ is glad to offer its customers the chance to experience a convenient and timely travel experience with this new partner’s flights.

Hadidi pointed out that the codeshare agreement was concluded with Oman Air to the benefit of both the carriers and passengers from both the countries.

Royal Jordanian passengers can book their trips on the Oman Air flights through the RJ website at www.rj.com, the airline’s call centre or its travel agents around the world.

The Oman Air CEO, Wayne Pearce, said, “Oman Air is pleased to be working with Royal Jordanian to offer customers greater choice and convenience. Both the airlines are renowned for their high standards of comfort and hospitality and we will be building on the strength of our existing relationship to offer a seamless passenger experience, from ticket purchase to touch-down.”

Pearce added that with Oman Air having this year been named ‘Best Business Class Airline, Middle East’ in the Business Destinations Travel Awards and ‘Middle East’s Leading Economy Class Airline’ in the World Travel Awards, customers of both the airlines would be sure to enjoy Oman Air’s outstanding products and services.

Royal Jordanian flies to 61 destinations spread over four continents. The latest additions to the route network were Mosul, Algiers, Lagos and Accra, launched this year.

In addition to Oman Air, Royal Jordanian currently has 12 codeshare contracts with international airlines, including American Airlines, British Airways, US Airways, Iberia, Tarom, Gulf Air, Syrian Air, Siberia Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Air Berlin, Sri Lankan Airlines and Meridiana Fly Airlines.

Oman Air, the national carrier of the Sultanate of Oman, commenced operations in 1993 and is based at Muscat International Airport. Its fleet of modern, luxuriously-appointed aircraft flies to more than 40 destinations across the Middle East, Asia, Europe and Africa.

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Qatar Airways plans domestic operations in Saudi Arabia early 2014

Saudi Gazette – 19 November, 2013 – Qatar Airways will launch domestic operations in Saudi Arabia in the first half of 2014, the chief executive of the airline said on Monday. Akbar Al Baker said the Saudi domestic services carrier will be called Al Maha Airways and will start with the main cities of the kingdom including Riyadh and Jeddah, and then move to the second-tier cities.

“We have chosen the name of the Saudi carrier … Al Maha Airways. We hope to start operations in the first half of next year,” Baker told Reuters at the Dubai Airshow. Qatar Airways and Bahrain’s national carrier Gulf Air became the first foreign airlines to obtain carrier licenses in Saudi, following the opening of the country’s aviation market last December.

Currently, only national carrier Saudi Arabian Airlines and budget airline National Air Services serve a domestic market of about 27 million people. Foreign carriers can only fly in and out of Saudi Arabia, not within the country. With Saudi Arabia’s price cap on domestic flights, private airlines have struggled with their profit margins.

Saudi Airlines, which is undergoing a slow privatization process, receives fuel at subsidized prices unlike private carriers, allowing it to offset the limits of the ticket cost ceiling. “There is huge potential but also many challenges in the Saudi market,” Baker said.

“We have an undertaking from the Saudi authorities that they will resolve the two contentious issues of price cap and fuel subsidies,” Baker said.

Gulf airlines splashed out around $150 billion on the opening day of the airshow, as they ordered hundreds of passenger jets to expand a common ambition to turn the region into a global aviation hub. Qatar Airways ordered 50 of Boeing’s new 777 in an order worth $ 19 billion.

“We are not overdoing it,” said Baker on the spree of plane order announcements. “We are all growing in this region … and if we are growing, we must be doing something right.”

He said the airline would deploy its fleet on new growth markets and would look to expand further. However, he denied media reports that the carrier was close to taking an equity stake in an Indian airline. “We are talking to Go Air, Indigo, SpiceJet and Air India but we are talking about codeshares,” said Baker. “So we are not getting into bed with somebody. When we want to do it we will say that we are interested.”

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Forum discusses impact of sports on tourism

The Peninsula – 19 November, 2013 – The second edition of “Sport & Tourism Forum” has highlighted the impact of sporting events on tourism in Qatar and optimising the use of sporting events and venues to attract tourists to the country.

The forum, organised by Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) in partnership with the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC), was held on the sidelines of the fourth edition of ASPIRE4SPORT Congress and Exhibition at Aspire Dome.

Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Secretary General of QOC highlighted the importance that sport represents in boosting the business of tourism and further contributing in achieving the Qatar National Vision 2030 objectives towards a sustainable and steady development.

“Every necessary effort is to be made by all stakeholders in order to come up with concrete actions and initiatives allowing the best use of the many available opportunities and means to promote sports and tourism activities in the country and attract the general public as well as the various economic sectors who will all benefit from them,” said Sheikh Saoud.

QTA Chairman Issa bin Mohammed Al Mohannadi provided an overview of Qatar’s tourism sector approach, including the role sports play as one of eight focus tourism products.

“Sport brings the world together in a way that few other things can. Fans from around the world gather for iconic games, such as the Olympics and the World Cup, as we saw here first hand with the Asian Games in 2006 and as we anticipate for 2022. In many ways, therefore, the sports and tourism sectors are integrally connected. Sports events, which average around 20 each quarter, many of which are international, are very much part of Qatar’s flourishing events sector hosting over 60 major conferences each year,” he said.

The Sports and Tourism Committee (joint QTA and QOC) shed light on the relationship between sports and tourism in various aspects. The committee also gave a presentation on its role in the promotion of tourism through sports, especially that Qatar plays host to international sporting events that draw visitors from across the region, including the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, the Commercial Bank Grand Prix, as well as the upcoming 2015 IHF Handball World Championships, the World Boxing Championships, the 2015 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletic World Championship and the 2016 Road World Championships.

“Over the past decade, sports have played a significant role in driving attention, and will continue to do so in the next decade. We continue to work with local stakeholders to ensure that the tourism infrastructure and quality of experience exceed expectations for all visitors,” he said.

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Experts discuss Islamic taxation at Doha meet

The Peninsula – 19 November, 2013 – Taxation of Shariah-compliant financial products and transactions was the main topic examined by a distinguished group of experts meeting in Doha. Among the subjects discussed were the Qatar Financial Centre Authority’s (QFC Authority) taxation of Islamic transactions research project and how Islamic finance transactions are structured in practice.

The seminar, which took place at the W Hotel Doha, was held under the auspices of the GCC branch of the International Fiscal Association (IFA). It is the second successive year in which the QFC Authority has hosted a meeting of the branch in Doha.

The seminar started with a presentation by Mohammed Desin, a partner at Ernst & Young, who looked at the growth potential for Islamic finance in the region, and provided a clear explanation of why Shariah-compliant products were important.

The keynote speaker, Mohammed Amin an Islamic finance consultant, discussed the research he conducted earlier in the year on the cross-border taxation of Islamic finance in the MENA region which was sponsored and supported by the QFC Authority. The impetus behind the research, for which Malaysia and the UK were comparators, was to suggest tax policies for countries wishing to develop a supportive tax regime for Islamic finance.

Amin observed: “There’s very little legislation for Islamic finance. Countries are at very different stages of development. For example, of the countries which responded to our study enquiries, only Turkey and the Qatar Financial Centre have specific rules for Sukuk.”

Another speaker, Moshin Iqbal from Latham and Watkins, described in detail some real transactions in the GCC region, and identified pitfalls for the unwary investor. He commented: “A comprehensive legal structure is essential in any jurisdiction to ensure that Sharia’ah finance is successful.”

Ian Anderson, CFO and Director of Tax, QFC Authority chaired the meeting, which was attended by tax experts across the GCC, lawyers, accountants, bankers and representatives from the Ministry of Finance.

Anderson said: “Islamic finance is growing rapidly in many parts of the world, not least in the Gulf. Improving the understanding of taxation of Islamic finance is therefore increasingly important – and our seminar took significant steps in that direction. It has been a privilege to host an important IFA meeting in Doha for the second consecutive year. As a leading financial centre offering a very attractive environment for Islamic finance, the QFC Authority has a deep interest in the taxation of Islamic finance. We will continue to support research and encourage debate to help advance knowledge in this area.”

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Saudi Gulf Airlines set to enter domestic market

Arab News – 20 November, 2013 – Saudi Gulf Airlines is gearing up to enter into the Saudi domestic market in the winter of 2014. This will be the fourth domestic airline operating in the Kingdom after Saudi Arabian Airlines, flynas and Al Maha of Qatar Airways.

The Dammam-based Abdel Hadi Abdullah Al-Qahtani & Sons Group of Companies (Tariq A.H. Al-Qahtani & Bros.) recently announced the launch of Saudi Gulf Airlines following the approval of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) in Saudi Arabia for the carrier to operate regular domestic, regional and international flights pending the granting of an air carrier operating certificate to the wholly-owned Saudi company.

Saudi Gulf Airlines plans to operate three to four daily flights, beginning with the winter schedule of 2014 to Jeddah and Riyadh departing from Dammam airport.

In the second phase, the airline plans to increase flights and expand its domestic network to Madinah, Qassim, Abha and Tabuk, targeting to cover most of the domestic routes and expanding further to the international network covering the Near East, Middle East and Africa.

On Monday, Qatar Airways announced that it would launch domestic operations in Saudi Arabia in the first half of 2014 under the name of Al Maha Airways. Commenting on the expansion of the Saudi domestic airline market, Basil Al-Ghalayini, CEO of BMG Financial Group, said: “Passenger demand for local flights outstrips the current supply. The pan-Kingdom flights market can absorb more players to fill in the gap in the local traveling market.”

He said that, “having two major regional airlines flying local routes will definitely ease the pressure on Saudia and flynas. We are still faced with the difficulty of securing bookings on Saudia flights at short notice, especially between the major cities, during holiday seasons. Furthermore, flynas is still considered to be unreliable for the business commuter.”

Al-Ghalayini added: “As someone who travels twice a week between Jeddah and Riyadh, I must say that the service and quality of seats on local Saudi flights are still mediocre, if not disappointing in some cases. I do hope the newcomers will make up for the shortcomings of prevalent airliners while at the same time creating healthy competition.”

Faisal Alsayrafi, president of the Financial Transaction House (FTH), told Arab News: “An ‘open skies’ policy is always a good policy. The entrance of new airlines into the domestic market will undoubtedly lead to healthy competition, which will benefit the end-user consumer.”

He said: “This is overdue. There has been a need for more airline operators for a long time. Due to heavy traveling demand in the domestic sector, the introduction of any new airlines will lead to better facilities and more convenience for passengers.”

However, Gulf Air, Bahrain’s national carrier, issued a statement on Tuesday in Manama clarifying the recent awarding of two licenses by GACA to operate domestic services within Saudi Arabia.

Gulf Air did not bid and has not been awarded domestic traffic rights to operate in Saudi Arabia. The airline’s involvement is limited to a consultative capacity to the Al-Qahtani Group, a consortium of privately owned companies based in Saudi Arabia.

Accordingly, Gulf Air’s name and brand remain independent of the venture.

An initial contract signed last year appointing Gulf Air in an advisory role to support the Al-Qahtani Group’s bid for national traffic rights in the Kingdom has concluded, with the consortium being awarded one of the two licenses. A second consulting agreement between Gulf Air and the Al-Qahtani Group is currently being negotiated, whereby Gulf Air will support the Al-Qahtani Group in obtaining its Saudi Arabian air operator’s certificate.

Gulf Air has been operating to Saudi Arabia for over 63 years, amassing extensive operational and logistical knowledge of the Kingdom. As such, the national carrier is in a position to support Al-Qahtani in obtaining its air operator’s certificate and further facilitate its entrance into the market.

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Tehran hosting three international exhibitions

Tehran Times – 20 November, 2013 – Three international exhibitions kicked off yesterday at the Tehran Permanent International Fairgrounds, IRIB reported on Tuesday.

The 1st international exhibition on nuts, dried fruits, and related industries will run until November 22. It is participated by hundreds of Iranian and foreign companies active in the field of producing, processing, packaging, and distributing nuts and dried fruits, as well as other agricultural products.

The 21st international exhibition on chandeliers, lamps, and decorative lighting will be underway until November 23, with 220 Iranian and foreign companies in attendance.

The 12th international exhibition on poultry, livestock, dairy products, and related industries is attended by over 400 Iranian and foreign companies from Germany, China, Turkey, France, Belgium, Malaysia, Switzerland, Austria, South Korea, and Italy.

Poultry and livestock vaccines and nutritional complements, dairy products, and animal husbandry equipments will be on display in the event which will run until November 22.

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Saudi Arabia second largest market for Islamic funds globally

Saudi Gazette – 20 November, 2013 – Saudi Arabia is the second largest market for Islamic funds globally with assets under management (AUMs) exceeding $ 6 billion, Thomson Reuters said in a new study.

The Kingdom accounts for 20 percent of the global Islamic funds market, it added.

Earlier this year, Thomson Reuters launched the global Islamic asset management survey to gather market consensus on the state and direction of the global Islamic asset management sector.

The “Global Islamic Asset Management Report 2014,” prepared by Thomson Reuters in collaboration with Lipper, targeted both investors and asset managers in order to present a fuller picture of the Islamic asset management space.

The report provides unique insights into the development of the sector, highlighting key milestones reached this year, critical challenges to growth, as well as proposed solutions to further develop the Islamic asset management sector.

Russell Haworth, managing director, MENA, Thomson Reuters, said: “The Islamic asset management space continues to lag behind in terms of growth compared to Islamic banking. We are committed to building greater insight and analysis of the Islamic Finance sector overall, and Shariah- compliant asset management is a critical component of that industry.”

“This year’s report will act as an important benchmark for the industry as it continues to grow,” he added.

The key findings in the report are as follows:

• Saudi Arabia is also the second largest hub for Islamic funds with over 163 domiciled funds

• The number of funds has doubled since 2007 to 786 globally

• 2013 saw the highest number of fund launches in four years; 20 per cent of issuances were in Gulf countries, mainly due to a large number of Saudi funds launched during the year

• AUM of global funds stand at just over $ 62 billion, with mutual funds accounting for the bulk of this amount, with over $ 46 billion

• However, AUMs have only increased marginally over the last few years, and declined by 1.7 percent in 2013

• The sector is primarily retail driven, with only 20 per cent of AUMs derived from institutional investors

• The underdevelopment of takaful operators and pension funds in Islamic countries has a knock-on effect on the Islamic asset management space.

Among other things, the study also found that compulsory registration and preceding authorization of Islamic funds with the capital market authority in Saudi has led to smaller asset managers exiting the market.

Dr Sayd Farook, the global head of Islamic Capital Markets for Thomson Reuters, said: “Attracting institutional investors is seen a key requirement for the growth and long-term sustainability of the Islamic asset management industry. Despites the lack of institutional participation, we see positive signs, such as the development of pension assets in Islamic countries.”

He said the GCC pension assets were likely to hit $ 180 billion. “Attracting a small portion of these could significantly increase assets under management for Islamic asset managers.”

Saudi Arabia was a step ahead of other GCC countries as asset managers adopt innovative strategies to increase their investor base, he added. “For example, this year Sedco Capital is coming out with their first Islamic fund that will be compatible with socially responsible investment parameters.”

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Africa-Arab Summit aims to boost Arab-Africa ties

Khaleej Times – 20 November, 2013 – The Amir of Kuwait, Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, opened the third Africa-Arab Summit on Tuesday with a pledge to provide $ 1 billion in low-interest loans to African countries over a five-year period.

Arab and African leaders, gathered for the two-day summit in Kuwait City, are to review steps to promote economic ties between wealthy Gulf states and investment-thirsty Africa. “I ordered officials of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development to provide soft loans worth $1 billion to Africa over the next five years,” Shaikh Sabah announced.

Thirty-four heads of state, seven vice-presidents and three heads of government are attending the third Africa-Arab Summit, which brings together 71 countries and organisations.

The meeting is the first of its kind since 2010, when leaders met in Libya prior to the Arab Spring uprisings. The leaders are expected to approve measures and resolutions adopted by foreign ministers on Sunday aimed at fostering economic cooperation between the two regions.

Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Shaikh Sabah Khaled Al Sabah said the ‘Partners in Development and Investment’ summit will discuss a proposal by the Africa-Arab Economic Forum to create an Arab-African common market for a combined population of around 1.2 billion people.

The leaders will also focus on how to accelerate investment flows into Africa, which has huge potentials but is facing an acute investment gap.

According to the World Bank, Africa needs around $ 30 billion a year just to develop its energy section. The International Monetary Fund says African economic growth was a solid five per cent in 2012 despite the world economic crisis. Growth is forecast to ease slightly at 4.8 per cent this year and rebound to 5.1 per cent in 2014.

In addition, Africa has 12 per cent of global oil reserves and 42 per cent of its gold deposits. The discovery of large quantities of natural gas off Africa’s east coasts has added to the continent’s economic potential.

On the other hand, the energy-rich Gulf Cooperation Council states have accumulated surpluses to the tune of $ 2.0 trillion thanks to persistently high oil prices. A majority of the assets are invested in the United States and Europe.

The summit held in Libya three years ago adopted an Africa-Arab Partnership Strategy and a 2011-2016 Joint Action Plan to increase investment, trade and other economic projects. But implementation has been slow, in part because of the turmoil unleashed by the 2011 Arab Spring, which saw the leaders of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen toppled by mass protests and the outbreak of civil war in Syria.

The leaders are expected to approve a resolution to set up an Africa-Arab Joint Financial Mechanism to provide the means for implementing projects and encouraging investment. They will also discuss establishing an Africa-Arab Technical and Coordination Committee on Migration to help protect migrant workers.

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Korean BBQ Chicken Aims To Make Malaysia Halal Hub By 2020

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Nov 17 (NNN-Bernama) — Genesis Supplies Sdn Bhd, which operates five Korean-based BBQ Chicken outlets in Kuala Lumpur, hopes to make Malaysia its halal hub by 2020. The company plans to build a halal factory in the country that will process and marinate chicken ready for barbeque.

Chief Operating Officer Braddley Bon Joong Koo said the processed chicken would be exported to BBQ Chicken outlets in other Muslim countries. “Although BBQ Chicken originated from South Korea, the largest outlet in the world, sprawled over four shops lots, is located in Saudi Arabia,” he told Bernama.

Bon said the company realised Malaysia’s commitment to become a world halal hub and made the right choice in selecting the country to be its centre. “As Malaysia is a Muslim country, the people here have a better understanding and input on how to handle chicken processing, the halal way.

“Coupled with recognised halal certification from the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia, we are confident our products will be highly acceptable by other Muslim countries,” he said.

Without disclosing the cost of setting up the factory, Bon said the chicken franchise company would set up the “Chicken University”, the second after the first university located in Icheon, Gyeonggi.

As the name suggests, it will teach how to cook chicken from A to Z and offer training curriculums for franchise owners and a research and development laboratory to develop new recipes. Although it is not the most famous university in Korea, Chicken University aims high: it aspires to catch up with the legacy and reputation of ‘Hamburger University’ founded by McDonald’s.

Bon also said that BBQ Chicken was not a fast-food chain but a restaurant which prepared its chicken-based meals upon receiving orders from customers. The meals are prepared using 100 per cent olive oil for frying.

Todate, there are more than 4,000 BBQ Chicken outlets in 59 countries including the United States, China, South East Asia and the Middle-East.

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East Africa: Uganda Set for EAC Tourist Visa

The Independent – 15 November 2013 – Come January 1, 2014, the East African Common Tourist Visa will come into effect in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda and with it Uganda expects a surge in tourist numbers.

The three East African Community (EAC) States announced a ‘single destination’ tourist visa during the London World Travel Market conference on Nov.5.

The East African Tourism visa, which was first proposed about a decade ago, will require tourists to pay $100 instead of $150 for three separate visas, meaning the bearer will have saved $50.

Under the new system, the tour and travel company agents and other players in the tourism industry will also be able to offer multi-destination packages since tourists will now be free to move between the three countries.

Speaking after announcing the launch of the joint visa, Phylis Kandie, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism; Agnes Akiror Egunyu, Uganda’s Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities state minister and William Nkurunziza, Rwanda’s High Commissioner to the UK, said the deal was a major boost to tourism in the region since it was an opportunity for the three nations to increase tourist numbers.

Akankwasah Barirega, the Wildlife principal officer and deputy spokesperson at the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities is positive about the development and expects more visitors to Uganda following this new deal.

“We shall now not burden our visitors with getting visas each time they cross the other country’s borders,” he told The Independent, “We applaud the move because it will improve convenience to our visitors, and we will optimize each member’s marketing and promotional efforts within the bloc.”

He says the new visa has been modeled on the European Union’s Schengen Visa, which allows visitors to any of the 26 EU members to travel freely beyond their original destination. The Schengen Visa has been successful especially in terms of leveraging the comparative advantages of member states.

Barirega says that within the EAC region, Kenya and Tanzania attract more visitors believed to be in their millions than their neighbours yet research shows that these visitors would have loved to continue to the other countries but they have always been bogged down by the bureaucracies surrounding the visa application process.

Cuthbert Baguma, the Uganda Tourism Board executive director, agrees that multiple visas have not been good for the region but this new visa will boost tourism numbers for Uganda. “A single visa would make travel to the three countries affordable and accessible for the tourists,” he said.

Muriithi Ndegwa, the managing director of the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), said the single visa is long overdue as it will not only ease movements within the member states but will also allow the tourists to maximize value for money.

Going forward, there are also plans to create a single destination format for the International Tourism Board in 2014 and all major tourism trade fairs afterwards, to move into one common exhibition space with sections for Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya. A new single destination with many attractions logo is also under consideration by the three partners.

The officials are desperate to have Tanzania on board as well despite assertions from the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, that the country was not ready to join the East African common visa because the proposed network of sharing data on tourists and fee collection infrastructure as well as security issues were not yet decided.

But despite Tanzania’s doubts, the coordinator of the East African Tourism Platform, Waturi Matu, told the press in London that Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have realized that the benefits of the common visa far outweigh the disadvantages.

UTB’s Baguma said there is need for Tanzania to tone down on their level of caution in view of the wider goals. Barirega added: “Although I respect Tanzania’s security and identification concerns, for us in the tourism sector, we welcome the visa.”

“If there are issues of security, those should be handled by the security departments in the region since they (security agencies) are involved in this,” he said. “We applaud the move because it will improve convenience to our visitors, and we will optimize each member’s marketing efforts within the bloc.”

Experts on the EAC integration insist the three ‘coalition’ partners have done nothing wrong since the three are categorically not isolating the other members and have left the door open for those who feel they need more time to come on board later.

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Gambia: Minister Committed to ‘All-Year-Round Tourism’ Goal

The Daily Observer – 18 November 2013 – The Tourism and Culture minister has reaffirmed that the government of The Gambia through her Ministry and The Gambia Tourism Board will continue to support collaborative efforts geared towards attaining the goal of making the country “an all-year-round tourism destination” that is second to none in terms of product offerings, hotel accommodation, hospitality and quality service delivery.

Speaking Saturday while presiding over the 30th Anniversary of the Kombo Beach Hotel, Minister Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie told the celebrants that the government of The Gambia has placed high premium on tourism due to its significant contribution to the national economy in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employment creation and spinoffs that are associated with the industry.

She described Kombo Beach Hotel as one that continues to play a pivotal role in the country’s hotel industry, disclosing that it has currently provided employment for at least 300 Gambians for the 2013/2014 winter season. “The Kombo Beach Hotel has for the past six years been helping its staff by engaging some of those who are laid off during the green season when hotels shut down for renovations as handymen with it’s maintenance team for the entire duration of the green season,” she acknowledged.

She further acknowledged that the hotel has for the past two years been providing food package worth D700 from May to September to the rest of the laid-off staff who could not be absorbed as handymen for the summer renovations. “Over the years, the hotel has grown into becoming one of the leading hotels in The Gambia thanks to the dedication of its staff and the commitment and high sense of responsibility of its management team,” she added.

The Tourism and Culture minister also observed that the hotel is well recognised for its proactive involvement in environmental issues and community development as evident by the international awards it has bagged over the years. The assistant general manager of Kombo Beach Hotel, Semega Janneh, highlighted the achievements of the hotel in the past three decades, saying it has won itself accolades such as ‘Travelife Award’ for sustainability in tourism for three consecutive seasons.

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Barquq’s Holy Quran restored to former glory

Al-Ahram – Wednesday 20 Nov 2013 – Following three years of fine restoration work, the Holy Quran transcribed during the reign of the first Burji Mameluk Sultan Malik Al-Zahir Seif El-Din Barquq regains its original splendour.

The 412 page-Holy Quran is very large, with each page 105 centimetres tall and 79 centimetres wide. It is decorated with golden leaf and lapis lazuli decorations and contains all the signs and symbols used in Quranic recitation. Abdel Nasser Hassan, head of Egypt’s National Archives, pointed out that the book is very important, containing unique information for researchers on different Quranic issues.

He explained that the verses of the Quran were written in black in Naskh handwriting, with red signs that separate each verse.

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Egypt selected to coordinate Islamic heritage committee

Al-Ahram – Friday 22 Nov 2013 – Members of the Islamic Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) have elected Egypt to be coordinator of the Islamic World Heritage Committee (IWHC). The selection came during the ISESCO’s fourth annual session, held in Yemen.

Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim said that the vote was the result of the recognition of Egypt’s importance in archaeological and cultural heritage and its role in preserving and protecting the country’s tangible and intangible cultural heritage. The fifth session of the IWHC will be held in Egypt next year at the Nubia museum in Aswan.

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Azerbaijan, Iran discuss financing of Qazvin-Rasht-Astara railway

19 November 2013 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijan and Iran have discussed the financing of the Qazvin-Rasht-Astara railway project, deputy head of Iran’s State Company for Construction and Development of Transportation Infrastructure Hussein Nazdar said, Mehr News agency reported on Nov.19.

According to the statement, he said that a meeting held in the city of Rasht was attended by the Azerbaijani Ambassador to Iran Javanshir Akhundov, the representative of Azerbaijan Railways JSC and other officials. “The meeting mainly discussed the form of Azerbaijan’s participation in the financing of the Qazvin-Rasht-Astara railway,” Nazdar said.

It should be stressed that Iran’s officials said that the Qazvin – Rasht- Astara railway will be constructed in March 2014. The rail route is complex and includes 22 tunnels and 15 special bridges. Around 70 per cent of the work for the construction of 15 tunnels has been completed.

It should be recalled that the Qazvin – Rasht- Astara railway is part of ‘North -South’ transport corridor and is being constructed by Azerbaijan, Russia and Iran. A $400 million investment is planned to be made in the construction work. It is predicted that the trade corridor will hit six million tons at the first stage and 15-20 million tons in the future.

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Azerbaijani writer wins Central Asia literature competition

21 November 2013 – AzerNews – Abdulla Isa from Azerbaijan became the ultimate winner of the Open Central Asia Literature Competition 2013.

The committee of the Open Central Asia Book Forum and Literature Festival 2013, which was held in the UK on November 7-11, has announced the winners of its three categories: Literature, Translation and Illustration.

Abdulla Isa (Zaur Hasanov) won the competition, which included 168 submissions from authors from over 20 countries. His book will be published by Hertfordshire Press in 2014.

There was a stronger field of contestants than in last year’s competition where about 140 authors from 12 countries participated.

The second place in the Literature category was given to Turusbek Maldibaev from Kyrgyzstan, while the bronze winner became Halima Ahmedova from Uzbekistan.

Another Azerbaijani Saadat Ibrahimova, who worked in collaboration with British Ian Peart, won silver of the Translation category.

Hertfordshire Press is a UK publishing house, part of the Silk Road Media group of companies that seeks to publish books and authors with a special focus on Central Asia. Hertfordshire press sponsored the second Open Central Asia Book Forum and Literature festival.

The last year winner, Galina Dolgaya from Uzbekistan, had her winning entry published by Hertfordshire press as part of her prize.

The festival was organized and supported by Silk Road media, Hertfordshire Press, Yunus Emre Center London, BBC Central Asia Service, Orzu Arts, Navruz Restaurant, Cambridge Central Asia Forum, Open Central Asia Magazine, and Cambridge University Kazakhstan Society.

The first Book Forum and Literature Festival was held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan on November 24-25, 2012, gathering nearly 1,300 participants, including well-known writers, Yanush Vishnevsky (Poland), Elchin Safarli (Azerbaijan), Hamid Ismailov (Great Britain and Uzbekistan).

The festival is a great stage for regional authors to promote their own ideas, exchange experiences with their colleagues from all over the world, and discover famous authors and newcomers to writing from Central Asia, Great Britain, as well as many other countries.

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Turkey’s Pegasus ‘cheapest’ airline in Europe

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet – Turkey’s low-cost carrier Pegasus Airlines has been named the cheapest carrier in Europe, in a comparison of 20 low-cost airlines by flight comparison website WhichAirline.

Pegasus was shown to have an average ticket price of just 63.19 euros, including taxes and transaction charges. A 20kg baggage allowance on international flights, for which other airlines often charge extra, is also offered as standard.

Pegasus took the number one spot in the WhichAirline list with an average ticket price of 63.19 euros. Well-known brands such as Ryanair and easyJet charge an average of 83.45 euros and 89.97 euros respectively.

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Touring an old, healing cave in Turkey’s Bursa

BURSA – Anadolu Agency – A cave in the northwestern province of Bursa’s İnegöl district draws interest from local and foreign tourists who want to enjoy its alleged health benefits as well as to see natural beauty. The 730-meter-long and 93-meter-high Oylat Cave is believed to serve as a remedy to health problems such as asthma and bronchitis. The 3 million-year-old cave takes almost 90 minutes to visit.

The cave is famous for its colorful stalactites and stalagmites. The cave’s length is only 650 meters. A lot of bats have their home in the cave. Taking photos is forbidden in order not to scare the bats. The cave is located 17 kilometers away from İnegöl, where the Oylat Canyon ends.

It can be reached through the İnegöl-Ankara highway. The cave, which is formed by two floors connected to each other, has a meandering profile. It has narrow galleries between the entrance and a big room. This part is between two to five meters wide and the roof height is approximately 15 meters. Stalactite pools occupy a big place here. Also, gravel yards can be seen on this floor.

The second floor of the cave is between 25-55 meter wide and its height is between 3-15 meters. This floor has many huge blocks and stalactites as well as gravel, sand and clay layers. The Oylat Cave has different meteorological features in every part of it. As well as bats, the cave is also home to a rich natural ecosystem including butterflies, worms and guanobites.

The wind is perceivable in the cave’s narrow galleries and gateways that connect rooms and floors to each other.

According to measurements, the temperature in front of the cave is 29 degrees centigrade, humidity is 47 degrees. In the entrance of the cave, air temperature falls to 19 degrees, humidity becomes 55 degrees; and in the narrow gallery, temperature is 17 degrees and humidity is 78 degrees. The temperature falls to 14 in the rooms inside and humidity increases to 90 degrees. Equipped visitors can visit the cave accompanied by guides.

The cave’s guide, Gökhan Yaşar said that the cave was discovered in 2004 and opened to tourism in 2006. He pointed out that the cave, which has many geographical shapes, drew great interest from local and foreign tourists. “The cave has been open to tourism for seven years,” said Yaşar, “It is a natural formation and dates back to 3 million years ago. It is comprised of stalactites, rain water, snow water and minerals like lime, sulphur and iron filings. Tourists come to the cave throughout the year. Between June and October, foreign tourists mostly come to the cave. They are generally from the countries like Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.”

Yaşar said that the air in the cave was believed to heal health problems because it produced pure oxygen and had humidity levels between 45-90 centigrade degrees. He also noted that a visitor could visit the whole cave in almost 90 minutes.

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Festival on Wheels to hit the road in Aegean

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News – Organized by the Ankara Cinema Association, the Festival on Wheels is set to host film enthusiasts at its 19th edition, which will run from Nov. 27 to Dec. 9. The festival will start in the Aegean province of Edremit, before moving onto Ankara for more screenings between Nov. 29 and Dec. 5 and travelling to the northern province of Sinop from Dec. 6 and 9.

A one-day event will take place in Edremit as part of the festival, in honor of legendary actor Tuncel Kurtiz, who recently died. The day’s line-up will include screenings of his film “Gül Hasan” (Hasan the Rose), and a documentary, Tuncel Kurtiz: a Trusted Travel Companion of the Festival on Wheels. There will also be further film screenings in the town throughout the day.

The second opening of this year’s festivals pays tribute to another important name. In its first ever screening in Ankara, Alfred Hitchcock’s silent film “Blackmail” will be presented with live music accompaniment at the city’s State Art and Sculpture Museum on Nov. 28.

“Turkey 2013,” a selection of local films made this year, once again promises to bring audiences the cast and director of featured titles at premiere performances throughout the festival. The Festival on Wheels will bring audiences a pick of the latest award-winning films from leading international festivals such as Berlin, Cannes and Sundance.

Meanwhile, internationally recognized video and performance artist Köken Ergun will also feature in the festival, with audiences promised Turkey’s first retrospective of Ergun’s video art, which has previously screened at the Oberhausen, Rotterdam, Sydney and Zagreb Film Festivals.

In conjunction with the film screenings, the festival will also be hosting a “What To Do?” panel discussion, addressing issues such as alternative forms of organization, representation and pluralist democracy, along with urban activism. This year marks half a century since the first examples of experimental cinema began to appear in Turkey; and in this section, audiences will find a collection of short films from Turkey and Austria, a country almost synonymous with the genre.

In the “Short is Good” section, short films selected from close to 1,000 entries from around the world will introduce audiences at the festival to innovative works of cinema from different countries, among them the U.S., Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, the U.K., Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Jordan, Portugal and Serbia.

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New book delves into Ottoman architecture

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet – Taking readers on a guided tour through six centuries of Istanbul history, Professor Doğan Kuban’s new book, “Osmanlı’nın İstanbul’u / The Ottomans’ Istanbul,” provides a comprehensive overview of the architecture that put its mark on imperial Istanbul. Kuban’s presents the Ottoman architectural heritage with differing typologies and scales ranging from mosques to palaces and hamams to fountains.

Kuban examines the architecture of the imperial period by sampling 112 buildings made by eminent Ottoman masters like Sinan the Architect, Dalgıç Ahmed Ağa, the Balyan Family and Raimondo D’Aronco. The lasting traces left by the Ottomans on Istanbul’s silhouette, cultural and social life are enriched with original photographs and drawings accompanying the brief and essential texts including architectural, aesthetical and historical appreciations made by Kuban.

The buildings covered in both Turkish and English editions of the same book are listed alphabetically in eight regions organized by topography and arrangements of access that may be connected through short walks within the city.

The Suriçi region encompassing the historical peninsula is divided into four regions, namely Sultanahmet-Sirekci, Beyazıt-Eminönü, Fatih and Aksaray-Yedikule. Eyüp-Haliç, Galata-Beyoğlu and Üsküdar-Kadıköy are the fifth, sixth and seventh regions. The Bosphorus is the eighth region.

Highlighting the fact that Istanbul preserved its historic physiognomy from the time of the first letters, Kuban comments on how that continuity remained uninterrupted and developed in the Ottoman period: “Istanbul is a city surrounded by water. Pagan, Christian and Muslim societies settling in this location for 2,700 years have, to an extent, preserved the settling places and buildings formed thus far by adapting to the topographical data. Hence, the continuity is preserved with the city’s historic physiognomy.”

The book, which is published by Yem Publications, is available at bookshops.

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Carpet Museum spreads out at Istanbul’s Haghia Sophia

ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency – Some of Turkey’s most valuable carpets are now on display at their new location at the Haghia Sophia. The collection includes hundreds of carpets that were weaved around Anatolia

One of Istanbul’s most iconic sites, the Haghia Sophia, is now home to some of the country’s most majestic carpets after the General Directorate of Foundations’ Carpet Museum was transferred to the famous former religious site in Sultanahmet.

The Foundations Carpet Museum Collection, which has one of the world’s richest carpet collections, is made up of carpets, as well as other historical and artistic treasures donated to mosques, shrines and Islamic complexes.

The most unique carpets, rugs and Caucasus carpets, which were weaved between the 14th and 20th centuries in various weaving centers in Anatolia, are in the museum collection, which ultimately includes 806 carpets, 394 of which are historical carpets. Some 506 carpets and 112 kilims were cleaned between 2006 and 2010 while 105 carpets and 61 kilims were restored over the same period.

Forty carpets and rugs, which were chosen from among the rarest pieces in the collection, are being displayed in three different galleries chronologically and according to their design groups.

The first gallery displays carpets from the Anatolia Seljuk and its successor states, the second gallery displays Central and East Anatolian carpets from the Ottoman era, while the third gallery displays carpets from Uşak, as well as prayer rugs.

The museum was established in accordance with techniques that are current in the administration of contemporary museums to keep and preserve the artifacts for subsequent generations. High-quality materials such as security windows, electronic panels, modular shop windows, heating and cooling systems, touch screens and kiosks have been used for the museum and the display of the carpets.

The Istanbul Carpet Museum was first opened on April 29, 1979, at the Sultanahmet Mosque’s Hünkar Kasrı, but because the kasır was ultimately not suitable for displaying the carpets, a decision was made to reopen the museum in the Hagia Sophia İmaret building.

The İmaret building was built between 1742 and 1743 in the northern part of the Hagia Sophia by Sultan Mahmud I, originally to act as a soup kitchen for the poor. The front entrance of the Topkapı Palace is in the east of the Imaret, while the Ahmet III Fountain is in its eastern section.

Between the İmaret’s courtyard and the Hagia Sophia is the Treasure House, a Byzantine structure. According to some researchers and historians, the İmaret building was constructed in the fourth century, although others suggest that the structure was constructed in the fifth or sixth centuries. This structure mostly served as a storeroom starting from Mahmud I’s reign until the 19th century.

It subsequently served as an archive building. The İmaret building was restored in 1777, 1871, 1884 and 1893. After 1920, it served as the archive of the General Directorate of Foundations. A comprehensive restoration was carried out in 2006 and 2007, while museum merchandising work was conducted in 2010. In total, nearly 4.5 million Turkish Liras were spent on repairs on the building.

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Greek Govt funding for first mosque in Athens

Athens, Sunday, 13 Muharram 1434/ 17 November 2013 (IINA) – Work is finally set to begin on construction of the first mosque in Athens, 13 years after plans were first announced, the Greek government announced.

A Greek consortium has been chosen, the infrastructure ministry said, after five previous attempts to find a business group to lead the project failed. Athens is one of the few European capitals without a mosque. The building will have a budget of 1.3 million and will be 600 square meters. It is being built on land formerly used by the military but it will not have a minaret. The project will have to be completed within six months of contracts being signed, said the ministry.

The scheme has been beset by various delays. It was first announced in 2000, ahead of the Olympics in Athens in 2004. However, it has long been opposed by the powerful Greek Orthodox Church. Some 90 percent of Greeks consider themselves Christian. Although this is the first official mosque, several non-official places of worship have appeared in the Greek capital, thanks to an increasing number of immigrants from countries such as Pakistan.

In 2011, the Greek government was forced to adopt a law ensuring the construction of the mosque, with the first contract tender to be launched in the summer of 2013. However, it took five attempts to award a contract because of concerns over where to place the mosque and protests from those on the extreme right, such as supporters of Golden Dawn. The only official mosques to be found in Greece are situated in the north east region of Thrace, where a minority group of Muslim Turks live.

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King Abdullah Interfaith Center holds forum in Vienna

Vienna, Myanmar, 15 Muharram 1434/ 19 November 2013 (IINA) – A two-day forum on how people of different religions and cultures around the world are commonly portrayed opened on Monday in Vienna, Austria. The forum is organized by the Vienna-based King Abdullah International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue. More than 600 delegates from 90 countries are taking part in the event.

The forum, with the theme of “Image of the Other” aims to be a multi-year initiative exploring how “others” – people of different religions or cultural backgrounds – are depicted on the internet, in media and education. The first sessions of the conference discussed the images of “others” in various cultures, how common experiences are shared and exchanged, and interreligious dialogue in conflict zones.

The Center was opened its headquarters in Vienna on Nov. 26, 2012. In line with implementation of the initiative of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for dialogue among followers of religions and cultures, Saudi Arabia, Austria and Spain signed an agreement for the establishment of the center in Vienna, in October 2011.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal signed the agreement for the establishment of the Center with Austrian Vice Chancellor and Minister for European and International Affairs Michael Spindelegger, and Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Trinidad Jimenez, in the presence of representatives of international organizations.

The Vatican, a strong supporter of the project, has joined as a founding observer and will be represented on the board, which according to the treaty must have three Christians, three Muslims, a Jew, a Hindu and a Buddhist. Both the three sponsoring states, which appoint the board and approve its budget and projects, and the board of directors will take decisions by majority vote.

The center aims at spreading the values of tolerance, cordiality, peace, security and coexistence among followers of religions and cultures. The center plans initial work in three fields. Its “Image of the Other” program will have experts study how other faiths are portrayed in their media and education, with an eye to improving schoolbooks and public perceptions of religions. Faisal bin Muammar, secretary-general of the center, said that over the past 12 months, the center has taken a proactive approach to research and training in the fields of interreligious and intercultural education.

“This Global Forum is the culmination of a series of four regional conferences we have hosted since May 2013 in the Euro-Mediterranean region (Vienna); Africa (Addis Ababa); Asia (New Delhi); and the Americas (Buenos Aires),” the secretary-general said.

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Connecticut’s Muslim Mayor Makes History

OnIslam & Newspapers Wednesday, 20 November 2013 CAIRO — Muslims have warmly welcomed the appointment of M. Saud Anwar to be South Windsor’s first Muslim mayor, making a major milestone for the Islamic community in Connecticut. “Congratulations; may Allah be your help. We need more Muslims in public service like this,” wrote one well-wisher on Anwar’s Facebook page, The Courant reported.

“Hats off dude,” wrote another.

Three days ago, Dr. Anwar, a Democrat, was elected as mayor of South Windsor to be the first Muslim mayor in Connecticut, and perhaps, in all of New England. A native of Karachi, Pakistan, Anwar, 46, came to the US in 1991, settling first in Illinois, where his grandmother lived, before moving to Connecticut to attend Yale University, where he received a master’s degree in public health and did his training in pulmonary medicine.

The history-making selection, however, has passed almost unnoticed in American media. Not only the selection, Anwar’s religion has been scarcely noted during a campaign dominated by taxes, sewer charges and all the typical meat-and-potatoes matters that generally shape municipal elections.

Yet, for leaders of the Muslim community, the low-profile coverage reflected a growing acceptance for Muslims in politics. “Our community has been a very accepting community,” said Anwar, a Yale-educated physician who moved to town in 1999.

“We live in an embracing town where people are respected for who they are and for what they do rather than what they look like or what their belief is … that’s one of the things that makes you fall in love with South Windsor.”

Ibrahim Hooper, a national spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), agreed. Hooper called it “a good sign for the normalization of Muslims in the American political process.”

Coming seven years after Keith Ellison of Minnesota became the first Muslim elected to Congress, the political clout of American Muslims has grown, Hooper said. “We’re seeing more and more Muslim public officials around the country,” Hooper said. “The first of any kind of civic participation is newsworthy, but as more enter the political process, it becomes less newsworthy.”

Being a Muslim physician with immigrant heritage, Anwar held a special world view for his new position in South Windsor.

“As a physician, every single day you are identifying a problem and creating a mechanism to prevent it or identifying a way of treating it,” Anwar said. He draws a parallel between the health of the human body and the health of a community.

“In the ICU when I walk in, I look at my patient and I see the respiratory organ system, the gastrointestinal organ system, the cardiovascular organ system,” he said, settling into a chair at his medical office in Vernon one morning this week.

“You can look at a town as one single, large patient and you can see the public works organ system, the police and safety organ system, the financial organ system … all of those organ systems need to work collaboratively to make a healthy patient and a healthy town.”

Anwar was one of the participants in a group of local physicians who have traveled to Haiti each year since the 2010 earthquake to treat victims and help the nation rebuild.

The Muslim physician said he never imagined that he would be active in politics. “But I knew I was going to try and solve problems,” he said. “I’m more interested in identifying what’s wrong in the community, in society,” he said. “Then you can see what role you can play to help make it better.”

Although there are no official figures, the United States is believed to be home to between 6-8 Muslims. A Gallup poll had found that the majority of US Muslims are patriot and loyal to their country and are optimistic about their future.

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Texas Video Competition Explores Islam

OnIslam & Newspapers Thursday, 21 November 2013 CAIRO – Offering deeper insights on Islam in a creative way, a Muslim students’ group in a Texas university held the first ‘Muslim Voices Film Competition’ at the Campus on Thursday, November 21.

“As the name suggests, we want to give our students a platform to express themselves,” Ziad Syer, event coordinator and accounting graduate student at Texas A&M University, told the Battalion Online. “People love movies, so we figured this would be a fun event,” Syer, a member of the university’s American Muslim Students Association (MSA), added.

With no guidelines for the unprecedented competition, the participants were given a month to create short films with duration ranging between 5-20 minutes. Four films are listed for the competition which will be held at 7 PM on Thursday, as the winning movie will be granted $100.

Nimrah Riaz, a filmmaker and participant in the competition, said he wanted to explore the perception of Texas students of Islam through her investigative video report ‘Hijab (Un)Veiled: An Aggie Perspective’. “Muslim women, such as myself, often get asked questions like, ‘Why do you wear that?’ ‘What is it called?’ ‘Who can see you with it off?’” Riaz said.

The investigation results were astonishing for Riaz and her team as they found that most of the students have a good knowledge of Islam and the reasons behind wearing hijab. However, students in the movie referred to Islam as a culture, not a religion.

“(One person we interviewed) went on stating that she doesn’t understand how women who wear American flags as bikinis is okay and a Hijab isn’t,” Raiz, the MSA member and junior health major, said. “Another person we interviewed, a member of the Corps (of Cadets), said since Texas A&M University is a multinational, diverse campus, everyone has the right to express themselves the way they would like. “We were very pleased with these responses.

The new competition has unveiled creative talents for MSA students. “I’ve been making movies with my personal SLR camera because I enjoy making short films,” Pervez Agwan, a participant in the competition will merge comedy and drama in his film, said. “It’s a great way to get together with your friends and come up with something and put it into film format. All of my films are very amateur and not professional at all, but it’s a hobby of mine.”

Under the title ‘ Jummah Night Lights’, Agwan and his team have videotaped a parody of Friday Night Lights. “It’s a mixture of comedy and drama, but it’s mostly a situational comedy as we depict our MSA members and the struggles of their flag football team,” Agwan said.

The Muslim film competition was suggested as a part of MSA’s activities which aims at developing students skills. “The MSA has been working on encouraging creative expressions among our members,” Syer said. “At the beginning of November, we had a Lyrical Art Night where we had a Muslim poet from Houston present his spoken word poetry, and we had a couple of MSA members perform at this event as well.”

The United States is home to a Muslim minority of between six to eight million. A recent survey found that American Muslims are the most moderate around the world. It also 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.

An earlier Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans Muslims are loyal to their country and optimistic about their future in the United States.

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New Zealand to Open First Muslim Forum

OnIslam Staff Friday, 22 November 2013 CAIRO – Extending harmonious relations with the Muslim community, New Zealand’s Ethnic Affairs Minister has welcomed the opening of the Muslim World Forum to discuss the minority’s rich contributions in her country.

“This Forum is a fantastic opportunity for the Muslim community to reflect on its journey so far and discuss its future contribution to New Zealand,” Judith Collins said in a New Zealand Government press release on Friday, November 22.

“Participants will direct discussions, define issues and propose solutions, to contemporary challenges facing the Muslim community. They will also discuss what opportunities exist to highlight the benefits of inter-cultural collaboration may bring, as for example in the halal meat industry.”

Planned on Saturday, November 23, the Muslim World Forum will be discussing contemporary issues relating to New Zealand’s relationship with the Muslim world and the New Zealand Muslim community. The Office of Ethnic Affairs has worked with the New Zealand Muslim community on the Building Bridges Program since 2005.

The program aims to create better connections, meaningful collaboration and open communication to support the maintenance of New Zealand’s social harmony. Culminating on years efforts, the Muslim World Forum offers a great opportunity to hear new and wide-ranging perspectives on these critical issues and have a chance to participate in lively discussion and debate.

Collins asserted that the Government’s support of this Forum signals its appreciation of the contribution that Kiwi Muslims make, and will continue to make, to society and New Zealand’s national goals.

“Earlier this year the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted that many of New Zealand’s efforts to combat racial discrimination represented best practice globally and are being recommended to other countries,” Ms Collins says.

“Regardless of our religion, ethnicity or place of birth, we are all on the same journey – to find our voice as New Zealanders. This Forum will break down stereotypes so we can appreciate diversity and be in a better position to take advantage of all the opportunities this diversity brings,” she added.

Islam has entered Australia more than 200 years ago. The south-pacific island country of New Zealand is home to 36,000 Muslims, according to the 2006 census.

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UK Queen Hires Muslim As High Sheriff

OnIslam & Newspapers Monday, 18 November 2013 CAIRO – Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II has appointed a Muslim revert as the Queen’s High Sheriff of Lincolnshire, the Telegraph has revealed. The eye-catching nomination, yet to be announced, went to Charles ‘Abd al-Mateen’ John Pelham, the 8th Earl of Yarborough.

Using the name Abd al-Mateen after reverting to Islam, the Earl of Yarborough will take the unpaid role next year. The Eton College graduate is a master of the Brocklesby Hunt, and President of Brocklesby Park Cricket Club. On the death of his father in 1991, he inherited the bulk of the £68 million estate, which includes Brocklesby Park in Lincolnshire, 27,500 acres of farmland, and one of Britain’s finest private art collections.

Britain is home to a Muslim community of nearly 2.7 million. In 2011, think tank Demo found that Muslims in the United Kingdom are more patriotic than the rest of population. Responding to the statement “I am proud to be a British citizen”, 83% of Muslims said they are proud of being British.

A 2004 study by Sunday Times found that 14,000 mostly-elite white Britons have reverted to Islam. The authoritative study of the phenomenon found that some of the country’s top landowners, celebrities and the offspring of senior Establishment figures have embraced the Muslim faith.

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Australia Honors Emerging Muslim Leader

OnIslam & Newspapers Tuesday, 19 November 2013 CAIRO – An Australian Muslim of Kashmiri origin has been named as Australia’s ‘Top Emerging Leader’, gaining MBA Scholarship at the University of Sydney Business School MBA program in 2014.

“It is, of course, a proud moment for me. I dedicate this award to my homeland Kashmir which lives in my heart and soul,” Omar Khan, 34, told Kashmir Reader on Tuesday, November 19. “Though I have been living in Australia for more than two decades, I haven’t forgotten Kashmir even for a moment.”

The $60,000 worth award was sponsored by Australian Financial Review’s BOSS and University of Sydney Business School. The award includes Membership to the BOSS Emerging Leaders Program, a Master class with some of Australia’s foremost leadership educators, Media training by the Australian Financial Review.

Khan will also be granted a seat at a Leadership Lunch with some of Australia’s most high profile professionals. Khan has been the director of strategy and development at Crescent Wealth, an Islamic investment firm, who has also taken the role of executive director at YoYo Button, a mobile technology start-up.

Coming to Australian at a young 12-year-old boy, he has been in Australia for more than two decades. “From the age of 12, I did not really see my father until I finished high school,” Khan was quoted by The Australian Financial Review. “At the time it was difficult, but looking back it was an amazing opportunity to come to Australia and study.”

In Australia, Khan has studied commerce and law at Deakin University and the University of Melbourne respectively. Khan has also served at Australia’s finance and investment sector. By 2011, the business entrepreneur has joined Australia’s first investment firm that follows Islamic business principles, Crescent Wealth, after grading in a handful of managerial posts.

Following rigid rules in the selection process, the judging panel of the award has picked Khan from eleven finalists for his outstanding leadership skills. “This search isn’t about finding a candidate with above average academic ability,” Professor Richard Hall, Associate Dean Management Education at the Business School, said.

“What we’re looking for is someone who represents the very ideal of leadership; someone who we believe is destined for greatness in industry, and who can show us a true passion for development that they can use to become a great leader.”

The Judging panel comprised financial experts, directors and professors from University of Sydney Business and the Australian Financial Review’s BOSS who expected a promising career for the young Muslim leader. “Mr Khan now has a life-changing opportunity to share his journey with other emerging leaders from a diverse range of backgrounds,” said the Business School’s co-dean Professor Tyrone Carlin.

The Emerging Leaders Scholarship “provides the next generation of leaders with a unique opportunity to develop their leadership practice,” said Professor David Grant, business school co-dean. Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population. Islam is the country’s second largest religion after Christianity.

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